2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 8,000 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Fall 2014 topics for Fresh Read

wileerunningI have been running like a cartoon character recently.  You know the scene, where the legs are going but the person is stationary. Yet, at last I came up with a fall schedule for sermons and classes. So, of course, Fresh Read topics will be tied to these and whatever idea falls out of the tree to hit me on the head.

Delivering the Good News – how the speeches in Acts demonstrate speaking the gospel to different kinds of people, from people of faith, to polytheists.

Science and Faith – I plan to do three weeks of topics on how Christians have responded to Darwin in particular, look at the responses of opposition, accommodation and dialogue. In the last I want to treat B. B. Warfield as the Theologian of the Year.  He engaged Darwin in correspondence – interesting for the “Father of Inerrancy”.

Finances – the Bible does not give a full fledged financial plan (despite some books to the contrary) but it does speak about finances and material things, so we will talk about giving, generosity, simplicity and planning. In one case I set the
Sermon on the Mount (chapter 6) beside Proverbs (chapter 6) and say ,”what gives?”

A Slow Train Coming – I want to explore a few texts that were fulfilled in the birth of Jesus – mostly from the account in Matthew’s gospel.

Then after all this, we return to Matthew part 2, from Chapter 15 to the end.

I am also teaching a class at Christian Life College on Isaiah.

Two Book Retreats – the Bridges Class

willybridgeReaders of this blog will have seen posts about the two books of revelation, nature (general revelation) and scripture (special revelation.)  I have started a small side business to promote the idea that we can explore nature artistically and spiritually.  The website is here: Two Book Retreats

Together with an artist, Nancy Macgregor, we will offer the class “Bridges along the Yahara River” which combines learning how to do watercolor sketches with an appreciation of this natural setting in central Madison and an opportunity for spiritual reflection.

Further information is available here – Bridges Class

The Side Rock Cafe – my Smoky Mountain retreat

a quiet place in the Smoky Mountains

a quiet place in the Smoky Mountains

 

I have a restful week in the Smoky Mountains as part of a Sabbath Rest gathering.  One of my activities was to stop and look at the world so check out my watercolor sketches here .

This sketch is from along a hiking trail in the Smoky Mountains – I did not get to the big falls, but had a pleasant lunch at my own personal “Side Rock Cafe.”

I plan to do some exploring of this theme here at Fresh Read – while we are not under the legal regulations of the Sabbath, we continue to have the invitation, which we can take at any time where the Lord says, “just stop and spend some time with me, with my words and works.”

If you are in Madison and want to try a local version, Two Book Retreats will be offering a class this June and July along the Yahara River – see the link here.

 

Sabbatical

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I’ll be on a sabbatical week where I can do some reading, thinking and walking around looking at trees and rocks.  My reading list includes

  • the Bible – but not all of it.
  • The Lost World of Scripture by John Walton
  • Meditation and Communion with God by John Jefferson Davis
  • The Unfolding Mystery of the Divine Name, Michael Knowles
  • Bridging the Diversity Gap by Alvin Sanders

 

Milestones – 20 and 8

yahara.1012

We arrived on Good Friday, April 1, 1994 to take up the position of Pastor at Bethany Evangelical Free Church. Today marks 20 years in the same place.

Observations:

  • the 20 years have been different – no two repeated.
  • We talked about looking more like the neighborhood, so we are now multicultural (with four language groups partnering at this location) but we have not really see that many from the Isthmus community make a connection here.
  • I once said that I thought the church could grow in this location to about 200.  That is roughly the number of active participants of the three congregations here now (Bethany English and Lao Fellowship, Nueva Vida and Greater Madison Chinese EFC)
  • There have been major trends passing by in the ministry world:  “seeker driven” was in its heyday, now “missional” is.  We are a bit ahead of the curve with ‘chaos theory ministry.”
  • Oh yes, the internet was kind of showing up to the non-geek crowd – I remember the hubbub over Windows 95.
  • I take a much more literary approach to Biblical study than I did – and will not be going back.

About 8 years ago I started this blog.  The name came to me in the shower.  I hoped to keep the Jesus Junk and in-house churchy talk to a minimum and provide a place where people who are curious about the bible will want to explore.  It has turned out to also keep on conversations with folks I have known over the years.  Many of my posts are test runs for sermon or class ideas.

  • The NIV changed to the New NIV. I use it but I don’t like it much.
  • The ESV is a nice study text, but I am not in love with it either.
  • The ESV Literary Bible is great, except for sepia toned small print – what were they thinking?
  • Something like 55,000 people have visited the site, but more see it through Facebook.  That is about 10 times the size of the town I grew up in.  But maybe Port Orchard made multiple visits.
  • Adding pictures doubles the readership of a blog
  • The most read post is still “A visit to the ant hill” based on Proverbs 6:6.

As far as I know I will continue with Bethany and Fresh Read…but that is up to the Boss.

Is Faster Better? On preaching Matthew

question.guy

 

I am preaching in Matthew, more or less a chapter at a time.  Now I have come to Matthew 5 – and as far as I am concerned, I could spend the rest of the year on the Sermon on the Mount.  However, to study Matthew as a whole with any kind of sense of progress, I am taking the Sermon a chapter at a time – really taking a nice tasty bite out of each chapter.

Now here is your part.  Would you prefer your preacher to show down in passages that are as rich and dense as the Sermon on the Mount, or are you ok with keeping the pace going.  The side information is that I also follow the sermon text in the Adult class on Sundays.

What is your opinion? Is faster better? or do you like slow?

 

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Pappa Don’t Preach!

annunciationThat headline was just a way to draw Madonna fans into reading this blog….

I’ll be preaching on OT Characters with the title of “Profiles in Courage” and then from Advent to Summer I will be in the Gospel of Matthew.   Those items will most likely show the focus of this blog this year.

I enjoy the ESV Literary Study Bible, which noted that Matthew includes two stories in the Birth Narrative.  the first of which is a very simple Birth story. We usually read Luke 2 at Christmas events bc it feels more substantial.  What I noticed is that the long debates over the virgin births slightly miss Matthew’s point, which is that Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit.  This is stated twice in such a way that the birth is seen as remarkable.  The theology of Paul or the later church were not inventing theology when they debated Christology.  The “Virgin Birth” puts the emphasis on Mary – who is a willing servant.  Matthew puts the emphasis on the Holy Spirit – that is God has done this unprecedented thing.

Matthew 1:18-25 – ESV

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.   ESV