It grieves me to read blogs that use a tragedy to grandstand. I've done it, and I hate it. But there's also the reality that public heartache gets people thinking about a topic—and we might as well endeavor to think well.
Regarding Robin Williams' suicide, I wrote the following Facebook post:
"Funny people are often sad. Popular people are often lonely. Successful people are often insecure. Wealthy people are often broken. This is always true, whether we notice it or not. We just had a profoundly tragic reminder. I ache over it. We need grace."
I do ache. I'm sad that the world is so broken. I'm sad that someone can reach such a desperate place that destruction actually seems like a solution. But people do descend to that kind of crushing despair, more often than you'd think. They need help. They need understanding. Ultimately, they need Christ.
If possible, I want to help others think well about the issue of suicide. To that end, here's a PDF of a piece I wrote on the topic in the recently published devotional Gospel...
There is not much concern shown for the elderly in the preaching that I have heard in the last few years. At one time the elderly in our midst were considered valuable and important members whose wisdom was sought, cherished and followed and whose presence was an honor. Now, all too often, in our society which glorifies youth, they are looked upon as a burden. Frequently, that same attitude, unconsciously adopted, is extended to preaching.
Concerns of all of the members of the congregation should be mentioned in preaching. Just as Paul frequently speaks in categories of young men, young women, old men and old women, addressing those belonging to each according to their peculiar circumstances, so too should we be aware of the particular needs, problems and responsibilities of each (in his first letter John also makes such distinctions.) And we should be sure that what we preach is adapted just as regularly to the old as to the young.
What are some of the concerns of older persons to which we ought to direct our attention in preaching? Here is a list with which you may begin:
Some teach that he did. They refer to the quotation of the Psalm that the apostle Peter quotes (Acts 2:27):
You will not leave My soul in Hades.
“There you have it” they say. “His soul went to hell (Hades) at death—why else would this be true?”
Well, let’s think about it for a moment.
When after three hours of darkness suffering on the cross Jesus said, “It is finished,” what did he mean? Certainly, that was not a cry of relief! He was saying “I have completed the suffering for sinners that the Father sent me to accomplish.” That is to say, redemption is finished. Well, that statement seems to contradict the idea that Jesus has to suffer additionally in hell, doesn’t it?
In addition, consider this: The word Hades doesn’t mean what we (today) mean when we speak of “hell.” It comes from the Greek root id which means “seen.” In Greek, if you want to negate something, you add an alpha (a) privative to the word. Do that with this term and you get “Unseen.”
Hades is the “unseen world.” In it is both paradise and the place of suffering. Remember, Jesus said to the thief...
Is the resurrection of the body! Too often we speak of waiting to go to heaven. True, upon death genuine believers will in their spirit be “with Christ” in paradise (as he told the thief on the cross). But as much as that is fine and wonderful, it isn’t our ultimate hope.
No, we “eagerly wait for a Savior the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body . . .” (Philippians 3: 20, 21: HBSC). That is more than heaven—indeed, we will live in a new body in a new heavens and new earth (2 Peter 3:13) in which righteousness is at home. Think of it—believer, some day, you will have a new body like His!
It was a body that rose from the dead, walked through doors, ascended into heaven and sat on the right hand of God (where it is today).
On that resurrection day, your body will rise to meet Him in the air, in order to escort Him to earth. You will then enjoy all the privileges of living in a perfect body in a perfect world! That is heaven, all right: heaven on earth!
In speaking to a promising young man recently about his preaching, we both arrived at the conclusion that his difficulty was not in style, organization or delivery. What he was facing was simply a problem of communicating something substantive to his congregation each week. The problem is not uncommon, even among those who hold to the inerrancy of the Scriptures.
In order to preach effectively, you must have something to say, not merely have to say something! From reading and hearing sermons, all too frequently it seems as though that elemental truth has escaped many.
Are your sermons thin soup? Does your congregation get fed sawdust or the wholesome food of the Scriptures each week? Lean, scrawny Christians are indicative of lean victuals. Are your members healthy and robust? Or are they suffering from spiritual rickets?
It is not as though there is not enough “healthy teaching” (one of Paul’s favorite phrases in speaking to pastors like Titus and Timothy) to go around; the Word of the Lord is filled with all of the ingredients necessary to spread a balanced, nourishing meal before the congregation every time that you rise to preach. There is no end of...
Is it surprising that some preachers are hated? Well, it shouldn’t be. For people to hate them is nothing new. Listen to this passage:
Jehoshaphat asked, “Isn’t there a prophet of Yahweh here any more? Let’s ask him.” The king of Israel said . . . “There is one man . . . but I hate him because he never prophesies good about me, but only disaster” ( 1 Kings 22:8, HCSB).
The king of Judah was right in seeking God’s will through a prophet; the king pf Israel was wrong in hating the prophet. What a contrast!
Why did the latter hate the prophet? Because he did his job—he told the truth about the sins of the king and his people, and predicted God’s judgment upon them apart from repentance.
Today, we have no prophets (contrary to the views of a popular theological writer), but we have preachers who are as close to being prophets as anyone. When they do their job (fulfill their calling from God) they will frequently have to warn about the consequences of sin against God. When they do, they are often disliked (or possibly even hated) by those who listen. But they are as foolish for doing so as king Ahab, who lost his life as a result (v. 37).
Short-term mission trips are now part of the warp and woof of evangelical Christianity. Like so many other things, short-term trips have their pros and cons. Last week, I considered some of the virtues of taking a short-term missions trip. This week, I want to examine some of the challenges and difficulties. These issues are not deal breakers—they may not prohibit an individual or church from promoting a trip. But they may change the nature of the journey, its goals, and maybe even its location. In short, anyone considering such a venture should do a cost-benefit analysis of the proposed visit. Hard questions need to be asked when the Lord’s money is involved, because these trips are generally funded from the offerings of the Lord’s people. These visits are often quite costly, both in the funds required to travel and the hours involved in organizing, planning, and carrying them out. Are they worth the effort? This is an important question to probe before the trip is executed.
Among the most significant obstacles to an effective missions trip is the language barrier. Much of the world does not speak English. While this ought to...
The purpose of this essay is not to argue that visual media is inherently evil. Nor is its purpose to contend that visual media lacks any value. The purpose of this essay is to prove that printed media is simply better than visual media, and when faced with the choice to choose one or the other for spiritual, educational, or recreational purposes, a conscientious person should choose printed media over visual media in most cases. With each of the following points the possibility of immoral content is erased, quality in each form is assumed, and each medium is evaluated for its own inherent worth. Expressions of fiction are the primary focus of this essay, though these points could apply to other forms as well. An application of these points might be a comparison between reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë or viewing the film version. Another poignant example might be to compare reading the gospel accounts of the death of Christ or viewing The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson.
1. Printed media communicates through logic and analysis; Visual media communicates only through images. The very nature of visual media prevents its capacity for profound depth. Visual media...
Belief and trust in the Father’s unconditional love for us should prompt us to a worship of pleasing God, not placating God.The Christian life is not one of sending up merit into Heaven so that we may eventually have the right to stand there. The Christian life is believing that we are already seated in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph 2:6), and seeking to work that position down into life here in this world. Our obedience is not an attempt to earn the right to dwell in God’s presence, or an effort to maintain our standing in God’s presence. This approach only leads us to a rollercoaster of guilt and fleeting peace.
Crucial to communion is that Christians would grasp what A.W. Tozer wrote of: God is easy to live with.
The truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and His service one of unspeakable pleasure. He is all love, and those who trust Him need never know anything but that love. He is just indeed and He will not condone sin; but through the blood of the everlasting covenant He is able to act toward us...
An excerpt, but read the whole thing:
By striving, self-consciously, to be as culturally transcendent as possible, I would argue, we can cultivate timeless, transgenerational bodies that do not need to reinvent themselves every quarter century to remain solvent.
No, I haven’t been looking into facelifts or a new Fountain of Youth. I’ve been researching my health issues for about a decade now, and I’ve found a new path in the journey that, I have faith, will not be another merry-go-round, but rather an escalator! This new direction is Creator-based, using nutrients He made to heal the body He made!
Up until now, for the joint pain and inflammation (which tested negative for arthritis, Lupus, and RA…but positive for fibromyalgia), the fatigue (which tested positive…again…for Epstein Barr virus) and migraines (for which I’ve been treated by a few chiropractors as well as having a CAT scan and going to physical rehab for the structural instability in my neck), I feel like my health has been on a dimmer switch, gradually brightening.
The MD’s concluded:
I’m a homeschooler, and creator of the Facebook group, “Schoolin’ Swag”. This past Monday, we hosted a huge giveaway event called the “Planner Palooza”, featuring over 25 prizes. It was a great event!
Well, I’ve been investigating planners for at least 3 years, and in preparation for the Palooza, I did research all over the web, looking for the best products I could find to offer. I thought I’d seen it all. Then I got an email from the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-Op and my life took a new turn!
The Co-Op offers “Homeschool Planet” (click <– that link to see a video!) exclusively. Right now there is an offer to check it out for free for 30 days. It looked interesting, and was totally...
At first, NASCAR recently instituted a new rule that prohibits drivers or crew members from going on the track or approaching another moving vehicle. I am going to go ahead and go out on a limb here and suggest that if your employees need to be instructed not to stand in the middle of a road where cars are traveling in excess of 100 miles per hour, you should consider something besides a rule, something like, oh I don’t know … sending them back to first grade. I don’t say that to make light of the death of a racer, but seriously, why do you need a rule to tell people to stay out of the way of speeding cars? Isn’t that the first thing parents teach kids when they let them out of the back yard as a toddler? Yes, parents have to supervise that for a few years, but usually that becomes unnecessary. Apparently not if you are a NASCAR driver.
At second, here’s a nice article...
Roger Goodell and the NFL absolutely dropped the ball on the Ray Rice domestic violence situation.
Rice knocked his then girlfriend/now wife (what was she thinking? Does she have no one speaking into her life?) unconscious in a hotel elevator. He is now suspended for two games of the 2014 season.
Yes, that’s not a typo. He knocked his girlfriend unconscious in a rage and is suspended for two games.
By comparison, Terrell Pryor pulled some shenanigans to avoid an NCAA suspension and get in the NFL through the supplemental draft and got a five game suspension before he was ever in the NFL.
A guy named Robert Mathis got four games for taking some fertility drugs to help his wife conceive. Yes, four games for trying to start a family with your wife. Two games for knocking out your soon-to-be wife.
Using marijuana will you get you a whole year in the NFL, even in states where it’s legal to smoke marijuana.
So assuming the rational position that the punishment should fit the crime, and that we reward or punish based on relative significance, the NFL has declared that beating a woman unconscious is not as significant as trying to have...
The end of the week brings thoughts of the end of the age. At least for me it does, as I finalize a message for tomorrow on Matthew 24 and the Olivet Discourse.
A lot could be said about this passage, but what gets my keyboard going today is Craig Blomberg’s comments in the NAC regarding the identity of the “great distress” (NIV) in Matthew 24:21. He says,
The concept of a period of unparalleled distress (based on Dan 12:1) causes problems. If these two verses simply depict the horrors surrounding the war of A.D. 70, it is hard to see how v. 21 could be true. If they point to some end-time sacrilege, just before the Parousia, then it is hard to see how Matthew allows for a gap of at least two thousand years between vv. 20–21.*
I think he is correct that these verses cannot describe the war of A. D. 70. There’s too much history of violence to identify that event as “unequaled from the beginning until now, and never to be equaled again.” Not to mention, the Bible describes a period just before the end that is even worse than A.D. 70. It might be that A.D. 70 is a type of some sort, or a downpayment of sorts on that which is to come. But it is...
One last post on Hobby Lobby, and then I am done … at least for now.
The Detroit Free Press reports recently that some Democrats in Congress are making plans to pass a law to override the recent SCOTUS decision in the HL religious freedom case. That has apparently now been refused, as a mentioned in a previous post.
This article shows that people with microphones in front of their face still don’t get it. Here are three examples of the absolute falsehoods being propagated by people who should know better.
Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow says, “I am eager to work with my colleagues to make sure that women are making health care decisions in consultation with their doctor, not their employer.”
Perhaps she was out of the country and just got back and hasn’t had time to read the news yet, but there is nothing in this decision that has anything to do with women and their doctors. The women who work at HL are still completely free to consult with their doctors, to use whatever birth control they desire, and to have an abortion if they so desire. This decision...
Person 1: We have to outlaw _________, because too many people are getting killed.
Person 2: If we outlaw that, then people will just get it through other means that won’t be as safe and controlled.
Person 1: That doesn’t matter. We have to do it anyway.
If you put “guns” in the blank, you probably tend towards the liberal end of the political spectrum in the USA.
If you put “abortion” in the blank, you probably tend towards the conservative end of the political spectrum in the USA.
Both sides tend to support the things they like and oppose (at least in voice) the things they dislike.
I am reminded of this recently when I see that some in our Congress have introduced a bill to override the recent decision of SCOTUS in the Hobby Lobby case. Word is that the GOP has rejected it.
Can you imagine the outrage if someone had introduced a bill to overturn SCOTUS in the ACA/Obamacare case?
Turns out you don’t have to imagine it. We have seen the outrage of people on the left when the GOP (rightly or wrongly) introduced bill after bill to overturn Obamacare. After the...
I’m working up a paper on ‘The Story of Israel in Hebrews 11’ and one of the preliminary matters I’m trying to get a handle on is the point of the chapter. That is, before I can say anything about how Hebrews tells Israel’s story, I need to figure out what the author’s trying to do with his ‘catalogue of heroes.’ I was doing a bit of reading in Gary Cockerill’s (magnificent) new commentary and came across an article he’d published about this very issue. In it, he suggests that Hebrews 11 is about encouraging ‘resurrection faith,’ based on its references to resurrection in vv. 17–19 and v. 35. To prove his point, Cockerill argues for the centrality of these two references in the chapter’s structure. Here I’d simply like to summarize his argument and pass it along for consideration.
The centrality of vv. 17–19. Cockerill suggests...
During his lifetime, C. S. Lewis (1898–1963) received thousands of letters from young fans who had read the Chronicles of Narnia and wanted to connect with the author. One such fan was an American girl named Joan Lancaster, who wrote to Lewis in June of 1956. We don’t know exactly what Joan wrote in her letter, but Lewis’s reply is one of the many letters preserved in his book Letters to Children (63–65). (As a side note, if you begin reading this little book you probably won’t put it down until you reach the last page. Lewis’s graciousness and creativity in these letters is quite refreshing. For a university professor, he treated children rather well.)
In his reply to his young admirer, Lewis talked about the nature of language and writing. He said that in his view “good English” was basically “whatever educated people talk,” and that this would...
Over the past decade it has been popular to distinguish between “cultural fundamentalism” and “historic fundamentalism.” Cultural fundamentalism is regarded by its critics as very, very bad. It consists of folksy/outdated traditionalism that has drifted from its quaint, innocuous origins and has entered a bitter, skeptical stage of life—complete with theological errors of a sort that typically attend aging, countercultural movements. Historic fundamentalism, which focuses more on basic theological issues, fares a little bit better, but only a very little bit. Critics puzzle over those who accept this label, marveling that anyone would risk associative guilt by lingering near those nasty cultural fundamentalists: “Why not get with the program,” they ask, “and become a conservative evangelical?”
Part of the reason, I would venture, is that conservative evangelicalism itself appears, to all but those blinded by its euphoria, to be yet another cultural phenomenon—a new iteration of a broader movement (evangelicalism) that, let’s face it, has a track record easily as jaded as that of fundamentalism. True, the conservative evangelicals of today are a bit more...
In 1768 the French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire wrote: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” Voltaire was not trying to denigrate Christianity. Rather, he was arguing for the social benefit of belief in God. He thought that belief in God helped provide incentive to people to live morally and helped establish social order and justice. Thus, if God did not exist, it would be better for society to convince people that God did exist.
There are a growing number of atheists in our day who are clamoring for the abolishment of religion. The late Christopher Hitchens was a leading voice in this movement, and he did not hide his contempt for Voltaire’s sentiment. “Though I dislike to differ with such a great man, Voltaire was simply ludicrous when he said that if god did not exist it would be necessary to invent him. The human invention of god is the problem to begin with” (God is Not Great, 96).
In response to these calls for the abolishment of religion, some are continuing to argue that religion, though perhaps (likely?) false, is still good. Thus, much of the discussion has moved past the question of whether or not...
The winner of our recent book giveaway was Chris K. in Clarkston, MI. His copy of Four Views on the Apostle Paul is in the mail. Congratulations, Chris. And thanks to all who participated.
The latest episode of the edifying and motivating Dispatches from the Front DVD Series released last month: Day of Battle . It is set in North Africa.
Tomorrow begins what I hope will be many meetings with my four new seminary mentees. They are each in year three of our four-year MDiv-program at Bethlehem College and Seminary. Among other things we’re planning to work through many of the letters in this book:
I briefly reviewed this book in 2006 after Jenni and I read it together, and I reread it earlier this month. It’s packed with wisdom. So edifying.
The entire book is...
More info here.