Thursday, November 10, 2022

Bedsheets, Breeches and Bema

“The unexamined life,” said Socrates, “is not worth living.”

Well, he didn’t actually use those precise words, but that’s how it’s been quoted since — in books, on coffee mugs and t-shirts, and in the common memory. The essence of his words has remained, even if the particulars are a bit sketchy.

How seriously ought we to take that? True, he’s called the Father of Philosophy, and he was notoriously smart. But the guy wore bedsheets, and died a long while ago. How seriously can you take a guy dressed in bedsheets?

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

The Sword

“I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

The Lord Jesus came to create division, and when he returned to his Father, he left us with the division his visit, his person and his claims created. Those who have believed in him enjoy a unity and a commonality previously unimagined, which we sometimes call fellowship. But the difference between his children and those who are not his own is the difference between light and darkness, between righteousness and lawlessness, and between Christ and Belial.

That is not always apparent. It is especially not apparent to those in darkness.

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

The Speed of Science

Do you know where this new term “speed of science” comes from? It showed up in memes a few weeks ago and I had no idea. I had never heard it used. Well, I found out today. If you already know, take a bow.

It comes from the answer to a question posed in a European Parliamentary hearing. Dutch MEP Rob Roos asked Pfizer’s Director of International Developed Markets whether Pfizer tested or studied transmissibility before releasing their version of the COVID vaccine to market.

Monday, November 07, 2022

Anonymous Asks (222)

“Is premarital sex okay if you know you are going to be married?”

I have written a fair bit here about the barnacles that encrust the institution of marriage today: how matrimony as God originally designed it required the approval of neither church nor state; how rings, dresses and ceremonies are extra-biblical window dressing; how even vows are a bit extraneous.

From a heavenly perspective, little of what we do today in preparation for binding two lives together is actually essential. Frankly, even romantic love is optional.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Persistent Prayer and Tribulation

“There was a widow in that city who kept coming to him …”

Don’t measure God’s care for you by what you’ve got and haven’t got; by your problems or your prosperity. Don’t measure those things. They have nothing to do with the character of God.

The character of God is to be measured at the cross — “God so loved the world”, “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” — that’s where the measure of God’s love is. That never changes.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

Mining the Minors: Micah (10)

Last week we invested a couple thousand words in discussing the three verses Micah and Isaiah have in common. The differences between the two passages in the original Hebrew are so miniscule as to not be worthy of lengthy discussion. It is obvious these two prophetic contemporaries were right on the same page in their messages to the nation of Judah at a time when, if not for the reforms of King Hezekiah, it might well have joined its sister kingdom in Assyrian exile.

However, from this point on the preachers part ways. This week I’d like to consider the differences between the two sermons that follow.

Friday, November 04, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Outspoken Faith or Poor Judgment?

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

You may not have heard of him, but Kelvin Cochran was Fire Chief in Atlanta up until last week when he was terminated by the mayor. He was also a Christian. You can read about it here if you’re interested.

There is some disagreement as to precisely why he was fired, but the bottom line is that if he had not published a book entitled Who Told You That You Were Naked?, in which he expressed his understanding of the biblical view of homosexuality, he would still be employed.

Tom: Immanuel Can, former Fire Chief Cochran is not the first and won’t be the last Christian to lose his job as a consequence — whether it’s a remote or a direct consequence — of taking the Bible seriously and saying so publicly. We are both Christians with opinions who still work for a living. What’s your take on this developing trend?

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Media and the Gospel

“The medium is the message”, said the great philosopher of mass media, Marshall McLuhan.

It’s his most oft-quoted line, since it’s so often true. When you have a message to send, you’ve got to be very careful about the form (i.e. the “method” or “medium”) in which you’re sending it, or the message itself can become horribly distorted.

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

What Makes a Church a Church?

Asked in an online forum last week: Is our social media community a church?

Interesting question, and one that almost nobody would have posed with any degree of seriousness prior to COVID. But if you think lurking in a Zoom meeting is “gathering” in anything remotely approximating the biblical sense (and apparently many Christians do), then it’s not unreasonable to ask how far you might take the concept of virtual church.

Naturally, a spate of comments followed.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

The Jumping-Off Point

Many years ago, long before they were woke, crazy and depraved, I was a big superhero comic book fan. I owned shelves full of them. In my early twenties while still in college, I wrote and drew a few published comic books to see if I could make a career out of it. (I probably could have been passable if I had persisted with it, but I would never have been a top-drawer industry professional.)

Superhero comic books are like soap operas in that they tell multiple small stories within larger story arcs that overlap and never really end. The idea is to get the reader invested in the characters and coming back month after month to see what happens next.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Anonymous Asks (221)

“Why are so many Christian public figures caught in scandals?”

The apostle Paul wrote about stumbling blocks that threaten to trip us up, destroy our public testimony, and try our faith to the breaking point: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

If this is truly the case — and note that it’s God’s faithfulness upon which this promise stands — then why do so many Christian public figures succumb to temptation?

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Restoring the Image of God

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?”

“In Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.”

Keep those two accounts in your mind: Psalm 22, the suffering of Christ, and this second passage in Luke, the suffering of another man in hell. We want to think about the relationship between those two.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Mining the Minors: Micah (9)

Chapter 4 begins with three verses of text that are strikingly similar to Isaiah 2:2-4. The differences between the two passages are trivial: in Micah, the words ʿam (“peoples”, which can mean either “nations” or “tribes”) and gôy (“nations”) are reversed at the end of verse 1, the beginning of verse 2 and the beginning of verse 3, but since they are clearly being used as synonyms, nothing of significance turns on that. Also, in verse 3 Isaiah has “He … shall decide disputes for many peoples”, while Micah has “strong nations far away”.

Other than these minute differences and a couple of irrelevant prepositions, the passages are word-for-word identical in the original Hebrew. Most of our English translations reflect this.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Enforcing Conformity

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

In an opinion piece entitled “Bigotry, the Bible and the Lessons of Indiana”, Frank Bruni of the New York Times says what much of our culture is thinking about Christians these days.

Riffing on the ‘Memories Pizza’ story from back in 2015, in which a pizzeria in Indiana was forced to closed its doors by a barrage of online threats after its Christian owner answered a hypothetical question about catering same-sex weddings, Mr. Bruni starts with the statement that “Homosexuality and Christianity don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere.”

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Are We Teaching or Just Speeching?

If you tell me, I forget.
If you show me, I remember.
If you involve me, I understand.

— Old Teaching Axiom

In his recent post on the subject of platform preaching, Tom writes, “For the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume that one-man platform ministry is the way to go, not because I believe it to be the most scriptural model, but because it’s what we’re all doing and I see little hope for wholesale change.”

He just doesn’t see any reasonable prospect that we can be induced to reevaluate our conventional church behaviors to the extent of questioning the value of platform ministry.

Well, Tom and I usually agree. But not on everything. Not on this.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

One Small Amendment

My father used to stress the importance of never looking at our fellow believers without seeing them as Christ has remade them, as new creatures in him. I watched him live this out in his dealings with Christians in churches all over the province over a period of decades, more than a few of whom I would happily have written off.

Dad never would.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Successful Accomplices and Failed Obstacles

Two prophecies came to pass the day Jehu was anointed king of Israel. Both predictions had been made by the prophet Elijah, and both were between sixteen and seventeen years old. Neither had been forgotten, though Elijah had by then taken his last chariot ride.

Before departing this earthly scene, Elijah anointed Elisha as his successor. Sometime later, Elisha called one of the sons of the prophets — a prophet-in-training — and commissioned him to anoint one of King Joram’s army commanders, a man named Jehu, to be king over Israel in Joram’s place.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Anonymous Asks (220)

“Are people who claim God talks to them insane?”

In the pages of scripture, God talks to men all the time. The closer we go back to the beginning of human history, the more it happened. He conversed with Adam and Eve in the garden. He even had multiple conversations with Cain, who became our world’s first murderer. He spoke to Abraham audibly at least seven times.

Of course, we have to remember that was over a thirty year period, and Abraham lived to be 175. God was speaking less and less as time went by, even to men he considered friends.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Trust and the Nitty Gritty

When I receive the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, I begin a life of trust. And the faith that begins when I believe on him is a faith that God intends to continue.

But there is great enemy of our faith. The apostle Paul, speaking about this enemy of our faith, Satan, says, “We are not ignorant of his designs.”

How can he say that, when Satan is a powerful spirit whom none of us has ever seen? How can he say we are not ignorant of his designs?

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Mining the Minors: Micah (8)

It has been pointed out more than once that, like Jonah’s prophesy of the destruction of Nineveh, Micah’s prophesy of the destruction of Jerusalem was not fulfilled in his lifetime. When the people of Nineveh repented, God gave them another century before razing the city to the ground. When the people of Judah repented, he gave them something like a century and a half.

That doesn’t make Micah’s messages to Judah between 740 and 700 BC or thereabouts, which we have recorded for us here, either irrelevant or inaccurate. It certainly doesn’t mean God’s word was nullified. It just means his pronouncements against Judah came true later rather than sooner.

God’s verdict wasn’t “case dismissed”, it was “judgment delayed”. Chapter 3 gives us a snapshot of the “court proceedings”.