Crisis: A Biblical and Practical Response, Part 1

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Most of the time, I hate crises! A crisis is usually crushing, and physically—if not emotionally—exhausting! But the Scriptures are clear that, while I may desire to run from a crisis like a six-year-old runs from broccoli, as a servant of Christ crises in my life and ministry often cannot be avoided. The good news is that they can actually be spiritually, emotionally and even physically good for me.

In the oldest book of the Bible, Job, notes that man is born to trouble and given to adversity, pointing out that trouble is as common and dependable as sparks flying upward from a campfire (Job 5:7). Ephesians 1:11 explains that God has planned out the details of our lives and that He uses those details consistently with His providential plan in making us more like His Son. Included in His plan is … crisis!

An implication here is that, as hard as you and I might try to avoid it, these times of personal chaos and threat are simply unavoidable! So if we can’t avoid it (and surely we can’t!) it is important to consider how God would have us face it.

Especially for ministry leaders, dealing with crisis is par for the course. Often it feels like we get “the worst of times,” while our friends or neighbors get to enjoy “the best of times!” It’s important for us as ministry leaders to understand that one of the reasons we are in leadership is to help others as they go through crises. That simply cannot happen unless we know what it is to face crisis and experience God’s grace by personally coming out of the lion’s den with faith and sanity intact! Read more about Crisis: A Biblical and Practical Response, Part 1

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The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 4)

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Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com. Read the series so far.

Chapter Four: Requirements for Membership

The Synagogue

Proselytes

It goes without saying that one must be a Jew, part of the nation of Israel, before one is qualified for inclusion as a constituent member of the synagogue. However, this did not absolutely ban Gentiles either from attendance at the weekly Sabbath meetings, or from becoming a part of the congregation through the conversion process. Acts is replete with example after example of interested Gentiles, whether proselytes or not, in attendance, often in great numbers, at the Sabbath synagogue service (see, e.g., Acts 13:44; 14:1).

In the NT, we commonly find Gentiles, whether described as “proselytes” (proselutos) or “God-fearing” (sebomenos, lit. pious or reverent), associated with the synagogues. Philo (d. ca. A.D. 50) explains the term “proselyte” and the status of such people: Read more about The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 4)

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Covenants: Clarity, Ambiguity, and Faith (Part 3)

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Read part 1 and part 2.

In the Bible there is always a correspondence between God’s words and His actions. You see it in the Creation narratives: “God said…and it was so.” You see it in the gospel: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” You see it in such mundane places as the curing of Naaman, or Jesus’ healing of Jairus’s daughter. When God says He is going to do something, you can bank on it. While there are places where God relents on judgment (especially after intercession), our faith depends upon the fixity of His meaning. God will do what He says He will do.

This is important on two fronts: first because God must be as good as His word or His character is in question. God’s attributes of veracity and immutability stand behind His promises. The second reason God must mean what He says is because God requires faith from us. Faith must “know” what it is that is to be believed. Faith cannot thrive where ambiguity is let in. Faith has to be able to separate truth from error, or we are wasting our time warning people against error. If the meaning is uncertain, doubt has a foothold. Read more about Covenants: Clarity, Ambiguity, and Faith (Part 3)

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A Tour of Love, Jewish-Roots Style

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Never underestimate the importance of love. Although all creation will glorify God by hook or crook (Rom. 9:22-24), our love for God and others is the volitional focus of the Christian life (Col. 3:14). There are too many passages to site, but reading 1 John or the Gospels (Luke 10:26-28, for example) should make the point.

I am not going to tackle the Hebrew word hesed, nor the Greek word agape. There is a place for that, but today we are going to look at love in relational fashion.

We were created to love. Love affects our entire being, even our physical health. For example,

The experimental group wrote with affection about one person in their lives for 20 minutes on three occasions over a five-week period. The control group wrote mundane descriptions of their activities over the week, jobs they had done and places they had lived…. [A]fter only 25 days, the experimental group who had written affectionate notes, showed a significant reduction in cholesterol. (Affectionate Writing)

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Book Review - Job: The Wisdom of the Cross (Preaching the Word)

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If you search for “suffering” on Amazon in the books section you will find almost 11,800 results. If you search for “help for suffering” on Google there are 151 million entries to choose from. Indeed the world is a place full of suffering people looking for help. You cannot make it through more than four chapters in the book of Genesis without encountering suffering in the lives of the first two people God created and the first family they made. In reading through the pages of Scripture one encounters suffering at almost every turn. Ironically, it is Job, the oldest book in the Bible, which solely addresses the subject of suffering and how God relates to it and the sufferer.

Tackling this rich, long and sometimes puzzling book, Christopher Ash has written Job: The Wisdom of the Cross. This is the most recent installment in Crossway’s Preaching the Word commentary series edited by R. Kent Hughes. Staying true to the series, Ash writes with the heart of a pastor as he seeks to show the reader the glory of God in Christ through suffering in the life of Job.

Overview

Job, Ash argues, is a book that reveals to us what kind of world we live in -– a world full of suffering, and much of it is seemingly pointless. But Ash wants to focus the reader on a smaller aspect of the world -– the church. In Job we see a man who endures all the suffering a person could imagine. From his friends we see responses that are detached from the reality of suffering and the God who has the answer to our suffering. Ash states, “The book of Job will force us to ask what kind of church we belong to” (p. 19). This examination takes a look at the prosperity and therapeutic gospel. Both of these gospels are fake and threaten the church constantly. To Ash, Job is a corrective to these false gospels and outlooks on life before they gained their contemporary popularity. Read more about Book Review - Job: The Wisdom of the Cross (Preaching the Word)

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God and the "Gay Christian"? A Biblical Response - Chapter 4

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Read the series so far.

In chapter four, Vines addresses the first of six biblical texts dealing with homosexuality. The remaining five are considered in subsequent chapters. Vines’ aim is to demonstrate that none of these passages prohibit committed same-sex relationships.

Chapter four analyzes God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as recorded in Genesis 19. That Christians have traditionally understood this event to indicate God’s strong disapproval of same-sex relationships is both mistaken and unfortunate according to Vines. He believes that a more careful study demonstrates that the sins of Sodom were inhospitality and violence, not homosexuality.

Vines begins by examining a list of Old Testament texts that mention Sodom, pointing out that none of these explicitly cite same-sex relations as the reason for destruction. He follows with evidence from extra-biblical Jewish literature, drawing the same conclusion. He believes that Sodom’s offenses were lack of hospitality and attempted gang rape. Next, he briefly examines and explains all negative New Testament references to Sodom, continuing to muster evidence for his premise. Vines claims that no one linked Sodom’s destruction to homosexual behavior until Philo, the first century Jewish historian. He asserts that Philo inaugurated a gradual shift in perceptions, until the destruction of Sodom became linked to homosexuality in the minds of most Christians from about the tenth century onward. But from the beginning, he assures us, it was not so. Read more about God and the "Gay Christian"? A Biblical Response - Chapter 4

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The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 3)

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Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com. Read the series so far.

Chapter Three

Organizational Requirements

The Synagogue

For the organization and operation of a synagogue, it was anciently specified that there be in a given locality at least ten adult Jewish men of leisure who could devote themselves to the study of the Torah. In the Mishnah, Aboth 3:6 records: “Rabbi Nehunya ben Ha-Kanah said: If ten men sit together and occupy themselves in the Law, the Divine Presence rests among them.”1 Sanhedrin 1:6 in the Mishnah states, “And whence do we learn that a congregation is made up of ten? It is written, ‘How long shall I bear with this evil congregation?’ but Joshua and Caleb were not included.”2 The proof-text is Numbers 14:27, which is understood to be a reference to the spies who had returned from scouting out the land of Canaan rather than the whole congregation of Israel. Of course only ten of the spies were evil—those who discouraged the people with their pessimistic report—and therefore, Joshua and Caleb are excluded from their number, which leaves ten, and ten are here called “a congregation.” This, in rabbinic thinking, is sufficient proof that a congregation (synagogue) must consist of ten men. Other OT proof-texts are also employed to support this notion.3 Read more about The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 3)

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The Education of a Parent

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A few days ago my daughter turned 10.

It’s quite a milestone for both of us. For her, it means finally passing into “double digits”—that mysterious world that few of us ever pass out of. For me, it signals a decade of motherhood. When my Phoebe came into the world a little after 3:30 on a rainy South Carolina Thursday, it wasn’t simply the beginning of her life; it was the fundamental altering of mine.

Looking back, I can see how much motherhood has changed me, how much it has forced me to grow beyond myself. I realize now that when folks spoke of me as a “young mother,” they weren’t talking about the age of my daughter so much as about the fact that I myself was new to the game. I had a lot to learn.

Those first few years were spent learning to make the “right” choices; choices about…feeding and sleeping habits, immunizations, potty training, and pacifiers. And once I’d figured how to actually keep her alive (and not alienate all my friends and family in the process), it was time to learn how to “train her up in the way she should go.” Suddenly the questions were about when to let her to use electronics and where to send her to school. Read more about The Education of a Parent

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