Sunday, May 31, 2015

Elders Are Older

... though not necessarily THIS old.
I recently participated in an online discussion on the subject of elders that generated a significant number of responses. Some of these were more on point than others, but there was enough muddling of the issues, inadvertent straw-manning and anecdotal meandering to make me feel that it’s worthwhile addressing at least one aspect of the qualifications for elders that we find in scripture.

That aspect is age: Elders are older.

Sorry, that’s my understanding of New Testament teaching. It is, evidently, not the understanding of many of my fellow believers.

Defining Terms

One problem with online debates is the tendency to talk past each other because we have not agreed on what we mean, so I’d like to be as clear as is possible.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Let’s Play ‘Spot the Agenda’

Daniel B. Wallace is a Bible scholar with a Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary who has been teaching Greek at graduate school level since 1979. That’s just in case credentials matter to you.

In this article he attempts to referee a (very polite) disagreement between two other equally educated men about a verse in Ezekiel that I happened to read again this morning.

Everybody involved has an agenda.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: Beatles Buddhism

The latest version of this post is available here.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

This Ain’t Wrestling

With all due respect, I’m not convinced this’ll be terribly effective:

“If you are in need of more prayer than your schedule seems to allow, shoot me an email and our leadership team will pray for you by name. You don’t even have to write anything; just ask us to pray and we will.”

Paul Santhouse is VP of Publishing for Moody.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ushering In Armageddon

It was probably Michael Ortiz Hill, author of 1994’s Dreaming the End of the World: Apocalypse As a Rite of Passage who started it with a comment in a January 2003 essay for the political newsletter CounterPunch.

Hill said of George W. Bush, “The man is delusional and the shape of his delusion is specifically apocalyptic in belief and intent”.

Twelve years down the road, conventional wisdom may have settled down a bit. The Bush legacy, so far as the mainstream media is concerned, may be that of a bit of a goofball, an accused liar, an incompetent or even the architect of multiple foreign policy disasters.

But what the Bush presidency demonstrably failed to do was to usher in Armageddon, if indeed that was ever his intention.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Power and Perfection

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

This is not an incidental, one-off observation from God to the apostle Paul about his personal situation; it is a principle evident in God’s dealings with man from the very beginning.

A sociable, charismatic, intelligent and attractive person who is active in the service of God can be loads of fun to be around, but one can never tell whether he or she is winning over hearts with personal charm or by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Sinning Against Whom?


King David, consumed by lust for Bathsheba, commits adultery with her while her husband Uriah is out fighting the Ammonites on David’s behalf. When Bathsheba informs David she is pregnant, the king contrives to hide the evidence of his sin by recalling Uriah from the battlefield in hope that he will sleep with his wife and believe the child his. But Uriah is a loyal servant of the crown and a patriot. He declines to go home to his wife and enjoy the benefits of peace and family while his nation is at war and his fellow soldiers still in danger.

Knowing discovery is certain, David then compounds his wickedness by ordering Joab, the commander of his armies, to put Uriah in the most dangerous possible position and allow him to be killed in battle. The plot succeeds, and after allowing her an appropriate period of mourning, David marries Bathsheba.

Done and dusted, as they say.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Matter of Moral Indifference

The setup is this: in Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax approach Simon Peter to ask if Jesus is in the habit of paying it.

Presumably, like the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, they are looking to catch the Lord out in some way. Or, like many officials, they are simply being officious. Or more charitably, perhaps they are merely doing their job.

In any case, Peter says “Yes”, the Lord pays the temple tax.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Why Are We So Easily Shaken?

The most current version of this post is available here.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: Reforming Islam

The most current version of this post is available here.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Recommend-a-blog (9)

You know how it goes: you find a blog or website you enjoy, with writers who grab your attention and content you can really sink your teeth into. You devour everything you can find in their archive, bookmark it and wait expectantly for more of the same.

Then ... nothing.

Okay, this may not be everybody’s experience; not everyone reads as voraciously as I do. But if you do, you recognize the creeping feeling of disappointment when something you like doesn’t appear predictably, when the quality becomes spotty or the posts are so short they don’t even merit a “[Read More]” link.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Circumstantial Evidence

You found and got approved for just the right apartment even though you weren’t exactly qualified. You were admitted to the internship program you really wanted. That girl you have your heart set on seems to be showing the character qualities you were hoping to find.

You prayed about all these things. Must be the Lord, right?

Maybe.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Quote of the Day (4)

One wonders exactly how long the present social order can sustain itself in North America.

If you believe the pollsters, public trust in government is at an all-time low, the influence of religion is waning, the wealth gap in America between middle-income and upper-income families is currently the widest on recordrace relations are getting worse, families are falling behind on the cost of living and almost nobody believes what they read or see in the media anymore.

Accusations from Islamic leaders that America is corrupt are difficult to rebut when U.S. business analysts seriously contemplate whether America is as corrupt as the third world.

Monday, May 18, 2015

An Exercise in Moderation

Last Supper, Cologne Cathedral
A diversion: I happened the other day across a Tumblr discussion that batted around the issue of the age of the disciples.

This is a question I had never considered. I have a “default” picture in my mind, of course, as most semi-creative people tend to, probably comprised largely of impressions from classical art. Only three of Duccio’s apostles in The Farewell Discourse are clean shaven; the rest range from middle-aged to positively ancient. The disciples in Da Vinci’s ubiquitous Last Supper fare even worse: only two are without significant quantities of facial hair (and some argue that one of these, for reasons unclear, may have been intended to represent Mary Magdalene).

Short version: these guys look pretty weathered.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Symbol Is Not the Point

An ex-evangelical turned Catholic priest named Dwight Longenecker has, in his current religious
incarnation, become a fan of ritual and symbolism:

“The most difficult thing for an Evangelical to accept in a conversation about the sacraments is that God actually uses physical means and liturgical ceremonies to dispense his grace and administer salvation. The typical Evangelical is heavily conditioned to dismiss all physical components of religion as useless and distracting ‘man-made traditions.’ ”

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Flirting with Fatalism

I read a column this morning by popular Christian blogger Ben Corey in which he makes a spirited defense of his support for government programs to help the poor on the basis that Christians simply don’t given enough voluntarily to make a meaningful dent in poverty.

It’s an interesting argument, but it begs one obvious question.

What do we do when the poor can’t be helped?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: The Unfair Advantage of a Loving Family

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Feeding the Dogs

Sometimes God is silent.

We've all experienced it. Looking for answers and receiving no immediate response. The absence of any sense of direction, often when a decision is urgently needed. A total lack of clarity. And all the comforting scriptures we quote to ourselves suddenly sound like clichés.

Those of us who have been believers for a few years may find ourselves taking our own spiritual inventory in an effort to diagnose the problem. Have I failed to confess sin? Am I perhaps asking selfishly rather than with the glory of God in mind? Am I lacking faith? Have I been persistently inconsiderate at home?

Could be, but not necessarily.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Human Nature Is What It Is

The false prophets condemned by God through Ezekiel are an interesting bunch — and not just because they were ancient, mysterious wise men believed by many to be heralds of truth when in fact they were spinning webs of lies that affected thousands.

No, they interest me because they remind me of people I know. Circumstances change. History moves on. But fallen human nature does not improve itself, even thousands of years later. Many of these false prophets could make a decent living today: as religious gurus, philosophers, authors and respected media figures.

And not all of them seemed aware that their pronouncements were untrue.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Getting Sucked In

As a Christian, how do you know when an argument is not worth getting sucked into?

The titular head of Roman Catholicism clearly doesn’t. Feminists, the media and the political Left (admittedly there is some redundancy in those categories) walked him right into five miles of social justice quicksand when he felt compelled recently to weigh in on the subject of equality.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Running is No Solution

You remember the line, I’m sure.

You’re a teenager and you’ve just gotten deeply invested in a relationship that you are convinced is the real deal. Everything is going swimmingly, and then he or she says those dreaded words:

“I think we need to take some time …”

The desire for time and space apart may be framed in all manner of imaginative ways: “I was on the rebound”, “It’s too soon”, “My parents don’t approve” or “I have to concentrate on school right now”. The inexperienced take it at face value, or at least try to. But those of us who have heard it before know exactly what it means.

It means you’re done.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Recommend-a-blog (8)

The book of Revelation is mysterious and more than a little daunting to many believers. Two common errors easily present themselves, and Mel Lawrenz identifies them.

I am completely unfamiliar with Mr. Lawrenz. Other than this single blog post at BibleGateway.com, I have not read anything he has written, so take the following for whatever it is worth.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Franchising the Gospel

It looks more like a brand than a denomination.

Or really, it looks like any corporation with franchises all over the continent. All its churches use common fonts, a common logo and similar website designs. They’ve applied for a Canadian trademark and they’re opening a training centre for church planting in Europe this fall, where they already have a presence.

It ain’t Burger King, but this is a franchise.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: The Christian Nation

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Painting A Target

If you haven’t read it, Bernie’s previous post on this subject, Reading the Tea Leaves, may be found here.

There remains among many the rosy view that life for the church in North America will continue as it seemingly always has done. There certainly was a time in the not-too-distant past in which church attendance was commonplace, prayer at schools or before city council meetings was far from unusual and the public square welcomed, if not encouraged, Christian ideals and ideas. In those days, only a generation or so ago, a politician was respected for his or her beliefs rather than derided. Today — in Ontario at least — the political litmus test for a candidate is whether or not they marched in the last Gay Pride parade.

It isn’t even worth discussing what happened or why it happened — but those halcyon days where faith and unbelief could co-exist peacefully are very much gone.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

The Obvious Answer …

… is not always the correct one. We all make assumptions. With our limited grasp of the big picture, we take many things for granted.

Ezekiel did this. He saw a man — an elder, a symbol of authority in Israel — struck down before his eyes. Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died. It appears the man keeled over right when Ezekiel was in the middle of prophesying about his wickedness.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Is Your Church Irrelevant?

As Jesus died, the heavy, ornamented curtain of the innermost sanctuary in Jerusalem’s temple was violently and miraculously ripped in two from the top down. In that single moment in time the religion of Judaism became utterly irrelevant to the plans and purposes of God for centuries to come.

Nobody knew that, of course. Not at first.

Things carried on just as they had before the Jewish religious authorities conspired to crucify God’s son. The temple services took place as usual. We’re not told, but it’s almost inevitable that temple servants, blissfully unaware of the significance of the miracle in front of them in all its profound and wonderful symbolism and determined to maintain a 420-year tradition, took the torn curtain, repaired and restored it to its place.

Monday, May 04, 2015

I Want to Die

A more current version of this post is available here.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Counting the Cost

Following up on Bernie’s post from a few months back, David French at National Review has a few notable things to say on the subject of the looming hot-button issue of tax exemptions for charitable organizations, including churches (and presumably parachurch entities as well) in the U.S.

Canadians should note that we are rarely far behind on such developments.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

My Daughter Says I’m Going to Hell

Cary Tennis at Salon fields a question from an atheist dad whose 13-year old girl is concerned for his soul. It’s an old post but a familiar problem for any Christian who has worked with teens. Tennis’s answer is intriguing, to say the least, coming from an advice columnist, former rock journalist, recovering alcoholic and avowed progressive. 

The letter writer is a single father with shared custody. His daughter is a professing Christian who has attended an evangelical church with her mother for most of her life. When dad broaches the subject of religion, evolution, homosexuality or other hot-button issues from his own worldview, he finds he is distressing his daughter, which is something he’d prefer to avoid.

Hence the request for advice.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Too Hot to Handle: Where There is No Vision ...

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

Kevin Miller is an Executive VP at Christianity Today International. In this article he lays out a number of ways that one can go about developing a vision.

Tom: Immanuel Can, Miller is ignoring the elephant in the room: he starts with the unstudied assertion that good leaders must always be men of vision and charges right into how we can all acquire it without addressing why this quality is allegedly a critical component of leadership.

And he’s not alone.

Immanuel Can: You’re right, Tom, there are a lot of people talking about our lack of vision as Christians today. What do you think accounts for this widespread concern, and how legit do you think it is?