Archives For Theology

QuestionsDo my questions have any bearing, any weight, on the core of orthodox Christianity?

In my book, If God Disappears, I talk about my experiences traversing a massive and very steep glacier. It took 12 hours to carve out hand and foot holds to go up. It took 5 minutes of glissading to come back down. Did my boots and gloves make any difference to that glacier while I was climbing up? And, did my boots make any difference on the way down? No. Why not? That glacier very well could have been on that steep mountain side for thousands of years. It was immensely thick and mainly consisted of very hard packed snow turned to ice. What’s more, the glacier stretched for 2 miles. My presence no more impacted that glacier than an ant does while walking up and down the bark of the massive 125-year-old pine tree in my front yard.

Again, do my questions have any bearing, any weight, on the core of orthodox Christianity? No. Why not? By definition, the core of orthodox Christianity was established nearly two thousand years ago. It was intensely forged and mainly consists of a…

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DigitalThe Digital Age is upon us. In the span of less than three decades, we have redefined the way humans communicate, entertain, inform, research, create and connect — and what we know now is only a hint of what is to come. But the greatest concern of the church is not a technological imperative, but a Gospel imperative.

The digital world did not exist a generation ago, and now it is a fundamental fact of life. The world spawned by the personal computer, the Internet, social media and the smart phone now constitutes the greatest arena of public discussion and debate the world has ever known.

Leaders who talk about the real world as opposed to the digital world are making a mistake, a category error. While we are right to prioritize real face-to-face conversations and to find comfort and grounding in stable authorities like the printed book, the digital world is itself a real world, just real in a different way.

Real communication is happening in the digital world, on the Web and on the smart phone in your pocket. Real information is being shared and globally disseminated faster than…

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John 3-16By Mark Coppenger

Like the fellow who thought he’d be crossing visible longitude lines on his ocean voyage to Europe, some may think that the chapter and verse divisions were on the sheet when apostles such as John (or psalmists such as David) wrote down Scripture.

But no, they wrote letters and poetry and Gospels and other history without numbering. Those markers were added centuries later. Indeed, when Jesus referred to Exodus 3:6 in Mark 12:26, He simply located it in “in the passage about the burning bush.” Neither the “12:26” nor the “3:6” were yet in place.

To make a long story short, biblical scholars were making divisions of one sort or another in the centuries following the books’ original composition, but it wasn’t until the early 1200s that we got our current chapter setup, thanks to Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton. As for the verses, Jewish scribes had already done work on the Old Testament around the year 900, and their work was wedded to Langton’s. But the church had to wait another 300 years for its New Testament breakdown, performed by a French-born printer, Robert Estienne or…

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Have you ever thought about how Jesus viewed the Old Testament? Since the Old Testament was the entire Bible in His day, His view of it can be understood as His view of the Bible.

Matthew has the first record of Jesus’ temptations. When Satan came to Jesus in the wilderness in order to tempt Jesus, the Savior’s response was to quote Scripture. His strength to resist temptation was found in obedience to God’s Word.

Later, when confronting the Pharisees, Jesus said, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, because he wrote about Me. But if you don’t believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” How trustworthy were the writings of Moses? Jesus, the living Word of God, equated Moses’ words with His own.

Following His resurrection, Jesus met two disciples walking to the town of Emmaus. During the ensuing discussion Luke relates that Jesus began “with Moses and all the Prophets” interpreting “for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (24:27). Later, after Jesus vanished before their very eyes they said to…

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heaven&earth.proclaimBy Russell D. Moore

I have long suspected that many Christians dread not just death but heaven. We won’t admit that, of course. Our hymnody, of whatever era, is filled with songs about the joy of the afterlife, and “what a day of rejoicing that will be.” We’re glad we’re not going to hell or to oblivion. But most of our songs and sermon mentions are about that first few moments in heaven: when we see Jesus, when we’re reunited with our loved ones, and so on. It’s like the happy ending of the story. And that’s the problem.

The Gospel tells us that Satan keeps unbelievers bound by fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). Believers, too often, dread death also, though not as much from fear as from boredom. We see the story of our lives as encompassing this span of 70 or 80 or 100 years. The life to come is our “great reward” in “the afterlife.”

But just think about that word “afterlife.” It assumes eternity is an endless postlude to where the action really happens. It’s “after.” Our “reward” happens after we’ve lived our lives. Here’s why this…

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McFatridge.PrayerActionBy Claude King

Years ago, while reading one of my dozens of books by Andrew Murray, I learned that our modern posture of prayer (kneeling with hands clasped with head bowed) didn’t come from Judaism but from a medieval ceremony. I undertook a study of that ceremony while writing a booklet, “Consecrate the People: Renewing Our Covenant Commitments to Jesus Christ.”

The homage ceremony

In the homage ceremony a king, lord or landowner would call his vassals or subjects before him to pledge their loyalty and obedience to their lord. The king would hold out his open hands. The subject would kneel with bowed head and place his hands inside the hands of his king. Then he would say these words, “I am your man.” (The name of the ceremony comes from the Latin word for man.)

That simple statement essentially meant, “I belong to you.” It included the obligation to obey any request of the king, even the call to battle. That pledge of obedience also included a readiness to obey even if the assignment would cost the life of the subject. It could become a pledge of obedience even…

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Subversive KingdomSome people talk as if the church isn’t necessary to this endeavor anymore, that it no longer applies to his plan and mission to the same degree it once did. They say, “God is at work outside the church”–and, yes, he is. They say, “The kingdom is bigger than the church”–and, yes, it is. They say, “The kingdom of God is not the church”–and no, it isn’t.

But the missionary purpose that forges our identity, placed within us by a missional God, continues to draw us into the core of his kingdom activity. The ministry of his gospel has been designed “so that God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church” (Eph. 3:10, italics added). And so that through us, he receives glory.

The church, therefore, remains his central tool for accomplishing the subversive kingdom’s agenda. No, we are not the means of reconciliation any more than the misinformed modern citizen is the potential conduit to heaven on earth. God does the saving, not the church. But just as he sent Jesus here to establish a beachhead for the kingdom, and just as Jesus dispatched his first disciples…

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canned foodIt’s that brief season of the year when most people are still on track with their resolutions to eat more healthfully and lose weight. In pursuit of that goal, millions have consulted Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, online diet plans, calorie-counting apps and a host of other nutritional guides — most of which have great value.

But what about the Bible? Does it have anything to say about our eating habits?

Certainly it does. Incorporating Scripture’s wisdom into our New Year’s resolutions could mean the difference between success and failure

First of all, we should make a distinction between healthy eating and fasting. The Bible says a great deal about fasting, but that’s abstaining from food for a purely spiritual purpose.

Healthy eating habits are a different matter, which the Bible also addresses. For one, the apostle Paul calls the body “a temple of the Holy Spirit” and urges, “You are not your own … glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The context is an exhortation to flee sexual immorality and not profane the body that was created to honor God, but there’s an application to diet as well. Honoring…

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Color.ofCross.pcom_-300x231Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

Regret is a painful thing. We look back on the foolish things we have done and the good things we have left undone. We lament wasted years, wrong attitudes, hurts inflicted on others, missed opportunities.

Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse, spent years caring for patients in their last days. She identified the most common regrets they expressed about their lives in an article, and later a book, titled “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.” They are:

1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

“This was the most common regret of all,” Ware writes. “When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.”

2. “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”

“This came from every male patient that I nursed,” Ware reports. “They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also…

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For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2 (NIV)

New Years ResolutionsHow are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? Have you already given up on them?

One of my friends made these resolutions to guarantee success —

  • I won’t lose ten pounds this year.
  • I commit to watching the Super Bowl this year.
  • I will listen to my iPod at least four days a week.

There is one guy who I suspect played for keeps when he made New Year’s resolutions. You know him, the zealot who could never do anything half-way, the let’s-get-real-about-our-faith Apostle Paul.

My thought is Paul only had one resolution on his list New Year’s list – ‘This year I resolve to know nothing but Christ and him crucified.’ (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Paul’s message is radically simple: Salvation is in Christ alone.

  • It’s not Christ plus your call to ministry.
  • It’s not Christ plus your theological education.
  • It’s not Christ plus the size of your congregation.
  • It’s not Christ plus your powerful preaching.
  • It’s not Christ plus how many you lead to Jesus.
  • It’s not Christ plus your years of sacrifice.
  • It’s not Christ…

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Color.ofCross.pcomTIME Magazine is calling it, “The Massacre of the Innocents“. And, it was.

Yet, that phrase has another meaning that many might not know. The Gospel of Matthew recorded this:

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been outwitted by the wise men, flew into a rage. He gave orders to massacre all the male children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, in keeping with the time he had learned from the wise men. Then what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be consoled,because they were no more” (Matthew 2:16-18).

Bible scholars think that this small village of Bethlehem had a population of about 1000, which means about 20 infant boys would have been killed by Herod’s evil command. Yes, 20 children. Though Jesus was not among the killed, the weeping was real and loud for those who experienced yet another loss. And, we know that God grieved with Rachel who weeped for her children.

Yet, outside of the Gospel of…

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Gospel TheologyI recently heard Tim Keller speak on his new book Center Church (more on this in the blog later). The image above is his outline on gospel theology which is about one-eighth of the book. I am halfway through the book and I believe it is the most important book on church leadership written in my lifetime.

Here are a few quotes, including four stellar declarations of a church that is true to the Gospel:

#1 We are a church not just for ourselves but for those who don’t believe

#2 We are a church not just for ourselves but for the poor

#3 We are a church not just for ourselves but for the whole body of Christ

#4 We are a church not just for ourselves but for our church community

Two other quotes:

“In some ways we need to shape the church to be more engaged with the culture and in other ways we need to shape the church to be more confrontational with the culture.” – Tim Keller

“In the church members should say,  ’I give up the right to live my life the way I want, and I submit myself to a covenant community.’” -…

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