We Need Something to Push Against

Whether you believe in a literal six day creation week 6,000 years ago or evolutionary processes that took eons, conservative Christians and anthropologists agree that before societies developed humans were hunter-gatherers. During times of plenty the human body stores extra in fat cells, using those reserves in times that are lean. Evolution at work or God’s providence? Since you’re reading a religious blog, and I’m a Baptist preacher, we’re probably on the same page. We probably agree on what happened next. Technology improved, life got easier, and since none of us have to spend the majority of time making sure we have enough to eat we have to go jogging or walk a treadmill to stave off morbid obesity. We are designed for the struggle. When we are provided an abundance, with no hard labor required, we get fat. Continue reading

National Day of Prayer, a History Lesson

reaganFrom General Washington’s struggle at Valley Forge to the present, this Nation has fervently sought and received divine guidance as it pursued the course of history. This occasion provides our Nation with an opportunity to further recognize the source of our blessings, and to seek His help for the challenges we face today and in the future. -Ronald Reagan 

The Second Continental Congress (as in the guys that signed the Declaration of Independence) first asked colonists to pray in 1775, recommending “a day of public humiliation, prayer and fasting.” Only in 1952 did President Harry Truman sign a bill stating that each successive president must designate a national day of prayer each year on a date of his choosing. A National Prayer Committee was formed in 1982 to establish a fixed day annually. Since 1988 the National Day of Prayer has been the first Thursday of May. George W. Bush is the only president in recent history to host an annual event in the nation’s capital in observance of the Day of Prayer (Reagan and H.W. Bush each had one). Continue reading

The Bible on History

Bible, on HistoryI said the same prayer for the History Channel’s presentation of the Bible that I did for GSN’s Great American Bible Challenge last summer: please Lord, don’t let it be stupid. For the sake of Christian’s everywhere, I hoped it would not be something I had to apologize for to non-Christians/ unbelievers.

The Bible premiered tonight on History. For the most part, I would have to say that I liked it. Getting the story of all scripture into ten hours is an ambitious undertaking. Some things must be left out, and other parts of the story condensed. But if that’s the case, then why add anything that is not included in scripture? For all the drama the Bible contains, why add anything for dramatic effect? The producers must have known that some of us would be watching that know the Bible well. For our sake, why not remain as true to the original as possible? Continue reading

The Bible on History

Bible, on HistoryMy degree is in history and political science.  I taught history for eight years, and if I’ve learned anything it’s this: take what you see on the History Channel with a grain of salt.

UPDATE: Read my review of episode 1 here.

I enjoyed America: the Story of Us so much that I bought the DVD set.  I watch Pawn Stars and American Pickers which are entertaining and quasi-historical.  But History is also the cable network home of reality series such Ax Men and Ice Road Truckers; and then there’s Ancient Aliens.  Everything on History (owned by A&E Networks) is not of equal historical value.  Let’s leave it at that.

Which brings me to The Bible.   Continue reading

Who God Uses, Part II

Look at Who God Uses lists several characters from Bible history, pointing out the characters flaws and shortcomings of each one.  The original post points out that God uses the small, the weak and the broken to do his will and work, but does nothing to explain why.

Consider the nation of Israel.  By the time of Moses, the tribes of Israel were slaves serving the Egyptians.  God brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand, demonstrating his power by allowing Israel to plunder the wealth of Egypt and destroying Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea.  He led them to the land of Canaan, providing their needs and defeating their enemies for them.  Israel went from serving Egypt to building an empire of their own.  And all they could say about it was “look what God did for us.”

Ultimately Israel forsook God and worshiped the idols of others nations.  They rejected God and his Law, and as he promised the land was taken from them and given to others.  Our health, our strength, our prosperity, all that we have is a gift from God.  We are responsible for what we do with it, making us stewards of what is God’s rather than the owners of what is ours.  

No one used by God to do great things can really say “Look what I did.”  While I didn’t mean for this to be a Thanksgiving post, it is the perfect opportunity to say “Look what God has done.”  Christ humbled himself on the cross so that God could lift him up.  What greater example could be given?

Theater as a Metaphor for Life

When I say theater I mean actors on a stage.  Watching a movie in a crowded room with a sticky floor is not the metaphor for life I’m thinking of.  

Imagine sitting down to watch a play.  The set looks great.  The costumes are wonderful.  It becomes clear very quickly that the actors have put in the time rehearsing scenes and memorizing lines.  But there is so much more going on that you – the spectator, the audience – do not see.  Backstage there are props and furniture pieces that haven’t come out yet.  There are people scurrying around in quiet darkness so as not to be seen or heard from the house.  There are people in the wings changing costumes and make up, and others in the booth controlling lights and sound.  The director may be sitting in the audience unnoticed while the stage manager runs around making sure everything happens that should happen.  During a scene with two people sharing a dialog, there could be 30 others working frantically on whatever is about to happen next.  If all goes well, what the audience sees is only what they mean for you to see. Continue reading

Lord of History

When God speaks to Moses from the burning bush, he knows that Pharaoh will not let the Hebrews go “unless compelled by a mighty hand.”  God has a series of signs and wonders in store for Egypt.  There comes a point when Pharaoh would have been willing to let them go and we’re told that God hardened his heart, because he was not done demonstrating his power.  It was all part of God’s plan.

I did not intend to preach a sermon featuring 9/11 on the 10th anniversary.  I decided to use text from Genesis 15, when God met with Abram (not yet Abraham) and renewed his covenant to make of him a great nation.  God explains that it will not happen right away; as a matter of fact it will not happen for another 400 years.

Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.  But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.  Gen. 15:13-14

Continue reading

History Repeats Itself

Jeremiah_as_Michaelangelo_Saw_Him“History repeats itself” is actually a terrible misquote.  It leads students to ask questions like “If history repeats itself, why do I have to learn it the first time?”  No, the actually quote is “Those who do not learn history (the past) are condemned to repeat it.”  Google George Santayana.  The point is that if we learn from history, we can avoid making the same mistakes.  Here’s an example of New Testament people not learning their Old Testament history. Continue reading

PBS Documentary on Martin Luther

martin-lutherOver the years, PBS has produced a series of programs on the history of empires.  In 2003, they made 2 special episodes on Martin Luther.  (Liam Neeson provides the narration.)  Thanks to Hulu, these are available for your viewing pleasure at any time.

UPDATE: These were available for a very long time but have finally been removed from Hulu’s library. 3/31/14

The PBS website for the the films is still up at this address for the time being. I don’t know about getting the video but there is plenty to read.