Friday, January 31, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: The Discipline of Discipline

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Authentic Me

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Flyover Country: 3 John

The most enthusiastic reception I’ve ever gotten at a local church was the day I set foot in a small congregation of Christians whose nominal affiliation with (reputed) sectarian purists turned out to be no predictor of the warm welcome they uniformly showed to visitors from the “other side” of the theological divide.

I broke bread with them after an introductory conversation that took approximately thirty seconds, just long enough to discover what I thought of Jesus Christ. I think very well of him indeed. That was sufficient cause for a hearty introduction, several good conversations and multiple invitations home for a bite of lunch.

Good for them, I say.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

More Than One Blessing

“Have you but one blessing, my father?”

Mature Christians will tell you the answer to every problem in life is Christ. They are not wrong. The most complex interpersonal disasters, the most dysfunctional families, the biggest crimes and misdemeanors and all the fallout that comes from them — in one way or another, Jesus Christ is the answer to all these things.

When you have smashed all the dishes, Christ is the answer. But he will not mend them for you and put them back on the shelf. When you have blown up your marriage, Christ is the answer. But he may not magically transform your ex-husband into your best friend. When you have raised an ungrateful, spoiled, crazy child, Christ is definitely the answer. The child may still decide to go to hell.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Anonymous Asks (77)

“Is my baptism still valid if I sin?”

I cannot think of a single person in the New Testament who was ever baptized twice as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Now, there were a few believers in Corinth who received a second water baptism, but only because their first baptism had been a baptism of repentance preached by John. This was insufficient; they needed to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

But baptized twice as Christians? Never.* That in itself should strongly suggest it is impossible to invalidate one’s baptism.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Breaking Your Own Compass

By the oddest of coincidences, the standard of the
Nineveh Protection Units looks like ... a compass.
“I did it my way.”
— Paul Anka

“I’ve got my own way. I can find my own way.”
— Duran Duran

“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
— Judges 21:25

Ah, the conscience.

The Function of Conscience

On one hand, each individual’s conscience must be the final arbiter of his or her choices; a moral compass. While there is plenty of direction out there in the word of God to provide sound guidance for life, in the end, how that is applied and whether or not it is followed is down to each one of us. It can be no other way.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Time and Chance (20)

One thing I have neglected to point out over the last two weeks of posts in this series is that the first seven verses of chapter 5 of Ecclesiastes are different from everything that has come before them. They are the very first commands we have encountered in the Preacher’s writing.

Everything up to this point has been description; the Preacher looking around at his world and telling us what he observes in the absence of divine revelation, most of which he finds disappointing and confusing. But chapter 5 commences with a short series of what we might call prescriptions. The Preacher has actually begun to issue the occasional instruction. “Guard your steps,” he says. “Be not rash with your mouth. Let your words be few. Do not delay in fulfilling your vows.”

Friday, January 24, 2020

Disappearing Comments

Our reader WiC informs me issues he was having with his comments to our blog posts disappearing into the ether seem to have been unexpectedly resolved. If I recall, this happened most frequently to readers with Mac laptops.

Is it time? Is it Blogger? Who knows. Either way it’s good news.

So, if you have felt like commenting on a post here or there but have given it up for impossible, now might be a good time to give it another shot.

Too Hot to Handle: Majoring on the Majors

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Just Get Up

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Semi-Random Musings (19)

“[T]he one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death.”

Tough times, when prophets are anointed in blood.

Not literally, of course; let’s not be grotesque. But the Bible’s first mention of Elijah’s successor tells us he would cause death, and he needed no sword to do it.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Is Christianity a Religion?

Depends on your definition, doesn’t it.

As a unit of language, the word ‘religion’ has acquired so many nuances that it is almost useless. Everyone has his or her own idea of what religion means, but they often differ drastically from one another. It has become one of those words that just doesn’t really communicate much anymore.

If I ask, “Are you religious?” and you say “Yes”, I have actually discovered very little indeed about what you believe.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Anonymous Asks (76)

“What does the Bible say about insecurity?”

The answer to that would very much depend on the type of insecurity in question.

For example, King Saul was extremely insecure about his position as king of Israel, so much so that he tried to kill the man he suspected would follow him on the throne. He had very good reason to be insecure, and there was no obvious cure to be found for his insecurity. He had sinned, and was under the judgment of God. His kingdom was to be taken away from him and given to another.

In short, he was trying to defend something to which he had no right. Living in that sort of untenable position will always make us feel insecure.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Agnosticism and Folly

“Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”

Solomon, wisest man of his day and the greatest king of Israel — at least by the world’s standard of measurement — talks about two alternatives we all face in life, picturing them by extended metaphor as a pair of women offering invitations.

On the surface there are similarities: both women are offering food of a sort to those who are simple, naïve or untaught, just as we all are when we come into the world.

But the similarities end there.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Time and Chance (19)

Over the Christmas season, you often get to observe people giving thanks for a meal who wouldn’t do it ordinarily. You can tell it’s a special event because they refer to it as “saying grace”, as if it’s some kind of annual sacrament rather than just another in a thrice-daily series of simple, grateful responses to God’s generosity. Often the head of the family feels compelled to do the honors.

Now, from time to time it happens that the person drafted to perform this duty has given little or no thought to the question of God’s existence one way or the other. He is now put on the spot. It can be fun, and a bit awkward, to watch someone pretend to address a Supreme Being they don’t truly believe in. Their whole “grace” thing usually gets mumbled out strung together like it’s one word: Forwhatweareabouttorecieve ...

Hey, it helps to have a familiar liturgical formula to recite. Anybody can pull that off, believer or no.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Making Merchandise

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Unforgivable Sin

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Text and Me

Marg Mowczko writes about a woman who wept when reading the many masculine pronouns in 1 Corinthians in her 1984 NIV. She asked, “Where am I in the text?

Marg herself admits to a similar issue with nouns: “Masculine nouns, such as ‘brothers’ when the meaning is ‘brothers and sisters,’ effectively distance women from the text.” She finds the book of Hebrews much less personally relevant when she reads it in the ESV.

Accordingly, Marg prefers the TNIV, which uses more gender-inclusive language, giving women the prominence in the text which it is thought they need and deserve.

But since the question of distance from the text is being raised, let’s explore that a bit.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Nouns and Pronouns

Pronouns are noun-substitutes. They save us from cluttering up our sentences with unnecessary repetition. A long string of names can be easily replaced with a four-letter pronoun like “they”, saving all kinds of space.

I’m not telling you anything new here. We learn this in grade school.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Anonymous Asks (75)

“Does God know when I will die?”

Yes. How’s that for a quick and direct answer?

We find David reflecting on this exact subject in a psalm about God’s incredible knowledge of each of his creatures: “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” The words “every one of them” tell us that not only does God know the content of our experiences, but each individual time-fragment that makes up those experiences. Every single day.

Not only is God able to count the days of our lives, he has made a formal record of each one.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Times and Dates

The phrase “unto this day” or its equivalent occurs 92 times in scripture by my count, 86 times in Hebrew and six times in Greek. Well over a dozen Bible authors use it. When I was much younger and more solipsistic, I read it — don’t laugh — as if it meant up until the late twentieth century, as if “this day” meant the day I was reading it. It seemed rather cool to me that so many landmarks in Old Testament history could survive so long.

Later it dawned on me that of course it really means up until sometime between the first moment the writer put quill to papyrus and the moment he finished editing what he had written. No more, no less.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Time and Chance (18)

The “house of God”. What does that mean exactly? When you see the expression in your Bible, it does not always mean precisely the same thing, though all its uses have a common element.

When Jacob first coins the expression in Genesis, he is referring to what he saw in a vision while camped about 12 miles north of Jerusalem. He dreamed of a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, on which the angels of God traveled up and down, and the Lord standing above it, speaking to him. He concluded he had slept on the doorstep of God’s heavenly dwelling, and he called the place Bethel, which means “house of God”.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Biocentrism and Reality

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Living Under the Blade

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Acting Like Men

“Act like men.”

Yesterday I watched a few seconds of video from the recent attempted mass shooting at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas. It’s all up there on YouTube, of course. The church was livestreaming its service when the incident occurred.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Top 10 Posts of 2019

I did this last year, and if it was not necessarily a smashing success, at least it was easy and fun. So why not give it another shot?

If we started any trends in our sixth full year of daily posting, it was probably due to the shortage of new material from Immanuel Can. IC has written a bunch of things in the past twelve months, many of which I’ve read and enjoyed. However, most of them have been directed to individuals online and targeted toward very specific personal needs, which made them poor blog fodder. Our loss.

In any case, what happened as a result is that five of our ten most-read posts this year (numbers four through eight) were various installments of my weekly email exchanges with IC. Hey, apparently our readership will take what it can get ...

Monday, January 06, 2020

Anonymous Asks (74)

“Does God only help those who help themselves?”

I hope you will not think I am equivocating if I answer, “It depends.” Because it does. Sometimes believers have to do a great deal of the heavy lifting while carrying out the plans and purposes of God. To shirk our obligations would be to defy God himself. Other times, getting involved in accomplishing God’s purposes is not only unnecessary, but can cause all kinds of complications and regret.

Abraham’s wife Sarah could tell you how badly that can go.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Semi-Random Musings (18)

There are no wasted words in scripture. At least, I’m not having much luck finding any.

The apostle John says that if everything Jesus did were written down, the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Sanctified hyperbole? Maybe. But what is certain is that we’d need tractor trailers to carry our Bibles to church and bigger doors on our buildings. Much bigger. Add a few more unnecessary details to our Old Testaments, and we’d have to leave them at home. Except of course that our homes would not be big enough, and we couldn’t afford to own all the volumes.

The Holy Spirit is not just the world’s greatest-ever writer, he is also the world’s greatest-ever editor. We get exactly what we need and no more. No detail is frivolous.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Time and Chance (17)

I do not own or read many Bible commentaries.

Why? Well, I find commentaries tend to sway me toward specific interpretations of the text. That makes them bad places to start the search for truth — for me at least — because they rarely lay out all possible options for me to consider. Further, these selective impressions about meaning may or may not be well informed, linguistically accurate, carefully thought out, or consistent with the rest of scripture. Some are and some are not. The sheer number and variety of impressions gathered by different writers from any given passage demonstrate that not all can be correct, though some are definitely better than others.

So I prefer to read a passage multiple times, pray through it and mull it over, then do word studies and comparative analyses to develop an opinion about its meaning on my own. Reaching for a commentary is a very last resort. Confirmation, maybe.

Friday, January 03, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Speaking Out of Turn

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Faith’s Got Legs

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Five Easy Predictions for 2020

I am not Daniel or Ezekiel. I’m not even George Orwell. So if we’re still here in January 2021, you can either say, “Well, he totally botched that,” or “Not too bad.” More likely it’ll be somewhere in between, as it usually is. Age and experience give one a certain ability to estimate what might be coming our way in our societies and churches. Basically, it is usually something like whatever happened the last time we saw similar symptoms.

But the operative word here is “might”. There are always factors for which we cannot account, the finger of God being far from the least of these.

So with it very much in mind that the Lord will do what he will in our world, let’s speculate about what we might see more of in 2020.