Thanksgiving is more than just a great American tradition; it is a ceaseless act of praise to the Lord who has given us everything! So whether you celebrate the holiday this year at home with your family or together with the family of God, set aside time to read Scripture, reflect on your blessings, and give thanks to the Lord in song and prayer. And if you are in the area Tuesday, 25 November, join us at 7 PM for our Thanksinging 2014! If not, here is a sneak peak at this year's Order of Worship.
All songs from Songs of the Church: 21st Century Edition, by Howard Publishing (1990).
Announcements & Opening Comments
LEADER 1: ____________________
Psalm 100 (NKJV): A Psalm of Thanksgiving. Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.
Song No. 128, “All People that on Earth Do Dwell”
Song No. 115, “O Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
LEADER 2: ____________________
Deuteronomy 8:6-17: Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end—then you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.”
Song No. 26, “For the Beauty of the Earth”
LEADER 3: ____________________
Psalm 65: To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. A Song. Praise is awaiting You, O God, in Zion; And to You the vow shall be performed. O You who hear prayer, To You all flesh will come. Iniquities prevail against me; As for our transgressions, You will provide atonement for them. Blessed is the man You choose, And cause to approach You, That he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Of Your holy temple. By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us, O God of our salvation, You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, And of the far-off seas; Who established the mountains by His strength, Being clothed with power; You who still the noise of the seas, The noise of their waves, And the tumult of the peoples. They also who dwell in the farthest parts are afraid of Your signs; You make the outgoings of the morning and evening rejoice. You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it; The river of God is full of water; You provide their grain, For so You have prepared it. You water its ridges abundantly, You settle its furrows; You make it soft with showers, You bless its growth. You crown the year with Your goodness, And Your paths drip with abundance. They drop on the pastures of the wilderness, And the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks; The valleys also are covered with grain; They shout for joy, they also sing.
Song No. 392, “When Upon Life’s Billows”
Song No. 737, “Thank You, Lord”
LEADER 4: ____________________
2 Corinthians 9:6-15: But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.” Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
Song No. 30, “Doxology”
Song No. 77, “Oh, Lord We Praise Thy Name”
LEADER 5: ____________________
Luke 17:11-19: Now it happened as [Jesus] went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”
Song No. 437, “Remind Me Dear Lord”
Song No. 130, “Is It for Me?”
Closing Comments & Prayer:
Revelation is one of my favorite books of the Bible, not because of the controversies that surround it, but because of its splendid display of God’s cosmic work of creation, redemption and consummation. So when the opportunity arose to teach the book, I seized it! But as a good friend of mine once wrote, teachers are students that share, and that’s exactly what I plan on doing. So, Lord willing, as I teach through the book over the next few months, I’ll post a summary of each of the eight major sections of the book (see the link below for the handout), along with links to (1) the full audio recordings of the classes and (2) a PDF of the slide deck we used in class (plus some additional background slides not used). And hopefully, you’ll be following along with us!
The book was recorded by the apostle John in AD 95–96 during his exile on the island of Patmos, off the coast of modern-day Turkey. Some scholars have doubted, though, whether the John mentioned in Revelation is the apostle, or another man by the same name--usually referred to as John the Elder. But with the exception of three early Christian writers and most skeptical scholars of the last century or so, the vast majority of Christian teachers throughout history believe the book to be written by the Beloved Disciple himself. As the Venerable Bede points out, “History notes that John had been banished to this island by the emperor Domitian on account of the gospel, and that . . . he was . . . allowed to penetrate the secrets of heaven while prohibited from leaving a small space of the earth” (Explanation of the Apocalypse 1.9, ACCS).
John identifies his work as both an apokalypsis and a prophecy (1:1-3). But the Greek apokalypsis doesn’t mean “the end of the world;” it means “revelation, disclosure, unveiling.” Most Jewish apocalyptic works were written during periods of foreign occupation, so they were written to conceal the message from the outsider while revealing it to the chosen people. John therefore uses this literary form to stress the cosmic importance of an unswerving faith in the Lamb of God against the godless powers of corrupt religion, corrupt government, and corrupt riches--in both the first century and now.
Most of Revelation therefore consists of a series of dramatic visions symbolizing judgment, which parallel the structure of Greek drama--prologue, episodes, scenes, choruses, and an exodus. The sequence and meaning of these visions have been the cause of much confusion in the Christian world, but as Grant Osborne points out, God has already given us the key: “every symbol in the Book of Revelation was understood in John’s day and drawn from the stock of apocalyptic symbols stemming from the OT and intertestamental period as well as the situation in the first century” (240). Or as John himself points out, Christ revealed to him, “things that must soon take place . . . for the time is near” (1:1, 3 ESV).
Which brings us to the historical background of the book. Revelation is addressed to the troubled churches in the Roman province of Asia (1:4). For them, persecution was a daily part of their life, but was rarely sponsored by the Roman government, ranging from spontaneous mobs to economic discrimination. As Kevin Rhodes writes, “The persecution [recounted in the NT] was sporadic, generally arising from someone’s taking offense to the Christian message because he had something to lose if people converted. . . . While the Jews opposed Christianity for religious reasons, other opponents usually objected due to its economic impact on them personally” (148).
But soon the enemies of Christ would have their day in court. The Living God, the Risen Son, and the Spirit of Truth had spoken (1:5). Just as Christ had delivered his people from their bondage to sin and death, and fashioned them into a nation of royal priests, the Lord would again exercise his limitless power (1:5-6, 8). The irony of at all is that the judgment to come would be the judgment of the Lamb--the Lamb no longer slain, but living, victorious, redeeming and conquering: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen” (1:7).
There is, of course, much more to Revelation than what we’ve covered here (after all, it took me seven weeks to cover this material in class!), but hopefully this gives you a good place to start. Throughout, we must keep in mind the literary, historical, and theological context of John’s masterpiece, ever mindful that there is much we still do not know. As Osborne concludes, “God has revealed everything in symbols, and we can only do our best in interpreting the data in Scripture. He will reveal all in due time. Until then we must be humble and avoid turning eschatology into a new holy war between factions” (242).
And with our own speculations set aside, we can then focus on the central theme of the book: the Lamb of God. Then, as now, the church endures assaults from without and within but is assured of the final victory of Jesus Christ as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (19:16), bringing to ultimate fulfillment the reign of God in “a new heaven and a new earth” (11:15; 21:1). And for that reason, we can join our forefathers in prayer, that the Father “direct our steps that we may walk in holiness of heart and do what is good and well-pleasing in Thy sight and in the sight of our rulers. Yea, Lord, make Thy face to shine upon us for good in peace, that we may be shielded by Thy mighty hand and delivered from every sin by Thy uplifted arm, and deliver us from those who hate us wrongfully” (First Clement 60:2-3 ANF).
The following files are now available for free viewing and download:
As I mentioned Monday, the opportunity to blog again couldn’t have come at a better moment. Anyone who has known me for any time at all knows that if you get me going on a topic I enjoy, you’d better grab a seat . . . and maybe some caffeine. Our weekly Gleanings feature was designed to help me out in this area. I realized that I had entirely too much to say, but not nearly enough time to say it. So, taking my cues from some of my favorite blogs, I decided to post an original article on Monday, and my own favorite online reads Friday.
This does mean that I share some things I don’t always agree with, or that I don’t fully agree with. But I think that’s both to be expected, and okay. Occasionally, I’ll caveat the post with a snarky title, and in exceptionally rare cases provide an explicit disavowal. Most of the time, though, you’ll have to read between the lines on the title I give the reading (which is almost always different from the original) and then see for yourself whether or not it’s worth the read (which I always determine by reading it anyway).
So where do I get my links? You could probably name a few just from seeing them every week, but here are my top four (from last to first), and why I use them and not others.
#4: CNN. A few months ago CNN became my primary source for print news (and by that I mean electronic print). My standards were simple: a mobile app with substantial content, relevant updates, global perspective, readable user interface, and Facebook connectivity. I flirted with several others, especially the Fox News app. In the end, though, four factors turned me off to Fox: (1) their exorbitant use of graphic smut, (2) their annoying ‘Breaking News’ updates, (3) their heavy emphasis on the American political scene, and (4) the fact that I now overhear Fox News Channel for about forty hours every week at work. So there you have it.
#3: The BioLogos Forum. Science is one of those subjects I used to love to hate, but over the years I have grown to appreciate what it has to offer to a life well-lived. The hard part is finding sources that glorify God as Creator, engage with other views substantially and lovingly, and do actual research (both biblical and scientific). The BioLogos Foundation fits this bill rather well. As I pointed out above, I don’t always agree with their views, but because of these disagreements, I do far more homework on things than I would if I read a more familiar source like Apologetics Press.
#2: The Christian Chronicle. The bride of Christ struggles with several problems in our (and every age). What I appreciate most about the Chronicle is their stated mission, “to inform, inspire and unite” Churches of Christ throughout the world through conscientious and comprehensive reporting throughout the brotherhood. They publish much that I cannot in good conscience Like (I usually follow their news blog through Facebook) much less Share, but in the end their policy of engagement is far preferable to the avoidance inherent in many of our “fellowships within the fellowship.”
#1: First Things. I probably don’t have to tell you that I’m a big fan of First Things (I share them so much, I limit myself to only two of their articles per Gleanings!), but I should probably tell you why. Quite simply: they focus on what’s important. So while I get most of my news by watching Fox and reading CNN, the vast majority of my opinion reading comes from First Things. Much like our posts here, their commentary runs the full gamut of human discourse, while centering everything on the important dynamic between Christ and Culture. Each of their writers has their particular niche (often identical with their unfortunate denominational affiliation), but almost all of their writings bring scriptural, historical and/or literary wisdom to bear on the issues of the day.
Quite simply, Gleanings is intended to provide far more breadth and depth to the blog than I could provide otherwise, especially without writing full-time. And putting them together is often more fun than writing my own posts. But hopefully they’re at least a little less fun for you to read!
A year ago this month, my brother, Matt, gave me a call. A few years before we had run a website called Moral Musings, where both of us wrote on spiritual things, while Matt also dealt with literature and I posted on history and politics. The site had gone well enough for a first shot, but life had caught up with us both, and the site petered out. So he asked me if I would like to start writing with him again.
The timing couldn’t have been better. I had just finished my last masters course and I wasn’t teaching Bible class at the time, so I had been quietly considering my options. I had also just been asked to write for our church blog. The only problem was that when my rotation for teaching Bible class came up again, posting would become more difficult, and I didn’t want to give up any more of my family time than I had too.
Rather than compromise, I decided to try a bit of all of the above. Matt and I could run two blogs in tandem so we could each use as much of our existing material as possible (most of which had never been published), and I could post any spiritual content on the church blog, as well. And though we’ve tweaked some things over the past year, this remains my working model: (1) keep family first, (2) focus on my public teaching with the church, and (3) post new or revised articles whenever time allows. So if the sequence of posts doesn’t always make sense, now at least you know why!
I could ramble on about all I’ve learned about you, me, writing and the web, but I’d rather highlight our top five articles you liked on Facebook over the past year, and a little bit about each.
#5: The Limits of Instruction. Aristotle was the first Greek philosopher I read extensively and he remains my favorite secular thinker of any age. After reading his Politics for my first major graduate paper, I took the opportunity the next semester to read Nicomachean Ethics, Rhetoric and Poetics, which serves as the basis for the series on Aristotle you can read here. One of my planned side projects is to finish reading his Complete Works, edited by Jonathan Barnes, which has recently been re-released as a single-volume ebook.
#4: The Virtue of Marriage. As you’ve probably figured out, I don’t really read the same things others do, and when I do I rarely read them the same way. Jane Austen was hijacked by the Left years ago as an exemplar of modern feminism. As this—and our other two posts on Austen—point out, though, she was nothing of the sort. Sense and Sensibility even gets its own chapter in Benjamin Wiker’s 10 Books Every Conservative Must Read as one of four “conservative stories” alongside The Tempest, The Lord of the Rings and The Jerusalem Bible.
#3: The Joy of Baptism. This is one of the few standalone articles I have posted in the last year, and one of my personal favorites. Whether you’re discussing the gospel with friends, or defending the Bible’s position on something, start by simply surveying what the Bible says about it. This article grew out of these types of discussion, and has been instrumental in helping me encourage believers, convict the lost, and silence false teaching.
#2: Resolve to Read. In the last ten years, there are few issues I’ve talked about more than equipping people to get into God’s word for themselves. So every year I tweak this outline and share it with anyone still listening. So look for it again in the next few months! If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at how we got the Bible and how to study it, check out our 16-week Bible study, Understanding Scripture!
And finally, #1: Lessons From the Farm (Hos 10:11-11:11). I’m not only a bit strange in my reading habits, I also tend to teach and write on subjects others might avoid. In the case of Hosea, though, the subject was based on circumstance rather than choice. It just so happened, that when our Sunday morning teacher deployed in the midst of the Minor Prophets, Hosea was next in the docket. But when I was done, I had more to say. That is, until I lost my own steam toward the end and am still three posts short of complete. The timing for this most recent one was also significant: I had just lost my grandmother. And because it attracted both regular readers (all three of you!) and family members, it quickly rose to Number 1. Our series on Hosea--Israel’s Scarlet Letter—is also our longest and most-read.
Well, that’s the list! It’s your list, really, but I am grateful for any fruit our humble little work has borne in the past twelve months. Lord willing, we’ll be wrapping up our current series on Economics in about February, with posts on Revelation: The Drama of the Apocalypse as I teach through the book, then it’ll be on to some lighter reading and shorter series until we settle down in our next assignment.
So God bless and Godspeed!
No two subjects cause greater consternation among people than religion and politics. For the Christian, however, civics is and should always be an essentially spiritual activity rooted in the words given by the Spirit of God (2Co 2:12-13; Rom 13:1-2; 1Pe 2:13). As Christians, then, we cannot forget that ultimately our citizenship is in heaven (Php 3:20). So how do we maintain our heavenly perspective?
First, Pray In Faith. Paul writes to Timothy, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority” (1Ti 2:1-2a NKJV). If we’re serious about the direction our world and nation are heading, we have to bring our concerns before the Lord of heaven and earth. “For wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding” (Dan 2:20-21). We should therefore ask God for good and just leaders who will be a blessing to all (Pro 29:2).
But we can’t politicize our praise. Don’t just pray for ‘your man;’ give thanks for all men. And recognize the awesome power you possess. A quiet prayer is louder than the largest rallies. And a faithful, heartfelt supplication on behalf of our neighbors and leaders is more effective than any human petition. As Christians, we possess an avenue of change open to no one else, and we must use it for God’s glory. For, “By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted, But it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked” (Pro 11:11).
Second, Practice Your Faith. Paul then gives the reason for such a prayer life: “That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1Ti 2:2b). It’s important to voice and vote your conscience, but more importantly, the Christian should live it out. Contrary to popular belief, civics should be peaceable, not partisan. Our focus, then, should be on character and solutions rather than credentials and parting shots. Our lives are the strongest testimony to the nations of man for the God of all men (1Pe 2:11-17). As Solomon writes, “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people” (Pro 14:34).
Not only is this simply the right way to live, it reminds us that the ultimate answer to the world’s problems is not a political one. Thus, when Moses says God “administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing,” it is not a political talking point, but a call to action (Deu 10:18). There is, of course, a pragmatic side to politics, but such pragmatism must be grounded in first principles. Upholding justice, caring for orphans, caring for the elderly, caring for immigrants and refugees, and caring for the homeless, hungry and naked, are not just political problems, they are moral problems that require moral solutions.
Furthermore, we should Proclaim Our Faith. Paul continues, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1Ti 2:3-4). A Christian’s identity should be apparent to all because of their twofold desire to (1) please God and (2) save souls—and civics is no different. For many of us, though, we are primarily Americans, or Texans, or Republicans, oh yeah, and we go to church too. But one day none of that will matter: America will fall, Texas with be no more, Republicanism will be out of vogue—because there is only one kingdom that will endure forever (Dan 2:44; Mat 16:18).
Christ is the only Savior, political or otherwise—the King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev 19:11-16). And “there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1Ti 2:5-6). We cannot reduce the gospel of Christ to a mere political platform without degrading its God-given power to save (Rom 1:16-17). Instead, we should proclaim it without shame: “for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1Ti 2:7).
As Christians, it is our responsibility to pray, practice and proclaim our faith in the truth of God’s word. This is what it means to be a Christian, and what it means to be human. We are created in God’s likeness and are thereby called to engage with and enjoy fellowship with him. So whether our world recognizes it or not, submission to our Creator King and his divine wisdom is at the heart of all we do, even in a seemingly unrelated subject like civics. For as the Psalmist declares, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face” (Psa 89:14). And for the Christian, this is the ultimate political reality.
If you decide to vote, make sure you’re voting with God, because if not, you’re voting against him.