Showing posts with label Obedience. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Obedience. Show all posts

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Between Museum and Megachurch

I’ve been to a few churches lately. And I’ve got some questions. Maybe you do too.

Two weeks ago I visited a tiny congregation. Everything about them — the building, the furniture and the people — was redolent of a past generation.

Not near past. Long past.

The Museum Model

This was no “blast from the ’60s”, unless you meant the 1860s. True, there had been some updates. The carpet was relatively recent, the chairs (formerly wooden butt-punishers) had been replaced with modern, padded units, and the walls had been given a coat of fresh, white paint to brighten up the former cream-to-caramel tones of the main room. The formerly-towering platform had been supplanted by a more understated, low one, with a decorous little stand replacing the older-style, bulging pulpit. Even the ancient light fixtures had some of those new soft-white bulbs.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Faith’s Got Legs

It’s been a good winter for walking.

There’s hardly been any ice on the sidewalks, for one thing. For another, you could go out in February and march about in a thin jacket.

My little terrier has been ecstatic, actually. He loves a good walk. Dogs need a couple every day; and unlike in other winters, there have been plenty of smells around for him to get into. He stops everywhere, and he finds everything delightful. My dog trainer would never approve, but I can’t resist indulging him a little bit, and so our peregrinations contain frequent pauses to let him sniff about. Sometimes I actually think we walk his nose more than we walk my legs. But who could begrudge him a winter like this?

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Acting Christian

“If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

Most of the time I enjoy writing these posts.

Sometimes, not so much.

Like today.

Today, I feel the truth of what I heard a preacher say once: “When you point your finger at somebody else, there’s always three pointing back at you.” Or, as the scriptures would put it, “Not many of you should become teachers ... for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

Sunday, November 27, 2022

When Is It Wrong to Pray? (1)

True faith is an expression of submission and obedience.

When a person believes on Jesus Christ, he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s who Jesus is. A believer receives a Lord who saves and a Savior who lords. The person who expresses faith in this way may never understand all that involves. They simply know they are lost, they realize they need salvation, they cry out for mercy and they put their trust in a Lord who saves, with the emphasis (in their minds) on being saved.

However, once they have come to him, they realize they have come to one who not only saves but also rules. He is Lord.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

A Man With No Handles

“The ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

What was the Lord talking about here? It is true that he always did what the Father commanded, but I suspect in this time and place he was talking specifically about what might motivate him to go to the cross. He prefaced his declaration by noting that the “ruler of this world” was making his move.

Nevertheless, for all his apparent power, Satan had no claim on him.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

B-B-B-Betty in a Dress

Have you ever heard of a mondegreen?

That’s the technical word they give it when you listen to something, but you hear something different.

Apparently, people do it all the time when they’re listening to song lyrics, for example. There is some phrase that is sung, but their ear picks up something different, often with irrational results.

Want to see if you’ve ever mondegreened? Okay, if you have even a passing familiarity with popular music, you might be able to guess what famous songs produced the following mondegreens. (I’m guessing most of us are in middle age somewhere, so I’ll keep the examples a bit retro.)

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Walking Before God

When Abraham, who was still called Abram at the time, was in his hundredth year on this planet, God appeared to him. He gave him a rather daunting challenge: “Walk before me,” God said, “and be blameless.”

Many good things would come of this. Years later, when Abraham was “well advanced in years” and the fulfillment of God’s promises to him was apparent, the patriarch would speak to his servant of “the Lord, before whom I have walked”.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Between Museum and Megachurch

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Crippling the Response

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

Ah, the coronavirus! I was so determined not to go there in this space. Then it threatened to go on and on and on, and then it became such a feature of our current media experience as to be utterly inescapable. After that, it changed the way we do most everything, at least for the foreseeable future. And still we left the subject alone; after all, if you want the latest on COVID‑19, you can get that absolutely anywhere, right?

Tom: But then The New York Times started blaming evangelicals for “crippling our coronavirus response”, and there you are: turns out it was time to start talking about it here. Not being an expert of any sort, I don’t want to discuss the virus itself, where it came from, how it is spreading, and what might be done about it; nor do I want to speculate about what the total bill for fighting this thing will be. I simply want to talk about the church and its response to the crisis.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Faith’s Got Legs

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Anonymous Asks Again

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

You asked, “Why does school suck?”

Yep, It Does

When I was young, there was a pop song called Kodachrome that began with the words, “When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school / It’s a wonder I can think at all.” I think a lot of people feel like that: when they think about what their teachers forced them to learn, they can’t imagine what the real purpose of it all was. I was like that. In fact, I eventually dropped out, though I did go back later.

So I get your point.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Acting Christian

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

To One and All, A Mary Christmas

“… the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

“So this is Christmas, and what have you done?”

So sing the children in John Lennon’s wretched ditty. I really don’t know why he bothered himself about Christmas when he also wanted to “imagine there’s no heaven”. But each to his own. I’m sure he’s thought better of that since.

At Christmas time, I can’t imagine a more dismal question. Another year over, Lennon accuses, and you haven’t done anything. The poor are still starving, the world is still at war. When are you going to get off your haunches and be worth something?

Ah, there’s nothing like Christmas pudding and the sounds of self-flagellation to improve the seasonal mood.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

That Sinking Feeling

Nope, not thinking about Peter.

In Luke’s gospel we read about the Lord conferring to his twelve disciples power and authority over all demons and diseases. Thus equipped, he then sends them out to heal and proclaim the kingdom of God. Upon their return the disciples report to him all that they have done, which suggests at least a moderate degree of success in their mission.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

One Bad Idea

Left uncontested, one bad idea can do astonishing damage.

When humanity fell, taking all of creation with it, the cause was a woman who defied the revealed will of God … and a man too weak to either call her on it or to take responsibility for his own sin.

A bad idea went uncontested. Today, generation after generation pays through the nose.

Again: assuming the Muslims are correct and that Ishmael is legitimately an ancestor of Muhammad, virtually every rocket launched into Israel from the Gaza Strip since 2001 can be attributed to a woman who proposed another really bad idea … and a man too weak to call her on it.

Abraham and Sarah, the Golan Heights sends its thanks.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Between Museum and Megachurch

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Inbox: Policing the Table

A reader queries an older post. Jeff asks:

“Are there any hard guidelines as who can eat the Lord’s supper? You refuted a few in this post but are there others not mentioned? (i.e., baptism, member of a local church, a women who doesn’t want to wear a head covering, etc.)

Also, who has the authority to decide who gets to eat and who doesn’t? Obviously God has given us certain instructions pertaining to church order, is it the elders / pastors / leaders’ job to police these issues?”

Good questions, Jeff.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (3)

Jessica Misener at Buzzfeed wrote a piece a while back on “shocking Bible verses” and happened to include this one:

“Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.”

Jessica’s tongue-in-cheek characterization? “Slavery rocks.”

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

A Tale of Two Methodologies

Two kings, two different ways of doing business. One worked, one didn’t.

Here’s their story.

Well, technically it’s a story of two nations as well. The ten tribes of Israel had parted ways with Judah and Benjamin and formed their own political entity. The king of Judah was intent on reuniting the people of God, by main force if necessary. While he was mustering his troops, God sent word to him that this was not to be. Division was his chosen state of affairs for the time being.

Checkmate. So everybody settled down to live with the status quo.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Why I Don’t Share My Faith

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

Tom: I’ve just finished wading through a list of reasons why Christians don’t share their faith. Here’s what Daniel Darling says keeps him from spilling what he knows about the person of Christ to a needy world:
  1. We don’t share our faith because we don’t realize we have a mission
  2. We don’t share our faith because we misunderstand our mission
  3. We don’t share our faith because we misunderstand the Holy Spirit’s mission
  4. We don’t share our faith because we misunderstand what it means to be a friend of the world
  5. We don’t share our faith because we are ashamed of our identity
Immanuel Can, when I fail to share my faith, it is usually because I’m scared of messing up my next line. So I overthink it, and suddenly the conversation is over and I’ve gotten nowhere significant.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The House Jesus Built

Home ownership is a great thing.

If you don’t like the color of your walls, you can repaint any time you have the energy. If your living room is too small, you can tear down the wall that separates it from the dining room and go open concept. If you don’t like the tarmac driveway, you can redo it with cobblestone. After all, it’s yours.

Sure, city ordinances will probably prevent you from doing off-the-wall things like adding a sub-sub-basement or a swimming pool in the kitchen, but the variety of family homes in my neighbourhood is evidence that it’s the owner’s budget and imagination that are the most common limitations on their creativity.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Faith’s Got Legs

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

B-B-B-Betty in a Dress

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Perfectly Sensible

It all seemed to add up just fine ...
Great sins are committed for perfectly sensible reasons.

Absalom murdered his half-brother for raping his sister. His father knew about the rape and had done nothing about it. What was he supposed to do? If he failed to act, justice would never have been served.

King Jeroboam brought idolatry back to Israel. He reasoned it was better than having the people turn on him and kill him. Who blames a man for preferring life to death?

In each case the motives were at very least understandable. It was the methodology that got them in trouble.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Did God Do That?

That ominous yellow ticket under your windshield wiper: did God do that?

Just curious.

Some Christians are determinists. They think everything that happens, no matter how minuscule or insignificant, is a product of God’s deliberate calculations; in effect, that God micromanages the universe. In believing this, they feel they are glorifying God, because they are acknowledging his sovereign rule.

In their view, yes, God gave you that ticket. You will thank him later.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Where Would You Rather Live?

Not all choices come out the same
God brought thirteen tribes out of Egypt to be a people for his own possession, but only ten-and-a-half of those tribes actually settled in the Promised Land.

The remainder seized the opportunity to claim land they had won from unexpected battles on the far side of the Jordan River rather than wait to receive an inheritance in Canaan.

This was not the best idea they ever had.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Lost Territory

“Here’s what God has given you. All you have to do is go and take possession of it. So what’s holding you up?”

In essence, this is Joshua’s message to the last seven tribes of Israel. Having established themselves as a nation in Canaan by taking 31 hostile cities in a relatively short period, it only remained to settle the rest of the people in their God-given inheritance. No Canaanite king or combination of kings ruling in the territory nearby was strong enough to push Israel back into the wilderness and deny them the Promised Land. All they had to do was finish the job, which would require each tribe to win a series of minor conquests — skirmishes, really, compared to what they had been through already.

Previously they had won battles as a nation. Now Joshua would see what the individual tribes were really made of.

Monday, September 05, 2016


Here is the apostle Paul describing his gospel to the Romans:

“I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience …”

“… through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.”

That’s an awfully funny way to put it, don’t you think? Bring the Gentiles to obedience. The obedience of faith. Those sorts of catchphrases could put people off.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Virtue of Pious Disobedience

I think most Christians would agree that, for believers, starting an insurrection would be morally wrong.

After all, the New Testament teaches that we are to obey the governing authorities. Our job in the present age is to live quietly and mind our own affairs as part of our testimony to our Saviour, something some of us do better than others.

But this is not a universal rule.

Friday, December 25, 2015

To One and All, A Mary Christmas

The latest version of this post is available here.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Be Who You Are

Charles Paul Landon, 1760-1826
Poor Hagar. Seems like she was everybody’s punching bag, doesn’t it.

When we are introduced to her in Genesis, she is the servant of Abram’s wife. Every modern writer will tell you servitude is the worst of all possible fates, so it must be so. Then Hagar’s mistress, too old to conceive, comes up with the bright idea of using Hagar as a means of perpetuating her own family line.

Despite his years of experience, Abram goes along with Sarai’s plan. After all, he’s a guy, and he’s just been given permission — by his own wife, yet — to have guilt-free sex with a younger woman.

What could possibly go wrong?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Coming Up Short

When Abraham left Ur of the Chaldeans, it doesn’t say that he took his father, but that his father Terah took him.

We don’t get an exact age for Terah at the time he and his family left Ur with the intention of moving to Canaan, but he had to be at least 100 years old, and possibly quite a bit older than that. The first leg of the trip was about 600 miles, give or take, starting in what is today Iraq. The family presumably followed the Euphrates north and west up into present-day Turkey about 10 miles north of the Syrian border. They stopped short of their goal in a place called Haran. That wasn’t the original plan, but that’s what happened.

I may have it all wrong, but I suspect the problem was Abraham’s dad.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Fixed Mindset and the “Praise Bell”

You’ve got to know that when you come across an article entitled “Why Do Women Fail?” in a forum that specifically exists to promote women, somebody is likely to be unhappy with whatever conclusions may be drawn.

Unless the answer is “men”, I suspect.

The fact that the piece is credited to two credentialed women (one a Stanford University professor of psychology, the other the co-founder of the Girl’s Leadership Institute) and flagged with an uncharacteristic editorial disclaimer declaring, “The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors” just serves to make it more interesting.

I’m hooked.

Monday, August 31, 2015

What Else Would You Expect?

You’re thinking about Christianity.

Perhaps you’re intellectually dissatisfied with the pat answers the world offers to questions of meaning and truth. Perhaps you’ve been impressed by a neighbor, friend or co-worker who says she loves Jesus Christ and is anything but a cliché about her faith. Perhaps … well, it doesn’t really matter what the reason is, does it?

But if you’re thinking it may be worth examining the Bible more carefully, what might you expect to find there?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Opting Out

It seems to me there are more than a few Christians out there looking for God to give them a personal pass on many of the hard things entailed in being a true follower of Christ.

I’m not looking down on this crowd from any position of superiority: I’m one of them through and through. But a careful reading of the New Testament explains to us why it should not be so. The Christian life was never intended to be a cakewalk. In fact, the Lord Jesus plainly told his followers to have peace in the face of the reality that in the world we will have tribulation.

Then, having set what seems to us an intolerable standard of self-abnegation and perfection of character, he immediately met and vastly exceeded it. Having told us the world was our enemy, he went right out and overcame it.

There was no “pass” to be had for the Son of Man.    

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Matter of Moral Indifference

The setup is this: in Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax approach Simon Peter to ask if Jesus is in the habit of paying it.

Presumably, like the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, they are looking to catch the Lord out in some way. Or, like many officials, they are simply being officious. Or more charitably, perhaps they are merely doing their job.

In any case, Peter says “Yes”, the Lord pays the temple tax.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Is Your Church Irrelevant?

As Jesus died, the heavy, ornamented curtain of the innermost sanctuary in Jerusalem’s temple was violently and miraculously ripped in two from the top down. In that single moment in time the religion of Judaism became utterly irrelevant to the plans and purposes of God for centuries to come.

Nobody knew that, of course. Not at first.

Things carried on just as they had before the Jewish religious authorities conspired to crucify God’s son. The temple services took place as usual. We’re not told, but it’s almost inevitable that temple servants, blissfully unaware of the significance of the miracle in front of them in all its profound and wonderful symbolism and determined to maintain a 420-year tradition, took the torn curtain, repaired and restored it to its place.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

That Sinking Feeling

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Too Hot to Handle: Why I Don’t Share My Faith

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Gifts, Choices and Aaron Hernandez

“Good burst off the line from the three-point stance into a four-yard hook route. Good pad level and leg drive.”
— from Aaron Hernandez’s Gut Check Scouting Analysis, December 2009
“His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”
(Psalm 147:10-11)
We all know (or know of) people who like to go to the track and drop a few bucks on the ponies. Under such circumstances, I can easily imagine taking delight in the strength of a horse, especially one that goes wire to wire. Why wouldn’t you? But back when the psalmist wrote, I suspect a soldier in a chariot would not be merely delighted by his stallion; that horse’s strength might well save his life.

I, on the other hand, take a fair bit of pleasure in the legs of a man.

Too bad, then, about Aaron Hernandez.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Missing Ingredient

What is understanding? Here’s what they think at Harvard:
“In a phrase, understanding is the ability to think and act flexibly with what one knows.”
In other words, understanding is putting information into action, applying what we have learned in a practical way to our lives.

So did something go wrong with the 2008 presidential election? Because everybody agrees President Obama is a pretty smart guy. Surely he had lots of “information” to put into action.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Love Is Not Enough

One of my favourite recordings ever is a tune Todd Rundgren wrote for his band Utopia’s 1977 album, the last song on the record. Like many pop tunes, it failed to chart or make waves (or money) until a folksy American duo covered it in 1979 and people started to listen:
“I’ve looked high and low, I’ve been from shore to shore to shore.
If there’s a shortcut, I’d have found it. But there’s no easy way around it:
Light of the world, shine on me, love is the answer.”
To me the more successful England Dan & John Ford Coley version misses the point. It’s got all the same words, but none of the intensity. They sing it sweetly, harmoniously and entirely without giving the impression that it matters. It’s full of breezy sax fills, bright keyboard figures and strings. Even the choir in the hit version is subdued. And without intensity, the hippified cliché of the title comes across corny and trite (that’s my take anyway, though ‘corny and trite’ outsold ‘intense’, so what do I know). But Rundgren’s vocal on his original has none of that flat, overproduced perfection. He positively rips it, especially toward the gospel-inflected end of the song where the choir kicks in with serious intent.

If it didn’t mean something to him at the time, you certainly could’ve fooled me.