Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Abiding in Christ

Christians are divided in their understanding of what Jesus wanted us to do when He charged His followers to ‘abide’ in Him in John 15.

Soon after my conversion I read through a biography of Hudson Taylor; it told of his struggle to understand how this command was to be applied in his life. I read and re-read the story. I went on to read a number of devotional commentaries that dealt with this subject. Many seemed to be telling me to pray more fervently or read the word more diligently. This was good advice, yet the way to enter into this heightened experience of eternal life (that is what I thought it offered) still eluded me; I was trying to apply His words to my need in the 21st century before I understood them in the light of the situation facing His disciples in the 1st century. I saw it as something I had to learn to do, a level of Christian living which I hadn’t experienced yet.

Was abiding some state to which only the super-spiritual attained?

Monday, December 30, 2013

So What About Cain’s Wife?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Truth Is Out There

I have often thought pityingly of people who lived before Christ, especially those who lived before God’s Law was written down for Moses and Israel: How did those poor savages go about pleasing God? What were their chances of avoiding punishment — let alone of successfully navigating their way to eternal life — without any clear directions?

I suppose my underlying assumption was that God had somehow been unfair to them. How do we explain that?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Bible Study 02 — Comparison [Part 2]

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Two Genealogies

Whenever people speak of supposed contradictions in the Bible, the example of Christ’s two genealogies is sure to come up. The one in Matthew seems to be only 42 generations long from Abraham to Christ, while the one in Luke covers 56 from Abraham to Christ. Luke says that Heli was the father of Joseph, while Matthew says that Jacob was the father of Joseph. There are many other differences between the two genealogies, as well. How can both these accounts be correct?

Why Does it Matter?

The genealogy of Jesus is important, because anybody who claimed to be the Messiah had to be able to establish that they were a descendant of King David and heir to his throne, as the prophets had foretold (2 Sam. 7:12-13; Is. 9:6, 11:1-5; Jer. 23:5). So any accusation that Jesus’ genealogies are wrong is a serious one. However, both clearly show that Jesus is a descendant of David, so no matter what other conclusions one may reach about the genealogies, they cannot be used to disqualify Jesus as the Messiah.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

In Need of Analysis: Does it Build?

Earlier this year I sat in a small local church full of nice, friendly people who had come to hear what turned out to be a pretty decent, relevant and biblical message from a visiting preacher. Prior to introducing the speaker, the man designated to open the meeting led the congregation in a hymn. We opened beat-up, dog-eared hardcover hymnals to the hymn number he gave us and together we sang the following:
“Brightly beams our Father’s mercy,
From His lighthouse evermore,
But to us He gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.
Let the lower lights be burning!
Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.
Dark the night of sin has settled,
Loud the angry billows roar;
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore.
Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.”
Say what? “Trim my feeble lamp”? Trim your own feeble lamp, pal! It was actually the second time we’d sung this hymn in the four weeks I’d been dropping in to that particular church.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Does the Virgin Birth Matter?

Liberal theologians say that certain details about the life of Christ, such as His virgin birth, are really just fanciful tales concocted by His followers long after His death. The disciples were trying to make Christ seem special, these scholars suggest, and so made these outrageous claims about His conception and birth when really He was just born in the ordinary way. The people of Jesus’ time did not have our medical knowledge and so the story caught on. But is it really that simple?

Does it Really Matter How Christ was Born?

Yes, it certainly does matter. The story of the virgin birth is vital to our understanding of Christ’s divine, sinless nature. It is no coincidence that so many of the theologians who reject the Virgin Birth also reject the deity of Christ. After all, if one part of His life story is just a myth, then many other parts might be mythical as well.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Duck Season

Stephen Yuille at Deus Pro Nobis tosses around the Phil Robertson (Duck Dynasty) political football with some success here, and says a lot of good things. I’ve been thinking a fair bit about his third concern:
Thirdly (and finally), I’m concerned for those who want to make grandpa the poster-child for the Christian faith.
I’ve read the transcript of grandpa’s recent interview. (It made me blush.) He attempted to quote Scripture (botched it, but at least he tried). But he had no difficulty or hesitancy engaging in a discourse which was (to put it mildly) downright crude (“lacking tact or taste; blunt or offensive”), crass (“unrefined as to be lacking in discrimination and sensibility”), and vulgar (“deficient in taste, delicacy, or refinement”). Wait, I’m not finished. It was rude, tawdry, and tasteless.”
First, I haven’t run into anyone so far who’s bent on trying to make Phil Robertson a poster child for the Christian faith, but then again, I’ve never watched his show either, so that may be more of a function of my lack of attention to the media generally than an intimation that Mr. Yuille has missed the boat in his assessment.

The Messiah

Among the millions of Jews in the world today, only a small percentage even believe in the promise of Messiah at all. That percentage seems to be growing, but in North America relatively few Jews acknowledge the Bible’s teaching about a coming king who would redeem and rescue Israel. 

The Meaning and the Promise

Messiah is a Hebrew word meaning ‘Anointed One’. ‘Christ’ is the Greek word for the very same thing. In the Old Testament, prophets, priests and kings were anointed to show that they had been chosen by God. However, there were also many prophecies which spoke of a special Anointed One who would be prophet, priest and king all in one. This was the One who was referred to as ‘the Messiah’, and the promise of His coming gave suffering Jews hope for many centuries. Today many Jews have given up on that promise. However, gentile Christians and a small number of believing Jews believe that Jesus is the Messiah who was promised to Israel. He has not yet fulfilled all the prophecies which were given about the Messiah, but He will come back and fulfill the rest of the prophecies soon.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Chosen Instrument

When the Lord Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus, he was blinded and spent three days fasting and praying until the Lord healed him through the hands of Ananias.

Speaking about his conversion to the Jews in Jerusalem much later, he said:
 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day” (Acts 22:3)
A Jew: Was being a Jew useful to Paul in the Lord’s service? No kidding. Had he been only a Gentile, it would have been extremely difficult for Paul to convince anyone, especially Jews, of the critical truth that salvation was now offered freely outside of the legal prescriptions of Judaism. Instead, he could endorse Gentile membership in the body of Christ (and for that matter, salvation by faith rather than works) without any apparent personal agenda.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Two Men and You

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Can We Really Know?

Although there are many religions in the world, with a great number of differences between them, there is one point at which almost all of them agree: They all claim that man must earn his salvation by good works of some kind — whether this is by performing deeds of charity, observing rituals or cultivating certain attitudes and thoughts. As a result, followers of these beliefs can never be confident that they have done enough to please their god or gods. They can only say, “I think so”, or “I hope so”.

Arrogant Christians?

The believer in Christ, however, does not say “I think” or “I hope”. He is able to say “I know”. Those who follow other beliefs are often taken aback, and offended, by this confidence. How could anyone be so arrogant as to be sure that they have pleased God? But the Christian is someone who has realized that there is a difference between God’s plan of salvation and the way humanity tries to make for itself.

Friday, December 20, 2013


The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bible Study 01 — Comparison [Part 1]

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

But I’m Not Hurting Anybody …

Wiccans and other new age groups often quote the credo “An ye harm none, do what ye will.” As long as what they are doing is not hurting anyone, they believe that they are free to commit whatever acts they desire — including many things scripture calls sin.

The question is, however, whether they can be sure that these ‘harmless’ acts really are harmless.

On Further Reflection

A few days back I linked to a post from a Texas pastor on the subject of God’s attributes that’s still percolating in my cranium this morning (you can find it here). This bit, for example:

“God isn’t merely wise; He’s wisdom. He isn’t merely powerful; He’s power. He isn’t merely good; He’s goodness. He isn’t merely holy; He’s holiness. He isn’t merely just; He’s justice. God’s manifold attributes can no more be separated from Him than He can be separated from Himself. They’re His essence.”

I suspect that’s something any serious Christian can nod in agreement with.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


“But he is one, and who can turn him?”

Job said it about God to his companions as he suffered.

God is one. That can be read in many different ways and has a bunch of implications, certainly more than Job had in mind at the time.

1/ One vs. Three

When the Unitarian says, “Good, God is one; that puts paid to this nonsense about a trinity,” he is making a theological point. He’s wrong, of course. Don’t use the word trinity if it bothers you. Don’t refer to the ‘persons of the Godhead’ if you find it a non-scriptural or extra-scriptural turn of phrase. That’s certainly a position one can take. But if you can read your Bible without noticing that God manifests himself in three distinctly different ways, modes — or possibly, um, ‘persons’ — well, you’re just not reading the same thing I’m reading.

But despite all that being very much the case, we read that God is one.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Recommend-a-blog (1)

This is pretty amazing:
"God isn’t merely wise; He’s wisdom. He isn’t merely powerful; He’s power. He isn’t merely good; He’s goodness. He isn’t merely holy; He’s holiness. He isn’t merely just; He’s justice. God’s manifold attributes can no more be separated from Him than He can be separated from Himself. They’re His essence. They’re all one in Him – His justice is His mercy and His mercy is His justice, His wisdom is His power and His power is His wisdom, His knowledge is His patience and His patience is His knowledge, His wrath is His goodness and His goodness is His wrath. God’s manifold attributes are distinguished in their objects and effects, but they’re all one in Him."
Read the whole thing here and give it some thought. If you don’t get it now, it may hit you later.

Made my day.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Did Christ’s Disciples Concoct the Myth that He is God?

“I think,” someone once told me earnestly, “that Jesus’ teachings were good, but he was just an ordinary man. After he died, his followers invented the story about the resurrection and started talking as if he were God. They meant well, of course — they were only trying to gain more support for their new religion. But if Jesus had known that they’d made a god out of him, he would have been shocked.”

Many people like the idea of acknowledging Jesus as a great moral teacher, but they don’t want to recognize him as God. So they suggest that all his claims to deity in the gospels were added by over-zealous followers after his death. This hypothesis may be convenient to those who wish to pick and choose among Christ’s teachings, but is it true? Is it even logical?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Bible Study 00 — Introduction

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Aren’t the Gods of Other Religions Really Just Different Views of the Same God?

As human beings, we are subject to changes of mood and personality. A person may behave in a kind and loving way one day, and then be selfish and surly the next.

Some people over the centuries have taken this concept and applied it to God. Certainly, they say, God can be just, and the Old Testament is right to say that God is just. But God can also be selfish and capricious, so the ancient Greeks were right to believe in a Zeus who punished men for trivialities and cheated on his wife. The Jews and the Greeks were both right. They each saw a different aspect to God’s personality, that’s all.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Conspiracy Theory

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Making Straight Paths

We are likely all familiar with the preparations involved for a visiting dignitary: the airport at which he will arrive is closed off to other traffic, the roads his motorcade must travel are cleared, a security perimeter is established and so forth. This has been society’s behavior for time immemorial — when someone important arrives, everything else is managed to ensure that the VIP can keep to their schedule in a way that is most comfortable and safe for them.