I really appreciate this video from Jason Alexander (of Seinfeld fame) explaining Scleroderma and his family’s experience with it. It is an often times unrecognized and misunderstood disease. My son Noah was most likely born with localized scleroderma; we noticed symptoms we couldn’t explain by the time he was two years old, but it was another two years of constant doctors appointments with different specialist after specialist until someone finally figured it out – and that was only because they did a biopsy on part of the affected area of his face. Building awareness and understanding is important!
Last weekend we had an amazing concert night with the Small Town America Tour. It was also our first foray into pyrotechnics in the sanctuary …
The concert itself was a blast. Openers Scarlet White and Shonlock were both amazing, with Shonlock really winning over the teens – they’ve been begging me every time they see me to bring him back for another show where he can have more time and really go to town! Seventh Day Slumber is definitely a rock band. They came out hard and it was amazing. I have to admit, the flame throwers were really, really cool. The lead singer also gave a powerful message that saw a number of kids raise their hands to commit, or recommit, their lives to God which was an incredible thing to witness. Fireflight finished out the night strong, belting out songs from their new album as well as older favorites.
I have to admit, our attendance was not where I was hoping. Usually the bulk of the online ticket sales happen in the days before the show … which this time around was when all the weather reports were saying a hurricane was going to blow through Wilmington the same time as our concert was. Instead of fielding calls about the show, I was answering the question over and over as to whether or not we were going to cancel. The storm never actually hit, but it did damage none-the-less! The bands told me that was the challenge they were running into all that weekend. Even so, they rocked the room like it was packed – I’d definitely recommend ANY of the acts to anyone looking to work with great bands and host an awesome concert!
I look forward to the blob all year long. Because I make teens fly.
Anyway, here’s the music video/highlights video from our 2015 Student Ministry Retreat! It was a blast!
The following is a short post I wrote answering the question, if we don’t have any of the original documents that comprise the Bible – we only have copies – how can we claim it has authority and is of God?
Having been a student of history before entering ministry, I have always found this conversation fascinating. The challenge is in communicating authority of a document without citing the document itself; if someone does not believe in God or the authority of the scriptures, citing scripture’s claims to authority is a circular argument that carries no weight with the skeptic. Fields is right in claiming this is a critical issue when he sums up “the situation.”1 I instead like to focus on standards of authority outside of scripture over time. History absolutely supports the existence of Christ, who in turn gives authority to the Old Testament through His use of it during His time one earth. More significantly, is the sheer volume of copies of scripture we have.
Historians consider what we hold today as representative and authoritative from Plato, yet there are only seven copies of his works, dated 1200 years after the originals, and vary significantly. We have eight copies of Herodotus’ works, 1300 years removed from the originals, which also vary significantly. Similar results are found in the works of Pliny, Suetonius, Euripides, and many others. Aristotle is an improvement with 49 copies of his works existing, but even they are removed by 1400 years.2 Even Shakespeare, removed from us by only a handful of centuries, has significant debate amongst historians about the accuracy of what we hold today and the question of whether or not they are what the performers recited in the Globe Theater under his direction.
And yet, we have thousands and thousands of the Old and New Testament. We have copies within a few lifetimes of the originals. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we have copies of Old Testament works with prophecies about Christ that are positively dated before Christ’s time on earth. Fields points out that the Old Testament copies line up 90% of the time, with only a fraction of a percentage of the difference being words that are not grammar/spelling related. The New Testament copies, thousands of them, line up 99.5% of the time. Other religions have to revise their works or come up with complicated explanations and rationales as modern historical discoveries contradict what is recorded in their scriptures. The Bible, however, is primarily a work of history, poetry and prophesy. In the past there have been critics of its accuracy, questioning some of the historical claims in the scriptures that had not yet been substantiated – yet over time, as we continue to make new historical discoveries, find cities previously unknown, etc., they only serve to confirm scripture, not contradict it. As time goes on, the authority of the documents are only strengthened, not weakened like other religious documents.
For me, the only explanation for the sheer volume of copies of scripture, preserved so well over history – unlike any other major writer or religion – points to a supernatural intervention that can only be explained by God. The scriptures have authority based on secular man’s historical standards. Because of that authority, scriptures claims regarding God carries a weight that no other religious writing does.
1. Lee M. Fields, Hebrew for the Rest of Us: Using Hebrew Tools Without Mastering Biblical Hebrew (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 44.
2. Nicky Gumbel, The Alpha Course Manual (Colorado Springs, CO: Alpha, 1995).
I was having an online discussion with someone the other day about how the Matthew 21 and John 2 passages regarding Jesus cleansing the temple of those selling sacrifices and money changers applies to churches today; his thought was that it meant nothing should be bought or sold anywhere on church property today. I disagreed and wrote the following:
I actually believe that the money changers in the temple courts is an often misunderstood passage. Many interpret it to mean that nothing should ever be bought or sold on church property, but I don’t believe that to be the case. There were two things going on that I believe triggered Christ’s righteous anger.
The first had to do with sacrifices; the ideal sacrifice came out of ones own home/farm. For example, a family would raise a perfect lamb and then sacrifice it. It would represent a real cost, both practically and even emotionally. Any sacrifice brought to the temple had to be approved by the priests as worthy of sacrificing. The priests had gotten to the point of finding faults with the animals people were bringing, a great frustration for all. Meanwhile, they (the priests) had begun selling acceptable animals at an increased cost. They were essentially holding people hostage; rejecting their sacrifices and forcing them to purchase overpriced ‘approved’ animals so that they could be forgiven. People were buying their sacrifices instead of risking the rejection of the ones they brought, effectively changing the worship practice and making the sacrificial system something purchased instead of a meaningful practice with preparation starting in the home.
The second had to do with the temple court itself. While a Jewish person could still proceed in further into the temple courts, the Gentile Court was where the buying and selling was happening. That particular court was as far as a Gentile follower of God could pass. It was intended to be a place for them to worship, to experience God, to grow in their faith. Instead, the money changers and sacrifice sellers had turned it into a marketplace. They had effectively closed the door to non-Jewish people experiencing God at the temple.
The takeaway to me is that the core issue was worship. Jesus was consistently angry with people that created barriers for approaching God. Through their actions, the commercial activities shut down people’s access to worship, and their full experience of what God had intended. It would be like us turning out sanctuaries today into a marketplace instead of a place of worship. Selling resources, charging for coffee, etc., in parts of the building without taking away from our worship services or Christian education classes is a far different scenario than what happened at the temple. The heart is different, the motivations are different, and worship is not obstructed.
In an interesting changeup, Alison Sweeney is no longer on Biggest Loser and Bob Harper will take up the Hosting mantle for season 17! Dolvett and Jennifer will return as the trainers for the show. It’s weird in a way, the show is so far removed from when I was on it – different production company, different location, different trainers – Bob is the only real constant over the seventeen seasons, in addition to the behind the scenes medical and nutritional crew (who don’t really get much screen time).
I’m curious to see how he does in the role. Caroline Rhea is still my favorite host for the show, but Bob could really run with it. Part of me is wondering if it’s a behind the scenes budget cutting move – the fewer celebrities on screen, the lower the bill, and Bob has a fan base they just can’t afford to lose. Either way, without him having a specific team to be championing it’s an opportunity for him to really impact the whole cast and be a voice for the show in a way that he hasn’t had before now.
When I was a teenager my family spent a little over a year serving with the Manjui tribe in the Paraguayan desert during the time we were missionaries in South America. The Hunts are an incredible family who have spent the last forty years living with the Manjui, knowing them, learning the language, creating a written language and dictionary, teaching them the scriptures, planting and nurturing a church, and translating the entire Bible so that the Manjui can read God’s word in their own language. It took forty years to reach that last milestone – it’s so incredible to see the photos, the videos, to witness this precious tribe receiving something that will be a powerful tool for them.
It blows my mind to see that kind of commitment; very few have taken the kind of time that the Hunts have to see such a task come to completion. I’m not sure of the numbers now, but when we lived there just over twenty years ago, there were only a few hundred Manjui total – it was a small, isolated tribe with a language unique to only them. Many would say they’re not worth the effort, that resources could be better used elsewhere for a larger return. They would be wrong – God wants ALL of His children!
It’s also moving to see the physical differences in the tribe today compared to what I experienced in the 90’s. And what I experienced was a tremendous improvement over what the missionaries had originally found with this tribe. There is a greater sense of health, well being. Even things as simple as clothing have improved dramatically. It’s exciting to see how the tribe has changed spiritually and practically over the decades. What an exciting thought to know that some day the Manjui voice and language will be represented in the chorus of voices singing praises in heaven to God!
At the recommendation of two of the former pastors from my church, Pastor Bo Matthews and Pastor Bill Parsons, I grabbed a copy of John Walton’s “The Lost World of Genesis One.” Walton, an expert on the book of Genesis, attempts to propose an approach for reading and understanding chapter one of Genesis, one of the more fiercely debated portions of the Bible. He outlines eighteen propositions towards a literary and theological understanding of the passage. A large part of his approach centers on the idea that our best way of approaching the passage is NOT with our 21st century cultural and scientific leanings, but instead to understand how people in general understood and approached the cosmos 3500 years ago (approximately when Moses wrote Genesis), and how that would have shaped their understanding of Genesis one. Here are two of the key quotes that really resonated with me as I started reading it:
Through the entire Bible, there is not a single instance in which God revealed to Israel a science beyond their own culture. No passage offers a scientific perspective that was not common to the Old World science of antiquity. (page 20)
If God were intent on making his revelation correspond to science, we have to ask which science. We are well aware that science is dynamic rather than static. By its very nature science is in a constant state of flux. If we were to say that God’s revelation corresponds to “true science” we adopt an idea contrary to the very nature of science. What is accepted as true today, may not be accepted as true tomorrow, because what science provides is the best explanation of the data at the time. This “best explanation” is accepted by consensus, and often with a few detractors. Science moves forward as ideas are tested and new ones replace old ones. So if God aligned revelation with one particular science, it would have been unintelligible to people who lived prior to the time of that science, and it would be obsolete to those who live after that time. We gain nothing by bringing God’s revelation into accordance with today’s science. In contrast, it makes perfect sense that God communicated his revelation to his immediate audience in terms they understood. (page 18)
I was a history major in college. My approach to scripture has generally been shaped by that influence, which makes sense. And in reality, there are three types of writing that primarily shape scripture: poetry, history, and prophecy. Because of that, as our knowledge of history outside of scripture grows over the centuries, it tends to confirm what we read in scripture – of course. Scripture is in part history, so man’s historical discoveries should confirm the authoritative history that God inspired. But the debate about Genesis one in particular, and science in scripture in general, is a separate issue. It is looking at scripture as something that it was not intended to be. Does that mean all science in scripture disagrees with our scientific knowledge today? Of course not, but that does not mean it was intended to communicate what we sometimes try to read into it.
Ultimately, Walton makes the case that Genesis one is more about assigning functions than it is anything else. For example, the purpose behind labeling the light day was defining its role as a portion of time. This lines up with much of ancient thought that was more focused on role and function than material origin. Function defined existence and value.
Towards the end of the book I began to feel that Walton was dragging out the argument longer than he needed to. He made his most powerful statements when he focused on culture, understanding, limits of language, writing style, ancient culture and cosmology, etc. Some of his propositions later in the book seemed to focus more on the issue of whether or not science could address the issue of God and it seemed unnecessary to me. The historian in me loved the bulk of his propositions that focused on putting ourselves in the sandals of the original readers and how they would have understood Genesis one. Regardless of that, however, this is a must read. Walton has effectively proposed a thought provoking approach to understanding Genesis one that reconciles scripture and science in a powerful way.
The 2015 Student Ministry Retreat is a wrap! What a weekend! We had a great turnout, amazing weather, and an exciting kick off to the new school year. Our theme for the weekend was #Hashtag; essentially, we took popular hashtags from social media and used them as launching points for our three talks and two small group times. Over the weekend we worked our way through the basics of who Jesus is, a call to commit/recommit to Him, and a challenge to be a light for Him throughout the week in school, our neighborhoods, homes, and sports teams.
Of course, there was a LOT of fun involved with the weekend. I made another rules video (you can see it on the student ministry Facebook page), we tried out Human Hungry Hippo, had our annual candle lighting ceremony, played lazer tag in the woods, went water tubing, bounced on a jumping pillow, used the water slide, played with the canoes, and sent kids airborne off the blob. My son Caleb, an incoming sixth grader, tried it for the first time and got some great air – you can see a picture below!
I came into this weekend feeling nervous; the last half year has been kind of wild at our church. Our senior pastor retired after having first came to the church in 1975. Along with the other pastors, I was pulled in a lot of directions during the transition time. Between mission trips, the senior pastor search, mission trips. and more the summer flew by faster than usual. Even so, I came away from the retreat feeling like in spite of all the chaos going into it, our theme saturated the weekend better than we’ve seen in years. It was amazing how many kids came to me Saturday night and told me the ways they were being impacted by the retreat. Our goal is to see this continue in our student small groups – we took big steps to make sure kids were connecting with their small group leaders so that those critical conversations can continue in the weeks to come!
All in all, it was a great weekend! Now to catch up on some sleep …