Tuesday, January 06, 2009

While on the subject of preaching…a wish for 2009

I don’t get to preach that often now a days (or is that one word, “nowadays”?).  But, I do have to listen to preaching.  Here’s what I wish (for 2009), that, on a regular basis, I’d hear good exposition, built and developed through sound exegesis and biblical theology and reflection.  In addition, throughout the year (and years to come), I’d like to hear messages from one book of the Bible, paragraph by paragraph or section by section (and rarely verse by verse) for a month or two or three or four straight through each Sunday.  But, before the preacher even starts the series, I’d like a few things to happen.

First, I’d like to know that the preacher has read and reread and reread and reread the book.  That he has learned to read each section, each paragraph, each verse with the whole of the book in mind…that he knows the parts and the whole at once.  I’d like to know that he has read the book in one sitting a few times and with the more lengthier books like Isaiah or I Kings (etc.), as few as two or three sittings.  I’d like to know if I were to prick the preacher, he’d bleed that bible book.  I’d like to know that before he starts even one outside study of the book or commentary or other sermons that he has done all this—and gotten to know this one bible book.

While I was at Bible College, back in the 80’s, I was wondering through the library (not so unusual for me) and saw one of my fellow Preaching class students hard at work preparing for her first preaching presentation in class.  I noticed that she had piles, literally stacks of books and commentaries all around her at this table—she was the only one at the table and there was no place left without a book or pile of books.  Her bible, neatly placed to the side was closed.  I asked her what she was preaching on.  She said a verse from Psalm such and such…she was able to give the gist, but didn’t quote it.  I could only say one thing: “Have you just gotten away, outside somewhere and just read and reread the whole Psalm over and over again, letting the words and phrases and progression just become part of you?” No, she replied.  I recommended she not get caught up in all these books—in what other say first—before she gets to know the Psalm herself first.  Then crack the other books and commentaries.  Studying for a sermon starts long before one is actually preparing the outline or points or notes on that sermon.

Then I’d like to know the preacher has worked through a solid process as he (or she) develops an outline and notes for the actual sermon.  I’d like to know the preacher has developed an exegetical summary of the passage that will be preached.  I’d like to know that the preacher has selected at least three solid commentaries (good exegetically ones—they don’t have to all agree, just be good at working through a text) and read through what trained exegetes have to say.  I’d like to know that before any preacher has gotten up in the place of God to speak to people that they have read the whole Bible at least once a year for as long as they have “felt” the call to preach.

These are just some things I wish for 2009 for congregations, churches, church plants, and preachers.

A while back I posted what I like to call the “contextual-observation method” for studying the Bible and developing sermons (or bible studies).  Preachers and lay-leaders might find this method useful.  I know you can find books on preaching (the best one being Walter Kaiser’s Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching), but I was able to summarize the whole concept in one post.  Follow the steps and you’ll fulfill my wish for 2009 … and beyond!

The contextual-observation method (a practical excerise)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Speaking for God when he is silent, very dangerous

“Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!’” (Luke 15:14-17).

When God is silent, we should not assume we can supply what is missing. This is why exegesis is so important (vs. the danger of eisegesis, reading into the text), and why application should follow exegesis and should not be confused with interpretation—application isn’t interpretation. Since Rick Warren (of Purpose-Driven Life fame) is (again) in the news a lot, it made me think about a time I heard him on the Sean Hannity show. Warren made a comment about “tough love” should be applied to substance abuse addicts. I had to ponder more whether I agreed with his approach to addiction or not, but it was his approach to speaking for God that caught my attention. He said, “God would have us show tough love” and then preceeded to explain that he had received this principle from the Prodigal Son story in Luke’s Gospel. Warren said we have “a prime example” in what the father did not do: when the son was eating with the pigs as a result of the son’s leaving the family and living a sinful, fast life, “the father didn’t send care packages.” So says Warren.

How do we know that? Whether he did or didn’t? How does Warren know? It doesn’t say in Luke that His father didn’t send “care packages.” Warren spoke where God is silent and developed a principle to deal with other human beings (whether it is right or wrong isn’t the issue) and thus claims divine authority on the matter. Now, that’s the issue!

Can we make principles out of what the father didn’t do? Problem is, we do not have an exhaustive story—we don’t know what the father did and didn’t do other than being sure of what is described in the story. The text doesn’t say whether the father searched for the son or not. It doesn’t tell us whether he sent him “care packages” or not. Jesus, the story-teller, is silent on this. If we want to assume anything, we could assume that the Father did search for his son, since the previous two stories (parables) show the principle characters as ones who search for what is lost. But I personally would not go there since I don’t know. I wasn’t so much thinking about what the parable of the Prodigal Son meant (although I certainly have an interpretation in mind and it surely isn’t one suggesting anything remotely related to our father-son relationships or tough love on substance abusers). I was concerned about how casually, on public radio, speaking to millions of people, someone could pull a word from God from a place in Scripture where God is silent—a word not from the text of Scripture. I recall a chapel speaker once who made a point in his sermon from Genesis 12a (he even called it that, Genesis 12a), the chapter he assumed was there between Genesis 12 and Genesis 13. We are in dangerous waters, no matter how popular one is, no matter how many copies of one’s book has been sold, no matter how big one’s church is, when we speak for God, claiming His voice from places in Scripture where He is silent. This was very bothersome to me. Happens all the time—just rarely on a secular radio talk show.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Jesus came to his own, and we didn’t receive Him

“He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:11-13).

I am struck by these words.  Always have been.  I know, many Christians memorize John 1:12-13 as life verses or verses of assurance of salvation.  I certainly did when I was a young Christian (way back in 1978!).  But, that’s not what these verses are for (although memorizing them is still a good thing).  In the first verse (v 11) there is an interesting spin to consider.  (Some Greek here; but easy stuff.) Literally, John uses the word “own” in two distinct ways to actually give the following sense

“He came to His own place (τὰ ἴδια) and those who were His own people (οἱ ἴδιοι) did not receive Him.”

This in itself isn’t shocking: we know the story.  Jesus came from His throne in heaven to the land of Israel (on earth) and the people, the Jewish people didn’t acknowledge Him as the long-awaited Messiah.  We know that.  Now think about it: the people in that place were the one’s who thought they had assurance of salvation by virtue of being born in that place—in Israel as Israelites, related to David and Abraham—and acting the part.  Their “not receiving” Jesus, however, put that assurance in jeopardy.

Now, for why John is writing this in the first place:  We must remember that John is not writing a history lesson.  And, I highly doubt the apostle penned verses 12 and 13 as assurance of salvation verses to memorize (especially by us contemporary Christians).  John writes to a Christian community that apparently is having a hard time believing who Jesus is and why He came.  As if Jesus comes now to His own church (the use of “own place” by John here might even suggest a particular church for application) and His own people (i.e., Christians) didn’t/don’t receive Him.  Now that’s shocking.  But we, evangelicals feel safe—or should we be?

My reading and rereading on church growth, the practices and principles, as well as the poor theology stemming from the mix (I am including all contemporary types in this general sweep), draws me back to these verses on a regular basis.  I am not opposed to reforming how we “do” things, nor against up-dating what we do.  But, our modern, mechanical, often staged methods of evangelism, worship, and outreach are more like the Baal worship of old (as described in the Old Testament) and the beliefs of ancient non-Israelites who practiced Baal worship than it is of biblical roots.  We act out what we want God to do for us in much of our so-called Church-growth models.  But, here John reminds me that it is those who receive Him for what He does (has done), not by being born into the place, not by the will of our fleshly methodologies, but by the will of God.  Rethinking church and ministry and “growth” should at least include these verses of caution.  I know, one would not think to include these verses in one’s Church-growth theology—but we should.

Friday, January 02, 2009

L&S Quote - The iconoclastic church

“In a society in which idolatry runs rampant, a church that is not iconoclastic is a travesty.  If it is not against the idols it is with them.” ~Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction

Thursday, January 01, 2009

L&S Quote – We look back upon history…all gone with the wind

We look back upon history, and what do we see?  Empires rising and falling.  Revolutions and Counterrevolutions.  Wealth accumulated and wealth disbursed. Shakespeare has written of the rise and fall of great ones, that ebb and flow with the moon. I look back upon my own fellow countrymen, once upon a time dominating a quarter of the world, most of them convinced, in the words of what is still a popular song, that the God who made them mighty, shall make them mightier yet.

I have heard a crazed, cracked Austrian announce to the world the establishment of a Reich that would last a thousand years. I have seen an Italian clown say he was going to stop and restart the calendar with his own ascension to power. I have heard a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin, acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the world as wiser than Solomon, more humane than Marcus Aurelius, more enlightened than Ashoka.

I have seen America, wealthier and in terms of military weaponry, more powerful than the rest of the world put together, so that had the American people so desired, they could have outdone a Caesar, or an Alexander in the range and scale of their conquests.

All in one lifetime, all in one lifetime, all gone. Gone with the wind. England part of a tiny island off the coast of Europe, threatened with dismemberment and even bankruptcy. Hitler and Mussolini dead, remembered only in infamy. Stalin a forbidden name in the regime he helped found and dominate for some three decades. America haunted by fears of running our of those precious fluids that keeps their motorways roaring, and the smog settling, with troubled memories of a disastrous campaign in Vietnam, and the victories of the Don Quixotes of the media as they charged the windmills of Watergate. All in one lifetime, all in one lifetime, all gone. Gone with the wind. ~Malcolm Muggeridge

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Poverty, idolatry, and beginning a new (research) journey

Whenever one takes a journey or goes out for an adventure, one encounters things unexpected. There might not be time to stop and fully enjoy or explore these discoveries, so one must make the time to return and explore more thoroughly. Such happened along the way in studying Mark 4 and the topic of Evangelism and Social Action as I prepared and developed my recent paper for the Evangelical Theological Society’s (ETS) 2008 November conference in Rhode Island. This discovery is the Biblical juxtosposition of warnings against idolatry and the caveats and stipulations regarding the poor. Interestingly, almost a seeming divine timing, has also occurred: there seems to be a rather curious new-found interest in the topic of idolatry. A few books have recently popped up on the subject—two specifically on a biblical theology of idolatry (one by my former teacher and mentor, G. K. Beale, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry and the other by Edward Meadors, Idolatry and the Hardening of the Heart). I also sat through two presentations (i.e., papers) on the subject of idolatry in the Old Testament at the recent ETS conference as well. The timing also heightened this discovery for me—and my curiosity.

References to what I call the vulnerable trio, the widow, orphan, and alien/stranger are scattered throughout the Old Testament, particularly in contexts that concern God’s covenant with His people or a reaffirmation of that covenant (cf. Ex 22:22, Dt 10:18; 14:29; 16:11, 14; 24:17, 19, 20, 21; 26:12, 13; 27:19; Jer 7:6; 22:3; Zech 7:10; Mal 3:5; cf. Lev 19:34; Isa 1:17, 23; 10:2; Ps 94:6; as well, cf. Ex 23:12; Lev 19:10; 23:22; Dt 14:29; 15:9ff; 24:19ff; 26:12ff). What is interesting is that in many of these texts, within the contexts is mentioned the concept of idolatry—warnings, consequences, references, etc. It all begins in the first covenant stipulations given to Israel as they were poised to enter the promised land:

He who sacrifices to any god, other than to the LORD alone, shall be utterly destroyed. You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless. If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest (Ex 22:20-25).

This is repeated in various ways throughout the exodus journey story and then is repeated throughout the Old Testament in places that recall this first juxtaposition and warning regarding idolatry and the poor. Even toward the end of the Old Testament Israel story, the two themes—idolatry and the vulnerable/poor—are brought together:

   “Assyria will not save us,
      We will not ride on horses;
      Nor will we say again, ‘Our god,’
      To the work of our hands;
      For in You the orphan finds mercy.”

   I will heal their apostasy,
      I will love them freely,
      For My anger has turned away from them.
   I will be like the dew to Israel;
      He will blossom like the lily,
      And he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon.
   His shoots will sprout,
      And his beauty will be like the olive tree
      And his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon.
   Those who live in his shadow
      Will again raise grain,
      And they will blossom like the vine.
      His renown will be like the wine of Lebanon.
   O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?” (Hosea 14:3-8a)

Thus, I am preparing another paper for next year’s ETS annual meeting. Next year’s conference topic is “Personal and Social Ethics” and is appropriately taking place in the city of New Orleans (LA). The paper I am preparing and beginning to research is not necessarily part two of the Wasted Evangelism paper I presented this past November (2008), but it certainly stems from it—or is an off shoot from some of the “discoveries” and conclusions I made from the research of that paper. The working title for the paper right now is “Idolatry & Poverty: Where Public vs. Private Isn’t Enough.” So I begin…studying idolatry and poverty together…and seeing where that takes me.

Two of the first idolatries I am investigating concern the notion or myth of the progress of history and the myth of the “Private vs. the Public.” I hope to post, soon, a thread of thoughts on “The Private vs. Public Dualism: A Convenient Idolatry.” And then as we move into the new year, some thoughts in a thread on the idolatry of being “progressive.” Hopefully, in all this, I will bring out a few implications of such idolatry on the topic of poverty. One of these areas falls more in the right and red column, and the other into the left and blue. Both sides of the aisle, as it were, are idolatrous—neither, in the end, are helpful to the poor in America. Kept popping on…I suspect this weekend I’ll be working on the first thread…

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What if God has not spoken? (audio)

A while back I presented a message called, What if God has not spoken? Not only does it have some choice quotes from well worth while writers...I make some good points well myself on the subject of God’s existence and the reliability of the Bible. Originally I prepared and delivered this message as a three part series for a church in Calgary, AB, later at Prairie Bible College chapel message, and most recently at a church in Fairfield, CT. Seems timeless to me and worth presenting over again. Please feel free to download and pass around if it is a helpful piece.

Listen to What if God has not spoken?

PS I am open to presenting the series or this message elselwhere...just let me know ().

Monday, December 29, 2008

The agenda-driven life

“Calvin DeWitt, professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a leading evangelical supporter of various environmental causes, called the NAE statement “a retreat and a defeat.” He predicted “negative consequences for the ability of evangelicals to influence the White House, unfortunately and sadly.” Should influencing the White House be the primary or even a major objective for evangelicals, or should their goal be to please God?

“A better objective would be to follow another statement made not by a committee but by a single individual who claims ownership of His church and requires obedience to all who would follow Him: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19) Jesus also called on His disciples - then and now - “to obey everything I have commanded you.” A quick look does not reveal those teachings as having anything to do with global warming or the environment. Rather, He calls individuals to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison and pray for those who persecute them. Evangelicals should pursue these higher virtues instead of settling for the lower life of politics” [Cal Thomas, “The agenda-driven life,” in Townhall.com (Feb 13, 2006)].

I certainly hope there are some evangelical Christians involved with environmental issues. And some, I hope, are lobbying politicians for legislation that is reasonable and actually helps protect our environment. But this is crazy. Now evangelicals are seeking to be known as “green.” Don’t they know the verdict is not out on whether there really is a man-made global warming, let alone if we can gauge how much, or whether it is something we (man) can stop? (Read Michael Crichton’s State of Fear that exposes the weak, but agenda-driven green movement’s argument and its manipulating the evidence for global warming.) I think I am mostly bothered because there are other “causes” which there is clearly a need and clearly presented in Scripture. I am speaking specifically about the issues of poverty. Where is the same outcry and desire to end poverty right here in America? Let’s see a “Call to Action” from these same 86 evangelicals to end poverty. I guess it is not sexy enough of an issue, especially since it is in their own backyard. Let’s see these 86 signers of the green evangelical magna carta call on the President to fight the war on poverty right here in the United States. Plead with him, lobby him to restore full funding to the Community Services Block Grant program, the primary Federal instrument that has as its mission and purpose “to alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty.”

A New York Time’s essay also highlights some of the concerns other evangelical have on the evangelical switch to green (selected paragraphs):

“Despite opposition from some of their colleagues, 86 evangelical Christian leaders have decided to back a major initiative to fight global warming, saying ‘millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors’.”

“Among signers of the statement, which will be released in Washington on Wednesday, are the presidents of 39 evangelical colleges, leaders of aid groups and churches, like the Salvation Army, and pastors of megachurches, including Rick Warren, author of the best seller ‘The Purpose-Driven Life’.”

“’For most of us, until recently this has not been treated as a pressing issue or major priority,’ the statement said. ‘Indeed, many of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians. But now we have seen and heard enough’.”

“Some of the nation’s most high-profile evangelical leaders, however, have tried to derail such action. Twenty-two of them signed a letter in January declaring, ‘Global warming is not a consensus issue.’ Among the signers were Charles W. Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries; James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; and Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

“E. Calvin Beisner, associate professor of historical theology at Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., helped organize the opposition into a group called the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance. He said Tuesday that ‘the science is not settled’ on whether global warming was actually a problem or even that human beings were causing it. And he said that the solutions advocated by global warming opponents would only cause the cost of energy to rise, with the burden falling most heavily on the poor” [“Evangelical Leaders Join Global Warming Initiative,” by Laurie Goodstien in the NY Times (February 8, 2006)].

Well, my goodness. Haven’t they seen enough of poverty? Haven’t they heard enough? Isn’t the Bible full of agenda regarding the Christian community’s responsibility to the poor? This climate thing is still an unknown. But, what is known is that people are poor and Christians are supposed to do something about it...no need for research on this issue.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Turning curse into blessing—to the ends of the earth

Andreas Kosternberger and Peter O’Brien, in their book Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission, make the observation that in Genesis 1-11, the word curse is used five times and that these five “curses” are met with the five times “blessing” is used in Genesis 12:1-3, Abram’s call to go.  We should be thankful that there are those who discover and observe what might be glossed over in causal reading.  We have here “in the summons of Abram [soon to become father Abraham]…the divine response to the human disaster of Genesis 3-11.”

“The LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life’” (Genesis 3:14).

“Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat from it”; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life’” (Genesis 3:17).

“Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand” (Genesis 4:11).

“Now he called his name Noah, saying, ‘This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the LORD has cursed’” (Genesis 5:29).

“So he said, ‘cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants He shall be to his brothers” (Genesis 9:25).


“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse and in you all the families of the earth will be blessing’” (Genesis 12:1-3).

God, through the calling of Abraham, would make “His blessings flow far as the curse is found” as the Christmas Hymn “Joy to the World” reminds us.  The effects of the devil (i.e., the serpent), the consequence of sin on the workings of the world, and the results of sin in the heart and outcomes of man find their reversal in God’s redemptive narrative, actuated in the call of Abraham and moved through human history.  The calling of Abraham is both promise and prophecy.  God promises to bring redemptive blessing through the human narrative—through history, culminating in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ—and has indicated that His mission is to bring salvation to the ends of the earth—to all the families of the earth.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

L&S Quote - Made for another world

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” - C. S. Lewis

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ecclesiastes: Not learning from history

There is no remembrance of earlier things;
   And also of the later things which will occur,
   There will be for them no remembrance
   Among those who will come later still. (Eccl 1:11)

Almost everything fades—especially our memories. The fifteen minutes of fame comes and goes. Worse, as someone said (now long ago) at our growth group, it is apparent that we don’t learn from our collective body of knowledge and experience. I said, “Yeah, you would think that after all these years we’d get it: greed is bad, hatred is bad, stealing is bad.” But—we don’t learn. The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote on this centuries ago. The endless cycle of human history where one closes God out of the picture is doomed to repeat its sins over and over. Steve Turner, an English poet wrote:

   History repeats itself.
   Has to.
   No-one listens.

I recall once, during worship, I watched and listened to our wonderful children’s choir, knowing full-well that they were singing words beyond their age, maturity and time. But words of hope, nonetheless. They sang, “Give us pure hearts, give us clean hands, let us not lift our soul to another” (based on Psalm 24). The only way to keep from this endless cycle of repeating sins generation after generation is for these children to discover, early, these words in their youth. No wonder the aged writer of Ecclesiastes began his conclusion:

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no delight in them” (Eccl 12:1).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Returning to Mary’s Song for Christmas Morn’n

On this special day, I’d can’t help by be reminded of Lucy Shaw’s poem, “Mary’s Song.” I first heard the poem while I was a student at Crown College (back then it was called, St. Paul Bible College) and it was read, I believe by Mr. Larson one of my English teachers as a Christmas evening event in my junior year. I originally posted it a while back. It is worth you clicking over to it once again..Mary’s Song.  Enjoy.  Be blessed.

Merry Christmas from Words’nTone . . .

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Same thoughts as last year on Christmas, but still relevant

Perhaps because I am busy with Christmas. Maybe I have writer’s block (though I doubt that!). Well, whatever the reason, it is Christmas Eve and today and tomorrow I have some previous thoughts to remind you of. Today’s somewhat follows the previous Chesterton quote as we consider the actual Christmas story… please click on the following for two previous, but still relevant Gemara expository notes on Luke 2:

 Un-taming the Christmas story (1 of 2)

 Exchanging the wonder and worship for commercialism (2 of 2)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

L&S Quote - Placed in the storm on the Spirit

“If man would stop gazing and staring like the donkey by the manger, he would realize that he has been placed in a storm on the Spirit, and that God’s wonder is the element of his life.” ~Hendrikus Berkhof

Sunday, December 21, 2008

We celebrate our family Christmas today

The cold is getting more and more unbearable for me. Of course the snow is beautiful, but at what cost? Shoveling—backaches. Vehicles to scrap—and break because of the cold. But it is Christmas time and I get to give presents (of course a smaller total this year). My daughter visits her mom and Minnesota family every other Christmas, so she is joininng them, flying out on Tuesday. My stepsons are going to their dad’s on Christmas Eve. So, as a family we all decided that we’d celebrate Christmas on Sunday, today. So the tree is lit and there are presents under it. I just finished putting the stockings together. I love doing stockings. Smaller, more thoughtful presents, some needed, some cute, some gag-ish, but always fun and well appreciated. Stockings are my family’s Christmas trademark. And then there is always the grouch pills that show up in someone’s stocking—the top prize of the year! I always give the “kids” (now teenagers) comic books and a cast model car of some sort. This year Amanda gets a Volkswagen camper, like the one I used to go camping in with my grandma-Kay and pop when I was a kid. Michael gets an old wagon with a surfboard on top. And, Robert (the one who actually collects them) gets an old fashion Pepsi-Cola truck. My daughter always gets something Indian (she is part Delaware Indian from my side of the family) each year. And we’ve started a father-daughter tradition of collecting coins—not so much for value, but for some form or significant reason or memory. So, I have a set of coins, some old (as far back as 1800), some new for her in her stocking. My folks and Lisa’s step-mom will be here; our oldest step-daughter, too. It feels like Christmas. We’ll do church this morning and then after around 2ish everyone will be over and it is present time. Of course there will be food—just a little finger stuff. I already cried, holding my daughter and telling her I love her and am so glad she is my daughter. She was the best present ever! After all the presents are open and stories are told why someone got whatever for someone, there will be joy in the Anderson house this afternoon. Not unnoticed, nor forgotten will be the reason we do all this. We will remember that somewhere out there, long ago, in the back of an inn, in a stable, a young once out-of-wedlock pregnant girl, probably 13 or so years old, with the world on her shoulders, and nearby her faithful husband who kept her from social shame, with the cows and sheep and chickens and the unwashed tired shepherds will worship in amazement at a small, helpless new born babe in a feeding trough who will bear the burdens of this world on his shoulders one day. We will not forget this in the midst of our joy today as my family celebrates our Christmas.

"My conscience is
captive to the Word of God"
~Martin Luther~


"Anyone wishing to save humanity must first of all
save the Word"
~Jacques Ellul~

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