Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Uneasy Lies the Head

Queen Elizabeth’s death last year set me to thinking about the lifespans of monarchs as I have been reading my way through Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. Let’s just say none of the kings in our Old Testament ever came remotely close to her longevity, let alone the number of years she ruled.

It’s hard to miss the fact that for most of the kings of Israel and Judah, the privilege of leadership went hand-in-hand with a relatively short lifespan.

Now that raises some interesting questions.

Monday, January 09, 2023

Anonymous Asks (231)

“How can I become a more cheerful giver?”

Paul wrote that God loves cheerful givers. A quick look at the context shows he is using “cheerful” to mean the opposite of “reluctant” or “under coercion”. Giving, then, should be enthusiastic and voluntary, rather than induced by external or internal pressures like guilt or duty.

Have you managed that every time you’ve given to the Lord? Me neither. And yet it’s obviously the most desirable state to be in, and something worth working on.

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Between Boredom and Bedlam

The pendulum swings. Even Christians are not inclined to be creatures of moderation, it seems.

At one end of the arc, believers sit docilely in pews being entertained. Assuming the pastor is not merely a well-packaged platform presence of minimal substance and that he genuinely possesses a spiritual teaching gift, he is the only one who gets to exercise it. At best, the performance holds our interest. At worst, we find ourselves constantly checking the time.

At the other extreme it’s a bit chaotic and unpredictable: men and women “share”, digress, pontificate, tell stories and interrupt each other to such an extent that impartial observers would be hard pressed to distinguish between spiritual gifts, natural impulses and mere gleeful enthusiasm at the opportunity to actually DO something in the church for once.

Few churches find the sweet spot between hierarchy and anarchy, between boredom and bedlam.

Saturday, January 07, 2023

Mining the Minors: Micah (18)

Chapter 6 concluded with God speaking, rendering judgment on Judah for its sins. The final chapter of Micah represents yet another change of voice, as Micah now begins to speak on behalf of the Israelite remnant.

The chapter lends itself to interpretation on at least two levels. On the first, it is an expression of faith and repentance from the 6th century BC Judean remnant before and during Babylonian exile. That captivity was still more than a century away when Micah prophesied. On the second, it reads as an expression of faith and repentance from the Israelite remnant thousands of years later, during the great tribulation, looking forward into the millennial reign of Christ.

Friday, January 06, 2023

Too Hot to Handle: Not Quite What They Expected

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

The Atlantic bemoans the failure of secularism to ease cultural conflict in America.

Between 1992 and 2014, the percentage of Americans who reject religious affiliation soared from six to twenty-two — 35% for millennials. And yet partisan clashes today are more brutal than at any time since Vietnam war protests and racial tensions of the late sixties, and the sense of “us” vs. “them” in America is only increasing.

Tom: Is this what happens when we seek peace without the Prince of Peace, Immanuel Can?

Thursday, January 05, 2023

Failure to Launch

Stock characters are those fictional roles we recognize instantly: you know, the incompetent police officer, the clueless secretary, the crooked lawyer, the rebellious teen, the uptight schoolmarm … and so on. You see them on TV all the time.

There’s a new one going around lately: the adult child. This is the mid-twenties son or daughter who still lives in his parents’ basement, having his meals cooked and his laundry done for him, blithely confident that the world outside — the world of careers, responsibilities and independence — is overrated. His harried, weary parents pray for him to move out and make his way in the world or for some nice girl to come and snap him up. But he knows very well that for now he has it good. Being too old for his parents to control but too needy for them to abandon, he is free to devote his time and assets to playing video games, going to clubs, flirting with girls and hanging out at the beach. A periodic trip to the employment office is all that is necessary to convince his parents of his helplessness.

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

A Finger on the Scales

Let’s start with one of my favorite quotes from John Calvin:

“Those who have learned from the mouth of Christ that all the hairs of his head are numbered (Matthew 10:30), will … hold that all events whatsoever are governed by the secret counsel of God.”

If I say to you, “Your days are numbered”, I could be saying no more than that I know exactly how long your life will last. I could also be threatening it. That is much like what Calvin wants the Lord to have said: that God personally determines the number of hairs on our heads. And if God exercises personal control over something so miniscule and insignificant, then he surely exercises personal control over all other matters in the universe both great and small.

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

Top 10 Posts of 2022

Another year, another ±365 blog posts, some of which were read more than others. Happily, none of our ten most popular posts last year had anything to do with either COVID‑19, a subject we would all be delighted to never hear anything about again, or Calvinism, which … ditto.

Just like last year, Immanuel Can managed to snag the number one spot. Unlike some previous years, the ten most-read new posts in 2022 had no real features in common. Among them we have a book review, a series of unconnected reflections, a meditation on the importance of Christ’s death, a structural analysis of an Old Testament book and a couple of housekeeping projects.

Basically a miscellany.

Monday, January 02, 2023

Anonymous Asks (230)

“What is the value of a prayer meeting?”

Over three years ago now, I wrote a post in answer to the question “Why should I pray if God already knows what will happen?” that dealt with the reasons a Christian ought to make his or her individual prayer life a high priority. If your question is actually a more general inquiry into the value of prayer, you will find several suggestions there which I won’t repeat here.

As to the value of corporate prayer, that’s a separate question well worth considering.

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Semi-Random Musings (28)

Somewhere back in December — wait, I should be able to do better than that.

December 11, 2013 was our first post ever. So this post, published on December 10, 2022, marked the completion of our ninth full year of daily publication, though I didn’t notice at the time. Today’s post means we’ve published across eleven different calendar years, for whatever that’s worth. So we thank the Lord for unanticipated longevity and for the endless wonders of the word of God and the person of Christ. We have yet to beg anyone for subject matter.

Let’s just say that in 2013 I didn’t really expect we would still be writing blog posts in 2023. I didn’t expect not to either. In 2013, that sort of thing was just too far away and too unreal to spend time thinking about.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Mining the Minors: Micah (17)

Two weeks ago, before our Christmas sabbatical, we looked at the first half of Micah 6 and suggested it plays out like a courtroom drama, though with major differences from the typical examples we see on TV of how Western justice operates. The nation of Judah is on trial, and God is both plaintiff and judge. The prophet Micah assumes the role of prosecutor. God calls upon the earth itself to witness his complaint against his people.

In the latter half of the chapter, the Lord makes his case against Jerusalem and pronounces sentence.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: The Role of a Senior Pastor

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

A website with plenty of other, more helpful posts also contains this gem:

“Question: What does the Bible say about the role of a senior pastor?”

Tom: Oh, you’re going to make ME pull the pin on this one? Fine, fine.

The question is phrased this way: “What does the Bible say?”, which might lead one to naively conclude that the answer will have something to do with the teaching of the Bible. Which it sort of does ... until you read the first sentence.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

The God Point

Everybody’s on the JBP train today, it seems.

I mean the “Jordan B. Peterson” train. For those who have been living under a rock (or perhaps have no love for YouTube or other media), Dr. Peterson has been the center of much rapt attention over the last couple of years. How a psychologist and philosopher of religion rose to the pinnacle of worldwide publicity is quite an odd story. Starting with his principled stand against transgenderism and compelled speech in Toronto, continuing with his publications in print and on YouTube, and then in widely-viewed and controversial interviews on worldwide television, JBP has positioned himself as the most famous public intellectual of recent years.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Standing is its Own Reward

Nick is the son of a single mother.

His mother didn’t start out single. She gave birth to three children while married to a very talented but unstable (professing) Christian man. He left her for a younger, more attractive co‑worker in what looked to me (and to the rest of the world) like the stereotypical male mid-life crisis. It played out like the cliché of all romantic clichés, frankly.

It looked embarrassing. It probably was. I actually liked the departing father a great deal, and was deeply disappointed when I heard about what he had done and what had become of his family.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Twice-Told Tales

I love scripture. Obviously I love it from a spiritual standpoint: what it tells me has saved me for all eternity. There is simply no way to top that.

But as a reader, writer, and lover of language, I find the scriptures endlessly fascinating in the way that they were constructed and the purposes they were intended to serve, both by the Holy Spirit and their human writers, to the extent we are able to discern these intentions by careful observation.

I love the scriptures in this way too, as many others do. For me, a deep dive into the Word is as refreshing as a dip in a mountain stream and more enlightening than the most profound secular literature.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Anonymous Asks (229)

“Is it wrong for a Christian husband and wife to have separate bank accounts?”

Modern banking practices such as accepting deposits and transferring funds didn’t emerge until the late sixteenth century. As such, we can hardly expect the Bible to address the subject of bank accounts.

As usual with such questions, this one comes down to motivation.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

The Story of Christ in Four Parts

The scripture presents the story of Christ in at least four parts:

The first one is the birth of the Lord Jesus. God was making himself known to people in a human body. God the Son was going to come into this world and become man, though he existed eternally with the Father.

Secondly, there are the teachings of the Lord Jesus. He went through every city and village preaching the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. The teachings of Christ are tremendously important. We need to pay attention to those.

Then there is the death of Jesus outside the walls of Jerusalem in a place called Calvary.

The fourth part is the resurrection and ascension of Jesus back to the throne of God.

So we need to think of the story of Christ in at least these four ways — in his birth, ministry, death and resurrection — to have a complete view of the person and work of the Lord Jesus.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

The Line of the Forever King

“To you in David’s town this day
 Is born of David’s line
 A Savior, who is Christ the Lord
 And this shall be the sign …”

— from While Shepherds
    Watched Their Flocks

The Messiah of Israel had to be from the tribe of Judah. Not just that, he had also to be of the specific line of David, Israel’s greatest king, and the “man after [God’s] own heart”.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: Reasons Not to Celebrate Christmas

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

The Becoming Christians website wants you to know that if we would just dig deep enough in our Bibles, we would find reasons not to celebrate Christmas.

Tom: Hey, I’ll bite. Immanuel Can, this sounds like something you wrote about recently in your post about legalism. This Christmas naysayer has given us five reasons to put away the eggnog and put on a hair shirt. We could probably find more if we kept digging, but these should stir up a little anti-Christmas spirit, don’t you think?

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Inbox: The Problem Begins at the Platform

In response to Tom’s post Five Lessons We Can Learn from Jordan Peterson, Russell writes:

“In the local church context, based on 40+ years of listening to sermons/messages, I would say there are a rare few who can hold people’s attention for more than 15 minutes. They present material in a boring and unorganized fashion. They are unaware of the learning and comprehension level of their audience. They are very very detached in their application to where people live their daily lives. Shame on them for being such poor communicators of God’s truth. Shame on us for propping up a system which perpetuates bad messages.”

Now, we might bridle at that — especially those of us who have a favorite speaker. We might say, “That’s not fair, Russell; I know Mr. X, and he’s really profitable and interesting: I could listen to him forever.”

Maybe. But how many Mr. X’s are there? Be honest now.