Was Isaiah 29 the Apostle Paul’s favorite chapter from the Old Testament? If asked what the chapter is about, most Christians would probably reason as follows: 1) I have no clue. But if I have to guess… 2) It’s an Old Testament prophecy and the chapter does not ring any “famous chapter” bells, so… 3) It must be about…um…JUDGMENT! And, you’d be right! But if it is so seemingly obscure why could we nominate it for “Best Chapter” of the Apostle Paul in the Old Testament?
Have you noticed a problem with some Christian men?
Do you think that the problem with some men today is that they are really boys in men’s bodies? Do you think that there is a reason why statistically there are more women in the church than men? Do you think that female pastors and elders may be partially the male gender’s fault? Do you know a number of young women that you would recommend to marry, but really can’t think of too many young men that you would recommend? Do you know Christian men that seem to sit back while their wives lead the family? Do you know a Christian man-child?
The state of Christian manhood does not look good.
If one were so bold, one might say that Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians is merely 3 John 1:4 in expanded form. The verse reads thus, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
(This is part 2 in a series. The Intro can be found here. Part 1 here)
“And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another” (Rom 15:14).
Exhorting or admonishing others can be difficult, if not downright uncomfortable. But this is especially the case when spiritual disaster is at issue. When we are made to watch a brother or sister walk dangerously close to the edge of apostasy, that narrow and crumbling rim where the line between life and death is but separated by a hair, we often reel with bewilderment and uncertainty, unsure of what to say or do. Might we simply love them, or pray for them, or plead with them, or brow beat them? Should we warn them? And if so, how? Should we encourage them? If so, how?
These are all admittedly difficult questions, and while the circumstances surrounding each particular case will affect the details, there are, perhaps, a few constants. And the book of Hebrews helps us discern them.
(This is part one of a series introduced here).
Of all the letters Paul wrote, Ephesians is perhaps the most general. Unlike Philemon or 1 Thessalonians or 1 Corinthians, a pressing concern isn’t setting the agenda. And because of this Paul is able to write more freely. The door is wide open, if you will. He can address whatever he chooses.
So while Ephesians may not drip with the drama of the Corinthian correspondence, it nevertheless provides us with some interesting insights as a letter. In order to get at this, we need to back up and consider a few dates (Don’t worry, it’s brief and relevant).
I’d like to begin a new series. The topic: Paradigms and Parchments- The Apostolic Example of Problem Solving
When we’re facing a difficult issue, asking ourselves how to best handle or approach a particular problem, we often look to specific texts of Scripture for guidance. For example, suppose someone wants to know how they should interact with a brother or sister committing sexual immorality. One verse to be considered, among many, would be 1 Corinthians 5:9-13. Or suppose you want to know how to conduct yourself with unbelievers, especially within the context of evangelism. A verse like 2 Timothy 2:24-26 is surely instructive.
This is how we often look for answers in the Bible. We search out texts that address the issue, compile a list, and reflect. Now while this is very good and very necessary, I want to suggest and take some time to consider another approach, one that functions more on the macro level than the micro level of individual passages. What do I have in mind?
We stood in the cemetery. My then-five-year-old daughter listened as I explained the resurrection – its reality and its glory. “But, Dad,” she interrupted, “how are they going to make sure they don’t hit their heads on the rocks when they get up?” Great question! We quickly segued to a discussion of the resurrection body (cf. John 20:26, 1 Corinthians 15:35-49) and of headstones.
Headstones bear witness to future generations of those who have lived in the past. For Christians, they testify that these bodies will rise when Jesus returns in glory. Sadly, recent generations have resorted to simple blocks of granite with basic information: names and dates. I suppose simplicity avoids excess. But isn’t there something profound about the messages engraved on headstones of previous generations? They bore artistry and quoted Scripture or other wise sayings that drew out something of the nature of the ones buried there.
With this entry, I’ll begin a series of meditations upon the meaning and application of essential Calvinistic beliefs. I hope these thoughts will encourage all who read and be a particular encouragement to those grappling with Calvinism or wrestling with the claims of Christianity in general. (Note: Sorry for the formatting issues -I’m still learning!)
Calvinists subscribe to what are popularly called the Doctrines of Grace. These are summarized in five headings and planted in the acronym TULIP. This entry will deal with the T: Total Depravity.
Smartphones order our lives helpfully, or at least they can. In one tiny device, we carry a phone, a camera, an alarm clock, a web browser, an atlas, a notebook, a mailbox, a calendar, a library, an audio and video player, and a million apps that do everything from forecasting the weather to finding a spouse. Yet, their small screens and tiny keyboards limit their usefulness. These devices certainly fall short of desktop capacity. On the other hand, their portability makes them far more powerful for the user than a desktop most of the time.
These tools enrich life and make it more efficient. Like every great human idea, they simply copy God’s pattern. God gives us everything we need for life and godliness in his book. But, it’s hard to memorize the whole thing, and it’s not always portable. It’s the desktop. So, the Lord placed the smartphone of the soul right in the center of Scripture. It’s 150 chapters long, and touches every human need. It does not carry all the details of the whole book, but its impact on the soul is often greater.
An interlude in the blog series on Calvinism – here are wonderful, heart-felt and heart filling words regarding our Savior’s relationship to the Psalms –
“Here the language of the Bible comes to meet the very thoughts of our hearts before these can even clothe themselves in language and we recognize that we could not have expressed them better than the Spirit has expressed them for us . . . Our Lord himself, who had a perfect religious experience and lived and walked with God in absolute adjustment of his thoughts and desires to the Father’s mind and will, our Lord himself found his inner life portrayed in the Psalter and in some of the highest moments of his ministry borrowed from it the language in which his soul spoke to God, thus recognizing that a more perfect language for communion with God cannot be framed.”
– taken from “Songs from the Soul” preached by Geerhardus Vos in 1902. The sermon can be found in Grace and Glory: Sermons Preached in the Chapel of Princeton Theological Seminary, The Banner of Truth Trust,Carlisle,PA: 1994.