On the RoshPinaProject Messianic Jewish site appears a report on Eddie Beckford, a Christian missionary in Israel, who was found guilty of attacking a group of (Jewish) anti-missionaries. The Messianic Jews (followers of Jesus/Yeshua) defended Beckford while the Jewish camp said he'd got his just desserts. Nothing – predictably - was resolved. Most people, naturally (because that is human nature), have fixed views, where no argument, no matter how clear, is going to persuade.
From the Gospel Coalition blog of Don Carson. Much of the Bible is in the form of parables that invite further examination of underlying concepts that point to a truth only found by careful digging. As Proverbs urges: if you look for her (wisdom) as for silver, then you will find the knowledge of God. Dr. Carson is right: “reflect long and often on the connections.”
DON CARSON|4:00 AM CT
ONE OF THE WAYS GOD TALKS ABOUT THE FUTURE IS . . . well, by simply talking about the future. There are places in the Bible where God predicts, in words, what will happen: he talks about the future. But he also provides pictures, patterns, types, and models. In these cases he establishes an institution, or a rite, or a pattern of relationships. Then he drops hints, pretty soon a cascade of hints, that these pictures or patterns or types or models are not ends in themselves, but are ways of anticipating something even better. In these cases, then, God talks about the future in pictures.
Christians who read their Bibles a lot ponder the connections between the Davidic kingship and Jesus’ kingship, between the Passover lamb and Jesus as “Passover Lamb,” between Melchizedek and Jesus, between the Sabbath rest and the rest Jesus gives, between the high priest’s role and Jesus’ priestly role, between the temple the old covenant priest entered and the heavenly “holy of holies” that Jesus entered, and much more. Of course, for those who lived under the old covenant stipulations, covenantal fidelity meant adherence to the institutions and rites God laid down, even while those same institutions and rites, on the broader canonical scale, looked forward to something even better. Through these pictures, God talked about the future. Once a Christian grasps this point, parts of the Bible come alive in fresh ways.
One of these picture-models is Jerusalem itself, sometimes referred to as Zion (the historic stronghold). Jerusalem was bound up not only with the fact that from David on, it was the capital city (even after the division into Israel and Judah, it was the capital of the southern kingdom), but also with the fact that from Solomon on it was the site of the temple, and therefore of the focus of God’s self-disclosure.
So for the psalmist, “the city of our God, his holy mountain” is not only “beautiful” but “the joy of the whole earth” (Ps. 48:1-2). It is not only the center of armed security (48:4-8), but the locus where God’s people meditate on his unfailing love (48:9), the center of praise (48:10). Yet the psalmist looks beyond the city to God himself: he is the one who “makes her secure forever” (48:8), whose praise reaches to the end of the earth, for ever and ever (48:10, 14).
As rooted as they are in historic Jerusalem, the writers of the new covenant look to a “Jerusalem that is above” (Gal. 4:26), to “Mount Zion,” to “the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God” (Heb. 12:22), to the “new Jerusalem” (Rev. 21:2). Reflect long and often on the connections.
TULLIAN TCHIVIDJIAN|6:45 AM CT
Long before the recent resurgence of interest in “gospel-centrality”, Brennan was a voice calling out in the wilderness–a voice reminding us that we are great sinners but God is a greater Savior. Theologically quirky and personally idiosyncratic, he was nevertheless a broken man on a passionate mission to remind Christians of the truth that while our sin reaches far, God’s grace reaches farther. He desperately wanted bedraggled, beat-up, and burned-out Christians (like himself) to recover a sense of God’s “furious love” for them.
A lifelong alcoholic who spent his entire life ferociously battling the demon of addiction, he was uncomfortably transparent about his weaknesses and failures which made him a prime candidate to teach us something of God’s scandalous grace (2 Corinthians 12:9). Every addict I’ve ever known–every person who has crashed and burned and, as a result, come to terms with their own powerlessness–has taught me something about God’s grace that I would’ve never known otherwise.
Brennan’s life (tragic and sad as it was, according to him) was a living testimony that horizontal consequences for sin (they led to untold miseries in Brennan’s life) cannot forfeit the “no condemnation” that is ours in Christ Jesus. This was his hope. His lifeline. Unable to bank anything on himself, he banked everything on Jesus. In this sense, his well-documented weaknesses were a gift to him. And to us.
I never had the chance to meet Brennan, but I know many who knew him well…and their lives were never the same. He knew Jesus, loved Jesus, and is now with Jesus…finally enjoying the full measure of the freedom he longed to experience.
The night after he died, I sat in bed and read (once again) these amazing words from his bestselling book The Ragamuffin Gospel–a man after my own heart:
Put bluntly, the American church today accepts grace in theory but denies it in practice. We say we believe that the fundamental structure of reality is grace, not works–but our lives refute our faith. By and large, the gospel of grace is neither proclaimed, understood, nor lived. Too many Christians are living in a house of fear and not in the house of love.
Our culture has made the word grace impossible to understand. We resonate with slogans such as:
“There’s no free lunch.”
“You get what you deserve.”
“You want love? Earn it.”
“You want mercy? Show that you deserve it.
“Do unto others before they do unto you.”
“By all means, give others what they deserve but not one penny more.”
A friend told me she overheard a pastor say to a child, “God loves good little boys.” As I listen to sermons with their pointed emphasis on personal effort–no pain, no gain–I get the impression that a do-it-yourself spirituality is the American fashion.
Though the Scriptures insist on God’s initiative in the work of salvation–that by grace we are saved, that the Tremendous Lover has taken to the chase–our spirituality often starts with self, not God…We sweat through various spiritual exercises as if they were designed to produce a Christian Charles Atlas. Though lip service is paid to the gospel of grace, many Christians live as if only personal discipline and self-denial will mold the perfect me. The emphasis is on what I do rather than on what God is doing. In this curious process God is a benign old spectator in the bleachers who cheers when I show up for morning quiet time. Our eyes are not on God. At heart we are practicing Pelagians. We believe that we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps–indeed, we can do it ourselves.
Sooner or later we are confronted with the painful truth of our inadequacy and insufficiency. Our security is shattered and our bootstraps are cut. Once the fervor has passed, weakness and infidelity appear. We discover our inability to add even a single inch to our spiritual stature. Life takes on a joyless, empty quality. We begin to resemble the leading character in Eugene O’Neill’s play The Great God Brown: “Why am I afraid to dance, I who love music and rhythm and grace and song and laughter? Why am I afraid to live, I who love life and the beauty of flesh and the living colors of the earth and sky and sea? Why am I afraid to love, I who love love?”
Something is radically wrong.
Our huffing and puffing to impress God, our scrambling for brownie points, our thrashing about trying to fix ourselves while hiding our pettiness and wallowing in guilt are nauseating to God and are a flat out denial of the gospel of grace.
With Brennan, I concur that it is high time for the church to honor its Founder by embracing sola gratia anew, to reignite the beacon of hope for the hopeless and point all of us bedraggled performancists back to the freedom and rest of the Cross. To leave our “if’s” “and’s” or “but’s” behind and get back to proclaiming the only message that matters—and the only message we have—the Word about God’s one-way love for sinners. It is time for us to abandon once and for all our play-it-safe religion, and, as Robert Farrar Capon so memorably put it, to get drunk on grace. Two hundred-proof, unflinching grace. That’s the kind of drunkenness Brennan would endorse–especially from where he is now. The radicality of grace is shocking and scary, unnatural and undomesticated…but it is also the only thing that can set us free and light the church, and the world, on fire.
Brennan “got” that. He “gets it” even better now.
See you on the other side, brother!
In the first three chapters of the New Testament book of Revelation the author addresses seven churches in the Roman Province of Asia (=modern western Turkey). In doing this he often makes allusions to cultural items that were especially meaningful to his first century hearers.
For example, in the name of Jesus he writes to the Church at Philadelphia:
I am coming soon ...
The Romans were adept at crucifixion, according to many historical sources. The first archaeological evidence of crucifixion was uncovered in 1978 when an ossuary (bone box, or receptacle) was found north of Jerusalem containing the bones of a man who had been crucified. His name was "Yehohanan, the son of Hagakol." He is thought to have been between 24 and 28 years of age, and was about 5 feet 6 inches in height.
The last refrain of Joni Mitchell’s song reverberates to desire for transformation out of “the devil’s bargain”:
We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden
I grew up singing along with the sentiments expressed in this iconic song — getting back to Eden and somehow righting all the wrongs of the devil’s bargain. Alas, living simply, advocating harmony and peace did not get me, or anyone I knew back to undo the wrong.
What I didn’t realize was that I needed to get to another garden: the one that held an empty tomb — the resurrection garden.
God came into the original garden when we sinned along with our father Adam (Sin came into the world because of what one man did, and with sin came death. This is why everyone must die—because everyone sinned. [Romans 5.12 NCV]). God immediately set to remedy this situation by promising One from the seed of the woman who would crush the one who turned humans away from their Creator. Yes, He would have His heel bruised at the cross paying the penalty that humanity deserved but He had the power both to lay down His life and take it up again; this authority came from the Father (Jn. 10.18).
Those who trusted in God prior to Jesus covenanted with God by offering a sacrifice which pictured the greater or ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. Today, Christians display Christ’s sacrifice in both baptism (immersion which shows death, burial, and resurrection) and The Lord’s Supper with the elements of broken bread as Christ’s body, the wine His blood. Christians, by believing in the resurrection, have gone to the garden where Adam’s sin was declared forgiven by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the lands the southeastern end of the Mediterranean Sea the period from early–May to mid–June is a transitional season from the wet winter months to the dry summer ones. At times the wind blows in from the desert (from the east), and not from the Mediterranean Sea (from the west—which is normal). At those times the humidity drops drastically and a fine dust that permeates everything fills the air.
Just released from the giant publishing firm, Houghton Miflin Harcourt: A New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts, edited by Hal Taussig.
The advertisement from HMH distributed widely via email last week was not shy in its claims for the 600-page volume. The subject line read, “It is time for a new New Testament.” In the email blast are strong endorsements by Marcus Borg, Karen King, and Barbara Brown Taylor.
There is much work still to do on our living arrangement and everyday logistics before we can devote time to unfettered study. We are also expecting guests this summer and want to adequately host them comfortably.
I have placed a background image in my blog temporarily with this particular theme in WordPress. I will probably spin off several blogs in which to display various photos. This blog will focus on theological articles and posts related to apologetics and Christian thought.
Beth-shean is mentioned only a few times in the Old Testament. The English Standard Version uses both Beth-shan and Beth-shean for this town. Other English versions use a variety of spellings including Bethshan.
During one of my recent trips to Beth-shean I sat in the Roman theater and thought about the show of history that passed before my eyes. In the distance was the ancient tell, called Tell el-Husn or Tel Beth She'an, from which one has an impressive view of the area.
Don Carson’s devotional blog is based on two volumes of daily Bible readings he previously published. As with most of Carson’s work, the insights he brings is both straight forward, and yet profound. This insight comes mainly from the English text and, really, is available to all who will read their Bible regularly, prayerfully, with a view to also obey it, and on a sustained basis.
For the Christian the New Testament is replete with commands (imperatives in the original Greek) to read and study the Scriptures which was the Old Testament in that day. The O.T. is still relevant in many ways and both the Old and New Testaments will benefit us. In this Age of the Spirit (The “Comforter” who Jesus sent to be with us forever), we should read what the Spirit wrote for believers through the holy prophets and apostles. The Spirit will be our teacher if we know Him and read His truth (But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. I Jn. 2.27 ESV).
In his book 2000 Years of Amazing Grace: The Story and Meaning of the Christian Faith, Paul Zahl autobiographically recounts what happened to him many years ago when he discovered the indispensability of grace to produce the good works toward our neighbor outlined in the Bible:
My doing of the good deeds [Jesus] taught actually hinged on Him saving me-I, who had found myself paralyzed and blocked from doing those good deeds.When I felt myself loved in my chains, in my paralyses, that feeling of being loved seemed to trigger the very motivation and strength that had failed me before. Being treated forgivingly in my faults and fears freed me up. The faults themselves lost some of their binding strength. The confining fears ceased to restrict so tightly. There was an empowering connection between Jesus’ saving me (who he was for me) and the fuel to do what he said I should do (what he taught).
I take this connection between saving and the response to being saved that results in morally good actions (loving service to our neighbor), to be the heart of Christianity. It is the relation of being loved to loving. Being loved creates an environment inside a person by which the works of love begin to take place naturally. Loving is born from being loved…”Love to the loveless shown, that they might lovelier be” is a seventeenth-century way of saying it.
As I’ve said on numerous occasions here, the motivation and fuel to do good (which the Bible always describes horizontally in terms of loving service to others) comes from being moved by the completed work of Jesus for us. The impulsion to “do” comes only out of this undomesticated declaration that everything has already been done. Those who obey more are those who increasingly “get” that their standing with God is not based on their imperfect obedience to Jesus, but Jesus’ perfect obedience for them. The secret of grace is that we actually perform better as we grow to understand that God’s love for us is based on Christ’s performance, not our performance.
Another way to put this is to affirm that grace, not law, produces love-the love for God and neighbor that Jesus teaches (Luke 10:27). His love for us begets love from us.
The Kishon River is well-known to readers of the Bible in conjunction with the stories of the prophets Deborah (Judges 5:21) and Elijah (1 Kings 18:40).
Due to pollution that began during the British Mandate and continued up until recent times, the Kishon River became so polluted that it was declared "dead." Israel 21c has an interesting article ("Kishon River: From poison to pristine…
An upcoming book from Tullian that affirms and contends correctly of the need to live by grace. Too much today still folks are only “playing church” by “being” or “doing” something to merit God’s approval. He doesn’t need your performances. He in fact rejects them as filthy rags. “Without Me, you can do nothing.” (Jn.15). “He is a God who can’t be traded with” as John Piper notes Acts 17.24-25: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” (TNIV)
The author in his blog observes the deception of moralism that most Christians buy into: “But it is more than ironic, it is tragic. It is tragic because, just as it always has done, this kind of moralism can be relied upon to create anxiety, resentment, rebellion and exhaustion.”
One of the least visited places in Jerusalem is the portion of the village of Silwan that is located on the lower western slope of the Mount of Olives—opposite the "City of David."
The village itself is built over 50 tombs from the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. This necropolis – "city of the dead" – was investigated by David Ussishkin…
On February 22 and 23, I will be conducting a “Snoopy Seminar” at the Hope Center in Plano, Texas (2001 W. Plano Parkway). This seminar is a fun, interactive, and challenging exercise about textual criticism. Enrollment is limited to 60 people. Intended audience: motivated laypeople, though we are not limiting it to them (seminary students may also come, for example).
There are two references in the Bible to the pool of Gibeon. The first is in the account of a conflict between Abner and those aligned with King Saul, and Joab and the servants of David (2 Samuel).
Abner the son of Ner, and the servants of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon. And Joab the son of Zeruiah and the servants of David went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon.
There’s an old Italian proverb that warns translators about jumping in to the task: “Traduttori? Traditori!” Translation: “Translators? Traitors!” The English proverb, “Something’s always lost in the translation,” is clearly illustrated in this instance. In Italian the two words are virtually identical, both in spelling and pronunciation. They thus involve a play on words. But when translated into other languages, the word-play vanishes.