New Testament

Going to Liberia (April 2017)

Dave Boy on ShouldersDespite the malaria, it was one of the highlights of my life.

In the summer of 1985, I went on a summer mission project to Nigeria.  We taught in churches, worked in fields, and enjoyed amazing Nigerian hospitality (my favorite, though, was giving rides to kids on my shoulders).  We served among the Tangale people in Bauchi state, in the NW region of the country, near where Boko Haram holds power today.

While my wife Shannon has made three trips to Africa in the past fifteen years, I’ve stayed home with the boys.  I’ve loved hearing her stories and supporting her efforts, but I’ve missed seeing first hand what God is doing and serving alongside her.  But now that we are empty-nesters, I will be able to join her this April on her next trip to Monrovia, Liberia.  Shannon will be traveling for 3 weeks (she is also visiting Guinea Bissau); I’ll be gone for two (April 5-19).

We have been invited to serve alongside staff from LIFES (Liberian International Fellowship of Evangelical Students).  There are currently 1400 students involved in LIFES and only two full time staff.  Liberia is the fifth poorest country of the world and is still recovering from a fourteen year civil war (1989-2003) and the recent Ebola epidemic (2013-2016).

Moses, one of the staff, has asked us to be flexible, but we know for sure that we’ll be the main speakers for the LIFES Easter student conference: “Knowing Christ and Making Christ Known,” focusing on the book of Philippians and John 1-4.  We will have other opportunities to speak in churches, and work with students and local pastors doing training in Bible study skills. Most pastors in Liberia do not have access to seminary training, so I’m hoping my presence will be a blessing to them.

In order to allow their limited financial resources to remain in the country, I am hoping to raise $2500 to cover my expenses.  If you’d like to contribute, you can go directly to the website: https://donate.intervarsity.org/support/shannon_lamb.  Funds need to go through Shannon’s IV account because my account is still in process.  If you would like to receive email prayer requests please send me your address (dlamb@biblical.edu).

If you’re the praying sort, we’d appreciate prayers
for health (I have reflux which is easier to control at home,
for safe travel,
for God to move powerfully, and
for great partnerships with Liberian staff and pastors.

LIFES Flyer Image April 2017

A Dream Come True

4_15_fortune-cookieDo you ignore your dreams? Christmas is a good season to pay attention to them.

Do you know where the highest concentration of dreams occurs in the Bible?  (Hint, think Christmas…)

It’s in the context of the story of Jesus’ birth, but only in one of the gospels (more on that soon).

Have you ever thought about the expression, “It’s a dream come true!” The logical connotation of that phrase would suggest that the vast majority of dreams do not in fact come true. It surprises us when it does.

Because we don’t take them seriously, most of us don’t pay attention to our dreams. We assume that our subconscious just imports events from our awake-world into our sleep-world–what we just watched, what we just read, what we just ate (particularly when we dream of a dancing burrito).

Whenever dreams are talked about in Scripture there’s no surprise, people assume the dream should be taken seriously since God speaks through dreams.

Three books of the Bible contain the vast majority of references to dreams: Genesis, Daniel, and Matthew. The dreamers of Genesis include Abimelech, Jacob, Laban, Joseph, the cupbearer, the baker and Pharaoh. In Daniel it’s Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel.

Curiously, Matthew is the only gospel writer to mention dreams.  In Matthew the people who dream dreams are Joseph the adoptive father of Jesus, the wisemen (I think there were five of them), and Pilate’s wife. Matthew’s gospel speaks of six separate dreams,
five of them in the context of Jesus’ birth in only 28 verses (Matt. 1:20; 2:12, 13, 19, 22; 27:19). Joseph of Nazareth experienced four dreams recorded in Scripture, more than any other biblical character.

The dreams of Matthew aren’t primarily predicting the future, they are giving guidance, in each instance somehow protecting Jesus.  Joseph’s dreams tell him: 1) Marry Mary, 2) Go to Egypt, 3) Return from Egypt, 4) Go to Galilee.  The wisemen are told not to go back to Herod, and Pilate’s wife warns her husband to “have nothing to do with Jesus” (which Pilate ignores–how would things have been different if he had followed her advice?).  All the dream warnings surrounding Jesus’ birth are heeded.  Praise God that these people took dreams seriously.

Why does Matthew uniquely have so many dreams, particularly surrounding the birth of Jesus?  I don’t know. But I do know God still speaks through dreams, and as we reflect on the birth of our saviour during this season of Advent, ask God to guide you as he did Joseph and the wisemen while you sleep.

 

 

Pastor Jimenez and Father Abraham

abraham-sodom-300x243Baptist pastor named Roger Jimenez in Sacramento has been making headlines for preaching that the 49 people who died at the gay club in Orlando deserved it.  Somehow a pastor in California has taken a horrific tragedy, the worst mass shooting in US history and made it worse.

I have many problems with his offensive message, but here I will only mention four points (keep reading after #1).  He apparently based part of his sermon on Romans, so I’ll focus my comments there before jumping to Genesis.

First, according to the apostle Paul, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23) so, biblically one could agree with Pastor Jimenez that the people killed in Orlando deserved to die.  But this is not Paul’s main point, or where his message ends.

Second, Paul also said “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23), so we should add Pastor Jimenez, and Dave Lamb to the list of people who deserve death (and all the readers of this blog).  His sermon went viral, but it would have been more biblical if he included himself and everyone in his congregation in his list of people who deserve death.

Third, when Paul talked about the wages of sin as resulting in death, he also spoke of the free gift of God through Jesus (Rom. 6:23).  I haven’t listened to all of Pastor Jimenez’s sermon, but at least as his message and his subsequent comments are being reported in the press, he doesn’t mention anything about God’s grace, which again would have made his message more biblical.  Preachers shouldn’t conclude by saying sinners, like us, deserve death, but they need to get to the good news about God’s grace.

Fourth, father Abraham* instead of condemning the wicked residents of Sodom to death, actually risked his life in prayer for them, asking God to show mercy to the Sodomites (Gen 18:16-33).  I discuss Abraham’s prayer, the Bible’s attitude toward homosexuality, and what really was the sin of Sodom in more depth in Prostitutes and Polygamists in my chapter on homosexuality (pages 161-183), so I won’t go into depth on those subjects here. Tragically, Christians are often perceived to be more like Pastor Jimenez, than Father Abraham.  But how cool would it be if Christians were known to be like Abraham, in this regard, interceding in costly ways for people associated with the sins of Sodom?  We have a long ways to go.

*Father Abraham actually had 8 sons: Ishmael, Isaac, Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah; Gen. 16:1521:2-325:2.

Responses to Jesus III: Obedience

555px-assisi-frescoes-entry-into-jerusalem-pietro_lorenzetti

Jesus’ Entry into Jerusalem by Pietro Lorenzetti

Has anyone ever asked you to steal a brand new car for them?  It’s never happened to me, but I’m not sure about the rest of you.

Jesus appears to do something roughly equivalent to his disciples shortly before his death, which will be the topic of today’s blog.

This week we’re looking at responses to Jesus, starting with his enemies (mocking, beating, killing), then his friends (abandoning, denying, betraying), and finally today looking a faithful response of obedience.  I’ve taken my 10-minute Palm Sunday sermon and milked it into three separate blog posts.  It’s still in terse, outline format.

  • Obeying Jesus.
    1. But in the midst of this rather depressing narrative (mocking, denying, killing, etc), there is a bit of hope.
  • Let’s back up to Palm Sunday, right before Jesus came into Jerusalem.
    1. Jesus commanded two of his disciples to go get a colt that had never been ridden (Luke 19:29-35).
    2. If someone told you to go to dealership, find a car that had never been driven, take it and bring it so your friend could drive it into Philadelphia, what would you call that?
      1. Most people would say “theft.”
      2. It appears that Jesus is telling his disciples to steal a colt (the animal, not the Dodge).
    3. Now, I assume Jesus returned the colt.
      1. Mark’s gospel informs us that the disciples promised to return it.
      2. But none of the gospels record the return of the rented Colt.
    4. Jesus’ errand here is a big ask.
      1. Go steal a colt from a stranger.
      2. I probably would have said, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
    5. But Jesus’ knows exactly what is going to happen. He says…
      1. Go to a village with an unridden colt tied up.
      2. People will ask, “What are you doing?
      3. You’ll give your line “The Lord needs it.
      4. They’ll agree.
      5. You’ll do it.
    6. The two disciples did it.
      1. They responded to Jesus with obedience.
    7. Everything Jesus predicted about the colt came true, just as it did with the mocking, betraying, denying, and killing of Jesus.
      1. Jesus’ words come true.
  • So, what can we learn from this Palm Sunday colt-stealing story?
    1. The words of Jesus are true.
    2. But there are times when we have to wait to see it.
    3. After his death, on Saturday, one final word of Jesus still needed to come true for the disciples.
      1. Jesus did come back to life.
    4. This story can give hope to the disciples even post-resurrection as they look back upon their epic failure, to a time when they were obedient and followed Jesus.
    5. And Jesus knew they would respond in faith and they ultimately did, which is why we’re here today.
  • How do we respond to Jesus?
    1. Like the disciples who got the colt, we respond in faith because we know his word is true.  Even when it seems crazy.
Image from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Assisi-frescoes-entry-into-jerusalem-pietro_lorenzetti.jpg