Archive for the ‘Bible’ category

Of Kings, the Gospel and Political Expediency

January 16, 2018

Depositphotos Image ID: 55708003 Copyright: prometeus

Over the weekend, I posted a simple message on Facebook: presidents don’t say things like that. I am referring to the “sh*thole nations” statement of course. That simple post spawn hundreds of comments, and many of the comments were from Christians defending Trump, or at least not denouncing what Trump might have said.

It is possible that Durbin mischaracterized what Trump said. It’s highly likely that Durban was motivated by his dislike of Trump and political purposes when he reported what he claimed Trump said. It’s possible Trump didn’t say those words, at least not exactly as they were reported. It doesn’t matter.

It’s one thing question the veracity of Durbin’s report, but it’s another thing to defend or overlook what was claimed to have been said.

I find the continued, unquestioning and undiscerning support for the president, no matter what he says or does, by the Christian community to be disturbing. Are we following Christ? Or are we following a political party? I can’t tell.

Some of the things that have been said include the following: 1) yeah but look at the good that he is doing; or 2) he’s not perfect, he’s a flawed human being;  or 3) other presidents have said much worse, and all presidents have said things in private meetings that they would not say in public. I am only repeating the most common statements. Let’s look at these things from a Gospel perspective.

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Christmas Thoughts: Uriah’s Wife and The Redemption Plan

December 27, 2017

My Christmas thoughts a year ago were focused on the women in the genealogy that Matthew included in the beginning of his Gospel. Tamar, Rahab and Ruth are all stories of redemption foreshadowing the ultimate redemption story when God entered into our story, which is ultimately His story. The grand story of global redemption is what we celebrate at Christmastime, and these women are all instrumental in that global redemption story.

A total of five women are listed in the patriarchal lineage included at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel. The oddity of including women in a patriarchal lineage bears some investigation. Indeed, we find the redemptive theme when we look into it, and, that theme continues with the next woman on the list, but with a twist.

The twist begins with the fact that the next woman isn’t even named! The genealogy in Matthew reads like this:

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife[i]

Another oddity signals that something is different here. The stories of Tamar and Ruth were stories of kinsman-redeemers, women who embraced the shelter and protection of the relatives of their deceased husbands and, thereby, gave birth to sons who would carry on the line that would eventually lead to Jesus, the Christ (Messiah). All of the first three women, including Rahab, are also stories of faith and God’s faithfulness.

The story of “Uriah’s wife” is another example of God’s faithfulness, but human side of the story is one of unfaithfulness. Bathsheba is the mother who had been Uriah’s wife. She isn’t named for a scandalous reason.

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Our Transcendent Hope

December 19, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 84091092 Copyright: kevron2002

A very close friend of mine was expressing concern about the state of the world recently. Specifically, Donald Trump seems to be provoking the Korean dictator, like a bully provokes a mass murderer. I was not prepared for such an existential discussion, and I did not respond very well.

The concerns are real. I was haunted by the specter of nuclear war as a child growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. I even bought a poster of a mushroom cloud to hang on my wall, not because I wanted the world to end in a ball of fire, but because it was the reality I couldn’t ignore.

But we do learn to ignore realities likes that. Maybe because it’s hard to live with them, we learn to push them back into the recesses of our consciousness. We displace the angst with busyness, entertainment and other distractions.

The fact is that life is short and tenuous. Whether we live to be a hundred or 80 or only 8, life will end. This is also a harsh but true reality, but I’m afraid it isn’t very helpful for someone who is laboring under the burden of the weight of the world. I wish I had said something more.

I firmly believe this world is not all there is. We thirst, and water exists to quench our thirst. We hunger, and food exists to sate our hunger. It makes sense that, if we yearn for something transcendent, something transcendental exists to satisfy our existential longing.

We all seem to “know” this, but the world is so full of a thousand flim flam answers to the ultimate existential question that we hardly have any idea where to start looking. We might be tempted to seize on the first or closest one, like responding to that Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes mailer declaring you might be the winner, or we abandon any hope of an existential answer and resign ourselves to the material world.

Is there proof of something transcendent? How can we know? These are serious and heartfelt questions.

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Christmas, Taxes and a Heart for God

December 16, 2017

Photography ID: 166462566 Copyright: alefbet editorial use only
Archaeological site, City of David in Jerusalem, Israel on May 9, 2017

This blog article is prompted by a Christmas tax article. Yes, Christmas and income taxes go together. Who would’ve thunk it?!

In Luke 2:1, we read that Caesar Augustus sent out a decree for a census. It turns out the census was declared so that the Caesar could tax people. I didn’t know that before.

But that previously unknown fact (unknown to me at least) isn’t what caught my eye or what prompts this article. The article is also not about unjust taxes that burden the poor and line the pockets of the wealthy. Recollecting the census/tax at the time of Christ is certainly relevant and timely, not just because we are approaching Christmas, but for GOP tax bill that seems to be making its way to ultimate approval.

But that isn’t what really caught my eye either. That isn’t what prompts me to write. What prompts me to write this piece is the reference to a previous census and previous tax and the surprising and shocking instigator of that tax and the man of God who allowed it to happen – David.

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The Creed of Our Lives

December 15, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID:
3036050 Copyright:
marko5

I was listening to Ravi Zacharias this morning when he quoted Gandhi saying something to the effect that Christians will not make a dent in India until the Sermon on the Mount becomes part of their creed. Gandhi saw what many modern skeptics see, which is a gap between the Christian proclamation and testimony and how those same Christians live their lives.

If we are followers of Christ, shouldn’t we model what Jesus preached?

It’s a fair question.

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The Significance of Our Father

November 30, 2017

Christianpicsco NKFw

Tim Keller[1] says there are no more important words in the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray then the first two words, Our Father.[2] The importance of these words is underscored by the way we reference The Lord’s Prayer. We sometimes call it “the Our Father”.

Why are these words so important?

Tim Keller says that these words frame our orientation toward God. He suggests that people either have a transactional orientation toward God or a family orientation. Most of us operate on a transactional orientation toward God and others at times in our lives. Some of us live there. Beginning a prayer by calling God, “Our Father”, orientates us the right way.

A transactional orientation is focused on what we must do in order to have a relationship, a connection, with other people. A transactional orientation focuses on what people (and God) can do for us. A transactional orientation is characterized by offering consideration[3] in order to get something in return.

When we have a transactional orientation toward God, we approach Him completely differently than the way Jesus taught us to pray. We come to Him looking for something for ourselves. We are focused on what we need and want. We feel like we have to offer Him something in order to get what we are seeking. A transactional orientation toward God turns prayer into bargaining.

When we have a transactional orientation toward God, we are not seeking God. We are seeking something from God.

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Back to the Tree of Life

November 24, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 13147743 Copyright: martinm303

The tree of life is mentioned only three places in the Bible.  The first and most prominent place the tree of life appears in the Bible is in Genesis. The Tree of Life is one of two trees specifically identified in the garden. The other tree, of course, is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

I have wondered what would have happened and how things might be different if Adam and Eve had eaten of the Tree of Life, rather than tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they had eaten of the tree of life, would they have had eternal life at that point? Or is the tree of life something that must be consumed over and over again?

It really doesn’t matter for purposes of considering our present reality. From dust to dust is our current condition, but the tree of life appears again in the Book of Revelation, and it pops up three times in Proverbs.

That gives us hope. Though we are presently cut off from it, the tree of life figures into God’s ultimate plan as revealed in the Book of Revelation. The tree of life appears there on either side of the “river of the water of life… flowing from the throne of God….”[1]

Where do we find the tree of life in between the Garden of Eden and standing beside the river of the water of life from the throne of God? Let’s take a look.

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