Anxiety is overwhelming. It can affect our bodies. It wreaks havoc on our emotions. And it consumes our thoughts. They race like a runaway train or get caught in a vicious cycle of spinning round-and-round with “what if…”, “if only…”, or many other possibilities. Anxiety awakens us in the dark hours of the night. It can rob us of a day’s joy and suck the life right out of us.
(Below is a section from a longer article on “Eternal Security, Perseverance, and Assurance.” You can read the full version here. And here is a list of verses written out that are related to the doctrine.)
Some of our biggest theological and practical struggles come from not knowing how to put together statements in Scripture that don’t fit at first glance. Part of being a good student of the Word is reading all of Scripture together and letting it interpret itself. When two ideas take us different directions we slow down and look at both together.
One example might be Christology. We give full weight to texts speaking about Jesus’ divinity without slighting his full humanity, and vice versa. We allow both texts to speak with one coherent voice.
I recently had the privilege of teaching on a biblical theology of pilgrims, sojourners, and exiles. While my focus was on how Christians are spiritual sojourners as citizens of heaven living on earth, I was struck again by how much the Bible speaks to the situation of sojourners today (immigrants and refugees). Think about how much of the Bible is written about or to people on the move: whether exiles, sojourners, wanderers in the wilderness, or people on a pilgrimage. This wealth of biblical material provides insight into how we might think about, treat, and care for immigrants and refugees (sojourners) today. (A sojourner in the Bible was one residing in or traveling through a country not their own. This is why some translations use “immigrant” for sojourner.)
This weekend we did a painting project in our home. Though we had the room’s lights on and could see most things, it wasn’t until we turned on additional floor-lamp that the shadowy corners were illuminated. We didn’t need that extra light to see the biggest things, but it does help us notice things we might have otherwise missed (like where the wall needed a second coat).
Scripture sheds light on Scripture. Sometimes the link is explicit, either through a quotation or a direct allusion, while other times connections are present but without immediately standing out. As you dive deeper and look at important themes and words, you see the overlap. Reading Scripture as one book that’s unified and cohesive allows Scripture to not only interpret Scripture but to give further insight or clarity to itself. Reading a passage with related themes can be like turning on the additional light in the room. It might just help you see something otherwise hidden with an “aha” moment.
One of the areas of disagreement in the in-person and online wider Christian world (often a very scary and even unChristian place), is what is actually “gospel work.” Are effects of the gospel part of the gospel? Are things Christians work towards and cultivate in their church, community, and family connected to the gospel, or is “the gospel” only the message of how sinners become right with God? It’s a good question, when really asked rather than thrown out as a smoke-screen to avoid allowing the gospel to do its deep work in our lives.
(Below is a summary of the key issues involved in the debate about whether the Bible supports female deacons or not, as well as a few key arguments for why I think it does. You can read a PDF version of this blog here.)
Complementarians (those who affirm distinct but complementary roles for men and women) can disagree on the question of whether or not the Bible supports female deacons, or deaconesses. Neither side believes the Bible is explicit in its clarity, nor that it is an issue worth splitting or dividing over. While both interpretations seek to do justice to Scripture and can put forward a reasonable defense of their position, I (and the majority of complementarian theologians and commentators today) find the evidence more compelling for a biblical case leaving the office/role of deacon open to both men and women.
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” (Matthew 1:21-23)
Each Christmas, or Advent season, we sing about Jesus our Immanuel. God with us. We find comfort in the incarnation behind Christmas. God’s stepping down to Earth to be with us by becoming one of us in Jesus. But how is Jesus really God with us?
“It is good to give thanks to the Lord.” (Psalm 92:1)
In our day and age of more-more-more where “Thanksgiving” is the waiting season between Halloween and Christmas, gratitude often takes a back seat. It’s no surprise thankfulness struggles to compete for attention with a holiday where I get to make a list of things people will buy me.
I’ve loved the last few books by James K.A. Smith (You Are What You Love, How (Not) to be Secular, and his trio of cultural liturgy books). He combines church history, movies, music, philosophy, theology, cultural references, apologetics, and the Christian life in a way that connects the disconnected. He pushes you to think and feel. In On the Road with Augustine, Smith uses Augustine’s writings (particularly The Confessions) and life to help us navigate 21st century life.
Both Augustine and Smith prove to be trustworthy travel partners. Together, they help us think through our longings and desires in a realm of issues (freedom, ambition, sex, friendship, mothers, fathers, friendship, enlightenment, justice, story, and death). It’s an apologetic offering rest to the restless in the same source Augustine found rest: Jesus. While some of Smith’s best material is too lengthy to put here, I’ve provide a few of my favorite quotes from the book.
There is a growing tendency within the church to call any issue a “political issue.” Examples include how we treat refugees and immigrants, racial reconciliation, climate change and creation care, gun control, care for the poor, sexuality, gender, and marriage issues. My problem isn’t connecting faith and politics (which should be done), but that this often is a way of stiff-arming contemporary issues from the Bible. Rather than approaching a topic from our faith, everything is viewed through its political angle, party disputes, and social divides.