Introduction to the NT

Below is a short presentation I put together as an introduction to the NT. In many places it’s too general and brief, but overall it might be helpful to get a small taste of the world and text of the New Testament.

WordPress doesn’t handle the Prezi format very well, so if it doesn’t load on this page, click the title of the presentation and it should take you to the Prezi site. Leave comments or feedback if you’d like!

Categories: The Bible | Leave a comment

Love and Marriage

In the aftermath of the recent federal ruling to overturn Michigan’s constitutional definition of marriage (defined as between one man and one woman), I’ve observed lots of reactions, mostly favorable.  One line of reasoning I’ve seen numerous times goes something like this: “It’s wrong to not let people who love one another get married.” Or stated another way, “Gays should be allowed to marry because they love one another.” It seems simple and reasonable, but in fact it’s too simple and un-reasonable.

Here’s why: marriage is not synonymous with love. And I’d bet everyone would agree with this.

Try a simple thought experiment: if love is the only defining condition for marriage, then why not let John marry Stephanie and Jim? All three love one another, and all three want to be married. If you think this is silly, try telling it to Ahmed from Oman who wants his four wives to move here to the States with him. Or, why not let Joe (40 yrs old) marry Matt (14 yrs old), assuming of course that they love one another? Wait, what’s that? A 14 yr old is too young to know what love is? Oh, except we teach him sex-ed and give him free condoms in middle-school—he’s obviously ready to express his love to someone (at least that’s what we’re teaching him). Or, Sally loves her dog Yeller, shouldn’t they be allowed to marry? You say No? Why all the hate, man? Why are you so restrictive in your definition of marriage?

This simple experiment shows that everyone has limits in their view of marriage (unless you’re okay with the above examples). So marriage is not synonymous with love. Just because two entities claim to “love” one another does not justify sanctioning the relationship with marriage. The problem, however, is for those who are using this logic to justify SSM: on what basis can you limit marriage once it’s flattened to be synonymous with love? On what basis can you limit marriage to two? Or how can you limit marriage to certain ages? Equating marriage with love proves too much; it gives away too much ground. Now we’re left with our feet firmly planted in the air.

Equating marriage with love strips both terms of their essence. Love and marriage have boundaries without which both become trivialized and meaningless. If marriage is more than love, then what is it? And how do you know?

Categories: Culture, Sexuality | Leave a comment

World’s Toughest Athlete

This guy takes the cake for world’s toughest athlete. I can’t begin to imagine the mental composure it would take to do what he does. It also reminds me that my half marathon training schedule isn’t so remarkable. 

 

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A Life-Changing Doctrine

This is a great biography that puts flesh on some of the most beautiful, life sustaining, missions motivating, intellectually challenging doctrines of the Bible. Check it out.

Categories: Calvinism, Reformed Theology | Leave a comment

The Gospel in Arabia

John Piper gives a summary of his time in Dubai, the same place I had the privilege of visiting last spring. It is truly remarkable what God is doing on the Arabian peninsula. Here’s his conclusion:

I thank God for the Christians in Dubai. They respect the Sheikh, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and he is generous to Christians. In this context, the best news in all the world is running — that God saves sinners through the work of Jesus Christ. It made me want to dream big for the living of a wise and strategic life for the reaching of the unreached peoples of the world.

Categories: Churches, Missions | Leave a comment

An Unlikely Convert

This is a fascinating story. What did it look like for a prominent, lesbian, university professor to become a Christian?

Categories: Evangelism, Sexuality | 2 Comments

What to Learn from the “Giglio Imbroglio”

Al Mohler has some insightful commentary on the “Giglio Imbroglio.” Most are focusing on the political dimension of this flare-up–how it is yet another display of the intolerance of the new tolerance. Yet, for Christians there’s something more for us to learn from Giglio. Here’s how Mohler says it:

Two other dimensions of this story also demand attention. First, we should note that Louie Giglio has not been known lately for taking any stand on the issue of homosexuality. To the contrary, Giglio’s own statement withdrawing from the invitation made this clear…

A fair-minded reading of that statement indicates that Pastor Giglio has strategically avoided any confrontation with the issue of homosexuality for at least fifteen years. The issue “has not been in the range of my priorities,” he said. Given the Bible’s insistance that sexual morality is inseparable from our “ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ,” this must have been a difficult strategy. It is also a strategy that is very attractive to those who want to avoid being castigated as intolerant or homophobic. As this controversy makes abundantly clear, it is a failed strategy. Louie Giglio was cast out of the circle of the acceptable simply because a liberal watchdog group found one sermon he preached almost twenty years ago. If a preacher has ever taken a stand on biblical conviction, he risks being exposed decades after the fact. Anyone who teaches at any time, to any degree, that homosexual behavior is a sin is now to be cast out.

This is exhibit A against wishful thinking that focuses on social justice as a way to win the support of the wider culture. Giglio has done more than any other in the evangelical spotlight against human trafficking, so much so that he caught the attention of the President. Yet all his accomplishments are washed away with one simple declaration made 20 years ago: “I believe homosexuality is a sin.” Seeking to win the favor of the establishment by avoiding core issues of naturally (and specially) revealed truth is a horrible strategy. It hasn’t worked in the past and is clearly not working now. No matter how much good we may do, the new litmus test is one simple question: “What do you believe about sexuality?” We better be prepared to answer this question and be ready to be cast out of the public square (assuming of course we affirm biblical teaching).

 

UPDATE: There is some uncertainty whether the White House removed Giglio or whether he removed himself first. It matters a great deal. If the WH forced him out, there should be much concern about religious liberty and the presence of evangelicals in the public square. If Giglio removed himself in light of an impending controversy over homosexuality, this says much about his credibility as a minister of the gospel. On this latter point, see here: “Neither Giglio nor his spokeswoman would comment directly about where the pastor stands today on the issue of homosexuality.” What this shows is that the issue of homosexuality (and sexuality in general) is the defacto litmus test for evangelical faithfulness. I hope Giglio will clarify his position soon.

 

Categories: Politics, Sexuality | Leave a comment

Will Everything Sad Come Untrue?

In the wake of so much tragedy, suffering, and unconscionable loss, where does one turn for hope, comfort, answers, and explanations? To ask it another way, can we really trust that some day will everything sad will come untrue? We say so with simple platitudes and words of comfort–everything will be okay, my thoughts are will you, God is in control, etc. But do we really have any basis for believing that one day ultimate justice will come and everything that is twisted, wrong, perverted, and unjust will be made right? Will everything sad come untrue?

Only if the truth of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are real, and only if he will come back to right every wrong, restore every injustice, and wipe every tear from our eye. Jesus is the only way for everything sad to come untrue. He is our only objectivetrue comfort in life and in death. And if we can trust him in the midst of tragedy, he is worthy to be trusted in every aspect of our lives.

Think about this: the only way for our thoughts and prayers to be of any real comfort or hope is if there really is a God who hears prayer, a God who understands our suffering, a God who can sympathize with our weakness, a God who is powerful enough to be in control of such gross sin. The good news is that there is such a God, and he has made himself known in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is not only a source of comfort in tragedy, he is the source for everything that is good, right, lovely, and true.

There’s a lot more that could be said and lots of questions that still need answering. For any interested, I’ve copied below a transcript of a sermon given to the families and friends of those killed in the 9/11 attacks. It might help give some eternal, real, objective perspective in trying to make sense of suffering, tragedy, and death. Maranatha (Come, Lord Jesus).

———-

As a minister, of course, I’ve spent countless hours with people who are struggling and wrestling with the biggest question – the WHY question in the face of relentless tragedies and injustices. And like all ministers or any spiritual guides of any sort, I scramble to try to say something to respond and I always come away feeling inadequate and that’s not going to be any different today. But we can’t shrink from the task of responding to that question. Because the very best way to honor the memories of the ones we’ve lost and love is to live confident, productive lives. And the only way to do that is to actually be able to face that question. We have to have the strength to face a world filled with constant devastation and loss. So where do we get that strength? How do we deal with that question? I would like to propose that, though we won’t get all of what we need, we may get some of what we need 3 ways: by recognizing the problem for what it is, and then by grasping both an empowering hint from the past and an empowering hope from the future.

First, we have to recognize that the problem of tragedy, injustice and suffering is a problem for everyone no matter what their beliefs are. Now, if you believe in God and for the first time experience or see horrendous evil, you rightly believe that that is a problem for your belief in God, and you’re right – and you say, “How could a good and powerful God allow something like this to happen?”

But it’s a mistake (though a very understandable mistake) to think that if you abandon your belief in God it somehow is going to make the problem easier to handle. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from Birmingham Jail says that if there was no higher divine Law, there would be no way to tell if a particular human law was unjust or not. So think. If there is no God or higher divine Law and the material universe is all there is, then violence is perfectly natural—the strong eating the weak! And yet somehow, we still feel this isn’t the way things ought to be. Why not? Now I’m not going to get philosophical at a time like this. I’m just trying to make the point that the problem of injustice and suffering is a problem for belief in God but it is also a problem for disbelief in God—for any set of beliefs. So abandoning belief in God does not really help in the face of it. OK, then what will?

Second, I believe we need to grasp an empowering hint from the past. Now at this point, I’d like to freely acknowledge that every faith – and we are an interfaith gathering today – every faith has great resources for dealing with suffering and injustice in the world. But as a Christian minister I know my own faith’s resources the best, so let me simply share with you what I’ve got. When people ask the big question, “Why would God allow this or that to happen?” There are almost always two answers. The one answer is: Don’t question God! He has reasons beyond your finite little mind. And therefore, just accept everything. Don’t question. The other answer is: I don’t know what God’s up to – I have no idea at all about why these things are happening. There’s no way to make any sense of it at all. Now I’d like to respectfully suggest the first of these answers is too hard and the second is too weak. The second is too weak because, though of course we don’t have the full answer, we do have an idea, an incredibly powerful idea.

One of the great themes of the Hebrew Scriptures is that God identifies with the suffering. There are all these great texts that say things like this: If you oppress the poor, you oppress to me. I am a husband to the widow. I am father to the fatherless. I think the texts are saying God binds up his heart so closely with suffering people that he interprets any move against them as a move against him. This is powerful stuff! But Christianity says he goes even beyond that. Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s son, divinity became vulnerable to and involved in – suffering and death! He didn’t come as a general or emperor. He came as a carpenter. He was born in a manger, no room in the inn.

But it is on the Cross that we see the ultimate wonder. On the cross we sufferers finally see, to our shock that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack. And so you see what this means? John Stott puts it this way. John Stott wrote: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” Do you see what this means? Yes, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the Cross is an incredibly empowering hint. Ok, it’s only a hint, but if you grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength.

And lastly, we have to grasp an empowering hope for the future. In both the Hebrew Scriptures and even more explicitly in the Christian Scriptures we have the promise of resurrection. In Daniel 12:2-3 we read: Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake….[They]… will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and…like the stars for ever and ever. And in John 11 we hear Jesus say: I am the resurrection and the life! Now this is what the claim is: That God is not preparing for us merely some ethereal, abstract spiritual existence that is just a kind of compensation for the life we lost. Resurrection means the restoration to us of the life we lost. New heavens and new earth means this body, this world! Our bodies, our homes, our loved ones—restored, returned, perfected and beautified! Given back to us!

In the year after 9-11 I was diagnosed with cancer, and I was treated successfully. But during that whole time I read about the future resurrection and that was my real medicine. In the last book of The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee wakes up, thinking everything is lost and discovering instead that all his friends were around him, he cries out: “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?

The answer is YES. And the answer of the Bible is YES. If the resurrection is true, then the answer is yes. Everything sad is going TO COME UNTRUE.

Oh, I know many of you are saying, “I wish I could believe that.” And guess what? This idea is so potent that you can go forward with that. To even want the resurrection, to love the idea of the resurrection, long for the promise of the resurrection even though you are unsure of it, is strengthening. I John 3:2-3. Beloved, now we are children of God and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope purify themselves as he is pure.” Even to have a hope in this is purifying.

Listen to how Dostoevsky puts it in Brothers Karamazov: “I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, of the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that they’ve shed; and it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify what has happened.”

That is strong and that last sentence is particularly strong…but if the resurrection is true, it’s absolutely right. Amen.

SERVICE OF REMEMBRANCE AND PEACE
FOR 9-11 VICTIMS’ FAMILIES
Ground Zero/St Paul’s Chapel Tim Keller
Sep 10, 2006

(Source)

Categories: Evangelism | 2 Comments

The Sin of the Tongue

This is from a sermon on Ps. 15:3 by Matthew Poole (1624-1679). In the introduction he identifies this as the one of the serious sins among those in England: “the gross misgovernment of their tongues.” It’s a long sermon, but in one section he deals with the effects this sin has on other people. One such effect is that it robs people of “the best treasure which he hath in the world”–his name (or reputation). He then cautions his audience toward 3 sorts of persons who are especially affected by this name-robbing sin.

“(1) In reproaching of magistrates, of kings, and persons in authority. –Magistrates, though bad in themselves, yet are to be looked upon as great blessings; and if we had the Persian experiment of absolute anarchy but for a few days, that every man might do that which seemed right in his own eyes, we should all be sensible of this truth. Now, the magistrate’s reputation is the great supporter of that majesty and authority which he bears, and the magistrate’s authority is the people’s benefit. And therefore all persons should be tender in this particular; they should not expose kings and magistrates to scorn, nor beget irreverence in people toward them. And therefore they ought to take heed, not only of divulging false reports concerning them, but even such as possibly may be true; they must take heed of publishing the secret miscarriages of princes; for this, as I told you, is a sin against any man, but much more against persons in authority.”

It’s wishful thinking to expect our society to heed words like this–even for Christians unfortunately. But–oh man–how it would change the way we interact with one another and how it would cool the political temperature of  our day!

Categories: Politics, Sanctification | Leave a comment

The Old Nature at Work

Reading through an old Dutch theologian, I found this description of how our old, sinful nature distracts us from pursuing holiness particularly insightful. It especially rings true for me as one pursuing full time ministry.

“Sometimes the old nature seeks some rest; to be so intently focused upon God tires the body and mind, so that it appears impossible to live in such a manner. [After long days of seminary study, this is a common feeling for me!]  The old nature, in seeking some rest and relaxation, begins initially to think upon natural things; however, the lusts of the flesh begin to stir, and the thoughts pertaining to natural things become sinful, due to one’s ego entering the picture. A person will begin to build castles in the sky, imagining himself to have possessions, to be in a position of prominence, of being honored, and of having riches. [Being active in ministry–whether you’re a lay leader involved with Sunday school or a full time pastor–gets tiring and overwhelming. I often find myself dreaming about having a regular 9-5 job where I can make lots of money and enjoy life without the burden of dealing with sinful people. Yet, it will never happen, since I will always have to deal with own sin!] Even though he knows that he will never attain to this, he nevertheless entertains himself with such imagery. From this point the old nature proceeds to reflect upon that sin which most readily presents itself—be it immorality, a lust for money, or pride. Being thus drawn away from his steadfastness, he commits sin to the degree that the moment permits, and if the opportunity were not lacking, he would fall into sins which he never thought himself to be capable of. [I shudder to think how easy and common it is for pastors to fall into sin. I think this description is exactly how it often happens–when drained in body and mind from constant ministry pressures, a pastor loses his steadfastness and falls into sin that he would never think possible.] Or, if the opportunity is there, he will fall into sin from which he thought to have been delivered—be it in a natural sense or by grace.” (Wilhelmus A Brakel, Vol. 3, p.9)

Categories: Sanctification | 1 Comment

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