find out what is going on inside my head. i know it is a little scary, but you will be safe. i promise.

Friday, May 29, 2009

LIFE Group

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were talking about our small group at church. It is truly a great group. As we were talking, we realized that we have been leading our group for about five years. We took over for the previous leaders when they moved on to a pastoral position in another church. For most of the previous year, we had been sort of co-leading as he was finishing his seminary studies as well as working a full-time job. This is not the same group we began leading. This is true both literally and figuratively. Of the eight families in the group (including us), my wife and I are the only ones that were in the group back then.

We have seen a lot of changes in our group. Families have come and gone. We seem to be more stable than we have in a long time. There appears to be more unity within the group. Our discussions have been lively and insightful. We enjoy our time together around the table and around the Word of God. For the most part, we really do see ourselves as a family. In his book, The Lost Art of Disciple Making, LeRoy Eimes describes it this way:
When I was in high school, I worked in a bakery. Frequently we would make batches of frosting for cakes and chocolate donuts. I would take great lumps of broken chocolate, put them in a pan, and warm them over a low fire. The chocolate lumps would begin to melt, stick together, and finally blend into one pan full of melted chocolate.

That's what Christian fellowship is all about. Not a group of people in one building like marbles in a bag, but like lumps of chocolate that have blended together and become part of one another. This only happens through the ministry of the Holy Spirit as He slowly warms our hearts together in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (see Gal. 5:22-23).

There are changes afoot in our small group. It may or may not involve new members. Either Satan is trying to stir up something in our families or God is working in His own mysterious way. I don't know exactly what this thing is going to look like at the end. Or maybe there is no end. Maybe we will continue to grow and change. In another five years, there may be none of the same families. That will be alright as long as there is the same sense of melted chocolate. That is what I pray for.

For what it is worth, the group leader that left is back as part of the group. That has been a good change we have all enjoyed.

Have you experienced this type of fellowship? What do you think makes it happen or prevents it from happening? Share your experience with us.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It's a park, it's a's a sprayground!

Today I had the distinct privilege of accompanying my son's first grade class on a field trip to Faulkner Park's Sprayground! What is a sprayground you may be asking yourself? In this particular instance it is a playground that is delightfully cool and wet! There are a variety of sprinklers and sprayers on a nice concrete surface that has been treated to not be too slippery. There are some nice benches around the periphery that will keep Mom and Dad in a fine mist but not soaking.
Right beside the sprayground is a regular playground. There is a nice soft wood chip base to cushion those inevitable falls. There are some unusual play things on this playground in addition to the usual swings and slide. There is a large pole with plasticized cables coming off of it that make it look like a spider web - very cool to climb! There are also some seats that you sit on and they use your weight to gain momentum as you spin!
The park is located off of South Broadway in Tyler at Faulkner Park. It is clean, there are limited picnic tables and relatively spacious parking (don't try to turn around a full size school bus in there though - not easy!). A few words of caution - there are only porta-potties and the closest real bathrooms are a real hike (or a short drive) to the tennis complex. Also, it can be very busy and crowded - today for example there were at least 3 different schools having field trips, a birthday party and several families enjoying the beautiful weather!
If you need a free, clean place to cool off this summer - check out the sprayground! It's a great thing about Tyler!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Book Review: Character Makes a Difference

Character Makes a Difference is a 2007 release by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. It is a re-release of 1997's Character is the Issue, along with selected chapters of Living Beyond Your Lifetime from 2000. It appears to have been released in preparation for Gov. Huckabee's unsuccessful run for the Presidency. While that may (or may not) have been the reason for the book, that is not what it is about.

Character is neatly divided into three sections: "Character in the Furnace", "The Need for Character", and "Selected Speeches & Commentary". In the first section, Mr. Huckabee describes his rise to the governor's office. Born and raised in rural Arkansas, he spent his life as a devout Southern Baptist. He attended Ouachita Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He pastored two churches in Arkansas before he felt God leading him into the world of politics. When then-Governor Bill Clinton was elected President in 1992, Lieutenant Governor Jim Guy Tucker became governor. Mike Huckabee was elected as the Republican Lieutenant Governor in a Democratic state. During the Whitewater scandal, Gov. Tucker was convicted and resigned his office allowing Huckabee to assume the office. But it wasn't really that simple. Tucker had committed to resign the office, but changed his mind. Mr. Huckabee describes the support he received from a Democrat legislature and the general public.

The second section focuses on "why character is important, how we know there are absolutes of good and bad character, and the consequences of surrendering those absolutes to the champions of relativism." (from the introduction) Mr. Huckabee describes and illustrates faith in a number of ways, all of them in his typical folksy manner. He clearly articulates his faith and and the object of that faith is clearly identified as Christ and his Word.

The third section is a short collection of some of his speeches and commentary from his days as governor of Arkansas. The first is the text of a speech that was never delivered. It was prepared to be delivered in a televised address just after being sworn in as governor. This was before Gov. Tucker decided not to resign. The next was an improptu speech before the state General Assembly before Tucker actually did resign. The third is an unscripted televised address given in place of the first speech. In it, Gov. Tucker was given the ultimatum to resign or face impeachment. Almost immediately, Tucker's resignation was delivered to the legislature. The fourth speech is the televised speech after being sworn in as governor. The final address was given to the 2004 National Forum on Education Policy. In this speech, Gov. Huckabee addresses the need for an arts education for every child in our schools.

This book is an easy read. It took me a total of about three to four hours to complete all 227 pages. Just because it is easy doesn't mean it isn't interesting or valuable. If you, like me, are already an admirer and fan of Mike Huckabee, this book will give you additional insight into the way he conducts himself. If you don't know much about him, it will help you understand his values and character. I can wholeheartedly recommend Character Makes a Difference.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Last Chance to Nominate!

Coming in about a week is the first episode of "This Show Bites!" Next week, my crack producer Todd and I will be going out to try your top three nominations. This is your last chance to get your nominations in. Remember, this episode is all about. . .


The rules for this episode are simple:
1. Decide on a restaurant appetizer for me to try. It can be from any restaurant in the Tyler area. It can be your favorite or it can be one that you think looks interesting but are afraid to try. It cannot be a sampler platter; it must be a single appetizer item.
2. You must email your nomination directly to me. If you leave it as a comment, I will ask you to resubmit it in email form. You must send it to wjcollier3 (at) (replace (at) with @.)

I will compile the nominations and try the top three. When the video is released, it will be available here and in a variety of other places.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Really! Leviticus 25:35-55 (Part 4)

This post will end the series on Leviticus 25:35-55. I hope it has been helpful, or at least interesting. We have looked at the overall context of the passage and then looked closer at the passage itself. This post takes a look at what it means for us as Christians in the 21st century. I have chosen to include a list of all the works cited in this series. Be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you have thought about the series.


When we try to interpret and apply Leviticus 25:35-55 to modern Christianity, we must deal with many differences between the Israelites of Moses’ day and the 21st century Christian. While there are many differences between the society and culture of ancient Israel and today, there are some principles which transcend these differences.

One of the major themes of the book of Leviticus is the holiness of God. More than once, we are told to also be holy. It is the duty of the believer to imitate God. One of the primary motives given for the care of the poor in our text is that showing mercy to an Israelite brother who is poor imitates God, who had compassion on the Israelites in slavery in Egypt. Is there any less standard for us today? In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus himself tells us that second only to our love for God should be our love for our neighbor. Over and over in his epistles, Paul exhorts us to love one another, care for one another, pray for one another, and serve one another.

Rooker also made these observations:

The sabbatical year and especially the year of jubilee became patterns or types for later acts of God. In Isaiah 61:1-3 it is to be noted that one feature of the work of the Messiah includes proclaiming “liberty” to the captives. The word “liberty” is the same term found in Leviticus 25:10 in describing the year of jubilee. In the New Testament this passage is cited by Jesus to explain his mission at the beginning of his ministry in Luke 4:18-19….Moreover, the trumpet blast at the commencement of the Jubilee may be a type for the trumpet announcing the return of Christ (Matthew 24:31, 1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16). (Rooker, p. 311)


Just like God redeemed his Israelite people from slavery in Egypt, so God has redeemed us from the slavery to sin. We do not belong to ourselves or anyone else. We belong to him.

The passage closes with verse 55: “They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” About this verse, Rooker says:

God is not only the owner of the land but the Israelites are his possession. Consequently he has every right to dictate these laws regarding the rest for the land and the emancipation of his people – the two subjects of Leviticus 25. (Rooker, p. 310)

Ross closes his discussion of verse 55 with this:

Leviticus 25:55 reiterates the basic theological idea governing all of these laws: if no one actually owned the land upon which they lived, then certainly no one could own another person either. The land belonged to God, and the people were God’s servants because he redeemed them. These two truths governed the way that faithful Israelites looked at possessions and debtors. (Ross, p. 462)

The same is true for us today. If we have been redeemed by God, we are his. We cannot be slaves to another.

Works Cited

Constable, Thomas C., Dr. Constable’s Notes on Leviticus, Sonic Light,, 2009.

Currid, John D., A Study Commentary on Leviticus, Webster: Evangelical Press, 2004.

Hartley, John E., Word Biblical Commentary: Leviticus, Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002.

Harris, R. Laird, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Editor Frank E Gæbelein, Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, 1990.

Lindsey, F. Duane, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, SP Publications, Inc., 1985

Rooker, Mark F., The New American Commentary: Leviticus, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.

Ross, Allen P., Holiness to the Lord, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.

Stedman, Ray C., “The True Basis of Social Concern”, from the sermon series titled “Basic Human Behavior”, preached March 26, 1972, Palo Alto: Discovery Publishing, a ministry of Peninsula Bible Church,

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Really! Leviticus 25:35-55 (Part 3)

In this third installment on Leviticus 25:35-55, we will look at the actual passage. I know. Three days just to get to the passage. Tomorrow, I'll try to post the last section. it deals with how this relates to us today. Thanks for reading. I hope these posts are beneficial to you. Please comment and let me, and everyone else, know what you think.

If Leviticus 25:13-34 deals with the effects of the year of jubilee on the Israelites possession of property, verses 35-55 deals with its effects on the personal freedom of the Israelites. This passage is where we will focus most of the rest of our attention. There are three levels of poverty which are dealt with in the last half of Leviticus chapter 25. The three sections of this passage deal with each level of poverty, prescribe certain obligations with regard to the poor, inform the reader of God’s purpose for requiring these obligations, and give a reason which should motivate the Israelite to obey.

The first type of poverty, addressed in verses 35-38, is a temporary and less serious one. Today we would call this a “cash flow problem”. In farming terms, it would be the result of a bad year, or at least of a bad crop. The Israelite is short of funds and may not have the means to provide for his family until the next crop can be harvested. He may not even have the means to purchase seed so that he can sow his fields. What is needed is enough food and provisions to get by until the next crop or enough finances to plant the next season’s crop. God’s solution is a “no-interest loan”. This solves the current shortfall, provides for future income, and does this in a way that does not punish the individual. Harris (citing E. A. Speiser, Oriental and Biblical Studies, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1967) seems to hold the view that this is not simply a loan without interest. The borrower could be charged interest, just not beyond the usual regulations. If the borrower was unable to repay the loan and put himself into servant-hood, he could not be charged additional interest. (Harris, p. 639) In my opinion, a plain reading of the text does not justify this conclusion. Verses 36-37 say, “Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit.” According to Currid,

This interdiction against usury is unique in the ancient Near East. In all other cultures of the time, usury was allowed with some restrictions. The reason that Israel’s laws on usury are unique is that they are a people freed from the bondage of Egypt by the hand of a merciful and gracious God. (Currid, p. 337)

An interest bearing loan is highly undesirable, and for good reason. First, it is not good for the recipient of the loan. To charge him interest in his hour of need is to further handicap him. Interest would tend to promote and perpetuate poverty, not solve it. Neither is loaning money at interest good for the lender. When a brother is in distress, charging interest is not showing compassion, but it is taking advantage of his weakness and vulnerability. The loan becomes not an act of charity, but a business activity. The lender is not demonstrating the grace of God, of which he is the recipient. There are other factors which assure that this loan is an act of charity, rather than a business loan. In Deuteronomy 15:1-2, God instructed the Israelites that they must cancel all unpaid debts on the seventh year. Additionally, when loaning a brother money, no consideration could be as to how soon the cancellation year was (Deuteronomy 15:9-10). Not only was the generous Israelite not able to make money on the loan, he was not even assured that he would be paid back. The temporarily distressed Israelite brother should be helped toward recovery with a no interest loan which avoids placing him in greater bondage.

The next two categories of poverty are much more serious and long-term. These categories of poverty would result in the debtor being forced to sell himself, either to a fellow Israelite (vv. 39-46) or to a stranger or sojourner among them (vv. 47-55). One instance in the Old Testament where this kind of slavery was threatened or occurred is found in 2 Kings 4.

Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves." (2 Kings 4:1)

This sad story ends well, as Elisha had the woman and her sons gather vessels and pour into them from her little jar of oil. This paid her debt and provided her income.

Verses 39-43 give instructions to the Israelites on how to deal with another Israelite brother who became their slave due to dire poverty. He is not to be treated as a slave, but as a hired servant or a day laborer. Hartley says:

The master thus is to treat his Israelite servant as… “a hired servant.” [This] does not mean that he will receive regular wages, though he might receive some remuneration in addition to shelter and food, but that he will be treated with the respect shown a hired worker and his tasks will be similar to those of a hired worker. In Jewish tradition, a Jewish slave is to be employed at his own trade. (Hartley)

The reason Israelite slaves were to be treated this way is found in verses 42-43: “For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God.” Israelites of Moses’ day did not need to be told about being ruled over ruthlessly. They had experienced this at the hands of the Egyptians, who were cruel taskmasters (Exodus 1:8-14). Currid adds this:

The theological foundation for the way in which the Hebrews deal with servants si set out here. The Hebrews are God’s “servants”, or “slaves”; they are his property. He took them out of slavery in Egypt to become his servants / slaves. That is an important concept – the only permanent and true master that a Hebrew has is God. (Currid, 338-339)

Verses 44-46 give the instructions for Israelite treatment of non-Israelite slaves. These slaves were not to be treated harshly, but they could be owned and passed from generation to generation. A major distinction between Israelite servants and non-Israelite slaves is that the Israelite had to be released at the year of Jubilee. It appears from the text that it is permissible for Hebrews to take as true slaves from non-Hebrew people. Stedman explains it like this:

No Israelite was to be a slave. They were permitted to make slaves of the people around them, because those people hadn’t yet discovered the principle which makes for liberty – atonement and redemption – and until a person learns that, there is no freedom from slavery. But when they did learn that and became part of Israel they were never to be make slaves. They could be servants but never slaves. (Stedman)

The third level of poverty is described in verses 47-55. These verses assume that a foreigner sojourning among them could prosper, just as it assumes that a Hebrew can become impoverished. The rules for treating the Hebrew servant are the same as if he were in the employ of another Israelite. He was not to be treated ruthlessly and he was to be released at the year of Jubilee. The major difference is the right of redemption. A family member could redeem this Israelite servant. If he were able to accumulate enough wealth, he could redeem himself. The cost of this redemption was calculated based on the number of years until the next year of jubilee (vv. 50-52). Constable describes it like this:

Israelites could also buy back (redeem) their countrymen who had sold themselves as slaves to non-Israelites who were living in the land (vv. 47-55). An Israelite slave could also buy back his own freedom. In these cases the Israelites were to calculate the cost of redemption in view of the approaching year of jubilee when all slaves in the land went free anyway. (Constable, p. 98)

The basis of the treatment and release at jubilee of the Hebrew servant was the same whether he was the servant of another Hebrew or a non-Hebrew. As verse 55 says, “They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Really! Leviticus 25:35-55 (Part 2)

Today, we will continue looking at Leviticus 25:35-55. Before we get to verse 35, we should look at the context of chapter 25. Today's post introduces that. Again, I hope this is helpful. please feel free to comment. In a few days, the whole passage will come together, including some notes of application.

Introduction and Analysis of Leviticus 25:35-55

In examining Leviticus 25:35-55, we see that it is a natural continuation of the previous sections of the chapter. Leviticus 25:1-7 instructs the Israelites to observe a Sabbath year every seventh year. Additionally, the Israelites were to observe the year of jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-12) every fiftieth year, the year following seven seven-year periods. Every seventh year, the land was to lie fallow. This included the forty-ninth year. Then on the fiftieth year, the year of jubilee, the land was to continue to lie fallow. When the cycle began again the next year, it would be most of a year before harvest. That is almost three years with no production of food. Naturally, the people wanted to know where their food would be coming from during that time. God answers in verses 21-22: “I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives.” (Leviticus 25:21-22 ESV) When the people of Israel ask where the food is going to come from, Ray Stedman, paraphrasing God, answers:

That’s exactly what I wanted you to ask, because I’m trying to impress a principle upon you: It isn’t the land which supports you; it is I. I will make the land produce enough for three years. Every seventh year I want you to experience the fact that I am able to take care of you despite the outward circumstances, that it is I upon whom you are dependent, not the land, not your own energy and labor, although that is part of the picture, but that is not where your well-being arises, it comes from me. Every sixth year I’ll increase the crops so that the seventh year you can eat of the sixth year’s crops, the eight year the year of jubilee, you can still eat from that crop, and the ninth year, while another harvest is maturing, you will still eat from the sixth year’s crops; thus you’ll have all you need to eat. (Stedman)

According to Lindsey:

The year of jubilee is not mentioned in the Old Testament outside the Pentateuch. There is no direct biblical evidence regarding its observance in Israel’s history, but if its practice was normal, there might have been no occasion to mention it. On the other hand, the apparent failure of Israelites to keep the sabbatical years during the monarchial period (cf. 26:34-35, 43; 2 Chron. 36:20-21) suggests that the Jubilee might also have been violated. (Lindsey, p. 211)

The rest of chapter 25 describes the effects of the year of jubilee on the nation of Israel, first on the possession of property (vv. 13-34), then on the personal freedom of the Israelites (vv. 35-55). For the Israelite, personal property could not truly be sold to another. In a more real sense, it was only leased. At the year of jubilee, it was returned to the family that originally owned it. When property was sold to another, the price was to be based on how long to the next jubilee (vv. 14-16).

Leviticus 25:23-34 lays out the law for redemption of property. This includes what is commonly known as the kinsman-redeemer, demonstrated in the book of Ruth. This is further described later in the chapter (vv. 47-54). These verses also describe the redemption of property inside a walled city as opposed to outside a walled city and the redemption of property belonging to Levites.

If Leviticus 25:13-34 deals with the effects of the year of jubilee on the Israelites possession of property, verses 35-55 deals with its effects on the personal freedom of the Israelites. This passage is where we will focus most of the rest of our attention. There are three levels of poverty which are dealt with in the last half of Leviticus chapter 25. The three sections of this passage deal with each level of poverty, prescribe certain obligations with regard to the poor, inform the reader of God’s purpose for requiring these obligations, and give a reason which should motivate the Israelite to obey.