From Around The Interweb

Here’s some links from around the cyber world that were interesting, wonderful, or otherwise noteworthy:

In Praise of “Xmas” – Matthew Schmitz, First Things

Keep the Nomina Sacra in Xmas – Mike Bird

Eric Metaxas:  My Top 5 Books For Non-Believers  Christianity Today

Thoughts on BIblical Inerrancy.  Gavin Ortlund

How to Get People to Read the Bible Without Making Them Feel Dumb.  Trevin Wax.  I’m always trying to get folk to read more of the Good Book.  This was helpful.

Singled Out:  How Churches Can Embrace Unmarried Adults.  Christena Cleveland.  This article is not perfect but was forwarded to me by an unmarried person.  Dialogues and learning need to happen along these lines.

7 Ways Social Media Makes Pastoring More Difficult.  Mike Leake

How Do We Know The Holy Spirit Is A Person?

Christians have always believed that the Spirit is not just the power of God in an impersonal way.  He is a Person of the Trinity in His own right.  But how do we know that from the Bible?  Here are some incredible evidences:

dove1. The Spirit teaches and reminds.  John 14:26  1 Corinthians 2:13

2. The Spirit speaks.  Acts 8:29  Acts 13:2

3. The Spirit makes decisions.  Acts 15:28

3. The Spirit can be grieved.  Ephesians 4:30

4. The Spirit can be outraged.  Hebrews 10:29

5. The Spirit can be lied to.  Acts 5:34

6. The Spirit can forbid or prevent human speech and plans.  Acts 16:6-7

7. The Spirit searches everything and comprehends God’s thoughts.  1 Corinthians 2:10-11

8. The Spirit apportions spiritual gifts.  1 Corinthians 12:11

9. The Spirit helps us, intercedes for us, and has a mind.  Romans 8:26-27

10. The Spirit bears witness to believers about their adoption.  Romans 8:16

11. The Spirit bears witness to Christ.  John 15:26

12. The Spirit glorifies Christ, takes what is Christ, and declares it to believers.  John 16:14

via Justin Taylor, read the whole thing here.

Of course, if the Spirit is a Person than He must not be merely read about but experienced.  In fact, it is the primary work of the Spirit to bring experience into our lives – like of the Father’s love, or the Son’s atonement.  Let’s open up ourselves to Him.  Come Holy Spirit!

Is the Church for Singles or for Couples? Why we both need each other.

Having been pointed to an interesting article, and enjoying the conversation it led to, I thought I would share a few brief thoughts on being married and being single in Church.  I am happily married in a Church community. I’ve also been single in Church too – albeit when I was in my twenties, which is a galaxy away from other single experiences.  These thoughts of mine are attempting to be Biblical but in terms of experience, they can’t be all-encompassing.  I could stand to learn a lot.  But hey, that’s the point of what follows…

This image is filled with horrible assumptions and misrepresentations of singleness and coupling. But how often does this caricature affect us in the Church?

This image is filled with horrible assumptions and misrepresentations of singleness and coupling. But how often does this caricature affect us in the Church?

Many churches are filled with married families.  Some are filled with single people, both young and mature.  Often times married people get very focused on their own family unit and forget to see those who are, for whatever reason, single.  Often times single people feel like a subclass in many churches.  Conversely, sometimes single people forget to observe just how difficult marriage can be and also how important it is.  Sometimes the assumed labels over married are “normal” or “happy”.  Sometimes the assumed labels over singleness are “something’s wrong” or “must be unhappy”.  We need to move past these assumptions.  After all, we are taught about the glory of marriage by a single Man.  (and another one too!)  Both states must be okay and more than okay, they must be important.

What occurs to me is that Christ’s Church needs to be a community where people see one another whatever their state.  And having seen can learn from one another.  What does the presence of married people teach God’s community?  What does the presence of single people teach that same community – even if and perhaps especially if most are married?  These are important questions.

What Does Marriage Teach Us All?  A community where marriage is valued, protected, lifted up as important, and perhaps counter-culturally defined teaches us.  It teaches us all whether we are happily married, unhappily married, formerly married, will be married, or never will be married.  It teaches us about our need as human beings for one another.  It is not good for man to be alone.  It teaches us about self-sacrifical love and service.  It teaches us about covenant.  As marriage is being redefined around us it teaches something of discipleship – what it means to follow Jesus even against the current.  It teaches us about the Church and her future.  But most importantly, it teaches us about Christ.  You could read Genesis 2:18-25, Matthew 19:1-10, Ephesians 5:22-32, Revelation 21 and learn the ideas.  But seeing it, in the midst of a diverse community teaches us all something.  As much as we value, lift up, explain, celebrate, real marriages – with all their struggles and glories – we learn.  God teaches us whatever our relational state may be.  But this is not all we have to learn…

What Does Singleness Teach Us All?  This is likely the more neglected half of the equation.  But the presence of single people – faithfully and obediently living it out – teaches a Church community valuable things as well, provided eyes are open and ears are listening.  Faithful singleness teaches us that our primary relationship – the one that surpasses all others in importance – is with God.  No wife, husband, or even children can satisfy what only God can.  It teaches us that our first commitments are for the Kingdom and not this world.  It teaches us something of our resurrected future where, apparently, marriage will not be a thing.  … they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.  It can challenge us about our idolatries.  Idols are only made from good things and many make idols out of marriage or childrearing.  But most importantly, it teaches us something about Jesus.  In His humanity, He did not need to be married to fulfill God’s purposes.  You could read Matthew 19:11-12, 1 Corinthians 7, or look to the examples of Christ or Paul and get the ideas.  But by seeing faithful singleness lived out – with all its struggles and glories – we learn.

Both marrieds and singles are valuable persons in a community of grace.   Both show us something of what a life of discipleship means.  And both show us something of the Person of Our Lord – whose face we see in one another.  We need one another to know Him.  And we need to learn from one another with open eyes, listening ears, and glad hearts.

For more on this:

These are some good talks on singleness (good for both marrieds and singles to learn from):

Singleness -The Biblical Guidelines, Part 1 – Tim & Kathy Keller

Singleness -The Biblical Guidelines, Part 2 – Tim & Kathy Keller

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And I can’t recommend this book enough (especially pages 133 to 147)  If you’re part of The King’s Fellowship I’ve got a free copy for you.  Ho Ho Ho.  Merry Xmas.

Real Sex:  The Naked Truth About Chastity.  Lauren Winner

“I Hate Xmas!” – Chill out its Christmas!

Is that an X?  Or is it something else?

Is that an X? Or is it something else?

This is the first of several holiday themed posts about some of the things that we, as Christians, need to chill out about regarding Christmas (or Xmas).  Many people perceive there is a cultural ‘war against Christmas’ and maybe there is something to that.  But we can’t over-react and become grinch-y about somethings we don’t need to.

It’s common to hear the phrase “Keep Christ in Christmas”.  It’s a good sentiment.  But sometimes it’s used as an assault on the use of a very common abbreviation for Christmas:  Xmas.  Is writing ‘Xmas’ really a way of cutting Jesus out of every reference to the season?  Should we get our knickers in a twist about it?  Should we use every opportunity to point out how bad it is?

Well, no.  In the spirit of the season, we should Chill Out, It’s Christmas!  And we should educate ourselves about what Xmas really is and where it came from.  Here’s some reasons to chill out.

Turns out that the X really isn’t an X.  It’s a Chi as in the Greek letter Chi.  Chi is the first letter of Christ.  Xmas is actually a totally legitimate way to abbreviate ‘Christ’.  So just because it doesn’t look (to us) like Christ is there, doesn’t mean that it isn’t.

Turns out it wasn’t our secular culture who first started using “Xmas”.  It was Christians.  And it is not recent either.  It’s use in English is about 1,000 years old.  It represents a very old practice of Christian scribes known as Nomina Sacra (that’s “Sacred Name” for those whose Latin is a bit rusty).  Theos (God) used to be shorted to the Greek letter theta.  And Christos (Christ) used to be shortened to Chi and Ro (these look like the English X and P, but they’re not!).  Christmas got shortened to Xmas.  Simple as that.

clever image via Mike Bird

clever image via Mike Bird

Turns out we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.  If our culture doesn’t seem warm to the idea of Biblical faith, then maybe that’s true.  But we shouldn’t look for cultural disrespect under every stone.  And we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.  We should seek to bring Jesus into the season but do it in a way that appeals to those around us.  “Xmas” is as Christian as anything.  And using it saves time, ink, and the effort of moving fingers across even more keys – so maybe there’s something to it!

For more info:

In Praise of “Xmas” – Matthew Schmitz, First Things

Keep the Nomina Sacra in Xmas – Mike Bird

From Around The Interweb

Here’s some links from around the cyber world that were interesting, wonderful, or otherwise noteworthy:

Nigerian Sailor Rescued After 3 Days Under the Sea.  A great story about a nearly unbelievable survival and rescue.  This almost reads like a real-life parable (an oxymoron???) and so should not be missed.

Popular Science Disproves Virgin Birth with #SCIENCE!!!  Christmas time means there will be articles out there which to undercut Christian claims about the miraculous in history.  Count on it every year.  Derek Rishmawy takes Popular Science to task for it here.  “Virgin Births are scientifically impossible!”  The Christian answer?  “Yeah, we know.  That’s why we make a big deal about it!”

Making Advent Real – Zachary Perkins, RELEVANT.  A  great reflection on time-travelling, feeling the rhythm, and turning down the noise.

Discrimination Against Christians?  Gregor Puppinck.  First Things.

Why being a Christian could be the most dangerous identity to hold in the world today.  Charles Lewis.  National Post

This Is What An Abortion Looks Like When It Doesn’t Work.  A wonderful video!

 

Need Some Christmas Reading? How about an oldie but a goodie?

C S Lewis once gave some great advice on reading.  It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.  He explained that only reading contemporary books robs us of the perspective that previous centuries can provide.  Old books help us to avoid the blind spots of our present age.  In light of that, I’d like to recommend an old book.  An old, old one.

This guy hated false teaching almost as much as he hated razors.

This guy hated false teaching almost as much as he hated razors.

It is On The Incarnation, written by Athanasius in the 4th century.  Now before you think that this book isn’t for you, consider that it is one of the most influential books in Christian history.  On The Incarnation is also well known because of its famous introduction which was written in the 20th century.  It is also available online here.  Athanasius lived at a time when many people did not believe that Jesus was the divine Son of God who had come in the flesh.  Athanasius stood against the theological/philosophical/cultural trends of his time to argue that Jesus was indeed God in the flesh.  After the Bible itself, his writing has been most influential for preserving this precious truth.  

So why should you read an old, old book?  (If you’re in The King’s Fellowship I’ve got a copy for you.  Free.)

1)  It’s short.  Old books are usually shorter than contemporary ones (this one’s only 60 pages or so).  Our ancient friends apparently didn’t feel the need to go on and on.

2)  It’s not Max Lucado but it’s surprisingly readable.  Reading a book from 1,700 years ago is not as tough as you might think.  If you’ve never challenged yourself in your reading, why not try now?  If you can understand the Bible you can work through this small masterpiece.  The diamonds here are worth digging for…

3)  It’s Christmas-y.  Kind of.  I re-read this every December.  It is, in essence, about how Baby Jesus matters to Crucified Jesus.  If there is too much consumerism and family tension for you, maybe you can let yourself be reminded of what the greatest gift of the season is.

4)  It is so relevant.  Athanasius reminds us that we don’t need to be afraid of going against our times.  He also reminds us that the first truths about Christian faith are the most profound.  For him, that God had come into the world to save the lost.  Reading him reminds us that we don’t need to go along with the current of our times.

Lewis was right about old books.  And where was it that he made his famous observation about old books?  In his famous introduction to On The Incarnation of course!  His introduction to it is almost as famous and itself is worth the price!*

* the price is free online, or free if you ask me for a copy, but you get the point.

Are You Being Persecuted?

Don't be fooled.  Persecution doesn't always look like this.

Don’t be fooled. Persecution doesn’t always look like this.

Having read recently about the global Christian situation (here and here), persecution against Christians is on my mind.  I have heard it said (sorry no citation!) that the 2oth century saw more persecution against Christians than any previous.  I have no idea what is meant by that – either the type of persecution or the extent.

In Canada, there is nowhere near the type or severity or persecution that exists in other parts of the world.  It may lead us to ask ourselves the question:  Are we being persecuted?  What about others who receive worse?

Some thoughts:

1)  Know about it.  It is not a myth.  Despite the claims of some, who have been soundly refuted here and here among other places, persecution of Christians is a historical and present reality.  God sees it as precious in the Bible.  Early Church Father Tertullian has famously said that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.  Suffering for faith in Christ is real, and it is happening right now in the world.

2)  There’s always some who have it worse.  Lots of sisters and brothers suffering very bad in other places.  No matter how we may think it is going for us here in Canada, it is worse elsewhere.  This should make us thankful.  It is hard to imagine someone dying for their faith here.  But it shouldn’t make us neglect the cultural climate we live in now.  We may be tempted to think that real persecution is impossible here now but it is not.  Just because it is worse elsewhere doesn’t mean the spirit of persecution isn’t here with us now.

3)  Small persecution isn’t nothing.  To think accurately about persecution we need to look to what Scripture says about it.  What does Jesus say?   Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  (Matthew 5:11 NKJV)  If you think you need your head cut off or your house burned down to be “properly persecuted” consider that Jesus here defines persecution as an attitude (reviling) and as speech (speaking evil).  Paul makes reference to Ishmael persecuting Isaac:  But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was bornaccording to the Spirit, even so it is now. (Galatians 4:29)  To what does that refer?  Walk back to Genesis 21:9 and see.  He is referring to “scoffing”.  Just because your house isn’t burned down and your head remains on your shoulders does not mean that smaller persecutions mean nothing.  If a professor derides your faith as bigoted and backwards, or a friend puts down your choices to not get wasted, or a celebrity mocks Christian values …that isn’t nothing.  Jesus calls you blessed.

4)  Pray, Pray, Pray.  When we consider persecution, we must always acknowledge how much worse it is for others.  And so we must pray for them.  Pray, pray, pray.  And we must pray for ourselves – as good as we may have so far now.  Because in decades to come we may not.  Only God knows the future.  We can pray for ourselves that we may be like Peter and John who rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.