Misplaced outrage

I’m supposed to be on vacation, not writing, but I just have to ask: Seriously ,what is wrong with society today? I like lions as much as the next guy; in an abstract way that is, I don’t really know any lions personally. And in vague terms I thought “that’s a shame” when I heard about Cecil the lion being shot in Zimbabwe. I may have even thought the hunter was a bit of a jerk. But then the shooting of poor Cecil started to trend and the social media lynch mobs armed themselves with metaphorical torches and pitchforks and demanded justice or retribution or something for Cecil. 

And I remembered the deafening silence that has followed the martyrdom of Christians in the Middle East by ISSI and realized the sad commentary that was about our society in general.
On the same day that Cecil was killed, people around the world were losing their lives, victims of violence and injustice. Yet instead of being outraged or saddened by the loss of human lives, society chose to ignore their plight to focus on the death of an animal…… a really large and majestic animal, but still an animal and I wonder what that says about society? Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Stuff Happens, The Story of the Book #4

I began by playing “the Bricklayers disaster” Video
Boy, you gotta hate that. 
Maybe his name was Job, or Job Murphy, cause it seemed that anything
that could go wrong did go wrong.  You
might recall the story from the Old Testament book that bears the name of
Job.  If you have your bible with you
then you can find it by going to the middle of your Bible which should be Psalms
or Proverbs and then turning toward the front. 
Job was the righteous man’s poster boy, the Bible tells us
that He was blameless, a man of complete integrity, who feared God and stayed
away from Evil.  And just to top it off
we are told that he was the richest man in the area.  But these aren’t the things that made Job
famous, and we’ve all heard of Job, even if you don’t know the story of Job you
probably have heard the expression, “The patience of Job” an expression that
was most often used in reference to my Mother’s dealing with her youngest child.
But you have to know the story to understand the
reference.    The book of Job is the eighteenth book of the
bible and the first book in the section that we refer to as Poetry & Wisdom Literature This section
contains the books of Job, Psalms,
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs.
And they are exactly what they are
called, books made up of poetry in the case of the Psalms and Song of Solomon
and the wisdom included in the books of Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
We don’t know who wrote the book of Job, the Psalms were
primarily written by King David we know that he wrote at least 73 of them.
Other writers include his son Solomon, Moses and several others whose names you
won’t recognize.  The book of Proverbs
was written by King Solomon, with a couple of additional contributors.  Solomon was reputed to be the wisest man who
ever lived, and if you’ve taken the time to read the proverbs you’ll understand
why.
Traditionally we have been told that Solomon wrote the book
of Ecclesiastes but we don’t know that for sure, the author only identifies
himself as “The Teacher”, “The Preacher” or “The Leader of the Assembly.”  Likewise tradition tells us that Solomon
wrote the beautiful love poem called the “Song of Songs” some people even refer
to it as “The Song of Solomon” but we don’t know that for certain. 
For the most part these books were written during the reign
of David and Solomon around 1000 years before the birth of Christ although Job
was probably written around the time of Abraham 1000 years earlier.
And there were so many options for preaching from the
section, and instead of going to one of my favorite Psalms or Proverbs I
decided to land here in Job, because most of us have felt a little bit like Job
from time to time, we feel like Murphy is writing the script for our life and
what can go wrong is going wrong.
Now the first part of the story is a little confusing, I
don’t understand it, and really can’t explain it.  It would appear that one day the angels
appeared before God reporting on what they had done and Satan shows up.  During the ensuing conversation God questions
Satan on his activities and Satan responds by saying Job 1:7. . . “I have
been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.”
And at that point God draws Satan’s attention to his servant
Job and how righteous he is, and Satan says “sure, and why wouldn’t he serve
you, you have always protected him, and his property.  Everything he touches turns to gold, take
away his possessions and I can guarantee that he will curse you.”
Now what I don’t understand is why at this point God agrees
to allow Satan access to Job, someday I might understand it, but right now I
don’t.  A long time ago I discovered that
God is way up here and I’m way down here and I can’t understand everything that
God does, but that’s ok, because if I could understand everything about God he
wouldn’t be much of a God.  After all I
can’t even understand woman.    But that
is what happens.  Not very long after
this conversation Job is at home when a servant arrives telling him that his
enemies have raided the farm stolen his oxen and donkeys and killed all his
farm hands.  Just then another messenger
arrives and says “you’ll never believe what happened boss, fire fell from the
sky and burned up your sheep and shepherds” And a third guy arrives on the
scene to inform Job that all his camels have been stolen by raiders from the
north.
Now you gotta admit at this point Job seems to be handling
it pretty well, until the fourth messenger arrives to tell his boss that a
powerful wind hit the house where his children were celebrating with their
oldest brothers and there have been no survivors, all ten children have died.  It was at this point that Job broke down in
grief.  But even with that listen to what
he says in Job 1:21  He said, “I came naked from my
mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave.
The LORD gave
me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise
the name of the LORD!”
Man, and the bible sums it up in the next verse by saying Job 1:22  In all of
this, Job did not sin by blaming God.
Did you catch that? In all this,
Job did not sin by blaming God. Which would lead me to believe that if he had
of blamed God he would have sinned!  You
gotta be careful about those “Oh God how could you do this to me” statements.
Well someone must have come along and said “Cheer up Job,
things could be worse” cause he cheered up and sure enough things got
worse.  Kind of reminds me of what Paul Anderson said “I have
yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in
the right way, did not become still more complicated.”
Up to now the tragedies happened to the things and people
surrounding Job but not Job himself, and Satan told God, “Well sure, he can
still praise you, he still has his health, let me take that from him.”  And again I don’t understand it but God agreed,
saying “Just spare his life.”  Now
personally I think Satan underestimated Job as a parent, I think that the death
of his children would be a far greater tragedy then mere physical discomfort.  But Job became covered with boils from head
to foot, yuck. 
But you know Satan had some smarts because of all the things
that Job lost, Satan left him with his wife. 
You say “Denn, that’s just nasty.” 
Not so, listen to the comfort that Job’s wife offered in Job 2:9  His wife
said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and
die.”
“Why thanks babe, I love you too.”  And so for the next forty or so chapters we
read how various friends came and the discussion they had concerning the
tragedies that had befallen our hero. 
And through it all, Job remained true to God. 
I mentioned earlier that we have no idea who wrote it, there
have been various suggestions but bottom line is we just don’t know.  And we really don’t have a definitive date
for when it was written although if you look at the cultural and historical
setting it would appear the book was written in the time frame encompassed by
Genesis 12-50 so right around 2000 BC. It is felt the story was passed down
orally from generation to generation and only later put into writing.
Why was it written? 
Now that is an easy one to answer. 
It was written to address the question of suffering, sometime most of us
can identify with.
So 4000 years after the events happened we are holding the
book of Job in our hands asking “What can we learn from Job?”
1) Stuff Happens Because you are a member of the
human race you will have troubles, you can’t get around that.   We live in a world that has been corrupted
by evil and because of that bad things happen. 
Even to believers, it would be neat if becoming a Christian exempted you
from all hurt and heart break, you’d never get sick, never become unemployed
never lose a spouse or a child, but that ain’t the way it happens. It would be
nice if our salvation was a passport out of suffering and tragedy, we’d have to
bar the doors to keep people out, but that’s not the way it happens, sorry.
Jesus’ brother James wrote a letter to the early church and he said James 1:2  Dear
brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity
for great joy.
He didn’t say if trouble comes your way, he said when
trouble comes your way.  And Jesus
himself said in Matthew 6:34  “So don’t worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Did you catch that? Today’s trouble is enough for today.
C.S. Lewis kind of summed it
up when he said “We were promised sufferings. They
were part of the program. We were even told,
”Blessed are they that mourn.””
And no it isn’t fair, there are times that life isn’t fair,
but we live in a world that has been corrupted by sin, and stuff happens.  Little stuff and big stuff.  But you’re probably doing alright compared to
Job.
2) Don’t Take It Personal Sometimes when trouble
happens we tend to look at it a couple of different ways.  As Christians sometimes we look inward for
reasons, wondering what have I done, why me, I don’t deserve this.  Job hadn’t done anything wrong, there was no hidden
sin in his life, and he wasn’t rebelling against God.  We need to realize that trouble happens to
the just and the unjust. And I know that’s a cynical view of life but Jesus
said in Matthew 5:45  . . .For he (God)  gives his sunlight to both the evil and the
good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.  How often do we focus on our problems
to the exclusion of everything and everyone else?  We aren’t alone in this world and chance are
there are people with bigger problems then yours, it was Humphrey Bogart who said “Everybody
in Casablanca
has problems.”  And everybody in
the Halifax has problems.  
Sometimes when stuff happens to us our first reaction is to
ask: Why Me?  Maybe the important
questions is: Why not me?
The second thing that believers do is to automatically
attribute every problem in their life to Satan. 
Now I don’t want to underestimate the power of the dark one, however I think we give him way too much
credit.  I don’t know about you, but I’m a child of God and certain privileges come
with that position.  And my Bible still
has 2 Thessalonians 3:3  But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and
guard you from the evil one. Sure you say but what about when you’re in
bondage?  Again I don’t want to minimize
spiritual warfare, but there are a
lot of people out there who are in bondage because they choose to be in
bondage.  It’s a very convenient excuse
when we enjoy a sin to simply throw up our hands and say “I can’t help myself, I’m in bondage. 
I’m not sure that is what Jesus had in mind when he told his disciples
in  John
8:34-36
 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.
 A slave is not a permanent member of the family,
but a son is part of the family forever.  So
if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” 
 I like that, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
But Denn what if what happened to Job happens to me? What if
God allows Satan to strike at my family and I? Probably won’t happen.  Job is very much an isolated incident in the
scriptures, we can’t explain why God allowed it to happen the first time but it
doesn’t happen again.  And considering
the description of Job, remember it Job 1:1  . . . He was blameless—a man of
complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.
If that is the critea for being tested by Satan than most of
us have nothing to worry about.  Don’t be
in so much of a hurry to give the Devil all the credit for the bad stuff that
happens in your life.  To quote C.S.
Lewis again “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our
race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The
other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.
They themselves are equally pleased by both errors.”
3) It’s Not Wrong To Question  Sometimes we are given the impression
that Job stoically endured all that happened, that he never asked why, never
questioned whether it was fair on not, just endured.  And that just isn’t true, for most of the
forty chapters in the book of Job, Job was asking; Why?  And there’s nothing wrong with asking
why.  Throughout the Bible people
questioned God, Abraham asked why, Moses asked why, Joshua asked why, David
asked why, Isaiah asked why, Peter asked why, Paul asked why.  Even Jesus when he was hanging on the cross
looked up to heaven and asked “Why?”
But if you’re going to ask God why, you are going to have to
be satisfied with the answers and that can be tough.  Because as God told Job 38:2  “Who is
this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?”
Because I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, God is
God and we are just people.  But a little
homework for this week, go home and read Job chapters 38-40, won’t take you
long but it might help you understand God a little more.
4) We Have The Victory 
Sometimes we can figure out a solution to our problem on our own
perhaps by using Guptill’s First Law of Problem
Solving: When confronted by a difficult problem,
you can solve it more easily by reducing it to the question: How would MacGyver
have handled this? But more often than not,
that’s not enough and so if you get nothing else out of this morning’s message
get this “We Win”.  When we are faithful
to God, in the good times and in the
bad we are the victors.  Listen to what
Paul wrote to the early church in Rome, and remember this was where the persecution broke
out against the early church, where
Christians were killed for the sheer sport of it.  Romans 8:35-37  Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does
it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are
persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?
 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are
being slaughtered like sheep.”)  No, despite all these things,
overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
Did you catch that Overwhelming
victory is ours.  And in 1 John 5:4 We read 1 John
5:4
 For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve
this victory through our faith.
Don’t throw up your hands and say, “I quit”  It was Billy Sunday
who said, “Stopping at third adds no more to the score
then striking out.” 
Friends the message I leave with you today is Don’t quit,
don’t give up, the victory has already been won.  So where are you at?  Do you sometimes find it tough to be
faithful, to believe in the victory?  I
want to pray for you this morning.  Life
is tough, but God is there for us.   If
you want me to pray for you this morning, and through the week I’d like you to
stand where you are, I don’t know what you’re going through but God does.  There’s an old saying that says “Let go and
let God.”  Is that what you need to do
today, is to let go and let God?  

Let the Sun Shine

Well, Cornerstone is producing electricity.  Our 11 KW array is now connected to the “grid” and any excess power that is produced in the run of a day is sold back to Nova Scotia Power.  And that is cool and confusing. 
I kind of understand how power is generated, in particular from turbines, you know: something that turns and creates electricity, we were taught about that in Jr High science class.  And there are all kinds of ways to make those turbines turn using hydro, wind or steam.  But solar modules don’t spin, they just take sunshine and turn it into electricity.  I don’t understand it and can’t explain, I asked Mr. Google and I still don’t understand it and still can’t explain it, but that doesn’t make it any less real.  Regardless of my understanding or lack of understanding, in a week our array produced almost a half a million watts of electricity.
There are things about my relationship with God and my walk as a Christian that I don’t understand and can’t explain but that doesn’t make them any less real.  It just proves the Bible’s definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.   Kind of like solar energy.

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Who Says it’s Right? Story of the Book # 3

“Who Says it’s right?”  Judges 17:6
Begin with reading
from “Through the Looking Glass”
“What a
beautiful belt you’ve got on!” Alice suddenly remarked. (They had had quite
enough of the subject of age, she
thought: and if they really were to take turns in choosing subjects, it was her turn now.) “At least,” she corrected herself on second thoughts, “a beautiful cravat,
I should have said — no, a belt, I mean — I beg your pardon!” she added in dismay, for Humpty Dumpty looked thoroughly offended, and she began to wish she hadn’t chosen that
subject. “If I only knew,” she
thought to herself, “which was neck
and which was waist!”
Evidently
Humpty Dumpty was very angry, though
he said nothing for a minute or two. When he did speak again, it was in a deep growl.
“It is a
— most—provoking– thing,” he said
at last, “when a person doesn’t know
a cravat from a belt!”
“I know
it’s very ignorant of me,” Alice said, in so humble a tone that Humpty Dumpty relented.  “It’s a cravat,
child, and a beautiful one, as you say. It’s a present from the White King and
Queen. There now!”
“Is it
really?” said Alice, quite pleased to find that she had chosen a good
subject, after all.
“They
gave it me,” Humpty Dumpty continued
thoughtfully, as he crossed one knee
over the other and clasped his hands round it,
“they gave it me — for an un-birthday present.”
“I beg
your pardon?” Alice
said with a puzzled air.  “I’m not
offended,” said Humpty Dumpty.
“I mean, what is an un-birthday present?”  


“A
present given when it isn’t your birthday,
of course.”
Alice considered a little. “I like
birthday presents best,” she said at
last.   
“You
don’t know what you’re talking about!” cried Humpty Dumpty. “How many days are
there in a year?”
“Three
hundred and sixty-five,” said Alice.  
“And how
many birthdays have you?”   “One.”
“And if
you take one from three hundred and sixty-five,
what remains?”    
“Three
hundred and sixty-four, of course.”
Humpty
Dumpty looked doubtful. “I’d rather see that done on paper,” he said.  Alice couldn’t help
smiling as she took out her memorandum- book,
and worked the sum for him:
365
–   1   
364
Humpty
Dumpty took the book, and looked at
it carefully. “That seems to be done right –“ 
he began.
“You’re
holding it upside down!” Alice interrupted.
“To be
sure I was!” Humpty Dumpty said gaily,
as she turned it round for him. “I thought it looked a little queer. As I was
saying, that SEEMS to be done right
— though I haven’t time to look it over thoroughly just now — and that shows
that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday
presents.”
“Certainly,” said Alice.
  

“And only ONE for birthday presents,
you know. There’s glory for you!”

“I don’t
know what you mean by ‘glory,’” Alice said.
Humpty
Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s
a nice knock-down argument for you!’”
“But ‘glory’
doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument,’”
Alice objected.
“When I use
a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in
rather a scornful tone, “it means
just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The
question is,” said Alice,
“whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The
question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – – that’s all.”
It seems pretty silly doesn’t it?  “When I use a word it means whatever I choose
it to mean.”  What would life be like if
there was no absolute, no certainties?  Nothing to measure oneself by.  The Bible tells us that there was a time just
like that when people measured themselves by themselves.  In the book of Judges
17:6
 In those days Israel had no king;
all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.
Sound familiar?  Would almost remind you of 2015 wouldn’t
it?  Where everybody does whatever seems
right in their own eyes.  Like Humpty
Dumpty they have defined morality and right to mean what they want it to mean, regardless of what it really is.
This is our third
week of The Story of the Book series and we are now in what is traditionally referred
to as the “Historic books”, or some call it “The Early Prophets”.  More specifically we are in the book of
Judges, which is the seventh book of the Old Testament.
Last week we peeked
into the Pentateuch, the first five books of the bible, and they end with the
people of Israel returning to Canaan after having spent 400 years in Egypt, the
last of those years as slaves.   Now the
Israelites have returned home and the next twelve books of the bible chronicle
the rise and fall of the nation of Israel.
These books include Joshua,
Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra,
Nehemiah, Esther.
  These
books were written by Joshua and the Prophets Samuel, Ezra and Nehemiah 1390 BC
and 480 BC.
These books take us
on a rollercoaster ride.  It shows  us what happens when God’s people rebel and
allow their society to slide into moral decay,
which should be a warning for Canada
in 2015.  But the good news is that it
also shows the grace of God and how he is willing to reach out when people
repent and ask for forgiveness.
Throughout the
Historical books we see the repeated cycle of Israel’s relationship with God. 1) God’s blessing 2) Spiritual Complacency
3) Idolatry 4) Suffering at the hands of their enemies 5) Repentance 6) God’s
deliverance
Part of the downward spiral that Israel seemed to find
herself in way too often is identified by the phrase that we find in in   Judges 21:25 &
Judges 17:6
 In those days Israel had no
king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.
So what lessons do we learn from this,
today July 19 2015? 
Throughout history people Have Justified their Actions  1) Some Justify their Actions 
If I was to ask you
to list the most hated or feared people that you could think of either real or
fictional I wonder who they would be?  For
over thirty years, beginning in 1970, thousands of
international visitors at Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London England were asked
to name which person, past or present, real or fictional they hated or feared
the most. 
The name that has topped the list the
most number of times has been Adolph Hitler, but have included Osama Bin Laden,
Idi Amin, Richard Nixon, Margaret Thatcher, Jack the
Ripper, Count Dracula and then in 2005 Liam Gallagher front man for the British
rock band Oasis joined the group.
Now I don’t know
about Dracula & Gallagher, but I would suspect that if you asked the other six
 people on the list they would tell you
that they were right in what they were doing.  
Had you interviewed, Hitler, Idi Amin,
Nixon or Osama Bin Laden they
would have embarked on an eloquent defence of their actions hoping to convince
you that their motives were pure.
When the war crime
trials were held in Nuremburg following WWII most of the defendants were
unrepentant.  Time and time again they
reiterated their belief in the rightness of their cause,
they truly believed that what they were doing was right,
but was it?  Or were they simply doing
what was right in their own eyes?
During the early
history of the United States, up until only 150 years ago the economy of the
southern states was built upon the back of black forced labour.  Originally,
slavery was seen as a neutral thing,
a necessity.  Perhaps a necessary evil, but it was evil. 
Slowly the argument begin to change and its supporters began to defend
it as a positive good, some even
supported and defended slavery using the Bible. 
Abraham Lincoln Made this statement : The question recurs,
what will satisfy them?  What will
convince them?  This and only this, cease in calling slavery wrong and join in calling
it right.  And this must be done
thoroughly, done in acts as well as
in words.  Silence will not be tolerated
and we must place ourselves avowedly with them holding as they do, that slavery is morally right and socially
elevated.  They cannot cease to demand a
full national recognition of it, as
a legal right and a social blessing.  All
they ask we could readily grant, if
we thought slavery was right.  All we ask
they could readily grant, if they
thought slavery was wrong.”  The
slave holders not only refused to admit that owning another human being was
morally wrong but they vigorously defended it as being morally right.  They were doing what was right in their own
eyes.  When I read this I thought of the social
mores about today and how in the past it was expected that the church would
take a stand on morality, but no longer. 
The question recurs, what will satisfy
them?  What will convince them?  This and only this, cease in calling sinful
behaviour wrong and join in calling it right. 
Look down though the
scope of time, Stalin’s purges and
executions, the holocaust, the Spanish inquisition,
the crusades, the Roman Persecutions, and the literally thousands of other events in
human history which were horrible,
inexcusable annihilation of human life or dignity and they were defended as
right and proper in the eyes of those who performed them. 
Think about the trial
of Jesus Christ, and if you were to
ask Pontius Pilate why he executed the son of God,
he might have spoken about the pressure,
the indecision, the indifference, but I would suspect that what he would have said
was “I did what was right,
I did what had to be done.”  If we
could ask Judas why he betrayed Jesus I’m sure that his answer would be, “I did
what I thought I had to do.”  They did
what was right in their own eyes.
How Many Of Those Whose Moral Behaviour We Deplore Today Can Rationalise
Their Behaviour?  2) Some Rationalise
Their Behaviour     
Often you hear
preachers say that we are at an all-time moral low in human history, which is
unfair and untruthful, man has stooped this low and lower before.  It would however be both correct and truthful
to say that our moral condition is in serious trouble.  As we look around in 2015 we must agree that
within our Canadian Culture and mindset that we as a people are having problems
distinguishing between right and wrong. 
It would be fair to say that Canadians are doing what is right in their
own eyes. 
We have taken the
heritage which our fore fathers gave us and we have traded it for a hedonistic, narcissistic,
outlook on life.  If it won’t benefit me, if it won’t make my life more comfortable, if I don’t reap immediate positive results from it
then I’m just not interested.  Like the
hedonist of the past Canadians have become convinced that pleasure is their
chief goal.  Regardless of what it costs, regardless of who it hurts,
regardless of what we have to sacrifice,
pleasure is the ultimate pursuit.
Like Narcissus of
old who fell in love with his reflection in the pool,
we the people of 2015 have become captivated with ourselves.  If the sixties were a decade of rebellion,
and the seventies were a decade of apathy and the eighties were a decade of
greed and the nineties were the decade of “ME”,  this new millennium doesn’t seem
to be getting any better. And just as Narcissus all-consuming
love spelled his eventual destruction when he fell into his reflection and
drowned, so our self-love will eventually destroy our Canadian society if we
let it.
Slowly as we become
less and less concerned with others and more and more captivated with ourselves
the very fibre of what make our country great will begin to rot and fall
away.  It’s that concern with me, for my happiness,
my future, my pleasure that leads us
to the place that we stand today.  To a
place where four out of ten marriages will end in divorce.  And if you were to ask the thousands of
people a year who are handed a Decree Absolute “Why?”  They would tell you over and over and over
again “The reason I got a divorce was that I was not happy.”  Now they might phrase that differently, they might say,
“I wasn’t being fulfilled as a person” or “My needs weren’t being met.” but it
all boils down to “I wasn’t happy”
Now I checked the
vows and they say “To have and to hold,
from this day forward, for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish, til death do
us part, according to God’s Holy
Law.”  Nothing in there about “until it
stops being fun” or “Until I’m no longer happy.”
Perhaps you’ve
wondered where the Wesleyan Church stands on the divorce issue.  Good question,
I’ll try to give you a good answer although I’ve tended to alienate people on
both sides of the debate through the years. If adultery has been committed,
then in line with Matthew 5 there are Biblical grounds for divorce. Now that is
my stand for believers.  However for
non-Christians you really can’t expect them to live a Christian life without
Christ in their life.  And I personally
believe that if there is a divorce in someone’s past that when they become a
Christian that it is one of the things that Christ forgives.  Luckily God is bigger than most of us are
willing to admit.  By the way if you have
problems with my stand, then give me a call and we’ll talk about it, but the
proper place isn’t at the door when the service is over.
The problem remains
though that the desire for happiness no matter what the cost gives us rational
to break the marriage covenant no matter what. 
If you talk to those who commit adultery they will justify and they will
rationalise, they will tell you how
their spouse wasn’t meeting their needs,
how they were hard to live with, how
they were critical, how they had no
time for them and didn’t understand them. 
They will tell you how the other person was a tempter or a temptress and
seduced them.  But it is very doubtful
that they will ever mention the real reason and that is self and the need to
satisfy self.  In most cases they have
done what was right in their own eyes.
Talk to a criminal
and he’ll either rationalise his behaviour or try to justify his crime.  He’ll blame it on society, or poverty or a broken family or a bad
environment.  He’ll blame everything and
everyone but himself.  Look at Paul Bernardo, his lawyer said that he was “Driven by desires for
young girls. . .” on the other hand Karla Homolka claimed that she was a
battered wife who was blackmailed into helping her husband.
I’ve told you before
about my conversation with one of my professors at college, When I told him I really wanted to be in a class
that I had miss Dr. Kanzelmar’s response has
shaped my philosophy of life it’s very simplistic too simplistic I know but I
wish that Joe Kanzelmar could look at all the Paul Bernardo’s & Karla
Homolka’s and Timothy McVeigh’s and tell them that same thing because he nailed
me when he said “Denn you do what you want to do”
In the book of  Ezekiel 23:37the prophet decries the evil that the people of his
day had committed because he says  Ezekiel 23:37  They have committed both adultery and murder—adultery
by worshiping idols and murder by burning as sacrifices the children they bore
to me. Three thousand years later
it’s just the characters that have changed,
it’s no longer the god Baal that the children are being sacrificed to instead
it is the twin god’s of pleasure and convenience.  But for all the differences the sin remains
and we can call it whatever we like but God calls it murder.  Of course those of the Pro-Choice persuasion
would try to convince us that it’s a service to humanity and not crimes against
humanity and so like Humpty Dumpty their words mean whatever they want them to
mean.  And so again the individual is not
to blame, and if they get pregnant
then it’s society obligation to make sure that they stay happy even if it cost
the life of an innocent one.  After all
they are doing what is right in their own eyes.
Why has the church
failed to come to grips with the ethical questions of this new millennium?   Hang onto your seat because the reason is
once again this concept of self-gratification. 
We are doing what is right in our own eyes.  We don’t want to appear critical, we don’t want to be labelled as judgmental and we
fear that people will think that we are radicals.  Our reputations mean more than our
beliefs.  And the thought of people
calling us legalist why that’s enough to make us cringe.  But if being a legalist  means upholding the law of God then we should
want to be legalists.  Right? 
“But” you say “At
least the world respects us, right?”
 Don’t count on it.  The world expects the church to take a stand
against some things even if it’s a stand that the world is opposed to.  But we are content to do what is right in our
own eyes.
How Many of Us Who Constantly “Fall Short Of the Glory of God” Defend Our
actions?  3) Some Defend Their Shortcomings
You know what I’m
talking about, you’ve accepted Jesus
as Saviour, but you’re really not
all that sure about this Lord stuff. 
There are areas in your life where you continue to “do what is right in
your own eyes.”  As a result you’ve never
completely sold out to God and when you are not serving God 100 % then you are
serving the greatest idol of them all, the idol of self.  But you can’t simply take Jesus Christ as a
fire escape from hell and continue to worship at the shrine of self. 
You can usually
recognise those areas in your life by the neat defences you construct.  I knew a lady once who was a little on the
heavy side, actually she was a lot on the heavy side and she let everyone know
that it wasn’t her fault, that she tried to control her weight but nothing
seemed to work.  “I
can gain weight by just thinking about food.” but if you watched her eat
it became very apparent that it wasn’t her thought life that kept her fat.
You see I can always
excuse my excesses in eating and I can convince myself that I’m supposed to be
heavy, after all I’m big boned, I was a big baby,
I have an exceptionally efficient metabolism,
that I have a glandular problem.  And as
long as I can think up excuses I will never solve my weight problem.  But it’s when I stop deceiving myself, stop doing what is right in my own eyes and
realize that my weight problem is a because of a lack of the “D” word, that’s right discipline. 
The same lack of
discipline that allows people to have drinking problems,
the same lack of discipline that keeps people from quitting smoking, the same lack of discipline that allows people to
cheat on their husbands and wives.  When
I see my eating habits and fitness habits as an area of my life that needs to
be brought under the lordship of Jesus Christ,
then I start to see success.
But maybe that isn’t
the area of your life that you have problems with,
although there are a lot of people who throw stones at the overweight who are
no more disciplined but just have a quicker metabolism. 
Remember you can
probably identify whatever you struggle with by the amount of energy you spend
defending that particular action. 
Christians defend their social drinking,
Christians defend their smoking,
Christians defend their anger, and
Christians defend their immoral behaviour. 
I have heard Christians defend areas of conduct from non-attendance of services,
to sexual immorality and they can do it quite well.  but you know I don’t think that they are
trying to convince me, and I’m
pretty sure that they are not trying to convince God,
but I’m almost positive that they are trying to convince themselves.
When someone tells
me, “I think I can do ________ and
still be a Christian” then I figure that the Holy Spirit is dealing with them
in that area and their actions and their excuses seem much more plausible and
believable when they are verbalised to someone else.
Listen up, no matter how good your reasoning and rational
might seem today, if God calls it
sin then it is sin.  We need to make sure
that as Christians we never slide into the category of “Doing
what is right in our eyes.”  That
we never defend our actions with the attitude “Whenever
I use a word, it means whatever I
choose it to mean,” said Humpty
Dumpty Scornfully. 
It is only when we
allow our lives to be governed by the book, the word of God, only when we put
our lives in subjection to God’s will that we be in a position that our will
and God’s will are the same.  Which is
why Jesus taught us to pray “Your will be done on earth as well as heaven.”
As long as we serve
our will and our desires we will be out of step with God.
Instead of Judges 17:6 applying to you wouldn’t you like to
be described in the same way as Josiah in 2 Kings
22:2
 He did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight and followed the example of
his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right.

Who says it’s right?


It is just a “U”, but it is the difference between something being right and something being wrong. Perhaps you know what I’m talking about. It’s the “U” that our neighbours to the south neglect to include in words like harbour, colour and saviour. Which is fine if you live south of the 49th, but on this side of the border it means you have spelled the word wrong.
 People object and maintain that, because it’s the proper spelling in the States, it should be okay in Canada. And because polygamy is acceptable in Saudi Arabia, should it also be okay in Canada?
That is just Denn venting, and in the big scheme of things the fact that people are too lazy to spell a word correctly probably won’t matter much, it just makes me cranky. However, when Christians begin to justify sinful behaviour simply because society accepts it, that will have eternal consequences. 

It doesn’t matter if television says it’s fine, and it doesn’t matter if everyone at work and school are doing it; if the Bible says the behaviour is wrong, the behaviour is wrong. The fact that others call it right doesn’t make it any less wrong.
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Why Rules? Story of the Book # 2

Rules, anyone here into rules? You know laws, decrees,
regulations, whatever it is that you
want to call them.  If you are here’s the
good news the book of Leviticus is full of rules,
aren’t you lucky?  As a matter of fact
rules is just about all Leviticus is about. 
There is really no story to it,
no characters, no plot; just rules, page after page of rules.
There are rules about what you can do and what you can’t do, when you can do it and when you can’t do it.  What you can wear and what you can’t wear, what you can eat and what you can’t eat.  They just seem to go on and on and on.
Last week we took a whirlwind tour through the Bible, over
the next ten weeks we are going to spend a little time in each section.  And so here we are, at the beginning, which
seems like a great place to start.  As a
matter of fact the bible starts with those three words: In the beginning.
This first section of the bible includes five books and
because of that is referred to as the Pentateuch, which in Greek simply means
“Five Scrolls”.  Those scrolls or books
as we now call them include Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and
Deuteronomy
And these are the books that really establish
the foundation for the entire bible.  A
foundation that Jesus built on in the gospels.
And because it is the foundation of the bible the Pentateuch
contains many of the stories that we learned in Sunday School, in particular
the book of Genesis.  It is here we find
the story of creation and of the first couple, Adam and Eve.  We discover that they were placed in a
perfect garden with freedom to do anything and everything except one thing, and
that of course is what they did.  And
their disobedience set the entire human race on a path of rebellion.  We read about the first murder which involved
their children. 
It’s in Genesis that we read the story of Noah and the ark,
Abraham and Sarah and how in their old age God promised to establish a great
kingdom, and He did through their son Isaac.  Kind of an interesting tangent here.  When God told Abraham and Sarah His plans
Sarah was understandably doubtful, after all they had tried all their married
lives to have children, so she decided to help and had Abraham sleep with her
maid, who became pregnant with a boy called Ishmael and this is what the Bible
predicted about Ishmael Genesis 16:12 This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild
donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against
him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”

Later Sarah and Abraham had a son named Isaac who would
eventually have a son named Jacob who would eventually be called Israel. And
the descendants of Israel are the people we call the Jews.  We know that. 
It was from Jacob’s descendants that a young lady named Mary was born,
who would go on to be the mother of Jesus. 
That was the promise made to Sarah and Abraham. 
The promise she didn’t believe.  And you are thinking so what?    Remember Ishmael?  Well his descendants lived in that same area
and more than 2,500 years after his birth a descendent of Ishmael’s was born,
and his parents named him Mohammed, and almost 1,500 years after that another
descendent of Ishmael’s was born and his name was Osama Bin Laden and the rest
as they say is history.  How would the
history of the Middle East be different if 4,000 years ago Sarah had of simply
believed the promise of God?  But I
digress.
Genesis also contains the story of Joseph and his coat of
many colours, how he ended up in Egypt, became second in command to the Pharaoh
and eventually was followed by his entire family.  The book of Genesis ends with these words Genesis 50:26  So
Joseph died at the age of 110. The Egyptians embalmed him, and his body was placed
in a coffin in Egypt.
And the story picks up in Exodus
1:6-8
 In time, Joseph and all of his
brothers died, ending that entire generation.  But their descendants, the
Israelites, had many children and grandchildren. In fact, they multiplied so
greatly that they became extremely powerful and filled the land.  Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing
about Joseph or what he had done.
Well, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy tell us the
story of how the Israelites would eventually leave Egypt and return to Canaan. 
You’ve seen enough movies to know the basic parts of the
story.  The Pharaoh who knew nothing
about Joseph felt threatened by his descendants, dozens had become hundreds who
had become thousands and then tens of thousands and eventually more than a
million.  And so he had the Israelites
enslaved and implemented a plan that would eventually destroy the
Israelites.   Part of that plan was
killing the new born boys. 
One child was hidden by his mother in a floating basket at
the edge of the river where he was discovered by the Pharaoh’s daughter.  The little boy was rescued and raised and
educated in the palace of the King.  He
was Moses.  If you fast forward through
the story you discover that when Moses became an adult he saw an Egyptian Guard
beating a slave and in a fit of anger he killed the guard and then fearing for
his life he fled from Egypt and began a new life in a place called Midian, where
he lived until God spoke to him from a burning bush and called him to lead the
Israelites out of slavery to freedom. 
Cool and it was Moses who tradition tells us wrote the five books of the
Pentateuch.  And much of the four books
following Genesis are wrapped up in narrative of that escape, or the Exodus.  But that’s not where we are landing
today.  Because most of you know that
story, if only from the Disney movie, Prince of Egypt. 
Instead this morning we are going to park in the book of
Leviticus.  A book that is usually
skimmed over or simply ignored. Why is it treated that way?  Because most folks who know even a little bit
about the bible understand that the book of Leviticus is about rules, and you
don’t want anything to do with it cause you don’t like rules. 
Maybe you’re like Katherine Hepburn
who said “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the
fun” Or maybe you’re like Princess Diana who said “I don’t go by the rule book… I lead from the heart, not the
head.” I wonder if Di’s parents ever told her not to get into a car if
the driver had been drinking, that was a rule we had for our kids. 
Or maybe it’s just natural when someone says “don’t” that
you say “Oh yes I will.”  (Video Clip
from Lion King Starts at 29:10 finishes at 35:33). 
You see rules aren’t just implemented to annoy us or to make
life less fun, they are often put
into place to protect.  Either to protect
us or to protect others.  Simba and Naula
thought the rule about going into the elephant burial ground was kind of dumb, but they not only put themselves in danger they put Zazu in danger
as well
And there are rules in all aspects of our life. 
There are rules that apply in our families.  Curfews. 
Don’t smack your sister.  Don’t
smack your brother. 
There are rules in school: 
Do your homework, no smoking in the halls.
Rules at Work.  Don’t
steal the paper clips, don’t shoot the other employees. 
How about Social Rules? 
 A very important rule this time
of the year is “Don’t pee in the pool” that was certainly a rule when we had a pool.
And there are rules for society,
some are rules about big things.  Don’t
blow up airplanes, others are minor
“don’t throw litter out your car window.”
The book of Leviticus is the third book in the Bible and is
probably one of the most neglected books in the Bible as well.  If you’ve read it at all you’ve probably just
scanned through it and didn’t really spend a lot of time getting the feel for
it.  And there’s a couple of reasons for
that.  The first is that the book seems
so strange to our culture. 
It talks about selecting and killing live animals for
sacrifices, that just seems wrong.  It
tells us how the Priests should dress and behave what they ought to do and what
they ought not to do.
It contains a whole list of prohibitions that we don’t
consider to be all that relevant to life in this new Millennium which is in
reality thirty five hundred years removed from when the book was written.  So we start to read it and we think, yeah
whatever.
And it breaks the flow of the story.  Genesis takes us through a multitude of the
bible stories we are familiar with and ends with Jacob’s family in Egypt, the
book of Exodus picks the story up four hundred years later and chronicles the
escape of the Israelites from Egypt and then just leaves them in the middle of
the desert building the tabernacle which was like a portable church. And then
bang Leviticus is dropped into the mix and we get this whole list of rules and
regulations which takes us through into the book of Numbers to chapter 10 where
the narrative is picked up again. And it’s just way too easy to go from Exodus
40 to Numbers 10 and skip everything in between.
But if God had wanted us to skip it He wouldn’t have put it
there in the first place.
So let’s not look at it as an interruption instead let’s
look at it as a continuation.  Exodus
ends with instructions for the Israelites on where to worship God, the tabernacle and Leviticus begins with
instructions for the Israelites on how to worship God in the tabernacle.
The Hebrew title for the book is Vayyikra and it literally
means “He Called” and it is the opening phrase of the book.  In Leviticus 1:1-2
 The LORD called to Moses from the Tabernacle
and said to him,  “Give the following instructions to the people of
Israel. . .  
Tradition tells us that the book was written by Moses around
1440 BC.  Why was it written, well some have called it the Handbook of the Priests
and that is an apt title. However we can sum what Leviticus is about this way: Right
worship, right living with
instructions on becoming holy and staying holy. 
We can actually divide the book into five sections.  1)
Dedication or the Offerings
 and this
encompasses chapters 1-7, it deals
with the various offerings which is the worship as well as instructions
pertaining to those who make the offerings,
or the worshipper.  2) Mediation or the Priests and this is found in chapters 8 to 10
and deals with the priest, who they
are, what they do and how they do
it.
3) Separation or the
People
This section which takes in chapters 11 to 22 tells the people what
is clean and what is unclean. What foods they shouldn’t eat, what deeds they shouldn’t do and how they should
behave toward God and toward one another. 
It is summed up in the scripture that was read earlier this morning Leviticus 18:1-5  Then the LORD said to Moses,  “Give the
following instructions to the people of Israel. I am the LORD your God.  So do not act like
the people in Egypt, where you used to live, or like the people of Canaan,
where I am taking you. You must not imitate their way of life.  You must
obey all my regulations and be careful to obey my decrees, for I am the LORD your God.  If you obey my
decrees and my regulations, you will find life through them. I am the LORD.
God is saying “You are different than other people, so act like it.” 
Perhaps that is the same message that needs to be told to Christians in
2015 “You are different than other people,
so act like it.” 
The next section is 4)
Consecration or the Feasts
and in verses 22 to 24 we discover the Feasts
that the Israelites were supposed to observe. 
Some you might be familiar with like the Passover,
Pentecost or the Day of Atonement,
they are still talked about today.  As
well this section deals with the consecration of the Oil and Shew bread which
was used for temple worship.
And then finally the last section 5) Ratification or the Signs is found in chapters 25 to 27.  This is interesting in that it deals with a
number of different items.  It talks
about letting fields lie fallow for a year every seven years, it’s a Sabbath for the land.  And it deals with the Year of Jubilee, we just celebrated that with Queen Elizabeth but
this is different.  Listen to what the
book says Leviticus 25:8-10  “In addition, you must count off seven
Sabbath years, seven sets of seven years, adding up to forty-nine years in all.
 Then on the Day of Atonement in the fiftieth year, blow the ram’s horn
loud and long throughout the land.  Set this year apart as holy, a time to
proclaim freedom throughout the land for all who live there. It will be a
jubilee year for you, when each of you may return to the land that belonged to
your ancestors and return to your own clan.”
And neat things happened during the year of the Jubilee, remember property in the Promised Land was to be
given to specific tribes, so if that
land was sold at any time then every fifty years it was returned to the
original owners.  If an Israelite became
bankrupt and had to sell himself and his family into slavery on the Year of
Jubilee they would be set free.
If you were to go to Philadelphia
and see the Liberty Bell and read the
inscription you would discover it is from this particular portion of the book
of Leviticus. “Proclaim Liberty throughout all
the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” Leviticus 25:10
Within this section there are all kinds of regulations to
keep the system from being abused.  For
example if you were to sell your property the year after a Jubilee year you
would receive more for it then if you sold it the year before a Jubilee year, that makes sense. 
As well this section contains regulations concerning vows as well as the
reward for obedience and the punishment for disobedience.
But the question remains: why?  Why are there rules?  Cause,
that’s why.  Why are there rules
today?  Same reason to protect you and to
protect others.  That is why you aren’t
supposed to drive when you’ve been drinking,
why you aren’t supposed to eat raw hamburger and why you aren’t supposed to
sleep with everyone you meet.
Within God’s law there are laws that are laid down for
people’s Physical Good:  For example Leviticus
11:7
 The pig has evenly split hooves
but does not chew the cud, so it is unclean.  
They were also told they couldn’t eat other animals or
reptiles or fish, because most of those critters were yucky, the technical term was unclean but it means the
same thing.  3500 years ago it was
difficult to cook pork the right way to kill the parasites that live in it, we know today that there are certain time of the
year that you can eat shell fish and certain times that you can’t.  We can read about it in the paper or hear on
the radio but then, it was just
safer to say “Don’t eat this stuff.” 
Other rules are set down for our Social Good: Leviticus 20:10  “If a man commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife,
both the man and the woman who have committed adultery must be put to death.”
Don’t know if that was a deterrent but it certainly cut down
on repeat offenders.  Leviticus 19:11  “Do
not steal. “Do not deceive or cheat one another.”
It is rules that keep society from disintegrating.  They keep family together they protect us
from each other. It was Edmund Burke who said “When ancient opinions and rules of life are taken away, the loss cannot possibly be estimated. From that
moment, we have no compass to govern
us, nor can we know distinctly to
what port to steer.” 
Other rules are for our Emotional
Good
: Exodus 20:17  “You must not covet
your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female
servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”

There are issues like covetness,
hatred and lack of forgiveness that will destroy us inside if we allow them
to.  And so there are rules that deal
with these issues.

There are also rules and regulations that are there for our Spiritual Good:  There are rules against worshipping idols
Leviticus 26:1  “Do not make idols or set up carved images, or sacred
pillars, or sculptured stones in your land so you may worship them. I am the LORD your God.
There are rules against worshipping other gods Exodus 34:14  You
must worship no other gods, for the LORD,
whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with
you.

This particular section even deals with how much we are supposed to give God
Leviticus 27:30  “One
tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from
the trees, belongs to the LORD and
must be set apart to him as holy.”

To be truthful we don’t know why God required some things, maybe for the same reason that we sometime require
things as parents and so we have the Just
Because Rules
: Leviticus 19:19  “You must obey all my decrees. “Do not
mate two different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two different
kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven from two different kinds of thread.
How come?  Just
because.  There is a lesson there that is
lost on us but it wasn’t lost on the Israelites.  Parents are fond of quoting Leviticus 19:28  “Do
not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am
the LORD.
But then they forget Leviticus
19:27
 “Do not trim off the hair on
your temples or trim your beards.”
Some rules cross over into several areas, Leviticus 18 deals
almost exclusively with sexual issues, things which we would say are governed
for social good.  Without  regulations concerning marriage etc. the
family unit begins to fail and we are starting to discover the results of that
in Canada
today.  However they also fall in the
emotional good category as can be attested by the devastation that is felt when
you discover your spouse has been cheating on you,
or even the damage done to yourself when you break your wedding vows.
You understand that you will pay, Proverbs 6:27  Can a man scoop a
flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire?
By the way that verse deals specifically with the
consequences of adultery, check it
out for yourself.  But the rules
governing sexual conduct are also there for our physical good, the physical
consequences or promiscuity cannot be ignored, whether it unwanted pregnancies
or sexual transmitted disease there are a many things that could be eliminated
by following the rules. 
So where does that leave us today?   When Christ came and offered himself up as a
sin offering for each of us he made many of the laws in Leviticus concerning
offerings and the priesthood irrelevant. 
But there are rules that govern our personal behaviour that still stand
and I don’t think I need to tell you which are which,
I think you can figure that out on your own. 
And to quote many a wise man, “If all else fails read the
instruction book.”  So where are you
at? 

Genesis to Revelation in 23 Minutes, or So. Story of the Book #1

This book contains 6000 years of recorded history.  It tells the stories of the Jewish people, of
the Messiah Jesus and of the early church. 
It contains intrigue and romance, love and betrayal.  It’s made up of flowing poetry, gripping
prose and soaring apocalyptical prophecies. It’s not just one book it’s a
collection of many books, written by many authors, authors who we believe were
working under the inspiration of the almighty God.  But those many books make one book; a book
that we believe was preserved for us by God for instruction, information and
edification.
Our summer series is entitled “The Story of the Book” and
for the next eleven weeks we will be taking a look at the story of the Bible,
from Genesis to Revelation, but today we are going to look at it all in 23
minutes or so,  so hold on.
Let’s start with some basic stuff. The Bible contains 66
books and is divided into two major portions, the Old Testament with 39 books
and the New Testament with 27 books. 
There are 1189 chapters in the Bible: 929 in the Old Testament and 260
in the New Testament.
The Longest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 119 with 176
verses. The shortest chapter is Psalm 117 with 2 verses.  Psalm 117 is also the middle chapter in the
Bible.  The Longest verse is Esther 8:9
the shortest verse is John 11:35.
Although the stories of the Bible range across what we now
know as the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean they are primarily centred in
what was known as Canaan in the Old Testament and Israel in the New
Testament.  If we pull up a map of that
area this is where most of it happened. Centred in what we know now as Israel
Canaan stretched as far north as Lebanon and as far south as Egypt and east
into what is now Syria and Jordon.
The first five books of the bible are called either the Pentateuch which is Greek for “Five
scrolls” or simply the Torah which means the law. This section includes Genesis,
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy
Tradition tells us that Moses
was the author of these five books however during the past 100 years some
scholars have come to the conclusion that there were several different
authors.  However they don’t have any
concrete proof of that theory.  The
reality is that Moses could have written them. 
We are told that he was educated in the Pharaohs court and from
scripture we know that Moses was able to write. He was the leader and organizer
of a movement that he believed would last for many generations so it’s likely
he would have wanted to record their history for future posterity. 
Scholars feel that these books were probably written fifteen
hundred years before Christ was born.
The first book of the bible Genesis contains many of the bible stories that we learned about in
Sunday School it contains the story of Creation and the first couple: Adam and
Eve along with how they disobeyed God and were expelled from the Garden of Eden
as a result. The account of Noah and the ark is here and how God destroyed the
world because the inhabitants became so evil. It’s in this book that we read
about Abraham and Sarah and how their son Isaac was born in their old age. 
This is also where we read about Joseph’s coat of many
colours and his adventures in Egypt. 
In the next four books we read about the baby Moses being
placed in a basket in the Nile River to escape Pharaoh’s plan to kill all the
male children of the Israelites. And how he was rescued by the Pharaoh’s
daughter and raised in the palace.  How Moses
eventually led God’s people out of the slavery they were in in Egypt, and how
God parted the Red Sea to help them escape. 
It’s in these books that Moses was given the Ten Commandments and we see
how God led the people through the wilderness with a pillar of cloud during the
day and column of fire at night.  How
they were fed miraculously with Manna and Quail and water that sprang out of
rocks.  We learn of their disobedience
and lack of faith and that they had to wander for 40 years in the wilderness
before they could enter the Promised Land. 
It’s in these five books that the fundamental laws of the Jews were laid
down.
The Pentateuch ends with the death of Moses.
The next section of books is referred to as the Historical Books by most and as the Early Prophets by others. It includes
the books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2
Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther.
  These
books cover about nine
hundred years in the history of God’s chosen people. They chronicle the history
of the nation of Israel starting with the Israelites finally entering the
Promised Land or the Land of Milk and Honey under the leadership of Joshua and
Caleb.  We had discovered in the previous
section that when Moses had sent spies into the Promised Land that only Joshua
and Caleb believed that God could keep his promise and give the land to the
children of Israel, and as a result they were the only ones who saw the promise
fulfilled.
Several authors wrote these books, including Joshua and the
Prophets Samuel, Ezra and Nehemiah between 1390 BC and 480 BC
It is here that we discover how the 12 tribes of Israel were
comprised.  They were the descendants of
the sons of Jacob with the exception of the descendants of Levi who became the
priests. How the the 12 Tribes were united under King David as one Kingdom but
after the death of his Son Solomon it became the twin Kingdoms of Israel and Judah,
or the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.
The historical books record how when God’s people were
obedient they flourished and when they worshipped other gods and became disobedient
God removed his blessings and they came under military oppression.  You’d think after that had happened a few
times they would have gotten the idea.
Eventually the ten tribes which made up Israel or the
Northern Kingdom were conquered by the Assyrians and were scattered.  If you ever hear people talking about the
lost tribes these are the people and there are many theories about what
happened to them including that they populated the British Isles or alternately
that they eventually crossed the seas and became the people who we refer to as
the First Nations or Native Americans.
A couple of centuries after Israel had been conquered the
Kingdom of Judah fell to Babylon and we read about the dispersing of the Jews,
get it Judah – Jews, and how they eventually were allowed to return to their
country.  The book of Nehemiah records
how the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt after having been destroyed by the
Babylonians.
Familiar bible stories from the Historical books are Joshua
and the children of Israel marching around the city of Jericho for seven days
and then the walls falling down. Samson the Judge with the long hair and how
Delilah cut it and Samson lost his strength and was captured by the
Philistines.  I’m sure most of you know
the story of David and Goliath, where the shepherd boy defeated the giant
champion of the Philistines with just a sling and five stones.  Later we read how David became king and how
he committed adultery with his neighbour’s beautiful wife Bathsheba and later we
read of his repentance.  We discover
David and Bathsheba’s son Solomon assumed the throne and built the temple of
Solomon to God’s glory.
It’s here we read about the prophet Elijah and his student
Elisa and their exploits. Of Ruth the grandmother of David and how she found
love, of Esther and how she became the Queen of Persia and saved the Jews who
were exiled there from being killed. By the way out interest sake God is never
mentioned in the book of Esther. If you like trivia then here’s another one for
you Ezra 7:21 is said to contain every letter in the alphabet with the
exception of J.
The next group of books are called Poetry & Wisdom Literature This section contains the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of
Songs.
And they are exactly what they are called, books made up of poetry
in the case of the Psalms and Song of Solomon and the wisdom included in the
books of Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
We don’t know who wrote the book of Job, the Psalms were
primarily written by King David we know that he wrote at least 73 of them.
Other writers include his son Solomon, Moses and several others whose names you
won’t recognize.  The book of Proverbs
was written by King Solomon, with a couple of additional contributors.  Solomon was reputed to be the wisest man who
ever lived, and if you’ve taken the time to read the proverbs you’ll understand
why.
Traditionally we have been told that Solomon wrote the book
of Ecclesiastes but we don’t know that for sure, the author only identifies
himself as “The Teacher”, “The Preacher” or “The Leader of the Assembly.”  Likewise tradition tells us that Solomon
wrote the beautiful love poem called the “Song of Songs” some people even refer
to it as “The Song of Solomon” but we don’t know that for certain. 
For the most part these books were written during the reign
of David and Solomon around 1000 years before the birth of Christ although Job
was probably written around the time of Abraham 1000 years earlier.
You are familiar with these books because of the story of Job
a righteous man who the Devil attacked in order to show God that Job only
worshipped him because God prospered Job and protected him. Throughout the book
Job refuses to curse God and in the end good prevails.  When you hear someone say “They must have the
patience of Job.”  This is the reference.
The book of Psalms is a collection of songs, as
a matter of fact in some churches the only songs they sing even today are the
Psalms.  In the Psalms we see familiar
words like Psalm
23
The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures he leadeth me beside still waters.
  If I ever visit you in the hospital I
will probably read from the 23rd Psalm and if I ever preach at your
funeral I will probably use the 23rd Psalm it is a Psalm of comfort.
Psalm 51 was written when David cried out in repentance over his sin with
Bathsheba and said Psalm 51 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me,
and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken
me—now let me rejoice.  Perhaps
you have a favourite Psalm of your own.
The book of Proverbs is one of my favourite
books in the Old Testament and is the collected wisdom of Solomon.  It has great gems like Proverbs
26:17 
Interfering in someone else’s
argument is as foolish as yanking a dog’s ears.
and Proverbs 10:1  A wise child brings joy to a father; a foolish child brings grief to a
mother.
Ecclesiastes was written as the author struggled with the
meaning of life, if you’ve ever wondered “why?” this is the book for you. It
reveals how to find spiritual significance in our world.
The Song of Songs was written in celebration
of a couple’s courtship and marriage, it is very intimate and might make you
blush.  The rabbis maintained that it was
written as an allegory for the Love God had for the Jewish people and some
Christians see in it the imagery of Christ and his bride the Church.
The rest of the Old Testament is made up of the
Prophets.
  It has been divided
into two sections, the Major Prophets and the Minor
Prophets.
Hear now and forever more Major and Minor do not, never have
and never will reflect the importance of these books.  They are designations reflecting the length
of the books, so they could be called the long winded Prophets and the rest.
For example any one of the individual books of Isaiah, Jeremiah or Ezekiel are
longer then the 12 minor prophets all combined together.
The Major Prophets include Isaiah,
Jeremiah
who also wrote the Lamentations,
Ezekiel and Daniel.
The Minor
Prophets
are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah,
Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
or
Malachi if you are Italian.
The authors are named in the title of the individual books
some of these guys were professional prophets and others were called to be
prophets for a specific period of time. 
Unlike the priests of Israel who came upon their position
genetically, that is they were all part of the family of Levi; the prophets
were specifically called of God to present their message.
Bible Stories that you would be familiar with from the
prophets would be Daniel in the Lions Den. 
The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is also found in the book of
Daniel, where these three young men who had been brought as captives from Judah
to Babylon refused to bow down and worship an idol and were tied up and thrown
in furnace. But when their captors looked in they saw the guys wandering
around, unscathed and so they were released. 
Jonah and the big fish can be found in the prophets, as well as the
story of Hosea and his wife Gomer, golly.
These prophets weren’t prophets like Psychics and fortune
tellers claim to be a prophets. They were primarily proclaimers of the divine
will of God, not predictors of the future, though they did foresee what kind of
future was in store for their listeners if they obeyed or disobeyed the will of
God.  The message of these guys in a
nutshell was “Turn or Burn.”
Another aspect that the prophets, especially Isaiah, focused
on was the coming Messiah and during the Christmas and Easter seasons various
portions of Isaiah are often quoted. 
Wow, that’s the first 39 books, you ready for the next 27?
Between the last book of the Old Testament, the Prophet
Malachi and the beginning of the New Testament story was a gap of about 400
years during which the Jewish people anxiously awaited the Messiah to deliver
them from their oppressors.  The first
four books of the New Testament tell the story of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
These four books are called The Gospels and they are comprised of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  Each of the books is named after it’s author
and each has a particular thrust and audience. 
It is in these books that we read the story of Jesus, from his birth to
his death and resurrection. There are some people who complain that the writers
tell the same story in different ways. So? 
I would be worried if all four gospels were identical, because that
would show that they were just copies of one account.  If four of us went on a trip, preferably
someplace warm, let’s say that we went to Disney World.  When we came home if someone asked us to
write down our recollections of the trip I wonder how they would compare?  One event might strike me as important and
you as trivial, I would see a ride as tame you might see it as terrifying or
the other way around. Perhaps at one point I might see an attraction with
someone other then you and my account would speak of that event and yours
wouldn’t.
It’s in the Gospel where we find many of our familiar New
Testament Bible Stories. It’s here that we read the Christmas Story and the
Easter Story, we see Jesus teaching on the banks of the Sea of Galilee and
feeding 5,000 people with a few fish and a couple of small loaves of bread. We
marvel at Jesus as he walks on the water and weep with Mary and Martha at the
death of their brother Lazarus and then laugh and rejoice with them when Jesus
raises him from the dead.  It’s in the
gospels that we reel in horror at the death of Jesus, and then realize the
triumph of his resurrection.
The author of the book of Matthew was one of Jesus apostles and he was a tax collector before
he began to follow Christ.  It was
Matthew who threw a party after he was called by Christ and he invited all his
grotty friends over to meet his new friend Jesus. The particular thrust of
Matthew is to reveal Jesus as the Messiah foretold by the Old Testament
Prophets. His book was addressed particularly to a Jewish audience and he
frequently uses the phrase “The Kingdom of Heaven” or the “Kingdom of God”
The book of Mark
was written by John Mark the son of a Jerusalem widow whose home was a meeting
place for early believers.  Tradition
holds that Mark acted as a scribe for the Apostle Peter and that Mark is telling
the story from Peter’s perspective.  The
book of Mark is viewed as the first of the gospels to be written and was
written to encourage the believers as they began to be persecuted by the Roman
authorities.
This is a very fast paced gospel giving you the highlights
of the life of Jesus. Mark skips many of Jesus’ discourses and focuses on his miracles;
it’s more about what Jesus did rather then about what Jesus said.
The Gospel of Luke
is believed to have been written by a gentile doctor by the name of Luke,
surprise, surprise. Luke is the only non-Jewish writer in the New Testament. He
wrote this gospel for a friend by the name of Theophilus, which to you might be
a funny name but two things should change your mind about that; the first is
that it literally means Lover of God, what a compliment, and secondly it was my
great-Grandfather’s name.
Dr. Luke wrote this book primarily to show that God’s love
reaches beyond the Jewish people to the entire world. Luke, being a doctor,
includes more detail then either Matthew or Mark. And it’s in Luke that we find
the details of the first Christmas. Luke tends to focus on the kindness and
compassion of Christ.
John is the
favourite Gospel of many people.  It was
written by the apostle John, and not John the Baptist. The focus of the book of
John is that Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. 
The purpose of the book is summed up by John himself who wrote in John 20:31  But these are written so
that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and
that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. The
opposite of Mark’s account because John focuses more on what Jesus said,
especially about himself, then on what he did.
John in particular seems to describe Jesus as both light
and life.
The next book in the bible stands by itself and it is the
book of Acts or Acts of the Apostles. The
gospels began with Christ’s birth and ended with his resurrection and the book
of Acts begins with the resurrection of Christ and chronicles the life of the
early church.  The author is the same
Luke who wrote the third gospel, and again it was written to his friend Theophilus.  The first chapter tells how Christ ascended
to heaven and how the apostles chose someone to replace the traitor Judas
Iscariot.
It’s in Acts that we read about the first Christian martyr,
a young man named Stephen, and we read about the conversion of a prominent
Jewish teacher by the name of Saul who was renamed Paul and became the greatest
teacher of Christianity.  It was through
Paul that the message of Jesus spread throughout the ancient world.
The book of Luke and the Acts account for one fourth of
the New Testament.
The next section of books was written by the Paul who we
read about in the book of Acts. They are known as epistles which does not mean
the wives of the apostles instead it’s a fancy word for letters.  Specifically these are called the Pauline Epistles or letters of Paul and
they include:  Romans,
1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2
Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon
. Some scholars feel that there isn’t
enough evidence of Paul’s authorship to include the book of Hebrews in this group and have suggested that
it might have been written by Barnabas, Apollos or possibly Priscilla. But
because tradition ascribed it to Paul we’ll leave it here.
Understand that these books were originally letters to
specific churches dealing with specific issues, it’s like we are opening
someone else’s mail and reading it. We have to keep in mind that the first people
who read these letters had inside knowledge that we don’t have about what was
happening in their particular situation. However God in his infinite wisdom
chose to preserve these specific letters for the entire church so even though
they were intended for a specific audience they are for us today as well.
It’s in Romans we discover the wages of sin is death, but he
gift of God is eternal life, we find the attributes of love listed from 1
Corinthians 13, we discover the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5, and we are
told that we can do everything through the power of Christ in Philippians. In Ephesians
we are reminded that we are saved by grace through faith, and in Hebrews we
read about God’s faith hall of fame.
If you are every frantically flipping through the New
Testament looking for books keep in mind all of the books that start with T are
clumped together.
There are seven other letters in the New Testament that were
written by others and these are often referred to as the General Epistles these include the books of James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2
& 3 John and the book of Jude.
These were written for the same reason
as the letters of Paul were written, to encourage and instruct local churches.  These letters were written by two of Jesus’
brothers James and Jude as well as the apostles Peter and John.  The book of James is my favourite epistle although Martin Luther referred to it
as: An epistle of Straw. It was written to warn believers about slander,
favouritism, pride, the misuse of wealth and a lack of patience.  This may have been the first New Testament
book written.
Simon Peter wrote 1 and 2 Peter for two very different
reasons.  The first letter was a letter
of encouragement to the persecuted church offering the early believers hope and
meaning in the middle of the suffering they were enduring for their faith. 2 Peter
on the other hand was written as a warning against false teachers and contains
very harsh condemnations of these teachers.
1, 2 and 3 John were all written by the Apostle John who also
wrote the Gospel of John.  They were
written for very similar reasons as Peter’s letters. The first letter is a
letter of encouragement, the second a letter of warning and the third letter is
a short personal note warning a friend about a specific person in the church.
Jude Is a dark little letter that ends the epistles.  Written by Jesus’ brother Jude the letter was
written to warn believers about the dangers of some of the strange doctrines
being spread throughout the church by false teachers.
And here we are at the end, the book of The Revelation, did you catch that there’s no S, it’s not many
revelations, never has been, never will be it’s only one revelation.  Sometimes it’s called The Revelation of John,
but actually it’s the Revelation of God to John. It says that in the first
verse and so I guess that makes the author God. 
The human author or scribe is identified as John who wrote down the
revelation and sent it to the seven churches in Asia. Although we don’t know
exactly which John this was tradition holds that it was John the Apostle who
wrote this book while an exile on the Island of Patmos which is located in the
Aegean Sea just off the coast of modern day Turkey
The Revelation refers to itself as: a revealing, an unveiling
and an explaining.  Anyone who has read
anything written about the Revelation knows that people have very dogmatic
beliefs about this book and everyone is convinced that theirs is the only
correct view.  Understand that there are
any number of interpretations of this book and every one of them has
difficulties and require some straining to make things fit.
The parts of this book that we are most familiar with is the
number 666 and the antichrist, neither of which has been or will be revealed
until the end times come.  I’ve said it
before and I’ll say it again: the Revelation is the playground of the
religiously eccentric.  Don’t get so
caught up in what you don’t understand here that you miss all the stuff you can
understand in the rest of the book.
That’s it, Genesis to Revelation in 25 minutes or so.  What is the most important part of the Bible?
Whatever part leads you into a relationship with God.

Words to live by. . . Or not.


Recently I have found myself immersed in a book of wisdom.  I’m sure Angela is growing tired of my constant interruptions as I regale her with yet another new discovery.  As I read I am constantly thinking:” Wow!” “Amazing” & ”I didn’t know that.” Stories of great achievements by folks with obscure names and stories of inspirations share the pages of this book and I want to share many of the things I have discovered with those around me.  Of course, you realize that I’m talking about Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader.
I have also discovered a few mistakes in my reading. Not major mistakes but enough that I tend to read the rest with a grain of salt.  Uncle John, I am sure, would remind me “To err is human, to forgive divine.” And then he would let me know that quote came from Alexander Pope in An Essay on Criticism that Pope wrote in 1709 but wasn’t published until 1711.   But I digress.
Too many people view the Bible the same way. It’s an interesting book that is full of neat things, but they aren’t sure they can trust it and it certainly isn’t life changing.  And it will never be life changing until we embrace it for what it is: the Word of God.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.