Answering This Generation’s Question of Essential Identity

Each news cycle brings with it one more saga about sexual and gender identity. North Carolina establishing bathroom laws against transgender usage. The mayor of New York City restricting travel to the state of North Carolina to boycott this action. The Obama administration issuing a directive late last week mandating public schools and other institutions receiving certain federal grants to give transgender students access to bathrooms or face the risk of the loss of funds or even lawsuits. The lieutenant governor of Texas declaring they will forfeit the funds rather than comply. As Trevin Wax, Russell Moore, and other are pointing out, the ramifications of these actions on society and the church are great.

At the heart of this issue and related ones is the fundamental question of identity. Repeatedly, when proponents of gay, lesbian, and transgender rights speak, they use the terminology of self-identification. This generation is trying to discover itself and, in the spirit of this postmodern age, looks within to find the answer.

The most well-known example of this inward-turning search for identity is seen in Bruce Jenner. Not long ago he self-identified as a woman, began dressing then went through procedures to become such, and now calls himself Caitlyn. He appeared as […]

“How Are You?” – and other declarations of malice

Imagine that you’re severely stressed.   Maybe that’s not too much of  a stretch for you right now.  If you’re anything like me in tense times, then in addition to stress-pounding Skittles to cope, you develop an irrational suspicion of other people’s motives when they encounter you in your turmoil.  Someone asks “How are you?”  But the inquirer seems afraid, and you interpret the nervous eyes to say:  “The answer to my question is any number of positive words, followed by your grateful acknowledgement of my asking.”  If you do give an upbeat answer, no matter how dishonest, and you follow it up with your thanks, no matter how insincere, you think you spy in their smiling response not only happiness, but relief.  And that makes you boil.  Or, someone just looks at you in your stress but doesn’t ask how you’re doing, and you get mad about what seems to be an obvious lack of concern and you suspect that they’re silently condemning you.  Either way, they can’t win.  Stress and the charitable judgement of others are not natural friends.

Deuteronomy: The Great Commission of the Old Testament

Christians often think of Deuteronomy as boring legal code – a second-giving or re-run of the law. Why then did New Testament authors find it their third favorite book of the Old Testament to quote?

Deuteronomy warmed the hearts of God’s people of old because the book is Moses’ powerful life-end sermon that served as the Great Commission of the Old Testament. It was crafted to set hearts aflame with love for God and a vision for his kingdom among those who awaited the Messiah by faith. Jesus spoke the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 to his disciples at the end of his time on earth, and those words enlarged hearts for God and set the course for his disciples through time until he comes again.

Consider the similarities in the life-circumstances of the preachers:

Moses preached Deuteronomy at the end of his life on earth as his people were sent into a new and daunting mission.
Jesus preached the Great Commission at the end of his life on earth as he sent his people into a new and daunting mission.

Consider the similarities in redemptive history:

Moses preached Deuteronomy after the Old Testament picture of salvation, deliverance from Egypt, had been accomplished.
Jesus preached the Great Commission […]

Touching Elisha’s Bones

Remember the story surrounding the death and burial of Elisha, the great prophet of Israel?  The one who possessed a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, and who directly opposed the wickedness and false worship of his day, had recently died and been laid to rest.  When some Israelites were in the process of burying another man, the funeral was interrupted by yet another attack, courtesy of their neighboring enemies the Moabites. In their haste to get away, the pall bearers quickly tossed the dead man into the still-opened tomb of Elisha.  The Scriptures say that as soon as this dead man “touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet” (see II Kings 13:20-21).

I do not recall who first told me to think this way, but similarly we in the modern church need to “touch the bones” of godly ones in whom the Spirit of God clearly manifested himself. We should study their lives, read their works, and be led by them into the Scriptures.  When this study leads us to come in contact with the same God they knew, we can be revived and stand on our feet ready to meet the issues that confront the church […]

Worms and Fire

Like growing, unsightly graffiti, ugly whitish-gray sacks have been developing in the branches all along the small trees in the woods running along the back of our property. These webs are the homes of newly hatched tent caterpillars or tent worms as they are commonly called.  Their eggs were laid last fall by the Lackey moth. The caterpillars’ scientific name of Malacosoma sounds like the cancer they are. They emerge to feed from their tents on the leaves all around them and then return to digest their food. They can defoliate large sections of their host tree.

My wife, who shudders when she looks out the window and thinks of bags holding hundreds of worms hanging in the trees, kindly asked me to dispose of them. So I took trimmers and a bucket into the woods with me and got to work. Systematically, I cut the branches containing the tents and placed them in the bucket. Each time I filled it, I emptied the bucket into the fire pit on top of a large pile of dead branches and twigs previously placed there.

When the last sack was cut out and placed on the pile, I lit the newspaper tucked in the bottom of the stack of tinder. […]

Jesus’ Tears – No. 2

Tears are like a window to the heart.   They show our deepest emotions. In Luke 19:41 we find the second occasion of Jesus weeping, this time over the city of Jerusalem. Why?

I want to paint two pictures. The first is found in Luke 19:28-38.

Jesus is approaching Jerusalem for the last time. It’s a sunny afternoon. Jesus rides on a donkey, at the centre of a great crowd. People from Bethany have accompanied him, shouting excitedly. They have watched him raise Lazarus from the dead. News has spread to Jerusalem, and people have thronged out of the city to see him, to sing his praises. Palm branches are being waved, people are throwing their cloaks down on the ground for the donkey to walk on. Slowly the donkey makes its way through the crowd. There is a majesty about the moment – like a royal procession. See the colours of the robes, the flashes of the afternoon sun, the vibrant green of the palm branches. Hear the excited, delirious, triumphant shouts of the welcoming crowd. Smiling, happy faces, full of hope and life and joy.

As he moves through this great crowd of welcoming people he comes to the brow of the […]

Behold Your Mother

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. John 19:26-27

During his crucifixion Jesus spoke these words to his mother and to the Apostle John. Have you ever read this portion of the Scripture and thought “what in the world is going on here?” The redemptive nature of the things that are said from the cross are clearly seen, but “behold your mother?”

Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.
Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
I thirst.
It is finished.
Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

Why does Jesus tell John that Mary is now his mother and then tell Mary that John is now her son? 

Help from John Owen on Not Entering into Temptation

In the Garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus was praying about his upcoming crucifixion, he told his disciples in Mark 14:38, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  We could say, as John Owen reminds us in Temptation: The Nature and Power of It, there was never a time those words were uttered in a climate more conducive to their obedience.

After all, Jesus had just celebrated the first Lord’s Supper with them. He has been teaching them for hours straight about living in relationship to the Triune God by abiding in Christ, praying to the Father, and receiving the help of the Holy Spirit. He himself had just told them them about the solemnity of the night, as he had revealed that he would be betrayed and delivered over to death. Peter had just affirmed how he would never forsake Jesus even if everyone else did.  Jesus had shared with them how sorrowful and heavy his heart was, deeply grieved to the point of death, so they should have been moved emotionally. Jesus was a stone’s throw away praying fervently that he might be delivered from the cup of the crucifixion.

Yet a short period later Jesus found them sleeping on duty and asked, “So […]

Movies & Gratitude

[I’m writing this before the Indiana primary results are published; so this post has nothing to do with that. Sorry for any disappointment.]

During a recent vacation, I watched two movies. This is unremarkable as I watched movies at other times, too. But this time I watched films I’m not embarrassed to having enjoyed (I’m looking at you, Michael Bay). Both movies were well done and both, uniquely, made me grateful. Misery loves company, so hopefully thankfulness does, too. 

Stopping by Foggy Books on a Spring Day

Having just briefly dipped into B.B. Warfield’s ancient tome, on ‘the Inspiration and Authority of the Bible’, eager to glean some tips on ‘God-breathed’, otherwise affectionately known as ‘Theopneustos’, I thought I would pen a few random thoughts on the difficulty of reading highly-technical scholarly works.

Being a pastor with a side-interest in languages, and having a certain familiarity with Hebrew, Greek and Latin, I have to confess to being a little overwhelemed at the depth of linguistic knowledge required to decipher one of the chapters.

This work, brothers, frankly, is seriously heavy going; the material Warfield covers is beyond the competence of most pastors; without linguisic accumen the arguments are difficult, if not impossible, to follow or carefully weigh; yet, as most recognise, this also is an important book [at least in it’s day] – this stimulated me to muse on the vital importance of godly bible scholars.

It is much to be lamented, and dangerous for the Church, if she does not seek, by all means in her power, to remedy the longterm, slow decline in ‘classical’ education. The study of ancient cultures and languages have long proved a safeguard against the intrusion of serious error into the Body of Christ.

Certainly not […]