Saturday, January 31, 2015

Does it Build?

These could probably
go anytime too ...
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. It was an inner-city congregation on a typical Sunday morning.

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.

Together we sang the hymn that follows.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: Your Bible Is An Anachronism

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Pastor, Get A Job

Adam Russell posts a short piece on “The Bi-Vocational Life” at churchleaders.com promoting the tentmaking lifestyle. His thesis, that work and ministry are not mortal enemies, is actively contested in the comments section, where a number of pastors who have lived the bi-vocational lifestyle make the point that, well, it isn’t a lot of fun and you don’t ever get a day off.

If I respond with “Poor babies”, am I going to draw heat?

Okay, I’ll dial the rhetoric back a notch or two.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Reading the Tea Leaves

The Gangster and the Amish.

Ok, that’s a fairly weird combination, I grant you, and sounds like a really bad Lifetime Network movie. Hang with me for a minute or two because there really is a sort of odd connection with what I have in mind.

The Amish

The Amish are an intriguing group remarkable for their passivity and lack of involvement. At some point a long time ago they drew a hard line between modern society’s choices and their own. They effectively said “this far and no further”, and in large measure they have maintained that line. I don’t particularly want to join them nor do I think their example is a great one for Christians to emulate; we ought to be in the world to be effective for God but we shouldn’t be of the world. That line between “in” and “of” may be a hard distinction to retain some days, but retreating entirely from the world as the Amish have done strikes me as unfortunate and unfulfilling.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Something Better

Benjamin West, The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise
Genesis 3:24 is one of the sadder verses in Scripture. It says this: “So he drove out the man”.

Adam and Eve have sinned. Fellowship with God is now broken — perhaps from Adam’s understanding it is broken irreparably. Did Adam then slink in shame out of the garden? No. Did he run in abject fear? No. 

Adam delighted in the garden; he loved where he was. It’s clear he and Eve did not want to leave even after they had sinned. How is it then that they did leave? God drove them out.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Amillennialism and Isaiah 60: Five Problems

King David, Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, 1768
I’ve been enjoying reading amillennialist Dean Davis at Come Let Us Reason. 

Really. When I say “enjoy”, I’m not being snarky. It’s actually of considerable interest to me to see someone set out specific details of an allegorical reading of Isaiah 60, among many other passages Dean exposits as consistently as seems possible within the restrictions of the amillennial schema.

This is something few in his position do effectively.

Mr. Davis makes an effort to work through the chapter on a verse by verse basis, rather than doing the traditional hand wave and dismissal of any further clarification with the words, “But it’s spiritual”. It’s nice to see any fellow believer take his preferred method of understanding the word of God seriously enough to examine the scriptures extensively and in minute detail. Many hours went into this, and I respect that.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Recommend-a-blog (4)

Bible teacher Jack Spender tackles a tough but relevant subject in a post called “When Should an Aged Elder Step Back?

It’s a good question, and one to which the answer is not necessarily about the number of years you’ve lived, but more about effectiveness and planning for the future of the local church.

The author is Brethren, but his reflections and suggestions are relevant to any Christians that still observe the New Testament principle of recognizing or ordaining elders, with or without a paid pastor. There is a time to serve and a time to get out, and far too many do not recognize when the latter has arrived.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Room for Vengeance

There seems to be no end to the number of people who feel themselves personally responsible for the execution of justice.

There’s former rugby player Steve Waterfield who, waking to find a burglar in his apartment, was disinclined to simply let him make a run for it. He declared to himself, “Right son, you’re getting a whacking”, blocked the doorway, beat the trespasser bloody and left him reeling.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: Stomaching Veganism

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

How, now?
Increasingly, studies like this one point to the strong possibility that a strictly vegan diet might actually be the healthiest for human beings, and that even that even consuming a small amount of meat in our diet is sufficient to increase our chances of diabetes, among other things.

These studies may well be accurate (though, as with all assertions of the scientific community these days, I tend to reserve judgment until we see all the consequences of a purely vegan diet in a representative sample of the human population over a generation or two). But for the sake of argument, let’s give these studies the benefit of the doubt and assume they represent truth and not simply another scientific boondoggle.

Tom: So, the obvious question ...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Eden and Relationships

We’ve been working through some basic ideas about God’s character that spring from His actions in an environment where sin does not impede our view of the relationship between God and man. Though there is a day coming when the relationship between heaven and earth will be free and unrestricted once more, it has not been that way for a long, long time and certainly not in your experience or mine. In fact, it hasn’t been clearly observable since Eden ...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why Your View of Prophecy Matters

Does is really make much difference how you view Bible prophecy?

Most Christians would affirm that all scripture is God-breathed and profitable; that’s fairly fundamental. It follows that the study of prophecy is also profitable, though whether its details are easily deciphered or have immediate application to the lives of all readers is another question altogether.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Witnessing and Misdirection

Most falsehoods don’t come with handy labels
Put them on the spot, and people won’t always tell the truth.

They may throw up smokescreens, use cover stories, ask questions they don’t really want answered, tell outright lies — engage in every variety of misdirection.

This comes as no surprise to anyone with the gift of evangelism, or anyone without it who tries to talk to people about the Lord. Where the subject of faith is concerned, it takes wisdom and experience to discern what really matters.

At least initially, people tend to be least candid about the things that mean the most.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Room in My Heart

What do we mean when we talk about “living on” in one another’s hearts?

We certainly say it enough.

Thomas Campbell said, “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die”. If the content of our eulogies and obituaries indicates anything at all, then it seems we believe him.

Taken literally, Campbell’s statement is categorically untrue. Even if we firmly believe in Christian resurrection or some kind of afterlife, we recognize that death creates a disconnect between us and those we love that cannot be bridged this side of eternity. In the physical sense, dead is dead. But that is neither what Campbell means nor what we mean when we mourn using similar language.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Will You Be Considered Worthy?

A worthy successor to Queen Elizabeth?
When we use the words “worth” or “worthy” in English, we are often thinking primarily of value or merit. For instance, when we ask, “What’s he worth these days?” we are really asking “What is the total value of his assets?” When we say, “I don’t think that’s worth my time”, we mean that the activity in question lacks merit.

So when the word “worthy” comes up in the New Testament, like when Paul talks about Christians being “considered worthy of the kingdom of God”, we may initially think he’s talking about eternal salvation.

Certainly some people do.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Three Kinds of Peace

The most current version of this post is available here.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: The Big “Story”

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

Oh no, here we go: Immanuel Can has been getting email again.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Inbox: Unreceptive Hearts

Qman comments on Spiritual Treachery:
“The most obvious reasons are that, being omniscient, both the Father and the Lord Jesus are well aware when men and women have receptive hearts and when they don’t, and they tend not to entrust valuable truth to those who care nothing about it.”

With regard to the above point, I have not yet seen you deal with the argument below (maybe I missed it) which is a typical, but fairly valid, response to the above from the Ag[nostic]/Atheist crowd. I think IC may have dealt with it in a different forum but I forgot.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Marching to Where?

The Temple Mount as it appears today.
I’m a bit cautious about the practice of grabbing verses out of the Old Testament and some parts of the gospels for the benefit of Christians living in the Church Age.

Notwithstanding the fact that there is centuries of historical precedent for appropriating Israel’s promises to ourselves in hymnology and liturgical language, this practice is quite unnecessary: the church has its own unique place and promises in the plans of God.

Generally speaking, when we replace our own promises with those made to national Israel, we are trading down.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

That Guy Outside Starbucks is NOT Jesus’ Brother

God bless the poor.

In fact, I don’t even have to ask him: we’ve been told he will; at least inasmuch as their poverty is primarily one of the spirit.

But we should pray for the poor, of course, and share as we are able. We should care, we ought to avoid partiality and we need to act. Our faith does not amount to much if it does not make us compassionate in a very practical way toward those in need, and toward those who may have started life at a huge disadvantage, or have encountered trials and troubles we have never experienced.

But that guy outside Starbucks, the one with the tatty green or brown jacket, bad breath, body odor and uncomfortable social habits who invades your space, while he may be made in the image of God and deserving of whatever we are able to do for him for that reason alone …

Sorry, that guy is just not Jesus’ “brother”.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Recommend-a-blog (3)

This might be one the best blog posts I’ve read from anyone of any denominational stripe.

If that sounds like dangerously high praise, give me a moment to convince you.

Andrew Heard starts by telling us that “The most dangerous people in our Christian community are the leaders and evangelists who not only long to see growth but who also have the closest sympathy with the needs and concerns of the sinners we are seeking to reach.”

Really? Seems a bit counterintuitive.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

No Equivalency Here

After all his trash-talking of Christianity over the years, it’s unusual to see Bill Maher have a moment or two of unexpected lucidity on the Charlie Rose show:

*     *     *     *     *

Bill Maher: There are illiberal beliefs that are held by vast numbers of Muslim people.

Charlie Rose: A vast number of Christians too.

BM: No, no. That’s not true. Not true. Vast numbers of Christians do not believe that if you leave the Christian religion you should be killed for it. Vast numbers of Christians do not treat women as second-class citizens. Vast numbers of Christians do not believe that if you draw a picture of Jesus Christ, you should get killed for it.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: Outspoken Faith or Poor Judgment?

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

You may not have heard of him, but Kelvin Cochran was Fire Chief in Atlanta up until last week when he was terminated by the mayor. He was also a Christian. You can read about it here if you’re interested.

There disagreement as to precisely why he was fired, but the bottom line is that if he had not published a book entitled “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” in which he expressed his understanding of the biblical view of homosexuality, he would still be employed.

Tom: Immanuel Can, former Fire Chief Cochran is not the first and won’t be the last Christian to lose his job as a consequence — whether it’s a remote or a direct consequence — of taking the Bible seriously and saying so publicly. We are both Christians with opinions who still work for a living. What’s your take on this developing trend?

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Spiritual Treachery

Samuel Reproving Saul, John Singleton Copley, 1798
It is not enough for certain kinds of people to despise truth. They can’t just express their lack of interest and walk away.

I suspect every Christian who has ever shared his or her faith has run into people who have no trouble making their lack of interest clear, and no trouble beating feet. I think it’s fairly normal. Picture yourself talking to someone about the love of Christ and the things in his word that have become intensely precious to you; the things that make it worth getting out of bed every morning; the things for which you and I live.

Now of course if you’re like me, you’re not a perfect communicator.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Bring on the Hired Guns

So how much should you pay your pastor?

No, really, that’s the question.

Patrick Traylor poses it in this article. Patrick is an elder to quite literally thousands at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., as well as a lawyer by profession. As an elder, the man knows megachurches. As a lawyer, he ought to know all about compensation.

But is he right about what the scripture teaches on the subject?

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Don’t Check Your Privilege

A more current version of this post is available here.

Monday, January 05, 2015

The Positives of Negatives

The most current version of this post is available here.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: Rule Upon Rule, Line Upon Line

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Eden and Variety

Has to be squash in here somewhere ...
We’ve been considering Eden and the lessons we learn there about who God is and how He chooses to relate to His creation. Before the Fall we have a unique view of God that is unfettered by sin and the concessions sin has made necessary. Eden shows us God moving in His creation in the way He wishes, without constraint. As such it is one of the best places to see God’s character.

We began by noting that God desires to bless His creatures. In fact, He delights to bless and it is His first and favourite work. For mankind, being blessed is also a delight. Working and being given work to do was a delight. Fellowship was a delight. The name “Eden” literally means “delight” and so it was — a delight to both God and mankind.

Something else that we pause to note about Eden; there was an astounding variety.

Friday, January 02, 2015

When Everything Crashes and Burns

Last week, Matt Drudge linked to an article in The Guardian that informs us “we are safer, richer and healthier than at any time on record”. In “Goodbye to one of the best years in history”, Fraser Nelson wraps up 2014 by reminding his readers that while it may have escaped our notice:

·         our lives now are more peaceful than at any time known to the human species;
·         global capitalism has transferred wealth faster than foreign aid ever could;
·         global life expectancy now stands at a new high of 71.5 years;
·         traffic deaths are down by two-thirds since 1990; and
·         there has never been a better reason for people the world over to wish each other a happy and prosperous new year.

While Mr. Nelson may have overlooked one or two little atrocities here and there in his glowing report on the human condition, he makes an effort to substantiate his claim that relatively at least we are doing pretty well as a species.

Terrific for us, until things change. And change is coming.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Inbox: A New Year’s Challenge to Elders Everywhere

My partner in crime Immanuel Can is, like many other masked men, currently vacationing in Parts Unknown.

But in the interest of giving you all a break from another day of … well … me, I offer IC’s rather thought provoking list from last week which may have gone unremarked in the comments section of a previous post.

I consider this not so much a general rebuke to elders as what seems to me to be a fairly useful checklist. IC and I both know elders who do the job wonderfully.