The origins of religion are lost in the mists of ancient history. We have no knowledge of worship and theology prior to about 5,000 years ago, so it is not really possible to say what the oldest religion may have been. For this reason, it may be better to focus on the size of the world’s religions and a brief description of the five largest.
Christianity, the World’s Largest Religious Group
It is clear that the most prevalent religion of the present time is Christianity, with over 2 billion members. Statistics assert that about a third of the world’s population identifies itself as Christian. This is not to say that Christians are unified in their beliefs. Christianity encompasses thousands of different groups of adherents.
Most Christians do agree on a few basic tenets, such as the Trinity, atonement, and salvation by grace. However, there is great division on the meaning of these terms and the interpretation of the Bible. Certainly, all Christian churches center their beliefs on the person of Jesus Christ.
Islam, the Second Most Prevalent Religion
Islam encompasses about 23% of the world’s population with around 1.57 billion adherents. The Qu’ran is their holy book, but they also acknowledge the Bible and refer to Christians and Jews as “people of the Book.” The name Islam is based on the Arabic word “salam” and means submission. A Muslim is one who submits himself or herself to the will of Allah.
The great prophet of Islam is Muhammad (peace be upon him), who was born in the late 6th century. He was orphaned at a young age and was brought up by an uncle. As a child, he worked as a shepherd and later as a camel driver and finally a manager of caravans. He met many religious people, Christians, Jews, and adherents of Pagan religions. His ministry began when he was about 40 years old. He worked to convert his countrymen from pagan beliefs to worshiping the one true God.
It may seem odd to refer to people who declare no religion as a religious group, but about half of them are theistic. They simply do not adhere to any formal religion. This is the third largest division, although it is much smaller than Islam, about 16% of the world’s population. The group includes atheists, agnostics, and theists who consider themselves independent.
Hinduism is the only prevalent religion of modern times that still follows pantheism. About 14% of the people of the world adhere to this ancient religion. Unlike the other major religions, Hinduism does not have a single founder, a specific theology, a single deity or holy book, or a central religious authority. Thousands of different groups that follow different deities have evolved since around 1500 BC and are now encompassed under the name Hindu. Hinduism claims about 950 million followers and is the major religion of India and Nepal.
Chinese Traditional Religion and Buddhism
Both Chinese Traditional Religion and Buddhism claim around 6% of the world’s population, with 394 million Chinese Traditionalists and 376 million Buddhists. The core beliefs of Buddhism center around reincarnation and rebirth. In reincarnation, a person may be born repeatedly as a human. In rebirth, the person may come back in a different life form. The process continues until the individual is able to relinquish self and desire and achieve Nirvana.
Chinese Traditional Religion includes elements of Buddhism, Chinese folk religion, Taoism, Confucianism, and ancestor worship. This tradition evolved over thousands of years.
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Religious items offer several benefits to religious devotees around the globe. Iconic symbols of the faith bring comfort and provide protection or assistance. Books allow the reader to glean new understanding about the religion’s beliefs and practices. Clothing and accessories advertise one’s beliefs and remind the wearer to live up to the founder’s teachings. Gift items allow religious followers to share their faith with friends, family, or strangers. Children’s toys, stationary, and music remain additional tools people purchase. Find religious items for sale in various locations in nearly any community.
Religious bookstores sell new inventory ranging from tiny pins to large guitars. Purchase items for personal use or for a community outreach. Find curriculum for classes and items to advertise special events. A bookstore orders out of stock, specialty, and personalized items for patrons and offers shipping for out of town customers.
Religious college bookstores also sell books, stationary, and other items. College students, alumni, and the public patronize these bookstores to purchase textbooks and gift items.
Churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, or reading rooms occasionally offer religious items for sale in a bookstore on site or at special functions. Fundraising events and community outreaches provide excellent opportunities to purchase religious materials and mementos.
Yard sales provide bargains on books and icons. Scout neighborhood yard sales. Additionally, religious communities often cooperate to provide one large yard sale each year to fund their operations or charities. Contact an interfaith organization to find local cooperative yard sales.
Estate auctions provide large and small lots of artifacts, antiques, and modern religious items. While available inventory varies, purchasers may inspect the items before purchase.
Thrift stores accept donations of nearly any object or written material. Occasionally, one discovers unusual or rare items in various conditions sitting on thrift store shelves. Support the local economy and find bargains while treasure hunting.
Newspaper classifieds and Craigslist advertisements connect individuals wishing to buy and sell religious items. Browse detailed descriptions or photos, and purchase one or more items from neighbors.
Free clothing giveaways sponsored by religious groups sell or give religious items to community members. Donate unwanted items to support neighbors in need.
Religious retreat centers offer items for retreat participants or public customers during business hours. Find educational and motivational materials while relaxing away from the stress and activity of daily life.
Online catalogues sell various items virtually anywhere in the world. Find popular books, music, household items, and toys to inspire your faith and share your beliefs.
Radio stations frequently offer community events and activities to promote local religious events, conferences, and concerts or to support local charities and services. They sell and give away clothing and other mementos. Attend these events to support community organizations and charitable causes.
Concerts and conferences invite various religious retailers from surrounding areas to set up a table with their products. Attendees find materials related to the theme or written by the featured speaker and bring the event home to share with others.
For inspiration, buy religious items at various locations throughout the community. Share the faith and values that improve life and one’s perspective while supporting local economy and businesses.
There have been numerous companies which have based their concept of running a business on principles found in the Bible. Some of these companies have become highly successful at what they have been able to accomplish through their companies. Some of these companies also use Scripture references or other principles on their products.
Chick-Fil-A is a well-known company who has succeeded in the fast food chain business in spite of taking Sundays off. The company has chosen to stick to the belief that Sunday should be a day of rest and luckily this doesn’t affect their payroll program. The Chick-Fil-A team still gets good wages despite only working 6 out of the 7 days in the week. The meals for kids often have toys or booklets which teach important Christian principles such as giving and sharing with other children.
In addition to Chick-Fil-A, In-N-Out Burger is another highly successful fast food chain. This business has succeeded by sticking to quality hamburgers. Scripture verses can be found on their products such as their drink cups or on hamburger wrappers. For example, John 3:16 can be found on the bottom of the cups used for their soft drinks.
Forever 21 is a clothing company which focuses on young women. The popular Scripture reference, John 3:16, can be found on the bottom of the bags for the store. This verse demonstrates the importance of the faith and Biblical principles that the owners base their company upon.
Tyson Foods, Inc.
Although Tyson Foods may not outwardly demonstrate their Christian principles on their chicken products, their faith is demonstrated on the payroll. Chaplains are employed to help minister to their employees at both corporate offices and production facilities. Tyson has also expanded the importance of faith in the school setting by creating the Tyson Center for Faith and Spirituality in the Workplace. This educational center can be found at the University of Arkansas.
Hobby Lobby is an arts and crafts store which bases their mission statement on Biblical principles. In the mission statement, the company emphasizes the importance of the company’s operation lining up with the Bible. They also give God the credit for the provision and success of the Hobby Lobby company. This company has also been known for their ads they take out around the holidays which displays their Christian beliefs.
Herman Miller is a manufacturer of furniture which is based in Michigan. The founders of this company emphasize the importance of religious principles found in the tradition of Reformed Protestants. Their company practices also emphasize the importance of human dignity and their environmental philanthropy efforts.
Service Master is a corporation which owns companies like American Home Shield and Terminix. The founder of this corporation has always emphasized the importance of glorifying God in all he did. The founder of this company sees each customer or employee as a person who is made in God’s image and a person worthy of respect and dignity.
Whether outwardly displayed on their products or a quiet demonstration of religious beliefs and character, many religious companies have produced successful companies. When owners strive to produce high-quality merchandise and base their companies on Biblical principles, people take notice. This focus has created numerous highly successful companies in the marketplace.
Many religious institutions and individuals are wondering how to save money on religious items. There are many ways to accomplish this and the following article will discuss the advantages of some of the methods. Frugality benefits everyone and allows the individual or institution to do more with their funds to benefit the greater good.
One of the best ways to save money on religious items is to buy in bulk. If you are having a fundraiser and looking to have a large quantity of one item to offer as a prize or reward, there are many catalogues available that will lower the price if the items are purchased in larger quantities. The companies that offer these discounts often have whole sections of their catalogues dedicated to religious items and themes. One such company is Oriental Trading Company. They deal with imports from China and have many small and inexpensive items that make the perfect rewards for bible camp or Sunday school instruction.
Another great source of discounted religious items is Ebay. There are many groups selling religious items that they no longer use. Many of these items are in excellent condition and are only gently used. Still others are completely brand new. Be certain to pay close attention to the item description so that you know exactly what you are getting. When using Ebay it is also recommended that you pay through a trusted source such as PayPal. This way, both the buyer and the seller have recourse if there is a problem with the transaction. In addition, this site also offers you the ability to ask the seller of an item some questions if you have concerns over the condition of an item.
One of the hardest items to purchase are funeral caskets because it is such a hard time in peoples lives and, for some people, having a customized or very religious burial ceremony and coffin is important not only to the deceased but also their families. The internet has made it easy to buy caskets and cremation urns for your loved ones.
Buying groups are another great way to get religious items at a discount. These groups are usually affiliated with one denomination or faith and specialize in acquiring discounts for groups that exercise the same faith. By purchasing for multiple groups, these buying groups are offered a discount on the items from the manufacturer. Many of these groups operate as not for profit, so you do not have to wonder if your money is going to a cause that is not in line with your particular beliefs.
Traveling to the area or country where a certain religion is practiced is another great way to purchase discounted items. An example would be items that express or celebrate the Hindu faith. These items can be very expensive if shopped for in the West, but if the interested party were to travel to India then they can find them for pennies on the dollar. A second example involves practitioners of Santeria. While those in rural areas may have difficulty locating these items or may be charged a great sum for them, those in the cities where the faith is practiced can save a lot of money on these items. Cities such as New York and Los Angeles are filled with bodegas that sell items involved in the practice of Santeria at reasonable prices.
Expressing faith through items is a time honored tradition. Sometimes these items are worn, while other times they are simply used as decorative trimmings to a home. These items can often be purchased at a discount if they are ordered in large amounts, so it is helpful to align yourself with other believers that are in need of the same items. In this way, you will not only save money but will open yourself up to fellowship with others that share in your particular faith. This savings will allow you to offer greater tithes and use your money for other purposes.
Today’s world is smaller than ever thanks to the Internet. Communication can still be done face to face even if you are thousands of miles away from the person you are communicating with. This really helps if you are far away from your family and don’t always get to see them. While talking on the phone, or writing letters, is nice, it can never replace face to face communication.
Some Chat Applications Are Cheaper Than Using A Phone
If you have a smartphone, or a tablet, you might notice that there are plenty of free apps that allow you to talk face to face for free. Using your smartphone, and a solid Internet connection, you can use VoIP service programs to chat and talk for free. Apps like Skype are very popular and easy to use as long as you have a webcam.
Your Internet Connection Makes Communication Easy
If you are stuck in Chicago and your parents are in California, you aren’t going to see them often. However, if you have video chat technology, you can easily turn on your computer and it feels like you are in the room with them. You will be able to see and hear everyone around you as if you are actually with your family. It is easily the next best thing to being home.
Today’s Technology Is Easy To Use
It might seem like your parents or grandparents would have a hard time figuring out how to video chat. However, it is as easy as opening a program on your computer these days. Webcams are easy enough to install, or come pre-installed on newer tablet computers. This means anyone can easily set up and enjoy a web chat program.
In some cases, it is as easy as opening your e-mail. If you have used GMail, you know that you can link to Google+ from there. Google+ has a video chat application that allows you to have real time conversations with those who are in your circles, or friends in Google speak. You still need to have some sort of wedcam installed, but you don’t need any special software.
Capture The Moment
Say your sister is giving birth, but you have a big meeting to attend to. Never fear, your video software will put you in the room in real time. You can see your niece right when she is born and not have to miss any of the experience, or you can look away if there was anything you really didn’t need to see. It can be a great way to be there when your son takes part in his first Little League game when you are stuck at work, or if you are sick and can’t go anywhere.
Video technology makes it easier than ever to be in touch with your family and to be part of the moment. Whether you are laid up in bed and can’t get out, or you are 3,000 miles away from home and just want to talk to your parents every so often, there is nothing better than knowing you are no farther away from home than your computer. That can make being away so much easier.
Many people associate websites with either businesses or individual use of s social networking sort. However these days virtually every organization has a website of some kind. Church groups are no exception. If you want to create a website foe your church group it is fairly easy to do so. The following are some steps and suggestions for creating a website for your church group:
Decide Web Design Level
You first need to decide what level of web design you would like to implement. These days there are many very user friendly plat forms for creating websites and blogs with very little technical expertise or knowledge of web design. There are generalized sites and web hosts that allow you to essentially choose a domain name or create your site as a subdomain and then design the site in a wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) manner using software they provide right on their website.
The other option is to use a web design program. In this scenario, you design the website on your own computer and then upload it to a web host. This is discussed a bit further below.
Choose Domain Name
You should probably begin by choosing a domain name. This will be the name or word that comes after the “www” in the web address. You may want to have the domain name be the name of your church as all one word or use a word that in some way relates to it. However it is important to realize that domain names must actually be purchased and registered for use. Two websites cannot have the same domain name. So you need to search and see if a specific domain name is already in use or not. Web hosts sell domain names (for a nominal fee such as $10.00 a year) and can perform searches to see if the name you have chosen is available, register it for you, and so on.
Thus it is important to make your domain name as original and unique as possible. A names such as unitedmethodistchurch.org will probably already be in use. You might add the name of your town or in some other way alter the name so it is less likely to be taken by another church group.
Choose a web host to host the website. This is simply a company with a large computer, or server, on which your website is loaded and through which it is accessed by the rest of the internet. As noted above, often these websites have their own easy to use web design software that allow you design a website in a simple, visual, point and click manner. If you instead choose to use web design software of your own that is done on your own computer as outlined below.
A common way to design a website is to design it on your own computer and then upload it to the web hosting company’s server. Programs like Dreamweaver can be used for this and are fairly user friendly. Use this program to design the website and then upload it when you are finished. There will be instructions from the web provider for the exact protocol for uploading the site.
What to Include on the Website
Your website may consist only of one page or several interconnected pages. Often having 2 or three pages makes the site more interesting and useful, but it is fine to have only one if you want to spend minimal time on it and only give basic information. You might include a home page that tells the name of your church group and has a picture, an about page that describes the group, and events page that lists church group events, and a contact page that gives the address where the group is based along with the phone number and email address. The graphics may be simple or complex. But a good general rule is to go for clarity and simplicity and not overdo it with the bells and whistles. You can include animated elements and so forth if you wish, but try not to distract the site visitor with them.
That’s about all there is to it. Once the site is designed, it will either already be online with the host company (being an online software system as mentioned above) or will need to be uploaded to the host. After the site activation or upload the site will be ready to start receiving visitors! Test the site out to make sure it is accessible and works properly. Then have fun with the site and tell all the group members to visit it.
Religion is ubiquitous and timeless. Every society, since the dawn of time, has created one. Ostensibly generated to explain Life, the Universe and Everything, religion is a rarefied and subtle thing. The following examples are offered to illustrate this concept.
All born in the Middle East, the three major religions of the Western world share a common fount. It seems incredible but Judaism, Islam and Christianity are all derived from a common forefather, the prophet Abraham. Undeniably, however, each religion values a different aspect of this remarkable man.
This theology states that Jesus Christ died and was reborn to redeem the souls of all believers. Founded in the year 1, it has grown and prospered to include all nationalities. The Catholic Church, its Protestant sisters and the Orthodox churches of Europe all remain powerful forces both morally and financially. The Bible contains their teachings and the Word of God.
Long the victim of pogroms and other persecutions, the Jews have exhibited a remarkable tenacity for maintaining their beliefs in the face of incredible adversity. Despite their small numbers, the Jews have proven their resolve and have been a potent force in every society for the past 3000 years. This religion is guided by the Torah which contains the knowledge of Yahweh.
From Mecca to Medina and beyond, Mohammed has shone proud as the architect of Muslim theology. The recollection of his journey beckons one and all to submit to the will of Allah. The Muslim religion demands respect and admiration. The Koran contains the teachings of Mohammed and the Word of Allah.
Buddhism, Hinduism and Shintoism form the major triad of the Eastern religions. Fundamentally different from the Western canon, they offer a varied, humanitarian alternative to the Judeo-Christian tradition. These Taoist religions share a reverence for love, moderation and humility.
Literally meaning “the way of the gods”, Shinto embraces both nature and one’s ancestors. Practitioners of Shinto commonly affirm family, nature, tradition, cleanliness and ritual observation as core values. A proper respect for these values is necessary for a balanced life and spirit.
In this religion’s philosophy, karma and dharma test the character of every individual. The tests are not limited to one’s immediate life but continue through successive rebirths. Generally recognized as the oldest extant religion, Hinduism relies on the Vedas and Upanishads for moral authority.
The one and only Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, founded this religion in the fifth century. Its central tenets are the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The goal of an individual is to attain enlightenment and thus end the perpetual cycle of birth, death and reincarnation.
There are any number of less popular religions that have garnered significant numbers of devotees. Jains, Sikhs, Mormons, the Bahai and many others compete with each other in this unbelievably proselytized world. In every case, each religion offers up its innocence and gets repaid with scorn.
In the end, each religion is the height of folly. No inducement will alter the perspective of its practitioners. In their eyes, their faith contains the unique truth. The unbeliever must recognize that truth as they perceive it or be doomed.
After a few years, I’m closing DesertFather. Lots have changed, including myself, and it’s time to symbolize that with a fresh start. From here on out, I will be blogging at doxologie.org. This site will remain up. My wife may be blogging sporadically there as well.
I write daily devotionals for the church, posted on an internal network. This one hits home for me, and I thought I’d bring it out to the public. It’s from Judges 3.
I want to focus on the most epic story in the chapter, the story of Ehud and Eglon. The intro is pretty usual, a rebellious king (Eglon) has captured the people of Israel, and a leader is raised up to free the people (Ehud). But then the story gets…messy.
In short, here’s what happens: Eglon’s a bit on the heavy side (ok, a lot on the heavy side). Ehud, a left-handed man, straps a short-sword to his right thigh for easy drawing. He enters Eglon’s private chambers (bathroom included), and ends up stabbing up. The short sword is swallowed by Eglon’s fat stomach. With me so far? Good. Here’s where it gets messy.
21 And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. 22 And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not pull the sword out of his belly; and the dung came out. (ESV)
The sword pierces Eglon’s intestinal tract, evidently, to the point where his dung comes out, which is smelled by everyone in the vicinity. In fact, they think he’s using the bathroom, until they realize he’s dead.
And that’s the lesson I want to learn. What?
Let me explain. Whenever I see a ‘sword’ in Scripture, my mind goes to this verse:
17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, (ESV).
The sword that the Spirit carries around is the Word of God, or what we know as the Bible. And here’s the thing I’ve learned:
When the sword of Scripture pierces my core, it reveals my crap.
My sin, shortcomings, and how far short I really am of God’s glory is revealed whenever I read and study Scripture. But thankfully, I don’t have to smell good for God to accept me. I can smell like feces and still be loved by Him. Why?
2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (ESV)
Because Christ smells wonderful to the Father.
Here are some resolutions for 2010:
- To love Jesus, my wife, and my forthcoming children unconditionally and sacrificially.
- To look at my body as a method of worship. I need to lose about 10 pounds.
- I will be preaching, praying, working for this city [Greenville], even harder this year.
- To consistently and continually battle sin in my own life.
- To consistently and continually make disciples who make disciples.
- To seek God’s will in the future of the Brown family with regards to the cities of Greenville and Washington, DC.
- To launch a new blog this week.
I know it’s been awhile since the last update, so here are some thoughts in my favorite format, bulleted list.
- We’re having twins! Miranda and I went to the OB/GYN, and to our delightful surprise, we saw two little Brown youngin’s on the sonogram monitor. Wow! We don’t know the gender yet, and trust me, you won’t be the first to know. Sorry ’bout that.
- Some may call me a nut, and in fact, I’ve called other people nuts for saying something like this, but I really think that 2010 is going to be the year that we see revival in Greenville on a large scale. I’m praying earnestly that the Spirit would move mightily through the churches and rebels here in Greenville to bring people to Himself. I just see so much momentum at Harmony Church right now! We’re launching the City, partnering with a college ministry to reach ECU students, taking God & Guinness up a notch, resuming our work with 3rd Street School, launching a new online presence, and, of course, continuing to preach Jesus relentlessly!
- The book of Judges is awesome.
- Glad for this Christmas break, but at the same time stoked about preaching through John again in January. In fact, here’s the preaching schedule for next year (all is tentative, of course):
- January 3rd-February 14th: Resuming John, picking up John 8:12, ending at John 10:42.
- February 21st-March 21st: Bride Series, examining the structure (elders, deacons, partners) and makeup (church as body, church as bride) of the Church.
- March 28th-June 20th: Resuming John, from John 11:1-John 14:31.
- June 27th-July 25th: Annual Summer OT Series (Habakkuk).
- August 1st-Aug 15th: Vision Series (GCM)
- August 22nd – December 5th: John 15:1-John 20:31.
- December: May finish John, may do Christmas series. Unknown as of yet.
- Excited about the City, and the opportunities it will create for us as a church.
- Stoked about date night this coming Friday!
- Excited about Christmas! The reason for the season: the Cross.
- It’s all I got now.
I’ve heard it said that 2 signs of a healthy & growing church are physical babies and spiritual babies; births and new births. That being said, I’m proud to announce that over the past year, we’ve baptized 6 brand-new, first-time believers (not ‘re-dedications’, either, real baptisms [sorry to the number-fakers]), and seen our first newborn baby, Jordan Baker (of which I am the proud Godfather).
This next year, who knows what God is going to do spiritually in people’s hearts, but we already are seeing His work in ladies’ wombs: my wife is pregnant with our first (yay!) and our close friends, Brad and Hope, are expecting as well (our due dates are a week apart – that’s a tight Home Group)!
Our worship director (Pablo) texted me over Thanksgiving and asked what was up with the simultaneous and sudden pregnancies. I sent him back this verse:
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
and told him we were just obeying Scripture.
In honor of the Advent season, here’s an incredible rendition of one of my favorite Christmas carols, Joy to the World. Why is it my favorite? Check out the lyrics, for real this time. They are so commonly sung (and mis-sung) that we glance over them, not realizing the power behind the words. Read these lyrics, penned by the brilliant Isaac Watts:
Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
Joy to the Earth! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.
Great stuff. Here’s Joshua James (an incredible artist in his own right) with Joy to the World:
In the men’s cohort that I lead (there’s 4 of us that meet weekly for lunch), we are going through the book of Joshua, extracting principles of leadership from the life of Joshua, and ultimately seeing the Gospel through this man’s biography. One thing I’ve noticed so far, and the other men have picked up as well, is the use of the phrase “three days”. I’ll give you some examples, and then talk about what it refers to.
Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, “Prepare your provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.”
- Joshua 1:11
This is at the very beginning of the chapter, when God is giving instructions to Joshua, the newly elected commander of the people of God. After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, God tells Joshua to tell the people this: “What we’ve been praying, hoping, and waiting for will start to realize. Everything changes in 3 days.” Immediately after this pronouncement, in the very next chapter, Joshua sends scouts to Jericho, and it is there we see the timeframe given again:
And she (Rahab) said to them (the scouts), “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there for three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward, you may go your way.”
Here’s the amazing thing: Rahab, the whore of Jericho, tells the Hebrew scouts to wait for three days before leading the Hebrew people across the great Jordan river…without knowing that it is the same timeframe God had given Jericho. She tells the scouts to wait for three days in order to protect them. Joshua is to lead the people across the river in three days. It seems as if God is orchestrating both parties, both Rahab and Joshua, according to His will. In fact, it seems as if this timeframe is somewhat special to God, choosing it as the time-frame between the death of the Prophet Moses (Joshua 1:1) and the entering of the people into the promised blessings of God, the land of Canaan.
The guys instantly picked up on this foreshadowing, and I hope you have as well. This frame between the death of Moses and the entering of Canaan is really just a shadow of the true Three Days that really matters: the three days between the death of the Prophet Jesus and the entering of the Church into the promised land of Resurrection. Jesus’ Resurrection starts our new life, indeed.
It’s amazing to think that a three day span in 1st century Palestine has dictated the entirety of human history. But it has. And I, for one, am grateful.
I’ve really been enjoying Snow Patrol’s Up To Now album. They are passionate about their music, and have reason to be, because their music is good. Check out this live performance of Chasing Cars, their hit made possible by Grey’s Anatomy. I love how into the music & performance Gary Lightbody gets. He looks joyful just being there.
This year we’re tackling the Christmas story in a different way. So often, we look at Christmas as Jesus being born in order to eventually ascend to the throne. But before the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension was the Descension, when Christ laid aside His crown in order to enter the cradle. Philippians 2:7 reads this way:
He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
At Harmony, we’ll tackle this idea of Descension over the span of 3 weeks, beginning with the Crown, moving through the Magnificat of Mary (the first Christmas Carol!), and ending with Jesus being born in the Cradle. Our main text will be the book of Luke, but as usual I’ll sprinkle in some goodies from the Old Testament and the other books of the New Testament. Through the Scriptures, we’re going to look a lot of cool things in the Christmas story that we really don’t grasp until we put ourselves in the shoes of a 1st century Palestinian Jew. Nativity scenes are all messed up, trust me.
Should be fun.
And it’s going to be great time to show up for the first time too, if you’ve never been to Harmony. And if you have been to Harmony, it’s great time to return. And if you attend Harmony, it’s a great time to bring your friends & family.
A week ago I had the privilege of teaching a Pursuit Class (link) on the Scripture entitled “The Divine Autobiography”. The class went great (lasting 3 hours), had a great attendance for our first weeknight study, and I think that people are really reading their Bible (and understanding it!) on a regular basis now. I want to share some resources with you here that may or may not have been brought up in the class, so that you (regardless of whether you go to Harmony or not) will be equipped to read the Scriptures for yourself!
The Most Important Thing
There are two basic principles of Bible interpretation, that when fully followed, will ultimately lead to a correct interpretation of any text (though perhaps not on the first go-around, for soon to obvious reasons). Anytime we open the Scriptures, we should read the text with two things in mind:
- The text we’re reading should line up with the rest of Scripture. This is much more difficult than it sounds because we don’t instantly know and remember all of Scripture. We could interpret a text one way, and then later read something that contradicts our interpretation. This requires that we review our opinion of the texts at hand. Something that really helps with this is to take good notes during in-depth study, and refer to them constantly. If two different sections of Scripture disagree, it’s not the text that is incorrect, it’s our awareness of how they dovetail together to provide the fullest picture of what’s going on. The Bible is a gloriously beautiful document, given to us by a sovereign and providential God, and we should approach it as such, with reverence, and a respect because it reveals God to us! What a marvelous thing.
- The text we’re reading should reveal something of Jesus with respect to the Gospel. This is what 2 Timothy 3:16-17 talks about: we don’t read the Bible for information, we read the Bible for transformation. Every time we open the Scriptures, they should speak to our souls, filling in a brighter picture of Christ, that we may know the Man we should be imitating. Every bit of Scripture should reveal something about Christ, that we may look more like Him and that we may have a greater appreciation for His redemptive work on Earth and throughout history.
You can download the PDF of the Class Notes here. It’s been adapted from our GCM document, which is a document I’m putting together to form our Membership class.
For those of you out there who are tech-savvy, I’d recommend YouVersion, which is an online Bible application allowing you access the Bible (and your notes, along with the notes of others) from pretty much anywhere you have internet access. I would also recommend installing the mobile app to your iPhone, Blackberry, or Android phone. Also, you can access YouVersion from a web-enable phone, netbook, or computer as well. We use YouVersion Live at Harmony Church to provide an interactive experience at our Sunday am gatherings, which includes having the text, my notes, a giving online button, prayer requests, Twitter, and polls right there at your fingertips…in the middle of our gathering. I would suggest joining the Harmony Church Youversion Group to keep up with our gatherings!
I’ve recently converted to Bible software that I absolutely adore (that’s hard for me). It’s called Logos, it’s relatively expensive (but worth it, and they allow for payment plans), and it’s amazing. For any serious student, I’d highly recommend it. I’ll end up doing a full-blown review soon on it, but you can check it out here. If you decide to get any version of Logos, shoot me an email first (derek -at – harmonydc.com), and we can both get goodies through a refer-a-friend process. They also have a sweet iPhone client (check it out).
If you have any questions, comments, or other resources you use, post them below in the comments section!
A few weeks ago, I received an email from an agent (?) representing this book asking if I would review this book, I’m guessing mainly because of this blog and my involvement with our church’s God and Guinness movement. I love free books, so I gladly obliged. I recently finished the book on my vacation to Williamsburg, VA, and absolutely loved it!
The book takes the reader on a journey through the history of the Guinness brewery through the eyes of the men who ran the company, starting with Arthur and moving through the generations that inherit the Guinness brewery. I particularly loved the emphasis (hence the book’s title) on the meshing of faith with business in the Guinness’ lives. The goodwill and social justice issues of the city of Dublin take a primary role in the formation and advancement of the company, and the Guinness’ react in Gospel-centered, love-filled ways while at the same time being faithful with the resources (time and money) that God had given them through the wonderful gift of brewing great beer.
Of course, the book is not all positive, and there are lowlights in the Guinness’ lives (as there are in everyone’s lives), and the author does a great job at examining them while at the same time maintaining the focus on the intersection of economy and Christianity.
The book is a fascinating and easy read, with the structure following the Guinness’ through time, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is in a business field, who is seeking to learn from a great example about the meshing of faith and work.
In order to review this book, I joined Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Bloggers program, which you can view here.
a theology of worship