The Good Life: Gatherings

In the last week our family has had a handful of family or friends gatherings that we have been invited to and each one has been enjoyable for all involved. Quite often these days the gatherings are birthday parties for relatives and close friends. When you have smaller children, and in the case of my family and many of my friends an increasing number of smaller children, you are invited to lots of birthday parties. It’s funny how kids are perceived to rob you of a social life, but with all the reproduction in my circle of family and friends I feel I’m with friends more than I have been since I was living on campus in college. Thankfully the conversations have matured, as well as the bedtimes, (except for my brother and sister in law who still stay up pretty late. Of course this may not be fair because I tend to eat dinner around the time the senior citizens discount starts). Although my calendar can stay quite full, I am thankful that most of the things on my calendar are events that involve being with people I love to often do nothing more than share meal, a few stories about our lives and laugh a lot while our kids play and laugh loudly.

For me to have the good life, I need these times with the people in my life. I don’t think I need it to the level that I did before children or when I was a teenager or in my early twenties because I was filled with much immaturity and unneeded pressures that I had placed on myself. Those years shaped the desires that I have today for friendships with depth and joy. Now being with friends and family is mostly relaxing. It’s a time for me to enjoy the world at its most basic level, which is life with other people while resting from our callings and responsibilities. In other words, my gatherings with friends and family in someone’s home has become going to the pub for me, expect its much quieter and cleaner. For the church going types reading this, these events for me serve as a weekly small group. We meet often to have casual conversation that generally involves the serious and the not so serious. It’s a time to be honest, to let your guard down and most of all enjoy God’s gift of friendship and fellowship.

Gatherings don’t just add to life’s goodness, but are at the heart of the good life. Most everything a human does involves and effects other people, directly or indirectly. We are social beings and creatures because our Creator is a God that is one and three. He enjoys the company of others and depends upon others for Him to be who He is. So to with humanity. We depend upon others not only for formation, but for the quality and the goodness of our lives. Our lives are often measured upon friendships and family relationships. We move to and from places based on others, either to be around people or to flee from them. No matter how you spin it, you are a social creature that is dependent on other people. In other words, you need kids birthday parties and dinner gatherings with friends to live the good life. You need time with others and they need time with you, so go to the birthday parties, accept the dinner invites and relax a little bit when you show up. We need to fill our lives with good things, not merely good things that make us better people. People are good things and time with people is good. For myself, it is easy for me to depend on my studies, writing and ministry as the tools that give me maturity and the good life. I can believe I am maturing based on what I’m learning and reading, when in reality, the greatest thing in my life that shapes me are the people nearest me. Outside of the Holy Spirit, Brittany, Reid, Grace, Sam, my extended family, friends and church have more to say about my maturity than anything or anyone else.

So if they are the tools that shape me, then those gatherings are really important and they need to be frequent because tools can get dull quick. So can a man who sits home every night watching television alone, or lives for his kids bedtime so he can do his own thing by himself. I need the sharpening effect of being with others. I need the joy of being with others. Simply, I need time with others. My calendar gets full, but I don’t think I’d have it any other way. Thanks Mayfield’s for having us over recently for a fantastic meal. Thanks Logan’s and Ferguson’s for the late nights. Happy birthday Harper and Emery. Thanks Mom for having the family over and cooking us dinner so many times. Thanks Brittany for the meals and laughs almost every night. Thanks Reid, Grace and Sam for baseball and reading time. Thanks Emmanuel for the monthly cookouts. Thanks to Starbucks for all the coffee you’ve supplied Richard and I. This is what makes my life happy and blessed. These are the good and perfect gifts that come down from the Father of lights.

The Good Life: Gatherings

In the last week our family has had a handful of family or friends gatherings that we have been invited to and each one has been enjoyable for all involved. Quite often these days the gatherings are birthday parties for relatives and close friends. When you have smaller children, and in the case of my family and many of my friends an increasing number of smaller children, you are invited to lots of birthday parties. It’s funny how kids are perceived to rob you of a social life, but with all the reproduction in my circle of family and friends I feel I’m with friends more than I have been since I was living on campus in college. Thankfully the conversations have matured, as well as the bedtimes, (except for my brother and sister in law who still stay up pretty late. Of course this may not be fair because I tend to eat dinner around the time the senior citizens discount starts). Although my calendar can stay quite full, I am thankful that most of the things on my calendar are events that involve being with people I love to often do nothing more than share meal, a few stories about our lives and laugh a lot while our kids play and laugh loudly.

For me to have the good life, I need these times with the people in my life. I don’t think I need it to the level that I did before children or when I was a teenager or in my early twenties because I was filled with much immaturity and unneeded pressures that I had placed on myself. Those years shaped the desires that I have today for friendships with depth and joy. Now being with friends and family is mostly relaxing. It’s a time for me to enjoy the world at its most basic level, which is life with other people while resting from our callings and responsibilities. In other words, my gatherings with friends and family in someone’s home has become going to the pub for me, expect its much quieter and cleaner. For the church going types reading this, these events for me serve as a weekly small group. We meet often to have casual conversation that generally involves the serious and the not so serious. It’s a time to be honest, to let your guard down and most of all enjoy God’s gift of friendship and fellowship.

Gatherings don’t just add to life’s goodness, but are at the heart of the good life. Most everything a human does involves and effects other people, directly or indirectly. We are social beings and creatures because our Creator is a God that is one and three. He enjoys the company of others and depends upon others for Him to be who He is. So to with humanity. We depend upon others not only for formation, but for the quality and the goodness of our lives. Our lives are often measured upon friendships and family relationships. We move to and from places based on others, either to be around people or to flee from them. No matter how you spin it, you are a social creature that is dependent on other people. In other words, you need kids birthday parties and dinner gatherings with friends to live the good life. You need time with others and they need time with you, so go to the birthday parties, accept the dinner invites and relax a little bit when you show up. We need to fill our lives with good things, not merely good things that make us better people. People are good things and time with people is good. For myself, it is easy for me to depend on my studies, writing and ministry as the tools that give me maturity and the good life. I can believe I am maturing based on what I’m learning and reading, when in reality, the greatest thing in my life that shapes me are the people nearest me. Outside of the Holy Spirit, Brittany, Reid, Grace, Sam, my extended family, friends and church have more to say about my maturity than anything or anyone else.

So if they are the tools that shape me, then those gatherings are really important and they need to be frequent because tools can get dull quick. So can a man who sits home every night watching television alone, or lives for his kids bedtime so he can do his own thing by himself. I need the sharpening effect of being with others. I need the joy of being with others. Simply, I need time with others. My calendar gets full, but I don’t think I’d have it any other way. Thanks Mayfield’s for having us over recently for a fantastic meal. Thanks Logan’s and Ferguson’s for the late nights. Happy birthday Harper and Emery. Thanks Mom for having the family over and cooking us dinner so many times. Thanks Brittany for the meals and laughs almost every night. Thanks Reid, Grace and Sam for baseball and reading time. Thanks Emmanuel for the monthly cookouts. Thanks to Starbucks for all the coffee you’ve supplied Richard and I. This is what makes my life happy and blessed. These are the good and perfect gifts that come down from the Father of lights.

When God laughs (a devotion)

17Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” 19God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.” ~ Genesis 17:17-19

The Bible calls Abraham “the father of all who believe” (Romans 4:11), based on the fact that when God promised him descendants as numerous as the stars above, Abraham “believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Not only did Abraham play a foundational role in God’s unfolding plan to save a people in Jesus from throughout the world, but he served as an example of faith for all who would follow.

Yet, even as the father of faith, Abraham still faced times of doubt and of a desire to take matters into his own hands. We can sympathize with him, after all God had made spectacular promises and both Abraham and Sarah were old and childless—sight won out over faith, as it often does for us as well.

First, Abraham thought his servant Eliezer would be his heir, but God said, “No, you will have a son yourself.” Then Sarah suggested that, since she was too old and barren, Abraham have a child with her servant Hagar in order to have an heir. Hagar gave birth to a son, Ishmael, of whom God said, “I will still make him into a mighty people, but he is not the child I promised. It will be through your wife Sarah.”

Abraham’s response was to laugh. Later when Sarah heard, she did the same.

God’s response: “Sarah will bear you a son, and his name will call him Isaac.” Isaac means he laughs.

The Bible describes God as a loving husband and caring father. It tells us that he sings loudly, rejoicing over his people. The Bible never explicitly says that God laughs, but being a God of emotion and seeing accounts like this in Genesis, it is a safe conclusion to say that there are times that God laughs.

We find his good humor in naming the child He Laughs. God turned the laughter of doubt around for Abraham and Sarah so it became laughter of joy (Genesis 21:6). The God who delights in his people also delights in destroying our expectations and stretching the limitations of our minds and imaginations. For, nothing is too hard for the Lord (18:14).

Are we willing to have our faith and our thoughts challenged? Are we willing to let the bigness of God overwhelm us? Are we willing to follow Jesus headlong into the seemingly most insurmountable challenges for the sake of his kingdom, glory, and fame? Trust God to turn your laughter of doubt into laughing for joy.

_______________________

This post first appeared on www.fbcadrian.com as a devotion to go along with our 2015-16 Read through the Bible Challenge.

A Baptist’s Bookshelf: A review of a recent commentary on Jonah

A Baptist minister’s bookshelf is sacred. It has weathered and worn classics, passed down or purchased secondhand because of their timeless value to preachers he has known. It has old books that he purchased in his seminary days. It has new books based on authors’ or publishers’ reputations, a particular subject covered, or just plain curiosity on the preacher’s part.

The oldest book (not a reprint) in my growing collection is Thoughts on Religious Experience by Archibald Alexander, printed in 1844. I have a set of Broadman and Holman commentaries from my grandfather. I’m adding new books all the time.

A Baptist minister often relies on the recommendations of others when deciding what books to add to his library. That’s why I’ve decided to do periodic book reviews of new titles I’ve added to my library from the standpoint of being a Baptist in the SBC.

Recently, I contacted the good folks up at Zondervan about their new Hearing the Message of Scripture commentary series, and they were kind enough to send me the inaugural volume on Jonah by Kevin J. Youngblood. I read it, and I highly recommend it.

Jonah: God’s Scandalous Mercy
Background information
jonah-gods-scandalous-mercyBoth Youngblood and Daniel Block, the General Editor, have strong ties to the SBC. Youngblood got his PhD at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Block used to be a professor there. Block’s commentary on Judges and Ruth in the New American Commentary (NAC) series has been recommended to me by virtually every Baptist minister I know. Youngblood’s inaugural volume in this series shows that he too is a capable scholar.

Review
Most people don’t read commentaries from cover to cover because, as a reference works, they are typically too detailed, too dry, and too long to read straight through. I couldn’t put this one down. For one, the commentary’s scope is limited to the book of Jonah. By comparison, the New American Commentary, NIV Application Commentary, New International Commentary on the Old Testament, and other popular commentary series cover Jonah along with 2, 3, or 4 other minor prophets in one volume. Limiting the scope makes for a better commentary.

The format of the commentary makes it easily navigable and an easy to use tool for sermon preparation. The book of Jonah is divided up into six passages, each of which could easily be turned into a separate sermon that follows the commentary or grouped for a shorter sermon series. In each passage, Youngblood first gives the main idea in one or two sentences. The main idea is clear, accurate, and consistent with what follows in his explanation of the text. Each passage is considered against the context of the book as a whole, and Youngblood shows how the structure of the passage helps communicate the author’s intended message. At the end of his explanation, Youngblood then highlights relevant passages in both the Old and New Testaments and offers salient points that could easily be used to create a sermon outline. Each passage in the commentary is so cohesive that I couldn’t put it down. It’s like one of those 3-foot long Fruit by the Foot ribbon candies I had as a kid; you stick one end in your mouth and keep eating until you get to the end of the wrapper.

The commentary had some features I really enjoyed. The author gives his own translation of the book and explains his word choices, highlights links between specific Hebrew words and their uses in other passages, and shows how the author exploits the range of meaning of some Hebrew words to make comparisons and draw attention to key parts of the plot. In fact, his analysis of the Hebrew is the main reason you should get this book, and his writing is always engaging and never feels stuffy or dry.

My only complaint is that I would have preferred actual Hebrew script when discussing Hebrew words rather than a transliteration. If you know Hebrew, it’s easier to see it in Hebrew script, and if you don’t know Hebrew, the transliteration only serves as a temptation to say, “In the Hebrew…” when you preach.

Summary
Jonah is the Philippians of the Old Testament: its short, familiar, and easy to preach from for a new or young pastor. You might be tempted to think that you don’t need a commentary on it. Youngblood’s volume in the Hearing the Message of Scripture series is so overwhelmingly good that, once you get your hands on it, you won’t feel like you wasted your time or your money. I don’t plan on reading too many commentaries all the way through. I did on this one. And I’ll probably read it through again.

If you have any questions about this commentary, or if you’d like to share your thoughts on your favorite commentary on Jonah, there’s space in the comments for you.

P.S. If you’re interested in purchasing a copy, you can find it on Amazon for about $22.