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Showing posts from September, 2012

The Sacrifice of Isaac

Caravaggio captures quite powerfully the dramatic seen in the Bible when Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac. The resolute determination of Abraham to obey God. See how he holds that knife and then his puzzling reaction to the Angel - or is it a joyful surprise? A state of shock seems to overwhelms. But its the fear and anguish of Isaac that grabs your attention! His mouth stands open - life is ebbing away. If there are screams they are minimal for his neck is held against a rock! Pain and despair has surely engulfed him. The contrast with the lamb substitute couldn't be more dramatic! He stands there at peace with his surrounding! And so was Jesus, the lamb who would come to offer himself so willingly. For sure pain was at the cross but not fear of death, for Jesus came to free us from its grip. As the writer to the Hebrews says, Jesus came to "set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying" (Hebrews 2:15, NLT).

Bottom Line on the 'Jesus Wife' gospel

When it comes to these sorts of questions I like to remind my students of a simple—-but often overlooked—-fact: of all the gospels in early Christianity, only Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are dated to the first century. Sure, there are minority attempts to put books like the Gospel of Thomas in the first century—-but such attempts have not been well received by biblical scholars. Thus, if we really want to know what Jesus was like, our best bet is to rely on books that were at least written during the time period when eyewitnesses were still alive. And only four gospels meet that standard. From Michael Kruger's excellent piece - The Far Less Sensational Truth about Jesus’ ‘Wife’

Markets and Morals

A recent paper on the economics of new media flags an interesting moral assumption inbuilt in most market based relations. It has echoes of Michael Sandel's recent arguments on the moral limits of markets. At a superficial level, it is apparent that people act differently, and are expected to act differently, in the context of relationships mediated by money than in other contexts. Behaviour that would be regarded favourably in a non-monetary context is regarded as foolish or even reprehensible in a monetary context. One of the most important general differences relates to rationality and calculated reciprocity. In a non-market context, careful calculation of costs and benefits and an insistence on exact reciprocity is generally deprecated. By contrast, in market contexts, the first rule is never to give more than you get. Why is it more important to observe this rule in market contexts? One reason is that markets create opportunities for systematic arbitrage that do not apply i…

Cold Entertainment!

In reality television, YouTube, and countless other manifestations, exhibitionism and voyeurism have collided in a perfect storm of entertainment. We are drawn in by it and revel sometimes in the successes but more commonly in the failures of other people. We love to laugh at people who think they can sing when all evidence points to the opposite conclusion. We love to laugh along with the jabs and barbs that are sent their way and then to see them cry, swear, and storm off in shame and disgust. This passes for entertainment—and we love it. And much of it has grown out of our ability to see and be seen, to constantly show ourselves off to the rest of the world, and to persistently peer into the lives of others.. - Tim Challies (Source : The Next Story)

Gospel hits Paris!

Gospel music is flourishing in secular Paris. A recent article by BBC Magazine carries a wonderful quote from one of the pioneers, Linda Lee Hopkins (pictured above) who has been facing pressure to compromise : "They want you to compromise sometimes. They want gospel because they think it's radio music - especially the songs from Sister Act...I tell them, 'That is not gospel. They are secular songs adapted for the film.' So if they tell me, 'I want you to sing gospel, but don't mention Jesus.' It's like He's my life, I cannot not mention Him...Wanting gospel music without the gospels, without Jesus, without the Lord, is like wanting cake without the flour.." It is yet another lesson that God will always find ways to reach those he has called to himself. France may not be ready for preachers but they appear ready for gospel music. So he is using gospel to reach them. Now wouldn't it be wonderful if evangelical churches in other parts of the…

Pornography as Occultism

There is a kind of helplessness that a man engaged in pornography exhibits. He often speaks of it in terms of a “struggle” or an “addiction.” Now both of those terms are accurate, I believe, but they distance a person from his sin in a soul-decaying manner. Pornography is not just an addiction; it is occultism. The man who sits upstairs viewing pornography while his wife chauffeurs the kids to soccer practice is not some unusual “pervert”; he is (like his forefather Adam) seeking the mystery of the universe apart from Christ. That’s the reason the one picture, stored in his memory, of that naked woman will never be enough for him. He will never be able to be satisfied because he will never be able to get an image naked enough. I say pornography is occultism because I believe the draw toward it is more than biological (though that is strong). The satanic powers understand that “the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18). They understand that the pornographic …

Bible Reading as Idolatry

I love God’s Word. I might even love God’s Word more than I love other people. After all, I’m going to do what God’s Word says rather than what others tell me to do. But, there’s a line we can cross when it comes to loving God’s Word – Can we love God’s Word more than we actually love God? We can learn His commands, yet not obey them. We can recite obscure nuances of Scripture from memory, yet do we go to those lengths to help other people? Yes, we should turn to God’s Word for comfort. But, more importantly, we should turn to God. We should delight in helping others discover the truth of God’s Word. We should be challenged by the deeper meaning of Scripture – not secretive, hidden meanings – but truths applied and lived out in our daily lives. The Word of God is active, not passive. Our worship belongs to God, not to His Word Allen White's convicting assessment was a timely reminder this week as I have reflected on how often in my own life the pursuit of scripture has not necessa…

Signs of iDolatry

How can we tell if something has become an idol in our lives? One possible sign of idolatry is when we devote an inordinate amount of time and attention to something, when we feel less than complete without it. It may be something that we look at right before we go to sleep and the first thing we give our attention to when we wake up. It may be the kind of thing that keeps us awake, even in the middle of the night. - Tim Challies (Source : The Next Story)

Depravity at Instagram

Bianca Bosker's Huffington Post article on the social network app Instagram provides yet more evidence  of man's inherent capacity to corrode the good gifts of life. Instagram, the photo-sharing app, is technologically morally neutral. Indeed at its best it should not only deliver “fast" and "beautiful” ways to exchange images but should be an active conduit for positive innovation and creativity.  But the app once heralded as the "Eden of social networking sites" is now threatened with the dark nature of its users: It’s the place where 80 million people share picturesque, gently-tinted photos of bouquets, sunsets, spaghetti and cappuccinos. And it’s a service Facebook paid $1 billion to bring into its fold. But beyond the food porn that regularly tops Instagram’s “most popular” list lurks an abundance of, well, porn porn. Images tagged with terms such as “sextagram,” “instaporn,” and “handbra” summon up tens of thousands of images of genitalia and nude —…

A Christian Advantage

The difference between the knowledge of believers and unbelievers is not so much a difference in the matter of their knowledge but in the manner of knowing. Unbelievers, some of them, know more about God, his perfections, and his will, than many believers do; but they know nothing as they ought, nothing in a right manner, nothing spiritually and savingly, nothing with a holy and heavenly light. The excellence of a believer is not that he has a large grasp of things, but that what he does grasp, which may be very little, he sees it in the light of the Spirit of God, in a saving, soul-transforming light; and this is that which gives us communion with God. - John Owen
(Source : Overcoming Sin and Temptation)

A defence of "Christian Britain"

Eric Pickles has written a rather interesting piece in the Daily Telegraph that seeks to defend Britain's Christian ethos : Christianity in all its forms has shaped the heritage, morality and public life of Britain; and Christian belief continues to influence our society for the better. The fact that Britain has welcomed people of many other faiths to live among us over the centuries in no way detracts from this. Indeed, it is the Christian ethos that has made Britain so welcoming. As the Prime Minister declared in December, we are a Christian nation – and should not be afraid to say so.
Christians continue to be positively involved in public life, from the role of Anglican bishops in scrutinising legislation in the House of Lords, through the moral leadership offered by Christian leaders, to the contribution of thousands of churches and Christian charities to the social fabric of our neighbourhoods with their volunteering and sacrifice. Religion is the foundation of the modern Br…

Created for Fellowship

Philosopher Lisa Guenther recently wrote a fascinating piece in the New York Times where she comments on the impact of living in solitary confinement, drawing on her research in Phenomenology : The problem with solitary confinement is not just that it deprives the inmate of her freedom. This harm is already inflicted by our prison system, and depending on how you feel about justice and punishment, depriving people of freedom may be justifiable. But prolonged isolation inflicts another kind of harm, one that can never be justified. This harm is ontological; it violates the very structure of our relational being. Think about it: Every time I hear a sound and see another person look toward the origin of that sound, I receive an implicit confirmation that what I heard was something real, that it was not just my imagination playing tricks on me. Every time someone walks around the table rather than through it, I receive an unspoken, usually unremarkable, confirmation that the table ex…

Contradiction of Man

Many times … people don’t have a clue as to what exactly they would do about the most pressing problems of their own city if they were mayor, or concerning the greatest difficulty facing their state if they were governor. They would probably be quite hesitant if asked how, precisely, they would solve the greatest national crises if they were president, but they have no hesitation whatsoever in venturing to declare how they would solve what may be the single most troubling cosmic religious problem if they were God. - Thomas Morris (Source : Making Sense of It All)

Did Jesus ever fall sick?

A recent Church of England report allegedly leaves open the idea that Jesus Christ may have been mentally ill. I say “leaves open” because it is not clear from the Daily Express report whether the Church of England actually thinks that Jesus Christ may have been mentally ill. The headline says, “Jesus Christ 'May Have Suffered from Mental Health Problems', Claims Church of England'”. But when you read the article, the quote from Rev Eva McIntyre says, "Even Jesus was not immune to accusations about his mental health: there is a story in the gospel that tells of his mother and siblings attempting to take him home because they are afraid that he has lost his mind”. She is clearly not saying the family was right! 
So most likely the CofE has been misrepresented, but given its track record I would not be surprised if elements within it now openly think the Lord of Glory was mentally unbalanced. But the question does raise a wider question worth pondering - did Jesus ever…

The God Who Is Here

The temporary pleasures of this present world are meant to point you to the lasting pleasure of knowing God. The rising of the sun each morning is meant to remind you of his faithfulness. The crushing power of a devastating storm is designed to make you reflect on his power. The sweetness of a human kiss is meant to remind you of his tender care. The dependency of the baby is there to remind you of your constant need of God. The fading beauty of the daffodil is meant to help you see his eternal beauty. The imperfect justice of the human community is designed to make you thankful that God is perfectly just. The tender moment of human mercy is there to cause you to rest in his mercy. That five-course meal is an opportunity to reflect on and be thankful for the spiritual food you need and that God graciously gives. The shifting stars in the night are created to remind you that Jesus is the Light that never shifts or fades. Every experience of love is meant to point you to his love. Every…

I am what I am by Gloria Gaynor

Beverly Knight closed the opening ceremony of the Paralympics with what has been dubbed the signature tune of the Paralympics. I had no idea Ms Knight is still in the singing business. And clearly going by the raving reviews she will continue to be around. One media source says her performance was so electric that "there wasn’t a dry eye to be seen as she sang the lyrics to the song and people even watching at home felt the passion in her words". The song was Gloria Gaynor's I am what I am. Clearly not written by Gloria Gaynor but certainly musically owned and popularized by her. It opens triumphantly: I am what I am / I am my own special creation / So come take a look / Give me the hook or the ovation / It's my world that I want to have a little pride in / My world and it's not a place I have to hide in / Life's not worth a damn till you can say I am what I am The words “I am what I am” echo over ten times in the song. A bold declaration that she is the s…

My Trembling Joy!

I was reminded of the old negro spiritual last Sunday as the I heard the Bible read, with that extraordinary statement from St Peter, " [Jesus] was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross". The old negro spiritual goes like this :
Were you there when they crucified my Lord? (x3) Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree? (x3) Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? (x3) Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb? (x3) Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Why the trembling? I think the qu…

Captain America as Jesus Christ

There's a fascinating scene in Captain America. Col. Phillips and Dr. Erskine are reviewing the troops, trying to determine which soldier is the best choice to undergo a procedure designed to create America's first super soldier. As part of the test a grenade is thrown among the soldiers - watch what happens.


In that incident we have a perfect picture of what Jesus Christ has accomplished on the cross. While many run away from the grenade of sin, Jesus Christ run to it and took it upon himself through the cross so that you might live. Oh, what a Saviour! All other saviours, including Captain America, are but mere pictures of the real thing! I have asked myself many times. If a grenade was thrown in my church, would I run to it and offer myself willingly so that others may live? The honest answer is no. My love is just not that deep. Your pastor's love is not that deep! And if truth be told no human being consistently loves like that. Only one person has given himself so fre…