Epiphany Sermon: “Nations Shall Come to Your Light” (Isaiah 60:1-14)

This is the audio (42:20, 30.5 MB) of a sermon preached at our Lithuania home church, Klaipėda Free Christian Church, on January 2, 2022. It was the Second Sunday in Christmas, but since I was not scheduled to preach the next couple of weeks, I took the opportunity to preach a (pre-)Epiphany sermon! The main text is Isaiah 60:1-14, but I also make reference to Matthew 2:1-12.

Throughout the Old Testament, there is an important theme: people from outside Israel, God’s people, recognizing the greatness of Israel’s God—often seeing it even more clearly than Israel does! For example, Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law, gives glory to YHWH after he saves Israel from slavery in Egypt. Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute, throws all of her trust on YHWH God when the Israelites come to attack her city, Jericho. Ruth has more faith than her mother-in-law, Naomi, in the faithfulness of YHWH God to his people. This was YHWH God’s purpose all along in calling Israel to be his people: that his glory would be shown in their midst, and the nations would see and be attracted to it. Very often, Israel failed to live up to God’s glory—as we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. None of us is worthy to carry forth God’s glory into the world. In Isaiah 60, despite all that Israel, Judah and Jerusalem had done to bring shame on God’s name: God still displayed his glory through them. In Matthew 2: despite all that the Jews, and all that humanity, had done to dishonor God: God still chose to be born a Jewish baby, a human baby, and to show his glory in the world through Jesus Christ.

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Guest Post: Is COVID Bringing the Church to a Screeching Halt?

Our governments are against in-person Church attendance because congregating undermines their attempts to contain and subdue the pandemic that has thrown our world into such chaos. The Church needs not to be brave enough to defy the authorities merely for the sake of rebelling against human authorities. Neither should the Church be asleep when battles of cosmic nature are raging. Each congregation and believer need to seek out God’s will. When we know God’s will, we should be willing to lose our lives for the realization of that will; if we must heed the command to honor authorities and obey them, fine. However, we can still meet in our homes. In these small group settings, every member is indeed known, discipled, and held accountable to walk according to the calling they have received from God. Relationships flourish in small groups. Each person gets ample opportunity to exercise their gifts to build up the body in small groups. If we cannot meet in our thousands like we are used to, maybe God is drawing us back to what has worked in the past: house churches. The Bible warns that persecution will break out.

Note: This is part of a series, “Technologizing of Worship Before, During, and After COVID: Epistemology, Eschatology, and Presence, part of a larger project suggesting a pastoral response to COVID and lockdowns in the church. Read more and subscribe here.

One of the joys of teaching is seeing one’s students go out into the world and have a significant impact in their home countries and beyond.

May 2018

I’m honored to present a guest contribution by my student, Stanford Phiri. Stanford is a native of Zimbabwe, and studied for a BA in Theology at LCC International University (2018). I was privileged to teach Stanford several OT courses, and to supervise his BA thesis (on how the NT authors present Jesus as a new/better Moses). Stanford was also in my evening men’s Bible study.

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Advent Sermon: “He Will Stand and Shepherd His Flock” (Micah 4:9-5:6)

This is the video (42.57, 303 MB) of a sermon preached at our Lithuania home church, Klaipėda Free Christian Church, on December 19, 2021, Fourth Sunday of Advent. The main text is Micah 4:9-5:6.

In verse 6, we find another clue that the scope of this prophecy is beyond just the eighth century, bigger than Israel and Judah and Assyria. Verse 6 refers to Assyria as “the land of Nimrod.” This figure “Nimrod” is one of the mighty men from ancient times, who was a hunter. He is mentioned only in Genesis 10, where he is first introduced, 1 Chronicles 1—and here in Micah 5:6. Most importantly, he was the founder of the capital cities of the ancient civilizations of Babylon and Assyria, these two kingdoms that come to represent human violence and rebellion against the true God, YHWH. Nimrod founded the city of Babel, which built the tower to reach to the heavens! Since ancient times, Jewish and Christian interpreters have understood Nimrod as a founder of these civilizations who led them in the way of arrogance, violence, tyranny, and evil.

The fact that Micah mentions “the land of Nimrod” is not just trying to be more specific—“Oh, you mean that Assyria, the one founded by Nimrod.” It’s reminding us of the rebellion and evil that Nimrod spread throughout the world. But this king from Bethlehem who would bring peace and lead Israel, will not just defend his people from outside attacks, although that is part of it. In the first part of verse 6, we see that he will lead the people to the gates of Assyria, the land of Nimrod, the heart of the land where evil dwells. In other words, he is going to lead an attack, to take the fight to the evil land—and he will win!

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Seminar on Old Testament, in English and Lithuanian

This summer, I was honored with the invitation to speak at a retreat for one of our sister churches in Vilnius, 180º Bažnyčia (Church). This Saturday seminar was in two parts and is titled, “How Can Christians Make Sense of the Old Testament?” (“Kaip krikščionys supranta Senąjį Testamentą?”)

180º Bažnyčia Seminar
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COVID, Tech, and Church: Some Links

I used to more regularly post links to readings I was finding interesting—this was for me a replacement for Facebook or Twitter, which allow for very quick sharing. (I do once again have Facebook and Twitter, but I never post anything as a rule, because I don’t trust myself—it is strictly for communicating with specific people and communities who don’t like to use email or other messaging services like Signal and WhatsApp.)

I haven’t done as much sharing of links lately, but I might get back into it. WordPress used to make it very easy with the “Press This” link you could install on your browser, which would save a link (and even an excerpt) of a web page as a draft post. Then I would gather all the information when I had 5-7 links/excerpts, and share them in a single post. Sadly, WordPress no longer has this as a free feature–you can install a plugin with a paying service, which I’m not prepared to shell out for.

But, I digest…

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Performativity, Privacy, Scrutiny: More Concerns about “Online Church”

In a series of posts a few months ago, I expressed many concerns about the continuation of “online church,” that is, online streaming and recording of church services to be consumed by members of the congregation and the general public. I’ve been continuing to reflect on these issues, which are not going away anytime soon–in fact, they will only become more important. I want to make several additional points about online church that build on previous posts here, here, here, here, and here. (Though it might be helpful, it’s not necessary to have read those posts before engaging with the points below.)

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New Publications on Chronicles and International Biblical Scholarship

I’m pleased to announce two new articles of mine that have been published in open-access collections.

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Write As Children of the Light

This is the final installment in a series of pastoral reflections from 2020 about academic research: “Researching Christianly.” Read the previous post, “Research as Foot-Washing.”

As we prepare to send our writings off to journals (or have papers or projects snaking through the pipeline already), the process can seem rather opaque, as we have learned from Prof. Belcher’s book and through previous experience. The peer-review process is far from perfect, and does not ensure that only The Truth™ is permitted to enter the canons of knowledge. Given that the public relies on us to seek and present the truth, we should all be concerned about deficiencies that undermine the credibility of academics in society.

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Research as Foot-Washing

This is the next in a series of pastoral reflections from 2020 about academic research: “Researching Christianly.” Read the previous post, “A Wise and Understanding People.”

This week I’d like to reflect on our motivations for research. One common motivation is benign and noble, but not sufficient in itself. Each of us (researchers) can recall a moment, early on in our academic journey, when s/he felt the thrill of learning for its own sake. We chose this vocational path because we love reading and writing, learning the techniques and insights of our fields, and honing our own academic tools of study. I’ll speak only for myself, but maybe your experience is similar: I originally chose the path of master’s/doctoral research because I wanted a qualification to teach—but now I would continue to do research in my field for personal enjoyment and fulfillment, even if I had no students to teach. Once one has drunk at the fount of knowledge, it’s hard to take a slurp from a stagnant pond. (I’ll leave you to imagine what the pond might be—but you know my opinion of social media…)

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A Wise and Understanding People

This is the next in a series of pastoral reflections from 2020 about academic research: “Researching Christianly.” Read the previous post, “Love of Wisdom.”

Last week, I wrote about the dignified and noble search for all kinds of knowledge about the world and our place in it. This week I would ask: under what terms of engagement should we as Christian researchers join the broader academy in this search for knowledge? In research, we stand on the shoulders of, and beside, other scholars in our fields. Besides the general imperative to conduct our research ethically—do the premises and aims of our research overlap with those of other convictions?

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