Columns

Following Elijah’s stunning victory over the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18, he turns his attention to drought that continued to linger over the land. Back in 1 Kings 17, Elijah had announced a drought on the land because of the apostasy of the people. They had backed into Baalism and paganism. And their failure to remain faithful to the Lord carried the judgment of God removing his word from the people, signified by the lack of rain or dew. This was also a polemic against Baal, the storm god. The Baal cycle would be broken and the LORD would show himself to be God.

"With which person in the Bible do you most identify?" This is a question I have often asked others in the church over the years. Most of us lack even enough self-awareness to able to answer the question. Others among us have a propensity to appeal to the best characters in Scripture.

Kata Bethlen – A Faith Preserved

            Kata Bethlen (1700-1752) started her autobiography with her most painful memory: her forced marriage, at age 17, to her Roman Catholic half-brother.

Alcuin of York – More Than a Scholar

            In 781, a Saxon monk named Alcuin had an encounter that changed his life and became the catalyst of the dynamic but short-lived Carolingian Renaissance. The man he met was the Frankish King Charles (later known as Charlemagne). As many others him, Charles was struck by Alcuin’s intellect and abilities, and invited him to join a group of scholars at his court.

Paul’s last known letter – called 2 Timothy in our Bibles – contains a startling warning to a pastors and churchmen.  In 2 Timothy 3:1-4 Paul lists out characteristics of the last days – the days in which the church lives.  People, Paul says, will be selfish, greedy, arrogant, malicious, and reckless; they will hate all that is good; they will love pleasure more than God.  It is not an encouraging picture, although, to us, it may be a familiar one.

There are good reasons to rejoice over the publication of this new online magazine. It may or not make a splash, but it will provide an opportunity. This opportunity could be described in many ways, but I think it’s best described as a chance to stop and think – to think theologically, to think in terms of our Protestant confessional tradition, to think about the ways and means of engaging in gospel ministry today.

The triplet of sin-related requests embedded in the Lord’s Prayer ends with the shortest, but in many ways the most potent of them all: ‘Deliver us from evil’. As many commentators point out, there is a measure of ambiguity over whether it should be rendered ‘…from evil’ or ‘…from the evil one’. However, the distinction is somewhat immaterial as evil is inseparably bound up with the one who is its source. The one who in the words of the C.S. Lewis title is none other than, ‘That Hideous Strength’.

It is all too easy to be so focused on the individual components of the Lord’s Prayer – the ‘petitions’ of which it is comprised – that we lose sight of its overall topography, or landscape. Even though the details bound up with each request are vitally important, we only appreciate their full weight and significance when we survey them as part of a whole.

Contemplating the question, “If you could preach only one sermon, what would it be?” the thought that keeps returning is, “Love God.” 

Perhaps this focus of proclamation comes to mind because our church’s men’s study is going through Jonathan Edwards’ Charity and Its Fruits based on 1 Corinthians 13.  Profound indeed it is that whatever we endeavor for God—however much according to His commands in the littlest jots and tittles—profits us absolutely nothing before the Lord without His love as its source and sum. 

I cannot tell you how many variations I have heard of sermon and sermon points about the special kind of agape love in the New Testament. Variations often emphasize the uniqueness and the sacrificial aspects of agape love and distinguish it from the other Greek words. Yet, as D.A. Carson warned in his book Exegetical Fallacies, this is a kind of word fallacy. Certainly, the New Testament contains the concept of sacrificial love like we see Christ give, and yes John and 1 John use the word agape, but the concept is bigger than one word.

What does it mean to be a reader? What’s actually happening when someone reads a text? Ever since the rise of post-modernism these kinds of questions have been in vogue. And though many of the popular answers today are new, the questions themselves are not. In fact, he Bible itself as well as many of its early readers, wrestled well with what it means to read, giving us a definition to a biblical art of reading. I want to explore briefly five components to what it means to read the Bible.

To interpret is to identify the meaning or significance that the thing has which we interpret. Humans interpret. We do not choose to interpret; interpretation is unavoidable. But we do choose how we interpret and thereby what our interpretation will be. Furthermore, interpreting is a perpetual activity for us. It’s not as if interpreting takes place at a given moment in time and then once having been done we can dispense with it. That could hardly be the case.

We complete our study of the Thirty-Nine Articles at Article 39, which also concludes its final topic: The relationship between the Christian and the commonwealth. Article Thirty-Nine addresses the distinction between the permissible swearing of an oath from rash and profane swearing forbidden by the third of the Ten Commandments.