Thursday, August 31, 2023

College / University Survival Guide [Part 2]

What can a Christian do to maintain his or her faith on campus in the presence of a fairly discouraging atmosphere of indifference?

There’s actually quite a lot. Let me suggest that just as learning requires habits of study, staying strong in your faith requires a sort of ongoing maintenance program that counteracts the corrosive effects of secular indifference.

What’s in the survival program? Okay, let’s look at that. I’m going to put things in four categories: “preparing” (i.e. what to do right now, in order to get ready), “arriving” (i.e. what to do immediately upon getting to the campus), “surviving” (i.e. basic priorities to get you through the first year and beyond), and “thriving” (i.e. how to employ your faith to enrich your academics and actually give you a strategic advantage). How’s that?

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Calf Exercises

How do you go from “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” to “Up, make us gods who shall go before us” in such an insanely short period?

And yet, I cannot imagine this sort of treachery and double-speak was characteristic only of Israel. “These things happened to them as examples,” Paul tells the Corinthians, “but they were written down for our instruction.”

We’re still reading them today, so maybe we can learn a thing or two.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Things NOT Done in the Body

One night in my late teens I found myself facing a temptation that is probably better not described in excruciating detail. Let’s just say it was a temptation common to young men. The other party was ready and willing and very much to my taste, there were no adults around to complicate matters, the situation was intimate and comfortable, and there was every natural reason to carry right on with what was already well underway.

For reasons I was unable to adequately spell out at the time, I didn’t. I’m not sure there’s a heavenly reward for that exactly, but I can tell you without even a shred of doubt that I did save myself a great deal of earthly emotional distress, guilt, ongoing complications and probably several courses of antibiotics.

If you must know, I blame my parents for that one. There’s probably a reward coming for them, if not for me.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Anonymous Asks (264)

“Are there any valid reasons for divorce or separation beyond what the Bible specifically identifies?”

Matthew records that the Lord Jesus told his disciples, “Everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” God hates divorce and forbids it between his children. The linked phrase above beginning with “except” constitutes what most Bible students today feel is the only possible circumstance under which that general principle does not apply.

Separation is a little more nebulous.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Pretending to See the Future

Watts Up With That lists seven times the global warm-mongers got it spectacularly wrong.

There’s biologist George Wald, who predicted “Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years”. Then there’s ecologist Kenneth Watt, who was convinced the crude oil supply would be fully depleted by the year 2000. And let’s not forget the Life magazine prognostication that “in a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution”. That was all in 1970 and so far so good, except maybe in China.

We laugh, but some Christians are not much more accurate when they attempt to read tea leaves.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Mining the Minors: Joel (2)

The book of Joel is unusual among the Minor Prophets in several ways, and lends itself to a little different treatment than our usual verse-by-verse trek through the text.

Before we get too far into the specific details of Joel’s prophecy, let’s do a quick flyover to consider the larger context and help us formulate a method of approach to provide us with a consistent way of assessing the intended meaning of individual verses as we come to them.

If nobody else, that should at least help me stay on track.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: The Whole of the Law

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

For those who have never heard of Aleister Crowley, a short bio culled from information available at Infogalactic.

Crowley was born into a wealthy Plymouth Brethren family in Warwickshire, England in 1875, and rejected Christianity to become an occultist, poet, painter and novelist. A practicing bisexual, he founded the religion of Thelema, promoted a form of Satanism, traveled the world, climbed mountains, experimented with hallucinogens and claimed to be a prophet of the Egyptian god Horus. In his day, he was referred to as “the wickedest man in the world”. In 2002, the BBC ranked him as the 73rd greatest Briton of all time.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

College / University Survival Guide [Part 1]

It won’t be very long now until universities and colleges in North America begin gearing up for the year. And with this, a whole new cohort of Christian young people will enter post-secondary life for the first time.

Are they ready?

Parents often worry about that. Everybody knows that university can be a challenging place in which to hold to your faith. It’s full of new ideas — most of them secular, and not a few genuinely anti-Christian — and new experiences — not all of them perfectly healthy and safe. But it’s also a tremendously exciting time for many young people; and when we consider it part of a natural process of moving from parental control to full independence, then there’s every reason to be positive about it. (And parents, when you consider the alternative, what’s better?)

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

The False God of Education

My neighbor to the left is an attractive forty-something single mother with a small child and a big fence around her property, which abuts on an ‘L’-shaped swath of grass that is technically the property of the city. From time to time, in the dead of night, the occasional nefarious individual with a large item he wishes to dispose of quietly unloads his castoff between the fence and the street. It’s a whole lot easier and cheaper than driving it to the dump.

My neighbor’s frustration with this practice is obvious.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

An Unfortunate Beverage

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the wrath of her sexual immorality.”

It’s not enough for the chronic sinner to quietly sin in a corner. Whatever tattered shreds of conscience he retains will trouble him just enough that he must rationalize his behavior, and that requires seeking the validation of others.

To secure their approval, he needs them to be thinking the same way he does. The quickest way to pervert their intellects along the same lines as his own twisted reasoning is to introduce them to his favorite sin, so they can experience the very same sort of moral tension with which he is struggling. So the sinner in the corner becomes the cause of stumbling in the public square, and sin spreads. Maybe if everybody’s doing it, it won’t feel so bad.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Anonymous Asks (263)

“What does ‘despising the shame’ mean?”

Hebrews 12:2 calls Jesus “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”. I always love verses that talk about Jesus being exalted to the Father’s right hand. That’s our security as believers: the Father’s pleasure in the finished work of his Son. Every demonstration of that is a confirmation that we are loved and protected, and that the penalty for our sins will never come back to haunt us.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

The Bridegroom is Here

The Pharisees complained to Jesus about his disciples breaking the Sabbath by plucking and eating heads of grain as they made their way through the fields. If you had asked them why this mattered, they would have replied that they were concerned about the commandments of God. “It’s not lawful,” they said.

But when the people asked Jesus why it was that his disciples did not regularly engage in fasting, they were not asking about commandments or laws, but rather about a widespread, optional religious practice of the day.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Mining the Minors: Joel (1)

In attempting to the put the Minor Prophets in chronological order, dating Joel’s prophecy is one of the bigger challenges. Other prophets leave unambiguous internal evidence that help us date what they wrote; like, for example, dropping the name of a specific king, or mentioning the fall of Nineveh (which we can date to 612 B.C. from secular history) as either historical or else still future.

Joel doesn’t do that, at least not in any way most scholars deem conclusive.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: Screened Out

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

I don’t spend a lot of time browsing the The New York Times, but this article was worth a few minutes. Nellie Bowles describes an increasingly common phenomenon: screens everywhere you go, doing almost everything people used to be paid to do. Touchscreens provide a consistent user experience, don’t take sick days, don’t unionize, and the hourly cost of maintaining them is considerably less than that of employing a person. For all but the wealthiest couple of percentiles of society, technology has become the go-to substitute for human contact.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Just Get Up

Sammy came to visit me yesterday.

I shouldn’t call him that, actually. He’s not a kid. He’s close to thirty now, I would guess; he’s done with college, done with establishing a career, and while he’s not yet married (if he ever chooses to be), he’s a highly successful entrepreneur who owns two flourishing businesses.

But when I knew him he was “Sammy”. I coached him in his teens, you see.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Thought Experiment #6: Fairness

Life isn’t fair.

That’s a concept with which some people have great difficulty. The social justice crowd invests endless time and energy trying to forcibly engineer new institutional dynamics that will lead to identical outcomes for all by embracing diversity, inclusion, multiculturalism and omnitolerance.

Well, that’s the goal in theory.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

The Boiling Planet

I’m working my way through Revelation this month for the umpteenth time, not claiming to understand the finer details of the prophetic word much better than I did when I was in my twenties. Despite that, I am more than capable of grasping the broad strokes and basic implications for our world of what the Lord revealed to John in the last book of the Bible.

One of the most obvious takeaways from Revelation for the Christian in these troubled and confusing times is that when the end comes for our current world order, it will not be from incineration by the sun, as the climate change cult would have us believe.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Anonymous Asks (262)

“Why do you consistently use an initial capital on ‘Bible’ but not ‘scripture’?”

Good question. Most older Christian writers tend to use Scripture rather than scripture. So why am I an outlier in this regard?

My general preference is typically that of modern editors, which is to use as few initial caps as possible, only where setting a word in all lower case would obscure the intended meaning.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

An Unnecessary Advocate?

Tuesday’s post about the Brunstad Christian Church revealed its members believe in sinless perfection. A submission from a former member of BCC on the website BCCTheTruth contains this quote:

“BCC’s main belief is that humans can become like Jesus. Not in a figurative sense; the belief that we can fully eliminate sin from our lives through faith in God.”

Additionally, some groups of sinless perfectionists teach that anyone who does not fully eliminate sin from his life is not genuinely saved. Since it would be a major blow to me to discover in eternity that they are correct about that, let’s have one more look at the doctrine.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Mining the Minors: Zephaniah (9)

The word “Armageddon” has become the generic way of referring to almost any end of the world scenario. In scripture, the word only occurs once, in Revelation 16:16, which we are going to look at today.

The book of Revelation describes the biblical end of the world as revealed to the apostle John by the glorified Christ. In this prophecy, Armageddon is the place where all the major Gentile nations assemble to do battle at the climax of the great tribulation period, in which God will bring about Israel’s repentance and recognition of its Messiah while simultaneously judging the nations of the world for their various evils and mistreatment of his people.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: The Church and Fatherhood

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

Tom: Last week I came across a U.S. federal government site designed to be a resource for fathers and families. While of course we applaud any such effort in a period when the family is relentlessly under attack from all sides, it seems obvious secular governments are not well-equipped to teach the more spiritual aspects of fatherhood.

Fathers do not exist simply to pay the bills and do the heavy lifting around the house. The last time we talked, we compiled a list of fatherly responsibilities from scripture, and it was not a short one. God did not intend fathers to be dispensable, whatever our society may think.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Unforgivable Sin

Over the holidays I was browsing a bookshop, and by chance happened to pick up a copy of Søren Kierkegaard’s The Sickness Unto Death (1849).

Now, I’m not saying it’s a book everybody’s going to find easy to read. I don’t think it’s one that an unbeliever — no matter how bright — is really going to be able to understand. Nor do I think an average believer will find it straightforward. But if you’ve got the will and the ability, and especially if you are a person of some theological background and an interest in the welfare of Christians generally, I most highly recommend it.

It’s blowing my mind.

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

Times of Difficulty

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.”

We are living in Paul’s “times of difficulty”. Can any Christian honestly dispute that?

If you ever doubt it for a moment, reflect on what you are seeing on YouTube and your TV, reading about online and in your newspaper — if anyone still reads anything other than the free tabloids they hand out on the subway. I did walk past one fellow delivering the national paper early one morning last week, but the houses of his subscribers were so far apart he had to use his car to do his deliveries efficiently. That’s where print is headed: the way of the dinosaur.

Like marriage.

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

He Said She Said

Some days I’m very glad I am not called upon to do too much judging in this life. Judging my own sin, yes. Discerning good from bad with respect to what constitutes moral conduct, sure. For these things, there is an objective standard: the holy scriptures. Judging correctly involves looking something up in God’s word, then trying to live it out.

That I can do.

Monday, August 07, 2023

Anonymous Asks (261)

“Why do some churches grow while others die?”

This is one of those questions for which there is no single definitive answer, especially given the way denominationalism has complicated something God made comparatively simple. First century churches were multi-ethnic, their membership driven by common faith and physical proximity rather than theological hair-splitting or spiritual consumerism.

Sunday, August 06, 2023

Filling Golden Bowls

“… golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”

Stop for a moment and contemplate with me the wonder of having our prayers presented to God as an act of worship, of having our meditations before God described as “incense” in his sight, a fragrant offering. On my best day, I would never dare put it like that ... but God does. “What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer” indeed!

But would that be ALL our prayers in those golden bowls? I sincerely doubt it.

Saturday, August 05, 2023

Mining the Minors: Zephaniah (8)

Zephaniah gives us a brief glimpse in these closing verses of the glories of the millennial reign of Christ in Israel, maybe the earliest among the Minor Prophets and one of the more fully developed visions of the Bible’s version of our future to date. Zephaniah concentrates primarily on the impact that the presence of Christ will have on his earthly people and his restoration of their perpetually-divided and much-maligned nation.

Where will Christians be in all this? Good question.

Friday, August 04, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: Responsible Fatherhood

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

The U.S. federal government is teaching fatherhood. Stop and think how many ways that could go wrong.

Now, the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC) is not a brand new initiative by any stretch. It claims to exist in order to “provide, facilitate, and disseminate current research, proven and innovative strategies that will encourage and strengthen fathers and families, and providers of services.” This looks like it is mostly done through social media, websites and virtual training courses, as well as access to help lines and so on.

Tom: You’ve spent most of your life working with teens, Immanuel Can. How important is it to high-schoolers to have a father present and engaged in their lives?

Thursday, August 03, 2023

Living Under the Blade

Damocles, R. Westall, 1812

The ancient writer Cicero has an anecdote about a man named Damocles, a boot-licking courtier to the ancient despot Dionysius II. Damocles foolishly thought he’d like to see what it was really like to be a king, and so the king granted his wish.

Damocles quickly settled himself into Dionysius’ luxurious couch and began to enjoy the pleasures of rule — being fanned, having serving maids feed him, issuing commands, and so on. But in order to make the experience truly authentic, Dionysius gave one further order: that above Damocles’ head a shining sword would be suspended by a single horse-hair, so that he might be ever conscious that at any moment it might fall and carve the presumptuous pseudo-king in half.

Of course, Damocles soon begged the king to be allowed to return to his former position.

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Not So Bad After All

Back in 2019, I answered the question “Why is God so morbidly violent in the Old Testament?” with five solid reasons the God of the Old Testament is not so bad after all, even by our presumptuous, permissive modern standards.

You won’t sell that truth easily to the average non-Bible reader. They are too caught up with the standard media tropes: that the God of the Old Testament was bloodthirsty and capricious, while Jesus was loving, forgiving and tolerant to a fault.

Neither stereotype is accurate. If you look at Jesus closely, he’s exactly like the God of the Old Testament.

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Semi-Random Musings (31)

Sometimes witnessing doesn’t work, even when you do it to the best of your ability and everything initially appears to go swimmingly.

I’m sure you’ve had the experience. I know I have. I used to be a great believer in dialectical arguments and persuasive apologetics. I would study up a storm to answer a question from scripture that I believed might be important to someone’s salvation or growth in Christ.

I’m not saying a good apologetic never works, but there are things even the most polished and articulate argument can’t possibly accomplish.