Monday, September 16, 2013

Jude by Seth Dunn

Do you ever name drop?  Often times, it is easier to get by in life when we are connected with a powerful or influential person.  It has often said, “It’s all who you know.”  Many people consider name-dropping to be bad form, especially in the meritocracy that is the United States.  Still, there is power in the practice of name dropping, and we even see it in the New Testament.

The penultimate book of the New Testament, the Epistle of Jude, which only takes a minute or two to read in its entirely is rarely preached upon.  Perhaps due to its brevity and perhaps do to the controversy that is has followed it all the way from the first century.  Whether or not one finds the content of Jude controversial, it can’t be denied is that this little epistle says a whole lot with very little words (less than 700 of them…in an English translation).

The greeting alone tells a deep story, “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James.”  Jude identifies himself as a brother of the famous James, known throughout history as “James the Just.” James was the leader of the church in Jerusalem, a close associate of Peter, and is understood to be the author of the Epistle of James.  That’s a pretty big name to drop.

In addition to James, Jude has another famous (half) sibling that he mentions in the greeting of his epistle…Jesus Christ.  Although Jude is the younger brother of Jesus he does not list himself as such.  Instead, he identifies himself as a “bond-servant” of Jesus Christ.  Jude doesn’t drop the name of Jesus as his brother; he drops the name of Jesus as his savior.  In doing so, Jude shows humility and a deep respect for the authority of God.

Jude continues this theme (in verse 9) in recounting a dispute between Michael the archangel and Satan.  In this dispute, Michael does not dare pronounce a judgment against Satan, but instead declares “The Lord rebuke you!”  That’s the biggest name anyone can drop.

Lord, let us boast and take pride in You alone.
Help us to remember that you are a very present help in trouble.
Praise you that there is no other name by which we must be saved.

2 Timothy 4:1-4 by Seth Dunn

On a recent Sunday night, I received a call from the Youth Pastor of the church at which I serve on Wednesday nights.  He was not going to be able to make the upcoming Wednesday night youth activity. His grandfather had died, his family would be receiving guests that night, and he needed me to teach the coming week’s lesson.  It was not my turn on the teaching schedule.  In fact, I hadn’t taught the lesson in some time.  I wasn’t even aware of what passage of the Bible from which he had planned to teach until I got the call.  It was short notice.

Paul wrote the 2nd Epistle to Timothy from a Roman prison.  He was out of pocket to say the least.  In his letter he charged Timothy to, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”  The meaning of this language can easily be lost upon modern, 1st world, post-industrial revolution readers.  Paul and Timothy lived in Agrarian society where there were but two times: in season and out of season.  Basically, Paul was telling Timothy to always be ready to preach the gospel.

Perhaps Paul was hearkening back to the words of Jesus that we now have recorded in John 4:35.  In this verse Jesus is quoting an ancient proverb about biding one’s time in until the harvest is ready.  In the context of John 4:35, Jesus was telling his disciples that the harvest time was upon them and that they would soon reap what he had sewn.  “I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor,” Jesus told them. 

Paul’s time on Earth was coming to an end and it was up to his young charge, Timothy, to carry on preaching the gospel.  Paul warned Timothy that his audience would not endure sound doctrine but rather would desire teaching and teachers that “tickled their ears.”  These words are still pertinent today.

There is great temptation in today’s youth ministry climate to tickle the ears of young people to keep them interested in the church.   It takes great patience and great instruction to preach sound doctrine to anyone, especially youths.  In my short-notice situation, I was reminded of Paul’s words to always be ready to preach sound doctrine with great patience.

Lord, give us a harvest of souls to reap in your name.
Lord, give us the patience to endure sound doctrine and the humility to receive it.
Lord, fill us with the power of the ever-ready power of the Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 40:27 - 31 by Seth Dunn

In almost any Christian bookstore, one doesn’t have to look very hard to find these words from the prophet Isaiah:
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.”

I’ve seen these words imprinted on everything from a bookmark to a bronze statue of an eagle. The language of this passage is clearly figurative, but it is no less encouraging. These words are powerful. We live in a world that is wrought with injustice, befuddled by confusion, and besieged with weariness. The hopeful words from the prophet Isaiah communicate to the children of God that these maladies will ultimately be overcome by those who wait upon the Lord, who is just, understanding, and strong. 

If we are not careful, we can misunderstand and misapply the meaning of this passage. This passage is not axiomatic. This passage is not something to read off of a motivational poster for a pick-up on a day when we haven’t gotten enough sleep. It’s not a passage to pray over when it’s 4th and goal with 3 seconds left in the game and our running back is playing on an injured leg. This passage is not a proverb.

This passage is a prophecy.

When Dr. Don Hataway, Senior Pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cartersville, preaches from the book of Proverbs, he often prefaces the reading of a saying from that book with the following sentence, “It’s a proverb, not a promise.”  In other words, the sayings from the book of Proverbs aren’t necessarily guarantees. They are sayings from Wisdom literature…truisms.

Isaiah is not a book of truisms.  Isaiah is a book of prophecy. Isaiah didn’t give us proverbs, he gave us promises. Some of them, like the coming of the Lord Jesus, have already come to pass. Others are yet to come. Those who wait upon the Lord will gain new strength and never grow weary. This is a prophecy and a promise from God. It will happen in the eschaton and we can look forward to and rejoice in that day.

Lord, give us the patience to wait upon you
Thank you for the savior you have given us in Christ
Thank you for the life you will give us in the resurrection.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Colossians 1:15-20 by Seth Dunn

A&E’s Duck Dynasty, a reality show, is currently one of the highest rated programs on television (of any type).   On February 27, 2013, its season three premier drew 8.6 million viewers.   This was a record for an A&E show, though the ratings were hardly a surprise.  Despite the show’s formulaic format, Duck Dynasty’s popularity has only risen since its debut in in March of 2012.  Its soaring popularity is due mostly to viewer interest in the show’s colorful “cast” of “characters” from the Robertson Family, owners of the Duck Commander brand and subjects of the show.

One of these characters is family patriarch, Phil Robertson.  Almost every show ends with Phil asking a blessing over a family meal.  In his prayer, Phil usually utters the words, “Thank you Lord for another day on planet Earth.”  People unfamiliar with the New Testament might hear these words and think little if anything about them.  After all, what is so special about another day on planet Earth that God should be specifically thanked for it?  Phil is a millionaire with a large family and he’s thanking God for just another day?!?!  Surely waking up, going about one’s day, and eating one’s dinner isn’t anything special.  It happens every day.  It’s not a miracle, it is?

It is a miracle.  Phil’s prayer exhibits an understanding of a deep theological truth.  All things hold together in Christ.  (Colossians 1:17).  Every second of every day, Christ is sustaining existence itself.  Every day on planet Earth is a gift of God to be appreciated.   All things were created through Christ (John 1:3) and it is He whole perpetuates our existence.  We should thank God every day for that.

Dear God, thank you for Jesus and another day on planet Earth.

Job 1:1-12 by Seth Dunn

Job 1:1-12

“Have you considered My servant Seth?”

I wonder if God will ever ask Satan this question about me. On the one hand, it would be an indicator that I was living a blameless and upright life before the Lord. On the other hand, it would be an indicator that Satan was about to be put me through the wringer.

Long ago, God asked Satan, “Have you considered my servant, Job.” Job, a very wealthy man, lost all his worldly possessions when God removed the hedge of protection He had placed around Job and allowed Satan to affect Job’s life. Job even lost his wife and children to the devices of the devil. Satan took everything from Job but his very life.
The Bible says, “Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.”

People have a tendency, when calamity befalls them, to blame God and even act out in a sinful manner. They also have a tendency to wonder if God is punishing them for some heinous sin they have committed. (John 9:2). But who among us ever affixes the blame for our misfortune to Satan?

As in the days of Job, Satan is roaming the earth seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8). Satan is on a clear mission to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10) Maybe he has already destroyed something in your life. But one thing he cannot destroy or devour, if you have placed your faith in God through his son Jesus Christ, is your life itself. 

It is your life that Jesus came to save, not your possessions. Find your value in serving God and not in the things that Satan can take away.
Praise be to the name of the Lord