I just have to put it out there that I do not have any tattoos. Having lived through so many fads I know how something can seem so popular for a while and then in a few years you wonder what was the big deal. I do not know if tattoos are a fad. They are certainly nothing new, but when I was much younger I knew of no one with a tattoo. Now, however, tattoos are very common. Much of the time, when I see a tattoo, I tend to want to know what it is or what it says. What is so important to this person that they will display it on their body until they die? My purpose here is not to discuss or debate whether tattoos are biblical. (I am aware of tattoo debate based on Leviticus 19:28.) If that is not the purpose, then why bring up the topic of tattoos at all? Because God uses people different from me to humble me. None of us like to be humbled, but we know it needs to happen regularly. Lessons in humility can come at any time and in any place.
I am one of those who have always been in church. My parents took me to church as an infant; I grew up in church, and now that I am over a half century in age I am still in church. By God’s grace I was adopted by Christian parents, and God has given my family and me grace upon grace ever since. However, recognizing that I am who I am by God’s grace has been a bit of a challenge. I grew up with performance-based Christianity. Continue reading
One of my guiltless pleasures is listening to The Reformed Pubcast and the silly but sometimes thoughtful hosts Les and Tanner on reformed theology, craft beer, and popular nerd culture. A caller on one of their episodes a month or so ago asked about their thoughts on courtship and dating. Les admitted to not having a philosophy about it, since his children are still fairly young. I had recommended a book when this topic first surfaced on their Facebook page months ago, but now I see this is a good opportunity for a Postcard topic and perhaps a future Pubcast Facebook post.
Recently my wife and I were on a road trip to visit family. While traveling through the Deep South we passed a large sign by the side of the interstate that said, “Go to church or the devil will get you!” Several questions went through my mind, but the question I pondered was, “What is wrong with the message on this sign?”
One of my favorite stories in any of the four Gospels is Luke’s account of Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. In it, the humanity of Jesus is beautifully on display. You see, even though Jesus made it clear that he had come down from heaven, not to do his own will, but the will of the Father (John 6:38); the fact that he had a human nature meant that, at times, doing the Father’s will would be incredibly difficult. Continue reading
Not long ago I was contemplating creation. I was not thinking about the age of the earth or the foolishness of evolution. Rather, I was thinking about God’s creation, from the vastness of the universe to the minutest particle that has been discovered. As Paul says in Romans 1:20, God’s eternal power and divine nature are plainly evident through all that God has made, and in Psalm 19:1 David says the heavens declare the glory of God. Creation is God’s general revelation of himself to humankind. He is shouting, “I am, and I am huge!”
What is really important? What things do you consider to be a big deal? Have you ever considered these questions? We all have principles that we believe are worth fighting for. We all have people in our lives we stand up for. But when do I cross the line from being principled to being someone who is just plain difficult to deal with? In other words, do I have the wisdom to know the difference between principle and preference? Am I standing on what I know to be vital truth or have I elevated something dear to me higher than it deserves? Knowing when to fight and knowing when to yield requires discernment, and having discernment is critical to healthy relationships.
I was recently at a service where Psalm 136 was read responsively. This psalm calls on worshipers to praise God for who he is, praise him for his great works of creation, and praise him for what he has done on behalf of his people Israel. There are 26 verses and each verse ends with the refrain for his steadfast love endures forever. Over and over the phrase for his steadfast love endures forever was repeated. My first thought was how repetitive. I think we have got the idea. Of course that kind of thinking comes from my sinful self-centeredness. We like to think God just can’t help but love us since he so loving and we are loveable. We are not amazed by the love of God because we do not understand the holiness of God. (There are those who tend to think that God could not love us because he is so holy but they seem to be a rare find.) Clearly, I wasn’t really thinking about what was being said. Later I began to think over this simple refrain and was truly humbled.
In the last blog post we covered the major difference between Christianity and Islam with regard to God’s nature and character. In this week’s blog post, we pick up the remaining two major differences between Christianity and Islam: the identity and deity of Jesus Christ, and soteriology (the study of salvation).
Have you ever had a double take? Usually it’s a compulsory second look due to something visually startling. I had one not long ago due to a conversation before a luncheon with two evangelical Christian friends who attend two different churches. The conversation led to the comment “The Muslims believe in the same God as we do, they just call him by a different name, Allah.” After my double take, but before I could blurt out, “No!”, our luncheon host called us to our individual tables.
So is a name really that important? Juliet Capulet deeply hoped it wasn’t, as Shakespeare penned “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” Ironically, name changing wouldn’t have solved their families’ feud because of the nature of the people involved. In my scenario, the name does matter, because the name is mentioned and the Being revealed in authoritative writing. For the God of the Bible, He is YHWH (LORD; I AM). For the God of the Qur’an, he is Allah. The Islamic name doesn’t translate well in English, so one Muslim writer defined it as “the unique god who possesses all the attributes of perfection and beauty in their infinitude” (1). From this alone, you can’t conclude anything–there’s no detail to make a comparison. However, there are important differences in three areas: nature and character, the identity and deity of Jesus Christ, and soteriology. I’ll cover the first in part 1 of this postcard, and the remaining two in part 2. Continue reading