Archeologist finds 3,000-year old Hebrew text

I’m still teaching in NYC and don’t pull out my laptop much. But I saw this article in today’s cnn.com today – “Archeologist finds 3,000-year old Hebrew text.” I always find this stuff interesting. When we were in Israel last winter I told Linda if I wasn’t a pastor and teacher I think I could have loved being an archaeologist.

Flying to NYC Today

Linda and I fly to New York City today where I will be teaching apologetics at Faith Bible Seminary Tues – Fri. I’ll speak at FBS’s 13th anniversary on Saturday, and then speak twice at Faith Bible Church on Sunday.

I’m taking our Redeemer Ministry School students with me for the week. Our worship leader, Holly Benner, will also be joining us. Holly will teach a seminar on worship Wednesday night. Then on Friday night Oct 31 and Saturday night November 1 our worship band will rock out in Queens NYC at Jamfest ’08 – we’re hoping for a lot of people to come.

How To Hear the Voice of God

(My back yard)
Often people ask me the question “How do I hear the voice of God?” A related question is, “How do I know it’s God speaking to me and not just myself or some other voice?” In brief, here’s my response.

1. Saturate yourself in Scripture. The greater one’s familiarity with Scripture is, the greater one will be able to know when it’s God speaking and not something else. Begin by saturating yourself in Matthew-Mark-Luke-John. Try reading these over and over and over, slowly and meditatively, for a year. I did it recently for two years and found it very helpful. Read the 4 Gospels as if you’ve never read them before. As you read them, when God speaks to you, write it down in a journal.

2. Spend much time with God. There’s simply no substitute for this. For about “Mc-hearing” God. God can’t be fast-fooded. Hearing the voice of God is largely an acquired thing. Analogically, I spend much time talking with Linda and listening to her. The result is that I know her heart, and her heart’s desires, very well.

3. Don’t multi-task the God-relationship. Spend much time with God… alone. Just you and God. Face to face. Heart to heart. If you’re unfamiliar with this, my recommendation is: just start doing it. In the process you’ll learn what this is about because God so much wants you to know Him experientially and relationally.

4. Meet with other Jesus-followers who actually do #s 1-3 above, and talk together about what you feel God has been saying to you. In this matter it won’t do you much good to talk to people who don’t spend much time alone with God. They won’t have a clue re. what it meas to hear the voice of God. Meeting together provides corporate discernment. I have found that one can learn a lot about hearing God in such an environment.

5. Read a few good books on the theme of listening to God. Here are some of my favorites.

A Wedding Is a Welding

(My back yard)

In Matthew 19:1-9 we see large crowds of people coming to Jesus, and Jesus healing them. After this happens “some Pharisees came to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’” This was one of the most controversial questions of that time. It refers to Deuteronomy 24:1-4, where we read that a husband can divorce his wife if he finds “something indecent about her.” The debate was – what does “something indecent” mean?

There were two schools of thought about that. The school of the rabbi Shammai said, “something indecent” means adultery. The school of the rabbi Hillel taught that “something indecent” means anything, even something so trivial as burning your husband’s toast. “So what do you think about this,” the Pharisees asked Jesus?

Jesus’ response is brilliant. Instead of dealing with Deuteronomy 24 he takes them back to Genesis 1 & 2: “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” A very cool response by Jesus. Why?

Because Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is about troubleshooting; Genesis 1 & 2 is the heart of the owner’s manual. Yes, there is a time for troubleshooting. But Jesus says, don’t you remember what marriage really is? It’s male and female, united in marriage, becoming one flesh, whom God has “joined together.” It’s this “joined together” thing that’s especially important. The word means, literally, “welded together.” New Testament scholar R.T. France says “It would be hard to imagine a more powerful metaphor of permanent attachment.” A wedding is a welding, done by God the Master Welder.

I asked a friend who welds to give me a definition of welding. I abbreviate his response to me: “welding” is a fabrication process that joins materials, usually metals or thermoplastics, by causing coalescence. And “coalescence” is the process by which two or more droplets of metal form a single droplet and become one continuous solid. No wonder they call it “wedlock!”

Jesus is saying to the Pharisees “don’t you remember what God said about a husband and wife? God has welded them together. Don’t let any person try to separate them! Instead of saying he’s for or against divorce Jesus lifts up marriage. The Pharisees seem to have thought that the very legislation about divorce, within the law of Moses, meant that Moses was quite happy for it to take place. Since there’s a law to tell you how to do it, that must mean it’s OK to do. That would be like seeing a sign that says “In case there’s a fire, take this emergency exit” and then concluding “It must be OK to start a fire in this building.” Jesus shows the flaw in their thinking by pointing back to God’s original intention. Marriage was meant to be a partnership of one man and one woman… for life. Marriage was not meant to be something that could be split up and reassembled whenever one person wanted to end it.

Over 35 years ago Linda and I got welded, wed-locked, together. The result is that a lot of her has gotten into me and a lot of me has gotten into her. I am deeply influenced by her, and her by me. God fused us together into “one flesh.” What a great idea! You can’t get that by cohabiting. To those of you who are married: remember the bond.

Self-Exaltation and Humility

(Sterling State Park)

In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus stands before a crowd of people, some of whom were confident in their own righteousness. The result of this self-confidence was that they looked down, religiously, on other people. To be confident of one’s own “righteousness” means to view oneself as the moral equaivalent of God himself. We see that thisbis what’s going on because of what Jesus does next.

Jesus tells these people a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector. Pharisees believed that righteousness before God involved the keeping of many religious rules, some of which were God-given and some of which were man-made and not from God. Incredibly, Luke tells us that this Pharisee went into the temple and “prayed to himself.” In his prayer he exalted his own self, declaring himself to be above all other people who were degenerate in relation to him. Were he to sing his own praises we would have heard him singing “I Exalt Me,” “Lord I Lift My Name on High,” and “How Great Am I God.” The self-exalting Pharisee doesn’t ask God for anything, like asking for mercy, because he’s on a level with God when it comes to righteousness and holiness. He even gives thanks for not being like this tax collector that’s in the temple area.

The tax collector stands at a distance. His head is down. He beats his chest, which is a sign of humilation. He cries out to God, “Be merciful to me, a sinner!” He knows his own righteousness is not equal to God’s.

After telling this parable Jesus tells the crowd that it’s the heart of the tax collector that is fit for the Kingdom of God, and not the heart of the Pharisee. It’s not the one who exalted himself, but the one who humbled himself. Note this: the one who exalts himself gets humbled; the one who humbles himself gets exalted (which means, “lifted up”). Look closely at this distinction. This story is not about getting humbled. All of us get humbled. We all fail, sin, and make mistakes. We all, at times, have “egg on our face.” The tax collector self-humbles. He chooses to confess that he doesn’t have his life all together. He knows that he needs fixing, and declares it in the temple.

The cultural norm, as I see it, is that common are the people who only self-humble after they get humbled (and even then the words “I failed” seem rare). Someone gets humbled; they openly confess. But what the tax collector did is that he went into the temple and openly confessed; that is, he “humbled himself.” Jesus said “That’s cool,” and exalted him. That’s the attitude Jesus wants to see. That’s the foundational attitude for fitness in the Kingdom of God.

Proverbs 3:5-6: Part VI

(MCCC)

Proverbs 3:5-6 states: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

“God will make your paths straight.” This cannot mean “God will endorse whatever your heart desires.” What kind of things is God interested in? The answers include: 1) his kingdom; 2) worship of him; 3) love of him and he loving us; 4) righteousness and holiness; and 5) truth. Trust in God, acknowledge God in all your ways, and God will direct you to himself. This will be good for you, since God made you and you were made to love and worship God. Such things define your life’s purpose. Find that, and the result is peace and joy.

Jeff Dieselberg & Darren Wilson at Redeemer Sunday Night

(My back yard in Monroe)

Jeff Dieselberg of Night Light Bangkok and filmmaker Darren Wilson (“Finger of God“) will be at Redeemer Fellowship Church in Monroe, this Sunday night, Oct. 19, 6 PM.

Darren will share at 6 about the new film he is now making.

Worship will follow.

Jeff will share after worship about the work he and his wife Annie are doing rescuing young women out of the sextrafficking industry in the red light district of Bangkok.

Proverbs 3:5-6: Part V

(The River Raisin)

Proverbs 3:5-6 states: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

“In all your ways acknowledge God.” Take God into account. Look to God for life direction. I began to do this when I was 21. Everyone looks somewhere for direction in life, for someone or something to guide their way. For me, if God did not exist there wouldn’t even be such a thing as a “way” in life and a direction to go in. The idea that your life and my life has a “way” at all depends on the existence of a Creator God who made you for a purpose.

When I came to really believe in God I was at a point where I needed big-time direction. My life was screwed up because I was a self-directed person. I came to see that I didn’t know what I was doing, and that’s when I decided to try God, if there really was a God, and see if that would help.

It did. At least, that’s how I interpret it. I know everyone doesn’t believe this. As a philosophy professor I’m always dialoguing with students and others about these issues. There are people who think God does not exist, there are people who believe in God but think God is not into helping us (that’s called Deism), and there are other variations of God-belief and disbelief. What can I say to them? I can tell them my story, which is this: 1) I once followed my own desires only; 2) I got in a lot of trouble and felt like I lost my way in life; 3) I chose to place my trust in God and not in my own ideas; 4) I saw my path starting to straighten out and got direction and still get direction from God; 5) I cannot disbelieve that it was God who has done all this for me.

As I look around I see a lot of examples of the failure of trusting in human understanding. Looks like we’re in global trouble now. Why not try trusting in God?

Proverbs 3:5-6: Part IV

(Monroe)

Proverbs 3:5-6 states: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

“Lean not on your own understanding.” Don’t put too much weight on what you understand. Why not? Because: what you and I understand is phenomenally small.

Some years ago when I was in Chicago I stopped at my all-time favorite bookstore which is adjacent to the University of Chicago. It’s in the basement of an old building, and it’s filled with books you’d never find at Borders or Barnes & Noble. This bookstore is an academic wonderland of brilliance. On this particular day as I wandered around this store I had a sense of of my own great ignorance. I’m not trying to be humble now. The truth of how very, very little I know was revealed to me. I felt like the self-made man in Sartre’s novel Nausea, whose goal was to read every book in the library beginning with the ‘A’s’ and working through to ‘Z.’ At the end of his life he hadn’t gotten out of the ‘A’s’ because more books with titles beginning with ‘A’ kept being published. I looked at all these old and new scholarly books on every subject you can think of, and realized I’ve read hardly any of them. And if I did read them I wouldn’t come close to understanding them all. If ever I thought I understood a lot of things, this bubble got burst that day.

If you live long enough the time will come when you will face a situation that no human understands. I meet people in such situations all the time. Drug addicts, sex addicts, terminally ill people, impossibly broken-down marriages and families, and the dirt-poor. The collective wisdom of humanity cannot help. So where can one turn? And as they come to me for answers, where can I turn when all understanding fails?  My experience is that we are not left hopeless here. Here’s the answer of Proverbs: 1) Lean not on your own understanding, precisely because there’s not much there to lean on anyway; 2) Instead, trust in God. Place your trust in God today.

Christians Are Today Being Persecuted in India & Iraq

(Monroe)

As you read this Christians are being persecuted in India and in Iraq.

Here’s a quote from nytimes.com re. India:

“The family of Solomon Digal was summoned by neighbors to what serves as a public square in front of the village tea shop.

They were ordered to get on their knees and bow before the portrait of a Hindu preacher. They were told to turn over their Bibles, hymnals and the two brightly colored calendar images of Christ that hung on their wall. Then, Mr. Digal, 45, a Christian since childhood, was forced to watch his Hindu neighbors set the items on fire.

“ ‘Embrace Hinduism, and your house will not be demolished,’ ” Mr. Digal recalled being told on that Wednesday afternoon in September. “ ‘Otherwise, you will be killed, or you will be thrown out of the village.’””

And on Iraq:

Thirteen Christians have been slain in the past two weeks in the city, which is located about 420 kilometers (260 miles) north of Baghdad.

At least 900 Christian families have fled in recent days, reportedly frightened by a series of killings and threats by Muslim extremists ordering them to convert to Islam or face possible death, Iraqi officials said.

A CNN report is here.