Saturday, April 30, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (25)

The text over the photo to the right is nicked from a 1986 Steve Camp song entitled Threshing Floor, one of my favorite Christian lyrics ever, a great melody atop a characteristically elegant bottom end from legendary bassist Leland Sklar. Consider this post my homage to a job extra-well done. If “Pastor Steve” is still dishing it from the platform like this, I suspect the Lord would say he is doing okay.

But that raises a question: do most people even know what a threshing floor is? I imagine urbanized Westerners unfamiliar with the Bible probably don’t. I’ve certainly never seen one; they have been obsolete in the West since the 19th century.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: A Hot Mess

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

Young pastors in American churches are a dying breed. So says Eric Conn, and he’s got a major 2017 study in hand from the Barna Group to prove it. The number of U.S. pastors under forty is currently half what it was in 1992, while the number over sixty-five has tripled. The Barna report concludes, “It is urgent that denominations, networks and independent churches determine how to best motivate, mobilize, resource and deploy more younger pastors.”

Tom: That’s a highly debatable conclusion, but not a surprising one. What’s interesting to me, IC, is not so much Barna’s “Aging of America’s Pastors” article, but Conn’s analysis of it. As someone who’s been there, he described vocational ministry as “a hot mess”.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Lies, Myths and Misinformation: Missionaries Are Destructive

The modern, secularist, Leftist legend goes like this: missionaries are evil.

And why?

Because they were really nothing more than shock troops for colonialism. Being the first into remote areas, they led the way for merchants and the military to exploit vulnerable native cultures. And so, they conclude, we Christians should all be ashamed of the work done by missionaries in the past; and today, we definitely should not sponsor missionary efforts abroad.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The Language of the Debate (6)

Yesterday’s post introduced the expression “The Right’s Cancel Culture”. It comes from an opinion piece at in which journalist Chris Rufo is taken to task for his ongoing campaign to inform people that Disney is promoting the LGBTQ+ cause and that your poor kids don’t deserve to have new Disney propaganda inflicted on them.

Apparently telling the truth and promoting a Disney boycott from conservatives constitutes “cancelation”. So let’s talk a bit about how the expression “cancel culture” is being used and what it really means.

10. Cancel Culture

The Cambridge Dictionary defines cancel culture as “a way of behaving in a society or group, especially on social media, in which it is common to completely reject and stop supporting someone because they have said or done something that offends you”. That seems to be a reasonable definition, and it would certainly include the efforts of a man like Chris Rufo to make fellow conservatives aware that Disney is embracing and promoting the LGBTQ+ cause, and to discourage people from putting their money into Disney product.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Is the Right Engaged in Cancel Culture? is taking aim at Chris Rufo. Rufo says he is waging moral war against Disney, attempting to target the corporation’s public reputation and turn its customers against it. That’s all well and good, says The Bulwark, but they claim Rufo is misrepresenting Disney’s stated intentions.

What’s Rufo’s terrible misrepresentation? Good question.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Anonymous Asks (194)

“How can I learn to forgive myself?”

Mark 2 tells the story of a paralyzed man whose friends brought him to Jesus in hope that he would be healed. Mark records that Jesus saw their faith and responded to it by telling the man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” A number of Jewish religious leaders witnessed the interaction and took offense at it. Their objection was that only God can forgive sins.

Sadly, the scribes missed the point, which was that they were at that very moment in the presence of God himself. But their objection was technically correct: only God can forgive sins.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Mercy or Sacrifice?

“I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”

On at least two occasions the Lord applied these words first spoken by Hosea in 6:6. Both speakers expressed what was appropriate to circumstances that prevailed in their time.

Hosea was responding to his nation’s blindness regarding the Lord’s overriding purpose in delivering Israel from slavery, giving them the law through Moses along with instructions to guide them in offering sacrifices. They were to be a completely different people, their manner of life superior to what was going on in various nations around them. Those nations had their sacrifices and offered them to ward off punishment from the god or gods they offended.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (24)

The apostle Paul taught the Corinthian Christians to examine themselves before eating and drinking in remembrance of the Lord Jesus. Repentance and confession would naturally follow; after all, self-examination that doesn’t result in a change of heart and conduct is a worthless exercise.

Short version: sin must be dealt with before worship or fellowship can truly take place.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Baptized Into What?

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

I’m going to quote a full minute of a recent sermon on the subject of the New Testament teaching about baptism here because I want to fairly represent what this particular pastor was trying to communicate. A punchy line or two out of a message is fun, but may distort the speaker’s intent. In this case, providing the entire context makes that intent quite clear.

“I believe that the commission to baptize all nations was given to the church.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

The Positives of Negatives

I’ve got a favorite word.

It’s only two letters long, but it gives me complete control of my life.

My wife says maybe I use it too much. I’m not at all sure that’s true.

After all, I’ve seen that people who don’t have this word in their vocabulary suffer a lot. They let people put things upon them, and then have to live with the consequences.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

The Fifth Empire

Daniel 2 is a fascinating trip through the history of human accomplishment. A panoply of the greatest and most powerful Gentile empires in world history, most of them then-future, is revealed by God to the king of the Chaldeans in a dream.

Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of a great image in the form of a man. We would probably be better to call it a statue than an image because it had substance as well as appearance. The head of the statue was gold, the chest and arms were silver, the belly and thighs were bronze, the legs were of iron, and the feet and toes a mixture of iron and clay.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Inbox: Something to Think About

A few days ago I watched a couple of men argue on social media about the so-called “slippery slope fallacy”. One said it isn’t really considered a formal fallacy and may be a legitimate concern in many instances; the other claimed it’s entirely specious.

That’s wrong. The slippery slope is very much a real thing, especially when you are dealing with the radical Left. Give an inch, and they will take a mile. Give them a Pride parade, they want same-sex marriage. Give them same-sex marriage and they want to adopt and raise kids in their own likeness.

After that they are coming for yours.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Anonymous Asks (193)

“What would you say to someone who thinks he is too sinful to be saved?”

I’d quote him the words of the apostle Paul: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

After all, prior to being saved, Paul beat and imprisoned believers and tried to make them blaspheme. As a member of Jewish leadership, he cast his vote against Christians when they were put to death by the Jews.

Can your friend top that?

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Judgment and Discernment

Christ’s followers are forbidden to judge. He warned them against it, saying if they did they must expect the same measure would be used with reference to themselves. He then exposed the hypocrisy involved in professing concern about a speck in another person’s eye while ignoring the plank in our own.

I have a dear friend who I have every reason to believe is a devoted follower of Christ. Discussions with Rick have sometimes touched on the danger he believes is involved in coming to conclusions about other people, as to whether they are truly saved, merely church-goers, backsliders, adherents of a cult or whatever other pigeonhole we decide to place them in.

Rick thinks this too judgmental.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (23)

Sometimes — though I believe it is fairly rare in this life — God steps in and judges individuals and nations directly. Miracles of destruction are often the means.

Most times, however, the world being ordered as it is, we find ourselves living with the natural consequences of a bad choice (or series of bad choices), and in hindsight can often even see the steps by which we deceived ourselves into doing things that have a downside far more significant than whatever passing twinge of desire we were seeking to fulfill at the time.

Examples could be multiplied.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Feeding the Gators

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

Tom: Let’s do something a little different today, Immanuel Can. I was thinking about the social implications of that clip you sent me this morning from the action-adventure video game Red Dead Redemption 2. It seems like that might be worth talking about from a Christian perspective.

Do you want to take a crack at describing it?

Immanuel Can: It’s hard to imagine if a person has not seen modern video games. (Of course, for those who have children, avoiding video games is all-but-impossible nowadays.) A lot are now story-based, but a lot are also what’s called “first-person-shooters”, designed to let players kill a lot of characters as they move through a maze or follow some kind of prepared story line.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

How Do You Love the Gospel?

I hear a lot of people talk about their love for the gospel. But then I also hear a lot of talk about how people “love” ice cream, their cars, their mates, their pets, and the NFL.

I’m pretty sure there’s a difference in each case.

There are different ways to love. Some of them are a million miles from the others. So what are people talking about when they say they really love the gospel?

I’m going to give you three different ways. There are probably more, but I’ve seen these three a lot.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Semi-Random Musings (25)

I have always liked the story of Phinehas, Aaron’s grandson. For the uninitiated, Phinehas was a young priest who took it upon himself to execute the son of a Simeonite tribal chief in the act of committing adultery with a Midianite woman by impaling the two on the same spear. As a child, I found his rather decisive move a bit daring (not to mention violent), but also commendable and brave.

After all, a spontaneous impalement is both unilateral and very final. It tends to inspire the neighbors to murmur things like “I say, old boy, don’t you think that’s a bit drastic?” Or worse.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The View from the Ground

The story of Balaam is remarkable on several levels. Its lessons are important enough for the writer of Numbers to devote three full chapters to them. Moses would later cite God’s reversal of Balaam’s failed attempt to curse his people as evidence of his love for them. Joshua would cite it as evidence of God’s ability to deliver them. The prophet Micah would say it is evidence of God’s righteousness. In Nehemiah, the story of Balaam and its consequences would inspire the returned exiles to separation and holiness. In the New Testament, Peter, Jude and John would make reference to the way of Balaam, the error of Balaam, and the teaching of Balaam.

The story of Balaam matters for multiple reasons, and the talking donkey is actually the least of them.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Anonymous Asks (192)

“Does God approve of the death penalty?”

The Law of Moses governed Israelite society in one form or another from around 1450 BC through AD70, when Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jewish people forcibly dispersed throughout the Roman Empire. In that law we find a plethora of offenses that call for the death penalty, among them murder, kidnapping, child sacrifice, rape, witchcraft, blasphemy, false prophecy, profaning the Sabbath, violence against father or mother, adultery, bestiality, homosexuality and perjury.

Did God approve of putting people to death for these things? Of course he did. The Law of Moses was the expression of God’s will for Israelite society. It came directly from him.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Outlooks and Uplooks

Expectation ... fear ... hope. What do they have in common?

Each is a way of anticipating the future. Each inevitably excites a response. This is true even if we refuse to think about what will happen tomorrow or later; we cannot avoid reacting. Even burying one’s head in the sand is a reaction which says “I choose to not think about what the future might hold.”

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (22)

“There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” So wrote the apostle Paul, and both this line and its surrounding verses have been quoted to us repeatedly over the last two years. It is often pointed out that Paul is believed to have written these things to believers when the Roman emperor was a guy named Nero, portrayed in secular history as a notorious persecutor of Christians.

As bad as his behavior may have been, Nero was as legitimate a ruler as any other, having succeeded to the throne after the death of his grand-uncle Claudius in AD54 (thought by some to have been poisoned by his wife), who had in his turn come to power by apparent chance after the assassination of Caligula. Such were the Roman political intrigues of the first century.

Friday, April 08, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: The State of Theology

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

David B. was kind enough to forward us this link to a recent survey by Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research about what Americans believe about God, Jesus Christ, sin and eternity.

Tom: Apparently they are doing this every couple of years now. Having regular new data sets to browse can be useful in noting trends of one sort or another. We discussed the LifeWay 2016 survey in this space, if I recall correctly … yes, I do. That was the one where, based on the frequency of their heretical answers, my fellow writer Immanuel Can was inspired to refer to some of the respondents as not so much Christian as “ ‘Christian-flavored’, like a really, really bad kind of tofu.”

How’s the tofu this year, IC?

Thursday, April 07, 2022

The Laughter of Jackals

When I was young, back in the 1970s, disaster movies were in vogue. Perhaps the most memorable was Jaws (1975), but before that were such noteworthies as The Omega Man (1971), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Airport and Earthquake (1974). Afterward came such screen gems as Rollercoaster (1977), Meteor, Hurricane and The China Syndrome (1979). All in all, there were more than fifty such major Hollywood disaster productions released in the period.

And everybody was going to see them and talking about how great the special effects were or how spectacularly people were shown dying in them.

Odd, don’t you think?

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

On the Supposed Misuse of the Old Testament

Online commentators argue that the apostle Paul misuses the Old Testament.

Some of these are garden-variety cranks, determined to prove all English versions of the Bible inaccurate. They insist reading the Jewish Tanakh is the only way to go. There’s really no placating people like that. Others set Paul against Jesus, maintaining that only the words of Christ really matter, and that the writings of the apostles are unreliable, inferior and downright wrong. Still others, like Pete Enns, object particularly to Paul, arguing that he read the Old Testament out of context, failing to respect what its authors intended to communicate.

How does the average Christian reply to such accusations?

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Inbox: Priorities, Priorities

Bellator writes, “Someone asked me to read The Post-Quarantine Church by Thom Rainer. I attach a copy of page 5.”

Well now, there’s an invitation we can hardly pass up!

Turns out the quotes Bellator selected were not related to the author’s recommendations about what our churches most need to learn from the events of the last two years, but rather to his observations about the priorities pursued by church administrators once lockdowns were announced and Christians stopped gathering together for worship.

I consider those priorities disturbing. You may too.

Monday, April 04, 2022

Anonymous Asks (191)

“What is the significance of the staff that produced buds?”

My boss has always been a little sensitive to criticism of people he has appointed to positions of responsibility in our organization. There is good reason for this: after all, he appointed them. Complaints about the suitability of a man or woman he has chosen to serve in one capacity or another may be legitimately construed as personal attacks on his judgment, and they carry with them the implication that maybe someone else would have been better off doing the choosing.

You can imagine how well that sort of comment goes over with him. It doesn’t.

Sunday, April 03, 2022

Solomon and Self-Control

Some men are called to govern others: “There is no authority except from God“, “The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”

That does not mean God approves of all rulers or the decisions they make. He once elevated Pharaoh, a proud pagan tyrant, and then publicly humbled him. God said, “For this purpose I have raised you up … so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”

Solomon too was raised up by the Lord.

Saturday, April 02, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (21)

Hosea uses five different similes and metaphors to describe the state of mind prevailing in Israel in the years just prior to the Assyrian invasion. The first deals with Israel in the religious sphere (adulterers) and the second to Israel in the political sphere (a heated oven).

The latter half of chapter 7 contains three further comparisons, none of which are particularly flattering.

Friday, April 01, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: What Doesn’t Kell You...

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

Modern attention spans are what they are. We try to keep these posts to roughly 2,000 words; conventional internet wisdom has it the average person begins to tune out around then. But there were at least three points we didn’t get around to last week in our discussion of the accusation raised by Tim Keller that the traditional evangelical fundraising model is systemically racist.

Tom: IC, I wanted to start out with this thought: Tim Keller is using woke language and making typical social justice assumptions about his fellow believers, but I don’t want to leave the subject without pointing out the there is nothing wrong with self-examination on the part of Christians, churches, and parachurch organizations.