Biblical Studies

This Warning is for You!

This Warning is for You!

“The end is near!” “Repent!”

Have you ever seen a statement of prophetic warning spray-painted on a wall or in a subway station? Did you ever consider that statement might be for you? I’ve got to be honest, I don’t take much notice to such warnings.

Now, transport yourself back to the 7th century BC. You’re a Moabite living just across the Dead Sea from the Kingdom of Judah (the Southern Kingdom of Israel). One of the Jewish prophets speaks prophetic warnings over your country. Do you take any more heed to those warnings than I do to a spray-painted subway warning?

Why would the God of Israel speak a warning to a foreign country to the Israelites? I believe a strange section of Jeremiah shows us both God’s mercy and his patience with unbelievers even today.

The other day as I was nearing the end of Jeremiah’s prophecy, a section stood out to me like a sore thumb. After several dozen chapters devoted to warning Israel, Jeremiah carves out six chapters to warn other nations: Egypt, Philistia, Moab, and Babylon at the targets of Jeremiah’s warnings. In the middle of a book of warning and prophecy to Israel, God sends his warning to the nations.

These are not sugar-coated prophecies. These have all the brashness of the graffiti on the subway wall. God says things like:

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Don't Let the Sexular Culture Leave Women as Also-Rans: Stephen McAlpine tells the story of a woman who was not awarded a prize in an Australian race despite being the first female finisher because of the organizer's attempt to be gender-blind. McAlpine reflects, " If it’s not bad enough that women are constantly the victims of testosterone-laden men off the sporting field, women are now becoming victims on the sporting field of testosterone laden men self-identifying as women.  There’s real anger, but it has to be muted by women, lest the culture warriors who promulgate the Sexular narrative hunt them down."

2.       Five Ways the Bible and Economic Principles are Connected: Shawn Ritenour makes the argument for why and how the Bible influences are understanding of economics.

3.      Why Are Calvinists So Mean?: As a Calvinist myself (although I typically prefer to describe myself with different language because of this very reality), I appreciate Jared Wilson's diagnosis. He concludes, " And if we are frequently charged with treating others in uncharitable ways, the humility necessary to the doctrine ought to produce a humility in its doctrinaires to ask if our lives actually contradict the doctrine we preach with our mouths."

4.      How You Have Been Training Artificial Intelligence for Free: Amazon and Google are two companies who have brilliantly (and perhaps mischievously) been using all sorts of ways to harness what we are already doing for their benefit.

5.      The Weird World of Recycling: Oh man, I've read a handful of articles recently on the realities of recycling that make me so disappointed. Here's to hoping someone can figure out a solution to this issue. 

“Isn’t the Bible socially, culturally, and sexually out of date? Isn’t it just a product of its time?”

“Isn’t the Bible socially, culturally, and sexually out of date? Isn’t it just a product of its time?”

A response from Barry Cooper in Can I Really Trust the Bible?

 

How can we believe the Bible is God’s word to us when it is so clearly out of step with cultural norms regarding what is good and just? To put it another way, how can we possibly trust the Bible to be God’s timeless word when it is so clearly backward ethically? Don’t we want to be on the right side of history? Barry Cooper thoughtfully examines these questions in an excurses found in his book Can I really trust the Bible? Cooper’s response is worth quoting in its entirety:

The past often embarrasses us. Looking at photos of myself growing up in the 1980s, it’s one fashion car-crash after another. It’s impossible to look away. Why didn’t people spend the entire decade pointing at each other and laughing? The reason, I suppose, is that more or less everyone was dressed the same. It seemed normal to us. We’d built up a plausibility structure of pastel t-shirts, neon socks and snow-washed jeans.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Ten Year Old With No Hands Wins Handwriting ContestWow. What's my excuse?

2.        It is Well... the Backstory of a Troubled Man and His Hymn: Janie B. Chaney shares the story of the classic hymn of Horatio Spafford. You probably have heard the first half of the story, but it's the second half that really tests our thinking about the hymn.

3.       Understanding the Sin of Ham: Tom Terry offers a compelling interpretation of what exactly Noah's son's sin was. He suggests, " Moses was using this idiom to say that Ham had a sexual encounter with his mother (or Noah’s wife, assuming that the woman in question was not Ham’s natural mother). Either way, this was an incestuous relationship."

4.       Some Good News About the Bad News About Marriage: Ron Deal begins, " We were led to believe by statisticians that in America about half of all marriages end in divorce, which led me to believe that about two-thirds of stepfamily couples divorce. But it turns out that the pessimism that currently exists about the institution of marriage is misguided."

5.       Dandelion Time Lapse: Two poignant minutes: it feels like you're watching the visual representation of the book of Ecclesiastes.

Does Jesus Tell us We “Can’t Get No Satisfaction”? Our Struggle Against Lust

Does Jesus Tell us We “Can’t Get No Satisfaction”? Our Struggle Against Lust

Virtually everyone agrees that adultery is wrong. According to one survey, more than 75% worldwide agree that it is wrong.[i] The vast majority of us agree: adultery hurts marriages, it hurts children.

And yet, simultaneously, our culture encourages us to pursue our desires and fulfill our passions. But there are cracks in that approach. The #metoo movement has begun to uncover the devastating impact of some men living out this sexual philosophy.

Two thousand years ago Jesus pointed to the crack in this moral pavement. He says that our sexual offense, our sexual sin, doesn’t begin with the action, but with the heart:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).

Sexual sin begins with our heart and moves to our imagination and only then to our actions. There was never a person in the history of the world who committed sexual sin who didn’t initiate that sin in his heart and then his imagination.

Only 14% of women and 22% of men admit to having had an affair.[ii] And yet, If you ask Americans if they would commit an affair if they wouldn’t get caught, then 74% of men and 68% of women say they would have an affair.[iii]

And every person has at one time or another turned over in our hearts the desire to experience someone other than our spouse sexually and/or emotionally. That desire then gets turned over and played with in our minds. This is lust.

When Should You Fight Evil with Evil?

When Should You Fight Evil with Evil?

One of my Christian heroes is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I even asked my wife if we could name our son Dietrich. For some reason she didn’t like that idea. Go figure.

Bonhoeffer is a fascinating figure for all sorts of reasons, but one of those is that his ministry took place during the rise of Nazism in Germany. Born into an upper-middle class family in Germany and studying at some of finest schools, he ended up rejecting the German national church, which was controlled by the Nazi party. Instead he threw his energy behind the Confession Church, a church that resisted the Nazi party.

Ultimately Dietrich Bonhoeffer would do more than theologically resist the Nazi party; he would actively participate in helping Jews escape and would ultimately be party to an assassination plot against Adolf Hitler.[i]

Although, for obvious reasons, Bonhoeffer never discussed the plot nor his reasons for the decision, it is clear in his letters that he expended a lot of energy working through what his ethical responsibilities were throughout the war. Those who believe he participated in the assassination conspiracy point to his words in Ethics where he says, “the structure of responsible action includes both readiness to accept guilt and freedom.”[ii] Is Bonhoeffer saying that there are times where following Christ means that we might actually be called into guilt (and therefore to sin)?

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       How to Ruin Your Sex Life in 10 Easy Steps: Lisa Lakey with great advice: Here is just one of the ten: "Don't engage in conversation with your spouse:  It’s been a long day, and it takes too much energy to engage in lengthy discussion. Please, can we just relax and turn the TV on already? Better yet, escape into social media. Knowing what’s going on in everyone else’s lives helps distract you from your own."

2.      You Shall Know Them By Their Clothes: Andrew Wilson with an interesting insight into the story of Samuel, Saul, Jonathan, and David--clothes points to character and plot in the story: "When we first meet Goliath, he is covered from head to foot in scaly armor, which makes him look like a serpent or even a dragon. So when we find the snake-like accuser lying dead, his head crushed by the anointed king, we are not especially surprised. We first meet Samuel as “a boy wearing a linen ephod” (1 Sam. 2:18). Straightaway, we know he will function a bit like a priest."

3.      To Spank or Not to Spank: My friend Benjamin Vrbicek with a healthy and nuanced perspective on the topic: " Yet this post isn’t part of my crusade to get you to spank your children. I’ve never written about this before and don’t plan to do it again. I certainly don’t want to be another polemical voice in the already overly opinionated milieu of Christian child-rearing. Instead, I’d like to talk about how parents can spank their children rightly." All 13 of his nuggets are worth considering.

4.      Pleasures Never Lie: Jon Bloom explains why what we find pleasure in reveals so much about who we are, "Pleasure is our heart’s way of telling us where our treasure really lies (Matthew 6:21). When something evil gives us pleasure, we don’t have a pleasure problem; we have a treasure problem. The pleasure gauge is working as designed. What’s wrong is what our heart loves. And pleasure is blowing the whistle. We can lie with our lips about what we love. But pleasures never lie."

5.      Arctic Geese Jump off Cliff to Survive: This is brutal. Nature is brutal.

The Light and You

The Light and You

I was born in Fairbanks, Alaska. During the dead of winter, there are several weeks where the sun skims the horizon for a mere four hours a day.[i] If you move north to the Arctic Circle, there are days with no sunlight at all.

Can you imagine a world without light? A world where you can’t see your hand in front of your face?

A world without light is a world of terror and fear. It is a world where nothing is revealed and everything is hidden.

Jesus tells us that the world was dark before he came into it. In John 8:12 he tells us that he is the light of the world. Without Jesus the world is utter blackness.

And we are made to be the light. But before we can become the light, we need to have the light illuminate any darkness in us.

In Luke 8, Jesus talks about the lamp that comes into our lives: “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.”[ii] 

This passage is usually misunderstood.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      What A Ten Year Study on Self-Centeredness Revealed: John Cacioppo concluded, "that focusing on yourself causes you to feel more isolated which causes you to focus even more on yourself. A vicious cycle of self-centeredness and loneliness ensues. To put it plainly — a focus on ourselves grows when we are continually by ourselves." 

2.      Half of Millennial Christians Say It's Wrong to Evangelize: Kate Shellnutt reports on new research from Barna, "Younger folks are tempted to believe instead, “if we just live good enough lives, we can forgo the conversation entirely, and people around us will almost magically come to know Jesus through our good actions and selfless character,” she said. “This style of evangelism is becoming more and more prevalent in a culture constantly looking for the fast track and simple fix.”

3.      What God Does for Us in Suffering: Randy Alcorn offers important wisdom, " There’s no nearness to God without dependence on God. And nothing makes us more dependent on Him than when the bottom drops out."

4.      How to Read the Book of Revelation Well: Great advice by Ian Paul. Every point packs a great punch and is well worth the read. He shares, " This is not an exercise in being ‘academic’ in our reading. It is just the normal discipline of recognising that the Bible was speaking in the language of its context and culture, and this decisively shapes its meaning."

5.      Confronting Defensive People: Jim Van Yperen with seven pieces of advice that we can all use, "A simple rule is this: never confront power with power, confront power with loving truth."

6. Making Faith Your Own or Making Up Your Own Faith? Benjamin Vrbicek reflects on stunning statements from a seminary President.

Holy Week Recommendations

Holy Week Recommendations

A blessed Maundy Thursday to you, friends. I have three Passion Week videos for you this week. May this Holy Week be a powerful re-centering week of reflection for you as you consider Christ’s atoning death for you.

1.      Sacrifice and Atonement: The Bible Project explains the reason why God has people

2.      The Last Week of Jesus’ Life: The Bible Project walks through the final week of Jesus’ life.

3.      All Hail King Jesus: Jeremy Riddle: “There on a cross they made for sinners; For every curse; His blood atoned One final breath and it was finished; But not the end we could have known.”