Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Things Prepared

To have had truth made known to you is not the same as understanding truth.

Parents will grasp this instantly. You’re correcting your five-year old, and he asks why, so you explain. He can process the words. He can retain the words. They have been “made known” to him, and they have become part of his experience. They reside in his memory, where he can access them and make use of them when he grows into them.

But your words are not of much practical use to him in the moment, because he doesn’t yet fully comprehend them.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: The Golden Age

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Attack of the Killer Reason

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

All the Time You Need

“Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.”

How long does it take to get saved?

Some people spend their whole lives working at it. They go to church, they provide for their families, they confess their sins, they contribute to religious causes, they try to treat people well, they “do unto others”. Some follow laws and religious regulations year after year.

But it’s not a trick question, nor a particularly complicated one.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Leaders and the Led

What does biblical leadership look like?

The answer in many quarters these days is “servanthood”. The term “servant leadership” is said to have been coined by Robert Greenleaf in a 1970 essay, allegedly after reading a story by Hermann Hesse. Greenleaf’s concept has since been promoted by numerous evangelicals, including John Piper and the Acts 29 network of churches, of which ubiquitous YouTube presence Matt Chandler is president.

At one level, who can argue? “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

Pretty unambiguous, really.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Rest of the Psalm

So said the exiles of Judah in Babylon, and they wept as they recalled it. Their real home was far away. They belonged in Zion, and their present status was, to all appearances, quite degraded. Had things gone as they should, God’s people would have been singing psalms in the temple courts of the great city of Jerusalem, not sitting in servitude by the waters of Babylon.

But there they were all the same.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

On the Mount (23)

I like to think of wisdom as applied reality: taking one’s knowledge of the actual nature of things and working that knowledge through in a very practical way in the circumstances of life.

That sort of discernment is pictured for us metaphorically in scripture. It is not that the Lord Jesus came so that men and women might pay lip service to a particular series of moral data points, but that we might make use of those facts to act in our own best interests, in the best interests of others, and ultimately and most importantly, in accordance with the will of God.

The metaphor the Lord uses to describe applied reality is light: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Being able to see where we are going is exceedingly practical, and has tremendous value.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Call and Response

Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline is not the most intuitive choice for a hockey arena anthem. It goes over so well for one reason: audience participation.

NEIL: “Sweet Caroline ...”

18,000 FANS: Bah bah bah

NEIL: “Good times never seem so good.”

18,000 FANS: So good, so good, so good!

You get the idea. It’s call and response, and people love to join in. The “response” part was not built into Diamond’s original lyric; it seems to have evolved over the years as fans got increasingly comfortable with the nightly routine of familiar tunes and started improvising on them.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Kissing Through the Fence

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Five Lessons We Can Learn from Jordan Peterson

In an excellent recent post entitled “Masculinity Without Permission”, Doug Wilson happened to name-check Jordan Peterson as someone who, despite not being a Christian, is actually more biblical on the subject of masculinity than many evangelical elders.

I won’t belabor that point; it’s Doug’s, and he said it better than I can. But I will go him one better: I think there are at least five things I’ve learned from Peterson that it would benefit my fellow evangelicals to consider seriously.

So here goes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Heretics and Coffee

What is a heretic, really, for practical purposes?

her·e·tic, noun, one who dissents from an accepted belief or doctrine

No, no. If we’re going to sling around religious terminology, we’d better consult the experts:

“Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same …”
— The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2089)

We use the word pretty casually in Christian circles when someone says something a little off the spiritually-beaten track, but mostly we mean it frivolously.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Third Row from the Back

You’ve all met Joe, right?

Joe’s been coming to your church forever. He and his wife sit at the end of the third row from the back, a holdover from when their kids were small and he or Cheryl might have had occasion to escort one or the other out discreetly mid-service.

It’s fifteen years later now; the boy is off to college and the daughter is about to be. And Joe and Cheryl still sit in the third row from the back.

More importantly, to all appearances fifteen years have changed nothing substantial in Joe’s relationship with the Lord, and definitely nothing about how he relates to the Lord’s people.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

On the Mount (22)

Towards the end of the children of Israel’s multi-century sojourn in Egypt, they were enslaved by a king with no appreciation for the history his people shared with the Hebrew minority living among them, and no understanding of how Israel’s presence in his land had been of unprecedented benefit to his nation. So Pharaoh used force to put God’s people to work, and they built him his legendary treasure cities, places where the king could store up his excess goods against the remote possibility of bad times.

The irony is that it was Joseph, a son of Israel, who had first taught the Pharaohs the principle of laying up excess wealth as insurance against those all-too-frequent “evil days”.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Recommend-a-blog (25)

John’s Gospel is my favorite.

Those of you who think we shouldn’t have favorite books and especially favorite Gospels are, of course, welcome to make the requisite harumph-ing noises, but a greater number of readers are probably quietly affirming, “Yeah, me too.” And of course in finding particular delight in John, I am not in the least disparaging Matthew, Mark or Luke, all of whom wrote with specific purposes, intended audiences and special emphases, and each of whom is tremendously edifying in his own particular way.

But John is just different.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Crashing and Burning

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Time to Face the Music

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Horrific Hymnology

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Who’s Got the Microphone?

One natural follow-up question from Saturday’s post on the subject of roles is this: “Did women ever prophesy in New Testament church meetings?”

I ask it largely out of curiosity: even a crystal-clear scriptural example of a prophetess addressing both men and women in a congregation (assuming we could find one, and we can’t) would not really help us toward working out our own roles in a day in which we are no longer able to prophesy in the specific sense in which Paul uses the word.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Future Harvest, Present Grace

Fox Business says one reason a significant number of Millennials struggle to find work is that self-control is still considered a major workplace asset. Rightly or wrongly, employers tend to associate that quality with older workers.

Self-control is the ability to subdue our impulses in order to achieve longer-term goals; to do the necessary things even when our emotions get in the way — not a priority much stressed in the last few generations. Karl Moore notes, “Millennials value emotion. They are taught in high school and university a Postmodern worldview which puts thought [and] emotions on nearly the same plane.”

Well, if how I feel is going to dictate what I do today, I should not be surprised to find at the end of the day that I haven’t got a whole lot done. And that is a problem.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Evil in Unexpected Places

“No one gives up on something until it turns on them.”
― Thomas Ligotti

Ligotti’s statement may or may not be true, but there is something to be said for people who live consistently.

Those who have become disillusioned by the behavior of Christians are among the most intensely disillusioned people I have ever met. How do you initiate any kind of dialogue with someone completely convinced he has taken the measure of your faith and found it wanting?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

On the Mount (21)

It’s going out of style now, but in times past a man proposing marriage would get down on one knee in front of his intended and ask for her hand.

As anyone who has ever googled “Marriage proposals gone wrong” can attest, that sort of thing can be risky business. The man usually makes the sacrifice of purchasing an expensive ring, then goes about proclaiming his love, most often in public, making himself visibly (not to mention emotionally) vulnerable and taking the chance that his request may be denied and his efforts come to nothing.

Sacrifice and humiliation. Interesting combination. But if you want something badly enough, maybe a little humiliation is no big deal.

Old Testament fasting was a little bit like that.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Mind the Ditches

The folks at the assemblyHUB website have embarked on an initiative to reexamine the biblical roles of men and women in the church, the world and the home (WAMS 2018). To date, Bernadette Veenstra (twice), Crawford Paul and others have weighed in on issues like complementary gender roles, women usurping authority and women’s silence in the churches.

For reasons I will get to shortly, I find myself less than delighted.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: Eternity In Their Hearts

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Thursday, March 08, 2018

The Big Gamble

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Broken Window Sins

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Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Opportunity and Desire

One of Chuck Snyder’s readers shares a not-so-unusual problem:

“I believe the Spirit of God is upon me to teach the Word of God with love, accuracy, patience and discernment to a lost and hurting world and to all who hunger for the truth. Several years of schooling and formal study took place in order to prepare and to show myself approved. Now, in my home church, I am given every job and project under the sun to be responsible for, except ‘teaching the Word of God.’ ”

I hear this sort of thing all the time: “My church doesn’t let me use my spiritual gift.”

Monday, March 05, 2018

Sojourners and Citizens

Not everything about sojourning is to the sojourner’s taste. That’s part and parcel of being on the road. As someone with no vested interests in the society around you — as someone just passing through — you have to kind of accept the way the locals live and occasionally look the other way, even if what they do is more than a little cringeworthy at times. When in Rome and all that …

In the Bible, sojourners were more refugees than tourists. Like Naomi or Jacob and his family, they were where they were because their own nation was experiencing famine, drought or invasion. Or, like David, Moses, Jacob (again) or Joseph and Mary, they were on the run because their king, their own people or even their family members would have been happy to see them dead.

The Christian, too, is far from home. All believers are.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

On the Mount (20)

The reciprocity principle is not a new thing. It’s said to be found in some form in nearly every religion.

Perhaps the earliest written formulation occurs in the Egyptian story of The Eloquent Peasant. “Do to the doer to make him do,” the god Maat is supposed to have said, which has been generally interpreted to mean something not wildly dissimilar to the so-called Golden Rule (though we can hardly overlook the obvious self-interest in the Egyptian version). The story predates the Law of Moses, in which Israel was commanded to love their neighbors as themselves, by a couple hundred years.

Ah well, all truth is God’s truth, as the saying goes. In any case, ancient Egyptian wisdom is not circulating the way it used to.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

One Bad Idea

Left uncontested, one bad idea can do astonishing damage.

When humanity fell, taking all of creation with it, the cause was a woman who defied the revealed will of God … and a man too weak to either call her on it or to take responsibility for his own sin.

A bad idea went uncontested. Today, generation after generation pays through the nose.

Again: assuming the Muslims are correct and that Ishmael is legitimately an ancestor of Muhammad, virtually every rocket launched into Israel from the Gaza Strip since 2001 can be attributed to a woman who proposed another really bad idea … and a man too weak to call her on it.

Abraham and Sarah, the Golan Heights sends its thanks.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Too Hot to Handle: An Undersized Eternity

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Zombie Church

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