Any Kindle suggestions?

I’m becoming a regular high-tech kind of guy, though at least I’m a late adopter.  I now have a Kindle.  (My wife wanted one for Mother’s Day, so I obliged, whereupon since I was always borrowing hers, she bought me one for Father’s Day.  Our devices are hooked up to the same account so that when either of us buy a book it is “archived” on the other’s device, allowing us to download each other’s books for free.)  I carry around with me some 22 books and they don’t weigh a thing.  That makes it great for the traveling I have been doing lately.  The device will even read the book aloud to you, in a technology I do not understand.  (If anyone does, please explain it to me.  Also explain how the voice feature on my GPS device–see!  more technology!–works.)  That makes it a good treadmill companion, helping me not be  so bored as I pursue physical health.  Then I learned that I can increase the size of the type so that I can read it myself on the treadmill.

I can’t say I don’t prefer paper, but I’ve gotten used to reading on the Kindle.  In addition to reading what I consider “fun” books, I have downloaded some great classics for free or nearly so, including volumes of the complete works of G. K. Chesterton (one of my favorite writers of all time, but who has written lots of stuff I haven’t read yet) and Agatha Christie.  Also the complete Sherlock Holmes stories.  And I love my The Lutheran Study Bible on Kindle, which is set up so that you simply click the passages to read the notes, all in big and readable print.  Also my Treasury of Daily Prayer.  (Click the links to get them yourself.)

Many writers are finding that they can make their books available through Kindle directly without going through a publisher, taking all of the money themselves while also making their books cheaper for their readers.  The problem is, a publisher vets books, keeping out those that are unreadable, and also makes people aware of them.  It’s thus hard to know about worthy books that are electronically published, except by word of mouth.   So let’s have some word of mouth.

What are some good Kindle titles that you would recommend?

Digging up the Philistines

Archaeologists have been excavating the city of Gath and learning details about the Israelite’s arch-enemy the Philistines:

The Philistines arrived by sea from the area of modern-day Greece around 1200 B.C. They went on to rule major ports at Ashkelon and Ashdod, now cities in Israel, and at Gaza, now part of the Palestinian territory known as the Gaza Strip.

At Gath, they settled on a site that had been inhabited since prehistoric times. Digs like this one have shown that though they adopted aspects of local culture, they did not forget their roots. Even five centuries after their arrival, for example, they were still worshipping gods with Greek names.

Archaeologists have found that the Philistine diet leaned heavily on grass pea lentils, an Aegean staple. Ancient bones discarded at the site show that they also ate pigs and dogs, unlike the neighboring Israelites, who deemed those animals unclean — restrictions that still exist in Jewish dietary law.

Diggers at Gath have also uncovered traces of a destruction of the city in the 9th century B.C., including a ditch and embankment built around the city by a besieging army — still visible as a dark line running across the surrounding hills.

The razing of Gath at that time appears to have been the work of the Aramean king Hazael in 830 B.C., an incident mentioned in the Book of Kings.

Gath’s importance is that the “wonderful assemblage of material culture” uncovered there sheds light on how the Philistines lived in the 10th and 9th centuries B.C., said Seymour Gitin, director of the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem and an expert on the Philistines.

That would include the era of the kingdom ruled from Jerusalem by David and Solomon, if such a kingdom existed as described in the Bible. Other Philistine sites have provided archaeologists with information about earlier and later times but not much from that key period.

“Gath fills a very important gap in our understanding of Philistine history,” Gitin said.

In 604 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded and put the Philistines’ cities to the sword. There is no remnant of them after that. . . .

The memory of the Philistines — or a somewhat one-sided version — was preserved in the Hebrew Bible.

The hero Samson, who married a Philistine woman, skirmished with them repeatedly before being betrayed and taken, blinded and bound, to their temple at Gaza. There, the story goes, he broke free and shattered two support pillars, bringing the temple down and killing everyone inside, including himself.

One intriguing find at Gath is the remains of a large structure, possibly a temple, with two pillars. Maeir has suggested that this might have been a known design element in Philistine temple architecture when it was written into the Samson story.

Diggers at Gath have also found shards preserving names similar to Goliath — an Indo-European name, not a Semitic one of the kind that would have been used by the local Canaanites or Israelites. These finds show the Philistines indeed used such names and suggest that this detail, too, might be drawn from an accurate picture of their society.

The findings at the site support the idea that the Goliath story faithfully reflects something of the geopolitical reality of the period, Maeir said — the often violent interaction of the powerful Philistines of Gath with the kings of Jerusalem in the frontier zone between them.

via In Israel, diggers unearth the Bible’s bad guys – seattlepi.com.

Rendering to Caesar and to God

Happy Independence Day! The birthday of our nation would be a good time to contemplate that great text on church and state, Matthew 22:21, in which our Lord charges us to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

What “things” are Caesar’s, and how do we render them to him? And what “things” are God’s, and how do we render them to Him?

Obviously, all things are God’s, but Jesus must have had a particular sense of this in mind. A pastor I heard on Sunday–I’m on the road, so it wasn’t our pastor–said that the Greek implies that we are giving back what we have received. So we might think of this in terms of “what do we receive from the state” and so what are we obliged to a giving back. Jesus’s example of money works here. What else? And how does this apply to the gifts of God?

Jesus vs. Family

The New Testament reading at church last Sunday was Matthew 10:34- 39.  Pastor Douthwaite pointed out that if the reading had come one week earlier, we would be hearing it on Father’s Day :

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.38And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

First of all, I’m curious how you would apply this text.  We tend to associate Christianity with “family values.”  And yet, according to this passage, they are not always going to be the same.   Clearly, when one member of the family becomes a Christian and the others belong to some other religion or no religion, this passage applies.  But how else?  Are we are sometimes tempted to idolize our families?  Can we turn our family into a little cults?

Our pastor handled the text in a very helpful way, as is his wont, observing that of course God honors the family, an institution that He Himself established, protecting it in three of the Ten Commandments.  And yet, Jesus does bring a sword.  Read what he says in the sermon linked below.   I loved his conclusion, in which he develops the point that “water is thicker than blood”:

By virtue of your baptism into Christ, there’s a new family to which you belong. A new family that transcends the bounds of time and space. A new family that will not last just for a time, but for eternity.

So even though the world will tell you that blood is thicker than water – that our earthly family relationships create a kind of bond that should not be broken by the things of this world that, by comparison, are like water . . . but Jesus is teaching us that the truth is exactly the opposite. For in our new family, our new life, water is thicker than blood. The water and Word of Holy Baptism creates a bond that is greater than any other on earth – not just a bond that we have with each other, but the bond that we have with each other by virtue of our being united in Christ. It is Christ that holds us together, Christ who gives us hope, Christ who by His blood gave power to this water, Christ who makes us all brothers and sisters and children of our heavenly Father, in Him.

And so in Christ we have a family and life that we cannot lose. Not because we’re so great, or because there won’t be any strife and disagreements in the church – there will be! We’re still sinners. But because we are united in the One who is greater than our sin, who gave His life to give us life. And so it is exactly in losing your life in baptism, losing your life in repentance, losing your life in service, losing your life in Christ – you find a life that is even greater. A life that will have no end.

All of which is not to say our earthly families are not important – they are! But since we’ve just had two marriages here this past month, perhaps something that is said at many marriages can help us understand. For it is said that when two people get married, we’re not losing a son, we’re gaining a daughter.

Well by faith, that is what happens here. In Christ, we’re not losing our earthly families, but gaining a new family. And so we have not just an earthly Father, but now a heavenly Father and also many earthly fathers and mothers, and grandparents, and brothers and sisters, and children and grandchildren! Time may take away our earthly families, space may separate us, and the Word of God may divide – but look at how richly God has rewarded those who abide in the truth of His Word! With a family that does not compete against Him for love and loyalty, but which is created by those very things. With a family that does not depend on us to keep it together, but one which He keeps together. For that which God brings together, He will keep together. Together in Him. United through Baptism, bound together by the Word, strengthened in forgiveness, and fed by the body and blood of the very Son of God! The Son of God in whom we are all sons of God. . . .

That’s why we put this baptismal font front and center in the church. For it is the font and front and center of our lives. We put it here so that you can’t look at the altar or the cross without looking also at it. So that if you walk up to this altar, you must go by it. So that it remind you that this is why you’re here; that water is thicker than blood. That no matter what happens in this world, no matter the divisions and struggles, no matter the sin and death – nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. He has claimed you as His own, and you are His. Born again into His family. Or as St. John would later proclaim: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are” (1 John 3:1).

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Pentecost 2 Sermon.

Pentecost questions

Yesterday was Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church.  In celebration and contemplation of the day and the new season of the church year that we will be in for awhile, I would like to pose a couple questions:

(1)  At the first Pentecost, those upon whom the Holy Spirit descended spoke in tongues.  But why is this associated with the charismatic practice of glossolalia?  Wasn’t what the disciples did the opposite of that?  The whole point is that their languages were understood.   People from every nation, speaking many different languages, were all hearing the apostles preach “the mighty works of God” in their own language.  Isn’t Pentecost fulfilled even today as people all over the world are hearing the apostolic testimony recorded in the Word of God, which has been translated into so many of the world’s languages?

Speaking in  tongues that no one can understand is referred to in the epistles to the Corinthians, so I’m not totally discounting the phenomenon.  But I’m just saying that the Pentecost account is describing something very different.

(2)  Some theological traditions think of the Holy Spirit as coming to us from the outside (for example, through God’s Word); others as coming from the inside (inspiring us through inner voices or impulses).  And yet both perspectives speak of the Holy Spirit guiding us.  Is that just a matter of reading the Bible to see what the Holy Spirit tells us?  Or do you think–and I’m especially addressing those who stress the external work of the Holy Spirit–that He guides us in other ways?  If so, how does that work?  For those of you who stress the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, how can you discern what inner senses are  from the Spirit and what isn’t?

I don’t particularly want to provoke a bitter theological debate about the charismatic movement.  I’d just like to hear from different people on how they perceive the Holy Spirit in their lives.

10,000 Adams and Eves

Thus far the main controversy between Christianity and mainline scientists has been over evolution.  Many Christians have tried to resolve that dilemma by embracing “theistic evolution,” the notion that God did create every living thing, but that He used evolution to do it.  (Never mind that Darwin’s theory of evolution specifically insists on the randomness of mutations and of natural selection.  Believing that evolution is directed is beyond the pale of actual Darwinism and is just another form of Intelligent Design, despite what the theistic evolutionists claim.)  Anyway, theistic evolutionists often still affirmed the historical existence of some kind of Adam and Eve, the first humans however they evolved, who, in some way, fell from their paradisal state and transmitted original sin to their descendants, who were redeemed by Christ, the Second Adam.

But now a new front in the battle has opened up, which, according to Christianity Today, is raising new questions and opening up a new level of controversy.  According to recent genetic evidence, the human race did not begin with two people.  Rather, it must have begun with a population of around 10,000.  Otherwise, according to the geneticists, there is no way to account for the genetic diversity that we can currently observe.  See The Search for the Historical Adam | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

It’s hard to imagine how 10,000 creatures could, at the same, evolve into the same species.  I can’t help but wonder where they came from.  Who were their parents?  (Can anyone explain how the geneticists answer that?)

An accompanying editorial in Christianity Today says that without an historical Adam and Eve, the whole Gospel comes apart, since there would be no original sin and no “Second Adam” who could redeem us.  Does that take it too far?   Could “Adam,” which means literally “man,” refer to human beings in a collective way, all of whom have re-enacted the Fall in their own lives,whereupon Christ, in His Incarnation, did indeed become “man” and thus “Adam,” to redeem the human race.  Some are arguing that a story can be true in its meaning, even if it does not recount literal historical events.  Should Christians be seeking an interpretation like that?  Or reject the genetic findings?  Or just not jump to conclusions, since scientific findings are never complete and are themselves always being re-interpreted?

At any rate, I suppose this evidence should bother me or shake my faith in the Bible, but, strangely, it does not.  How about you?


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