Thursday, August 16, 2018

On Boring Preaching

This post is written by my outstanding friend and former colleague, Dr. Bill Bagents. Bill serves as the extremely capable Vice President of Academics at Heritage Christian University in Florence, Alabama.
We preachers tend to be highly insulted when potential listeners find our preaching boring. There are far better options than feeling miffed.
1) Was the sermon boring because I failed to prepare at a level that honored God and respected the gospel? If so, repentance is essential. No one has the right to present the gospel in a careless or incompetent manner (Romans 1:16-17, Hebrews 4:12).
2) Was the sermon boring because I made no preparation at all; I just borrowed it from the internet? It’s tough to find passion for a lesson we had no role in creating.
3) Was the sermon boring because it was shallow, failing to include both milk and meat (Hebrews 5:12-6:3)? We love the famous quotation, “The Bible is a pool in which a child can wade, and an elephant can swim.” Biblical balance is beautiful.
4) Was the sermon boring because it failed to call for transformative action (Romans 12:1-2)? It’s hard to be bored when one is being challenged to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5) and take up the mantle of Christ (1 Peter 2:21-25).
5) Was the sermon boring because it served my needs as a preacher rather than serving the broader needs of the church? Hebrews 10:24 speaks to every Christian, including preachers. Our desire is to stir up love and good works by helping all hearers grasp the sense, power, and urgency of God’s word (Nehemiah 8:8).
6) Was the sermon boring because my life contradicted the words of the sermon? We love consistency and congruence, especially the perfect example of Jesus (Acts 1:1). Our actions should always support the gospel (Titus 2:6-8).
7) To shift perspectives to the listener, was the sermon boring because of my lack of spiritual interest as a hearer? When God’s people stopped listening to Him, there was a prophetic silence of some 430 years between Malachi and John the Baptizer. An effective sermon needs both a faithful, biblical message and a God-seeking hearer (Hebrews 5:11).
8) Was the sermon boring because of a warped world view? In ancient Athens, some lived for nothing but “either to tell or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21). Their descendants live among us today, asserting that only the novel and the surprising merit their attention.
9) Was the sermon boring because I failed to pray for both the preacher and the hearers? We tend to prepare for events and activities that we deem important. We assert that God hears and helps when we pray within His will. Every sermon should be bathed in prayer from every direction.
10) Was the sermon boring because it’s easier to choose boredom than to welcome the challenge to grow into the image of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16)? We can always find a preacher who will tell us exactly what we enjoy hearing (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Saturday, August 11, 2018

11 Life in the Desert – Deut 12-26 – Specific Covenant Stipulations

In Deuteronomy 12-26 Moses continues to spell out, explain, and elaborate on the Ten Commandments by declaring the particular requirements of God’s covenant. Some sections repeat what we have already seen. Others expand those teachings further or reveal additional laws not yet stated. One writer in the College Press NIV Commentary notes, “Moses anticipated settlement in the Promised Land and therefore dealt with issues not found in earlier legislation. The intention was to apply the broad principles of the Ten Commandments to everyday life in the land. Because of this focus Deuteronomy had a continuing relevance for the people of Israel, and each new generation could hear it afresh. It is because of this nature of the material that it lends itself to reflection and meaning for God's people through the ages.”
Deut 12 Proper Worship
12:1-4 Destruction of Canaanite Idols
12:5-14 Holy Offerings at the Chosen Place
Eventually God will say, “Jerusalem. The Temple.”
To prohibit pagan places and acts of worship.
12:15-28 “Non-Holy” Meat at Any Place
Israelites could eat regular meat anywhere, but not the animal’s blood.
12:29-32 Rejection of Canaanite Religion
“Beware that you are not ensnared.”
Deut 13 Threats of Idolatry
Three Cases:
13:1-5 A Prophet or Dreamer of Dreams
The sign may occur but the doctrine be false.
13:6-11 Your Relative, Spouse, or Best Friend
Do not yield, listen, pity, spare, or conceal him.
13:12-18 One of Your Cities Gone Astray
Destroy man and beast. Burn city and booty.
Deut 14 Foods and Tithes
14:1-21 Clean and Unclean Foods
No cutting or shaving (re: magic, polytheism).
Rationale for food distinctions: hygiene? Pagan practices? Economy? Obedience? Self-control?
14:22-29 Tithes
Note: they ate the tithe they brought.
14:28 Add’l tithe every 3 years for the landless
Inclusion of alien, fatherless, and widow.
Note further discussion in 26:12.
Deut 15 Sabbatical Year; Firstborn
God’s plan to relieve Israelites’ debt and poverty.
15:1-3 All debts of Israelites canceled in 7th year.
15:4-6 Ideally, none poor. Obedience, blessing.
15:7-11 Generosity, not stinginess, in need.
15:12-18 Kind provision for bondservants.
Released in 7th year, furnished liberally.
Remembering that you were slaves in Egypt.
So he may love you and want to stay.
15:19-23 Dedication of firstborn animals.
Deut 16 Annual Feasts; Judges
16:1-8 Passover (Unleavened Bread)
Abib – 1st (lunar) month, March/April
16:9-12 Weeks (Harvest, Pentecost)
16:13-15 Booths (Tabernacles, Ingathering)
16:16-17 Presence of All Males at Chosen Place
16:18-20 Judges and Equal Justice
16:21-22 No Asherah Images or Sacred Pillars
Deut 17 Just Administration
17:1-7 Trial and Execution of Idolaters
Only on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
“Purge the evil from your midst.”
17:8-13 Dealing with Difficult Cases
Homicides, lawsuits, and assaults
Central tribunal or “Supreme Court”
Execution of any who refuse the priest’s verdict
17:14-20 Choice and Qualities of the King
God provided for Israel’s king. Cf. 1 Sam 8-9.
Deut 18 Supernatural Guidance
18:1-8 Provision for Priests and Levites
Not having any land inheritance, they would be supported by the offerings of the people to God.
18:9-14 Prohibition of Spiritism
Divination, witchcraft, sorcery, omens, mediums.
Instead, God’s directions through His prophets.
18:15-22 Promise of the Coming Prophet(s)
In a partial sense, Joshua and others. 34:9-12
In the full sense, Jesus. Acts 3:22–24; 7:37
Deut 19 Protection of Life
19:1-13 Three More Cities of Refuge – West Side
To complement the three in the east. 4:41-43
Protects life. Clarifies, specifies “Do not kill.”
19:14 Protection of Land Boundaries
19:15-21 Witnesses and Justice
False witness would pay the penalty he sought.
Deut 20 Rules of Warfare
20:1-4 Courage in Battle Because of the LORD
20:5-9 Exemptions from Military Service
         New homeowners and vineyard owners
         Engaged men and fainthearted men
20:10-15 Treatment of Distant Cities
20:16-18 Treatment of Canaanite Cities
20:19-20 Treatment of Trees in the Land
Save fruit trees - food. Cut others for siegeworks.
Deut 21 If This Happens, Do Thus
21:1-9 Atonement for Unsolved Murders
21:10-14 Treatment of Captive Girls
Respect. Marriage. Time to mourn. Divorce, but.
21:15-17 Inheritance Rights of Firstborn Sons
Double portion, even if born to “unloved” wife.
21:18-21 Treatment of Rebellious Sons
Elders’ role. All stone. Purge evil. Deter others.
21:22-23 Proper Burial of Hanged Convicts
Capital punishment. Cf. Gal 3:13 – Christ, curse.
Deut 22 Morality in Daily Life
22:1-4 Care for Others’ Lost Animals, Property
22:5 Prohibition of Cross-Dressing
22:6-7 Preserving the Producers of Life (Birds)
22:8 Protecting Against Roof Falls (Parapets)
22:9-12 Laws of Separation
Two seeds, two animals, two fabrics. Why?
Tassels on Garments. Why?
Maintain God-given distinctions from the world?
22:13-21 Charges of Premarital Immorality
Virginity: blood-stained cloth from wedding night.
If false, man chastised, fined c. 2.5 lb. of silver.
If true, woman stoned. Purge the evil.
22:22-29 Adultery, Premarital Sex, Rape
Rape of engaged virgin: man alone dies.
Rape of non-engaged virgin: man fined, forced to marry for life, support, and protect the woman.
22:30 Incestuous Marriage – Stepmother
Deut 23 Cleanliness and Purity
23:1-8 Exclusion from the LORD’s Assembly
Due to pagan practices or acts against Israel.
23:9-14 Cleanliness in the LORD’s Camp
Nocturnal emissions, human excrement.
23:15-16 Protection of Escaped Slaves
23:17-18 Prohibition of Cult Prostitution
23:19-20 Prohibition of Lending with Interest
23:21-23 Completion of Vows Made to the LORD
23:24-25 Limited Food from Others’ Vineyards
Deut 24 Protection of the Weak
24:1-4 No Remarrying of One’s Divorced Spouse
Not endorsing divorce, but protecting women.
Yet Pharisees made it a “command.” Matt 19:7
24:5 No Military Service in 1st Year of Marriage
24:6 No Taking of One’s Livelihood in Pledge
24:7 No Kidnapping, Abuse, or Sale of Others
24:8-9 Obeying the Laws re: Leprosy
Deut 24 Protection of the Weak
24:10-13 Taking Collateral for a Loan
Respect his person, property. Return his cloak.
24:14-15 Paying a Hired Man
Give him his wage before sunset, lest you sin.
24:16 Punishing Only Personal (not Fathers’) Sin
Emphasis on justice, individual responsibility.
Children may suffer consequences, but not guilt.
24:17-22 Being Fair and Generous to the Poor
B/c God redeemed you from Egyptian slavery.
Deut 25 Respect and Responsibility
25:1-3 Limits on Punishment – Max 40 Stripes
Not to degrade the wicked man unnecessarily.
25:4 Fair Treatment of Animals – No Ox Muzzled
Cf. NT preachers, elders. 1 Cor 9:9; 1 Tim 5:18
25:5-10 Levirate (Brother-in-Law) Marriage
Man dies w/o child. Brother marries widow. First child continues the name of the dead man. If the brother refused he was to be publicly disgraced. Cf. Boaz’ marrying Ruth, redeeming the estate.
25:11-12 Prohibition of Unfair Fighting
A wife attacking her husband’s foe “below the belt” would have her hand cut off as her penalty.
25:13-16 Just Weights and Measures
25:17-19 Extermination of the Amalekites
Amalek – the grandson of Jacob’s brother Esau.
Attacked Israel’s weak stragglers. Ex 17:8-16
Deut 26 Offerings of Acknowledgement
26:1-11 Firstfruits: Best Produce of the New Land
B/c God blessed, heard, saved, led, brought us.
Giving – worship to God, shared with others.
26:12-15 Third-Year Tithe
Two great commands: love God; love neighbor.
So, tithes as generous gifts to the needy, poor.
26:16-19 Concluding Exhortation
Closes the covenant stipulations begun in 12:1.
Command. Agreement. Obedience. Blessing.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

First-Class MALE – Make Men Masculine Again

Could it be that evils involving men do not indicate the presence of real masculinity, but rather the absence of it? Is it possible that wicked men are not actually manly men at all? Is there a real danger that, as society seeks to weaken, soften, feminize, silence, and intimidate men, our culture may forget what it means to be truly masculine?
Some of you know that I have been thinking about and discussing what it means to be a “first-class MALE.” In keeping with this I preached recently on gender and gender roles in the home and the church. The next day I came across a fascinating post. Allie Beth Stuckey, Host of “Allie” on CRTV and the “Relatable” podcast, works with Prager University and describes herself as a “conservative millennial.”
In this message and in her video, she explains why demonizing masculinity is not the solution, but the problem.
The words that follow are hers.
Rape, murder, war—they all have one thing in common: Men.
Aggression, violence, ambition unchecked by conscience—all the stuff of “toxic masculinity,” right?
And, the solution is obvious: make men less toxic.
Make men less masculine.
Make men more like women.
But I’m here to tell you that this way of thinking is not only wrong, it’s dangerous.
Here’s why: When you try to make men more like women, you don’t get less “toxic masculinity,” you get more.
Why? Because bad men don’t become good when they stop being men; they become good when they stop being bad. Aggression, violence, and unbridled ambition can’t be eliminated from the male psyche; they can only be harnessed. And when they are harnessed, they are tools for good, not for harm.
The same masculine traits that bring destruction also defeat tyranny. The traits that foster greed also build economies. The traits that drive men to take foolish risks also drive men to take heroic risks.
The answer to toxic masculinity isn’t less masculinity; it’s better masculinity. And we know what that looks like.
It’s a young man opening the door for a girl on their first date. It’s a father working long hours to provide for his family. It’s a soldier risking his life to defend his country.
The growing problem in today’s society isn’t that men are too masculine; it’s that they’re not masculine enough. When men embrace their masculinity in a way that is healthy and productive, they are leaders, warriors and heroes. When they deny their masculinity, they run away from responsibilities, leaving destruction and despair in their wake.
The consequences can be seen everywhere.
One in four fathers now lives apart from his children. And children who grow up without a dad are generally more depressed than their peers who have a mother and a father. They are at far greater risk for incarceration, teen pregnancy and poverty. Seventy-one percent of high school dropouts are fatherless.
“Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives…family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation.”
That was said by then-Senator Barack Obama in 2008.
“If we are honest with ourselves,” he went on, “we’ll admit that…too many fathers are…missing from too many lives and too many homes.”
As much as we try to deny the need for real, masculine strength in society, there’s no denying its necessity. Healthy families and strong communities depend on the leadership and bravery of good men.
Yet, the current trend is to feminize young men in the hopes of achieving some utopian notion of equality and peace. And it starts at the earliest ages. In the school classroom, boys are invariably “the problem.” On the playground, aggressive games like dodgeball have long been banished. We tell young men that their intrinsic desire to compete is wrong. Everybody gets a trophy. Don’t run up the score. This anti-male tilt continues on through higher education and into the workplace. It has created millions of tentative men, unhappy women, and confused boys and girls.
Here’s a secret that every woman knows: Women want real men—men they can count on and, yes, look up to. No amount of feminist theory will change that. I don’t know any woman, at any age, who is attracted to a passive man who looks to her to be his provider, protector and leader. Every woman I know wants a strong, responsible man. That’s not a consequence of a social construct or cultural pressure—it’s innate.
The devaluation of masculinity won’t end well because feminine, passive men don’t stop evil. Passive men don’t defend, protect or provide. Passive men don’t lead. Passive men don’t do the things we have always needed men to do for society to thrive.
In his book, The Abolition of Man, English social philosopher C.S. Lewis writes about this problem. He describes the tension “between cerebral man and visceral man.” “By his intellect,” Lewis explains, man “is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal.”
We need both. Take away one, and you’re left with a man who’s either weak or wicked. And in a world of wickedness, weak men are nothing more than enablers of wicked men.
Rape, murder, war—they all have two things in common: bad men who do the raping, murdering, and warring; and weak men who won’t stop them. We need good men who will.
It’s not masculinity that’s toxic. It’s the lack of it.
I’m Allie Stuckey for Prager University.
Here’s a link to this same message as she presents it in her YouTube video. It is well worth watching and sharing.