Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Centennial of the Armistice

1. A hundred years ago today, World War I ended. It seems like the day should be marked. It was a stupid war, a testament to fallen human nature. Of course all wars are stupid. All wars are a testament to fallen human nature.

Nevertheless, because of fallen human nature, wars must be fought. I am sad for the British, French, and Germans who died in this ego war between kings with too much testosterone for their own good. Some 50,000 Americans died too.

2. America entered the war because the Germans kept sinking passenger ships with Americans on them. The last straw was the Housatonic. We only entered the war in 1917, but it seemed to be a tipping point. The war ended November 11, 1918.

Hitler and others were incensed that the Germans gave up. And the war reparations were unbearable on Germany. These factors were not the whole cause of Hitler's rise to power, but they were factors.

3. Both my grandfathers registered on September 12, 1918. It must have been required since they were in different counties. But of course the war was over less than a month later.


4. The war was fought because of a cascade of treaties between nations, triggered because of an incompetent assassin and an equally ridiculous crown prince. Then the chest beating began. Chemical weapons, trench warfare, the evolution of artillery, U-boats that sunk ships--all lovely developments of WW1. See Wonder Woman for some additional events that didn't happen.

We are not beyond such wars. There are still world leaders who wouldn't give a second thought to send the youth of their nation to their deaths. There are still world leaders who care for little more than themselves and their own egos. The masses are still easily manipulated and large numbers can easily be convinced that it's time to fight a war.

One hundred years on and humanity is exactly the same.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

For Patrons: Jewish Afterlife Traditions

My podcast/video for patrons this week is now available. Acts 23:8 has such an intriguing statement on Pharisee and Sadducee views on resurrection that I decided to give some of my old research on Jewish afterlife traditions. The four afterlife positions are: 1) no meaningful afterlife, 2) immediate reward or punishment, 3) otherworldly resurrection, 4) physical resurrection.

Patrons are those who donate at least $5 a month to my Patreon.com page, supporting my daily podcast commentaries on Acts, along with the daily videos on the Greek of these same passages.


Friday, November 09, 2018

Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

For some reason, this poem popped into my head today. It was on the wall of one of my classrooms in high school. I can't remember what class it was, possibly an English class one year. I didn't necessarily like the poem. I'm not sure I ever actually read it all the way through, but the first two lines seem to have stuck in my head and the first line of the second stanza always made me chuckle.

Nevertheless, I leave it here in memoriam of high school. Seems like it was on the east wall of the room. Was it a male teacher? Packard for history? Gauss for freshman English?
_______________________
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

For Patrons: Paul and the Gentiles

My podcast/video for patrons this week is now available. Given that Paul speaks of a vision he had about the Gentiles in Acts 22, I stepped back to speculate about how and when Paul's sense of himself as an apostle to the Gentiles might have developed.

Patrons are those who donate at least $5 a month to my Patreon.com page, supporting my daily podcast commentaries on Acts, along with the daily videos on the Greek of these same passages.


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Sermon Starters: It's Complicated

The second sermon, the fourth presentation at Southern Wesleyan University as part of the B. H. and Dorothy Phaup Holiness Emphasis Week.

I. Review: Where have we been?
  • God is holy (from Tuesday night). He's like the infinity stone in Guardians that fries your default human. Starlord survives because he has "something special, something ancient" inside him. So when we have the Holy Spirit inside us, God's holiness doesn't fry us.
  • Holiness looks like love (Monday chapel). Love God and love neighbor. That's what it looks like to be spiritual and holy.
  • A whole lot of us are stuck in the middle. We are fleshly, carnal Christians (Monday chapel). Romans 7 resonates with us but that's not what Paul meant if you read the whole context (Monday night).
  • For most of us, holiness is complicated (scene from the last Harry Potter with the goblin).
II. Text: Philippians 3:12-16
Not that I have already attained [resurrection] or have already been perfected, but I am pursuing it if I might also take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me… I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But I am doing one thing: forgetting the things behind and reaching out to the things ahead, I am pursuing the goal for the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus.

As many of us as are perfect, let us think this way. And if you are thinking in a different way, God will also reveal this to you. Only walk to the same degree we have attained.

Summary of Interpretation
  • This passage is about moving forward. Do you have past spiritual successes? Past spiritual failures. Keep moving forward. Don't fall back.
  • Veins have values in them. They keep the blood from flowing backward. Illustration. Keep moving forward.
III. Complications of Holiness Past
  • See Keith Drury's Holiness for Ordinary People
  • Two-trip-ism (then done for the rest of life, current resistance to membership signing in TWC)
  • Rationalization of sin in life (because of being sanctified and the stakes are so high, one sin you're out, you know. Don't want to have to go through all that again.)
  • What about addictions? This area seems to be a special complication these days.
IV. Some Guiding Principles for the Future
1. Sign over your house.
Start the process of giving God every room in your house; then give him the deed to the property.
  • Give God every room. Of course. Then give him the deed to the house.
  • Illustration
  • There's usually one last hold out, a struggle to give one last area of your life. But what victory after giving it!
  • When God owns the house, you're not letting him in the rooms. You're the one allowed in his rooms. 
2. Keep your batteries charged.
Don’t miss out on the charging stations God has built into the Christian life.
  • When you're about to need a new cell phone, a lot of times the battery runs out fast. You may be desperately trying to do something and it dies. You turn it on. It dies. This is the Christian not fully charged by the Spirit.
  • This point is not about taking something out (like sin nature surgery). Living a spiritual life requires positive power from God. If you're not regularly at God's charging stations, you're going to run out of power and the flesh will take over again.
  • God has given us charging stations in the means of grace--prayer, Scripture, worship, communion.
3. Put God in charge of building projects.
As you add rooms to your house, give them to God as well, while keeping the old rooms clean.
  • You won't be the same person your whole life, like the man who said he'd been married to 7 women in his life--the same person but they changed from year to year, as he had.
  • We'll have new relationships--lots of new things to give to God.
  • You'll have new jobs--lots of new things to give to God.
  • Illustration.
4. Pay special attention to the basement.
We often have “besetting sins,” areas of temptation where we are especially vulnerable. Meet God there often.
  • My basement and spiders.
  • Often we have an area of spiritual kryptonite. Watch it!
  • Watch out for former addictions. God can completely heal instantaneously. But often there is a hole there that you need to acknowledge and renew in surrender to God every day. Have him fill and refill that void every day with his power and Spirit (Gerald May, Addictions and Grace).
V. Enter God's Rest
Hebrews 4 - Every day that is called today, sign the house and all its rooms to God again. Let his Spirit fill the voids of besetting sins past again every day. Every time you take communion give it all to him again.

Sermon Starters: The Awesomeness of His Holiness

The second lecture, third presentation as part of the B. H. and Dorothy Phaup Holiness Emphasis Lectures at Southern Wesleyan University, delivered Tuesday evening, October 30, 2018 (would have been my Dad's 94th birthday).

The Awesomeness of His Holiness
Introduction
  • two elements to the meaning of holiness in the Bible
  • We all know about purity (although in the past it has devolved into superficial, external things like dress and appearance, not going to movies, etc, very much like the Pharisee's tradition of the elders).
  • But the core meaning, especially in the Old Testament, is set apart as God's. Or in the case of God himself, the set apart Godness of God.
I. The Holiness of God
A. Isaiah 6:1-5 gives us a great picture of God's holiness (NRSVish).
  • "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.' The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: 'Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!'"
  • Our human reaction to God's awesome holiness is instinctively fear and unworthiness. It's a little like the way you would react to an elephant moving around in the same space you're in. The elephant isn't trying to hurt you, but watch out!
B. So does Exodus 19:10-13 and 20:18-21
  • The Lord said to Moses: “Go to the people and sanctify them [make them holy] today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and prepare for the third day, because on the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. You shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Be careful not to go up the mountain or to touch the edge of it. Any who touch the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch them, but they shall be stoned or shot with arrows; whether animal or human being, they shall not live.’”
  • When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.” Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
  • English throws us off, but the word sanctify in both Greek and Hebrew is the same root as the word holy. To sanctify is to make holy and holiness is the state of being sanctified, set apart as belonging to God.
  • Yes, purity is part of it, but in this case as much "ceremonial" purity is mentioned--moral purity as God had revealed it to the Israelites thus far is assumed.
  • This reminds me of the Nazi scene in the first Indiana Jones movie.
  • This also reminds me of what happened to Uzzah.
C. Taking stock of the holiness of God.
  • We have lost sight of the awesomeness of God.
  • The question, "Why should I believe in God can be a foolish one?" Why should God believe in you? If God exists, it doesn't matter what you think about him. He's God. You are the one that needs to deal with it.
  • Plantinga's possible word argument for the existence of God. It is in the nature of God that if God exists in one possible world, he must exist in all possible worlds. By definition, he is the ground of all being (and not in the Tillich way).
  • If God exists, He is the deal.
II. Holy People
A. So God is awesome.
  • A million volt fence doesn’t kill you because it’s angry with you but because you are not equipped to handle its awesomeness. How can we stand the holiness of God?
  • Guardians of the Galaxy - Starlord can stand the infinity stone because there is something inside him, "something ancient, something special." The Holy Spirit inside us is a little bit of God inside us. The Spirit makes it possible for us to partake in the holiness of God.
  • Like being plugged into God or better, God plugs into us (like the scene in Guardians where they are holding hands and the power of the stone spreads among them).
  • The early holiness writers compared holiness to newly implemented electricity. When God is touching us, we get electrified by his holiness.
B. Some examples of divine electrification/sanctification
  • 1 Corinthians 7:14-16: The unbelieving husband is made holy [sanctified] through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so… Wife, how do you know if you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know if you will save your wife?
  • The unbelieving spouse and young children aren't even believers! But they can be made holy. They can be sanctified. They can be brought into the force field (cf. Incredibles).
  • 1 Corinthians 1:1-2: Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God… to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified [made holy] in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • The Corinthians are carnal, but they are sanctified. They are brought into the force field because Christ has touched them.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24: May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely [make you holy through and through]; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
  • This is what Wesleyans have referred to as entire sanctification. It does imply blamelessness. Note also that the language is corporate!
C. Two for the road. Yes, it also means "moral" purity.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5: This is the will of God, your sanctification [holiness]: that you abstain from sexual immorality, that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passion.
  • Hebrews 12:14: Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Hermeneutics Lectures

This fall for the first time I have the privilege of teaching a graduate level hermeneutics class. I personally have found it hard to put all the pieces together in a way I like. As usual, I find myself wanting to write a book.

But I have made some videos. Here's my sense of how a book might be put together:

I. Hermeneutics
A. Introduction
1. The Hermeneutical Problem
2. Hermeneutical Presuppositions (1 hour)
3. A Three Worlds Model

B. The Structure of Meaning
4. The Meaning of Words (34 min.)
5. The Meaning of Metaphors (36 min.)
6. The Meaning of Texts (39 min.)

C. Synthesis
7. The New Testament Use of the Old
8. The Story of Hermeneutics

II. Interpretative Method

A. Story of Biblical Criticism
9. The Rise of Historical and Textual Criticism
10. Twentieth Century Criticisms
11. Ideological Criticisms

B. Advanced Inductive Bible Study
11. Words and Grammatical Features
12. The World of Discourse
13. The World of Story
14. Genres of the Bible
15. Historical Background
16. Canonical Perspectives
17. The Kingdom Trajectory
18. Christocentric Interpretation

Sermon Starters: What's up with Romans 7?

Context: This wasn't really a sermon but an evening presentation of sorts as part of the B. H. and Dorothy Phaup Holiness Emphasis Series at Southern Wesleyan University. In the morning I preached a sermon. This was the evening "lecture" in the new Nicholson-Mitchell Building, which used to be the College church.

What's up with Romans 7?
1. The infamous verses (Romans 7:14-25)
________________________
"The Law is spiritual, but I am made of flesh, sold under Sin. I don’t know what I’m doing! I do things I don’t want to do, but what I hate I do! And if I’m doing what I don’t want to do, I [at least] agree that the Law is good. But now I am no longer doing [these things I don’t want to do] but Sin, which is living inside me.

"For I know that good does not live in me—that is in my flesh. For wanting [to do the good] exists in me but doing [the good] does not. For I don’t do the good I want to do but the bad I don’t want to do I do. And if I am doing what I don’t want to do, I am no longer the one doing it but Sin which lives in me.

"I find the rule then for me—the person who wants to do the good—that the bad is what’s present in me. For I delight in the Law in my inner person. But I see a different “law” in my body parts, a law that opposes the Law in my mind and enslaves me with the law of Sin that is in my body parts.

"I am a wretched man! Who will rescue me from this body of death? … Therefore, I myself with my mind serve the Law of God, but with my flesh the Law of Sin."
_________________________
Notice I intentionally left out a piece--it's the most important piece, IMO. We read these verses in isolation and their meaning seems obvious to us--we just can't help but be spiritual losers. This meaning resonates so much with American Christianity that it seems inconceivable that they would have any other meaning.

But I'm going to try to convince you tonight that this is exactly the opposite of what Paul was saying!

2. The situational context of Romans
  • Romans was written at the end of Paul's third missionary journey from Corinth, right before he went to Jerusalem and was arrested. Here's a conversation he would have with James, Jesus' brother, right after that:
“You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and they are all zealous for the law. They have been told about you that you teach all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, and that you tell them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs” (Acts 21:20-21, NRSV)
  • What we see here is that Paul had a bad reputation among the Christians in Jerusalem. His reputation was that he was teaching Jews to stop keeping the Law.
  • In Romans 3, he addresses this reputation. He effectively denies that he is against the Law.
“If through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), ‘Let us do evil so that good may come’? Their condemnation is deserved!”
  • Paul denies being "pro-sin." He doesn't teach, "Sin boldly that grace may come."
  • I remember a Rugby lad in my time in England with juvenile diabetes. On Friday nights he would give himself a huge shot of insulin and then go drink himself into oblivion.
  • Paul denies that he has this approach to sin--take a Jesus shot and then go sin all you want.
  • In several of his letters (1 Corinthians, Galatians) Paul walks a fine line. On the one hand, we are free in the Lord (Augustine's, "Love God and do what you want"). But if we want to use our freedom to sin, we probably aren't quite in the Lord. Don't use your freedom as an opportunity to sin (Gal. 5:13).
  • So Paul actually affirms that the Law is good:
“Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold law.” (Romans 3:31)

3. The literary context: Romans 6-7
  • So let's look at how Paul is actually arguing that he is against sin in the life of believer in the broader context of Romans 6-8.
“What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (6:1-4)
  • Paul does not support sinning. Those in Christ should walk in newness of life.
“Therefore, do not let sin be the boss over your mortal bodies, to make you obey its passions. Stop presenting your body parts to sin as weapons of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your body parts to God as instruments of righteousness.” (6:12-13)

“What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (6:15-16)

“But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (6:17-18)

That phrase, "thanks be to God" is in the part I omitted from Romans 7:

“Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God! Through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (7:24-25) It suggests that Paul sees a believer moving beyond being slaves to sin by the power of Jesus Christ.

4. A series of contrasts
This "used to be but now is not) pattern appears over and over in Romans 6-7:
  • “Just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.” 6:19
  • “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness… But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.” (6:20, 22)
  • “While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.” (7:5-6)
5. Returning to 7:14-25
  • Paul is dramatizing the person who wants to keep the Law but cannot because they are in the flesh. They do not have the Spirit. This person repeatedly fails.
  • The present tense is thus a vivid way of talking about this state, when one is a slave to Sin.
  • The dramatic portrayal climaxes with, "I am a wretched man!" Who will rescue me from this flesh? The answer comes immediately, "Thanks be to God! Through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
6. The person with the Spirit then continues in Romans 8
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do… so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

What does this look like?
  • Love your neighbor as yourself!
  • “The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:9-10)
  • Paul hinted at this person in 2:14-15: "When Gentiles, who do not possess the law by nature, do what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law in themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts."
  • I believe Paul is referring to Gentile Christians who, by the power of the Spirit, love their neighbors as themselves.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Sermon Starters: Half-Way Christians

Title: Half-Way Christians
Context: B. H. and Dorothy Phaup Holiness Emphasis Series, Southern Wesleyan University
Text: 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:3
Prayer

Introduction: The Church at Corinth
  • A tale of two pastors and two groups in a congregation - Paul and Apollos
  • Paul's letters are "clean up on aisle 6" - Corinth was messed up
  • Ironically, the wrong group thought it was spiritual, thought they had greater spiritual knowledge. We know because it's Paul's side of the argument that ends up in the Bible.
  • The problem is that they are "skin--y." Nothing wrong with skin or flesh. It's just weak. Your psychology professors might talk about the swirling chemicals in your brains or your amygdala or your medula or your cerebellum. You have these impulses.
  • God made the impulses--but sometimes they target the wrong thing. When Paul talks about being carnal (think carnivore) or "fleshly" or "in the flesh," he's talking about Sin controlling our impulses and desires. Some translations have moved away from this language, but IMO you can't really get a good sense of what Paul is talking about if you don't see this connection.
  • The church at Corinth is showing its fleshiness because of jealousy, envy, and strife. Not because of conflict. Conflict isn't bad if it doesn't break. In fact it can be very constructive. Illustration.
Point 1: The Default Human
In our default state, we can neither understand spiritual things and we certainly can’t live the life God wants us to live.
  • The word "unspiritual" or "natural" here is difficult to translate. It is basically something like "soulish." I'm always tempted to translate it "the merely animal person." This is a person without the Holy Spirit, a person truly in our default, natural state.
  • There are lots of "merely animal" people out there. I preached recently on John 3 and argued that this is why it is important to be born again--you are walking dead until you are born from above, a "merely animal person."
  • Such a person doesn't think like Christ. They may be truly intelligent, but their assumptions and way of thinking will be way off. Take an economics class you take here and one they might take at Clemson. The science is the same. The law of supply and demand is the same. But the spiritual person looks at every person as important and valuable, while the "merely animal" person may look at the big picture of economies and not give another thought to some "unimportant person" who gets run over by the machinery of capitalism.
  • Such a person cannot act like Christ. Tonight we're going to look at Romans 7. I'm going to disappoint you by showing you that it's not talking about a Christian--"the good I want to do I don't do and the bad I don't want to do I do."
Point 2: The Spiritual Goal
Our goal is to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” and not a spiritual loser.
  • I used the word "loser" to wake you up. It is very popular right now--indeed I fear I will not be able to persuade you tonight--simply to accept that Christians are spiritual losers. We just can't live the way God wants us to live.
  • But what would it look like? What would it look like for the Corinthians?
  • 1 Corinthians 13 - the solution to the Corinthian problem is love. Did you ever notice that this chapter is wedged smack in the middle of Paul's discussion over spiritual gifts? It looks like some people thought they were better than others because of the spiritual gift they had.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:31 - some of them were rubbing their freedom in the faces of others who believed they shouldn't do certain things. This was also not loving. 
  • Paul sums it up by saying, do what brings glory to God. Illustration.
  • The 2 examples from 1 Corinthians above basically add up to the love command--love God, love neighbor (cf. Matt. 22). This is what holiness looks like.
Point 3: Half-Way Christians
Too many of us are stuck in the flesh, and need to rely on God to get out of our skin-controlled faith.
  • How? The answer is very simple. We can't--not in our own power. Only God can do it.
  • We have to get plugged in. Holiness is what happens when God plugs himself into us. I always think of Guardians of the Galaxy here. More on that tomorrow night.
  • The first God-empowered step is total surrender. Total surrender right now in our culture seems complicated. More on that Wednesday morning.
For Now...
Ask yourself. What haven't I surrendered to God?

Saturday, October 27, 2018

For Patrons: Paul and the Temple

My podcast/video for patrons this week is now available. This week looks at the few passages in Paul that seem to bear on his attitude toward the temple, a subject he really does not address in his letters in any detail. My hunch is that he had not yet connected the dots in the way that Hebrews would soon enough.

Patrons are those who donate at least $5 a month to my Patreon.com page, supporting my daily podcast commentaries on Acts, along with the daily videos on the Greek of these same passages.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

For Patrons: The Church at Ephesus

My podcast/video for patrons this week is now available. This week is highly speculative, but looks at other parts of the New Testament that may intersect with Ephesus: Romans 16, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Revelation, 1 John, and the Gospel of John.

Patrons are those who donate at least $5 a month to my Patreon.com page, supporting my daily podcast commentaries on Acts, along with the daily videos on the Greek of these same passages.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Sermon Starters: The Wisdom to Know the Difference

Title: The Wisdom to Know the Difference
Text: Acts 5:27-42
Context: Asbury Orlando Chapel, October 19, 2018
Video: https://vimeo.com/296894949

Introduction
1. The Facebook wars
  • The last two and a half years have been brutal.
  • People in families have stopped talking to and visiting each other.
  • I know a professor whose doctoral adviser told him never to contact him again.
  • Reminds me of the Thirty Years War... finally the Protestants and Catholics decided to agree to disagree.
  • Deeply troubling! It would be one thing if it were external persecution.
  • But Christians are deeply divided. Both sides can't understand how the other side can be Christian and think the way they do.
  • I suggested on Facebook that the truth was somewhere in the middle and was basically deChristianized.
2. The Serenity Prayer (H. Richard Niebuhr)
  • Lord, grant me the calm (serenity) to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
  • I'm pretty good about accepting the things I cannot change. Some aren't. They keep running into the wall saying, "This wall shouldn't be here." Give example.
  • [Quite bizarrely, a duck banged into a slide glass door at exactly this point in the sermon. It kept trying to get in and kept running into the glass door.]
  • I have a slightly different question--Lord, when should I stay and pray and when should I jump into the fray? I come from a line of "talkers." I want to say something. I like Facebook. 
  • "Lord, grant me the discipline to stay quiet and not do anything when I should. Then grant me the courage to speak up and act when you want me to. And, indeed, give me the wisdom to know the difference!"
3. Acts 5, Gamaliel, and Peter/John
  • Give background. 
  • Gamaliel is a "don't act" kind of guy. Peter is a speak up/act kind of guy. Each action has its time, but how do we know when to do which?
  • At this point in sermon preparation I said to the Lord. OK, I've got the right question but could you please help me with the answer?!
  • It can be a little annoying when someone who likes how things are going tells you, "You should just pray." Sometimes God wants us to act. There are Joshua and Peter times, prophetic times when God wants us to speak up and act. But there are also Gamaliel times to let God take care of it.
Some Guidelines
1. Pray no matter what!
  • By all means pray, even if you believe God wants you to act too. Put yourself in the path of the means of grace. Worship. Mediate on Scripture. You'll be more likely to know what God wants you to do.
2. Do what God tells you to do.
  • The problem is that we can be wrong.
  • So "know thyself." Sometimes God wants us to act in accordance with our personalities (e.g., Gamaliel and Peter). 
  • But it is very likely to be God when you feel led to do something the opposite of your natural inclination (e.g., when a talker feels led to be silent or a normally silent person feels led to talk).
3. Submit to authority.
  • Of course not always... Peter doesn't here... but often we are not on our own authority to speak or act. Unless you are very certain, submit to those in authority over you with regard to speaking/acting.
4. Speak/act out especially for the powerless, the marginalized, the oppressed.
  • This is what Jesus modeled (inaugural address in Luke 4).
  • God doesn't as often call us to speak out to defend the powerful--they generally don't need defended.
  • King Ahab and Queen Jezebel might have felt like Elijah was abusing them or bullying them, but they were the abusers. They were the powerful. The prophetic voice usually speaks truth to power, not power to powerless.
5. Speak/act with an eye on the redemption of your "enemy."
  • Even when your enemy is something more like someone you disagree with
  • We are to love our enemies. We can speak into their lives without denying that they are created in the image of God.
  • "A soft answer turns away wrath."
6. You can be strong and nice.
  • A recent tweet suggested that Christians need to stop being "nice guys." But you can be strong and nice.
  • "Wise as a serpent; harmless as a dove." A strange statement, but it is clear that while the person is acting prudently in relation to evil and being "worldly wise," they also are doing good for others. Even when we are as wise as a serpent, we shouldn't do it with a hateful or vindictive spirit.
  • The strong don't need to become insecure or power up because they are strong enough not to be intimidated by opposition.
7. The cross is a pretty good option.
  • Was reading Greg Boyd recently. He's an Anabaptist, almost a pacifist, perhaps not quite.
  • He addresses the old, "What do you do if someone breaks into your house and is going to harm your wife and kids. Would you be a pacifist then?"
  • He wasn't entirely sure. But he suggested that a person with a heart like Jesus might find themselves coming up with another option than violence.
  • After all, Jesus died on the cross. If we suffer loss for calmly, lovingly, and strongly speaking or doing what we believe is right, a little suffering might not be such a big deal.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Lectures on Philosophy

My intention is to slowly accumulate video lectures introducing philosophy from one Christian point of view. Here is the introduction to philosophy that I wrote.

0. Is Philosophy Christian? (18 minutes)
1. The Questions of Philosophy (25 minutes)

2. Thinking Clearly (logic)
3. The Existence of God (philosophy of religion)
4. The Question of Evil (37 minutes, philosophy of religion)

5. What is a Person? (philosophical psychology)
6. Perspectives on Ethics
  • 6.1 Overview of Ethics
  • 6.2 Ethical Duties
  • 6.3 Ethics and Consequences
  • 6.4 Ethics and Virtue
7. Perspectives on Society
8. Perspectives on Truth
9. Philosophy of Language
10. Philosophy of Science
11. Philosophy of History
12. Philosophy of Art

For Patrons: Paul at Ephesus

My podcast/video for patrons this week is now available. In it I mention what seems certain about Paul's time at Ephesus while also pulling together all my speculations about letters Paul might have written from Ephesus during this time.

Patrons are those who donate at least $5 a month to my Patreon.com page, supporting my daily podcast commentaries on Acts, along with the daily videos on the Greek of these same passages.


Saturday, October 06, 2018

For Patrons: The Church at Thessalonica

My podcast/video for patrons this week is now available. It's a look at the Thessalonian church and the two letters of Paul to the Thessalonians.

Patrons are those who donate at least $5 a month to my Patreon.com page, supporting my daily podcast commentaries on Acts, along with the daily videos on the Greek of these same passages.


Monday, October 01, 2018

Sermon Starters: Beyond the Walking Dead

Location: IWU Chapel, October 1, 2018
Text: John 3:1-8, 16

Introduction
  • Bible Mondays--read John 3 today, memorize John 3:16 if you haven't already
  • Let's quote John 3:16 together
  • I was tempted to preach on John 3:16 today - turn to someone near you and guess what a sermon on John 3:16 would have been about... 20 seconds, go
I. John 3:1-8
A. Nicodemus
  • A Pharisee - they're not "fair, you see"
  • Actually, he's one of the cool kids. He knows the Law. He's super-spiritual... or so the people thought.
  • He's not just a professor. He's an STM professor! :-)
  • Maybe a little embarrassed that he doesn't have all the answers. Maybe a little embarrassed that he's not as spiritual as he wants to be.
  • You ever feel like that? That people look up to you and expect you to have it all together, but you know that you really don't? It's a lot of pressure.
  • Illustration
B. Jesus
  • Cuts to the chase.
  • "You must be born again/from above" - the potential double entendre
  • Nicodemus is confused.
II. The Walking Dead
  • My dislike of horror movies, especially of the apocalyptic kind
  • Driving around with WD in your head
  • The world is actually the reverse.
  • Our human lives are a struggle to become alive.
B. We are the walking dead.
  • All have sinned and are the walking dead.
  • Apart from God, we are all roadkill. We are all zombies. We look like the image of God, but it is marred almost beyond recognition.  
  • The argument from evil (Nietzsche's madman, existentialism)
  • Most people wander around without a true sense of the meaning of life (live for pleasure or for idolatrous causes or they serve God as a duty rather than a delight)
III. The Spirit is the Solution.
  • The Spirit is the breath of life.
  • He is the power to be human again. Charges the image of God.
  • Illustration
  • He powers us to live and love as God made us.
  • He is the Spirit of truth that gives us discernment, to see the world as it is and can be.
IV. How do we get him?
  • John 3:16
  • Faith - not a mere check yes, check no, not mere words
  • Romans 10:9 - a Lord is a master. Allegiance, investment, commitment
  • "Jesus is [my] Lord."

Saturday, September 29, 2018

For Patrons: Stoicism and the New Testament

My podcast/video for patrons this week is now available. It's very superficial but a quick 24 minute introduction that at least might launch a person into deeper study of possible intersections between Stoicism and the New Testament.

Patrons are those who donate at least $5 a month to my Patreon.com page, supporting my daily podcast commentaries on Acts, along with the daily videos on the Greek of these same passages.


Sunday, September 23, 2018

8 Week Romans Bible Study

Starting October 4 (Thursday), I will be doing an 8 week Bible study, going through Romans, with the Light and Life Wesleyan Church at Three Rivers, Michigan via Zoom. We will meet from 6:30-7:30 on the schedule below. If a church small group or you as an individual would like to join the Bible study, just email me (ken.schenck@indwes.edu).

For a church, all you need is a laptop and the ability to project the internet on a screen. If you want a daily devotional to work through alongside the Bible study, I have two devotionals on Romans (Our Righteousness and Our Relationships)

Here is the schedule:

Oct. 4 – The Reasons for Romans
Oct. 11 – All Have Sinned
Break Week
Oct. 25 – Right with God by Faith
Nov. 1 – The Human Condition
Nov. 8 – How Salvation Works
Nov. 15 – All Part of the Plan
Break Week
Nov. 29 – Living Together in Peace
Dec. 6 – Debated Issues in the Church

This is somewhat of an experiment. If it works, the School of Theology and Ministry at Indiana Wesleyan University might do something like this regularly.