Monday, December 8, 2014

Bible Reading Plan

Yesterday I mentioned a Bible reading plan I developed, and I believe I promised to post it on my blog. Well, here it is.

The plan has two features I think are unique. First, it is designed to help you maintain momentum. Some parts of the Bible are easier to read than others, and some parts demand more knowledge than others. This plan is designed to spread out the more difficult sections, as well as introducing the more basic concepts before asking you to dig into the heavier topics.

Second, to help you get more from what you're reading, I've written brief introductions to each book (and in some cases introductions to major sections of a book or two). Warning. Some of the introductions are less pious than you might be expecting.

If the plan sounds intriguing, just click on this link to get started.

First Time Through Reading Plan Link.

Clicking this link will open a new page, that has a box like this on it.

To open the plan in your browser (Chrome, IE, Firefox, etc.), click on this button on that page.

If you always want to access the plan from your browser, just save the link and you're set. But it works better to either save or print your own copy. Once you've opened the plan in your browser, if you put your mouse in the lower right hand corner, this little box will magically appear. The two buttons on the right will let you save or print the file. 


Monday, November 10, 2014

Sex Sermon

This Sunday will be the annual sex sermon. If you have any questions or issues you'd like addressed, message me and I'll see if I can work them in (and discuss without an inordinate amount of blushing).

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Evolving Footnotes

Here are the footnotes from the book with live links:
1.    People who are experts in these areas may quibble some with these definitions, and the lines aren’t always as easy to maintain as this may suggest, but it should work for the purposes of this book.
3.    This is not an opening for a God of the Gaps who intervenes in the areas we cannot explain, but rather who has intervened to accomplish things that are impossible by natural causes. An example of this is the introduction of the Image of God into humans.
4.    The line between these last two is extremely blurry and probably occurs on a spectrum. The extreme end of Undirected Evolution would be deism or agnosticism; the extreme end of the other would be intentionally-guided evolution, with most people who believe in God and evolution being somewhere between, but more comfortable with one end than the other. In my way of defining things, neither definition excludes faith.
5.    Super technically, it’s 186,282 miles, 698 yards, 2 feet, and 5 inches per second
8.    I made up those terms. I’m sure there are more complicated names out there but I like to keep things as simple as possible.
9.    Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18.
10. John 14:6
17. Your specific cove may not have any theological problems with the age of the earth or the theory of evolution. For instance, if you’re Catholic, evolution and an old earth are no theological big deal. See You could possibly even skip this whole chapter.
18. 1 Corinthians 15:17
19. “The doctrine of the Trinity means that there is one God who eternally exists as three distinct Persons--the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” 
20. Protestant Evangelical Christianity often has a strong anti-hierarchical bent. For groups with a more hierarchical structure, it is usually the responsibility of the upper-level leaders to define and maintain the group’s adherence.
22. John 20:30-31
23. I’m using “he” in the generic sense, but the Bible was written in a time when female authorship was exceedingly rare, and it’s doubtful if any of the books of the Bible had a female author. 
24. One example of how literalistic can often lead to improper understanding would be our common phrase “bathroom”. Literalistically, the reason one would go to the bathroom would be to take a bath, though many of us almost never use it for that function. Here’s a nice blog on the subject that doesn’t involve toiletry:
25. We’ll look at the chronologies problem in Chapter 3.
26. Augustine in The Literal Interpretation of Genesis.
27. Augustine, The City of God, Book I, ch.6.208
29. Billy Graham: Personal Thoughts of a Public Man, 1997.  p. 72-74
31. Ibid.
32. “There are many conservative evangelical scholars (though admittedly they are now in a minority) who know Hebrew and love Christ and display godly character every bit as well as any old-earth creationists do but who hold to the young-earth view.”
33. John 21:25, if you’re looking for some backup on that statement.
34. When you, God, went out before your people, when you marched through the wilderness, the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain. (Psalm 68:7-8)
35. After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth. (Revelation 7:1)
37. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6)
38. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast…” (Matthew 13:13)
39. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover. (Exodus 12:11)
40. Isaiah 55:9
41. Exodus 20:13
42. Matthew 22:39
43. “Most if not all of what are sometimes deemed historical inaccuracies or contradictions slip out of sight when we focus on the conventions of ancient literature…” Walton, John H.; Sandy, D. Brent (2013-11-01). The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority (p. 213). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
44. Ong, Walter J. (2002). Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (Second ed.). London and New York: Routledge. pp. 49–54.
45. If you’d like to learn more about orality, especially its impact on how we read and interpret the Bible, and if you don’t mind tackling some pretty scholarly writing, I highly recommend The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority by John Walton and Brent Sandy.
47. Interestingly, those who consider themselves Evangelical are more likely to attend weekly worship services, pray daily, and read the Bible weekly than Evangelicals who are not scientists.
50. McGovern PJ, et al. (1995). Dendrochronology. "Science in Archaeology: A Review". AJA 99 (1): 79–142.
51. This link is for an image of two ice cores where the annual layers are clearly visible.
55. It’s actually shale and sandstone, but describing it that way risks moving this example from complicated to confusing.
56. Making this what’s called an angular unconformity.
57. In the Taconic Unconformity near Catskill, NY, which I’m describing here, the bottom, older layer is made of shale (quartz and clay minerals) and sandstone (SiO2), the second is primarily limestone with some magnesium (Ca, Mg).
58. Unconformities also provide an intersection point for the primary principles of geology. If you want to get a grasp of the fundamental concepts of geology, including its history, you probably won’t find a better starting point than studying unconformities.
59. An example of a coral unconformity is the Eemian disconformity in a fossil coral reef on Great Inagua, The Bahamas.
62. In the chapter “Watergate and the Resurrection” from the book Loving God by Charles Colson. Great book, by the way.
63. “In Renaissance Europe, the justification for what we today call the scientific approach to inquiry was the belief in a rational God whose created order could be discerned from a careful study of nature.” Paul Davies, The Mind of God: Science and the Search for Ultimate Meaning (London: Penguin, 1992), 77, cited by McGrath, A. E. (2012). Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith (p. 102). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
64. C. S. Lewis, “Is Theology Poetry?” C. S. Lewis: Essay Collection (London: Harper-Collins, 2000), 21.
65. Romans 8:29
68. That’s a lot of spiders!
74. Alexander, Denis (2008-07-18). Creation or Evolution (Kindle Locations 3401-3403). Monarch Books. Kindle Edition.
75. Alexander, Denis (2008-07-18). Creation or Evolution (Kindle Locations 3211-3212). Monarch Books. Kindle Edition. To be more precise, some of the genes have been permanently turned off due to mutations, but that doesn’t directly impact our discussion here. 
76. The letters stand for the four nucleotides that carry the information within DNA, adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine.
77. “First it should be emphasised that our shared inheritance with the apes is one of the most certain conclusions of contemporary biology.” Alexander, Denis (2008-07-18). Creation or Evolution (Kindle Locations 3135-3136). Monarch Books. Kindle Edition.
78. If your curious, the close-relative sequence is Humans-Chimpanzees-Gorillas-Orangutans.
79. Quoted in “A Tale of Two Scientists: A Young Earth Creationist and an Evolutionary Creationist” by Tim Stafford in The Origins Debate: Evangelical perspectives on creation, evolution, and intelligent design (Christianity Today Essentials) (Kindle Locations 306-307). Christianity Today International. Kindle Edition.
80. Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin (Vintage Books).
81. Obviously, many people would not include an Adam and Eve in that population.
83. The school’s mission: "As an arm of the Church, to develop godly Christian leaders: positive, goal-oriented university graduates with thoroughly Christian minds; growing disciples of Christ who glorify God through fulfilling the Great Commission, serving God and people in the various marketplaces of life."
84. Psalm 90:2-4
85. There are Christians who think we do not need a literal Adam and Eve, but I cannot come up with a way to work in the need for Jesus without a Fall in some form, and I can’t get to a Fall without two people to do the falling. Here’s a great article by a really smart Christian on how he solves the problem.
86. That’s Number Two. Number Three concerns the part of the curse toward Eve to “multiply your pain in childbearing” (ESV). Hard to multiply if there was no prior childbirth and no prior pain. Not as good as the first two, but still adds up.
87. Living with the Darwin Fish: Another ‘Missing Link’ Won’t Destroy My Faith Stan Guthrie in The Origins Debate: Evangelical perspectives on creation, evolution, and intelligent design (Christianity Today Essentials) (Kindle Locations 1151-1158). Christianity Today International. Kindle Edition.
88. St. Augustine, De Genesi ad litteram (The Literal Meaning of Genesis) Vol 1 Ch 19
90. Rees, Martin, Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape The Universe, Basic Books (May 8, 2001)
91. McGrath, A. E. (2012). Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith (p. 99). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

92. Acts 1:6-8 paraphrase. The disciple asked, “Jesus, are you bringing in the end times now?” Jesus’ response: “None of your business. God will take care of that. Your job is to take the Good News throughout the world.”

Friday, October 10, 2014

Words Have Meaning, Especially the Word "Brave."

Sometimes stories collide, but if we're not careful we'll miss the force of the collision.
Take this article on USA Today. Seems there is a suicide in America every thirteen minutes.
But don't forget this trending article. Brittany Maynard has chosen to end her life on November 1 because she has brain cancer.
The consensus seems to be that Brittany is brave.
But be careful what you call brave. Words have meaning. If choosing not to fight cancer is brave, what does that say about the person who fights to the last breath?
And what does it say to the person who daily fights the urge to commit suicide?
Words have meaning. Words have power. Use them carefully.

Here's Matt Walsh's take on the Brittany Maynard issue:
There Is Nothing Brave about Suicide

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Resurrection: Minimal Facts

Here are the Minimal Facts on the Resurrection I mentioned in today's message, as well as a couple links:
1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
2. He was buried.
3. His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
4. The tomb was empty (the most contested).
5. The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus (the most important proof).
6. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers.
7. The resurrection was the central message.
8. They preached the message of Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem.
9. The Church was born and grew.
10. Orthodox Jews who believed in Christ made Sunday their primary day of worship.
11. James was converted to the faith when he saw the resurrected Jesus (James was a family skeptic).
12. Paul was converted to the faith (Paul was an outsider skeptic).

Friday, October 3, 2014

Ever wonder how Jewish teachers interpret Genesis 1? 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sometimes by Steps

(A few years ago I wrote a guest column for Leadership Journal Online. You can't read the whole thing any more without a subscription, so I'm putting my original here. Pretty sure the demand to read it has pretty well died down so I'm probably not damaging their subscription totals. If you want to see their edits, you can read it here.) 

When I met Tushan Patel*, he was a Hindu. Two years later, he’s still a Hindu. Frank Wheatman was a maintenance foreman and lapsed Catholic when I went to work for a major chemical company in 2003. When I left the company in 2005 a lot had changed. He’d been promoted to shift foreman.
Coming out of seminary, I’d have considered my relationship with these guys to be failures. Two years and neither was a believer. But along the way, I’ve learned a few things about the nature of salvation and about our culture—and about how I analyze my success or failure as an evangelist.

Once upon a time (up to about 1960 to be precise), approximately two-thirds of Americans believed the Bible was the Word of God. And that carried with it quite a few underlying beliefs, like there is a God and Jesus is His Son. There also was a societal belief that church people were good people and the church building was the proper place to meet God.

As you may have noticed, a few things have changed in the last forty years. There probably is a God but no one group has a monopoly on him. The Bible is just another religious book. A church is where hypocrites gather to judge other people. If there is a heaven, I’m not really concerned about it. And did I mention Born-Again Christians are nuts?

It would seem to go without saying that evangelism in these two settings is different. In the 1960’s, the majority of Americans were only one step from salvation. They had the knowledge—they just needed to make the faith decision to accept it.

For Tushan, whose parents moved to America from India before he was born, that’s not the case. While he’s at best a nominal Hindu—participating in the holidays and fasts that would correspond to attending service on Christmas and Easter—he needs to change his mind (or have his mind changed) about a number of issues before he’s ready to become a believer.

For him, instead of just one step to salvation, there are many. He needs to step from polytheism to theism. From all roads lead to God to “I am the way.” From an ultimate merging of all souls with the Cosmos to an eternity with a personal God.   And he has to believe each of them strongly enough to risk alienating his family.

And even for Frank, the lapsed Catholic, there are a number of steps. He’s absorbed quite a few of the ultra-tolerant and apathetic attitudes from his culture, in addition to the “religion is for women” ideas that permeate many Christian groups.

So, what should my response have been to these two men? Proclaim them “not ready” and move on to more promising opportunities? Or pray that God would use me to help them move closer, to at least make some of the steps.

I chose the latter, and it’s a decision we need to make more and more as our culture becomes less and less Christian. For Tushan, I chose to be his friend. To model my faith in front of him, to ask probing questions that would make him think, then allow him time to think—and the Holy Spirit time to work.

With Frank, who I was not as close to, I tried to be a good co-worker, the source of an occasional good joke, and someone he knew would respond honestly (not judgmentally) when he shared problems.

In other words, I decided to live strategically. To analyze each person, see where they were on their spiritual journey, and help them take the next step, whether that step was becoming a follower of Jesus or deciding that all Jesus’ followers aren’t wacko.

So, two years later, as I leave my opportunity to regularly impact the lives of these two men, have I failed because neither is yet a Christ follower?

Well, Tushan now owns a copy of Mere Christianity, a book he’s interested in reading because he enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia books as a boy and (hopefully) because my life has intrigued him about what Christianity really is.

As for Frank, when I left the company, they had a going away party. Frank gave the speech.
“Before I met Steve, I thought all preachers were boring, dry, and religious. Steve is none of these things.”

While he presented it humorously, it represented a new truth in his life.

And a step.

I guess I’ll have to trust the Holy Spirit to bring people into Tushan and Frank’s lives to help them take the next ones.

* Names changed.