Monday, January 31, 2022

Anonymous Asks (182)

“Conventional wisdom disagrees with an increasing number of Bible proverbs. Is it possible some were of their own time and do not apply to us today?”

What a great question! Most of the Bible’s proverbs are over 3,000 years old, so we certainly cannot discount the possibility that applying all of them literally is borderline-unworkable. It sent me combing through Proverbs from beginning to end in search of the most controversial examples I could find. (I am leaving out Proverbs 31, since I dealt with the cultural relevance of the “excellent wife” here.)

So, let’s see about those “irrelevant” proverbs then ...

Sunday, January 30, 2022

On Accepting and Receiving

Is the difference between accepting and receiving just a matter of semantics? Are we being picky about words that to most people amount to the same thing? We will attempt to show they don’t.

Admittedly, in many cases either word would do, both being used to describe a positive response to a gift or invitation, but there is a difference. The first is the better word to use if you want to leave room for the possibility of some disappointment or reserve on the part of the recipient. The second would be better if you want to go on to describe the great pleasure a gift or invitation evoked.

An illustration may help ...

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (12)

We can get into a chicken-and-egg sort of argument about whether choosing an idol instead of the one true God leads to immorality (which it does, because all other moral systems are necessarily inferior), or whether it’s the selfish pursuit of desire that leads inevitably to an idolatrous pathway that will permit it (which is also true, as Israel proved in the wilderness).

Let’s just say that however it may begin, immorality and idolatry have a tendency to create the spiritual equivalent of a perpetual motion machine. One feeds the other.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Brimstone and Deceit

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

Tom: Here’s a hot topic we’ve yet to discuss, IC — at least, it’s generated some serious heat for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, sufficient to rate an article in The New York Times.

At issue is the government’s determination to tie federal funding for youth job programs to the expression of politically correct opinion. It’s about $113 million annually, give or take, and approximately 70,000 jobs are at stake.

The Prime Minister dismisses the very predictable negative reaction from Canadian conservatives as a “kerfuffle”.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Contemplating Evil

The most popular course in the Religion and Culture department of one Canadian university is a course titled “Evil and Its Symbols”. It’s the one course where there never seems to be enough room to fit all the applicants. One student quipped that the homework assignment was probably “Go home and do evil.”

Maybe not. But people sure are fascinated with the topic. Why evil exists is a challenge for any Christian to explain; perhaps the biggest. Still, two things bear remembering right away: firstly, that to say that it’s a challenge does not mean that the challenge cannot be met, and secondly, that to explain the existence of evil is not a challenge unique to Christians or even to theists more generally — it’s equally necessary for atheists. Not only that, but it’s a lot harder for them.

Let me justify those statements a bit further in a moment; but first, let me set the stage for today’s post.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Things Not Seen

It’s a white world where I live. Earlier this week we had something like a foot and a half of snow fall in a matter of hours. I woke up to two hours of shoveling. My back is still feeling it.

But this morning I was out on the road again for my very early morning walk, which was a little slower going than usual. I guess the City has to prioritize where the plows go first. Many parked cars on my street were still under so much of the white stuff that you couldn’t tell the difference between an SUV and a sedan. You also couldn’t tell where the sidewalks were, or the fire hydrants, or many of the usual landmarks.

They were all still there of course. You just couldn’t see them.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Those Who Don’t Know History

We are where we are today as a society because we do not know who we are. We do not know who we are because we do not know where we have been, and we do not remember the lessons we should have learned when we were there.

Okay, there are other reasons as well, but ignorance is a big part of it. My kids were never really taught either History or English in high school. Even in the first decade of the new millennium, the ‘woke’ monster was stirring within public education. History had already become a problematic subject, and the great works of Western literature, allegedly full of patriarchal prejudices and badthink, were being chucked aside in favor of contemporary novels propagandizing about teens and abortion.

Having already ruined math, they basically stopped teaching anything else useful. And it’s far worse today.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Anonymous Asks (181)

“ ‘Son of man’ is a title that belongs to Christ. Why is it also used for Ezekiel?”

Ezekiel not only had the title before the Lord Jesus, he had it used to describe him many more times than the Lord Jesus, 93 in total. More importantly, it was God himself who chose to address him that way, though Daniel is also called a “son of man”. But Ezekiel and Daniel are not the only places you find the phrase in the Old Testament; you also find it in Job, Numbers, the Psalms, Isaiah and Jeremiah.

What can we learn from the fact that both Ezekiel and Daniel had the title earlier, and Ezekiel more frequently? Not much, probably, except maybe not to measure spiritual importance by such metrics.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

In and Among

“I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them.”

You and I were saved for a reason: to have fellowship with God. To know, love, commune with, enjoy and be enjoyed by him forever.

Now, that may not be the reason you became a Christian or decided to live like one. Probably it wasn’t. It certainly wasn’t the reason I did. My reasons were all about me. I had been experiencing the consequences of a series of selfish, ill-advised choices, and I didn’t like them at all. But I had been brought up in a Christian home, and I knew the answer to my problems was obedience to Christ. So the day finally came when I hit rock bottom, gave up and said, “You win, Lord.”

That was pretty much the process. I wasn’t exactly looking for fellowship. I’m not sure I even knew what that was.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (11)

It took me a few years of serious Bible study to recognize that local context is of considerably greater importance than larger context in correctly discerning the intended meaning of any particular word or phrase.

For example, you may have observed that John uses the phrase “the Jews” in his gospel with a different shade of meaning than do Matthew or Mark, and that Luke uses the same phrase differently in Acts than in his gospel. Likewise, the words “we” and “our” refer to different people in 2 Corinthians than they do in some of Paul’s other epistles.

Failure to note such distinctions inevitably leads to muddled interpretations. Today’s reading in Hosea contains a phrase that will confuse us if we do not attend carefully to its local context.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Facts and Opinions

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

The Pew Research Center — a moderately reputable outfit as these things go — just released study data that indicates three quarters of Americans are incapable of distinguishing fact from opinion. When given a series of statements like “Spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid make up the largest portion of the U.S. federal budget” (fact, supposedly), and “Democracy is the greatest form of government” (opinion, surely), most participants were unable to determine which were which.

Tom: Somebody’s responsible for that, IC. Want to hazard a guess who it might be?

Thursday, January 20, 2022

When Life Really Hurts

There’s a woman in my church — a lovely woman, a mother and a wife, and selfless servant of the Lord’s people, one most highly esteemed. She has been a grief and addiction counselor, and has spent her whole life ministering to others in their moments of darkest sorrow. Her husband is also a wonderful person, and his career for several decades has been as chaplain to the elderly, caring for fragile souls on the doorstep of eternity.

This woman has just been diagnosed with aggressive, metastasizing liver cancer. The fatal kind.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Falling in with the Many

“You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.”

Yes, it comes from the Law of Moses, and Christians are not under law. Nevertheless, there is a principle here that transcends time and place. It is worth observing and retaining.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Semi-Random Musings (24)

I have found myself thanking the Lord for some strange things lately. One of them is death. Another is the limits of human memory.

The mind of God is a staggering thing to contemplate. The moment we do so we are almost guaranteed to get something wrong. Nevertheless, enough has been written about it in scripture that we can be confident there is nothing God does not know, no prayer he does not hear, no burden of which he is not aware, and therefore no care or adverse circumstance in which he is unable or unwilling to provide grace.

That’s pretty amazing.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Anonymous Asks (180)

“How important are traditions observed by other Christians?”

One Sunday afternoon in my early teens I was craving a snack. That posed a problem: my father did not permit us to go to the stores on Sunday.

“Dad,” I said, “why can’t we go to the store on Sunday?”

“Because Sunday is a day of rest,” he replied.

“That was the Sabbath,” I responded, “and we are not under law, we are under grace.”

Guess what. I got to go to the store.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Mr. MacArthur, Please Find a Different Verse

“Are you a Christian?”

That’s not me asking. That’s renowned Bible teacher John MacArthur. He’s suggesting we all need to do a little self-examination to see if we are “in the faith”. And he thinks scripture supports the practice.

Hmm. I’m wondering if that might not make for a large number of miserable, panicky Christians questioning their salvation for no good reason.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (10)

Description is not the same as prescription. Or, to put it less technically, Old Testament historical passages are a questionable source of moral guidance for Christians.

We have noted previously that the book of Hosea goes back and forth between the historical account of Hosea’s marriage and the lessons God was drawing out of that relationship for Israel and, to a lesser extent, Judah. Hosea’s adulterous wife Gomer represented the idolatrous northern kingdom of Israel, while Hosea himself represented God.

Chapter 1 was more or less evenly split between history and prophecy. Chapter 2 was almost entirely prophetic. Chapter 3 takes us back to the historical narrative, and it is here that we have to be careful about the practical lessons we take out of the text for ourselves.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Tearing Down Strongholds

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

[Editor’s note: When we were young we used to play road hockey. Now we do this. I missed out on this particular email discussion, but I thought the rest of you might enjoy it as much as I did when I woke up to find it in my inbox. And yes, I got called out for not participating, but these days I will take sleep whenever I can get it.]

Bernie: Okay, bear with me ...

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Testimony in the Twilight Zone

I’m becoming a believer in snowblower evangelism.

I live in an area where big snowfalls happen several times a year. I mean the kind that are a meter or so (a few feet) deep, heavy and wet. If you’ve ever tried to shovel out a driveway in those conditions, you know it’s absolutely back-breaking work.

The Lord gave me a snowblower. I don’t mean he personally went down to the local John Deere store and picked it up for me, I mean that it came cheap and unexpected, as a kindness from one of the Lord’s people. I don’t deserve it, and I’m very grateful to have it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

14 Inches to the Northwest

I actually wrote this one back in November 2017, but Millennium Tower is back in the news again, so here goes ...

Apparently building your house on something quasi-rock-like won’t cut it.

San Francisco’s Millennium Tower has sunk 17 inches and tilted 14 inches to the northwest since 2006. If that sounds like nothing, bear in mind that this is a 58-storey state-of-the-art concrete monster that drew millions in investment dollars from people like former NFL quarterback Joe Montana.

The problem? Not built down to bedrock.

Does that take you back 2000 years or what?

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Prototypical Enemy

Amalek is Israel’s prototypical enemy. Or perhaps I should say “was” rather than “is”. That requires a bit of explanation ...

Israel became a nation during its period of Egyptian slavery, so we can certainly number the Egyptians among Israel’s earliest mortal antagonists. But Israel fought no battles with Egypt. At the Red Sea, no Israelite even drew his sword. Instead, God fought for his people, and the nations were awed, just as God had anticipated: “The peoples have heard; they tremble; pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia. Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed; trembling seizes the leaders of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.”

Who is absent from this list of trembling peoples? Amalek.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Anonymous Asks (179)

“Is church membership important?”

The words “member” and “members” occur many times in the New Testament. Conceptually, church membership is a product of metaphor. The various parts of a human body — feet, hands, eyes, ears, etc. — constitute its members. In the same way, all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are members of the church, which the Bible refers to as a spiritual body.

Is that important? Absolutely. But we should be clear what that means and does not mean, since Christians often use the word “membership” in ways the Bible does not.

Sunday, January 09, 2022

Onward and Upward

“Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”

There are more than 600 million blogs out there in the web, two million of which post daily. Something like 77% of internet users still read them. You may have heard that blog readership overall is dropping precipitously, but quantifying that is next to impossible since Google has a vested interest in promoting the hobby / business / passion. In 2021 in the U.S. alone, 31.7 million bloggers published roughly 7 million posts per day, 97% of whom used social media to boost their results. We are in the 3% that didn’t: I like social media just slightly less than being boiled in oil.

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (9)

The book of Hosea is full of references to “days”. These are not twenty-four hour periods, but eras of varying duration notable for specific features.

In chapter 1, Hosea prophesies of a day then future and now past, when Israel’s strength would be broken in the valley of Jezreel and its people dispersed among the nations, and another, much more distant day in which Israel and Judah will finally be reunited. In chapter 2 there are the “days of the Baals”, the “days of Israel’s youth”, and the “day” when the nation came out of Egypt.

Then there are three references in the last few verses of chapter 2 to a coming era of restoration, peace, safety and blessing, characterized by righteousness, justice, love and mercy. Our English translators consistently label it “that day”, though the language used about it strongly suggests this day will be at least 1,000 years in duration. Needless to say, the events which set it apart from all other days in Israel’s history have yet to take place.

Friday, January 07, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Good Reasons to be Non-Denominational

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

I was just poking through the archives and realized that last year we did a post together called “Bad Reasons to be Non-Denominational”. It was all about the recent trend toward non-denominational Christian gathering that doesn’t always have a whole lot in the way of specifics and convictions.

Tom: We agreed that wasn’t our preferred way to go, IC. But now I’m wondering if you can think of any good reasons to meet together with Christians without a lot of the historical baggage that goes with a well-established, well-known bloc of believers — like, say, the Southern Baptists.

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Wedded Blitz

Every summer, couples line up to tie the knot.

There was a time in my life when it seemed like every summer weekend was occupied with somebody’s nuptials. Now, however, like most middle-aged men, I’m quite content to leave that to the younger set, and if I’m roped into one or two such ceremonies during a summer that’s about my limit.

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Into an Uncertain Future

We who love Christ are often preoccupied with what is immediate; that is, what we need for today, next week, month, year or during our short lifespan.

It is right that we should sense our dependence on God for all things, looking for his guidance and provision. The Lord taught his followers to pray about such matters. “Give us this day our daily bread” is an example. Ezra sensed how dangerous the journey in front of the returning exiles could be. He called upon his companions to humble themselves before God, “to seek the right way for us and our little ones”.

All such concerns are things that focus on this life and have to do with time. In contrast to eternal issues they often seem more pressing, more “immediate”.

Don’t Think It Can’t Happen Here

The unjabbed stand outside and sing their own Christmas songs as
Finnish churches are now requiring the pass to enter.

An online acquaintance in Finland confirms.

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Top 10 Posts of 2021

If 2020 was the strangest year in most of our lives to date, 2021 was more of the same: strange got stranger. Anyone who thinks he knows what’s coming in 2022 is probably wrong. Here at Coming Untrue, we are grateful to continue to experience the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit in our feeble attempts to serve a Master whose yoke is easy and whose burdens are light.

All the rest is detail — as we have had occasion to remind one another all year long — though that “detail” certainly makes a lot of din and clatter around us.

Monday, January 03, 2022

Anonymous Asks (178)

“Which of the psalms stands out the most to you?”

If you were stranded on a desert island and could take only one book of the Bible with you, which book would it be? Forest Antemesaris says he would take the Psalms, and many Christians would agree with him. The Psalms, he says, are “the songbook of Israel, a chronicle of praise from our spiritual ancestors, an emotional catharsis, the New Testament’s Old Testament foundation, and the scriptural bedrock of spiritual formation”. He goes on to say the Psalms are central to both testaments, and foundational to praise, the biblical language of prayer, and the love of God’s word.

All this is true.

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Christ and the Police State

The Rutherford Institute is a nonpartisan organization whose self-appointed mission is to hold the U.S. government accountable to abide by the rule of law, sound the alarm over institutional abuses of power, and educate Americans about reclaiming their constitutionally-guaranteed but steadily-eroding freedoms. Its founder John Whitehead is deeply concerned that America is becoming a police state, and he offers plenty of evidence to back up his claims.

All very important stuff in its own place, I’m sure, but what does it have to do with Christians? Well, Whitehead has written a Christmas post entitled “The Christmas Baby Born in a Police State: Then and Now”, in which he asks the question “What if Jesus had been born 2,000 years later?”

Okay, now I’m interested.

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (8)

It’s easy to do the right thing for the wrong reason.

In our previous post, God anticipates Israel’s response to its discovery that its false gods cannot deliver it from the invading Assyrian army. Like an adulterous wife whose new relationship goes sour, the nation compares its current situation with better days in the past, and concludes, “I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.”

Israel is finally prepared to do the right thing, but she has not actually repented of her idolatry. She is simply looking for the best deal she can swing for herself, a God who will take her back on her own terms.