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The Essence of Wisdom

There are distinct types of literature within the Bible.  We must distinguish these literary types from each other in order to properly understand them.  Think of what you read.  If you’re in the waiting room of a doctor’s office you might casually browse a magazine that interests you; if there are none available that particularly interest you, then you’ll likely scan the pages of the next best thing on the table.  But if you’re reading the instruction manual of a power tool or appliance–a device that could cause bodily harm if used improperly– then you had better not casually browse the material.  You pay careful attention, you reread, you evaluate.  The difference in the reading material requires separate reading strategies.

There is a section of the Old Testament that we call the “Wisdom Literature”.  The Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon (or Canticles), and Job are categorized under this heading.  This is not to say that the entirety of the Bible is incapable of bestowing wisdom to us.  It is.  The Bible is the very word of God, and therefore, we can learn from every page.  However, the designation of these writings as Wisdom Literature gives us a clue as to their specific purpose.  That purpose, at its most basic level, is to give us commonsensical advice on how to live a godly life in this wicked world.  So, when we investigate these writings we must bear that in mind.

There are parts of certain Psalms that are clearly historical in nature, dealing either with some part of the life of ancient Israel or with the life of David.  Some parts of certain psalms are prophetic in nature, and most deal directly with the advent of Jesus Christ and aspects of his priestly, prophetic, and kingly offices.  But the essential purpose of the Psalter is to teach us how to worship God.  The Psalter was the Old Testament hymnal of ancient Israel.  By the way none of the Psalms are cute choruses; they are meaty liturgical poems.  They teach us about God and our relationship with him.  And by understanding that relationship we gain and understanding of how we must relate to God.  The position our relationship demands is humility.

Another example of the necessity of a reading strategy.  The Proverbs aren’t prophecies.  Prophecies always come to pass–even though they are often misinterpreted.  Proverbs 22.6 states–

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

This is a general principle but is not an ironclad prophetic statement.  Everyone fails as a parent in one way or another, but many Christian parents have been harangued, and laden with guilt over this passage.  But if we interpret it according to its literary type, then no unneeded weight needs to fall on our shoulders.

In the next few blogs I’ll be discussing this important topic.  In the meantime, let me give you some quick homework.  Pick any Old Testament genealogy from 1 Chronicles or 2 Chronicles and read it.  Then try and figure our what the purpose of that genealogy is.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

The Lord’s Supper

Tonight is Maundy Thursday.  Some Christian traditions call it Holy Thursday, while others reference it as Passion Thursday.  However we refer to it, we mean the same thing.  This is the night that the Western church–irrespective of denomination–commemorates the betrayal of Our Lord at the hands of Judas Iscariot, and we remember that tonight is the night that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper.  But tonight none of us met together.

I’ve heard of some churches and denominations observing some type of “virtual communion”.  This is not only irregular but a clear violation of the 2nd Commandment.  The 1st Commandment tells us who to worship —the One True God; the 2nd Commandment instructs us how to worship Him.

We Reformed and Presbyterian folk call this the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW).  Put simply, this is the doctrine that states that God is in charge of commanding us how we may worship Him.  We are not at liberty to innovate the manner in which we worship God, nor are we allowed to implement any aspect of worship that is not either explicitly stated in God’s Word, or can be reasonably inferred from it.

The Lord’s Supper is a holy sacrament.  It is one of only two New Testament sacraments, the other being Baptism.  Tonight was the first Maundy Thursday in 18 years that I didn’t have the privilege and honor of officiating the Lord’s Supper.  That was a bitter pill to swallow.

May God Almighty, lift His hand and deliver us from this virus, this plague on humanity, so that we may reunite and worship Him publicly as the people of God.  Until then we must pray and we must study.  And we must feel the pain in our hearts that can only remedied by the fellowship of the saints.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Thoughts On Holy Week

As we move into Holy Week I think it would be beneficial if we took advantage of the opportunity that The Almighty has given to us.  Opportunity?  Yes, we have an excellent set of circumstances to quiet our hearts, our minds, and our bodies before Him.  Psalm 46.10 tells us to… Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!  In doing so we can recall with greater appreciation the Passion of Our Lord.

That classic verse is essentially a commandment.  I left my normal Bible reading plan on April 2, and decided to read the entire corpus of scripture in twenty-nine days–or at least make a game effort at it.  And in yet another rereading of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) it hit me afresh just how deep a level of stubborn and stiff-necked behavior God’s people can achieve without much effort.  Continually we witness the Israelites complaining and whining and rebelling against God.  He delivered them from over four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, and yet it was not enough for them.  Believe it or not they actually moaned about how much better they had it in Egypt.

Are we any better?  Hardly.  God has been very patient with His people in the West.  While our fellow Christians suffer, bleed, and die for the Name of Christ in multiple arenas, we engage in an array of trivial pursuits.  When was the last time you had a serious discussion with a fellow Christian about the suffering and privation of other Christians–when the pastor wasn’t around?  I once had someone ask me why we had “all these strangers” on our prayer list.  My answer was that they weren’t strangers to the person who asked that we pray for them.  For decades Christians in America have been coasting.  We’ve been lax in attending Sunday worship, and in Europe church attendance is more of an oddity than the norm.  And, suddenly, God has removed that privilege from us.  Yes, you can listen to sermons–and watch worship services on video.  But it is not the same.

I think one thing God is doing is giving us more of what we’ve been asking for with our actions–time away from the people of God, and time in front of a screen.  When the Israelites complained about their food supply, He gave the them so much food from the sky it overwhelmed them.

This is the time of year when we especially meditate on the sufferings of Jesus in the last week of His earthly life.  Do so with care.  Take your time.  Your soul will thank you for the time spent in so doing.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Busy, Busy, Busy

To say that we’re living in, and through, strange times is to put it mildly.  I was talking to some young people this week, and attempted to gauge their reactions and thoughts on what is occurring.  By “young people” I mean teenagers and early 20’s.  Now, this demographic, although not every individual, is historically known for being simultaneously idealistic, cynical, and confused, which is a terrible trio of viewpoints.  But when I spoke to them I received none of those reactions.  What I sensed was anger.  One of them said, “The whole world is stupid.”  At that point I wasn’t about to give him a lesson in English diction or phraseology.  In hindsight, I believe that the anger was mostly likely caused by wounds that the adult world had inflicted upon his youthful idealism.

It’s vital that we address how this crisis is affecting young people and children.  Yes, they have grown up with many, many conveniences such as cell phones, and streaming music.  But more than a few adults I know–including myself– are a tad frazzled by all of the dazzling electronics at our disposal.  And even though young adults, and many children, are very proficient in the technological use of this gadgetry, they aren’t extremely facile at understanding what a 24/7 world is doing to them.

God gave us the Sabbath.  God instituted the Sabbath a very long time ago.  How long ago?  In the Garden, at the advent of time.  If our first parents needed rest, and they had yet to experience sin and its devastating effects, then how much more do you think we need that day of rest?  And human beings are so muddled in their thinking at times that later in biblical history He actually commanded the day of rest.  Generally, parents institute rules because they know that children need boundaries; the youngsters are inexperienced and need to be protected from themselves.  As the Internet insinuated its way into the fabric of our lives we’ve become increasingly busy.  This is detrimental.  Let me state this plainly:  human beings aren’t wired for this type of life.  The Sabbath institution is the proof of this assertion.

I will not seek to travel into the eternal counsel of the Triune God.  Been there, done that, bought the tee-shirt.  The tee-shirt read, “Did you enjoy that monumental waste of time?”  We are finite; God is infinite.  He knows everything; we lose our car keys–excuse me–the keys are now “fobs”.  No one knows specifically what God is doing in this pandemic.  However, there are certain fundamental truths that we may declare regarding God’s activity in any and all situations.  1) He is molding Christians into the likeness of his Son, 2) He is trying to get us to pay attention.  We’ve put Him on hold in the Church for decades.

The Church (the capital “C” means all denominations) is busier than ever.  Building projects, programs, more buildings, and still more programs.  Jesus is Big Business.  We have metrics that determine “success” not realizing that faithfulness is all we are to attempt.  We’ve adopted a business model for the Church, and that is appalling.  And, yet, despite all of our frenzied activity, we still see our beloved country descending into the sewer of cultural decadence.  Do you see the disconnect?  God isn’t impressed by our projects and our programs, and the reality is this–He’s not blessing the results.  Christians are more biblically illiterate than at any time in our Republic’s history.  Using that King James Bible to teach English grammar was a fantastic idea!  Our children have their lives scheduled months in advance; we’ve stolen their childhoods and replaced them with programatic routines.

What exactly is the purpose to all of this.  Most parents think these activities will benefit their children.  I agree that some scheduled, supervised activities are beneficial.  Children do not play that much anymore.  When was the last time you saw schoolboys playing sandlot baseball–without uniforms and coaches.  That is how they learn to work together, deal with differences, moderate themselves, and observe social mores.

God is most certainly telling the human race to slow down.  Are we listening?

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Polarized

We hear the term polarized very often.  Everything and everyone is polarized these days, and it’s usually in the context of our current political situation.  The Covid-19 pandemic might be bringing some people groups closer, and I hope the Lord uses this crisis to help us all see that we desperately need one another in some way.  On the other hand, there are some who thrive in a polarized atmosphere.  In fact, they create it, and they swim in it until it becomes their natural habitat.  Such people are to be pitied, because if someone feels the need to divide people into factions, and pit them against each other, often for their own personal reasons, its truly a sad state of being.  Such a waste energy.

But a positives use of the term is available to us, as well.  Many of us insist on wearing polarized sunglasses.  I happen to be one of them.  I’m aware of the advantages and disadvantages, but I think the pros outweigh the cons.  In this instance the term means– to design so as to permit light only of a certain polarization.  That is, they reduce glare when light reflects off horizontal surfaces, such as water or the road that is in front of you as you’re driving.  I’m no scientist, but it seems to me that an apt way of looking at such a complex scientific concept is that polarized sunglasses, in a way, segregate light, and only allow only certain to pass through the lens.  The undesirable light is quickly shown a closed door.  

The ways the term is used seem to have no commonality.  But they do.  Go to a news aggregator such as Real Clear Politics, and simply look at the titles of the articles.  You’ll notice quickly that the mainstream media acts as a pair of polarized sunglasses.  One side lets in this, and the other side lets in that.  They cherry pick what they want us to read, and the news articles have a definite slant.

Our world needs to change.  Never in history have the circumstances of human existence allowed something such as Covid-19.  We travel much more than former generations, we eat out more, we exchange currency more frequently.  The biblical worldview is not, contrary to what some liberals believe, a vantage point where all points of view and behavior are equally acceptable to God.  God is the prime mover of polarization.  He divides the sheep from the goats, the light from the darkness, the good from the evil.  As Christians, we must attune our sensibilities to filter what is godly polarization and what is man-made, or manufactured, polarization.  May God give us the grace to do so.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

The Bible Is Not a Single Book

Reading the Bible consistently is a challenge for all of us–even ministers.  Don’t let anyone kid you on this matter.  It’s unquestionably among the top half-dozen or so perplexities of life that continuously baffles me.  For those of us who believe that the Bible is literally, the word of God and the only rule of faith and obedience, it only makes sense that we would strongly desire to have God speak to us through this collection of writings.  A collection of writings?  Yes.  You hear Christians with nothing but good intentions say things such as, “The Bible is a book written by a single author–God.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Peter was an eyewitness to the ministry and suffering of Jesus, and in his second epistle he writes–And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Pet. 1:19-21)

The part of the passage I draw your attention to is the final clause–but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.  This clause proves both that men wrote the writings contained in the Bible, and that God inspired their prophetic writings.  It’s essential that we realize that the Bible contains various types of literature, because that in itself proves the Bible is no mere work of human ingenuity.  We find history, personal letters, apocalyptic imagery, poetry, love poetry, genealogies and more within the Bible.  There simply is no other collection of writings in history that comes close to its depth and range.  Written in three ancient languages (Classical Hebrew, Koine Greek and a smattering of Aramaic) by dozens of authors over a span of more than a thousand years and yet… it all comes together as one story with a singular meta-narrative theme–God’s love and grace in the salvation of His people.

When you read the Bible it’s good to realize that all of the writings find their respective fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  We are saved by grace alone, and justified by faith alone.  So, I end with the only question that matters in life– have you trusted Christ to eternally save you?

 

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

I Want My Apple Store Back

This is just one man talking, here.  But I think the Apple Store should be classified as an “essential business”.  My iPhone is so ancient that’s it’s trade-value is a whopping $15.  Air Drop is miscuing; my iPhone and Mac do not recognize each other even if they’re within a foot of each other.  If I try and use the built in email on my Mac it opens dozens of tabs and will not stop until I quit the app.  And I’m convinced that a foreign government is trying to incite me to insanity because iCloud suddenly holds a grudge against me, although I’ve neither offended, nor misused it.  It cooperates with other Mac users, but not me.

I record my sermons on the iPhone, which isn’t optimal, but functional.  Did I mention my iPhone’s trade-in value?  But I digress.  Anyway, the format for such recordings is m4a, and please do not ask me what that means.  My “secretarial assistant”–that’s code for my loving and patient wife– is able to upload them with zero problems.  But not this Sunday.  No, sireee, Bob.  The technology ghosts of the Internet were haunting me once again.  I deduced that if I converted the file to mp3 all would be fine.  I made a brief test recording of me trying to hum an old jazz ballad and low and behold, the file uploaded in an instant.

So, I made a backup copy of the recent sermon (smart move, right?), and went for the conversion, a term which has serious religious overtones.  I retrieved a fresh coffee from my French Press, which is low-tech and gives me no stress.  Ten minutes later the file was still converting.  The familiar angst of technological futility arose within my gut.  Maybe it’s just the bandwidth, I thought, all the while knowing I was lying to myself.  Something was wrong.  The MacBook Air had decided to convert the entirety of my voice memo library to mp3.  I had 677 individual files.  No, that’s not a typo, and no they’re not all sermons, not even a quarter of them are.  I decided that maybe that was a good thing.  I came back 45 minutes later and the completion time was… 6 days and some odd amount of minutes.  Not. Helpful. At. All.

I found the file I wanted and it had already converted.  Taking a risk I dragged it unto the desktop and it remained place!  I then quit the conversion and quickly–the coffee had me revved up and ready to go– got the desired file unto an old Olympus recorder.  The sermon is safely ensconced on the Middlesex PCA website.

Technology and I have a love-hate relationship.  I love it– it hates me.  Members of the church I pastor are well aware that I often fervently pray before I hit “print”, because the printer in my office sometimes acts as if it’s possessed.  I even made a video for one of my elders as proof.  The printer was going berserk and the off button would not comply.

Everything I wrote is true.  And I hope/trust/pray that you realize I’m attempting a bit of humor.  A little bit won’t hurt at this time–the world is bleak enough.  But thinking about what’s occurring at this moment is sobering.  You might say that computer issues are a First World problem (not realizing how degrading that term is), but it’s not.  It’s more like 10% or 5% or dare I say it… 1% problem.  The reality is harsh– if a family of four grabbed some burgers at the drive-through of a fast food eatery today,  they shelled out more money in those few minutes than many people in the world will ever spend on food at any one meal.

I write this to give us perspective, not to inflict shame.  God has blessed us.  If you live in the USA you live in a place that many people would think was…heaven.  We’d all do well to get on our knees and thank The Almighty.

 

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2020 in Uncategorized