Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wendell Berry and My Suburban Commute

My commute is okay. It means I do not work at home. That is okay. But I sometimes miss the farm life. Work and home are intermingled. I miss the connection with nature. I miss how life on the farm is integrated. It has its ups and downs. I think I miss both. However, on my commute to work I listen to Mars Hill Audio. Ken Myers loves Wendell Berry's writings. Before Ken Myers mentioned his writings, I had never heard of them. So I started searching to see what the constant references to Wendell Berry are all about. I found this poem today called The Mad Farmer Liberation Front. One of the lines in the poem says "Work for nothing". Believe it or not, I did a lot of work for nothing on the farm, but I still enjoyed it. I think I may have worked harder for nothing than I did for something at times.

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

Click here to read the rest.

Monday, April 27, 2009

How to Maintain Your Piety in Suffering: A Lesson on Job 2 By Terry L. Pruitt

Text: Job 2

Main Idea: You and I need to receive both good and evil from the Lord.


Probably one of the most prayed for requests in the American church is the request for healing. Some churches are looking for dramatic healing each week. Other feel it is a good thing to do just so one show he is concerned for the other party. It is good because it shows symbolically that one cares. Whether a prayer for healing is offered with skepticism or faith does not negate the fact that some of the most common forms of suffering in America are health related. This sort of suffering shakes us to our core. Unless the Lord returns, chances are most of us we die from an accident or a disease that causes our health to fail. Some people suffer life long illness while others suffer just a little at the end of a long life. Our health will be an issue. Will it cause us to be bitter or will we be someone who flourishes spiritually as the physical man is passing away. I have a great-great-great aunt who never married. She died at the age of 18. She became ill of a lung infection and never recovered. Lill' was her name. One of the things said at her funeral was that she did not complain about her illness. She faced her situation with courage. May we all do the same.

Situation Normal
1. You and I can receive both good and evil from the Lord because we know the righteous sometimes suffer for being righteous. In Job 2:3 we see God call attention to Job's righteousness and that this is the reason that Satan asks to attack Job's health. American Christians do not for the most part suffer for their faith. Some American Christians do suffer martyrdom but this not a common experience for the church. Americans do suffer but not in the same desperate way that people do in the less developed world. When we do suffer we complain and quickly blame God for our troubles or say that he some how does not interfere in such cases. We question why. Philip Jenkins in his book the The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity he says the philosophical “problem of evil” is not a big one in the places where the church is growing the most, Africa and South America. The Christians there expect to suffer for righteousness sake. They actually may live a life of suffering and are experienced in this regard. They actually do expect God to interfere in their suffering by various means. In America where we suffer less relatively we find it more of a philosophical or existential problem. Christians in Africa and South America find it more of a pragmatic issue that they suffer.

Discipline can mean training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character. The writer of Hebrews 12:3-11 talks about discipline as coming from the Lord as a sign of the Christian being a son of God. Does the discipline Hebrews 12 mean that God is correcting sin or can this mean mold or perfect? Why or why not?

Some have said that if we do not suffer, we should at least go visit the hospital, nursing home and prison to understand suffering and grow in Christ. Why or why not might this work?

2. You and I can receive both good and evil from the Lord by discerning whether a message spoken is true or not. Clearly Job's wife in chapter 2 verse 9 is discouraged and is possibly speaking from frustration or depression. While we may make excuses for her, her discussion with Job is seen as sinful. As human beings, we generally are looking for answers and solutions when we suffer. We may not think through what is being said but we are ready to try many things to relieve suffering. In the movie 'O Brother Where Art Thou' which takes place in the 1930s, a period of national suffering, one of the characters reminds people periodically that “everyone is looking for answers”. The thing about looking for answers, sometimes we are willing to try them on for size just because we are suffering and seek relief. It is good to be open minded, but an open mind is like a good window. Keep a screen up to keep out the bugs. Job's wife has a bad message. She not only is speaking discouraging message, she is advocating sin. Since people sometimes react poorly in suffering we must be on our guard when we suffer to not listen to those who themselves are misguided.

What are the places where the world is “looking for answers?”

The Christian community sometimes looks for answers in places other than the Scripture. Where is that? When is this acceptable and when is it not acceptable?

The Third Commandment
3. You and I can receive both good and evil from the Lord by guarding our lips. Job does not sin with his lips. We can see an emphasis on this idea that man should not curse God in what Satan says in verse 5, in what Job's wife says in verse 9, and then in what Job says in verse 10. There are many summaries of the book of Job that leave out this huge theme Job's resistance to sinning by cursing God. We find cursing God as common place and ordinary. We just regard it that that someone is simply frustrated. The most pious among us might think that someone is sinning by cursing God. Few would find this an issue on the same level as say murder or adultery. But resisting sin by not cursing God is a major theme of the book.

Our mouth can complain and cause everyone to be discouraged. We can also encourage people with our words. Words have power. We definitely want to steer clear of those in the Word of Faith camp which says our words basically control the universe and cause good or bad to happen. This sort of magical view of words is not consistent with what Scripture says about our words, but we can sin with our words. We can talk carelessly and cause other to be discouraged through our words. We can also talk in such a way that we are advocating doctrine without thinking it through. The 10 commandments has a special command about not cursing using God's name or using God's name carelessly. Our society would make little issue of someone breaking this commandment, yet it is a major theme in the book of Job.

What doctrine does Job's wife advocate?

Sometimes words almost do seem magical. We pronounce someone man and wife. This pronouncement is really an official declaration of a larger complex set of relationship of actions. A marriage license has been obtained. A ceremony has been performed. The pronouncement by itself does not make a couple married but we say that it does. Why or why not are these words important? Are they merely tradition?

Beyond conveying an idea, what power do words have?

Some say the opposite of love is apathy. Others would say the opposite of love it hate. What is the opposite of cursing God?

Is it okay to question God when we suffer?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Miss California Speaks


Monday, April 13, 2009

A lion, a rooster, a billy-goat and Tommy Franks go to a bar...

Three things are stately in their tread;
four are stately in their stride:
the lion, which is mightiest among beasts
and does not turn back before any;
the strutting rooster, the he-goat,
and a king whose army is with him.
---Proverbs 30:29-31 (ESV)

Different creatures in nature have different glories. A rooster is a glorious thing to see. He is proud of his feathers and his position. A lion knows he is a beast to be feared. A rooster would be no challenge for a lion though. A he-goat is no challenge for a lion, though he also is proud of his position and strength. When we think of a lion we think of an animal dangerous and to be feared. But in a sense, a general (king) with his troops who are equipped for battle find no match in a lion. This is especially true if we are talking about a modern general with attack helicopters, snipers, artillery, tanks and well trained troops.

We all have our own gifting and glory. The glory may be small or large. One may be a rooster or a lion. Both are noble. One may be a he-goat or a general with his army. Both are a wonderful sight to see. When you and I look at our stations in life, we should be happy with the glory that God has given us, whether small or great.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

How to Reduce Your Risks: A Lesson on Proverbs 6

How to Reduce Your Risks: A Lesson on Proverbs 6
By Terry Pruitt

If you use this lesson in a small group or Sunday School class please let me know.

Texts: Proverbs 6; Rom 13:8; 2Th 3:10; Mat 12:36; Heb 5:14; Heb 9:1

Main Idea: There is a difference between someone who takes naive risk and someone who simply enjoys being evil; both will suffer consequences.

Many people look at morality as simply rules to mitigate risk in our lives. Often these people would see the function of laws and etiquette is to bring order, happiness and prosperity. With this sort of thinking, rules of morality are functional in nature, they are to bring the most good. The authority of “Thou shalt not” becomes the suggestion stating “be careful if you do”. Morality becomes a way of expressing risk management. In this thinking, the exact cause and effect sequence of why are not always known, but the speaker knows that something might happen bad if one breaks the rule. Of course many Christians see the Ten Commandments in the Scripture as God given Laws which are designed to mitigate risk against bad consequences. However, if morality is merely risk management, then the first four commandments of the Ten Commandments dealing with the right worship of God take a back seat since there is no earthly risk seen in this. Bad consequences of breaking laws are cited in Proverbs 6 as reasons against breaking the Law. However, the consequences are not mentioned at all when discussing the Lord's attitude toward those who embrace their lawlessness. While consequences are implied from the surrounding verses, the main idea discussed is that God hates the shameless embracing of evil. It points to an aspect of morality, that there is an inherently authoritarian aspect to morality. God finding an act, a word or an action an abomination is its own punishment in addition to any consequences which we may or may not avoid. God judges perfectly man's actions as morally good or evil. We suffer consequences from naive foolishness and from out right sin, but we should seek the rewards of virtue and God's favor.

1. Taking on financial risk for someone you do not know will likely come to a bad end so get out of it as quickly as possible. (Proverbs 6:1-5)

The first five verses of chapter tell about someone who takes on financial risk for someone else. Today this would the equivalent of co-signing of a loan or investing in a business. This may or may not be a morally wrong action to take. If you or I have money of our own, we are free to spend it as we see fit. It may not be wise to back someone else's debts, but given you or I have the resources, it is not a breaking of the Ten Commandments to do so. The author does not want the student addressed by the book to get taken by those who would misuse good will or naivety of the student. So in this case the concern is to mitigate financial risk.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Rom 13:8 ESV)

Does this Scripture preclude the Christian from taking or making a loan? Why is this true Scripturally? If so, how does this fit in with the Ten Commandments? If not, when do we know we must literally follow the direction of a passage?

2. Becoming a self-starter in work is a guard against poverty. (Proverbs 6:6-11)

In the last section the person may suffer from being a poor judge the ways of the world. In this section, the lazy bum is not actively breaking the law. His sins are those of omission rather than commission. He should work for his provision. The consequences are in this case more the result of doing the morally wrong thing, but only in breaking the Ten Commandments in their implied virtues, not the explicit commandment.

Ants are famous for being hard workers who have no hierarchical structure governing that work. This self-starting attitude is a necessity for the entrepreneur but is also useful in other stations of life.

Is a lack of hard work a sin or just unwise? When the Scripture says if “someone does not work he should not eat”, in what situations does this apply and not apply?

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. (2Th 3:10 ESV)

3. An evil person often gives signs of his evil actions through body language and actions but sudden and thorough destruction will overcome him. (Proverbs 6:12-15)

Being a good communicator means invariably means listening to non-verbal communication. We are often left with people's actions, tone, expression, and posture to interpret, that is if we want to communicate effectively. Of course, we have to be careful to not assume we can interpret these signals as if they mean only one thing. Crossed arms in front of someone can mean that some does not want to listen, but it also can mean that a person is physically cold or that he has shoulder injury that feels better in that posture. When people are full of pride, invariably they want to communicate their successes to others. When people are prideful of something evil, they want to communicate that too. They feel it is a success. In reality, glorying in evil often brings swift and non-recoverable destruction. Who has not heard a child incriminate himself? Adults do the same thing but usually on a more sophisticated level. You and I do this also. The passage warns us that we could be incriminating ourselves and implied by what follows incriminating ourselves before God. We feel comfortable confessing a sin if we feel we have mitigated all consequences and know we have gotten away with it.

Listening to ourselves can be a difficult thing to do. People often do not like how they sounds on a tape recorder. Is if fair to judge us by our own words when we don't really know what we say?

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, (Mat 12:36 ESV)

Hebrews 5:14 tells us a mark of maturity is distinguishing good from evil. How do we learn to distinguish good from evil?

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:14 ESV)

4. The Lord hates those who practice evil. (Proverbs 6:16-19)

Here the worst of sins are listed but we do not see any earthly consequences mentioned. These are not unintentional sins. These are full blown evil attitudes that takes pleasure in evil. Some people have said that the only sins that can be forgiven are the unintentional ones.

but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. (Heb 9:1 ESV)

How would one ensure he has not committed sins intentionally? What would he do if he had committed sins intentionally?

5. The man who commits adultery will not receive mercy from the woman's husband. (Proverbs 6:20-35)

In this passage, the man who commits adultery is both like man who was swindled and also not like that man. Both men seem to be misled. The man who was swindled was misled into something that was merely unwise and did not break a direct commandment. The adulterer actually broke a commandment.

A strange thing in interpreting Proverbs 6: 28 is that people do walk on hot coals in a process people call fire walking. This is practiced in many places and has a long history. Scientist explain the phenomena but they do not always agree. The basic explanations are that the transfer of heat from the wood to the human flesh is not quick. So as long as the walker keep moving at rate of one step per half second he can fire walk with no injury. It is like running one's finger through a candle flame. Do it quickly and you suffer nothing. Just hold it in the flame and you will get burned. The other explanation has to do with a steam barrier being built up between the foot and the coals.

Many people actually have gotten burned by trying to fire walk. A famous case in Australia had KFC employees participating in a confidence exercise at a company retreat were injured.

In reality why fire walking is such a novelty is that if we touch fire long periods of time we do get hurt. We can think we can mitigate risk of moral failure, and sometimes we do, but ultimately it will catch up with us.

Should we as Christians reduce risks of consequences on those who incur those risks by breaking Scriptural commands?

"If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. (Lev 20:10 ESV)

Is the general equity of Lev 20: 10 superseded by John 8? If not, how would we go about making the equity of this Old Testament Law viable in our modern culture? If so, what about other Laws such as murder?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Empty Me

Simple message but one I want to sing.

Words That Will Preach: An Outline of Hebrews 8:7-9:28

God declares a new covenant thus making the old covenant with Israel obsolete. 8:7-13
The old covenant had many regulations but did not perfect the conscience of those under it. 9:1-10
Christ truly cleansed those under the new covenant with his own blood. 9:11-14
Christ established the new covenant through his death. 9:15-22
The new, heavenly covenant is superior to the earthly shadows in the first covenant. 9:23--28