Monthly Archives: January 2020

Pocahontas and the English Boys: A Brief Review

In early 17th century Jamestown, both the English and Native Americans used children to try to improve inter-cultural relations between the two groups. Young people were able to pick up new languages more quickly than adults, and such young people proved to be a useful means of acquiring information about the other side. But often, they had divided loyalties, which could put them in difficult situations.

In Pocahontas and the English Boys: Caught between Cultures in Early Virginia, Historian Karen Ordahl Kupperman tells the story of four such young people, three of them English boys who lived among the Native Americans, and Pocahontas, the prized daughter of Powhatan, who became fascinated with the English, and lived among them.

Portrait of Pocahontas by Simon van de Passe, in 1616, when she made her journey to England. This was within about a year, prior to her death.

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Notable Deaths: R. Scruton, C. Tolkien… and J. Van Impe

We are just a bit past midway through the first month of 2020, and there are already some notable deaths for Christians to consider.

First, there was philosopher Sir Roger Scruton. As an outspoken conservative, British thinker, many Christians have looked to Scruton as a defender of “beauty,” a concept that has taken quite a beating, in our post-modern, post-Christian world. Scruton’s personal convictions about faith were quite complex, describing his involvement in the Anglican church as “my tribal religion, the religion of the English who don’t believe a word of it.

Secondly, there was Christopher Tolkien, the son of one of the Inklings, J.R.R. Tolkien. The elder Tolkien had written much of his works on Middle Earth, with his son, Christopher, in mind. Christopher Tolkien managed his father’s literary estate, after his father’s death, publishing previously unpublished J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, including The Silmarillion

Lastly, from a different angle in the Christian world, there was the colorful Jack Van Impe, a television evangelist, who regularly appeared for years, with his wife, Rexella, on late night television, with his analysis of current events as they related to biblical prophecy. Van Impe, who was able to memorize thousands of Bible passages, lost his spot on a popular television network in recent years, after calling other prominent evangelical leaders as promoters of what he called “Chrislam.”

Here is Roger Scruton in dialogue with Jordan Peterson.

Here is Christopher Tolkien reading the last part of The Lord of the Rings.

Here is Rexella, the wife of Jack Van Impe, talking about the coming of the Rapture (and a link to one of Jack Van Impe’s final television appearances).

Sarah Osborn’s World #1

As part of a focus on American Church History, over the next few months, I will blog my way through a book that I found both thoughtful and enthralling. I read it as I sat with my mother, a little over four years ago, when she dying of cancer.

The history of Christianity has been dominated by male voices. Some of the most profound literary contributions of women have simply remained forgotten. So when someone rediscovers a woman’s voice of faith from the past, it can be a real treasure to find.

Harvard Divinity School religious historian, Catherine Brekus, has given us a remarkable gift by recovering for us the lost story of Sarah Osborn (1714-1796), a poor woman from New England who met Jesus during the great revivals of the mid-18th century. It was during this “First Great Awakening” where the English speaking world was greatly impacted by the dynamic preaching of George Whitefield and John Wesley, which helped to define contemporary evangelicalism. I hope you enjoy her story as much as I did as I post up various blog summaries of Brekus’ wonderful book. Better yet, read the book yourself!

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Neil Peart & Australian Koala Rescues: A Rough Start for 2020

Australia’s fires overlaid on a map of the United States.

We have had a rough start to 2020. A lot of news, and we are less than two weeks into the year! A couple of items stick out to me, that I am thinking about in particular.

First, the extensive wildfires in Australia are simply staggering. Several dozen human deaths, thousands of homes destroyed, and an unbelievable 10 million hectares of land have been burned.

But what stands out to me the most is the impact on animal life. Possibly one billion animals have died (or suffered serious injury) from the fires, including possibly 30,000 koala bears. The story about koala bears is difficult enough, considering the fact that koalas were already threatened with extinction. Heart-wrenching YouTube videos abound recording koala bear rescues.

How should Christians respond in leading efforts to care for God’s good creation?? (Here are some ways to help)


Secondly, the other story that jumped out this week is the death of Neil Peart, the legendary drummer of RUSH, the Canadian rock music trio, that has been playing music since the 1970s. So much of popular rock music has been riddled with lyrics that are far from being spiritually edifying. But once Neil Peart joined RUSH as their drummer and chief lyricist, Peart went against the grain. Neil Peart was known to be a sensitive thinker, a lyric writer who was not known for shallowness.

Neil Peart was also an atheist, having been raised in church, but leaving it at a young age, due to a growing skepticism. Peart became particularly enamored with the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

In 1997, Neil Peart took a break from the band, when his college aged daughter died in a car accident, shortly followed by the death of his wife, due to cancer. As a kind of therapy, Neil Peart road his motorbike solo across the United States, to work through his spiritual questions and doubts. Sadly, Neil Peart was not impressed with his experience with Christian churches, and his lyrics often reflected his disillusionment.

Neil Peart never came across as a “faith basher” to me, but his skeptical outlook on the world, and his negative experience with Christianity, as evidenced by some recorded interviews, like this one, is representative of some of the more thoughtful skeptics in my generation, as well as in up-and-coming generations.  One of the reasons why I am so passionate about the study of Christian apologetics is because I believe that Christians can supply good answers to many of the tough questions posed by skeptics, like Neil Peart. Sadly, relatively few Christians seem to be that concerned about the Neil Pearts in our world, who are honestly looking for answers to life’s difficult questions.

Neil Peart died at the age of 67, after battling brain cancer himself, for the past three years. I wonder if  in some quiet way, the Lord Jesus and Savior of the World might have revealed Himself to Neil Peart, in those difficult, dark days.

May we as Christians learn to have a stronger desire to love the Neil Pearts, among our neighbors, families, and friends, for the sake of the Gospel.

Here is Neil Peart talking about the early years of the band:

I have seen RUSH perform live four times. Great every time. Here is the master at work, live in Frankfurt, Germany.

With the whole band, performing “Secret Touch,” one of my favorites, from 2002’s “Vapor Trails” album:

Great Tools for Doing Awesome Bible Study

Happy Epiphany!

As I have remarked before, we live in an age where we have easy access to great resources for learning the Bible. As we start a new year… and a new decade (unless you think it begins in 2021 !), I thought I would highlight just a few of these excellent tools for doing rewarding, and dare I say, awesome, exciting, … and even fun, Bible study. Some of the best tools available are for free online.

Believe me. I like the idea of “free.” But there are a few standout resources that I can recommend, that might cost you just a few bucks. Here we go:

Dr. Michael Heiser’s Brief Insights on Mastering Bible Study. One of Dr. Heiser’s several books that can help anyone make better sense of the their Bible, without having to be a total geek, dumping tons of money going to a seminary or Bible college. This book costs a few bucks, but many of the other great tools for Bible study are available for free on the Internet. See below!!

Obviously, the first place you want to start is to get a good Bible. If you are totally new to the Bible, and you want to read quickly through the Bible, something like Eugene Peterson’s The Message is a great place to start. For a high level introduction to God’s Word, The Message is really helpful.

Another great tool for getting a high level survey on the Bible, available in short videos, is the awesome work done by the folks at The Bible Project.

For reading the Bible, while on the go, with your phone or tablet, download an app like YouVersion, or the ESV Mobile App, or the NIV Bible App, that can even read the Bible to you, while you go about your daily business.

However, if you really want to dig in, and really understand the Bible, in a verse-by-verse manner, a paraphrase like The Message will often end up doing you more harm than good. What you really need is a good study Bible. There is a big difference between READING the Bible and STUDYING the Bible. Try to get into the habit of studying the Bible, and not simply reading it.

I will admit it. After awhile, simply reading the Bible can get boring, and you will eventually lose interest. Actually studying the Bible, on the other hand, will offer you a lifetime of rewards.

A good study Bible has selected commentary and notes, that will aid you in your understanding. I have reviewed a number of excellent study Bibles here at Veracity, put together by the best Bible scholars in the world, that I can highly recommend, such as the English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible, the Zondervan New International Version (NIV) Study Bible, the NIV Faithlife Study Bible, the Reformation Study Bible, or anyone of the fine Christian Standard Bible (CSB) Study Bibles. My “go-to” favorite is Crossway’s English Standard Version, and they have probably the best looking Bibles you can buy. But anyone of the ones I have listed above are great.

I would personally stay away from Bibles that have been translated, or filled in with study notes, written by just one person. When you do that, you are just limiting yourself to one scholar’s point of view. I mean, a good study Bible (even some of the online ones) can be expensive, so why make an investment, that is only going to limit your thinking process?? We all have our blindspots. But hey, if you really want to drop $50 bucks on the “Joe-I-Am-A-Popular-Pastor-But-I-Am-Not-The-Pope-But-Some-People-Think-I-Am—-And-I-Am-OK-With-That” Study Bible, do yourself a favor and drop another $50 on a different study Bible, to give you a more rounded perspective, please?

On the other hand, if you are cheap, like me, you might want to check out some of the great Bible study helps available for free online:

  •  You can read and compare multiple Bible translations, of all of the major English translations available (and non-English, too), from your favorite web browser. There are even options at BibleGateway to read notes from a few other study Bibles.
  • For a quick glance looking at how a single verse compares with various popular translations, I often will use Google or DuckDuckGo to search for a reference, and look for the hit at, to see the list of various translations.
  • The NET Bible (otherwise known now as Lumina). Done by a number of folks at Dallas Theological Seminary, including the esteemed veteran Bible scholar, Daniel Wallace. In particular, if you are puzzled about all of the “some manuscripts” blah-blah-blah this and that, the NET Bible explains all of that for you. By far, this is my favorite study Bible available online.
  • The STEP Bible. Just recently put out by the good folks at the Tyndale House, at Cambridge, in England. This is the easiest way to do word studies and word searches in the Bible. You will never need a separate concordance or interlinear translation again, if you use the STEP Bible.
  • (and for the ultra-Bible nerd) The KJV Parallel Bible. The total Bible geek can consult this online parallel Bible to compare how the trusty ole KJV compares with modern translations.

The point is that there is simply no excuse for not having the resources available to you to do good Bible study, assuming you have a computer and an Internet connection. Probably for most folks, a good study Bible is really all you will ever need. Yet for more in-depth study, if you are thinking about leading a Bible study, you can look at other online tools, or spend some money on something like a concordance (where you take a word found in the Bible, to locate where else in the Bible, that word can be found), a Bible dictionary (for looking up what those words mean), or an interlinear Bible (to figure out which Greek or Hebrew word matches the English, in your Bible translation).

As noted above, there are also some really good, inexpensive and short books available to aid in your study of the Bible, without flooding your bookshelf, or filling up your computer hard drive, with stuff you will probably never look at.

Bible commentaries can be really helpful, if you really want to dig deep into a particular book of the Bible. I would suggest that the best ones out there, that will not take up all of your mental energy, and that will not totally destroy your bank account, would be either a volume out of the IVP Tyndale Bible Commentary series (for more nerdy readers), or the NIV Application Commentary series (for less nerdy readers). Sometimes, there are book sales on individual books in these commentary series, so keep your eye out.

I also like having a Bible background commentary, to help you dive in, behind the scenes, to better understand the culture of the Bible. The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible is my personal favorite.

All-in-one resource systems for your computer, like Logos Bible Software, or Accordance, are great for folks who want to be more hardcore in their Bible study. But just be prepared to shell out some bucks, once you get involved in that.

If you have hung around Veracity long enough, you will know that I am a big fan of Dr. Michael S. Heiser. He is an Old Testament scholar who most recently worked with Logos Bible Software, and who is host of the Naked Bible Podcast.

Michael Heiser has released a set of books designed to give you profound insights into understanding the Bible, and each insight can be read and digested in less than 60-seconds. That is my kind of way to start at really getting into Bible study.

Here is my top tip on one of my favorite Michael Heiser books. The first book in the series is Brief Insights on Mastering Bible Study: 80 Expert Insights, Explained in a Single Minute.  Here is a sample of the topics:

  • Read the Bible with a Critical Eye — It Can Take It
  • The Aim of Bible Study Is the Meaning of the Text, Not a Defense of Your View
  • Ignorance Is Not a Gift of the Spirit
  • Attention to Detail and Clear Thinking Are Not Antithetical to Loving Jesus
  • Listening to a Sermon Isn’t Bible Study
  • All Interpretations Are Not Equally Plausible
  • Some Things in the Bible Are Clearer than Others — By Design
  • Nonliteral Doesn’t Mean “Not Real”
  • If It’s Weird, It’s Important
  • You Can’t Understand the Bible Without Understanding the Worldview of the People Who Wrote It

Each essay can be read in, yep, less than a minute.

You can get it on Kindle for $9.99. The paperback version is a little more, but it is worth it. I do not follow Mike on everything, but he is really good at dismissing a lot of the foolish talk that passes itself off as “Bible study” in some circles today. So, stop just reading the Bible, and get excited about studying it. Brief Insights on Mastering Bible Study is a “quick read” tool to help get you started.

Are you more excited now about digging into God’s Word this year? I know I am. So, go for it!

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