Christmas, Taxes and a Heart for God

Posted December 5, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Faith

King David statue outside his tomb in Mount Zion Jerusalem, Israel. The Messiah is a direct descent of King David.

We are counting the days down to Christmas, and this is the time of year I tend to write Christmas-themed pieces. Kind of fitting I guess! The Christmas season is always a great time for reflection of the amazing thing God did when He entered into the history of His own creation and became one of us. It’s a time of great hope and a time to appreciate what God has done for us. In this piece, though, I look back from the birth of Jesus, the seed of Jesse, father of David, to David, remembering the human frailties and predisposition to be led astray, and God’s heart for those who have a heart for Him.

Navigating by Faith

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.

That previously unknown fact (unknown to me at least) isn’t what caught my eye or what prompts this article, though. The article is also not about unjust taxes that burden the poor and avoid the rich. This article also isn’t about the controversy over whether Luke is accurate about the census and the timing of it.

What prompts me to write this piece is the reference to a previous census and previous tax and the surprising and shocking…

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The Story that Matters

Posted December 5, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Bible, Faith, Jesus

Tags: , , ,


I was reflecting before God this morning and praying when the following question arose in my head: whether it is more important to believe the historical fact of the biblical stories or to believe the stories themselves.

For whatever reason, the story that occurred to me as I was thinking about this is the story of Lot’s wife. After they left Sodom, a place that was known for its wickedness and sin, a place in which God could not identify even 10 good men, she turned back (against the orders of God’s angels that led them (delivered) them out of Sodom), and she turned into a pillar of salt.

Is there really a pillar of salt somewhere in the vicinity of Sodom where lot’s wife turned back? Does it matter?

As I was thinking about the question, it occurred to me that the story is what matters. Sodom is representative of depravity, wickedness and sin, the nature of the world around us in which we live, the state of a person who has not given himself or herself over in loving submission to the God who made us. God calls us out of that sinful state to follow Him. this is true whether Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt or not.

In the Midrash, Lot’s wife is identified as a Sodomite. Sodom was her hometown. We read in Genesis that Lot was slow in leaving when the angels warned him to get out. The Midrash suggests that Lot’s wife didn’t want to leave, and she left only reluctantly. The Hebrew word translated “looked back” implies a “wistful regard”. (See the Pulpit Commentary on Genesis 19:26 in BibleHub)

It seems that Lot’s wife really didn’t want to leave Sodom and looking back was as much an act of the heart (desiring to be back in Sodom) as a physical one. The application to us is that we should not be tempted to look back wistfully on the sinful lives we once lived. It’s like a dog returning to its own vomit. (Proverbs 26:11 and 2 Peter 2:22) Why would we turn back to the sin from which we escaped? And yet we tend to do that.

Returning to the point of the question that arose in my mind this morning, I am reminded that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness….” (2 Timothy 3:16) The Scripture is what is useful, not necessarily that the stories are true. The critical truth of most stories is contained within the story itself.

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A Message in a Manger

Posted December 4, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Faith


Christmas is a time of reflection for most of us, a time to reflect about the past year and our journey to this “place” that we find ourselves. It’s a time to reflect on God and the amazing introduction of Himself into our history almost 2000 years ago. That is the part of the message in a manger: God emptying Himself of all His privilege and position as Creator of the universe and inserting Himself as a weak, vulnerable child into a humble family in a lowly province of the Roman Empire. this is only the beginning of a Message in a Manger.

Navigating by Faith

Christmas nativityGod put eternity into the hearts of men said the writer of Ecclesiastes, and Jesus is the answer to that longing that is built into us. We live imperfect, flawed lives, and then we die. The writer of Ecclesiastes says that “all is meaningless.” We came from dust and to dust we return, but when Jesus Christ was born, he introduced the antidote to that condition of sin and death.

The sins and wrongs of fathers and mothers pass down to their sons and daughters and have done so from the beginning. In Jesus, God introduced a new lineage and a new possibility. Born a man, but also born of God, through Jesus comes the answer to the finite frailty that is humankind.

The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the core of the Gospel. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, all of our hope…

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Is the Story of Jesus a Story of Divine Vengeance or Love?

Posted December 3, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: atonement, Bible, Christian, Gospel, Jesus, redemption

Tags: , , ,


NT Wright made a statement on Justin Brierley’s new podcast recently, Ask NT Wright Anything, that is worth repeating. He says that people read John 3:16 (“That God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son….”) this way: “that God so hated the world that he killed his only son.”

People, especially today, view God as an angry bully. They interpret the story of Jesus, Wright says, “as if God was looking for someone on whom to take out his vengeance, and His son got in the way – so that somehow makes it right”. But it doesn’t seem right to many people who interpret the story in this way. We recoil from a view of God, the cosmic bully.

Of course, many people who moralize about God are simply refusing to acknowledge God as God. They sit in judgment of God, or at least “the God of the Bible” that they as they perceive Him. At many who hold this view don’t even believe God exists. But, I don’t think that Wright is only talking about a skeptical view of God, though skeptics certainly make interpretation errors. Even believers wrestle with a muddled view of the story.

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Reflections on Confidence in Faith and Atheism

Posted November 29, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Faith

Tags: , , , ,


Lord Richard Harris, the once Bishop of Oxford, and author of Haunted by Christ: Modern Writers and the Struggle for Faith, participated in a podcast discussion with the former Catholic priest, now agnostic philosopher, Sir Anthony Kenny and Justin Brierly, the host of the Unbelievable podcast. During the interview, he reflected: “On [the] issue of transcendence…. there is something about the experience of beauty which is tantalizing. It … mysteriously pulls us into itself and beyond itself, but it is ultimately ungraspable.” Harris likened this “mysterious pull” to “an elusive call” that haunts us” and which “has its fulfillment in God.”

Harris is quick to note that the tantalizing pull of beauty is not an argument for the existence of God, but it is also not irrational. He says, “Once you come to believe [Christianity], everything falls into place. It coheres together. This experience of beauty makes sense, as the experience of morality makes sense.”

Of course, this observation is reminiscent of CS Lewis when he said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

Sitting opposite of Harris, Sir Anthony disagreed, saying that he grew up in the church. As “proof” he commented on a couple of different aspects of theology (the idea of punishment for sin among them) that just don’t make sense to him.

As I listened to him I thought, as I often do when I listen to atheists and decided agnostics, that Kenny puts a great deal of stock in what he, himself thinks. Because it made no sense to him, it made no sense at all. In that sense, he elevated his own understanding into the place of an ultimate arbiter of truth.

Of course, what else are we to do? That’s a fair question. We only have ourselves ultimately as tools for deciphering truth.

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Homosexuality and the Church

Posted November 27, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Bible, Christian, Lifestyle, sexuality

Tags: , , , , ,


I am a big fan of Justin Brierley’s podcast, Unbelievable! on Premiere Christian Radio in the UK. The theme of the podcast is to interview persons with different viewpoints on a variety of subjects that usually focus on some aspect of faith. Often the interviewees include a person of faith and a person of no faith. Sometimes, the interviewees are people of different faiths. The podcast that aired on November 24, 2018, included two Christians on different sides of the debate about homosexuality: How should gay Christians express their sexuality?

David Bennett “grew up in an agnostic/atheist home” but became a “conservative” Christian, while Justin Lee represents the mirror image of David’s experience. Justin grew up in “a very devoutly Christian home”.

Justin relates that he understood that being a Christian meant “taking a loving but principled stand against homosexuality” and that “being gay is a sinful choice”. He felt it was his obligation as a Christian to speak out and encourage people not to be gay. He believed that God would “lead people out of homosexuality”. He believed that homosexuality was a choice, which is what his Southern Baptist church taught.

But then, Justin came to realize that he was same sex attracted himself. In spite of praying and believing that God would change him, his feelings didn’t change. He struggled with that realization until he came to believe that same sex attraction is not a sin. Though Justin is still single, he now engages in ministry to the gay and lesbian community who he says have been left adrift by the greater Christian community.

These two men, both same sex attracted, have come from opposite shores, crossed in between, and take different positions in respect to homosexuality and faith. They engage in a very thoughtful, honest and thought-provoking conversation with Justin Brierley in the podcast.

You can hear the whole thing by clicking on the link in the first paragraph above. Meanwhile, I will summarize their divergent experiences that cross over from opposite shores below.

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A Place for Truth in a Pluralistic Society

Posted November 26, 2018 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Religion, Sociology

Tags: , ,


Is truth so all-inclusive that it doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you are sincere? We wouldn’t say that about scientific truths, but what about religious truths?

In particular, are the distinctions between the various religions so minor that it doesn’t matter which one of them you believe? Or any of them at all?

These are questions that arise in a pluralistic society such as we have in the United states. Pluralism accommodates differences, celebrates diversity and promotes inclusion. Pluralism, generally, is a good and wholesome thing in a civilized society.

Whereas, people with differences once harbored hostilities toward one another, waged war and walled each other out, a pluralistic society tolerates, accommodates and even celebrates diversity.

Pluralism allows people to live as they see fit to live and as they believe they ought to live, within reason of course. Pluralism maximizes liberty and freedom and allows people choice. Pluralism is a necessary construct of a free society.

Truth, however, is not so inclusive. We don’t accommodate any or all theories in science. We don’t tolerate views in science that compete with proven evidence without equally compelling evidence because truth matters to the scientific endeavor.

Truth is what it is.

This is not to say that people aren’t free to adopt their pet theories, but pet theories are not valued by scientists who live by the rigor of the scientific process and method.  In the same sense, if truth matters, and if there is any truth to be found in religion, we defy logic and common sense to say that one religion or set of beliefs is just like the next.

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