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Book by Book

bible

I am reading through the Bible again this year, and I decided to try something new for me – I am reading book by book, from the shortest book to the longest.  Did you know that the shortest 12 books are all less than four pages long?  I am going to recommend this approach to men in our church who have trouble sticking with a reading program.  I believe that they will feel a sense of progress and accomplishment when they have read several entire books of the Bible.  As they develop the habit, they will be able to bite off larger and larger chunks of Scripture.  I am excited about challenging guys in my church to use this method.  If you are interested, here is a list to get you started:

10 Shortest Books of the Bible
3 John (shortest)
2 John
Philemon
Jude
Obadiah
Titus
2 Thessalonians
Haggai
Nahum
Jonah

9780785260387I just read Why Men Hate Church by David Murrow.  The book came out a few years ago, but I just picked it up and read it on a plane.  Honestly, it isn’t the greatest book in the world – not meticulously researched or documented, but I still think his diagnosis of a serious church problem is basically correct. Murrow uses mounds of anecdotal evidence (sprinkled with a few references to actual research) to demonstrate that church worship, programs, vocabulary, and service opportunities are basically effeminate.  I agree.

A few high points of the book:

 1)      Men don’t want to be safe –they want to be challenged.

2)      Men want to be involved – they want to use their gifts and talents to do something that makes a difference.

3)      Men don’t like “sharing.”  It makes them feel weird.  Men build relationships “side-to-side,” not “face-to-face.”  That’s why a mission trip, service project, or special event is more likely to generate friendships between men than a retreat or ongoing Bible study.

4)      Men are project-oriented – they like to finish stuff.  Ongoing, never-ending commitments seem boring and pointless.  We need to give men BIG projects and goals, and then celebrate when things get DONE.

5)      Men are competitive.  We need to encourage friendly competition to motivate them.

6)      Many men don’t like to sing in front of women. They might sing at Promise Keepers, in the military, or in some other “locker-room” environment, but many refrain from doing it in church.

7)      Men don’t like to sing songs with effeminate language and images directed towards God.  Phrases like, “you are beautiful,” “draw me close,” and “I want to kiss your face,” do not seem appropriate for men to sing to another man (Jesus).

8)      Men don’t want their sons to be effeminate.  They are afraid that if their boys get too into church they will become “womanized.”  And they might be right, since most of the people working with kids are women.

9)      Female church leaders must figure out how to lead men while pumping up their masculinity.  If men feel DE-manned they will not serve.

10)   Men like quality.  If things are done half-way men don’t want to be a part.

11)   Our churches cannot succeed if we fail to reach manly men.

Murrow’s diagnosis is strong, but unfortunately his prescriptions are weak.  Basically, he thinks churches should make things simpler, with less reading, and shorter sermons.  Also, he acknowledges that most church leaders are women. But he never fleshes out what female leaders are supposed to DO to help the situation.  He offers lots of critiques with few solutions.

Still, there is no doubt that he has put his finger on a major problem in our churches. I will tell you that I am absolutely committed to reaching men.  They are the target group at First Baptist West Palm.  We are currently reorganizing our approach to everything from kids worship to adult worship to small groups to mission trips to evangelistic events, all so that we can aggressively challenge men to be the husbands, fathers, and leaders that the gospel calls and compels them to be.  We are working at this, but we certainly have a long way to go.

My son James just turned 13, so James and I are taking a trip together to mark his passage into manhood.  James has expressed interest in attending a military academy when (if) he graduates from high school, so we are visiting West Point, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and the U.S. Naval Academy.  In between, we are spending a day in Philly and a day in D.C..

 

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While we were at West Point, we visited the Cadet Chapel.  The chapel is over 100 years old, and boasts some magnificent stained glass windows.  At the front of the chapel (where Douglas MacArthur, Jack Pershing, Dwight Eisenhower, and George Patton all worshipped as cadets) the stained glass depicts the mighty warriors of the Bible.  At the center of the display is a picture of Jesus on the cross – the mightiest warrior of them all.  Who knew that West Point had better theology than many theological schools?

It has been weeks and weeks since I posted – we had a new baby (our eighth) and it kind of threw me off. But now I am ready to get back on the horse, so to speak. Blogs are of no use if you don’t post. I hope to do better in the future. Here is a picture of the new kid. His name is Michael Caleb – named after my friend and mentor, Michael Kevin Ezell, and of course the geriatric warrior from the Bible.

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kidsSince I have lots of kids, lots of parents in my church, and field lots of questions about sex, I want to recommend an excellent set of resources for parents and pastors.  The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has published a series of books that assist parents in addressing sexuality from a biblical perspective.  The series is designed in developmental stages, and is very practical and well-written.  Kristin and I have used these volumes to help us with our own kids.  As with every resource, it is important for parents to remember that the tool works for you – you don’t work for it.  So use common sense, contextualize the information to fit your family, and test everything by the Scriptures. Here is a link to more information. More on this subject later.

booksI am often asked by people in my church for some tools that will help them teach the Bible more effectively.  Here are some recommendations for a starter library for lay people who teach the Bible.  None of these books require knowledge of Greek or Hebrew, and all of them will help keep teachers theologically “in bounds.”

1. The Bible Knowledge Commentary by Walvoord and Zuck.  This two volume set is affordable, understandable, and helpful.  It goes verse by verse through the entire Bible offering linguistic, theological, and historical insights. Everybody ought to have it.

2. Talk Thru the Bible, by Boa and Wilkinson.  This tool gives background information on every book of the Bible, including authorship, date, setting, theme, and main points, as well as a brief outline of each book.  It is written from a very conservative point of view, and doesn’t confuse lay people by laying out all of the available options (like a more scholarly N.T. survey, for instance).  Instead, the authors give the basic information and the consensus conservative opinion.  I like it that way.

3. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.  This resource will help people learn some background information on important Bible words, without having to be fluent in Greek and Hebrew.

monty-python_jpg_595x325_crop_upscale_q85I love the scene from Monty Python’s Holy Grail where King Arthur gets into a political argument with a peasant.  Arthur gets so frustrated with the ridiculous ramblings of the peasant that he tries to physically intimidate him.  The King’s violent outburst is met with the taunt, “Help, Help, I being repressed.”  This scene is hilarious and you can see it youtube.

This Sunday I am preaching from Romans 1 about general revelation – the fact that God has made Himself known to every person through His creation.  The evidence for a Creator is so overwhelming and so obvious that nobody should ever doubt His existence…..except for sin.  Sin causes people to suppress the obvious truth, and to exchange that truth for lesser lies.  So instead of running towards the God of the universe (which should be natural and obvious), we run from Him (which is unnatural and requires suppression of the obvious).  This rebellious suppression of obvious truth is institutionalized in schools and universities all over the world every time the theory of natural evolution is presented as factual.  Darwin’s 200th birthday anniversary has drawn attention to his famous theory, and you can read what Al Mohler had to say about it on his blog.

images1Thankfully, the gospel of Jesus urges us to lay down our rebellious suppression of the truth, and to take hold of the glory of the Creator.  The revelation of God in nature, in the Bible, in His Son, and in His church will ultimately culminate in His revelation at the Second Coming of Jesus.  The Obvious will not remain “Suppressed” forever.

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