Revelation

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.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       What the World Says When We Lie to OurselvesStephen Kneale considers how the world responds to the lies we tell ourselves compared to how the Bible responds. For instance: 

"Lie: Everybody hates me
World: I’m sure that isn’t true. I like you.
Bible: ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom 5:8); ‘See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.’ (1Jo 3:1)"

2.       How Would Christ Celebrate Christmas? Erin Davis suggests that, “It's great to spend Christmas with the people we cherish, but I don't think Jesus' Christmas celebrations would only include the people He is most familiar with. I believe He would spend His birthday in service to others.”

3.       5 Pitfalls When Preaching or Teaching on the End Times: Please won't you read this brief but important article before you lead your next Sunday School class on Revelation? Marty Duren reminds us, "Pastors and theologians have long held the importance of accurately dividing eschatological words of truth. Too often though, we see dull knives forced again and again onto the sacred text, resulting in tortured interpretations (the UN Secretary General as the Antichrist) or unbiblical expectations (77 Reasons Jesus Will Return in 1977)."

4.       What Should I Do to Become a Pastor? Derek Heibert offers great advice for anyone who has considered whether they have a vocational calling to pastoral ministry. He reflects on how different that advice is compared to other vocations, "We all know the assumed logic in America for landing a career: 1. Decide what to do with your life. 2. Go to school to learn the skillset. 3. Graduate from said school. 4. Get hired for a job using that skillset. Now substitute “school” with “seminary,” and voilà! You have a career in pastoring … right? You might be surprised to learn that this isn’t the answer I texted back to the aspiring pastor..."

5.       Why Christians Have Always Done Healthcare DifferentlyJohan Tangelder begins by reflecting on the crossroads we currently stand at, "Within a short time span hospitals and medical care have greatly changed. In fact, today a man of seventy can justly claim that more medical progress has been made in his lifetime than in all of previous history. This medical progress forces us to cope with issues our forefathers never faced. The most common and most pervasive issue is how new medical science has transformed medicine: it used to be about caring for a person; now it is about curing a disease. According to this new philosophy, when someone is faced with a medical problem, everything that can be done ought to be done, no matter what – they are treated as an object to be fixed, rather than a person to be helped."

6.       What Would Happen if Every Human Being Suddenly Disappeared? This is an interesting thought experiment.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Why Winning the Lottery is So DangerousJ. Warner Wallace reflects, "Most of us recognize the relationship between satisfaction and duration. The longer something lasts (and the longer we enjoy it), the more satisfying we typically find it to be. In seeking the next big lottery jackpot, most players hope to win enough money to last the rest of their lives. Why? Because they are seeking satisfaction that will last a lifetime. But if the Christian worldview is true, each of us are eternal beings, created in the image of God, and destined to live forever – well beyond the temporal lives in which we could spend our lottery winnings... That’s why winning the lottery can be so dangerous. It takes our eyes off the goal. Not the physicalemotional or behavior goal, but the spiritual goal: to seek and find the true source of eternal satisfaction."

2.      The Math Language of RevelationBarry York talks about how we ought to make sense of all the numbers in Revelation, "When it comes to the book of Revelation, you quickly find the presence of many numbers. These numbers add (no pun intended) to the mystery of the book. Yet, similar to the example above, remembering the Bible has a "math language" of its own can help in understanding the passages containing the use of numbers. Here are five of Revelation's math language rules to follow."

3.      The Crisis of PornTony Perkins sounds the alarm, "What our kids are stumbling on isn’t your grandfather’s pornography... These are raw, violent, and nauseating videos that they don’t have to sneak into a store for. Every child has a world full of porn at their fingertips... Porn is everywhere, and the research is grim... Americans on both sides of the aisle are realizing: this is an actual catastrophe...These sites, the same ones teaching kids a distorted and twisted version of sex, get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined." 

4.      4 Myths About Responding to Spousal Abuse: Three pastors team up to debunk some hurtful pastoral responses to abusive situations. They put their finger on the pastor's tension: "Pastors who wish to support, protect, and counsel survivors of abuse are often left wondering how best to minister to them. They know abuse is a multi-faceted evil. They want to provide the best counsel possible. But several misconceptions around the issue can cloud the thoughts and guide the actions of well-intentioned church leaders."

5.      11 Common Phrases You Didn't Know Were From the BibleThis is fun. Some phrases you might be surprised by: "by the skin of your teeth," "a drop in the bucket," "a leopard can't change his spots," and "bit the dust."

Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash

What is Heaven? It's Physical

What is Heaven? It's Physical

When I trusted Christ as a young boy, I remember thinking that the one downside of being a Christian was the boring afterlife that now awaited me. “I hope Jesus doesn’t return before I go to high school… before I get married… before I have kids,” I thought. There is a classic Gary Larson cartoon that captures my worst fears about heaven: “Wish I’d brought a magazine," the bored saint reflects.

I recently asked a group of sixth grade boys what they thought heaven would be like, and their picture of heaven mirrored what mine was at their age: a worship service that never ended, standing around the throne of God and singing song after song after song after song.

I mean, I liked church more than the average kid. I even sat through “big church” with my parents and liked the singing and preaching. But doing that forever? In the words of the old hip hop group OutKast, “Foreva eva?”[i]

Good news, friends. This won’t be the sum of heaven.

Mary's Christmas Song

Mary's Christmas Song

Isn’t Christmas great? Anyone who loves Christmas loves Christmas music. Even if Christmas isn’t your favorite holiday, you have to concede it has the best music.

God loves music. In Zephaniah 3:17, we see that God sings over us. And God’s people have always sung. Moses and Miriam sang when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea.[i] Deborah and Barak sang.[ii] And the largest book of the Bible (Psalms) is a song book, filled with the songs of the greatest King of Israel and many others. Music has always been a part of God’s people and will always be – we know that in heaven we’ll still be singing.[iii]

It’s not surprising, then, that God’s coming to earth is celebrated with singing. In this advent series, I am going to share some of the songs that accompanied the first Christmas alongside some of my favorite Christmas songs today.

The first song is perhaps the most famous song of Christmas: Mary’s song of praise. But it is a song with a wallop that is missed by many a contemporary reader misses.

Consuming Worship

Consuming Worship

Last week we took a more positive turn as we considered how our identity as consumers impacts our devotional lives. We continue in that positive direction as we consider our experience as corporate and individual worshipers in today’s consumeristic environment.

Throughout this series I have tried to provide a broader comparative historic context. The inclusion of songs in worship was present from the earliest days of the church. Paul incorporates what appear to be familiar songs in his writing, John shares songs in Revelation, and of course the Psalms provided a hymn book for the early church. The earliest house church discovered in Syria dates to the early 3rd century AD and is covered with beautiful frescoes. The church from the very beginning was worshiping artistically.