Adam and Eve’s temptation is the same as Jesus’s temptation, and it’s the same as our temptation: to become more like God. Listen to Pastor David’s message on Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7 and on where God’s story began.
Why do we light candles on Christmas Eve? Pastor David helps us ponder this question along with the mystery of Jesus’s birth in this reflection from our Christmas Eve service.
What is faith, really? How can Jesus increase our faith? And what difference does this make to Jesus? Listen to Pastor David’s sermon on Luke 17:5-10.
How should we pray? Jesus offers an answer – and two stories – in response to his disciples’ question. Will we listen? Here is Pastor David’s sermon on Luke 11:1-13.
There’s nothing like a well-told story. In this final sermon on the topic of “God Space,” Pastor David challenges us to tell our stories – as part of God’s story. Listen to this message on 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.
Harry Potter, the fictional hero of the seven books and eight movies bearing his name, has been extremely popular among children and adults alike for the past decade or so.
Yet many Christians, churches, and pastors refuse to have anything to do with him.
This should not be. Continue reading
You may have noticed that some biblical stories are repeated in two or three different books of the Bible. In our Chronological Bible reading, those stories are rearranged to appear one after the other, on the same page of the book. This gives us the opportunity to compare and contrast different versions of the same story.
Take, for instance, the story of King David conquering the Philistines just after his coronation as king over all of Israel. This story is told twice, in (a) 2 Samuel 5:17-25 and (b) 1 Chronicles 14:8-17. And the two renditions of the story are nearly identical, except for a few minor differences: (All quotes are from the NLT unless otherwise noted.)
- When David heard the Philistines were coming after him, (a) “he went into the stronghold,” a place of safety and protection, or (b) “he marched out to meet them” with confidence and power.
- When David defeated the Philistines, he exclaimed (a) that God destroyed his enemies, or (b) that God destroyed his enemies “by my hand” (NIV).
- When the Philistines fled the scene and abandoned their religious artifacts, (a) “David and his men confiscated them,” or (b) “David gave orders to burn them.”
- Throughout the story, the God of Israel is referred to as (a) “the Lord,” a representation of the divine name “Yahweh,” or (b) “God,” a translation of the Hebrew term “Elohim.”
The fourth of these differences is not that noteworthy; it simply reflects a difference in authorship, time of writing, and other cultural changes. Scholars have long recognized a significant distinction in these references to God in the biblical text. (You can see this same distinction in the Bible’s two creation stories: the first, in Genesis 1:1-2:3, uses “Elohim” or “God,” but the second, in Genesis 2:4-3:24, uses “Yahweh Elohim” or “Lord God.”)
By itself, the “Lord” vs. “God” distinction is enough to suggest that 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles were written by different people and at different times. The other differences above suggest that these two stories were written with different agendas in mind.
Wait, “with different agendas”?!
Yep. There is no such thing as an unbiased telling of a story. We always tell stories from our own perspectives, from our own cultures, using our own languages and idioms. And what we intend to communicate through a story influences how we go about telling the story.
Another conclusion of biblical scholarship is that 1 and 2 Chronicles were written by an individual (often called “the Chronicler”) who had a very specific perspective on political history:
The Chronicler was a HUGE fan of King David.
You can see this bias throughout the books of the Chronicles, really. But just as an example, take another look at the first three differences noted above:
- When the Philistines come to attack, 2 Samuel shows David cowering (in fear?) in his stronghold. But the Chronicler shows David marching out (in confidence?) to fight them.
- When the battle is won, 2 Samuel gives God the credit, but the Chronicler makes sure to note that God did it with David’s help.
- When the Israelites deal with the Philistines’ religious artifacts, 2 Samuel says that David and his men kept those items (perhaps as trophies, or for their value in gold or silver?), but the Chronicler says that David ordered their destruction (perhaps to prove his religious purity?).
Every story, every news report, every internet article is slanted in some way. Every storyteller has some kind of objective or intention that drives the telling of the story. And that intention is often just as revealing as the story itself.
Another difference between 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles: one of them tells the story of David and a young woman named Bathsheba. I’ll let you guess which one includes that story and which doesn’t.
So pay attention to the stories that you hear in the Bible, in history books, and in the daily news. And pay attention to how you tell your own stories. It may very well be that how we tell stories is just as important as the stories themselves!
Christmas Eve 2014 was the 100th anniversary of the spontaneous ceasefire along the Western Front at the beginning of World War I. That night was, unexpectedly, a “silent night.” How do we reconcile a violent world with the angels’ proclamation of “peace on earth” at Jesus’s birth? Listen in to Pastor David’s message:
Today I would like to let you in on a little project that is growing among some friends of mine. Several of us went to seminary together and have remained in contact even though we are serving in different parts of the country (and world). You may recall that two of these friends pastor the churches with whom we sponsored Sudipta Nanda to attend last year’s Global Gathering in Anderson. We all care deeply about the Church of God, and we believe in what it stands for. And this year, we are starting with a new series of blog posts: each of us will take a turn explaining how we came to the Church of God and why we are committed to its future.
This blog is found online at www.mthaley.org/belong – it is hosted on our church’s website but is completely separate from our church’s online presence. Please take a few minutes to read the initial post of this series (written by my friend Gwynne Watkins from Dayton, Ohio) and my contribution to the series. And check back in regularly, because more stories will be posted in the coming weeks! Please do leave comments to let us know what you think, as well. We believe this conversation is important!
Enter into the world of Theophilus, the addressee and recipient of a two-volume document known as Luke and Acts. In the midst of the story of Acts, Theophilus reads about a man who sounds very familiar to him: a centurion named Cornelius. Listen in as Pastor David preaches on Peter’s speech to Cornelius in Acts 10:34-43.