Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Is gay marriage a slippery slope?

I have written many times before on gay marriage, both asking Christians to be more understanding and loving, and yet strongly affirming that it does in fact remain an act outside the clear desire of God. There simply is no way to read the Bible in its context and conclude that first-century Jewish followers of Jesus would have accepted what we today are legalizing around the country.


That said, I want to talk a bit about the "slippery slope" argument.

Generally speaking, the slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy--one which I personally despise. It basically goes like this:  "If we allow X, then before you know it we will have Y, Z, and A!" In other words you do not argue against the actual topic at hand, but against some fearmongered future state.

Fox News and MSNBC are fantastic at this on opposite ends of the spectrum. If an Alabama judge puts up the Ten Commandments on the courthouse lawn, MSNBC thinks we are on a slippery slope to a theocracy and we will all be wearing scarlet letters on our clothing and burning copies of Darwin. Yet when those Ten Commandments are removed, Fox acts as though the government is two months away from starting locking up churches and outlawed the Bible.

It's just fearmongering. "Where does it end?" is what the slippery slope argument is based on.


However sometimes there is some legitimacy to it. And I think gay marriage does run that risk a bit. Not in the way some think--I'm not saying "Let them marry gays and soon they'll be marrying goats" or whatever craziness you've heard.

But I do think the logic is very, very shaky ground.


You see, everything must have some definition. Marriage, traditionally, has been defined as, "The legal relationship between one man and one woman to live together, for the primary purpose of having and raising children." That was the primary definition for most of American history.

This is clear and simple to understand. It is also easy to understand who cannot be married. You cannot marry more than one person ("one man and one woman"); you cannot marry homosexually ("man and woman"); you cannot marry very incestuously because of the birth defect issue ("for the primary purpose of having and raising children").


The problem today is that the gay marriage civil rights movement has now caused a very unclear definition.

It is now defined as, "A legal relationship between spouses who intend to live together as sexual and domestic partners."

Why is that a problem?

Well let me give you three situations which fit perfectly fine in this new definition in addition to homosexual relationships:

  1. Statutory rape:   If both are consenting, what is to stop a 40 year old from marrying a 13 year old?
  2. Incest:  If both are consenting and wish to live together as partners, why couldn't they?
  3. Polygamy:  If all are consenting, why should they be limited to one partner only?

Now by changing the definition to "adults" you can negate the first one, so let's do that. But what about the second and third?

 I simply cannot think of any definition of marriage which allows homosexuals but outlaws incest and polygamy.

The entire basis of redefining marriage, after all, is that "consenting adults who are in love should be able to marry." But why not incest and polygamy, then?

If marriage is stripped of any moral or Biblical basis, and is simply based upon what one feels about another adult, then how can we exclude such people? There is nothing inherently dangerous to society about polygamy, or even incest--one cannot argue that either of them poses more danger than homosexuality. So if we allow one, why not the others?

And don't pretend like it isn't reasonable. Europe approved homosexuality long before we did, and already Scandinavian countries are debating incest law, and Germany is debating bestiality.


My guess is that polygamy is the next battleground in the U.S. Once all states  have approved gay marriage (which I think is inevitable at this point), the extremist Mormons in the west will step in and begin arguing for polygamy. And what leg does the state have to stand on? If they are consenting adults in love, then if and that is our criteria for marriage they should be able to be married. Incest will probably take a generation or two due to the taboo it still holds. But as we have seen with gay marriage, a generation can make all the difference in the world with regard to taboos.


This is one slope that truly is slippery. And my gut tells me that my grandchildren will grow up in a world in which polygamy, incest, and gay marriage are all completely normal.



Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Sermon: Jesus is the Cornerstone (Luke 20:9-19)


Good morning, Grace Church.
 

You know, as I was preparing for this message I was reminded that the dispensationalists teach that God has three major eras in world history:  the Jewish Age, the Church Age, and the Age Where Grace Church Studies the Book of Luke. It’s a seven-year period of trials and tribulation, as prophesied of old. But it draws near to a close now.
 

So today we continue our series in Luke, and we enter a very interesting passage. This is a sermon that is going to be very challenging for everyone. I’m going to be asking you to take a very hard look into your heart today. Even writing it, it was one of those sermons that really convicted me.
 

You’re welcome in advance.
 

Also I’d like to announce a game. Call it CS Lewis Bingo. I will be either quoting or paraphrasing Lewis four times in the sermon today. If you can get all four, then tell Doug Mary after the sermon. He will buy you a REALLY expensive gift. He assures me he will spare NO expense.
 

In today’s passage, we are going to see Jesus give two very clear pictures to the Jews, and they also are really valuable for us today. But first, let’s recap a bit of where we are at in Luke so that we can understand the context that led to these parables He is going to share.
 

We are now in the final chapters of Luke, studying the Holy Week. Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the accolades of the crowds. Jerusalem, a city built for 50,000, was packed with perhaps as many as 500 thousand visitors. They were crammed into this small, ancient city’s walls. And Jesus began making the religious leaders VERY uncomfortable at this major festival. So uncomfortable that they began questioning His authority last week, as Josh preached.
 

Why are they upset with Him as we get to this part of Luke? Well, three primary reasons.
 

First, He has had a Rising Popularity. Remember Luke 19:37-38, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, “the whole crowd of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen: ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ “ In other words, they are claiming Him as Messiah. And that made them very uncomfortable. Because Jesus was not okay for the leaders as a Messiah.
 

Why? Because He had a Radical Theology.  Just last week we learned that Jesus cleared the Temple, calling out all of their hypocritical works. In addition, as we have heard time and time again the past year in this series, Jesus challenged and angered the Pharisees with His radical theology. He taught things that no one before had accepted, and had an interpretation of Scripture that astonished the listeners.
 

And worst of all, He had just Raised the Dead. In John’s Gospel, we see what happened just recently before Passover. In John 11, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Many had seen this:  “Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, so many of the Jewish people of the region had come to Martha and Mary to console them over the loss of their brother. …So from that day they planned together to kill Him” (Jo11:18-19, 53). We don’t have time to go into the rest of John 11, but the Jewish leaders believed that Jesus’ miracles would convince others to follow Him instead of them. (DUH! Raising the dead has a tendency to do that!)
 

Because of these three things, they question His authority. And He doesn’t really answer, does He? Last week we saw that He kind of answered a question with a question, and put them on the defensive.
 

And now, He is about to give them two pictures. Two pictures which will force a decision. Two pictures of Jesus’ authority, and the Truth.
 

Two Pictures of Authority

Picture 1:  The Parable of the Vineyard

This is the first picture Jesus gives about his authority: Luk 20:9-16.


Now this parable is one that even the dumbest of the dumb in the crowd—like, the Roger Von Edwin's of the crowd—could understand. (Don’t worry, Roger was pre-warned and has assured me he will pay me back for that one.) Before we read the passage, let’s read from the prophet Isaiah:
 

“I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one has a vineyard …he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. [He said], “What more could I have done for My vineyard than I have done for it? When I have looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?” …The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines He delighted in. And He looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.” (Isa 5:1-7)

 
This was a well-known and popular passage, and the vineyard was sort of a symbol for the nation of Israel. Like, if someone talks about the Bald Eagle, you know they are referring to America. If someone tells a story of a Maple Leaf, you know they are talking about Canada, eh? The rising sun is a symbol of Japan. The vodka bottle is the symbol of Poland. The white surrender flag is the symbol of France. You guys get the idea.
 

The vineyard is a picture of Israel, as EVERYONE in the crowd well knew. So now let’s see what Jesus told this group of people who wanted to kill Him, and have been asking Him where His power comes from. And God is the landowner, and the tenants are the priests and elders responsible for tending His vineyard and caring for it.

 
Luke 20, starting in verse 9:
 

“He went on to tell the people this parable: ‘A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard.”

Now remember in Isaiah? How God went looking for good fruit but never found it? Instead He found bloodshed and righteousness. Let’s continue.


“But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one they also beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.”

The servants that God sent are the prophets. Starting in 740 BC and ending around 420 BC, God started sending prophets. About every 15 years on average, another prophet arrives. And all of them find God’s fruit not ripe; they preach to the vineyard of Israel. They warn Israel about coming judgment, and encourage them to rebuild and tend properly to Israel.

But in Jesus’ parable, He reminds us that these servants of God were not treated well. And He was right.


Elijah was driven from Jerusalem and had suicidal depression. Jeremiah was beaten and put in stocks. His life was so bad that he became badly depressed and is known as the “weeping prophet” which is not the manliest name ever. He ended up being stoned to death. Isaiah was sawn in half by Manassah. Some say Joel died two days after being beaten over the head with a staff. Amos was tortured and killed by priests. Obadiah was routinely beaten and punished by the king. Tradition says that Jonah was driven out of Judea after Ninevah was spared. Micah was slain by the prince. Habakkuk was stoned to death. Ezekiel was killed by a Jewish chieftan when he rebuked him for idol worship. Zechariah was killed by the king on the steps of the Temple and sprinkled his blood on the altar. John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod because John called him out for sexual sins.
 

So yeah, it didn’t go over well for the prophets when they came. And as Jesus reminds the people of this, the religious leaders had to be feeling their faces getting hot. Because generally it was them—the religious leaders and kings and priests—who were supposed to be tending the vineyard but instead were producing bad fruit and killing the servants of God.
 

So Jesus continues in verse 13:
 

“Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ But the tenants saw him, and talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and given the vineyard to others.” When the people heard this, they said, ‘God forbid!’ ”
 

Jesus says that the vineyard owner sends his son (HINT:  THAT’S JESUS), but the tenants decide to kill him so they can inherit the land. This was a very common principle back then: if a person worked the land of a farm for three years and no rightful owner claimed it, then the one working it would inherit the land. So basically the tenants in this parable are saying, “We will kill the only heir, so when the old man dies we will be the owners.” But instead, the master decides to kill the tenants, and give the vineyard to someone else to run—someone else will get the inheritance.
 

The people respond, “God forbid!” Because what Jesus is saying is pretty clear.
 

Remember that the tenants are the religious leaders of the Jews, and the vineyard is the people of God. They have killed the prophets. They will kill the Son. And why? Because they want to “inherit the vineyard”…in other words, the religious leaders are attacking the prophets and Son because they want to be in charge. They don’t want the Master to be in charge because they don’t like His commands. They want to be in charge of Israel. They want to be God, essentially.
 

And so Jesus says, “God’s not going to let that happen. You’re going to kill the Son, and in return God is going to bring judgment on you. God is going to wipe out the religious leadership, and turn the people of God over to others.”
 

And that’s exactly what He does. He tears the veil. The Temple will be destroyed in 70 AD. And no longer are the priests in charge of God’s people—the Apostles are given authority to shepherd His flock. Jesus takes the vineyard back and hands it over to new tenants, eventually Gentiles.
 

So in this picture, Jesus is telling us three things.
 

First, He is telling us that His authority comes from the Master. He is the Son in the description, and as you can see in verse 14, the Son is the Heir. So Jesus is clearly telling them, “My authority is from God.” This is an answer to the question Josh discussed last week.
 

Second, He is telling them the reason WHY they are so offended by Him. Why do they hate His theology, and His popularity? The Jews oppose Him because they want to replace God. They want to be in control of the vineyard, and they don’t like what He’s telling them.
 

Third, He is telling them that God will take away the vineyard and give it to others—in particular, Gentiles.


Picture 2:  The Cornerstone

So that is the first picture that Jesus shows them. And they hated it. They said, “God forbid!”
 

Just like how last time Jesus began in Isaiah and then turned it into a parable about Him, here He starts in a Messianic Psalm, 118, and turns it into a story about Him. Let’s see what it says.
 

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes…Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Ps 118:22-26)

So after Jesus has told them this picture of the vineyard, that they would kill the Messiah, they said “God forbid!” So Jesus responds in verse 17:


“Jesus looked directly at them and asked, ‘Then what is the meaning of that which is written:”…and then He quotes them from Psalm 118:22-28.

So Jesus here refers to the Psalm that everyone was quoting on Palm Sunday, as He rode into the village. And He is reminding them, “Hey, remember that other part of the Psalm? It says that the Messiah will be the cornerstone but be rejected.”

Let’s explain what this cornerstone means for a second.

When the ancients would build a building, the most important piece is called the cornerstone or foundation stone. It is the first piece you lay in place. It is the piece that everything else is referenced from and built on, so it is the piece that sets the entire structure’s architecture. It is the sort of key for the entire foundation.

So when someone wanted to build a building, one of the first steps was to find exactly the right cornerstone. So they would go down to the quarry and search through to try to find exactly the right stone to build their building on.

[GO TO ROCK PILE AND DEMONSTRATE]


And they’d dig through and find some that didn’t quite fit. And then in this mini-parable, the picture is that the builders throw away a stone that was actually the perfect one. The stone that they rejected because it didn’t look the way they expected is actually the perfect one to build upon, the perfect foundation.

 
“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”. Jesus is pointing out that this Psalm explicitly says that the Messiah will be rejected wrongly. So Jesus is drawing a direct connection to the parable He just told: the Jews want to be the masters of God’s kingdom, so they reject the Son—but the Son was the cornerstone and without Him, their religion no longer makes sense. Without the proper cornerstone, the building will have a faulty foundation.
 

You see, Jesus is the perfect cornerstone. He is the one who links the OT to the NT. He is the one who links Jew to Gentile. He is the one who links God to man. He is the one who links sin to grace. He is the one who links the Cross to the Empty Tomb. He is the one who links death to eternal life. He is the cornerstone. Jesus is the one who makes everything else make sense. Once you have Jesus, you not only see Christianity, but BY Christianity you see everything else. Jesus is the missing puzzle piece which, once you find it, makes everything around you fall into place. THAT is the picture you are supposed to get here.

 
What was the result of this?

“Then the experts in the law and the chief priests wanted to arrest him that very hour, because they realized he had told this parable against them.” (20:19)
 

The Big Idea

So what is the big idea in this passage? What is universal truth that applies to us today?


Basically what Jesus does here, is to force us into a choice. He tells us who He is, and what His authority is. And He says that some people will not like that because they want to be the masters of the vineyard; and others will not like it because He isn’t the shape that they were expecting. So they will question His authority.
 

But Jesus very clearly lays out what He has done and what He has taught, and forces you to decide. It’s what some call the “Trilemma”:  Jesus’ teachings are so specific that you are forced to make a choice. Either He was a lunatic, or He was a liar, or He is the Lord.
 

There is this ridiculous belief among men today, especially in modern America, that Jesus is a great moral teacher but that we go to far to worship Him. This is the dumbest thing you can possibly hear; don’t let people tell you that.

 

If Jesus is just a moral teacher, then He is either a lunatic or a liar.

If He was a lunatic who thought He was God in the flesh, and that He would raise again from the dead, and that He had raised and healed others and could speak for God and could forgive sins—then He’s insane. He belongs in an asylum with all the other crazies who think that they are gods or superheroes or Napoleon.

If He was sane, but said these things anyway, then He is a deceptive, compulsive liar. Such a man would not be worth following as a moral teacher!

 
So Jesus forces us into a choice. That’s the main point of this passage. After three years of teaching, He is drawing the line:  choose your sides. Either He is the Lord, or He is crazy, or He is a liar. Choose which you prefer.

The Jews did: they will a few days from now accuse Him of blasphemy (implying that He is a lunatic and dangerous to Rome, possibly causing an uprising). And that challenge applies to us today as well.
 

Application

So how do we apply this in a practical way today? How can you take this message and go forward this week as a better person?

I suggest that there are two main applications to this passage.

1.     FOR SEEKERS:  Search your heart and find out if you are honestly seeking Truth. This week, go home and question whether you are honestly a seeker of truth or not. Because that is what is more important than anything. Christianity, if false, is of NO importance: if true, it is of INFINITE IMPORTANCE. The only thing it cannot be is a little bit important.
 

If you are a seeker here today, and you aren’t sure what you believe about Jesus, just know this: it is the most important decision you will make. If Jesus didn’t actually walk out of the grave, fine! Don’t waste your time, then. He is no more important to read than Plato, or Aristotle, or any other ancient thinker. In fact He is probably less important to read than them if you think He is crazy or a liar.
 

But if it is true…well in that case He is the Creator of the world, come to the earth as a man to redeem us for all of our failures. He offers us eternal life. He offers us the chance to have everything bad we’ve ever done cleansed and forgotten. He offers us perfection for all eternity.
 

So yes: make a decision. It is the most important decision you will ever make. And by the way…NOT making a decision… THAT IS ALSO A DECISION!


Please understand that! Not making a decision to follow Jesus IS making a decision to leave yourself as Lord of your life. Being a disciple of Jesus cannot even BEGIN unless you are honestly willing to seek the truth…unless you are willing to admit that you are not the master of the vineyard.
 

That is why it has been said that Hell’s gates are locked from the inside, not the outside. He doesn’t force anyone to reject Him; the Bible says He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should have eternal life. Jesus promises us that all who seek truth will find Him. But if you haven’t accepted Christ yet, you need to ask: are you actually willing to accept Him? It all starts with admitting that you are not the master of the vineyard. That He is in control, not you.

 

2.     FOR BELIEVERS:  Examine what cornerstone you are using.
 

[GO BACK TO THE ROCKPILE]

Many people think that they have made the choice. They say they believe in Jesus…but actually no, that isn’t true. They had to find a cornerstone and they saw the stone that Jesus was and thought…”I’m not sure if I like that one. This Jesus from the Bible…He is too poor and always telling me to give my possessions away. He is too chaste—all hung up on sex and taking away my fun. He is too forgiving—asking me to forgive even enemies, like the 9/11 hijackers!? He is too hippie—all loving everyone. He is too harsh—telling me even lust is as bad as adultery, even anger as bad as murder. He’s too Jewish—all tied up with this weird ancient religion. He’s too uneducated—He never even got a GED, much less a proper education!
 

You see most people have chosen a Jesus-like cornerstone. Jesus didn’t fit their temple, so rather than reject their temple, they reject the cornerstone. They pick a “Jesus-like” cornerstone.
 

They think they worship the Jesus of the Bible…but really they worship a make-believe Jesus with a less harsh approach to sex, one who is fine with sleeping with whoever you want, whenever you want.
 

Or instead of the Jesus of the Bible, they worship a Jesus who waves an American flag, and says it’s okay not to forgive your enemies if they are terrorists, and treats the Constitution like it is divinely-inspired Scripture.
 

Or instead of the Jesus of the Bible, they hate Jews or blacks or other races, pretending that Jesus was some white-bread blond-haired, blue-eyed Arian.
 

Or instead of the Jesus of the Bible, they worship a Jesus who is drives an SUV and has a two-story house and isn’t REALLY serious when He asks you to give sacrificially.
 

Or instead of the Jesus of the Bible, they worship a hippie Jesus who loves everyone and accepts anything and just wants to eat organic tomatoes and kale and drink spring water.
 

Many, many people sitting in church pews today (or blue church chairs) will not actually be dining with us in heaven. They do not actually believe in and follow the cornerstone of the Bible. Rather than destroying their idols and seeking truth and rebuilding their Temple around Jesus as the cornerstone, they rejected the cornerstone and instead invented a false Jesus in their minds, one who better fit what they WANTED Him to be like, instead of what He really looked like.

A commitment to Truth means a willingness to let go of everything you WISH to be true. This will lead to Christ, we are promised that: but if you would rather live in a false world than the true one, He will not force you like a robot to change your mind.
 

So ask yourself the hard question today and this week: are you actually committed to following Jesus? Are you actually willing to tear down any temple you’ve built in your heart if it doesn’t meet with the Jesus of Scripture?

 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

On drinking

Last month, 17 members of our church went on a mission trip to Romania to help Livada Orphan Care. (I will be writing about this soon.) It was an amazing trip, exhausting but rewarding. On the flight back home, one of our Elder's wives was sitting next to a group of Baptists who were also returning from a mission trip. They discussed openly and lovingly what they'd seen God do.

And then dinner came. And our lady ordered a glass of wine. And the Baptists were SHOCKED.

How could someone drink who was a Christian? Especially ON A MISSION TRIP!!! OH MY!!!

Now I have written before about this subject, pretty thoroughly taking down any arguments against the Bible.

But today I want to address another argument:  that drinking is a "stumbling block" to other Christians. For example:  "It might not be a sin to drink, but you shouldn't do it around others because you will be a stumbling block."


But first, I will repeat what I said in the article linked to above:

"Let me start by saying something: Rev 22:18, Deut 4:2, Prov 30:5-6, Deut 12:32, etc., all indicate the danger of adding to, or taking from, the Bible. There is no more important principle in Bible study that this:  all that matters is what the Bible actually said (exegesis) and how to properly apply it today (hermeneutics). The worst thing you can do is decide, 'I believe such-and-such', or 'My church teaches such-and-such,' or 'My denomination teaches such-and-such' and then go looking through the Bible to try and convince yourself that it could be true."

So as we discuss today what a stumbling block is, don't bother reading any more unless you are willing to be open-minded and actually learn what God's Word says on the subject.

"Stumbling Block"

To begin with, let's understand the term, 'stumbling block.' It originates in Leviticus 19:14. In this section, God is providing various laws for the Hebrews, and He basically commands them not to take advantage of the needy, saying: don't withholding your employee's wages, don't mock the deaf, don't cause the blind to stumble, and don't treat the poor different than the mighty.

So the term 'stumbling block' inherently carries with it the concept of putting something in front of a blind man which causes them to lose their path.

In the New Testament, this is used by both Matthew and Paul as an analogy for spiritual points.

In 1Cor 1:23, Jesus is presented as a stumbling block to the Jews--they are blind and trying to find their way to God, but Jesus being the Messiah trips them from their path, for they cannot accept that He would be their Savior.

In 1Cor 8:9, Paul says to be careful not to become a stumbling block to weaker brothers.

In Rom 14, Paul says the same thing, in reference to eating and drinking.

It is these last two which are always quoted when you hear the term "stumbling block" being used in relation to drinking. So let's break them down individually.


1 Corinthians 8

1Corinthians 8 is a chapter written by Paul to the Corinthians on the subject of food which was sacrificed to idols. In Imperial Rome, any business dinner, large family gathering, or major social event was preceded by eating food and drinking wine which was sacrificed/consecrated to a pagan god, often the emperor himself. This was repugnant to Jews and Christians; indeed, under Jewish law it was considered the worst form of idolatry, akin to worshipping someone other than the One True God.

Regarding food sacrificed to idols, Paul begins by reminding everyone that the pagan gods don't actually exist--they aren't demons or evil powers, but man-made nonsense (v.4-6). But, Paul points out, not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some believe that these gods are actually evil spirits of some kind, so sacrificing to them actually does mean idolatry against God (v.7). Paul has no problem with eating meat which had been sacrificed to false gods, because we know that we are no better or worse either way--it does not matter if someone else sacrificed the food to some make-believe deity, that doesn't affect our relationship with God whatsoever (v.8).

But Paul does have a warning for Christians. He says that if a weaker brother sees you eating meat sacrificed to idols, he might be tempted to do the same even though he thinks it is sinful. In that case, you have become a 'stumbling block' to him, for he has started doing something he felt was idolatry and worshipping someone other than God due to having seen you do it (v.9-13).

So to Paul, he is using the term to refer to a harmless activity which if viewed by another Christian might lead him into idolatry.


Romans 14

In Romans 14, Paul says the same regarding the same subject. Paul is giving advice to those Christians in Rome and begins to talk about the varying strengths of faith.

Some, Paul says, have a strong faith and have been able to completely leave Jewish law behind and follow Christ in liberty. Others have a weak faith, and still cling to the traditions of their forefathers as though they were God-required.

Paul warns not to allow these differences to create separation or division. And this comes in basically two ways:  Paul says that the strong brother is not to look down on the weak brother, and that the weak brother is not to be judgmental of the strong brother (v.3).

Paul then gives several examples of each.  Some brothers are weak and still follow Jewish holidays, while some are stronger and see no day as different than any other. Some are weak and still follow Jewish dietary laws and never eat meat or drink wine sacrificed to idols; others are stronger and eat as they please.  Again in verse 10, Paul reminds us that the two problems are contempt by the strong brothers, and judgmentalism by the weak brothers.

He then says:

"Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of your brother or sister."

So the first stumbling block we must avoid is judgmentalism--deciding that the other person is lesser than you because of their actions (v.13).

The second stumbling block is convincing them to do what they believe to be sin (v.23).  Similar to the passage in 1Corinthians, Paul says to be careful that your actions don't pressure someone into doing what they believe to be sinful.


Drinking as a stumbling block

It is from these passages that many (mostly Baptists) conclude, "Even if drinking isn't sinful, you shouldn't do it or you are being a stumbling block to others."

As clearly shown above, that is not at all the context of what Paul is saying. Paul would say that drinking is fine (and indeed he does on more than one occasion, as you can see if you go back to the article I linked to in the beginning). But Paul would say three things:
  1. Do not judge stronger brothers. If you don't drink and see a Christian drinking, don't judge him/her for embracing their liberty in Christ.
  2. Do not judge weaker brothers. If you do drink and meet a teetotaler, don't look down on them for being unable to shed their traditional viewpoint.
  3. Do not convince others to sin. If you know a brother who thinks drinking is a sin, be careful that you don't tempt them into starting drinking/rebelling against God.
 I think everyone would agree with those statements.

The question comes in the practical application of it.

Some would say that this means: only drink with other Christians who drink, never drinking around those who do not.

But this doesn't seem, to me, to hold up to Scripture. 


Galatians 2:11-13: The Forgotten Scripture

In Galatians 2:11-13, we get to see Paul in action here.

Cephas (Peter) had been living among the Gentiles. Knowing that it was free to eat things forbidden by Mosaic Law, Peter enjoyed it with them. However, when Jews came around who didn't do so, Peter withdrew from the Gentiles and followed the law.

In other words--Peter pretended to only eat kosher when around kosher brethren. In doing this, he ended up convincing Barnabas that this was necessary:  this is called "leading Barnabas astray" in the passage! Paul outspokenly and publicly confronts Peter over this hypocrisy, and tells the Galatians about it as well--for they too were being preached to by Judaizers trying to add on traditions to their grace.


So let's change the words "eating" to "drinking alcohol" there and you see my point.

Let's say that you (Pete) and your buddy (Barney) from church regularly drink wine. But one day you are met for lunch by some old Baptist buddies and you guys start to eat. You are handed the wine list by the waiter and you say, "No, no--we are Christians, we don't drink." Now this of course makes your Baptist friends happy. But your buddy Barney gets confused and now stops drinking alcohol, thinking that he was sinning before.

According to Paul, you have become a stumbling block by STOPPING Barney from drinking. You have led him astray. (Obviously Pete = Peter, Barney = Barnabas.)

Likewise, in Romans 14 Paul warns us of the opposite: you should also not be talking someone INTO drinking who believes it is wrong. If you are around someone who believes drinking is evil and idolatry, then keep your mouth shut and order a water.


The Application

A few key points I want to make here now that we have completed our study:


CONTEXT

In both passages, Paul is talking about eating food and wine sacrificed to idols. It is the sacrifice to idols which is the key element--not the fact that it is wine.

Personally I have never met a single teetotaler whose reason for avoiding a beer is that they think the Budweiser brewery is out there sacrificing their brews to Zeus.

In other words: these passages apply specifically to the questions of idolatrous sacrifice. So we need to be very careful about applying this to wine  in general. If you do that, then you should also apply the other parts to be in general.

In other words, there are only two logical ways to apply this passage based on context:
  1. It refers to food and wine sacrificed to idols. Therefore, if someone I'm around thinks it is sacrificed to evil spirits and my eating/drinking will tempt them into doing the same, I should not do so.
  2. It is a general statement. In this case, you should not drink wine, eat meat, or celebrate holidays. Abstain from all of them so that no one might ever be tempted to break one.

You can't avoid it, guys: if you are going to quote Romans 14 as being against drinking, then it is equally against celebrating birthdays and Christmas and Easter and eating meat. So try and enjoy your life as a sober vegan sitting at home alone during the holidays with your TV turned off so as not to hear a Christmas carol accidentally.

Otherwise, you are forced to use context and apply the passage as it was written.


HOW TO PROPERLY USE THE PASSAGE IF YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT DRINKING

Of course, no one today thinks their food or drink or holidays are sacrifices made to pagan gods who are competing against YHWH for dominance of the heavens. So be cautious about OVER-applying this verse to our situation today, which is radically different.

That said, I do believe there are some ways to properly use the passage if you wish to talk about drinking:

  • Admit that the Bible clearly says that there is nothing at all wrong with drinking. The passage clearly says that eating anything, drinking anything, or celebrating anything are totally fine--even if the original person/s who started the holiday or made the food/drink did so for pagan reasons.

  • Never judge a fellow Christian for using liberties which you don't feel you have. If you don't drink that is fine; do not judge the one who does. If you don't celebrate Christmas because you feel it was taken from a pagan holiday, then fine; do not judge the one who does. If you follow the Daniel Diet only because you think that is what God wants, then fine (other than the fact that your theology is terrible); but do not judge me for having a steak.

  • Do not try and tempt people into doing things they think are idolatrous. Since we have no idolatrous sacrificial system for food and wine today, this probably is not a real issue for you today. I do think one good example, though, is Halloween. Many Christians see Halloween as a celebration of Satan and demons. I think it is harmless, and there is nothing wrong with me doing it, posting photos about it, etc. HOWEVER...I should not be trying to talk them into my way of thinking or convince them to go participate.


So is drinking being a stumbling block? Or posting photos of a beer on your Facebook page being a stumbling block? Of course not, not from the Bible. In fact, Paul's interaction with Peter in Galatians 2 implies that the hypocrisy of doing something with one group but pretending you don't with another group is blatantly wrong.

The Bible says that being a stumbling block is either judging someone who does something you don't feel free to do, OR trying to trick someone into doing something they feel is a major deadly sin.

THAT is what it means to be a stumbling block.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Should we support Israel or not?

It is of course not at all uncommon to see Israel engaged in warfare and conflict, and this last week has been no different--with the Palestinians and Israelis bombing each other. It happens seemingly every year, and the result is many dead.

Politically, it is a bit predictable how people will respond:  conservatives generally support Israel due to their being the only democracy in the Middle East; liberals will oppose the Jews because the conservatives support them.

Among evangelical Christians, the support is overwhelming: indeed, according to recent polling, evangelicals like Jews better than any other religious group--including, oddly, other Christian groups like Catholics! (The feeling is not mutual, however: Jews give evangelical Christians an even lower rating than they give to Muslims, despite the centuries of battling between the two.)

Indeed, evangelicals tend to support Israel in any conflict, no matter the situation. The mindset goes something like this:

  1. The Jews are God's chosen people.
  2. God set aside the Promised Land for the Jews.
  3. The Jews do not currently have all of their promised land.
  4. Therefore, God would support the Jews to retake their land.
  5. Therefore, we should support Israel as they retake their land.


The first three statements are all undeniably true. But the conclusions do not necessarily follow from the first three points.

Remember that the Jews received their land in return for covenantal promises to God--promises which historically are not always upheld. And when those promises are not upheld, God often brings judgment upon the nation, including the loss of land for generations.

The Bible records several times that the land of Israel was handed over to non-Jews, always for the purpose of bringing the Jews back to God. From 740-722 BC, the Assyrians were in control of Israel. From 586-539 BC, the Babylonian Empire was in control of Judea. From 539-332 BC, it was the Persians. From 332-305, it was the Greeks. Starting in 63 BC, it was the Romans. And Jesus tells us during the Olivet Discourse that the Romans would sack Jerusalem again, for the abandonment of the Messiah.

The point is--sometimes in the Bible, we see God encouraging the Jews and helping them regain their kingdom. Sometimes in the Bible, we see God helping the enemies of the Jews to bring the Jews back to repentance.

And that is why I say we, as Christians, should be awfully cautious in picking sides in Israel's conflicts. The "right" side from God's view might be Israel's, or it may actually be His will to bring enemies to them in an attempt to drive them to Christ. It is in fact entirely possible that the blind support of Israel will lead one to oppose God's will at times!


Conclusion

In general, I don't take political sides: it's hard to say that we know God's side when we have such incomplete views of things. In particular, I REALLY don't think it's wise to take political sides when it comes to war, except in the most extreme of situations.

So what should we as Christians do in regard to Israel?

First, what we should do is pray as the Lord taught us:  "Thy will be done." Whether it is for Israel to retake the promised land or be driven from it, we want God's will done.

Second, I think that we should be praying for peace and for the Gospel to spread, regardless of circumstances.

So be cautious of always supporting Israel, or always opposing it. Our support should be tied to God's Kingdom and New Jerusalem, not any human kingdom here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Sermon: Money Makes Fools of Us All (Luke 12:13-34)

Below is a sermon I originally preached on 29 December 2013.



Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But He said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or arbiter over you?"

And He said to them, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And He told them a parable, saying: "The land of a rich man produce plentifully, and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'  But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."

And He said to His disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today and tomorrow is thrown in the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Lk 12:13-34)
 
 
 


Good morning, Grace Church.

If I haven't met you before, I'm Michael Belote, one of the Elders here at Grace. Before I start this morning I need to let you know that I am crazy sick right now. My family is incapable of celebrating a holiday without a major sickness breaking out, and I have been under the weather for a few days. To battle the illness I have taken basically ALL of the medicine in my medicine cabinet. Everything in there I just took one of it this morning. So if I start saying something weird today, I'm not speaking in tongue under the Spirit or something...I'm having a bad drug interaction and someone please call a doctor.

OK, so starting today I want to complain. I want to complain about one of your pastors—maybe next time they’ll think twice about giving me the mic, huh? Your associate pastor, Josh Hurlburt, apparently hates me. I say that because three years ago when I volunteered to help with youth group, I asked what topic he wanted me to teach first. He said, “I’d like you to teach about creationism and evolution – what is Biblical, what is maybe Biblical, and what definitely isn’t Biblical – and how to evangelize to evolutionists.” Right. Because THAT isn’t controversial at all.
 
Then here we are and he asks me to start teaching on Sunday mornings as well. Fine, and my first assignment is to restart our Luke series. OK no problem. But then as I’m studying for the passage a few weeks ago, I realize that he has assigned me to teach about money and materialism. On December 29—the Sunday after Christmas. Look, nobody likes a sermon about money anyway, but doing it the day after Christmas, the time of year where most of you have the biggest credit card bills and smallest cash accounts of the year? That’s just awful!

So to start with, I want to let you all off the hook a bit. You see, when Jesus preached this sermon, you know what He didn’t end with? “Will the ushers come forward and take up the offering, please. Peter needs a new
microphone, and James & John want these nice seats on stage, and Judas wants a new children’s wing added.” There was no local church, and this wasn’t a local church fundraiser—even if that’s how it is normally taught. So I’m not here to try and raise funds okay? Now if you happen to give to Grace later, I won’t track you down in the parking lot and return the check or anything. But that isn’t our primary purpose. Jesus here is teaching about materialism and your personal attitude toward your money. That's what we're focused on.
 
Okay, so now that we are getting started, let me remind you where we are. If you are new here—or a very unobservant member—you might not know how we normally teach at Grace. We pick a book of the Bible and start in chapter 1 verse 1, then we teach through the end of the book. As a result, you are able to see the context really well…today’s passage is a great example of something that is usually taught as two separate sermons when really it is part of one message.
 
Now currently we are in the book of Luke, which was written by a guy named….Luke. (That’s the kind of top notch Biblical scholarship you get when the seminarians have the day off.) Luke was a Gentile—like everyone in the crowd. Luke was a doctor—like most of the people in the crowd. Luke was a high IQ convert who was hired by a man named Theophilus to investigate Jesus. Theophilus was having some doubts and wanted to know what was going on, so this book is basically a doctor’s investigative history, talking to the eyewitnesses, putting together an orderly account.
 
For those who can remember our last lesson—way back before Missions Month and Advent season—as we get into Luke 12, Jesus has become super-popular. He is so popular by this point, on account of all the miracles and teachings, that the Bible tells us people are literally trampling each other to get to the front of the crowd. And that brings us to our passage today.
 
But before I unpack the passage, I want to make sure you understand a common pattern in Jesus’ teachings, which will help us here. Jesus’ teachings often take this pattern:
 
1. Someone from the crowd asks a question
2. Jesus answers the question to the crowd in parable form
3. Later, Jesus tells His disciples more info about the same question
 
That is important because the second half of our passage today—where He talks to the disciples—is usually
 taught as a sermon about worry and the first half about generosity…but in fact, both are part of Jesus’ one single answer. So don't miss that.
 
 
1.  QUESTION FROM THE CROWD
 
READ VERSE 13-15
 
Now what is going on here? Well, in Deuteronomy we are told how God set up the inheritance laws of ancient Judaism. The older son received double the portion of the younger sons. So take my family for example: I have two sons, Alex and Ryan. And I have an estate worth literally dozens of dollars. So if I were to divide this vast estate among them, I would divide it into three parts: Alex would get two, Ryan would get one. And Ryan would complain to high heaven about how unfair it is. As an older child, it seems fair to me…and what can I say, it’s God’s word, guys. Older kids deserve more.
 
Anyway, there were exceptions to this. Maybe the older son had dishonored the family. Maybe the older son had left the faith. Maybe the older son had a mental handicap that precluded him from running the business. Whatever it was, the Sanhedrin would assign local rabbis to serve as arbiters for such lawsuits or disagreements. This guy in our passage today is coming to Jesus and asking Him to serve as arbiter.
 
And Jesus…basically blows the guy off. He shrugs and says, “Not my problem.” Jesus tells him that He is not
the judge in this case, and the guy should seek the appropriate channels.
 
 
2.  PARABLE TO THE CROWD
 
READ VERSE 16-20
 
But then Jesus turns to the crowd and elaborates on the point of inheritance and money, with what we call the
Parable of the Rich Fool.


So why is this guy a fool? Notice that—unlike most of the rich people Jesus talks about—he didn’t do anything
unethical or illegal here. As far as we know, he owned the land and the harvest came legitimately. There is no
hint that he is shorting wages or anything. So why is he a fool?

He is a fool because of verse 19: the rich fool is seeking what? “RELAX, eat drink and be merry.” The rich man thinks that he will receive peace through his bank account.
 
Notice that the man has a number in his head—a storehouse size. And then as that storehouse finally gets filled, what does he do? Makes a bigger number. He tears down the storehouse and builds a bigger one, one which holds “many years” worth of grain…basically this is a retirement fund. Do you see that? This is a 401k or an IRA. This is someone with a “magic number” he wants to get to (an always-moving number) that he thinks, “If only I can get HERE, I will have peace.”
 
I gotta admit something…I am the rich fool. I got a reminder of that as I studied for this sermon. You see, I too have a number. I have a number in my head of how high my savings account needs to be in order for me to relax. But the last few months have been rough. A few months ago, we had a friend who was in a financial place where they were about to be foreclosed on. We were able to help them out, paying for their mortgage and some extra to get them back on their feet.
 
And the storehouse shrunk a bit.

Then we had Christmas shopping come, and I don’t like to have debt so we pay in cash when possible. And
maybe we were more generous than usual or more frivolous, I don’t know…but it took a big bite of the savings.

And the storehouse shrunk a bit.

Then my wife got kidney stones, as many of you know. And even though Sara and others helped tremendously, that makes it my responsibility to provide food. Some days (as those who follow us on facebook know) that turns into PB&J sandwiches with M&Ms…but usually it is take out. Which is WAY more expensive than Jessica cooking.

And the storehouse shrunk a bit. And now I’m starting to get nervous.

Then, every light on the dashboard goes off on our 4Runner. I read on the internet and it says not to worry—and the internet is never wrong, of course. It’s just an oxygen sensor, $50 and they can reset it. Take in the car and what do we find? A $2500 bill as the entire catalytic converter system was hosed.
 
So now my storehouse is empty. And I am in a panic. I told Jessica, “It feels like I’m losing control.”

And that’s when it hit me. Money had made a fool of me.

You see, I didn’t lose control…I never had it to start with. Money never had the ability to guarantee me a working car or a healthy wife. Money never had that ability...I just tricked myself into thinking that it did. All that my empty storehouse did was teach me the lesson that was already true: that money was powerless to provide any real peace. Only God can do that.


3.  MORE INFO TO THE DISCIPLES

READ VERSES 22-29

So money makes the rich fools when they see it as the source of their peace.

But surely that isn’t the case for the disciples, right? These guys were dirt poor! They have to be feeling pretty good at this point of the sermon. I mean, the disciples were poor before they quit their jobs to follow around the homeless preacher. They were so poor that once, to get lunch, they stole some poor kid’s sack lunch of fishes and loaves.

But Jesus has a message for them, too, doesn’t He?

Being poor may mean that you don’t seek your peace through money, but that doesn’t mean you also are not overly obsessing about it. You too may be allowing money to take over your life. Because you think that money is the source of your provision.

Yet see what the Bible is promising here in the text—that God knows what you need and will provide it. That you are His little flock and He will care for you. We see that in Psalm 23 and with the manna in the desert and all throughout Scripture…the Lord will provide. He is our provision and our strength, not something which can be purchased by money.
 
Yet again, we allow ourselves to be easily made fools by money: for money gives the illusion to the rich that they can buy peace, and to the poor that they can provide security in provision.
 

APPLICATION

I don’t like being made a fool, no more than you do. So how do we avoid it? How do we keep from being made
fools?
 
Jesus gives us two very practical applications we can take away and use this week. Let’s look at how HE comments on the sermon.

READ VERSES 30-34

APPLICATION ONE;  IF YOUR HEART IS RIGHT THE MONEY WILL FOLLOW (V.31-32)


First, Jesus says that if your heart is right, your money will follow it. Check out v.31-32. If we seek God’s kingdom—that is, be Gospel-focused—then our money will take care of itself. God will give us “these things”—that is, peace and provision.
 
So what is the Gospel? Well, to put it as simply as I can: the Gospel is that when you were helpless, God made you the heir to all of creation…and someone else (Jesus) wrote the check. You received something you did not earn. You have inside you something of infinite worth, and someone else had to do the work. You didn’t buy it. Your money didn’t provide it. This eternal peace came freely to you, not due to your own action.
 
If God gives you eternal peace without you having to pay a dime for it, why do you think you need a giant storehouse to buy temporary peace?
 
I love what Tim Keller once said, pointing out that in 1 Cor 13 the three Christian virtues naturally lead to generosity. The three Christian virtues are faith, hope, and love, right? 1 Cor 13. If you have these, think about the natural fruit that results:
  • If you have faith, then you trust God's promise that peace and provision will come from Him
  • If you have hope, then  you believe God's promise that He will make you co-heir to all creation
  • If you have love, then you cannot pass by one who is hurting, because when YOU were hurting Jesus didn't pass you by
 
Faith, hope, and love LEAD NATURALLY to generosity.


APPLICATION TWO:  IF YOUR MONEY IS RIGHT, YOUR HEART WILL FOLLOW (V. 33-34)

But then look what Jesus does, He flips it completely around and says it exactly the other way:


Where your money IS (present tense verb), there your heart WILL BE (future tense verb). Jesus is saying that if you start investing in something, your heart will naturally follow your money.

This goes along with what Doug Mary shared with you guys the other day, that Randy Alcorn once said “Giving is the only antidote to materialism.” That is exactly what Jesus is saying here. Yes, generosity will come naturally from a “right” heart…but if you AREN’T being generous, then give sacrificially! Give up your cable and use Netflix, or downgrade a car…literally sell your possessions so that you can give sacrificially. Your heart WILL become more focused on it.
 
Don’t have a passion for the orphans like you should? Give to Livada or the James Initiative or the Call…that will change. Don’t have a passion for missionaries? We support like a billion of them, pick one and invest in them. Don’t have a passion for the poor? Give to the Foodbank.

Look, I used to zoom past the beggars on the side of the street…until my six-year old reminded me that we were not giving to take care of the poor like Jesus would want. Now? I’m passionate about helping them, can’t pass one by without feeling horrible and turning around. Where your money is, there your heart will be.
 



So as we wrap up today, let me remind you of the big idea.

Jesus’ big idea here is that money makes fools of everyone. It makes us fools because we seek in money things that only God can provide—provision and peace.

 
But Jesus gives us a clear application here: if we want to stop being so materialistic, there are two cures:

1. Get your heart right/focus on the Gospel, and the money will follow

2. Get your money right and the heart will follow
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

I'm baaacccckkkkkk

You might have noticed an unofficial hiatus here on Reboot for a while, in which I (Michael Belote) haven't been posting. (Or maybe you didn't notice, because I'm the only one reading...)

Anyway, it's been a busy period for me and some priorities came up that needed several months of serious focus. I'm an Elder at our church and we had some issues arise which required detailed leadership which was quite time-consuming. I am preaching more often, which requires a lot of work. The business I run has grown over 500% since last year, bringing in hundreds of new jobs (yay!) and new headaches (boo!). And we raised money for, and went on, a mission trip to Romania as a family to support Livada Orphan Care. (More on this in a later post.)


Which is all to say...you haven't heard from me in a while.


The good news is that I've kept a very detailed list of things I wanted to post, so you should start seeing a more steady stream of topics that you've become used to. I hope that you haven't all forgotten me in my absence....


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Bible Kickstarter Project

For those of you Reboot readers that like having a good, quality Bible I found a new Kickstarter project that might be right up your alley.

Bibliotheca: Biblical literature designed and crafted for reading

Over the past few months I have been searching for a solidly-built Bible, what some refer to as the "unicorn" Bible. One that is the translation I prefer, with a quality text block (quality paper, and properly bound by sewing) that is also the right size, and has good print quality and font size. I'm sure there are many people that don't have this problem, but since I recently switched to the ESV from the NASB and neither of my favorite publishers (Holman and Foundation) make ESV Bibles I was basically left to shopping the selections at Lifeway and Mardel locally. I just couldn't find anything that fit my needs. I need a Bible that is small enough that it can't be considered a brick, a fair bit of margin space for me to add my own cross-references and notes, with text large enough to read while on the podium in the pulpit as I preach (I'm 6'5," so my eyes are farther away from the podium than most preachers you can think of). Throw all that in with the pesky little fact that I want the binding to last me at least the next 10 years. That cuts out all the "two-tone, tru-tone, bonded-whatever" bibles that make up 90+% of the Bible shelves in bookstores.

After spending some time reading (manymanymany) bible reviews on Amazon and CBD.com I stumbled on one review that talked about how much they loved that particular copy and that they wouldn't have found it if it weren't for some "Bible design blog." So I looked it up. Lo, and behold! A blog devoted entirely to reviewing published copies of God's Word. Bibledesignblog.com turned out to be exactly what I needed to better understand the various qualities and differences of which I was otherwise completely ignorant (I contacted Mark at BDB and he promptly replied and said that he was already in on the project and will be posting about it next week, so keep an eye out for that). It's easy for us to settle for any reference Bible that passes muster, especially if it's one that we're just pulling out once or twice a week. But delving into the world of quality built Bibles brought me back to the point... God's word should be up front and center in our lives. We should at LEAST as much thought into the Bible we get as we would if it were a phone we wanted or computer we were considering. The particular copy of God's Word that you get should fit the way you read and study so that design gets out of the way and lets His words come first.

And that is the point of the Kickstarter project which I am plugging here. The Bible copies they are proposing are high quality copies made by hand that will stand the test of time better than your typical mass-produced, glue bound copy would. But more importantly, they are designed in a way that brings us back to the story of God's magnificent plan for the redemption of mankind and the creation. The only other attempts at this that I have seen, as far as a readability standpoint, have been the ESV Reader's Bible and the Daily Bible (F. LaGard Smith). As of my writing of this article, there are 120 backers where there had been only 69 an hour ago... and the project has only been live for one day! The project starter states that if the goal is not met that the funds will not be charged, but I will be extremely surprised if it makes it to Sunday without the goal being met. I thought I'd share the opportunity! Go check out the video and try not to nerd-out as Adam Greene talks about how he designed his own font specifically for this translation.