Posts

Timing Is Everything

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In  last week’s article , I mentioned that I recently audited a class on Biblical Theology taught by author and Christian theology professor, Stephen J. Wellum. In addition to the timeline I wrote about last week, one of the big lessons I brought home is that when it comes to biblical theology, timing is everything. If we intend to interpret the Scriptures properly and make sound application to our lives, we need to consider all of the events of Scripture and all of its instructions in light of their biblical timing. The Apostle Paul illustrates the importance of this when he bases his argument for salvation by faith in large part on the timing of Abraham’s circumcision: “Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a sea

A Timeline of the Ages

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Back in August I was blessed with the opportunity to audit a class on Biblical Theology taught by author and Christian theology professor, Stephen J. Wellum. The focus of the class was on how the Bible—by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—fits together as a cohesive whole. One of my favorite take-aways from the class was this timeline: For the purposes of the class, this timeline was intended to show how the coming of Christ altered the redemptive timeline from what had previously been expected. Before Christ’s ascension and the day of Pentecost, a timeline of redemptive history would have looked more like this: The Old Testament expectation was that Messiah, the Son of David, would come as a political ruler to re-establish the throne of David, destroy Israel’s enemies, and restore the kingdom to Israel. He would make all things right, and God’s promises to Israel would be fulfilled—all at once—in one uninterrupted timeline. What the prophets did not anticipate was a delay between the

A Decision to Forgive

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Thirty years ago, I had an employer who was a professing Christian. He was a charismatic man with big dreams, and his employees were devoted to him. But his dreams were bigger than the reality in which we all lived. The business foundered. Paychecks became sporadic, but his bright optimism and our loyalty kept us around.  Eventually, however, it got to the point that he would neglect to pay us for weeks on end. One of the last straws for me was when I learned that during all the months that we went without pay, or settled for partial pay, our boss was renting a luxury home in Dana Point. Indignant, I finally quit. But there were others who stayed far longer waiting for that oft-promised ship, carrying its thousands of dollars of back-pay, to come in.  Like my boss, I, too, was a professing Christian at that time. I knew the Scriptures teach a man not to withhold wages from his workers. So, when I finally quit my job. I felt justified in taking my case to the Labor Board to try to force

The Impossible Burden (of Self-forgiveness)

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You need to learn to forgive yourself!   How many times have you heard those words? Maybe they came from a friend, or a counselor, or a book you read. Maybe you’ve said them yourself to someone you care about, someone you want to set free from the burden of guilt and self-condemnation. I’ve heard and said them myself. I’ve tried to follow those words, but the burden of guilt never went away.  I’ve lived a sinful life. I’ve said and done many things I am deeply ashamed of. I’ve hurt others and disgraced myself. And there are witnesses—people who will never forget, and people who will never forgive. How can I be free from the burden of all that guilt and shame? I can’t undo what I’ve done. And I know, deep in my heart, that I have no more authority to forgive my own sins than I have the right to forgive my own debts.  After King David committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged the murder of her husband, Uriah, he cried out to God in a prayer that is shocking unless you understand the

The Salt of Christian Contentment

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When I was a new Christian, a book called The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment , written by the Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs, made a big impression on me. In it Burroughs lists a series of lessons Christ uses to teach his people contentment. He calls the first of these lessons "the lesson of self-denial." Though Burroughs admits "it is a hard lesson," he reminds us that it is the most basic teaching of the faith: “Whoever has not learned the lesson of the cross,” he says, “has not learned his ABC in Christianity.” Self-denial, in other words, is a kindergarten lesson. "[I]f you mean to be Christians at all you must buckle to this or you can never be Christians."  Let that sink in.  Burroughs is not just saying we can't be content unless we deny ourselves—he's saying we can’t even be Christians unless we do. What gives him the right to make such a harsh statement? Is he accurately representing the heart of the gospel? There's only one way to fi

Making Peace

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What does the word “peace” mean to you? Is it a feeling of calm—the absence of inner turmoil? Or is it relational—the absence of enmity between people, or between individuals and God? In the Bible, as in our own experience, “peace” can mean either, depending on the context. And, of course, there is overlap. A lack of relational peace can destroy our emotional peace, and vice versa. But if we hope to experience peace, as God intends it, we need to see it is as God does. The early church was riddled with conflict, both external and internal. They were persecuted by unbelieving Jews and Gentiles alike, and relationships within the church mirrored this tension. Christians were pressured to behave more like Jews to relieve the pressure from the Jews or, conversely, to behave more like Gentiles to relieve a different set of tensions. And it is in this context of relational struggle that Paul gives us some of the Bible’s richest teaching on peace.  In Ephesians 2, after explaining that all Ch

The Mystery of the Church

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Ten years ago, my former pastor, Matthew Raley, while preaching on Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesians 1:15-19, said something I’d never heard before: God has invested his riches in the church. Later I asked him what his basis was for that statement. He pointed me back to the text, and, sure enough, there it was: “the riches of his [God’s] glorious inheritance in the saints” (1:18). That moment changed my perspective on the church forever. We are an individualistic culture. But God is not individualistic. To the core of his being, he is triune. We like to fly solo and chart our own paths. But God does nothing alone. Everything he does, he does in fellowship. The three persons of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit—have always and will always live and work together as one. This is why, when God created the world, he declared everything in it good, except for one thing. After fashioning the man, the only being he made in his own image, he declared: “It is not good . . . .” Why? Bec