Thursday Roundup (1/19/17)

Today’s video tackles the thorny dilemma of human free will, divine sovereignty, and how they fit together. The Answers for Ambassadors episode is a rerun from a couple years ago, looking at evangelism in a culture which isn’t worried about its own sin. And the links of the week cover prayer and marriage, Christian persecution and Christians who act like Mormons, and lessons learned from lice…

If you use Google Plus, you might want to know that I’ve begun regular posts with my articles and other content on my Google+ page. Click over there to follow my posts!

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“To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination with the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, and to devote the will to the purpose of God.”
~ William Temple

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‘If You Call the Sabbath a Delight’ (Part 1)

Church

I taught a class last week on how New Testament Christians should understand the Old Testament law, and I knew the first question that would be asked as soon as I was done. Sure enough: “What about the Sabbath? Does that commandment still apply to us today?”

For some modern American Christians, that’s a silly question: Of course it doesn’t. Jesus abolished the Sabbath requirement, as verses like Colossians 2:16 make plain. For other Christians, it’s a silly question for the opposite reason: Of course we should keep the Sabbath. It is a command of God, rooted in his work of creation and redemption, making it one of the commandments which Jesus warns against discarding in Matthew 5:17-20.

For other Christians, the question of the Sabbath is a matter of confusion and guilt. You are not sure what to think, but you suspect you may be displeasing God and missing some blessing which could come from using Sunday (or is it Saturday?) differently.

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Thursday Roundup (1/12/17)

Today’s video asks why Jesus needed to be baptized by John the Baptist, while the Answers for Ambassadors podcast looks at Richard Dawkins’ arguments against the morality of the New Testament. The links of the week include a few good articles on parenting and family, the context of Philippians 4:13, #NotMyPresident, and churches, healthy and otherwise.

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“For the Christian church… to ignore, euphemize, or otherwise mute the lethal reality of sin is to cut the nerve of the gospel. For the sober truth is that without full disclosure on sin, the gospel of grace becomes impertinent, unnecessary, and finally uninteresting.”
~ Cornelius Plantinga

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‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Is the Lord God Almighty’

Nadab and Abihu

In the latter pages of Exodus and the first chapters of Leviticus, God gives the Ten Commandments, appears to Moses in such glory that his face shines, commissions the construction of the tabernacle and then appears in a cloud of glory within it, institutes the offerings by which Israel will worship him, and establishes the Aaronic priesthood to mediate between himself and the people.

Then two of Aaron’s sons offer “strange fire” before the Lord and are consumed in a fiery judgment.

Leviticus 10 comes as a shocking jolt to us today, coming as it does on the heels of God’s covenant promises and establishment of the institutions which would allow his people to dwell with him. We see the law, the tabernacle, the sacrifices and the priesthood—and then sudden, fiery death. Imagine how much more appalling it would have been to the people of Israel themselves, as they were jarringly reminded that it was not safe to take their God lightly.

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Thursday Roundup (1/5/17)

One last chance to register for “Understanding the Old Testament Law Today,” a free webinar the evening of January 9! We’ll be clearing away misconceptions about the Old Testament and how God’s law from several thousand years ago applies, or doesn’t apply, to New Testament Christians. I hope to see you there!

This week’s new video looks at the New Testament picture of the church and asks what it can tell us about regular church attendance. The weekly podcast considers Richard Dawkins’ argument that the Old Testament is immoral, and the links survey repentance and sanctification, church attendance, Donald Trump and the prosperity gospel, and more.

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“Moralism says to unbelievers, ‘Be what you are not.’ Christianity says to believers, ‘Be what you are.'”
~ Alistair Begg

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Repentance and Adjustment

A fork in the road

New Year’s resolutions can’t help having a gimmicky feel, but there is real value in a day which reminds us to always be pursuing excellence—and which reminds us that excellence is the product of our choices. New Year’s Day may not spark any new resolutions for you, but the Bible’s call to become more like Christ should.

The first question is always one of identification: What kind of problem is calling for a change? Is it a question of repentance, or of what we might call adjustment?

The Bible teaches us to be ruthless with our sins. It leaves no room for accommodation or half-measures; only repentance. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, “From now on sin no more” (John 8:11). In the Sermon on the Mount, he declared, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48), warning, “If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell” (5:30).

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Thursday Roundup (12/29/16)

I’m excited to offer another free webinar the evening of Monday, January 9. The topic is “Understanding the Old Testament Law Today” and I hope it will be very useful both for apologetic discussions with unbelievers and for your own reading of the Bible. Click the link for more information or to register, and don’t forget to share the information with friends who might be interested!

This week’s video looks at allegedly parallel virgin birth stories from other religions. The Answers for Ambassadors episode considers Richard Dawkins’ attempt to explain the existence of morality in an atheistic world, and the links look at the wonderful role which Joseph played in Jesus’ life, praying when God doesn’t do what you hope, reading the Bible when you feel nothing, and more!

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“Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.”
~ Corrie Ten Boom

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Answering Objections to the Christmas Story, Part 2

Mary, Joseph, and Jesus on the road

Last week I started a two-part series looking at the Christmas story with a critical eye, considering the objections which skeptics often raise to the Gospel accounts. The first article looked at the differences between Matthew and Luke’s genealogies of Jesus, their accounts of which of his parents an angel appeared to, and their descriptions of where Jesus’ family lived. In each case, we saw that different details are not the same as contradictory details—and, in fact, that the varying perspectives of Matthew and Luke reinforce their credibility as independent witnesses testifying based on their own knowledge and research.

Having considered these not-really-inconsistencies between the two accounts, this week we’ll be looking at two more alleged mistakes: An apparent misquotation by Matthew, and what looks like a historical error by Luke.

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Thursday Roundup (12/15/16)

I’m pleased to announce another free webinar scheduled for next month: “Understanding the Old Testament Law Today,” from 7:30-8:30pm EST on Monday, January 9, with a recording available if you can’t make the live event. We’ll look at the three types of Old Testament Law and what each type has to say to today’s Christians. You can watch this frustratingly ill-informed scene from The West Wing to get in the mood for the webinar… Both Christians and unbelievers alike often misunderstand how the Old Testament applies today, but it’s a topic with much relevance to our daily lives and to modern debates over morality. Details and registration here. As always, please share this with any friends or family who might be interested!

Today’s video looks at a second-century heretic and what his list of books he accepted as Scripture can tell us about our modern Bibles. The Answers for Ambassadors podcast considers Richard Dawkins’ attempt to explain “the roots of religion.” I’m afraid the theme of this week’s links ended up being civilizational collapse (Merry Christmas!), but it’s not all doom and gloom, as several good articles remind us why Christians can always live with hope.

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“If you are hopeless, there may be many contributors, but two are certain: 1. You have placed your hope in something other than God… and it has let you down. 2. You may understand that Jesus conquered death, but you live as though He is still in the grave. All hopelessness is ultimately a denial of the resurrection.”
~ Edward Welch

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Answering Objections to the Christmas Story, Part 1

Nativity scene

The account of Jesus’ birth is one of the most famous and best-loved stories in the Bible. The pathetic little group in a Bethlehem stable would have made an unimpressive scene, but with the hindsight of history we know the instant of Jesus’ birth marked the thunderclap moment when God stepped into a dying world to beat death at its own game. And what an invasion! The Creator of the universe, born as a human infant, dependent on a young mother’s care to survive. On both a cosmic and a personal scale, it is hard to beat the story—and it has the added merit of being true.

Or so we believe. As we head into the season when we particularly celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world, you are likely to hear attacks on the Christmas story, as skeptics argue that parts of it are implausible or contradictory. I hope my articles this week and next week will prepare you with good answers for the most common objections to the historical accounts of Jesus’ birth.

Of the four Gospels, only Matthew and Luke describe the birth of the Savior in Bethlehem. That in itself is an interesting window into the way in which God divinely orchestrated the testimony of four different writers to create a fuller and richer picture than any one author provides. Four parallel birth narratives would have done us little good. In fact, it would have been hard to avoid the suspicion that they were simply copying from one another. Instead, each Gospel’s introduction of Jesus offers a little window into its author’s particular passions and focuses.

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