Monday, May 16, 2022

Anonymous Asks (197)

“How do I know which of God’s promises are for me?”

Our question today recognizes something my father more than once pointed out to his children: that the old Sunday School song is wrong. “Every promise in the book” is not mine. Some of them belong to other people. When we try to apply them to our own experience, we do so without legitimate biblical authority, and may find ourselves disappointed when our expectations are not met.

That may seem a little unsettling to a new Christian seeking comfort in his Bible, but it is an important lesson to learn. And truly, distinguishing a promise for me from a promise for someone else is easier than it might initially appear once we establish some guiding principles.

The most important governing principle for claiming a promise is context.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

We are the Circumcision

In what sense is this true?

The apostle Paul, who made the above claim in Philippians 3:3, knew that circumcision was given as a sign of the covenant between Abraham, his descendants and God. Every male’s foreskin had to come under the knife and that part of the flesh be discarded. It was a gender thing, only a minor operation, but it came to be a source of great pride in Israel and being uncircumcised a contemptuous way of describing God’s enemies and theirs.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (27)

It’s hard for the natural mind to imagine being better off dead, isn’t it. Outside of Christ, I certainly can’t picture how death would ever be a preferable state.

This is not necessarily the case at other times and other places. Sometimes children are born into situations so appalling it would genuinely have been better for them not to have lived at all. That may sound like mere hyperbole, but scripture gives plenty of examples.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Two Promises

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

In Matthew 16, upon Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus responds with two promises, which we may briefly restate as: (i) “On this rock I will build my church”, and (ii) “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven …”

Tom: There’s more to these promises, obviously, but I wanted to consider a couple of issues. First, whether these are two separate promises, or if the second is merely some kind of amplification of the first, and second, when can we anticipate the realization of these promises.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

So You Want to Serve God …

Dear Daniel:

I’ve been watching you for a while now. I see that you are an earnest kind of person, spiritually speaking. You are enjoying your studies, but finding them a challenge sometimes too, I know. And it’s not easy to handle a young marriage at the same time. Good for you for keeping it all in balance. That wife of yours is a saint; but then again, so are you — I mean the real definition of “saint”, not just some putatively-exemplary dead person in a cathedral window, but a person who has been genuinely sanctified by the salvation in Christ Jesus and has taken his place among all those who love God.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Neo-Masculinity

Jay Deitcher wants to create a new masculine stereotype, one that is empathetic and not “frigid”. When his wife told him she had a bond with their newborn son that he could never attain because men can’t bond with babies like women can, he was cut to the quick and determined to be the best nurturing father in human history and establish a bond with his son never seen before. So he cut his hours as a social worker, became a stay-at-home dad, cuddled and slept with the baby, and took him to events with all the local mothers and their children.

He also determined his son would not turn out to be some kind of traditional male stereotype. The gift of a baby coverall with footballs on it was hidden in a closet, never to be used.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The Micaiah Moment

King Ahab wanted to go to war over a city that used to be Israel’s and was now Syria’s. Four hundred prophets gathered at his command to confirm his exercise of heart. They had no word from the Lord to offer, but that didn’t stop them telling the king exactly what he wanted to hear. After all, it was the politically expedient thing to do. Every man there knew what he was expected to say, and everyone played his part.

Everyone except a guy named Micaiah, who hadn’t bothered to attend the gathering because he knew the game that was being played, and he was a true prophet of God.

Back to him in a moment.

Monday, May 09, 2022

Anonymous Asks (196)

“Do the Bible’s claims to be true make it so?”

A claim is not proof, but neither is it nothing at all. If God really chose the medium of written communication to express himself to mankind, we would not expect him to be coy about his authorship.

As it turns out, scripture is quite frank about where it comes from.

Sunday, May 08, 2022

Beyond Condemnation

In my previous post we saw that we are either represented by Adam and what he did in Eden (sin) and became in consequence (a sinner), or else by Christ and what he passed through in his death and resurrection. The multiple benefits of the Savior’s work on behalf of those who have faith in him are the subject of large sections of the New Testament.

Believers are taught there to see themselves as “in Christ”, for he fully represents what they now are before God.

Saturday, May 07, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (26)

Sometimes even the best resources come up a bit short.

I doubt there has ever been a time in history when so many Christians have had access to so many translations of scripture and such a plethora of fine interpretive tools. All the same, if we are honest, there are still times we have to admit we are not 100% sure what the text is saying.

This is one of those.

Friday, May 06, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: A Zipper-Lipped Life

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

Evolutionary biologist Colin Wright, who believes sex-associated personality differences are at least partly genetic, is deeply unhappy anyone would dare to challenge his worldview, set limits on his contribution to the public discourse, and disrupt his ongoing pursuit of intellectual fulfillment.

Who is doing such a thing, you ask? Why, it’s not the “moral majority” or the Christian Right; Wright dismisses Creationists as irrelevant. No, it’s the social justice Left.

Tom: It turns out the current state of evolutionary psychology has finally collided with the “blank slate” ideology of progressives, IC, and the sparks are making both sides unhappy. How unfortunate for “science”!

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Traitors at the Table

People: you just can’t count on them.

That’s one of the things you can count on about human nature. We don’t have what it takes to see things through.

Oh, we mean well enough … and we intend to try our best … but often our best is a lot less impressive in the delivery than we thought it was going to be.

And let’s face it: most of us are just not in anything for the long haul. While the idea is new and the fire in us is fresh, we’re all enthused about whatever’s going on. But fires cool, and new turns old, and we lose interest.

A career, a program, a plan, a commitment, a hobby or a marriage … all fine in the short term, but give any of them enough time and everything turns out to be work.

So we quit. And honestly, sometimes by the time we do it’s just as well that we do.

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Flyover Country: Daniel

Lately, when I get feeling a bit melancholic and don’t have time for a full-length tour through Hebrews or John’s gospel, I read a chapter of Daniel. That’ll set me straight every time.

Other Old Testament prophets are primarily concerned with nations long gone or dispersed and judgments that for the most part have already taken place, and often with exhorting God’s people to acts of repentance that sadly never happened. There are important lessons to be learned from them, as with all books of the Bible, but these are frequently either allegorical or second-hand.

Daniel is way, way bigger than that. It has the whole world and much of human history in view, and it even gives us fleeting, suggestive glimpses what’s going on behind the scenes in the heavens as well.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

The Best Lessons

Back in 1943 psychologist Abraham Maslow published his theory that human decision-making is based on a hierarchy of psychological needs, from the most basic physiological requirements — food, water, shelter, rest, reproduction — all the way up to the more sophisticated forms of self-actualization pursued by affluent moderns habituated to having all their ‘lower-tier’ desires met. You may be familiar with the concept.

We will not linger over the details of Maslow’s little flow-pyramid and the pursuit of normal human desires. What’s important about it for our purposes is the observation that identical circumstances can produce very different responses in different people depending on what is important to them. The exact same test can produce very different results in different subjects.

Monday, May 02, 2022

Anonymous Asks (195)

“Sometimes Christians comment about the need to be saved on unrelated YouTube videos. These comments get many thumbs up, but also make many people angry. Are they useful ways to witness?”

Each block near where I work has two or three parking meters. On the one I use most frequently someone has scratched “You need Jesus. Pray every day.” I have a friend who makes it his habit to attend protests, rallies, parades and major gatherings all over the city carrying a sign with a Bible verse on it. Then there is the classic “John 3:16” meme that has appeared for years in various forms at televised sporting events.

Like those YouTube comments from Christians that show up out of the blue where nobody is asking for them, these are all unsolicited expressions of faith in unexpected places intended to make people think about eternity.

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Representative Men

The Bible consists of 66 books. Thousands of years lie between the first human author and the last, but the way its history, its prophecies, its songs and its teachings blend into a cohesive story implies the oversight of one person. He must have existed throughout the years of its production! The Bible claims for itself that it is “God-breathed” or inspired.

What is its story all about? Serious students of its pages have made various suggestions as to its overall purpose and plan depending on which of its themes interested them. Every valid idea put forward is like a thread woven into the overall fabric of scripture. It becomes possible to trace these themes throughout its pages like the colored strands in a tapestry. The topics of the glory of God, the sinful condition of mankind, the need for a sufficient sacrifice, etc., all contribute to the total impression left on the mind of the thoughtful reader.

And each strand of truth that begins in the first book has its counterpart, contrast and climax in the last.