Read through the Bible, Part 31

Last week we finished reading through the book of Hebrews. Toward the end, in the last couple of verses of Hebrews 12, a serious note is struck: let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire (12:28b-29). The writer’s statement shines a spotlight on the seriousness and importance of worship. Worship is not something to be taken or treated lightly.

The reason reverence and awe are required is because of what is at stake. The goal of worship is just that: worship. That is, the goal of worship is that God is worshiped. And, evidently, there is worship that is acceptable as well as worship that is unacceptable. Penultimate, but still very important, is the inner transformation of the worshipper. In other words, there is a pastoral concern at working hard to … Read More »

Read through the Bible, Part 30

The book of Hebrews is full of what interpreters often refer to as warning passages. Warning passage is a technical phrase that refers to a strong warning sometimes found in the Bible directed toward God’s people to keep them squarely on the path of faith. For example, consider the one in 3:12: Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. Or again, in 6:4-6:

For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of … Read More »

Read through the Bible, Part 29

Our year is coming to a close and so is our reading of the Bible. In the New Testament we have finished our reading of Paul’s letters and have begun the catholic epistles, the first of which is the book of Hebrews. Hebrews is an anonymous book. For whatever reason no name was attached to it. That, however, has not stopped people from speculating about who the author may have been. Luke is often suggested because of the style of Greek. Others say it was Barnabas because of his Jewish background. And it was Luther who suggested it might have been the well-learned Apollos.  One thing we can almost be certain of — as certain as one can be when talking about anonymous sources — is that it was not written by the apostle Paul. There are many reasons that … Read More »

Read through the Bible, Part 26

Proverbs 23 – Ecclesiastes 10; 2 Corinthians 3 – 10

Few people are unfamiliar with the name C.S. Lewis. He was a literary genius par excellence. Like few others in history he was able to span the literary spectrum offering works on literary scholarship as well as children’s stories and even on Christian apologetics. He was a committed and thoughtful Christian and tenacious defender of the faith.

It’s because of this that many were startled when they read his A Grief Observed, a book that was a reflection on life, and especially death, after his young wife’s death. In the book he spoke of the pain of grief in vivid detail. “It doesn’t really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on.” But that was tame compared to … Read More »

Read through the Bible, Part 25

Proverbs 6 – 22; 1 Corinthians 13 – 2 Corinthians 2

When I meet with engaged couples for pre-marital counseling we always discuss four subjects: communication, sex, money, and Biblical manhood and womanhood. These are areas, it has always seemed to me, that are fundamental parts of any relationship and need to be intentionally thought about and cultivated. Evidently I’m not alone because nearly every book on marriage on my shelf tackles one or more of these topics. What has been interesting to me, however, is the way my counseling has evolved to include the topic of manhood and womanhood in general; from a purely human vantage point. The point I try to make is so axiomatic that it would seem it doesn’t have to be said at all. But it does and will have to be said with increasing regularity … Read More »

Read through the Bible, Part 24

Psalm 138 – Proverbs 5; 1 Corinthians 7 – 12

While on the one hand I can’t believe that Colin Kaepernick continues to make front page news—we are talking about a football player right? And since I have this little sidebar going, what does it say about a culture wherein the main cultural makers and shapers are entertainers?—I am grateful for the coverage he is getting for a couple of reasons. Kaepernick, as you know, riled American patriots because of his refusal to stand for and during the United States national anthem, which like a liturgical call to worship, is played at the beginning of every football game. And that is not an accident. Since we humans are liturgical animals we need routine and structure. It’s everywhere, really. Now here is why I am grateful. His refusal to stand at the … Read More »

Read through the Bible, Part 23

Psalm 120 – 137; 1 Corinthians 1 – 6

In last week’s sermon I mentioned weddings as one of the last remaining pageants that we have in our culture. The military has some and so do colleges. But weddings are something everyone can relate to. During these ceremonies significant things of life take place. Commands change hands. Students are conferred degrees and two single people become one. It’s human to mark out really

worship is the place that God is active in making and re-making us

important events in this way. One other really important pageant or ceremony that is right under our nose, and one that we may not often think about or even regard as being formative in the way the others mentioned are, is the corporate worship of the people of God. It for this reason that as the … Read More »

Read through the Bible, Part 20

Week 32; Psalm 70 – 87; Acts 28:11 – Romans 4

Humanity went astray and its departure from God is seen in sexual deviation

When I was growing up, “queer” was what we called the effeminate boys who always got picked last during the pick-up football game during recess on the dirt lot out behind school. In my lifetime and in my vernacular queer has always been used pejoratively. I cannot think of even one exception to this rule. And it makes good sense because queer, by definition, is a word that is used to describe something that is a bit off kilter. If you look it up in the dictionary you will find it means strange or odd. Synonyms listed are: odd, strange, unusual, funny, peculiar, curious, bizarre, weird, uncanny, freakish, eerie, unnatural; unconventional, unorthodox, unexpected, unfamiliar, abnormal, anomalous, atypical, untypical, … Read More »

Read through the Bible, Part 21

Psalm 88 – 105; Romans 5 – 10

Some years ago a prominent Christian radio program sent one of their producers to a pastors’ conference to ask attendees if they knew what the theological word justification meant. The answers were tragically revealing. What was so sad was how many who were asked couldn’t articulate an historic or Biblical or cogent definition about the doctrine of justification. And what makes that so sad is that the doctrine of justification is so central to the message of the Bible. And we have been seeing this in our reading of Romans, interestingly enough. When Paul seeks to articulate and define and defend the doctrine of justification he does so by appealing to the central figures of the Bible. He references Adam, quotes David, makes Abraham an exemplar; he takes up all of Israel’s history … Read More »

Read through the Bible, Part 22

This week we finish our reading of the book of Romans. One of the topics taken up in the latter chapters (13:1-7) is the Christian’s relationship to the state: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities… Just as God has given us ministers in the church and parents in the home, so too, the state is ordered in a hierarchical structure, one to which we are called to submit. Our Confession puts it this way:

…It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held … Read More »