Thursday, June 17, 2021

Louder Than Words

“Words, words, words,” says Hamlet.

He’s not enthused. And rightly so. Sometimes there are just too many words.

The Bible says, “God is in heaven, and you are on earth. Therefore, let your words be few.” It’s talking about prayer, of course, but the point carries more generally: even the smartest of us is pretty limited in knowledge. The Lord can use as many words as he wants, and every one of them will be right; but when we human beings talk too much, we make mistakes. Sometimes, we even roll right into sin.

So we’re encouraged to be careful, talk only about what we know, use our words precisely, and not to multiply them without due attention to what we’re really doing. After all, teachers receive a more serious condemnation if they do a bad job.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Falling and Standing

“Son of Adam, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.”

Ezekiel the priest had fallen on his face at the sight of the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. As a son of fallen Adam, that was where he belonged. That is where we all belong, naturally speaking. Down through history, whenever men glimpsed the glory of the Lord even in smaller ways than the spectacular view afforded Ezekiel, they have tended to keel over.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

An Essential Human Right

Early in June, Nigeria became the world’s ninth country to either restrict the social media website Twitter, or ban it outright. Being neither a tweet generator nor a tweet consumer, I consider that no great loss for Nigerians. Twitter naturally disagreed, declaring an open internet an “essential human right”. The irony, of course, is that the same company has had no problem censoring the Nigerian president’s own tweets, not to mention banning US President Donald Trump entirely.

When you make the bed ...

Monday, June 14, 2021

Anonymous Asks (149)

“Did Jesus know he was the Messiah?”

Nobody ever displayed a more definite sense of his purpose in this world than Jesus of Nazareth.

We see it in him long before his ministry began. “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” he asked his anxious mother. This was not some generalized impression that the people of God ought not to forsake gathering together, but a specific sense that he uniquely belonged where God had placed his name. “I must be.”

He was twelve years old and “about my Father’s business”, as another translation puts it.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Serving and Being

“Have you considered my servant Job?”

The jargon believers use with one another often sounds a little unusual to those unfamiliar with it, something of which I was jarringly reminded during a conversation a few weeks back with an unsaved friend. I lapsed momentarily into incomprehensible Churchian and unthinkingly used a euphemism to describe a Bible teacher with whom we are both acquainted.

I called him a “servant of the Lord”.

Servant?” my friend remarked. “What a strange thing to say!”

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Mining the Minors: Amos (19)

There is no such thing as a truly secular state. Man was made to worship, and if he will not worship the one true God, then he will worship false gods. If he does not worship false gods, then he ends up worshiping himself. But worship he will, one way or another.

The problem with alternatives to the worship of the one true God is that they are all futile.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Not Going Back

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

If you’ve been watching the numbers over the last few months, it should be evident to even the most Negative Nancy that the COVID-19 rates of infection and death are finally decreasing steadily. We may reasonably discount the weekly cries of the media alarmists about the latest terrifying variant; that’s just what they do when they’re all out of stories about dying polar bears.

Tom: And so we are beginning to hear tentative musings about reopening businesses and getting back to something approaching our pre-March 2020 way of living. As someone who worked in the office throughout the entire song and dance, I was more than a little surprised to read that I am not necessarily in the majority in my desire to see society normalize. Tim Kreider of The Atlantic has decided he’d rather stay in bed, along with untold numbers of others who would rather work from home forever ... or preferably not work at all.

IC, didn’t one of the ‘seven deadlies’ use to be the sin of sloth?

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Scales and Panes

I was chatting with a young man yesterday.

He considers himself a Christian. And maybe he is. I hope he is. But he’s certainly confused about something very basic to salvation; and maybe it will surprise you what it is.

He doesn’t really understand sin.

Now, understanding what it is we are saved from is pretty necessary to salvation, so I’m concerned. I want him to have a correct grasp of how sin relates to the holiness of God. And I’m troubled that his teachers have not taught him this.

So I’m going to try to do a short explanation for you. And I’m going to start with this question:

How bad is sin?

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

After the Fact

The Latin term vaticinium ex eventu is used by liberal scholars and critics of the Bible to describe a prophecy they believe was made “from the event”, or literally after the fact. For example, German scholar Ferdinand Hitzig objected to prophecies about the king of Egypt made in Jeremiah 44:29-30, calling them vaticinium ex eventu. The argument of men like Hitzig is that later writers forged one or more prophecies in Jeremiah’s name based on events which had already occurred, and grafted them into the existing text of Jeremiah, presumably in order to make his writings appear more credible.

Hitzig died in 1875, by the way, so obviously this is not a new issue. And he’s far from the only expert to make such claims.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

A Zero Sum Game

“Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”

“Outwitted” is a translation of the Greek pleonekteĊ, which is closely related to another word that English translators consistently render as “covet”. So pleonekteĊ doesn’t really have all that much to do with wits or intelligence at all. Rather, it refers to a situation we may aptly describe with the phrase “zero sum game”.

Monday, June 07, 2021

Anonymous Asks (148)

“Did Ishmael become a great nation?”

The question is in reference to a promise God made to Abraham in Genesis 17 to bless the son he had with his wife’s Egyptian servant, Hagar: “As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation.”

It’s a compound promise with a few clear stipulations to it. Surely it’s worth a few minutes of our time to check and see if God made good on it, right?

Sunday, June 06, 2021

To Ask or Not to Ask

“When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

“He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”

So then, which is it: are we to ask, or are we not to ask? How does one reconcile the two apparently contradictory ideas in these verses? Is it really possible to pray too much?

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Mining the Minors: Amos (18)

In the Bible, the word lamentation refers to a dirge, song or hymn of mourning.

It is certainly possible to grieve privately and in silence. Often we do. But there are losses we share, and injuries of such scope and magnitude that they call for men and women to join their voices together in unified expression of misery. In 1997, songwriter Bernie Taupin repurposed his 25‑year old elegy for Marilyn Monroe into a tacky, maudlin and singularly appropriate pop culture farewell to Princess Diana that reinvigorated Elton John’s flagging musical career, sold 33 million copies worldwide and remained in Canada’s Top 20 for a full three years.

Some hearts were obviously touched around the world, and they sang along. That’s a lamentation.

Friday, June 04, 2021

Too Hot to Handle: Going Crazy

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

What could inspire a perfectly pleasant secular gay man to trumpet the virtue of belief on YouTube? Well, in this case, it’s a new Pew Research study which reveals that a staggering 56.3% of white, liberal women age 18-29 have been diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point.

Tom: The report also indicates conservatives of both sexes were only half as likely (16.3% vs. 33.6% and 27.3% vs. 56.3%) to be diagnosed with mental health issues as their liberal counterparts in the same age group, which understandably prompted Dave Rubin to start talking about the value of having a fixed set of beliefs.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

The Butler Did It

When John Milton, the famous 17th century poet and eventual author of the epic Paradise Lost realized in mid-life that he was going totally blind, he felt a rising sense of panic. How could a wordsmith be of any value, to God or anyone else, when he had not even the use of his own two eyes?

When the great night finally descended, he was reduced to dependency and darkness. And understandably, he agonized over why the Lord would allow such a thing. He recorded his struggles in a short poem — perhaps his most-quoted piece of work.

“When I consider how my light is spent …” he began. With half a life left to give, what point would there be in him losing the one great talent he had? It would remain, he worried, “lodg’d within me useless”, and yet his “soul [was] more bent to serve therewith [his] Maker”. How could he give an account to the Lord if he could no longer serve, and in fact, could no longer even see?

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Inbox: Millennial Musings

So I’m browsing through old emails, and I find this one from JR, naturally received in the middle of the night. He was up, I was up, and I guess these are the sorts of things we think about when we can’t sleep:

“Hey ... I’m just reading a book where the author is discussing Mt 16:19. He says that since the verse is talking about the kingdom of heaven, it is referring not to the church age but to the coming kingdom and that the verse is therefore referring to the church’s role in that kingdom (reigning with Christ). Keys speak of authority, etc. He further points out that if we interpret it in that context, the weird ideas that many have drawn from that verse evaporate.

I’ll have to give this some thought.”

Okay. Interesting.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Orderly Meditation: A (Very Late) Follow-Up

Quite some time ago, I wrote a post on the subject of the order of the books of the New Testament, which, as most of our readers are probably aware, is anything but chronological. I noted that I had decided to start reading the NT in the order it was written (as far as we are able to determine) on my next daily pass through the Bible “just to see how it goes”.

Time flies, and more than five years have passed since I wrote those words. I am just starting my eighth straight trip through the NT in chronological order, which seems as good a time as any to report on the experience.

I’m going to give it a big thumbs-up.