Thursday, February 27, 2020

Old Guy with the Ponytail

I saw an episode of The Fresh Prince of Belair recently.

Don’t ask.

Man, remember that show? At one time it was all the rage. The jokes seemed so clever, so cutting-edge. It seemed like suddenly every kid on the playground was sliding his pants down, turning his ball cap around, and trying to talk like Will Smith.

“Yo, yo, Homes … whaddup? How you gonna play me?”

** Cringe **

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

From the Cat’s Perspective

I’m sitting in the vet’s office with a very unhappy young feline. She was okay in the car; a little curious but not overly concerned. Now her tail is fluffed up like a feather duster and she’s growling, a sound I’ve never heard from her before. The instrument poking into her ears was bad enough, the prodding and squeezing of her abdomen was worse, and then came the rabies shot and the growling if you accidentally touch her where it now hurts.

To top things off, this is only the preliminary round. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s getting spayed in two weeks. That’s when things will really get ugly.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

What Scripture Doesn’t Tell Us

Yesterday in this space I mulled over the question of whether or not pets go to heaven. The post was mostly speculative. Why? Because, as is the case with so many other topics of interest to us in this life, the Bible simply doesn’t tell us. God chose not to weigh in on that one, at least not directly. Sure, there are hints and clues and principles in scripture which we can draw on to lead us to some more-or-less-satisfactory conclusion, but nowhere do we find plain teaching that settles the matter beyond controversy.

This is true of many, many other subjects of interest to Christians today.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Anonymous Asks (81)

“Will my pet go to heaven?”

As a pet owner and lover, I have no small vested interest in the question myself. That said, given what I know of God, if it turns out that my much-loved critters do not appear beside me in glory one day, I will not be turning to my heavenly Father to complain. There is simply too much about my own consciousness that I do not know with certainty for me to speculate with any confidence about animal consciousness and its eternal value.

Some things we simply have to leave to God. If there is a distinction to be made between the concepts of faith and trust, I would not be able to tell you what it is. Among Christians, then, who have already committed our own selves to Christ for salvation, a little trust on these smaller matters is in order.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Are the Critics Right?

Christianity has been called a crutch, an opiate, a panacea and “wish-fulfillment”. The prevailing theory among its detractors is that we are fragile flowers who can’t cope with life and surround ourselves with comforting platitudes to escape having to face up to harsh realities like “We are all alone in the universe”, “Nobody loves me”, “There is no such thing as justice” and “Death is the end of everything”.

Additionally, we are often told people cling to Christianity because they can’t think for themselves and need to be told what to do.

These are arguments that may initially appear to hold water.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Time and Chance (24)

King Saul had a burial.

When he fell in battle with the Philistines, his enemies decapitated him and fastened his body to the wall of the city of Beth-Shan, publicly degrading him in death. And yet, as willful, proud and chaotic as Saul’s reign over Israel had been, the courageous men of Jabesh-Gilead came, probably at no small risk to themselves, took his body, burned it, buried the bones and fasted seven days in memory of him.

As in most other nations, an ancient Israelite burial was not merely a matter of being dumped into a hole in the ground and covered by dirt. There were people who cared enough about Saul to make it evident to the entire nation — not to mention its enemies — that their king’s life, position and person were worthy of their loyalty and appreciation. So Saul received a proper interment with the customary ritual observances.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Five Questions About the Next Generation

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

We’re getting older. We’re not done yet, Lord willing, but more and more I’m realizing that nearly all the really knowledgeable Bible teachers and leaders I knew as a teenager have gone to be with the Lord and even the very average pulpit-fillers of the seventies and eighties have mostly given up their responsibilities to younger men. The missionaries we used to pray for have died on the mission field or come home to retire, and I don’t recognize many of the names I see replacing them. Even the average, decent pew-sitting Christian of my day seems to be getting longer in the tooth and less able to do the things he or she used to do in the local church. Some independent local churches I knew have now hired pastors and others have affiliated themselves with denominations. The local church of today is in many ways less and less recognizable to me.

Tom: To top it off, Immanuel Can, I’m not sure I identify much with the coming generation. They are so different from the young people of my own day. I’m not sure I can picture what the average local church may look like in twenty or thirty years. And yet we have an obligation to those who seek to follow Christ in the days to come. What IS the right strategy to prepare Christian young people to take on the world?

Thursday, February 20, 2020

On Being Taken In

“ ‘You see,’ said Aslan, ‘they will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.’ ”
— C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

“You are not going to fool me with that religion stuff.”

That seems to be the position of many people in our modern world. There are many religions, they observe, and they disagree about all kinds of really basic things, like who God is, what morality should be, and what the point of life itself is. And since they all disagree, there’s got to be a lot of tommyrot and humbug out there.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Things That Are God’s

Most people use the expression “Render unto Caesar” as a slightly more literary way of saying “Pay your taxes.” The phrase is so universally recognizable it has served as the title of an episode of the Hercules TV cartoon, at least one book of teen fiction, and a whole quest in a popular videogame.

Not everyone could tell you the line comes from the Bible. Fewer know it was Jesus who said it. A smaller subset still can actually quote it in full: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

It’s funny how easily that last bit tends to get forgotten.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Analyzing the Narrative

Detail from Meister Francke’s Resurrection, ca. 1424
I read a lot of fiction. I always have. And, like most avid readers, I can tell the difference between a good story and a bad one; between a narrative account that holds water and one that is flimsily constructed or implausible.

The stolen body hypothesis is one of the latter, one that has been around from the very beginning. Matthew points out that the chief priests and elders paid to circulate the rumor as soon as it was clear the Lord’s body was no longer in his tomb.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Anonymous Asks (80)

“What are valid reasons to break up?”

If you are talking about breaking up a marriage on a permanent basis, the only possible valid reason given in scripture is a spouse engaged in a sexual perversion. Usually this is limited to adultery, but the Greek term the Lord used in Matthew is a fairly broad one, and there could be several other sorts of perversion that qualify.

Sorry, that’s a bit grim, but there you are. However, I suspect you are inquiring about a dating relationship or perhaps an engagement. In that case, I believe the Bible’s answer would be a little different.

Frankly, almost anything qualifies.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Metaphorical Mites

You remember the widow, right?

I know, I know, there are more than a few widows in the Bible. I mean the one at the temple in Jerusalem in the gospels. The Lord remarked on the gift she deposited in the temple treasury. He specifically drew the attention of his disciples to it when he said that she put in “more than all those who are contributing.”

If you only read Luke you might be forgiven for thinking this incident occurred at random, but Mark makes it clear that the Lord “sat down … and watched the people putting money into the offering box.” That may seem an odd way to occupy your time, but I think he was waiting for a certain poor widow to come along.

So her two mites matter, and maybe not only for the reasons you might think.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Time and Chance (23)

Work is not in itself a product of the Fall. God made man to “have dominion”. Even ruling is not a passive undertaking; it requires doing something from time to time. God put Adam in the Garden of Eden not to be a man of leisure but “to work it and keep it”. Apparently it would not keep itself, even in an unfallen world. There is no suggestion this was in any way unpleasant, but it was man’s lot up until the Fall.

However, when Adam sinned, God declared, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.” Work got a whole lot harder. The word “pain” appears for the first time in the respective curses. This was the new “lot” of mankind, and coming to grips with it required serious reflection.

Back in Ecclesiastes 5, the Preacher has given it some.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Positively Negative

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

Karen Wolff at Christian Books for Women gives some tips for the Christian on maintaining an upbeat attitude that are almost generic enough pass for the musings of whatever secular positivity guru happens to trending on the shelves in Chapters this week. She says obeying Paul’s injunction to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” involved purposefully replacing any negative thoughts we have with positive ones.

Tom: Such a thing is not always easily done, and I’m not even sure we have a scriptural warrant to pursue it. Certainly Wolff provides none, simply assuming the validity of her own premise. But her thoughts on the subject are similar to other believers I’ve encountered over the years.