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Archive | Biblical Studies

Asking Questions Like Jesus

Have you ever sat in awkward silence with strangers wondering what to say next? Or, have you wondered how to grow in your knowledge of the world, of people, or of God? Have you pondered how you might more effectively minister to people? One answer to problems posed in those questions is to ask a good question.

Young children ask “Why?” countless times a day. Some of us struggle to mature beyond that stage. I started my first job at age 13. Soon, I frustrated my boss with constant queries, and he finally asked me to stop asking “Why?” Looking back, he was amazingly patient with my abuse of a good thing.

You see, God created the question. He made us as relational beings, and he brings growth through question and answer. If we are to grow in our relationship with God and men, we need to grow as inquisitive creatures.

A Post About Post-ness

Are we to be congratulated for being a “post” society?  The word “post” has come to take on a subtle, special significance when used as a prefix in the world of sociology, philosophy and therefore theology.

The term is used in a general way to indicate “afterward.”  In history, the phrase “post-Reformation Europe” calls to mind a particular set of years and the ideas which have driven and defined it.  But in our culture, the term “post” means not merely a chunk of history and the ideas which animate it.  We use “post” as both a description of how things are and a prescription of how things should be.  It is a comment on the movement of society, but also a self-congratulatory compliment on the particular direction in which we’re heading. 

Practicing While Preaching

This past Lord’s Day, I had to practice what I preached while I preached.  How so?

Lately I have been preaching each week on one of the eight qualities of heavenly wisdom found in James 3:17.  Two key principles have guided me in this short series.  First, the emphasis of the Book of James is on practicing our faith.  Indeed, the immediate context of this verse asks, “Who among you is wise and understanding?” then answers, “Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.” So we have been focusing as a congregation on how wisdom should change our character and actions.  Secondly, since James relies heavily on the Old Testament and is considered to be the “New Testament Book of Wisdom,” my approach has been to have us look at the quality from the Old Testament Book of Wisdom, i.e, the Proverbs.

Yesterday, as I used the seventh quality for a communion address, I had a bit of dilemma.  James 3:17 in the New American Standard Bible we use reads, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”  The word in bold, “unwavering,” was the quality under study but was not in my […]

Allergy Prescription from the Doctor

One of the great soul ailments from which we all need to be cured is self-pity.  How about I offer you a doctor’s prescription for it?

In his homilies on Psalm 73 published in Faith on Trial by Christian Focus, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, medical doctor turned premier pastor in London in the last century, applies this psalm to help us with this problem. Lloyd-Jones shows how the psalmist, focused on not being pleased with outer circumstances, made his own heart “embittered” (verse 21) by working it up into a state of what he deems spiritual “hypersensitivity.”  Listen to him describe it:

2 Corinthians and the Grand Purposes of God

I’ve been chewing on 2 Corinthians lately, not in the slow methodical way where each sentence is carefully weighed in the balances of exegesis, but at a normal pace, like how a person might read a weighty, personal letter.  The eye is trained more on the whole of the epistle rather than the details.  A “feel” is sought after.

Much could be said in this regard.  One might note the deep personality of the Corinthian correspondence, how Paul’s character and heart and hopes bleed through.  There’s also an abundance of material concerning Church polity, false teachers, and suffering.  All of these and much more permeate the epistle richly.

Poy-ems as Christology

Yesterday, The Reverend Barry York gave us some Christology via versification. T. David Gordon in his little book, Why Johnny Can’t Preach reminds us of the importance of literature in preparing thoughtful preachers, especially poems (or as my professor from seminary, David Murray, would say, “poy-ems”):

“Whatever else it may be, poetry is not trivial. It may be perverse or twisted, angry or bitter, rebellious or self-centered, heterodox or even blasphemous, but it is not trivial.”

Since poetry is not trivial, and since Barry brought us sound Christology yesterday, and since I love thinking about the way that David Murray says “poem,” and because it is always appropriate to meditate on Jesus,  I offer you this stanza from Edward Shillito’s “Jesus of the Scars” for your Thursday meditation:

The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak; 
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak;
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.

The Joy of Paying Taxes

Do you delight in paying taxes? That’s a tough question as April 17 stares us in the face. The income tax deadline looms in the United States as we sort through piles of W-2s, 1099s, receipts, mileage records, various forms, the tax code, and perhaps TurboTax. Jesus commands us to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21). God has appointed civil government, and Jesus himself paid taxes (Matthew 17:24-27). Obedience should always involve joy. Therefore, paying taxes ought to be a thing of joy for the believer. Certainly, some duties, like disciplining our children, or submitting ourselves to discipline, do not call for giddy ecstasy, but doing God’s will should be our delight even when difficult. Hebrews 12:11 reminds us that: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

On the First Day Sabbath

Since several folks have raised the issue of why Christians celebrate the Lord’s Day on the first day of the week, I thought I’d write briefly about that issue.

Our Catechism says, “From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian sabbath” (Westminster Shorter Catechism 59).

The Sabbath, which is a creation ordinance, affirmed in the Ten Commandments, is perpetual and binding on all believers in all times and places (Exodus 20:8-11).  The day in which the Sabbath is celebrated was moved from the seventh day of the week to the first day of the week with the resurrection of Jesus on that day.  The practice of the Christian church throughout its history has affirmed this position.  That fact, of course, does not make the practice biblical, but it certainly should give us great confidence that the early church was on to something.  What was it? 

On the Lord’s Day

Exodus 35:2: “A sabbath rest to the Lord.”

From Dr. John Murray as we rest today from our daily labor and are released to the contemplation of the glory of God:

God rested on the seventh day from his work of creation but he continued to be omnipresently active in the work of providence. Hence our rest of the Sabbath is not one of inaction, of idleness, far less of sloth. It is the rest of another kind of activity. It is indeed rest from the ordinary employments of the other six days. There is cessation from that activity and the labour which it entails. But it is also rest to or rest in; it is rest to and rest in the Lord.

On the Lord’s Day

Encouragement today from E.J. Young for all of us who walk as strangers and exiles on the earth (Hebrews 11:13):

“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken” Isaiah 58:13-14 (ESV).