Saturday, December 04, 2021

Mining the Minors: Hosea (4)

As previously mentioned, the book of Hosea is made up of both background historical material as well as the content of the message given by God to the nation of Israel through the prophet. These last four verses of chapter one set up the remainder of the book for us. Chapter two will take us directly into Hosea’s message.

But first, Hosea’s wife Gomer has another child to bring into the world ...

Friday, December 03, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Culture and the Gospel

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Immanuel Can: I’m going to temporarily suspend our self-imposed five-sentence limit, Tom, in order to tell you a story about something that happened last year when our provincial standardized test was performed.

You need to know that teachers are all given a specific script for what they are and are not allowed to tell students on the day of the test. They are expressly forbidden to go beyond this script, and doing so is grounds for firing. Teachers cannot add any directions, explanations, definitions or any other kind of information to this. They are not allowed to give any guidance once the test begins, no matter what a student wants or needs. It’s standardized, period.

One of the questions on the test asked kids to imagine a picnic, and then write based on their imagining.

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Is Your Faith Boring You?

The great mathematician Blaise Pascal claimed all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

Modern people don’t sit in rooms alone very well. They find it boring. And, in fact, being bored is one thing almost all of us instinctively hate. Particularly in our present day of social media, cell phones, portable games and constant mental stimulation, it seems to us that solitude and silence are indicators of something being terribly wrong. On those occasions when we find ourselves momentarily bored we immediately fumble for our phones or look around for some new distraction.

I suspect we are probably less adept than any previous generation at just sitting still and thinking.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Bolt-of-Lightning Belief

I don’t think it’s unrealistic to say the internet has changed the way we find answers to our spiritual questions.

In times past, we might have picked up a book on a subject that interested us, plowed through it in due course, and agreed, disagreed or partially agreed with its author, which either satisfied our curiosity or provoked further investigation. But that’s a fairly laborious process, and not every Christian is up for it.

Typing a string of text into DuckDuckGo is not laborious at all. Anyone can do that.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

A House of Trade

“Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”

Jesus had nothing against pigeons; he made them after all, as John’s first chapter well establishes. Furthermore, the poor pigeons were only present at the temple to serve as sacrifices, a practice the Lord had himself authorized.

But these pigeons were not in the process of being carried to the altar in the arms of guilty or devout Jews. They were caged, on sale, and probably marked up at a premium for the convenience of having a cheap sacrifice handy when you needed one.

The Father’s house had become a house of trade.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Anonymous Asks (173)

“Do guardian angels exist?”

How many angels are there? We can’t be sure, but there are indications in the Bible that number is stratospheric. Hebrews speaks of “innumerable angels in festal gathering”. In Revelation, John writes of “many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands”.

The Greek expression underlying the latter phrase may refer to vast numbers generally, or may refer literally to the number 10,000 times itself.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Intended Meanings and Frivolous Applications

Disclaimer time: our loving Father is not indifferent to the details of his children’s lives. He cares about our strained relationships, our problems at work, our finances and our trips to the doctor’s office. It matters to him when we grieve over a lost pet. If you are not grateful for that level of divine attention today, you certainly will be at some point down the road.

The bone of contention in what follows, then, is not whether God cares, but how his care is normally expressed to us. After all, we can’t appreciate the Lord’s love if we can’t recognize it. If we are expecting it to manifest one way and it manifests in a different way, we may feel God doesn’t love us at all.

More importantly, we really don’t want to lead other Christians to expect from the Lord things they are most unlikely to receive.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Mining the Minors: Hosea (3)

Two sentence recap: The northern kingdom of Israel went into Assyrian captivity in three stages, the final one occurring with the fall of Samaria in 722 BC. The southern kingdom of Judah went into Babylonian captivity over a century later, with the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC.

Those readers less familiar with the history of God’s earthly people may wonder why an empire as aggressively expansionist as the Assyrian would be satisfied with devouring only the northern kingdom, leaving the south to its own devices.

The answer is that it wasn’t.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: The Future Church

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

We’ve written here on many occasions about current trends within Christendom and what they say about North American Christians. Last week, for instance, we did a piece on giving by millennials. But I wouldn’t say we do an inordinate amount of speculating about the future, because while we can see from scripture where both the world and the people of God are ultimately headed, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to plot exactly where we are on that timeline.

Tom: Still, Carey Nieuwhof is willing to go out on a limb and tell us where he thinks the Church is headed in the next few years in his article “10 Predictions About The Future Church”.

What did you think of Carey’s musings, Immanuel Can?

Thursday, November 25, 2021

The Mental Scrapbook

“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”, as the famous adage goes. Your raw materials define what is possible with them.

The same is true of your mental life: you cannot make a good life out of bad imaginings.

Your mind is a scrapbook. Like any scrapbook, it collects fragmentary images of whatever you decide to put in there. Over time you fill it up. And eventually, what you have put into it defines the kind of life you’re going to have. That happens because the ‘resources’ you put into your mental scrapbook become the raw materials for your present attitudes, your frame of reference for present experiences, and the repository of images for your present imagination.

Garbage in, garbage out. Good stuff in, good stuff out. It’s that simple.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Candles and Flags

“So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, ‘Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city.’ But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.”

On the bright side, at least Lot didn’t have to start with an explanation of who “the Lord” was. He had at least that much of a testimony: that he was a worshiper of Yahweh, as opposed to whatever god or gods were worshiped in Sodom, where he had rather unwisely made his home.

Evidently his prospective sons-in-law knew that much about him.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Happy Accidents

My college painting teacher had a name for improbable color choices or brushstroke combinations that gave a pleasing and unexpectedly-mature aesthetic to student-level work.

He called them “happy accidents”.

Most often he was correct. Sometimes things happen at random that just work.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Anonymous Asks (172)

“Did Noah’s sons represent races?”

We are often told diversity is our strength. Yet many of the very same people who chide us to accommodate the differences between men and women from different parts of the world also insist there is no such thing as race, other than the human race.

So then, to answer questions about the origin of races, we would first have to agree about the meaning of “race”. Good luck with that in our hyper-politicized environment.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Infants, Innocence and Ignorance

“Be infants in evil ...”

“We are not ignorant of [Satan’s] designs.”

In the first instance, Paul appears to be suggesting that Christians in the churches of Corinth were better off the less they knew about evil. Perhaps naivety has its benefits. In the second, the same apostle writes to the very same Christians that “we” — which I take to mean Paul and Timothy, authors of the letter and fellow workers in Christ — are familiar with the manipulations and schemes Satan uses to pit Christian against Christian. That implies a bit of inside knowledge about the way in which evil works, or at very least basic pattern recognition.

Is Paul suggesting there are two different standards of understanding about evil: one for experienced Christian workers and another for the average Joe and Jane in the pews? Or possibly Paul is just being inconsistent ...