Tuesday, April 30, 2019

When Waiting is Worth It

“O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”

Here we find Moses complaining to God that the Lord is not fulfilling his promises quite fast enough for Moses’ taste. Perhaps you may have voiced something similar once or twice.

We know how this particular story ends, right? God brings his people out of Egypt with a series of mighty, miraculous works, and makes a name for himself from one end of the known world to the other. The tale is still being told today.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Anonymous Asks (37)

“Why does school suck?”

For a Christian teen, there could be all kinds of reasons.

If you’re in a public school in 2019, you are being non-stop propagandized with — in no particular order — naturalism, secularism, materialism, existentialism, neo-Marxism, multiculturalism, diversity-worship, post-modernism, neo-Darwinism, progressivism, globalism, extreme environmentalism, feminism, militant sexual deviancy and licentiousness, pro-abortionism, hatred of the so-called “patriarchy”, generalized political correctness and a poorly-concealed loathing of everything that built Western civilization or that you read in your Bible.

I may have missed a couple there. Small wonder a Christian may wish to be elsewhere.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Knocking Over the Hurdles

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about how important it is not to put barriers to Christian faith in the way of the unsaved. I certainly don’t want to do that, and I’m very sure you don’t either.

Archaic language and holy jargon can be hurdles. Arguing about the age of the earth can be off-putting, as can paternalism, denominational conflicts, smugness, and a host of other far-too-common attitudes and practices that needn’t and shouldn’t get in the way of the knowledge of Christ.

These things are unnecessary, and it’s shameful to see someone shake his head and retreat into the darkness of ignorance and eternal loss over the bad manners and misplaced priorities of the messenger, over mere tradition, or over form.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (56)

Egotists and self-interested people are the bane of civilization.

Once upon a time, a nation divided up its countryside and farmed it. Everyone did roughly the same thing and required approximately the same knowledge and physical skills.

Then came city life and with it the need for specialization. No longer self-reliant and autonomous, those who embraced urbanization came to prize men and women who could manage the affairs of thousands efficiently. When they did it well, everybody enjoyed life. When they did it poorly and selfishly, everybody suffered.

Solomon comments on aspects of this phenomenon.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Bypassing the Intellect

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

[Editor’s note: The following email back-and-forth reproduced here didn’t really bring us to any hard-and-fast conclusions about transcendent experiences and how the Christian ought to process them. Perhaps we talked past each other a bit too much. Certainly, we all used the words “I think” far too often for any of us to hold our respective positions too dogmatically. All the same, it seems to me the exchange serves as a good example of how brothers in Christ tend to work things out in our heads by bouncing ideas off one another, as well as a plausible explanation for why their wives flee the room at such times.]

Bernie: I remember being struck by something Ravi Zacharias said some years ago. I can’t find the original quote but my attempt at a paraphrase is this: “Music has a way of bypassing the intellect and speaking directly to the heart.”

Anonymously Asking More Easily

Hard-coding HTML tables from scratch is not my favorite pastime, but I finally got around to adding the titles to our reference pages for at least one of our ongoing features. The Anonymous Asks posts are among our most-read (there’s a new installment every Monday), and I think it was worth the time invested to give our readers a way to find older posts they want to share, and to give new readers a way to easily locate topics that may be of interest.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Living Large

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

When Our Number Is Up

“Then Israel summoned his strength and sat up in bed.”

The book of Hebrews tells us that when Jacob rallied his strength to bless Joseph’s children, it was an act of faith; and not only an act of faith, but one worthy of mention alongside Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac, the crossing of the Red Sea and the fall of the walls of Jericho.

I’m not quite sure how to picture this scene, but it is the last act of a very old man who has come a very long way with God. At the beginning of chapter 48, Israel summons his strength and sits up on his deathbed to give his benediction. Probably he swings his legs down to the floor, sitting on the edge of the bed. When he finishes, at the end of chapter 49, he pulls his legs back into bed and breathes his last.

Job done. Quite the way to go, when you think about it.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Blessing and Judgment

“Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come.”

“Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”

One day, fellow Christian, you and I will be gathered together to hear what will happen to us in days to come. What will your reward be for the things done in the body and your service rendered to Christ? What will be my role in the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ and in the New Jerusalem for eternity?

These are not irrelevant questions. Eternity is not some giant golf course.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Anonymous Asks (36)

“How can we make our faith stronger?”

On its own, the word “faith” has no real content. It simply means “belief”. People believe all kinds of things, some of them very strongly indeed, but the intensity of their belief does not make those beliefs true.

Thus it is necessary to ask the question, “Faith in what exactly?”

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Somebody Else’s Lamb

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (55)

Those who rule over us pay more attention to the small nuances of our lives than we might think.

Never has this been truer than in the information age, when all kinds of micro-details — true, false and grossly misleading — may be compiled into an executive summary with the click of an icon. That said, it is good practice to assume those who have the authority to call us to account are smarter than they sometimes appear. My own boss is able to find out a surprising amount about my work habits and relationships for the purpose of annual reviews, most of it via word of mouth from other employees.

Here are several proverbs that probably originated in King Solomon’s meditations as he observed the daily habits of the subjects of the kingdom he administered, and reflected on the performance and character of its officials.

Maybe one or two of them even noticed he was doing it.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Ranking Evil

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Retro Christianity

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Agents and Automatons

“Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.”

Not at all his will, despite strong urging.

Apollos had precisely zero interest in doing things the way Paul, with all his godliness and experience, thought they should be done. The two took opposite stances.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Five Times as Much

“Benjamin’s portion was five times as much.”

The Spirit of God frequently uses Old Testament characters to depict aspects of the person and work of the coming Messiah. To list only a few, Adam, Abel, Melchizedek, Isaac, Moses, David, Solomon and Jonah may all be compared in one way or another to the Lord Jesus Christ. Just in case we miss them, the writers of the New Testament (and sometimes Jesus himself) draw our attention to these pictures or “types”.

Joseph is generally considered a better type in that his character and experiences are more “on-model” than, for instance, Jonah or Adam. Numerous similarities may be observed between Joseph and the Lord Jesus. This chart lists 27, but the accompanying article suggests there may be as many as 100. Not only that, but it is generally held that that there are no moral missteps in Joseph’s record which would serve to ruin the sterling comparison.

Or so I have always been taught.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Anonymous Asks (35)

“Why is it ok for the church to sell coffee and other products when Jesus was outraged when merchants were selling things in the temple?”

Ow. That there is a zinger of a question, maybe the best yet.

Let me confess that I am not personally familiar with the practice of churches selling coffee. That’s a new one on me.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Mopping Up the Mess

Kate’s husband Sam cheated on her. For just shy of three years. One night, confronted with Kate’s suspicions, he breaks down in tears, blurts out the truth and begs for Kate’s forgiveness. He abruptly terminates his illicit relationship, confesses his infidelity to the elders of their church, and resigns from his responsibilities teaching Sunday School and administering the church’s financial affairs. Several months later, Sam is living in a motel while he and Kate go through marriage counselling.

Kate knows she is responsible to God to forgive her husband, and she is working hard at that. Her question is whether forgiving Sam means she must take him back, not just as partner in life but as her spiritual head. Several of Kate’s church friends have strong opinions about this. They insist she should do it, and do it as soon as possible.

They say she has not truly forgiven Sam if she won’t take him back.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (54)

The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

These are well-known biblical truths, and yet notwithstanding the accumulating evidence that possessions and happiness are quite unrelated, the stampede to acquire as much as possible as quickly as possible never abates.

Three of these next ten verses are about money: those who have it, those who don’t, and those who are trying to get it.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Valley and Peak

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Relative Righteousness

“She is more righteous than I …”

Judah’s wife had died. He wasn’t exactly a young man at this point, but as they say today, “He had needs.” The cult prostitute he encountered on the road to Timnah was an admittedly sinful but pragmatic way of managing those very normal human impulses so he could get on with the necessary business of shearing his sheep undistracted.

What Judah didn’t know was that the veiled “prostitute” was actually his daughter-in-law, the former wife of his eldest son. She provided her services to him that day in exchange for a young goat from Judah’s flock, which she never received.

Technically, then, not actually a prostitute. Perhaps not a role model exactly, but nobody in this story really is.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Two Kinds of Anxiety

“I want you to be free from anxieties.”

Now, you may or may not remember this, but it wasn’t the apostle Paul who wrote those famous words “casting all your anxieties upon [God], because he cares for you.” That was another apostle whose name begins with ‘P’.

All the same, many — maybe most — Christians have at one time or other heard these words appropriated to remind them to let go of all their cares and concerns, and hand their worries over to God, who loves us. Some of us heard the line from our mothers, and so the idea comes with a boatload of sentiment attached to it.

What it should not become is an excuse for passivity.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Anonymous Asks (34)

“How do you know God is real besides ‘look all around you’?”

Mileage varies. For me, one of the most powerful evidences of God’s reality is my cat. She is a slightly-dinged-up work of art. The Theory of Evolution by Whichever-Mechanism-is-Currently-in-Vogue offers one possible explanation for her existence. The Bible offers me what I think is a better one: she was designed by an Artist of unparalleled skill. It also offers me an explanation for why she is slightly dinged up: she’s collateral damage from the fall of mankind.

So “look all around you” works for me, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Fair enough.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Parts of Speech

“The Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is truth.”

“The Spirit of truth … proceeds from the Father.”

It is correct to say that the triune God reliably tells the truth [Gk: alētheuō] and that he always speaks truly [alēthōs]. He is both accurate and ingenuous.

And yet despite their aptness, these statements are not sufficient. They fall short. Scripture makes such claims repeatedly, but that is not all it says.

The doctrine of God’s veracity and reliability does not turn on verbs and adverbs.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (53)

We are coming to the final few Solomonic proverbs assembled by the men of King Hezekiah. Probably at this point the transcribers had run out of bigger themes to explore. All forty-five which remain are two-liners that appear unrelated to one another.

Their brevity is no reflection on their quality. More than a few of the most famous and familiar proverbs you will hear quoted by Christians come from this section of the book.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Branded

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

They started in 1988 with a 27-year old “senior pastor” named James MacDonald and a couple hundred interested Christians and seekers gathered in a Chicago high school auditorium. Today, they are known as Harvest Bible Chapel, a megachurch with campuses all over the Chicago area and over 100 affiliated fellowships in North America and internationally.

Tom: Today, the mother church is being investigated for alleged financial shenanigans.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

How Do You Love the Gospel?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Semi-Random Musings (12)

I cannot say what the process of becoming honest is like for the occasional white-liar, but people who practice deceit definitely have great difficulty quitting.

I have probably detailed in some post or other my own experience of giving up the practice of lying cold-turkey by forcing myself to publicly confess every single new falsehood I uttered, and doing so the moment the words left my lips. It involved a level of red-faced humiliation and personal exposure I was very much unused to. Rarely was a confession received in quite the way I expected.

I suppose all bad habits are hard to break.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Bit Players in an Eternal Drama

When Jacob returns to Canaan from sojourning in Paddan-aram, along with his wives, family, servants and flocks, he finds himself anticipating the inevitable confrontation with his brother Esau. The same Esau whom Jacob had swindled, and from whom he had fled in fear more than twenty years before. Esau who, it is reported, has four hundred men with him. That doesn’t bode well. The writer of Genesis tells us “Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed.”

A reasonable reaction, all things considered.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Anonymous Asks (33)

“Why does God allow trials, tribulations, and suffering?”

If we are speaking of suffering in general, whole books have been written in answer to this question. Our own Immanuel Can wrote an open letter about it to conservative author Dinesh D’Souza in 2016. If you are looking for a philosophical explanation for the necessity of pain in a fallen world, you may find it there.

One thing we can be sure of: the answer is not simple. Another thing we can be sure of is that people who observe suffering are bound to speculate about its cause. It’s human nature. Perhaps you remember the question Jesus’ disciples asked upon encountering a blind man: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents?”

They were wrong, of course. Those are far from the only two options.