Christianity 201

September 26, 2020

On Pronouncing Bible Names

Our scripture reading for today is from Nehemiah 10: 1-27 NKJV

Now those who placed their seal on the document were:

Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah, and Zedekiah, Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah, Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, Maaziah, Bilgai, and Shemaiah. These were the priests.

The Levites: Jeshua the son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, and Kadmiel.

Their brethren: Shebaniah, Hodijah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan, Micha, Rehob, Hashabiah, Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah, Hodijah, Bani, and Beninu.

The leaders of the people: Parosh, Pahath-Moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani, Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin, Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur, Hodijah, Hashum, Bezai, Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir,  Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua, Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah, Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub, Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek, Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, Ahijah, Hanan, Anan, Malluch, Harim, and Baanah.

…On second thought, let’s make these our key verses today:

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.
 – I Cor 10:11 NIV

Let this be recorded for future generations, so that a people not yet born will praise the LORD.
 – Ps. 102:18 NLT

For everything that was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we may have hope.
 – Rom 15:4 NET

There is no shortage of online tutorials, videos and phone apps to aid in the correct pronunciation of names and places in the Bible. I just did a search, and the page-one results alone are enough to keep everyone busy for the rest of the day.

People don’t want to be reading text aloud in public and then look like a fool when they completely stumble over a name, or worse, allow it to morph into a more contemporary name. Some avoid it altogether by saying, “and then the first guy said to the second guy.

Or they try to make it hip by calling Peter ‘Pete’ or referring to Nicodemus’ late evening conversation with Jesus as ‘Nick at night.’ (I like that one, and I’ve used it!) Perhaps you’ve heard someone make Jacob ‘Jake’ or Joseph ‘Joe.’ (Or worse, Jesus as ‘J.C.’ I don’t care for that one.)

Because these people are part of the story, they are part of our story. They matter.

Names do change. Short story writers will often turn to lists of the most popular names from various years when creating a character. If you wanted someone in their 40s, you might look up the most popular names in 1980. (There are some fascinating videos showing the top names in each U.S. state; the regional clusters are fun to watch!)

Many Biblical names remain in our contemporary culture, but Jezebel and Judas tend to be less popular. Finding the modern-day names of Biblical cities and towns is often helpful.  Still, many create challenges.

Relevance

…The danger is feeling that this speech difficulty only confirms that the Bible is an old book set in an ancient time with little relevance for us today. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Any discussion of relevance has to run parallel to (or better yet, subsequent to) a discussion of reliability. One must have confidence in the documents as presented before proceeding to discuss how they relate to us in the 21st Century.

Only then do we move on to relevance. An article at Biblica.com notes,

…But is the ancient book really relevant to the issues of our frenetic, post-modern world of microscopes and satellites? This is a question asked by those who are racing through life with little time for reflection on their destiny or why they are here. But for those who are unexpectedly slammed onto a hospital bed, life takes on a much different quality! Suddenly in the long, agonizing hours punctuated only by the clicking of a heart monitor, there is time to reflect on a new set of questions, timeless questions which have not changed much through the centuries. Does anyone really love me? How did those stars a billion miles away get there? Is there any hope for me? How do I get in touch with God right now?

It is then that these questions about the relevance of the Bible tend to fade away. The comfort and the hope embodied in the Bible suddenly become totally relevant. Its diversity touches every age, every situation. There are wonderful stories for children, deeply emotional psalms and confessions, discourses to engage the deepest philosophical questions, and the sayings of Jesus confronting the issues of life and death and the eternity ahead.

…Along the miles of concrete I traverse every day, I have a guide, a beacon. It’s not in the form of a dead book, but it’s a living guide for the journey…

Those pesky pronunciation problems

If you take what’s written above to heart, it won’t matter whether someone says HAB•a•kuk or ha•BAK•kuk; or whether they say FIL•a•mon or fi•LEE•mon. True, there are rules that should be followed if one wants to get it right, and there are books you may purchase to aid in that quest. But don’t get lost in the weeds of striving for Biblical eloquence and perfect scriptural articulation.

Or worse, don’t close the book in frustration.

Recognize that people and places back then had ancient proper nouns and that’s all part of the context.

I’ll bet some people in your church have some interesting names, too.


Related: When it’s Your Turn to Read the Scriptures (Thinking Out Loud, 2011) to which I would add (a) read it with passion, (b) write out the passage ahead of time in longhand so you have total familiarity with it.

May 31, 2020

Currently, Where is Your Church Located?

Six months ago, we introduced you to Wes Barry, the pastor of Waypoint in North Carolina. It was the quotation at the beginning of today’s article which got my attention! Clicking the header below will take to this article at his website, where you can navigate to other helpful articles for church leaders.

The Church is Not Best Buy

The Church has not been closed; it is public worship that has been suspended.

I am reminded of one of my favorite stories about Dr. Halverson, the pastor of a large Presbyterian church in D.C.

One of the students asked, “Dr. Halverson, where is your church?” This seemed like a perfectly reasonable question to me, but Dr. Halverson looked quite perplexed and hesitated to answer. Then he glanced at his watch.

“Well, it’s three o’clock in Washington, D.C. The church I pastor is all over the city. It’s driving buses, serving meals in restaurants, having discussions in the Pentagon, deliberating in the Congress.” He knew exactly where his church was, and he went on and on with his lengthy listing.

Then he added, “Periodically, we get together at a building on Fourth Street, but we don’t spend much time there. We’re mostly in the city.”

A bomb went off in my head. All of my out-of-joint ideas about the church suddenly snapped into place. The church is people!

Jerry Cook, The Monday Morning Church, Howard Publishing Company, 2006, p. 12-13.

Though I do not have a practical solution to the issue of reopening, I want to challenge the church to consider how it needs to approach this next phase with a Biblical mindset not a consumeristic one.

Recently I came across the recommendations that churches should restart public worship with these protocols: staggered seating 6 feet apart and temperature scans as people come in while limiting capacity to 50 people. The politician recommending these measures then said, “The sick and vulnerable should not be allowed in church.”

Immediately, I was struck by how anathema that is to specifically why Jesus came into this world: “On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” Mark 2:17.

The sick and vulnerable should not be excluded from public worship–again I do not have a practical solution to this problem–but I am perturbed by this attitude that public worship should be “for me” while we exclude others. As the Christ Hymn reminds us, we should look “not to our own interests but to the interests of others.” (Phil 2:4). Even in public worship attendance, are you going for your sake or for the sake of the person sitting next to you?

Take for example the suggestion that worship be limited to 50 people. How is a church supposed to monitor that? Suppose you are number 47 in the parking lot are you going to out sprint ahead of that young family who is struggling to get their kid into the stroller? Suddenly church is only available for those who are on time and have their acts together. This, too, seems counter to Christ’s command that: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16).

Perhaps you would recommend that people could register online. Therefore, it excludes the marginalized who would not have internet access or those who are disorganized, depressed, and the ones so busy trying to keep their family afloat they cannot “register” to go to church. Jesus, however, did not wait for people to register online to be one of his disciples–He inserted Himself into their lives; He entered their homes: “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.‘” Jesus tells Zacchaeus that He is coming over to Zacchaeus’ home because His mission was a rescue mission: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10).

Also I heard of one church that is assigning numbers to members alphabetically so that they can attend when it is their turn. While that is very effective for people on the list, what about the one not on a list? In fact, Jesus had a whole parable about rejoicing over that one:

Then Jesus told them this parable: “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the pasture and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders,comes home, and calls together his friends and neighbors to tell them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost sheep!’ In the same way, I tell you that there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous ones who do not need to repent.” [Luke 15: 4-7]

So, as you prepare for worship, how can you make sure to leave room for the one who is missing?

There are two streams emerging in this drive for public worship. One is the desire for the community to gather again. It is a living out of the word “ecclesia.” This is the Greek word used to describe the church and means: “a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place.” It is the bringing out into the public square what is being done in our personal homes. It is God calling us to publicly demonstrate what He is doing personally in our hearts. It is a longing for our private lives to engage with others in praise of God.

The longing and drive we feel for this is good. And this season of shutdown should be a season of lament. We are sad that we cannot get together. Lament is good because it shows what our hearts desire: we need to publicly demonstrate our faith. However, this desire is in response to what we are doing on our own terms, in our own homes, in our private worship. This longing is good, and this desire needs to be cultivated. Cultivating this attitude can forestall public worship, however, through intentional private worship and relational connection with one’s neighbors.

The other drive–and the main one in our American church–is the selling of religious commodities. Like Best Buy needing to reopen, the church has been so heavily built upon the production of Sunday worship that the shutdown has stalled our religious economy. This desire for public worship is because we have an anemic understanding of private worship and an individualistic nature of worship being done amidst a crowd; We want the Church to do it for us so we can spectate.

In speaking to a fellow church planter, I appreciated his attitude when he said, “We want to be the third to last church to reopen in our city.” His intentional and thoughtful delay will place the emphasis upon a continued lament for the loss of community. His philosophy of ministry has an emphasis upon community groups, so this phased approach to reopening will allow him to place the focus back upon the gathering of people in their homes.

This season hopefully will cause us to consider why do we publicly worship in the first place? How can we be the Ecclesia by bringing into the public square what God is doing in our private hearts?

As your church considers restarting public worship, I would challenge you to make sure you consider how can you include the sick and vulnerable into the community? How can the last and lost be first and found?

November 4, 2018

Bowing, Lifting Hands, or Just Looking Foolish at Church

Today’s article simply “landed” on my computer screen much earlier today. I’m not at all sure how else to explain it. The author, Micah Bosworth is the Music Pastor at Moses Lake Baptist Church in Moses Lake, Washington, and the article appeared in April on the website The Ministry Wire. Click the title to read at source.

Expressive Praise and Worship: Is it Biblical?

When I was a kid, and even in my teenage years, I would often make fun of, and mockingly mimic people who were expressive during congregational songs of praise and worship. It seemed to always get a laugh with my friends in the youth group since I grew up in a pretty conservative church. Whenever we would see “hand-raisers”, “swayers”, “shouters”, or the occasional “kneeler”, we would think of them as overly emotional. Because of our church’s culture, we would make sure to keep our eyes on the words, not get too emotional, and avoid being a distraction at all costs!

Today, as a music pastor, I evaluate praise and worship quite often. I watch videos of myself leading our church in praise and worship. I watch our choir to see if we are communicating the messages of the songs with true praise and worship. And I observe the congregation every service, as I watch and hear them joining me in our songs of praise and worship.

Then one day, I started to consider my personal walk with the Lord. I started to evaluate how I personally praise and worship my Saviour, behind closed doors. And I began to think about how I personally led the congregation in praising and worshipping. At first, I thought to myself, “I know all the songs! I’m confident in leading them. I’m consistent in reading my Bible. I’m praying constantly. I think I’m doing pretty well!” However, I couldn’t shake the conviction from God that something was missing. The Lord was trying to show me that there was more to praising and worshipping Him than just these things. And although I didn’t know it at the time, the Lord was about to show me that I was actually limiting myself in my praise and worship.

And I don’t think I am alone in doing so! I believe that there are believers all over the place that are limiting themselves in how they praise and worship our Saviour. Some do so ignorantly (they just don’t know what the Bible says). Some do so out of pride (they are afraid what others might think). And others do so out of tradition (I’ve never expressed myself that way, so I feel uncomfortable doing so).

However, the Bible tells us how to praise and worship the Lord. And although it does include music, it is almost exclusively expressive. But don’t take my word for it! Let’s look at what the Word of God says!

Bowing Down
Psalm 103:1
Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Psalm 72:15
And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised.

The key words in these verses are translated from the Hebrew word bārak.
H1288 bārak- to kneel; by implication to bless God (as an act of adoration), —(Strong’s Concordance)

Psalm 103:1 has always been one of my favorite verses! And after finding out what the Hebrew words translated “bless” mean, I couldn’t help but love it more! In fact, most of the times the word “bless” is used in the KJV, it is derived from this word. With this meaning in mind, that verse gives the connotation that we would be humble before the Lord. All that is within me…bow before his holy name. My heart…bow. My mind…bow. My soul…bow. My body…bow!

This isn’t necessarily a new concept! If you were to look up all of the Hebrew and Greek words translated “worship” in the KJV, they all allude to the act of crouching low, kneeling, and bowing. God is very interested in His people bowing before Him. In fact, Jesus said to the woman at the well: “…true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship (bow before) him.”

It’s a humbling act! But it’s a reverent act! Our heavenly Father wants us to praise and worship Him by bowing.

The Lifting of Hands

2 Chronicles 20:21
And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psalm 67:3
Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.

In these verses, the word praise comes from the Hebrew word yādâ.
H3034 yādâ- literally to use (i.e. hold out) the hand; physically to throw at or away; especially to revere or worship (with extended hands) —(Strong’s Concordance)

This Hebrew word, yādâ, is translated praise, in our King James Bible, 52 times. We lift our hands to praise many things, and God desires that we would lift our hands to Him in praise.

Darren Whitehead says it this way: “Is there any more natural expression of excitement, wonder, or awe than raising your hands? Whether it’s the excitement that comes when your favorite sports team scores a goal, the joy of receiving an unexpected promotion, or the elation that comes with a declaration of victory in battle, aren’t we prone to expressing enthusiasm with upshot hands? It’s almost a primal instinct, something coded in our DNA. And regardless of the language you speak, the color of your skin, or your country of origin, haven’t you felt this urge?”

I would say that all of us have experienced this kind of praise at one point in our lives. And although Psalm 67 was surely written for the Hebrew people, verse 3 implies a broader meaning, for sure. Let ALL the people praise thee. We should all be raising our hands to God in praise.

Looking Foolish

Psalm 149:3
Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.

Psalm 150
Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.

H1984 hālal- to be clear (originally of sound, but usually of color); to shine; hence to make a show, to boast; and thus to be (clamourously) foolish; to rave; causatively to celebrate; —(Strong’s Concordance)

Now, before I even speak on this one, let me say this: I do not condone, nor do I encourage people to be a distraction during church services. I do not believe one needs to head bang, run laps, or go into an all out dance frenzy to praise in the capacity in which this Hebrew word expresses. However, I do believe that this word challenges us to go outside of ourselves, go beyond our pride, lay aside our solidarity, get past our culture of lethargy, and praise our Saviour in a more fervent, passionate, and enthusiastic way.
I’ve seen men like evangelist Dave McCracken wave a hanky in praise! To some that looks foolish! Are we willing to praise the Lord emotionally and expressively, even if it might seem foolish?

“Hālal” is the primary Hebrew word for praise. Therefore, I believe the Lord would have us forget what others might think, get out of our comfort zones and “hālal”. We have a

God who is worth making a show of! We have a God who is someone to boast and rave about! We have a Saviour who was willing to look foolish, shameful, and scandalous for us as He took our place on the cross of Calvary. And yet, instead of looking “clamourously foolish”, we would rather stand still, stare at words, and sing within our comfort zones. Instead, we need to bow, dance (gasp!), shout, sing out loud, and raise our hands in praise and worship to our King.

There are other words in Scripture that tell us what praise is:
• H2167 zāmar has to do with making music (Psalm 144:9)
• H8426 tôdâ references extending the hands and a choir of worshippers
(Jeremiah 17:26)
• H8416 tehillâ talks about songs and hymns (Psalm 22:3)
• H7623 šābah gives the idea that we would shout (Psalm 145:4)

We say that our God is worthy of ALL praise. God desires for us to give Him ALL praise. And we offer Him our praise and worship through music, but often fail to lift our hands, shout, bow, and “look foolish” for Him. And I believe that for us to neglect these other aspects of praise and worship is to essentially offer insufficient praise and worship to God. Anything less than ALL praise is insufficient.

So let’s evaluate ourselves. How is our personal praise? How is our corporate worship? Let’s get past our comfort zones and personal thoughts, and truly offer our God the same passionate, heartfelt, emotional, and “foolish” praise that the people of the Bible did. He is worthy of it all!