Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Herod who??

I must admit, I still get confused by all those Herods mentioned in the New Testament. To keep them straight, I find it helpful to read the biblical text with a genealogy of Herod's family at my side (here's one from the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible).

Well, so much for simplicity. Even this chart looks more like an engineering schematic than a family tree. To boil it all down, there are four key members of Herod's family mentioned in the Gospels...

Herod the Great. This is the original Herod of them all. The very name sent shivers up the spine of ancient Jews. Son of Antipater, he was a cunning politician, ruthless dictator, and brilliant architect. He was responsible for constructing the temple mount in Jerusalem, fortress palaces at Herodium and Masada, and a harbor at Caesarea -- all which continue to astound archaeologists and engineers today. In addition to killing several kin who threatened his throne, Herod murdered all the young boys in Bethlehem at the news that a baby king named Jesus had been born (Mt. 2:16). Herod died a short time later, splitting his kingdom between three sons.

Herod Philip - son of Herod the Great through his wife Cleopatra. Ruled over a vast area of NE Palestine until AD 34. The city of Caesarea Philippi up in the foothills gets its name from this man.

Herod Antipas - son of Herod the Great through his wife Malthace. Ruled over Galilee and Perea until AD 39. Antipas is the one who stole Herodias from another half-brother named Philip (Mt. 14:3) and was responsible for executing John the Baptist (Mt. 14:10). He's also the Herod who appears during the Roman trial of Jesus (Lk. 23:7).

Archelaus - Another son of Herod the Great through his wife Malthace. A vicious and inept king who ruled for about a decade over Judea and Samaria, but was de-throned while Jesus was still a child (he is mentioned only in Mt. 2:22). By the time Jesus began His public ministry, this region had long been taken away from Herodian control and assigned to Roman procurators/governors.

There are even more descendants of Herod mentioned in the book of Acts, but I won't take time to discuss them now. Here's a map from the Holman Bible Atlas showing the political boundaries right after Herod the Great's death. This is how Israel looked when Jesus' family returned from Egypt and settled up in Nazareth.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book review: Wycliffe Bible Commentary

Someone recently asked me what I thought of the Wycliffe Bible Commentary. Overall, it's a good conservative commentary.

Though relatively brief (the 1990 edition is only one volume), the WBC goes a step deeper than today's Study Bibles like the MSB, ESV, and HCSB which have notes alongside the text. However, it's certainly not as deep (or expensive) as a more scholarly multi-volume commentary. The WBC is rather dated (originally published in the early 60s) and fairly light on application, but could be a very good starter tool for Bible students and teachers.

Jim Rosscup, in his book Commentaries for Biblical Expositors, says, “Conservative and premillennial scholars here have been experts in their fields. The work contains brief introductions and attempts to give a verse-by-verse exposition, though it does skip over some verses. The treatments vary with the authors, but as a whole it is a fine one-volume commentary for pastors and students to use or give to a layman. Outstanding sections include, for example: Whitcomb on Ezra-Nehemiah-Ester; Culver on Daniel; Ladd on Acts; Harrison on Galatians; Johnson on 1 Corinthians; and Ryrie on Johannine Epistles.”

Below is a description from the book’s introduction:
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary is an entirely new commentary on the whole Bible written and edited by a number of scholars representing a wide cross section of American Protestant Christianity. Within the limits of its more than a million and one-quarter words, it attempts to treat the entire text of the Old and New Testaments on a phrase by phrase basis. In addition, summaries of the major sections of each Biblical book generally appear in the text in connection with the main headings in the outline. Thus, the reader is permitted an overview and a detailed discussion of a passage of Scripture at the same time.

In the commentaries on the various books the writers present the results of their own careful, personal Bible study. But also they have preserved some of the best work of the older commentators and have utilized the insights of contemporary scholarship. While they infuse the whole with a fresh spirit, at the same time they manifest their unflinching belief in the divine inspiration of Holy Scripture...

The basic aim of this volume is to determine the meaning of the text of Scripture. It is therefore, strictly speaking, neither a devotional nor a technical exegetical treatment. It seeks to present the Biblical message in such a way that the serious Bible student will find extensive help within its pages.

If you're looking for a single-volume commentary on the Bible, then the Wycliffe Bible Commentary may be just for you.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Welcome, Abigail!

Praise the Lord! Abigail Adelle Jones was born yesterday at 1:08 pm. She weighed 7 lbs. 14 oz. and is 19.75" long. Thank you all for your prayers.

Natalie had very heavy post-delivery bleeding, clotting, and sharp pain for about five hours. Finally, the doctor did a DNC which revealed a small placenta lobe still attached to the uterus that was causing the bleeding. Once back from OR and stabilized, she received four units of blood and is now doing much better. She gets her first meal this morning. Thursday was a long day full of pain and frightening moments, but we knew God was with us and felt His grace in many ways. There are so many reasons to be thankful.

The doctors did their first ultrasound on Abigail for her hydronephrosis. We’ll get an update sometime today of what needs to be done next. The cupping on the right kidney is still there, so we will probably be referred to a specialist, but don’t know how much of this will happen while we’re still at the hospital. Thankfully, Abigail is eating and going to the bathroom normally and showing no signs of discomfort. She’s a precious little girl, and we’re enjoying lots of cuddles after yesterday’s excitement.

Thanks for your continued prayers for Natalie and Abigail. The doctor will probably keep them in the hospital at least through Sunday morning.

Friday, February 4, 2011

5-month enhancement campaign underway

Over the past 25 years, God has blessed First Southern Baptist Church of Yucca Valley with a very comfortable and adequate facility. But the time has come to make some repairs and improvements. In 2011, we hope to enhance our facility in four key areas.

First, we need to replace stolen equipment and expand our preschool playground to be more kid- and family-friendly. Second (and the most urgent), we need to repair our leaking sanctuary roof with a new Fibertite roofing system and skylights. Third, we need to upgrade our sound system with new microphones, speakers, and wiring to better broadcast God’s Word. Finally, we need a new front sign to help invite our neighbors. These four components will not only get us back up to standard, but will improve our ability to minister to people in the 21st century.

This project represents the fruit of many hours of prayer and research by our church leaders. As I recently noted from 2 Chronicles 24, “how we care for God’s house reflects how much we care about God.” This is a great opportunity to love God and support His work here in the Morongo Basin.

This Friday and Saturday, we're encouraging families to take time to pray and assess what the Lord is leading them to give. Then on Sunday, during the worship service, we’ll pray together for this project, humbly ask for God’s blessing, and quietly make our pledges before the Lord. The pledges are just a tool for each family’s benefit to take a step of faith and set a bold, yet attainable, goal. They will also help our stewardship committee in planning the timeline and extent of our repairs. The commitment cards will look like this:

We pledge, by God’ grace, to give above our regular offering...

$ ________ a Week for 21 Weeks (or)
$ ________ a Month for 5 Months (or)
$ ________ Total Amount
[  ] We cannot currently make a commitment, but pledge to pray for this campaign.

All names and individual amounts will be kept confidential. We realize that someone's amount may even need to be revised or cancelled should circumstances make it necessary. But I think we will find our pledges to be a helpful benchmark as the year unfolds.

This is an exciting moment at First Southern as we unite together, give joyfully, and watch the Lord provide!

Please pray with us for this important campaign, and if the Lord lays it on your heart, consider making a donation of any amount to support our church ministry.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

God never fumbles

Next Sunday, over 100 million people are expected to watch Super Bowl XLV, making it the most viewed TV event in American history.

Imagine the pressure on these players! They’ve spent every waking moment of their lives preparing for this single game, and it’s winner take all. Every play will be crucial. Every pass. Every rush. Every tackle. Every kick. A single play could change momentum and spell victory or defeat. One misplaced finger on the ball could result in a fumble. One misjudged pass could cause an interception.

This year’s matchup promises to be a good game, but in the end, it’s still a game. I’m so thankful that with the weightier matters of life -- like heaven and hell -- there’s no risk of a fumble. If God is carrying you in His arms, then your salvation is secure. He’ll never drop you or let the Enemy strip you out of His hands.

Jesus Christ our Good Shepherd says, “My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish – ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).

This is a wonderful promise for those who belong to Christ. Are you one of His sheep? Christ’s sheep hear His voice calling and follow Him. They admit they are lost and need to be rescued from sin. They trust in His atoning sacrifice, when He laid down His life for the sheep and then took it up again on the third day. Have you done this?

If you’re one of Christ’s sheep, then nothing can snatch you out of His hands! Satan can’t snatch you; the Destroyer is impotent against the power of God. Unbelievers can’t snatch you; they can mock and even threaten you, but they can’t lay a finger on your soul. Suffering can’t snatch you; even when life is most painful, God will help you persevere and walk by faith rather than sight.

As one man said, “It’s not finally our hold on Christ, but Christ’s hold on us. And praise God, he will never let us go!” What a comfort to know God never fumbles.

This article appeared in the Minister's Message of today's local newspaper, the Hi-Desert Star

Photo credit: kungfubonanza

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sovereign Grace sale

New from Sovereign Grace Ministries...

Our annual February Sale kicks off today, and this year we are dropping our prices a little lower than in the past: 30% or more off books, music, DVDs, and everything else in the store. Free U.S. shipping remains in place for orders of $15 or more. 

Here is a sampling of the deals available:

New Blog

Today I'm closing up shop and launching a new blog called Pinch of Clay. You can visit it by clicking here . Please stop by and...