It seems the older I get, the more essay questions life throws my way.
Monthly Archives: October 2017
Once a month in Awana at First Central Bible Church, we have a theme night. Tonight, back by popular demand, was Minion Night. Kids and leaders dressed in their finest Minion attire. Gru and the Fluffy Unicorn even made an appearance. Another fun night at FCBC, along with our usual assortment of games, songs, Bible lessons, and memory verses. A great ministry impacting the next generation.
Book Review: Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth for a Skeptical World (The Completely Updated and Expanded Classic), by Josh McDowell & Sean McDowell, Ph.D.
I was first introduced to Josh McDowell and Evidence that Demands a Verdict in the mid-70’s when I was a student at Biola University. The book was instrumental in helping me get a better grasp on the trustworthiness of Scripture. His second volume, More Evidence that Demands a Verdict added and built on that earlier foundation. Both books were instrumental in my research, writing papers, and helping answer questions in sharing my faith.
Josh McDowell has now partnered with his son, Sean, who teaches apologetics at Biola to update and expand his classic work. The updated version is close to 900 pages of valuable resources on the Bible and Jesus. Part 1 deals with evidence for the Bible. Part 2 provides evidence for Jesus. Part 3 adds evidence for the Old Testament. Part 4 contributes evidence for truth. This last section provides answers for postmodernism and skepticism. In the Appendix, the authors provide responses to the challenges of Bart Ehrman, who is one of the leading critics of Christianity today.
The book is written in outline form. Coupled with a complete table of contents, it makes it easy to find and research the specific question you want to answer regarding the reliability of the Bible or evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, to name just two of the many topics covered in the book.
The updated version is a valuable and welcome resource for serious students of Christianity. It is a welcome addition to any library.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
On Sunday, I was scheduled to preach Deuteronomy 34 at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA. It was part of our series on the life of Moses. Rather than merely talk about the death of Moses, we decided to hold a funeral service. Tylunas Funeral Home loaned us a casket for the day. In addition to the casket, we had a Jewish prayer shawl, a pair of Rainbow sandals, and a walking stick my wife brought back from New Zealand. Our elders read Scripture, an elders’ wife read Moses’ life history, and several “friends” of Moses shared their remembrance of him. I then used Deuteronomy 34 to talk about three lessons we can learn from Moses’ death. Here’s the bulletin and a couple of pictures from the day.
Deuteronomy 34 recounts the final days of Moses’ life and the unusual circumstances of his death. The chapter provides us with three key lessons along with a fitting summary and epitaph.
Moses died the way he lived (1-5). The last thing Moses did on earth was climb a mountain. The summit of Mt. Pisgah reaches a height of 4,500 feet above the Dead Sea. Not too many 120 year old men can climb a mountain almost a mile high and live to tell the story. Many of us huff and puff just going up the stairs. We take the elevator. Yet here was Moses, 120 years old, scaling the heights. Maybe climbing Mt. Pisgah was part of Moses’ bucket list.
Verse one is a fitting metaphor for Moses’ life. Moses was continually climbing. He wanted to change things for the better. He wasn’t content with his people being slaves in Egypt. He wanted to deliver them from bondage and bring them back to the Promised Land.
During his lifetime, Moses lived by the promises of God. He died believing those same promises. From the top of Mt. Pisgah, Moses could see all the land God had promised to give the people. Though Moses would not set foot in the land, he saw it as a real destination, a real possession. He was confident that God would keep his promises and bring Israel into the Promised Land.
Moses lived in God’s presence and he died in God’s presence. Moses’ last moments on earth were spent in intimate fellowship with God. At some point during the panoramic tour of the Promised Land, perhaps God said, “It’s time, Moses. Come on home.”
Moses died at the right time (5-7). My aunt, Charity, taught second grade Sunday School into her mid-80’s. She had to stop when she was losing her hearing and couldn’t hear the children say their memory verses. That wasn’t the case with Moses. For a man his age, he was unusually healthy. He had no outward signs of disease. By all normal indications of health and fitness, Moses’ death was untimely.
From our perspective, Moses died too young. He still had work to do. Israel had not yet entered the Promised Land. Moses was still needed. Yet we know that Moses died according to God’s plan. Everything ended just as God arranged it. We can take comfort in the fact that God not only knows our times, he knows the end of our times. God has arranged the details of our lives, and even the day of our death.
My mother, father, and brother are all buried in Southern California, but in three different cemeteries. When Carol and I were in Southern California three years ago, we visited each one of their graves so that I could pay my respects, and reflect on their lives. You cannot do that with Moses. He died in an unknown way and was buried in an unknown grave. Only God knows the location. That is probably a good thing, because we would have turned it into a shrine, another Mecca.
No one is indispensable (8-9). When the time of mourning was complete, the people of Israel needed to get moving again. Moses’ life may have ended, but God’s plan did not. God had promises to keep and Israel had places to go.
Moses knew he was expendable. Based on the instructions he had received, Moses knew that God’s plan would continue. So, according to Numbers 27:12-23, Moses trained his successor, Joshua.
God’s plan does not depend on anyone for all time, but for all to serve him at a certain time. God gave Moses a task to accomplish. He was faithful to carry it out.
Epitaph & legacy (10-12). Moses was unique among all the prophets of Israel. No one enjoyed a relationship with God like Moses did. He introduced a new era into the history of God’s people, the Age of the Law. As impressive as his accomplishments are, the most important thing about him was his relationship with God. He. Knew. God. And he wanted others to know him as well.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on October 15, 2017. It is part of a series of sermons on the life of Moses. Click on the link to download a copy of this week’s bulletin which contains an outline of the message.
Happy 31st Birthday to our son, Jonathan! You’ve grown from a cute, fun-loving little boy to a wise, talented, godly adult. Mom & I are proud of you. We’re excited to see how God will use for his kingdom purposes. May God grant you many more years to grow in your relationship with Christ and to serve him with joy. Celebrate!
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) is credited with founding the modern nursing profession. Late in life, she was asked about her life’s secret. “Well, I can only give one explanation. That is, I have kept nothing back from God.” Florence never claimed to be highly gifted. She once said, “If I could give you information of my life, it would be to show how a woman of very ordinary ability has been led by God in strange and unaccustomed paths … God has done all, and I nothing.” The key to her success was not her ability but rather her availability to God. At the age of thirty, she wrote in her diary, “I am thirty years of age, the age at which Christ began His mission. Now no more childish things, no more vain things. Now, Lord, let me think only of Thy will.”
Cited in Deuteronomy: Loving Obedience to a Loving God (Preaching the Word Commentary Series), by Ajith Fernando
If you have been married for any length of time, you know there comes a point when you and your spouse have an argument. You disagree over an issue, perception, event, or slight. As the argument continues, you begin to move away from the original topic and start piling on other matters. Pretty soon, you look at each other and wonder, what were we arguing about to begin with?
The NFL National Anthem protest feels like one of those arguments, especially now that the White House has weighed in on the matter.
Long ago in ancient times, or so it feels even though it was only last season, Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers chose to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem as a way of protesting inequality between the races. (That is perhaps an overly simplified summary of a very complex issue.) The conversation then shifted to whether kneeling was disrespectful to the flag and to the military. Then it moved to solidarity among teammates. A report came out last week that Colin Kaepernick has supposedly reversed course and said he will stand during the anthem if he can get his job back. Then Vice President Pence left yesterday’s Colts-49ers game because several 49ers knelt during the anthem. A 49ers official said it was a P.R. stunt and at least one sportswriter was bothered because it upstaged the Colts retiring Peyton Manning’s jersey. Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys said anyone who kneels will no long play for the Cowboys. People are up in arms over the loss of free speech.
It appears the argument subtly shifted from inequality or injustice to free speech and the right to protest. The original issue has been lost amidst the rhetoric. Since the various sides cannot agree on what they are arguing about, no wonder we can’t solve the problem.
What were we arguing about?
A woman once came to evangelist Billy Sunday and tried to rationalize her angry outbursts. “There’s nothing wrong with losing my temper,” she said. “I blow up, and then it’s all over.” “So does a shotgun,” Sunday replied, “and look at the damage it leaves behind!”
When you read through the books of Exodus and Numbers, you discover that Moses had a lifetime problem with anger. At the age of 40, he killed a man (Exodus 2:11-12; Acts 7:22-24). At the age of 80, he stormed out of Pharaoh’s presence in hot anger (Exodus 11:8). A few months later, he got fed up with the people of Israel and broke the tablets of the law in an act of uncontrolled fury (Exodus 32:15-19). At the age of 120, he lashed out at the nation of Israel and struck a rock in anger. This last event reveals that unresolved anger erodes character, dishonors God, and leaves lasting and painful consequences (Numbers 20:2-13).
After 40 years of leading the nation of Israel, the constant quarrels and complaints wore Moses down (Numbers 20:1-5). The people complained about the food (too boring), the water (not enough), the travels (too long), and the hardships (too many funerals). Someone once said that listening to complaints is like being stung to death by a mosquito.
Somewhere along the line, Moses stopped listening to God. He sought God’s counsel (5). God’s glory appears (6) and the Lord gives Moses three specific instructions: take your staff, gather the people, and speak to the rock (7-8). Initially, it appears that Moses is going to obey (9). However, after being in God’s presence, seeing his glory, and hearing God’s instructions, Moses deliberately disobeys God’s commands.
Moses becomes resentful and judgmental (10a). He lashes out verbally at the people—“You rebels!” He sets himself up as judge and condemns them.
Moses becomes proud (10b). “Shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” He acts and speaks like he will perform the miracle all by himself.
Moses disobeyed God’s command (11). Instead of speaking to the rock as God instructed, Moses lashes out at the rock and strikes it twice. Even though Moses lost control, God in his grace provides water for the people.
Moses’ disobedience revealed a lack of trust (12a). When you know God’s will and instructions and deliberately move in another direction, you are telling God, “I do not believe your plan is best.” It is unbelief and a lack of faith.
Moses’ actions dishonored God (12b). Through his actions, Moses stole the glory from God and took it for himself. He elevated himself rather than treating God as holy.
Though anger can be forgiven, it may leave lasting and painful consequences (12c). Because of his actions, God tells Moses he will no longer lead the people into the Promised Land. While it sounds like a harsh punishment for one act, it is really the culmination of a lifetime of uncontrolled anger. It also demonstrates that leaders are held to a higher standard.
It is not enough to merely control your anger. You must strengthen your character by committing yourself to obey God at every stage.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on October 8, 2017. It is part of a series of sermons on the life of Moses. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.