Monthly Archives: August 2015

God Wrote a Book

John Piper, the main voice behind desiringGod.org, challenges me and encourages me in his exposition of and love for the Bible. Granted, there are times where he can be a bit over the top in his unashamed Calvinism. Nevertheless, there are some real gems, as when he teaches that the Bible offers us a window through which we can see the world from God’s perspective. Here he nails it. Great cinematography.


Surviving College Intellectually as a Christian

Michael Kruger was a young Christian when he entered his first year at the University of North Carolina. He thought he was prepared for the challenges to his faith at college, but when sat in a New Testament introduction class taught by Bart Ehrman, it nearly blew out his faith, much like the feeling of getting a flat tire and listening to all of the air hiss out.

Colleges across the country are now in session. Will young Christians survive their time at a university with their faith intact? Dr. Kruger, now the president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, shares some wisdom about surviving “Religion 101” in the following 6 minute video. I highly recommend Dr. Kruger’s blog.


Blue Letter Bible

When it comes to researching the Bible, people often call me a geek. And they’re right. I have little patience for flipping through tomes and trying to remember where I read something. Give me a multi-tabbed Internet browser and an electronically searchable document every time. For casual research (on the couch or Barcalounger) an iPad does the trick nicely, thank you. The guys at Google should be knighted or something for their contributions to society. Put the inventors of the Kindle Reader app right behind. Gotta love Amazon theology for instantly accessible books. Have trouble remembering things? Try Evernote. Bible study has never been so accessible, easy and convenient.

But things evolve rapidly in cyberspace.You can get used to a favorite tool, and miss out on something even better. Likewise, you can try one that is in an early stage of gestation, be unimpressed, and fail to see improvements that are rolled out later on. So it is with Bible reference sites.

For years, I enjoyed using a popular Bible search tool that eventually became thick with advertisements. It failed to keep up with modern resources, instead offering 19th-century commentaries that rarely satisfied. Friends recommended the Blue Letter Bible site and app to me a couple of years ago, but I just didn’t like the interface.

Things change.

My go-to searching tool for Bible study has become the Blue Letter Bible. It has a very convenient and well-thought-out interface that connects resources in a powerful way. Aesthetically it’s a bit like looking at the guts of an engine, but once you get used to it, you’ll have tremendous power at your fingertips. For those who copy and paste Scripture into documents and would like to avoid having to manually remove each verse number and then type the citation after you paste, Blue Letter Bible’s copy and paste options are amazingly flexible and powerful. Seems like a simple thing, but that’s what brought me back to retry the Blue Letter Bible.

Wow, have they delivered a lot of smart features! But don’t take my word for it. Watch this five-minute video tour then try it out for yourself. Enjoy!


Rearranging Prejudices

Rearranging Predjudices in Quebec City

Blending in in Quebec City, August, 2015

 

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”
William James

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
1 Peter 4:9-10 NIV

I have always had an empathetic connection to the civil rights movement. In the early 60’s my family encountered ethnic pressures in a “Quiet Revolution” that caused us to pack up and move from Quebec to Virginia. We switched racial status—from being among the minority of native English Quebecers to being among the majority of southern whites. How times change. Virginia has lost a lot of its ‘southern’ culture, but in 1963 it was strong. I remember being in the back seat of our family’s car while we drove past a cross burning beside a highway interchange. I was too young at the time to know what was going on but knew it was about hatred and fear. We didn’t have any dogs in that fight. We were in Virginia because my father wanted to work and raise a family on a level playing field. That’s all.

My brother and I became completely assimilated into the mid-Atlantic way of life. Dad would express frustration from time to time with Quebec separatists, and we (more or less) passively inherited some of his prejudices. They didn’t seem like ‘prejudices’ at the time, but looking back that’s probably a fair assessment. Ethnic, nationalist and political strife have torn at Canada for decades over the issue of sovereignty for Quebec. In 1995, the year my father died, a national referendum that would have turned Quebec into an independent country was defeated by an extremely narrow margin.

I haven’t really kept up with Canadian politics, much less the temperature of the separatist movement. So when my wife announced this summer that she wanted to visit Quebec City, I really didn’t know what to expect. I had heard that French Canadians were unfriendly to Americans, particularly if the Americans could not converse in French. I struggled through college French 35 years ago, so I was less than optimistic about how we would be treated.

Quebec City StairsQuebec City is one of the most charming, clean and beautiful places in North America. It is a city planner’s dream—beautiful public squares, monuments and statues, lavish stonework, French provincial architecture, lofty vertical buildings that tower over cobblestone streets, flowers and gardens everywhere, sidewalk cafes, talented street performers, horse-drawn carriages, avant-garde restaurants, and people sitting on benches enjoying all the beauty that surrounds them. We didn’t see trash anywhere, not even gum on the sidewalks. The City has a profound Catholic foundation—the major streets and city gates (it’s the only walled city north of Mexico) are named after apostles and saints. There are churches and cathedrals everywhere.

How were we treated? For a couple of language-challenged foreigners, everyone we encountered was extremely friendly and helpful. As soon as they discovered we couldn’t speak the language, they immediately switched to English. Everyone we met was cheerful and hospitable, even complete strangers standing in line to order poutine at Fromagerie Lemaire. Their warmth was striking. Not at all what I had expected.

19th-century pragmatic American philosopher William James wrote, “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” (Dick Woodward used that quote frequently.) The apostle Peter wrote, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” After being in Quebec this week, I can’t help but wonder if Peter’s instruction might have had some pragmatic value in motivating others to change their opinions. The New Testament is full of instructions to be cheerful and to respond to prejudicial behavior with kindness and charity—to treat adversaries with respect and gentleness.

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44 NIV)

“You must put away every kind of bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and evil, slanderous talk. Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NET)

“Let everyone see your gentleness. The Lord is near!” (Philippians 4:5 NET)

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct he should show his works done in the gentleness that wisdom brings.” (James 3:13 NET)

“But reject foolish and ignorant controversies, because you know they breed infighting. And the Lord’s slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:23-25a NET)

“But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you.” (1 Peter 3:15-16 NET)

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing,” (Philippians 2:14 NET)

Sometimes being a Christian is like fighting with your hands tied behind your back. We get kicked and slapped and even worse, then we have to fight back with kindness, compassion, empathy, and respect. It can take incredible patience. What we experienced in Quebec was a powerful reminder of the best way to deal with people who don’t like us. Has Quebec turned the corner on ethnic strife? Who am I to say? But their kindness and hospitality makes me want to rearrange my prejudices.

Le Château Frontenac

Le Château Frontenac, Quebec City

HT: Marion Paine


The Nephilim and the Wisdom of Not Knowing

Darren Aronofsky's Nephilim in his 2014 film, Noah. Rock-creatures that look like the tree-creatures in the Lord of the Rings?... Yeah, right.

Darren Aronofsky’s Nephilim in his 2014 film and environmentalist manifesto, Noah. Rock-creatures that look like the tree-creatures in the Lord of the Rings?… Yeah, right.

This summer, our church has been doing a “summer Bible study” on Genesis 1-11. Interestingly, the sermons have skipped over the part about the Nephilim, in Genesis 6:1-4:

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown (ESV).

I can understand that there are good reasons for skipping this passage. First, this passage is … uh.. a bit… weird. Secondly, no one really has a clue as to what this really means…. That is right. No one really knows for sure what Genesis 6:1-4 is all about… and neither do I.  Still, I think there is something we can still learn from the Nephilim passage. Continue reading


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