Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday's sermon-up and running

*Update: I have no idea how the website hosting my podcasts works and you cannot download it from that page. You can try going to this one and click around to get it.

Go here to download my teaching at YVF on Sunday re: the kingdom of God. This was the hardest teaching for me thus far, primarily because it is way easier to teach a theory on a topic or person than on God himself. Enjoy.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Foto Friday-Tabernacle model and masada

After hitting up the southernmost part of Israel for a few days, floating in the dead sea, going to Jordan, etc., we headed off for Jerusalem. We stayed the night at a hotel right on the dead sea and "bobbed" for a few. That morning we went to a tabernacle model. It is to scale if I remember right, and here are the main parts of it. This building had to be put up and taken down at every campsight, including the wall around it. This is where the Israelites would go to experience God's presence (though only levites were allowed to) during the flight from Egypt.

Here is the altar upon which one would make the sacrifice. Imagine the blood covering the ground, the smell of barbecuing meat, the sight of priests approaching the altar on the ramp so as to not reveal any leg, etc. This is the first "stage" one had to go through to get to into the presence of God.

Talk about big BBQ instruments! These were made of bronze
Karen is the only one not going up to the altar. . . good way to avoid being pushed in like the witch in hansel and grettle.

After making the primary sacrifice, the priests would cleanse themselves in this bronze laver. If you looked in, you would be able to see a reflection of yourself both before and after cleansing.

Yet one more step before getting into the tabernacle.

The walls of the tabernacle were made of gold. These walls were not.

As you go into the tabernacle, the table of showbread was on the right.

Nothing like a nice air conditioned tabernacle.

This is a rough mockup of what the high priest looked like. The breastplate had 12 stones, showing that he represented the 12 tribes of Israel before God. You can see the bells at the bottom of his garment. While he was in the holy of holies (he was the only one allowed), if the bells stopped a-ringin, time to go a-cleaning. it meant that he died because he wasn't pure enough to be in the presence of God. It's a lot easier now. Like the Queen's guards, this guy would NOT react to any prodding.

This lampstand was made from one solid piece of gold. The new one they are building for the third temple (I didn't get any pictures of the temple institute, where they are getting ready for the new temple, but if you're ever in the area . . . ) is not.

Here is where they would burn insence.

Inside the ark of the covenant were the ten commandments (made of foam) Aaron's staff that budded, and a jar of Manna
The top of the ark had two angels made of gold whos wings touched. The priest would sprinkle blood right in the middle of the wings as a petition asking God to not give Israel what she deserved.

We got back in the bus and road for a bit longer, and visited Masada. This was the last stand for the Zealots (listen to my sermon on Sunday to learn a little more about this group of Jews). They held out for a long time in this excellent fortress, but Rome is rich and was able to outlast (and outbuild) the last civil resistance of the Jewish people. It's a great story. Consequently, it was a very wealthy city because it had access to the minerals in the dead sea. They had to think of some ingenious ways to survive in this desolate wasteland.

A watchtower with the outside wall to the city.

They are still in the process of excavating this site.
This is a re-do of an original fresco they found here. Nice wallpaper, no?

The big long rooms are where they held food. They were able to store months of food at a time.

Quite a drop down to the valley floor. The whole city was built on a plateau with huge walls. Down at the bottom of the picture, you can see where Herod's palace was.

Here is the remains of the actual palace, the coolest part of the mountain due to the shade and afternoon breeze.

How do you get water up a giant mountain? You store it in a cistern, and hire slaves to bring it to you. here is the cistern.

I think this room is a steam bath if I remember right. The pillars held up the original floor, under which water was heated and created steam.

One of the original mosaic floors, still in tact after 1930 years.

A model of Masada in all its glory, the palace is in the front. It's good to be king.

Refreshing oranges after a hot hike up and down the mountain.

How did Rome break such an incredible fortress? This is a man-made siege ramp. It took Rome several years and many deaths, but this is how they broke into the city.

Back to the water question . . . Only getting a few inches of rainfall a year can be hazardous to your health. The inhabitants created this complex matrix of trenches to collect rainwater and bring it to the cistern. This is a working model, and is still wet.

All in all, it was a great day. It was capped off with floating and drying out and tasting nasty dead sea tap water on accident and a great buffet and a good night's sleep.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pictures Copyright

I've noticed several people visiting my blog for pictures thur google images. For any of my photographs, feel free to use them if you cite the source (me), including the URL. If you would like a higher resolution copy of any of them I would be glad to email a copy.

Currently Reading: Blue Parakeet 4 (fin)

While on my . . . vacation? Sabatical? Study break? Whatever it was, I was able to finally finish Scot McKnight's The Blue Parakeet. Published by Zondervan, just came out, yada yada yada. When I last reviewed, McKnight had discussed how we read the Bible, compared it to how we should read the Bible, and suggests that the Bible is first and foremost, God's story.

The question becomes how do we live out the Bible? The final chapters of his thesis argue that we all discern aspects of the Bible whether we admit it or not. For example, what does the Bible have to say about abortion? about stem cell research? premarital intercourse? . . . nothing. They weren't around back then, and so the Bible cannot directly speak to them (premarital intercourse is impossible when intercourse is the action that makes one married). The issue is, if it is God's story, how can we discern proper actions in a world that is different than it used to be. In other words, how is God speaking in our ways in our days.

The problem: the Bible does not directly speak to all of life, so how do we choose?

The solution: "We discern--through God's Spirit and in the context of our community of faith-- a pattern of how to live in our world." (129)

Ultimately, all biblical interpretation must be done in community of some sort. If not, anyone can have a valid interpretation of Scripture simply because their discerner says so. However, not everyone agrees on how to discern. "Seeking unanimity on all things is unwise; permitting discernment at the local level can sometimes create too much diversity, but it is wiser to have local discernment with some problems than having everyone under lock and key. (130)"

An observation of this very thing: Vineyard 101...for Reno vineyard, it was important to focus on doctrine and right belief because of their context. For Yerington, it will focus less on specific doctrines because we pull from a greater variety of traditions since we live in a small town and are a melting pot of various church traditions, whereas reno is a bigger city with more options, and maybe less background in theology.

Scot makes a great key focal point here, it is much easier to take shortcuts. The shortcuts mentioned in chapter 2. It is way easier to "interpret the Bible literally" and make it into a rule book than to try to understand what parts are contextualized and what parts should be modified for a different culture. It's phariseeism vs. becoming all things to all men. McKnight suggests that "our discernment should never become rules or laws" (132). We need to become chameleons-changing our colors but keeping the same body (or core) (142).

Here is my biggest frustration with this book...there is never a "how to", just a "what we need." Surely it is important to read through tradition, but how? Sure God is speaking in our days in our ways, but how do we know? McKnight cops out by simply suggesting "in community". But then again, this isn't the purpose of the book. The book is more of an expose than a how to manual. He reveals what we do rather than how we should. It would be very long indeed if McKnight worked out all of these issues, and quite frankly i'm glad he doesn't.

What he does do: give a specific example of how to discern, and how various people have discerned. Regarding: women in ministry. McKnight uses this as a case study, and does an excellent job of showing how to discern the role of women in ministry today. I didn't agree with everything he said, but he lays a really convincing case for his position. Unfortunately, he also chooses to omit the other side because "most people know it". He also uses suspect dialog processes, by mentioning a very convicting evidence, and then saying it isn't valid for some reason. This is similar to asking a jury to strike a damning evidence from the record and just pretend like the prosecution didn't bring it up. It is imposible to do fully. It would be better if he was upfront before describing the evidence, to prepare the reader, but I digress.

What his discussion of women in ministry did do for me: give me evidence to feel free to believe what I knew was okay all along. I believe that women can be pastors and teachers mostly because I have been pastored and taught by women. If they can teach in colleges and seminaries, why can they not lead a church?

So what do I think of the entire book? It was excellent. Not Jesus Creed excellent, but a very challenging work for me personally. It is readable enough for a non-scholar, but well thought out in a way that the smartest of us can learn as well. If someone wants to know more about reading the Bible, and needs to rethink how we have always done it, this book is an excellent starting point. If you want an easy, non-challenging, cliche ridden read, turn to another book. This is for people who are willing to be kicked in the face in love.

I would give this book 4.5 of five stars because I disagree with some of his dialog techniques in his case study, and the meat of the book was fairly short in comparison to his case study (which would be a great book on its own if it were more flushed out). It is recommended reading for anyone who reads the Bible consistently, or is interested in what the Bible should mean for living today.

It's the kind of book that keeps me thinking at random times throughout the day, "How is God speaking today in our 2000's Western Nevada ways?" And any book that can engage me outside its normal reading is great imho.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I'm out of the office for the week, be back on tuesday!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Blue Parakeet part 3

Since I don't have immediate access to my pictures today, i will throw in another Blue Parakeet post. Eventually I will sum up the entire book into one review, after I finish it.

After McKnight points out the fact that we all come to the Bible with our own assumptions and presuppositions, suggests various errors we use when reading the Bible, and presenting the idea of wiki-stories, he gets to the meat of his ideas. How do we read the Bible as story?

McKnight frames this portion of his book in the crazy idea that our relation to the Bible is ultimately a personal one. For far too long, evangelicals in particular have engaged in Bible worship. That is, we worship the Bible and not the God who gives us the Bible to commune with Him. He uses my ever-favorite imagery of artist/creation analogy. I can feel that he is setting us up for some good ole fashioned imago dei theology. I think that comes in the next section. What is most important in this section is the fact that if God is truly relational, then everything we do as Christians should cause us to grow closer to Him. My new model for spiritual formation (which I'm totally psyched about) also reflects these thoughts.

"Too many stop short by asking only, 'how can I learn to understand the Bible? ' . . . The real question at the bottom of all them is this: "what is my relationship to the God of the Bible?" (84)

Ultimately, the Bible is a tool, an act of communication, what have you. Any communicative act is useless unless the listener understands that the act itself has little meaning, but the relationship between the speaker and listener gives true meaning. This is a step short of deconstruction (completely listerner-centered communication). Instead of asking, what can the bible do for me? we should ask, how does what I just read bring me closer to God by loving Him and loving others?

"The Bible invites us to listen to God (the person) speak in the Bible and to engage God as we listen" (89)

"A relational approach to the Bible believes our relationship to the Bible is transformed into a relationship with the God who speaks to us in and through the Bible" (90). I hate the cheasy image of the Bible as God's love letter, probably because I am lactose intolerant, but it is really a good illustration.

So what's the point? When we read the Bible as a story, we learn to listen to God as we read, are attentive enough to recognize God's voice, absorb what God says, and then act on it (99). God always speaks so that it will change us. His words are not empty and void (unlike this blog), but are full of tangible, redemptive, creative power. The Bible itself demonstrates what happens when we choose not to truly listen to God. i.e. David and bathsheba.

A true relationship is based on love. Love lets the other person's ideas and beliefs in front of my own. In other words, love is listening. Listening ends in a transformed mode of operation.

In his chapter labeled "the boring chapter", McKnight describes what he calls missional listening. The basic idea of the chapter is this: God speaks through the Bible for a reason and expects us to listen enough to act on our hearing. "Any method of Bible study that doesn't lead to transformation abandons the missional path of God and leaves us stranded" (105). So how do we know if we listen well? We listen in community. Both now and in the community who came before us. We listen with tradition. Every person should have at least one book by an early church father (if you are looking for one, try Augustine's Confessions).

Here is how McKnight breaks it down: If you are doing good works as a result of reading the Bible, you are reading well. If you are not (or your works are misdirected), you can probably grow in missional listening.

It's down and dirty discipleship. God allows us to join his redemptive process if we would just lay down our agendas and listen for His. If reading the bible is a waterslide, "the slide is the gospel, the walls are the bible and our wise mentors (tradition), and the water is the Holy Spirit" (112). The goal is to make it to the bottom of the slide in the place the slide directs (the soaking presence of God).

How many colleges, seminaries, teachers, pastors, etc. get this wrong? We say "read the Bible because that's what good Christians do", "learn the inductive Bible study process so you can understand it in its original context", "right belief comes before right action". We miss the point. Understanding is vital, but more vital is allowing God to transform us.

My personal favorite quote of this section: "What makes missional listening powerful, what leads the reader into a life of righteousness and good works (the outcomes Paul mentions), is the promise that the SPirit who hovered over the author is the same Spirit at work in the reader. Unfortunately, too many of us spend too much time arguing about the meaning of "inspiration" and not enough on the point of it all" (109).

I know I get bogged down in the details, historical context, meaning of greek participles, etc. Sometimes I need to just sit down, be quiet, and listen to what God is saying. Surely those previous things help me understand the Bible, but that's an awfully easy goal to attain. It is much easier to understand the Bible, and not let it through the fences erected in my mind of what God might require me to do. The sermon on the mount becomes an ethic of acting as Christians in a Christian community. Only once we let it into our hearts does it change our acting as a Christian community.

News Bulletin

*****URGENT NEWS****

This is just in, our dear friend fall was kidnapped today. Rumor has it that summer and winter grabbed him, duct taped his hands feet and mouth, threw him in the back of their 78 El Camino and drove him to an undisclosed location. As a result, winter had his way today, dropping a whopping 3-4 inches of snow in the Mason Valley area.

A local pastor was quoted as saying, "ah gee, I hope it warms up before the Night of Light". The poor fellow went to work in shorts and flip flops today. Thankfully, he rectified the situation for now by changing into shoes, pants and socks. Unfortunately, in this backwoods remote town, brown shoes and white socks are acceptable attire.

Another rumor regarding the change in weather: peer pressure. Old Man winter saw all the shopping malls decorated in Christmas garb before Halloween even came, and decided to follow suit. All the cool stores are doing it.


I love the snow, I heard the school bell ring, letting the kids out for their first encounter of snow for the year. You could hear the screams of glee from the church. Nothing is quite like the first snowball, tightly packed with nice dense snow. Freezing hands turned pink from the blood rushing to prevent hypothermia, poofy jackets, snow boots. It's beginning to look a lot like christmas.

I can't remember the last time we had a measurable amount of snow this early. It must be global warming playing a trick on us. President Bush probably had a super top secret snow making weapon that is run on fossil fuels dump this snow on us to disprove the theory that he is causing all global catastrophes. October surprise indeed. . .

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A broken heart and an empty wallet.

Sadly, my ibook is on its way down. Today the power board stopped working. That means I either have to charge my battery on another computer or replace the board. It is about a 30 dollar part, so I went ahead and ordered it.

But in the meantime I am running K's old Dell. Ewww. Today is the death of all things beautiful.

And my wallet isn't full enough to get a new mac yet.

And yet, most of the world isn't even fortunate enough to own one computer. I might just be the worst human being ever.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Weekly Musings

Here is my goal for future posting: 3 posts per week. One on whatever book I am reading (currently The Blue Parakeet). One on random musings. One of pictures from Israel. I doubt I will be able to keep a pace like this, but it is good to have tangible goals I hear.

1) What about those people who went to Jesus but didn't get healed? I am sure there must have been some in the masses. Why didn't they get healed? Was it their fault? His? I have a theory on this, but I won't share it yet.

2) Why hasn't McCain been advertising more. i know more about him through Obama commercials than his own mouth (which is probably a biased source). unfortunately, I will miss the debate tonight. Here is my prediction: Obama will focus on how communal he is, McCain will focus on his policy differences.

3) The kingdom of God is like a secret ninja network. It starts small and weaves its way through the fabric of society, changing everything it encounters. At the appointed time . . . BAM!! ninja frenzy! Kind of like leaven. Or a virus. Is the kingdom of God viral?

4) If you donate an organ to someone, who gets it in the afterlife?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Foto Friday-Petra

Halfway through the trip, we were able to travel to Jordan, the country directly across the Jordan river. It is basically the only muslim nation that is very friendly to tourists. Largely because the king of Jordan married an American (you will see a picture of the king in a moment). At any rate, Jordan is home to Petra, one of the wonders of the ancient world (due to a recent revote). It was a city carved into the sandstone. It is most famous for being the home of the Holy Grail in Indian Jones. The cave itself only goes back about fifteen feet or so. We did not get our heads chopped off, thankfully. Enjoy the natural sandstone colors as well as the complexity of these caves carved thousands of years ago.

Note: some Christians (i.e. Left Behind) believe Christians will flee to Petra when the anti-christ comes. I just thought it was really neat-o.

We know very little about the people who lived here.

To get to the city, we had to walk through about a half mile of canyon. It never got bigger than about ten yards, and was very dark. The walls were giant. (some of the pictures are out of sequence).

If the weather is this nice, I wouldn't mind hiding out here. (But i don't think I'd like the tourists).

This is the most famous of the excavations. There are still some areas being dug, but this is the one Indy went into. Most of the big famous ones are burial sites, but I believe this one is a treasury of sorts.

Right before you walk into the huge open area, you pass through this really narrow, really dark part of the canyon. The brightness of the light is blinding as you begin to see the big treasury.

The small caves were living units. The big ones sarcophagi.

This is what the sandstone looks like on the inside. Notice how precixe the angles are and how smooth the rock is.

The inside of the treasury

More sandstone
Nice tomb.
I just now noticed that guy in the picture. I hope he isn' using the restroom. At any rate, these structures were giant. They liked bigness (maybe early Americans?). Even their camels are big SUV camels. just kidding.

We didn't have tiem to run down and see this area, the newest excavation. Guess I'll have to go back sometime.

THis is an ancient pipe. One of the earliest we know of. They brought rainwater in through this covered pipeline.

Like all good ancient sites, Petra had plenty of tourist traps. I love the titles of these boutiques. Not sure what the Titanic . . . or cofee, has to do with Petra but there you go.

Awww, the king and his son. These pictures are all over Jordan. It's good to be king.