A Complete List of DGO Blog Posts

A third background factor that may have paved the way for a new Mennonite interpretation of Jesus’ exception clause was the transition from German to English. The transition from German Bibles to the King James Version, which most Mennonites adopted as they switched to English,[1. The Revised Bible was also used. For example, I found a parallel KJV-RV Bible for sale online that the Mennonite Publishing Company published in 1891 ...
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I was invited to preach a Palm Sunday sermon today. It was a blessing to meditate on the example of our Servant King. Perhaps if I share this here now, some of you will find it in time to watch it this evening--or sometime later during this special week of remembering our Lord's suffering and death. Sermon Title: Worshiping and Imitating Our Servant King Main Text: Matthew 21:1-11 (Jesus’ Triumphal ...
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American Mennonites gradually abandoned the early Anabaptist interpretation of Jesus’ words, “except for porneia” (Matt. 5:32; 19:9). They eventually resolved, instead, to exclude from the church any remarried person whose former spouse was still alive, even if their divorce had been triggered by adultery. In my last post, I shared when this change took place. It began no later than the mid-1800s (likely decades before) and was finalized in a General ...
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How did American Mennonites end up abandoning the early Anabaptist interpretation of Jesus' exception clause about divorce? When and why did they reject the position that remarriage was permissible after a spouse had committed adultery? Months ago, I left my readers hanging, promising to answer this question. I am sorry I have not done so. Here is why: As I dug into the question, I discovered there was a wealth ...
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It's time again to give witness to God's faithfulness in providing for our housing needs. As many of you know, we purchased our Atlanta house on March 25, 2016, paying the seller in full immediately, thanks to loans and gifts from nearly 90 individuals or families. Since this crowdfunding effort was the work of Christ's church, we coined a new term: "churchfunding." (Here is the post that officially launched this ...
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I enjoyed a slow read through 1 Peter this afternoon, sitting quietly in my backyard and giving myself time to meditate as I read. 1 Peter was a letter written to "elect exiles" (1:1), and it definitely offers a counter-cultural way of seeing life. I think its message is timely for today. Three times in this letter Peter specifically describes how things look "in the sight of God" or "in ...
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How did early Anabaptists synthesize the biblical teachings about divorce and remarriage? Why did they believe what they did? What hermeneutical principals and practices led them to believe divorce and remarriage are permitted in cases of adultery? How did they fit Jesus’ exception clauses together with other passages that can appear to leave no permission for either divorce or remarriage? In this post I pause my historical survey of what ...
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This is the second of several historical posts surveying how Anabaptists have interpreted Jesus’ exception clauses (Matt. 5:32; 19:9) regarding divorce and remarriage in cases of porneia (“sexual immorality”). The first post presented the views of the earliest Anabaptists, in the 1500s. This current post continues our survey up to the 1860s. After this post, I’d like to pause my historical survey to attempt a summary of how Anabaptists approached ...
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2020 is proving to be a difficult year for many. Is this year a tragedy or some cosmic joke? What is clearly evident in this year of "2020 vision" is that this world, and we who live in it, are broken. The fruits of Genesis 3—injustice, violence, disease, death—are on display even in lands of prosperity as rarely before in my lifetime. Such times call for both honesty and hope ...
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(This post may not interest most of my regular blog readers, but will be valuable for some historians.) One of the most important writings of the early Hutterites was the "Article Book" of 1577, written by their bishop Peter Walpot. "It was one of their main doctrinal statements, used both within the community and also as a source when dealing with the outside "world" in order to demonstrate the biblical ...
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The early Anabaptists earned an undeniable reputation for holding firmly to the teachings of Jesus as they understood them, no matter the cost. Though they shared many theological beliefs with the magisterial Reformers, the Anabaptists often accused the Reformers of “explaining away” the “hard sayings” of Jesus. ”[1. “The Reformers were more inclined than the Anabaptists to view the Bible as a flat book and to concentrate on the more ...
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“I don’t know if what you are doing is right or not. I really don’t know. I feel I have to tell you that. But… yes, I will play piano at your wedding.” That is what I told a friend, in words I can't recall specifically now, roughly twenty years ago. I had met my friend through the Christian student club at Nipissing University, where I was pursuing an English ...
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What do we mean when we say that marriage is indissoluble? More importantly, is this an accurate way to express the biblical witness about marriage? I will not answer that second question in this post (does that make my title clickbait?), but I do want to examine two passages from Paul that appear to answer it very clearly. When people assert that marriage is indissoluble, they generally mean that nothing ...
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What does the Bible mean when it says a husband and wife become "one flesh"? This phrase describing marriage is variously understood, leading to different conclusions in debates about divorce and remarriage. Here are some conclusions I'm drawing about what the phrase "one flesh" means: It expresses the reality that woman and man are "made of the same stuff." This is clear from the context where the phrase first occurs ...
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Our church is enjoying a sermon series through Paul's letter to the Colossians. At the start of the series, it was suggested that the musicians in our midst might want to compose new songs based on the letter. I immediately thought of the "hymn" in Colossians 1:15-20 and decided I'd like to put it to music. This task has proven difficult however, since the passage doesn't follow the rhythms or ...
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A new year means it's time for another update on our "churchfunding” house loan adventure! How is it working for us by now? In short, we are making monthly repayments as planned and remain deeply grateful for all who helped us buy this house. (Here is the post that officially launched this churchfunding adventure. We purchased our Atlanta house on March 25, 2016, paying the seller in full immediately, thanks to loans ...
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I received encouragement to share my blog series on Jesus and homosexuality in more formats, so I've recorded all six sessions. Here are mp3 and YouTube (audio only) recordings, plus PDFs for downloading and sharing the series in print. Directions: To download an audio or PDF file, right-click the relevant link and click "save." You can also listen online from this page. To see the original blog posts, click on ...
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Do Christians today need to agree with the historical Jesus on the question of homosexual activity? In my last post I presented this conclusion: the total available historical evidence fits only with the hypothesis that Jesus---the historical Jesus of Nazareth---did not approve of homosexual behavior. Nearly all Christians everywhere have always believed this. But should Christians today feel bound to affirm the sexual teachings of rabbi Jesus who lived nearly ...
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In this post I want to summarize our findings about Jesus and homosexuality from my last three posts and evaluate three possible counter-arguments from the Gospels. Did Jesus say some people are born gay? Did he heal a centurion's male lover? And what about Jesus and his "beloved disciple"? I will finish answering the question "Was Jesus okay with homosexual behavior?" Then my final post will address the question "Is ...
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The twenty-first century is a spectacularly bad time to schedule a midlife crisis, particularly if you are by nature skeptical. If you don't know what I mean, read on. As I hover on the brink of my mid-forties, I find that there are a lot of things I don't know. Take life decisions, for example. I never did know what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I'm ...
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In this post I want to challenge a popular assumption about Jesus and homosexuality. It is common knowledge that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality. That assertion is technically accurate based on our existing historical sources (though he said many things that were never recorded). Yet, as I explained in the second post in this series, it is a flimsy argument for saying Jesus was okay with homosexual behavior. In this post ...
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If there is one thing that all Americans may agree on about Jesus, it is that he taught us to love. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" and "Love your neighbor as yourself" are two of our favorite Jesus quotes. "Judge not" and "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone" are often thrown in (or at) for good measure ...
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According to existing historical records, Jesus never explicitly mentioned homosexuality.[1. I say "explicitly" because I think Jesus actually did talk about it, and even came very close to naming it. I'll explain more in post 4. Some who are lobbying for Christians to accept homosexuality think Jesus mentioned it, too. I'll explain why I disagree with their claim in post 5.] This fact leads many to critique the church today for ...
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I have never discussed homosexuality on this blog.[1. I mentioned the topic briefly twice in book reviews.] I've decided it's time to change this. So, after some reading and conversations to prepare, I've drafted a six-part blog series on Jesus and homosexuality: Introduction, Explanations, and a Summary of this Series How Should We Interpret Jesus' Silence About Homosexuality? Does "Love Your Neighbor" Mean Jesus Affirmed "Gay Love"? Why It's Wrong ...
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Spring is almost here again! Here in Georgia, we are already enjoying our first blooms---daffodils, irises, redbuds, camellias, and more are brightening Atlanta neighborhoods. Even in our own yard the beauty---some of it "volunteer" and some of it intentional---is plentiful. Here are some glimpses in photographs I took this morning. The turning of the seasons is a time of revelation. But what does the turning of the seasons reveal? Your ...
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"Every promise in the book is mine!" Do you remember that song? Here's the complete chorus: Every promise in the book is mine, Every chapter, every verse, every line, All are blessings of His love divine, Every promise in the book is mine! It's a catchy little song. I think I learned it in Sunday School years ago. For a much slower version in a gospel style, complete with verses ...
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In this post I'm doing a dangerous thing---questioning grammatical details in English Bible translations when I am only a second-year Greek student. So please take this post with a grain of salt. If you are a Greek scholar and you see I am missing something, please let me know and I'll happily correct this post. Meanwhile, since blogs are good for thinking out loud, here goes! [Edit: I've received responses ...
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Since our “churchfunding” house loan was a public adventure, I want to give public updates from time to time. How is it working for us by now? In short, we are making monthly repayments as planned and remain deeply grateful for all who helped us purchase this house. However, there are changes to our church planting activities which I will share at the end of this post. (Here is the post that ...
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"I and my wife are thankful God answered our prayers and gave us children." Yes, "I and my wife." Now, grammar grumps, cool your fingers and curb your complaints. 🙂 I claim divine precedent for putting myself before my wife. Or at least scriptural precedent. Or at least Pauline precedent. Oh, and I'm not relying on mere gender doctrine, either---which would actually tell me to put myself last. I have ...
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This is the final post of a series called “Wanted: Weak Christians.” Here are the other posts: Wanted: Weak Christians (1 of 5) — Introduction Wanted: Weak Christians (2 of 5) — Who Are They? Wanted: Weak Christians (3 of 5) — How Are They Indispensable? Wanted: Weak Christians (4 of 5) — Advice to the Strong Wanted: Weak Christians (5 of 5) — The Power of the Powerless He is blind ...
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This is part four of a series called “Wanted: Weak Christians.” Here are the other posts: Wanted: Weak Christians (1 of 5) — Introduction Wanted: Weak Christians (2 of 5) — Who Are They? Wanted: Weak Christians (3 of 5) — How Are They Indispensable? Wanted: Weak Christians (4 of 5) — Advice to the Strong Wanted: Weak Christians (5 of 5) — The Power of the Powerless What if your weakness ...
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This is part three of a series called “Wanted: Weak Christians.” Here are the other posts: Wanted: Weak Christians (1 of 5) — Introduction Wanted: Weak Christians (2 of 5) — Who Are They? Wanted: Weak Christians (3 of 5) — How Are They Indispensable? Wanted: Weak Christians (4 of 5) — Advice to the Strong Wanted: Weak Christians (5 of 5) — The Power of the Powerless Why, then, does God ...
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This is part two of a series called “Wanted: Weak Christians.” Here are the other posts: Wanted: Weak Christians (1 of 5) — Introduction Wanted: Weak Christians (2 of 5) — Who Are They? Wanted: Weak Christians (3 of 5) — How Are They Indispensable? Wanted: Weak Christians (4 of 5) — Advice to the Strong Wanted: Weak Christians (5 of 5) — The Power of the Powerless Who, then, are the ...
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This is part one of a series called “Wanted: Weak Christians.” Here are the other posts: Wanted: Weak Christians (1 of 5) — Introduction Wanted: Weak Christians (2 of 5) — Who Are They? Wanted: Weak Christians (3 of 5) — How Are They Indispensable? Wanted: Weak Christians (4 of 5) — Advice to the Strong Wanted: Weak Christians (5 of 5) — The Power of the Powerless “Now you are the ...
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We gave him one safe night, a shower, laundry services, a meal and a half, prayer, and an invitation to change his mind. It was all we could do. Yesterday friends from out of state contacted us to let us know a young man from their community was in our city. He had chosen a homeless life, recently turning down a job offer in favor of a life that he ...
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This is the final part of the sermon I shared this past Sunday at Followers of Jesus Church Atlanta. Here is my outline for the blog version of the sermon: Part 1: What Is "Fruit"? Part 2: Two Kinds of Hearers Part 3: Isaiah 6 and Hardness of Heart Part 4: Four Kinds of Hearers and One Goal FOUR KINDS OF HEARERS AND ONE GOAL With the interpretation of his ...
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This is the third part of the sermon I shared on Sunday at Followers of Jesus Church Atlanta. Here is my outline for the blog version of the sermon: Part 1: What Is "Fruit"? Part 2: Two Kinds of Hearers Part 3: Isaiah 6 and Hardness of Heart Part 4: Four Kinds of Hearers and One Goal ISAIAH 6 AND HARDNESS OF HEART This brings us to Jesus’ quotation of ...
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This is the second part of the sermon I shared yesterday at Followers of Jesus Church Atlanta. Here is my outline for the blog version of the sermon: Part 1: What Is "Fruit"? Part 2: Two Kinds of Hearers Part 3: Isaiah 6 and Hardness of Heart Part 4: Four Kinds of Hearers and One Goal TWO KINDS OF HEARERS Now let’s read our entire text. (Read Matthew 13:1-23.) I ...
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Today it was my turn to preach here at Followers of Jesus Church Atlanta. For a text, I chose the passage that I was reading this week as I work my way through Matthew's Gospel in Greek. As a bonus, it is a passage that includes a quotation from the OT. I often try to include an OT reading and a NT reading in our gatherings, and I often like ...
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I have been working on an essay. Here is a draft of the introduction. What do you think? Shall I finish the essay? Do you have any suggestions about how it should unfold that won't entirely derail me? Any encouragement for a slow writer? 🙂 You may share your feedback in the comments below. Thank you! Here is a PDF of the entire introduction draft:  Here is a link to ...
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I set a goal this year to read through the Bible in the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) translation. I'm far behind schedule but don't regret my choice. The CSB, you may recall, is the new version of the now-retired Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). There are many differences between the two, though both aim(ed) to provide a translation that falls somewhere between the formal equivalence (NASB, KJV, ESV) and functional equivalence ...
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How do we know Jesus rose from the dead? We discussed this question today at Followers of Jesus Church Atlanta as part of our Easter celebration. How would you answer it? The resurrection is the basis for our Christian hope. Paul said that if Christ did not rise from the dead, then we won't, either, and that if we have no hope of being raised at Christ's return, then our "faith ...
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On which day of the week did Jesus die? The first thing that must be said about this question is that it is not a question of first importance, nor even of second importance. It is much more important to understand why Jesus died than to pinpoint when. So if today's question doesn't interest you, that's fine. Nevertheless, the question of when Jesus died has often been debated. And it ...
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Today while studying Greek I encountered an exegetical puzzle. Who is lording over whom in this verse? "25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you." --Matthew 20:25-26 (ESV) Here is a more specific question: To whom does the final "them" in ...
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How can you identify a real Christian? What are the marks of a genuine Christian? Mark Dever is famous for his list of "Nine Marks of a Healthy Church." Others, including the Protestant reformers, produced lists of marks of the "true church." (A church can be unhealthy but still true, so the latter lists are shorter.) But I am asking primarily about the individual, not the group: How can you ...
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In December I had the opportunity to take a two-week Greek immersion class in Pennsylvania. There were about seventeen students and five teachers, depending on how you count. We had lots of fun, with over 4 hours a day of stories, role playing, and dialogue in New Testament Greek! Since New Years we have been continuing studies with weekly three-hour video conference classes. The main teacher of the course is Joseph ...
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Since our "churchfunding" house loan was a public adventure, I want to give public updates from time to time. How is it working for us by now? Very well, thank God! We remain deeply grateful for our house and are making monthly repayments as planned. (Here is the post that officially launched this churchfunding adventure. We purchased our Atlanta house on March 25, 2016, paying the seller in full immediately, thanks ...
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This spring I had the opportunity to enjoy lunch with Finny Kuruvilla, who is, among other things, a medical doctor, an investment officer, a church planter, and author of King Jesus Claims His Church. He was visiting Atlanta from Boston, here at a homeschool expo to tell people about Sattler College, which he is helping to found. I was impressed by his vision for Sattler, which includes training students both ...
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In Romans 8:28 Paul famously assures us that "all things work together for good." This is a much-quoted and much-misunderstood verse. Here it is in full: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. One way this verse is misunderstood is to turn it into an indefinite assurance that "everything that happens has a purpose"; things will ...
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Recently I received word that someone might be interested in publishing my "Red Letter Reductionism" essay that I first shared in 2013---if only I could reduce it a little. So I expanded it from 23 pages to 31 pages. Then, with great effort and the judicious advice of a friend, I cut it down to 14 pages. Now I have two red letter reductionism essays: "Red Letter Reductionism" (expanded version, ...
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The word of God reveals our hearts, leaving us naked and exposed before God. When God's word comes to us, we are forced to respond, and how we respond reveals what is in our hearts. First, we respond by our actions, which reveal either faith or unbelief in God's word. Second, on the Last Day we will be called to give a word of response to God's word, a word ...
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"In the world, but not of the world." Perhaps you've heard this slogan. It's one way we Christians describe our ambivalent position in this world. This slogan has biblical roots, which can be unearthed in John 17, in the prayer Jesus prays for his disciples just before he returns to his Father. Here are the relevant lines: I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world ...
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There is a certain strand of Anabaptist two-kingdom theology that says church and state should be so entirely separate that the church has nothing to say to the state. The church, according to this view, has no call to "bear witness" to the state. While I don't think a church that nags the state is helpful, neither do I think Christ's call is for his followers to have nothing at ...
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Today was a busy, grace-filled day. Tonight, as darkness settles onto our neighborhood, I feel tired but satisfied. This was truly the Lord's Day. This past week was not all easy. We had some difficult conversations with our dear church teammates. Yes, it is possible to hurt people you deeply love. I have done so; have you? I am thankful that, as recipients of God's grace, we can each give ...
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This is (yet another) blog post about The Shack, by Wm. Paul Young. The Canadian in me wants to apologize immediately and get back to smiling, but that wouldn't be quite honest. So I'll just say I wish posts like this never had to be written. (Before you scroll on: I promise to end this post on a positive and constructive note! And I will need your help to make ...
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Yesterday I preached a sermon called "Sonship and Suffering" at Followers of Jesus Church of Thomaston, Georgia, as part of our pulpit exchange. The sermon texts came from Hebrews 2 and 12. My sermon notes this time were in the form of slides, so I will share them here. Most of the key sermon points will be self-evident from the slides. (The sermon was not recorded.) I began the Scripture ...
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I learned today that the King James Version has a misleading translation of an important OT passage about divorce. The translation is not only misleading, but misleading in a direction that will concern you if you are concerned about today's easy divorce culture. The poor translation is found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, in a law addressing a sticky question about a particular kind of remarriage. Here is the relevant passage, as ...
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I thought it would be fitting to give a brief year-end report on our house loan repayments. "Fitting" not because this is the sort of thing that is usually published publicly, but because our churchfunding activities were also unusually public. What an adventure this has been! We want to honor God again for providing for all our needs through the kindness of so many people! (Here is the post that ...
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A pastor friend just sent me email with a wonderful problem: I’m currently near the beginning of a 6 month Sabbatical, enjoying it and looking forward to more.  My church is graciously offering to help pay for some pastor education, and I may use some of this to buy commentaries.  Not sure yet what the commentary budget is, but maybe 1,000-1,400... So, do you have any input for me? How ...
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Today a friend sent me this message: Hi Dwight, got a random question... What would you say are your top 3 reasons for why you believe the Bible? Since I had little time, and since I am not an expert on philosophical apologetics or epistemology, I gave the following response (edited slightly here for clarity): Well... I'll answer quickly, so this might be 3 random answers to your question rather ...
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Someone gave our little Followers of Jesus Atlanta Church a generous gift for buying hymnals. We are very thankful! Now we have the delightful pleasure of selecting the best hymnal(s) to buy. And you can help us by voting. So far, the following three-part approach seems wise, enabling us to move forward without forgetting our past: Choose one book that helps us connect with people in our neighborhood, which is ...
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Life has been too busy of late for me to blog. Worse, I'm afraid I let my busyness keep me from even reading, until today, this post that Mom prepared a month ago. A month is a long time when your father is battling cancer. It is also a long time when your mother's neglected post is about the questions she is asking in the shadow of death. Mom's post ...
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Georgia vines cover our backyard like love covers a multitude of sins. At least that is the natural order of things---with the vines, as well as with true love. We are slowly learning about southern biology. My wife's daily devotional times are suffering thanks to the babbling birds boldly blaring their boom boxes behind our brick abode. I'm noticing---I think, I hope---that Georgia grass grows just a bit more gradually ...
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Where your children angry today? If so, did you stop to ask why? In your search for a solution, did you consider that you may be part of the problem? Unfortunately, parents and children often make life much harder for each other than it would need be otherwise. I know what it is like. All too easily our homes degenerate into mutual-maddening societies, where the words exchanged sound little better ...
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Mom's poem this month is too good to miss, even if I've left it for the last day of the month. The poem grows from the image of "spring leaves in rain." So I'll surround it with photos of life outside our Iowa windows on this rainy spring day. "If haply... they might feel after him,... and find him,... though he be not far from every one of us." ---Acts ...
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Pastor, why should anyone listen to your words? What is the basis of your authority? The answer is both simple and demanding: people should listen to your words to the extent that your words express the word of God. I have been too busy to blog for a month now, which doesn't sit well with me at all! But (a) this too shall pass, God willing, after we are settled ...
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Thanks to God, and thanks to the kind help of God's people---and that is not mere pious, flowery verbiage---we are now owners of a house in Atlanta, Georgia! This weekend our realtor gets the keys for us, and we can begin work on the house as soon as we're ready. Life is now too busy for a long post, but I do want to share the good news. For all ...
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Have you been impatiently waiting for the monthly poem from my mom? No, we have not forgotten. Here it is, just in time to help you remember the death and life of Christ. God bless you as you read Mom's poem and meditate on Christ. I remember as a young girl, lying on the grass, gazing at the immense blue summer sky above me, and trying to grasp in the ...
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I've been too busy house hunting lately to blog! But it's high time for a brief update. In short, we placed an offer on a house, the offer has been accepted, and closing could come as soon as this Friday. The sudden action has left us dizzy and grateful and relying more than ever on God! This house is not the same house that I mentioned in my last post ...
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On the morning of February 16 I sent out an "invitation to special prayer" regarding our Atlanta house hunt. On my lunch break that day I spotted a house that had just been listed for sale that same morning. Unlike any house I had spotted for several months, this one seemed to be a good match for our ideal criteria. Given the timing, I couldn't help wondering: Is this the ...
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My last post was my first attempt at using satire here on this blog. I received quite a bit of positive feedback, but also a few expressions of concern. Is satire a suitable genre for a Christian writer? In particular, is it fitting to rewrite the words of Scripture as I did? Satire can be defined as “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s ...
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Anabaptists have not yet come to a consensus on the thorny problem of Bible translations. Now there is another option they will need to consider. A new translation is underway that may be of special interest to some readers of this blog. In this post I am sharing excerpts from translation efforts so far. The translation team would appreciate your feedback. You don't have to know Hebrew or Greek to ...
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As I write this post, Trump and Clinton are racking up victories in the race to the White House. As you read this post, you may be celebrating or bemoaning the results of last night. You may also be wondering who is to blame for the results. Apart from human voters and strategists, who gets the credit? Satan? Or God? If you like what happened, you might be tempted to ...
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If you died today, what might you regret you'd left unsaid? Such death-bed regrets are common. Many dying people regret that they didn't say "I love you" more often. Others conclude they should have spoken their mind more, expressing their feelings courageously instead of holding back and resenting things. (For some common death-bed regrets, see here and here.) Though Jesus had no such regrets at his death, he did have ...
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Who you are depends largely on who you have been with. And most of what you know you have learned from other people. If these statements are true, then it must be vitally important to be intentional about our relationships. A Christian's most vital relationship is with Christ. If your relationship with him is all it should be, then he can help you survive even the worst set of human ...
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Where can you serve God most strategically? This is not always an easy question to answer. There are needs everywhere, and diligent laborers are in short supply all over. One answer is to simply say that I am most needed right here, right wherever I am. This is certainly true on one level. If I'm not useful "here," I'm unlikely to be useful "there." Discipleship begins here and now, not ...
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Thanks to God's unpredictable providence, cities have found a special place in my heart. While I can live happily in many places, at midlife I find myself drawn to live in a city. No one would have guessed this 30 or 40 years ago. I grew up near a town of 6,500 people---Parry Sound, Ontario. As I boy I was aware of two options for where to live: the northern ...
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We invite friends near and far to join us in special prayer over the next week, asking God to lead us to a house in Atlanta. Our hunt for a house to buy is taking longer than we had hoped. The wait will soon become more expensive, unless we can move into a house before April (more below). Unless the Lord provides the house, they labor in vain that look ...
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Today is Family Day in several Canadian provinces, including my home province of Ontario. On this day I'm sharing two poems from Mom, both expressions of a mother's love for her family. Mom initially planned to share one poem this month. Then her prose introduction evolved into a free verse poem in its own right! So I'll post both poems, in the order in which they were written. Both poems ...
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The third chapter of Everett Ferguson's book The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today is perhaps my favorite chapter yet. This chapter is entitled “The Church and Her Savior: Salvation and Church Membership.” It is a rich read! See also my series Introduction and my discussions of Chapter 1 ("Covenant, Kingdom, Christ") and Chapter 2 ("What Is the Church?"). Do you wonder what salvation and church membership have ...
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Merrill, Eugene H. A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles. (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2015). 637pp. Publisher’s description. Review by Phillip Long. (Amazon new price: $39.99, unavailable on Kindle , cheaper used.)  A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles (Kregel Exegetical Library) Over the past month or so, much of my daily Bible reading has been in 1 and 2 Chronicles. My companion for these books has been Eugene Merrill's new commentary. I am now several ...
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I just finished a book called The Scofield Bible: Its History and Impact on the Evangelical Church, by R. Todd Mangum and Mark S. Sweetham. I recommend the book. It is slightly repetitive at points, perhaps because of the joint authorship, and it might be more engaging if it offered more specific examples and fewer general observations. But it is a very informative and apparently fair discussion of both the ...
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Last night I was listening to some US history lectures from The Teaching Company as I drove home through the night. Here is one thing I learned: Apparently the concept of "Judeo-Christian values/morals" is a relatively recent concept, birthed right here in America. (Here is more information from Wikipedia that supports this assertion.) Prior to the time when this term was birthed, a greater separation was usually assumed and promoted ...
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Winter is a time of waiting. True, activity abounds in places as varied as ski hills and bird feeders. But the grand cycle of life is largely on pause, or at least pursuing quieter goals, waiting for spring's exuberance. Photo Credit: Greying_Geezer via Compfight cc Waiting isn't always easy. It creates unresolved tension between the present and the future. Waiting draws our eye incessantly to the future with its promise ...
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Close your eyes. I will say a word, and you tell me what you see. Ready? "Church." Hey! You didn't close your eyes! Okay, that game doesn't work well in print. But the question remains: What do you see when you hear the word church? The answer to your question will shape your answer to a lot of other questions. For example: Who belongs to the church? Who runs it? ...
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[This post was published by the Mennonite World Review on "The World Together Blog."] Recent events have reminded me that being a peacemaker involves more than just being "the quiet in the land." It also involves speaking up. In summary, here is the three-part story I'm telling in this post: (1) Conservative Reformed Christians in American are currently having a debate about Christians and the use of deadly force. Some ...
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I dedicate this poem to all who have gathered courage to climb a mountain, look out over the world, and speak---and then, startled by strange echoes, wondered who the speaker really was. "HOW DO YOU KNOW ME?" John 1:47-49; 2:24-25; 21:17 The more I post my words abroad For hearers near and far, In true attempt to share with other souls, Athirst or not, The meager growth in understanding I ...
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I just read some news that makes me happy! My cousin Shannon Leibold shared on Facebook that her son has completed the Beginners' Bible Reading Plan that I first created for my daughter.  (Shannon, by the way, shares helpful devotional and Bible study insights on her blog Sitting At His Feet.) Here's Shannon's post: So proud of this boy! He finished his Bible Reading Plan for 2015! It was a ...
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There are real theological differences, and then there are ways we just talk past each other. In this post I'd like to share two of my pet peeves with how Arminians and Calvinists sometimes define the terms of their debates. The differences are certainly real, and I don't pretend to understand them in depth. But I've heard enough by now to be quite sure that the way we are using ...
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This morning when we read the Christmas story we began with the prophet Micah. In Micah's account, Christ's coming was promised to a people facing great distress: 4:9 Now why do you cry aloud?     Is there no king in you? Has your counselor perished,     that pain seized you like a woman in labor? 10 Writhe and groan, O daughter of Zion,     like a woman in labor, for now you shall go out ...
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Recently a friend invited my advice in selecting a chronological Bible, so I thought I'd share my thoughts here as well. Perhaps you will buy one for a friend for Christmas (last minute shoppers, anyone?). Or perhaps you will buy one for your own reading in the new year. (But wait till after Christmas... you never know. 🙂 ) What is a chronological Bible? The basic idea is to rearrange ...
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Christmas is a very Old Testament sort of thing, and so is the church. When you read the Christmas story in Luke's Gospel, the theological climaxes are found in the speeches of the main characters---the angels (Luke 1:13-17, 30-33, 35; 2:10-14), Elizabeth (Luke 1:41-45), Mary (Luke 1:46-55), Zechariah (Luke 1:67-79), and Simeon (Luke 2:28-35). These speeches are knotted with strange lines like "he will reign over the house of Jacob ...
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One of my primary goals on this blog is to help us think biblically about church. As I seek to grow in my own understanding, I find it helpful to read authors who wrestle directly with Scripture, form conclusions, and send me back to Scripture myself to weigh their conclusions. Recently I've finally begun one such book, one that has been calling my name for several years: The Church of ...
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The wonderful thing about having a blog devoted to biblical studies is that you can legitimately include almost any topic under the sun, since the Bible itself includes just about every sort of topic imaginable. So if this month's poem from Mom doesn't sound sufficiently biblical or spiritual, go read something like a Gospel account of Jesus interacting with children or the story of Hannah and Samuel or even the ...
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For those using the CLP Sunday School materials, our next quarter will be devoted to the study of the Gospel according to John. This is a theologically-rich Gospel! If you take time to dig into some study resources, your time in John may be even more rewarding. Our first task in understanding Scripture well, of course, is to "simply" prayerfully read and re-read the sacred text. I say "simply" because ...
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Someday, we will feast in radiance at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6-8)! Until then we often come to the table in clothes that are torn or stained. But we come hungry, nonetheless, needing the nourishment that is offered at the Lord's Supper. When we come to the table with stained clothes, and surrounded by others who do not yet shine as they ought, our participation must be ...
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NIV Zondervan Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015). 2,880 p.  Publication announcement from ESV-loving Assistant Editor Andrew David Naselli. Official website with video and free sampler. (Amazon new price: $29.45 hardcover, $14.99 Kindle.) As someone who rarely uses study Bibles, I may not be the best person to review one. But, since I got a free copy of the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible, here goes! Perhaps you will ...
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The coming of the light changes everything. Did you see the sunrise this morning? Even if you didn't, it changed your life. The coming of the light transforms the whole world, including you and me. As the sun rises each day, we are infused (barring sickness or early alarm clocks) with new vision and energy, stirred to move with purpose and life. The same is true of the spiritual dimensions ...
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It is sometimes useful to read books written by those who don't fit neatly into any of your existing boxes. Such is the case, for me, with David Robertson's book A Vision of Kingdom Christianity: Finding the Big Picture of God's Design for His People (published in 2015 by Kingdom Vision Books, Niverville, Manitoba, Canada). My employer and friend Marvin Kauffman recently gave me this book to read and review, ...
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I deposited a stack of your checks yesterday morning! We have now received over $50,000 of your pledged loans and gifts---a fact that is amazing to write and even more amazing to experience. Last night I opened a dozen more envelopes with checks. One (from a couple who encouraged me during my college days) contained a thank-you card with the words, "Thanks for giving us the opportunity of blessing you." ...
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Hammett, John S. 40 Questions about Baptism and the Lord's Supper. (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2015). 331pp. Publisher's description with Introduction and Chapter 1. (Amazon new price: $17.97, unavailable on Kindle , cheaper used.) 40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord's Supper (40 Questions & Answers Series) "There is... one baptism," Paul told the church at Ephesus (Eph. 4:4-5). And to the Corinthians he said this: "In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body" (1 Cor ...
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Friends, it is with deep gratitude that I announce that we are now ready for you to send in the loans and gifts you have pledged. God has been blessing this churchfunding experiment almost beyond what I dared to hope! Our total fundraising goal is $80,000, and we will continue to accept microloans until we reach that amount. (Those who join now should still email a pledge first, so we ...
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Hi friends! This is a very short announcement for you who have pledged loans and gifts to help us buying a house in Atlanta. Thanks to a recent surge in pledges, the pledge total is now $60,994.55. This is enough that we should be able to make an offer on a house! Please stay tuned for another post tonight or tomorrow on how you can send in your pledge money ...
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Good morning, friends! It's time for another proper update about our churchfunding experiment. Pledges have slowed down after the first three days, but we are still honored by the pledges that friends keep offering, and encouraged to see the total climbing. Progress Report (As of 8:00 a.m. EST, 10/20/2015) We are over 1/2 way to our goal of $80,000! Total pledged so far: $44,239.55 (after tithe deducted) Total pledgers: 66 ...
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A lot can happen in one year. By God's grace, one year ago yesterday I launched Dwight Gingrich Online as a vehicle for sharing the biblical and ecclesiological concerns stirring in my 40-year-young heart. While I can't say my feeble blogging efforts have turned the world upside down, my own world, and the world of my family, has been radically changed. This post shares some of my reflections on my ...
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Some months ago a friend asked if I would write about why I am interested in theology. There are a lot of answers to that question. The most important answer is one that leads into this month's poem from Mom: I am interested in theology because theology is ultimately the study of God, and the better we know God, the better we can trust him. Yes, I realize this doesn't ...
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Hi friends! This update will be brief, since I need to head off to work. Progress Report (As of 8:00 a.m. EST, 10/15/2015) We are well over 1/3 of the way to our goal of $80,000! Total pledged so far: $30,414.55 (after tithe deducted) Total pledgers: 55 generous friends (5 more than the last update) Largest pledge: $3000 Smallest pledge: $75 Average pledge: $561.26 Remember, once we near $60,000 we ...
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Hi friends! Here's an update about our project to churchfund a house in Atlanta. Thanks for your interest in our move to Atlanta and our house hunt! Feel free to invite others to send a pledge if you think it would bring them joy. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please go here and consider getting involved: Churchfunding a House in Atlanta: Official Launch.) Progress Report (As of ...
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Hi friends! For the next while I'll be posting updates here about our experiment in churchfunding microloans for buying a house in Atlanta. Many of you are supporting this project, and I want to keep you well informed! (For those of you who aren't interested, please sit tight. We will return to regular programming in a bit! I promise that fundraising will not be a primary long-term focus of this ...
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Do you want to help our family buy a house in Atlanta? Thanks to widespread enthusiasm and the support of key friends and advisers, we've decided to try an experiment in churchfunding---crowdfunding done by the church of Jesus Christ. (See here for the story of how this idea began, and see here for our decision to move to Atlanta.) Update: See Update 6 for how to send the money you ...
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A lot can happen in three days. Jesus rose again on the third day, you know. And over the last three days a lesser (but certainly related) drama has been unfolding before my eyes. I'm tempted to call it "the miracle on Facebook." Update: This plan is now live! Please click HERE to read all about it. If it gives you joy to join in, your help will be a ...
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Today the New American Commentary series is on sale on Kindle, with most volumes for only $2.99 each! I already own multiple volumes in this series and hope to buy more. (I've marked with an asterisk* in the list below the ones I already own.) This series is conservative evangelical in its stance, basically Baptist. It is published by the B&H publishing group (formerly known as Broadman and Holman), who ...
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Jamieson, Bobby. Going Public: Why Baptism Is Required for Church Membership. (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2015). 243 pp. Publisher's description and PDF of first chapter. Author interview and book quotes. (Amazon new price: $18.86 paperback, $11.99 Kindle, cheaper used.) Going Public: Why Baptism Is Required for Church Membership For Anabaptists, baptism was and often remains a hot topic. And for a rite that has been central to the entire Church since its first moments, there is a ...
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We all need more love than we deserve. And it is undeserved love that transforms us into who we should be. It is love that frees us to acknowledge sin, both ours and others. And it is love that frees us from sin and from its shadow, shame. Here is a new poem from Mom about the transforming power of Jesus' loving presence. I'll let Mom explain how the poem ...
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My last post generated some helpful feedback about the place of the arts in the Christian life. In that post I took an exegetical approach to the topic, examining one Scripture passage and challenging how it is sometimes used in defense of extravagant artistic investments. But most questions about Christian living are not decided by a solitary Scripture passage---and especially by a passage that isn't directly about the topic at ...
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I am a house church guy who likes cathedrals. My spiritual forebears in the Reformation include some who smashed statues and images and others who banned organs. My spiritual contemporaries include some who participate in the Anabaptist Orchestra Camp and others who are performing complex choral works tomorrow afternoon by the great Lutheran composer Bach. (If you live near Lancaster, PA, perhaps you can catch this Singet dem Herrn concert, ...
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God willing, our family will soon be moving to Atlanta, Georgia. In my last post I dropped some hints about us moving to "really bad farmland," so I thought I should share the news here. Continue reading for a rambling post full of theological and personal reflection. Five years ago this month we moved to Iowa from New York City, after about seven years in The Big Apple. We came ...
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You know the sermon is especially good when someone walks out crying half way through. Okay, the pain and tears unfortunately came from cramps and not from conviction. But the sermon was good, nonetheless. Brother Norman Troyer spoke on the topic of Christians living as strangers and pilgrims. I wish I could give you an outline of the sermon, but I confess I spent part of the sermon walking out ...
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Those of us who are using the Christian Light Publications Sunday School booklets will be studying excerpts from the OT books of Kings and Chronicles during September and October. (You can purchase an e-book teachers' guide here.) How can you best prepare to be a contributing class member or teacher as you study these books? Photo Credit: MatthewDGarrett via Compfight cc First, nothing beats prayerfully reading and re-reading Scripture itself ...
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Do you look like Jesus today? Listen to Paul's testimony and promise: And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. (2 Cor. 3:18) In these busy summer days, stop to gaze. Glance up. Turn from work to worship. Schedule an August audience in his august presence. Renew your acquaintance, and renew your ...
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When you think about "church", do you think about "a" church or "the" church? Or both? Which most often? And does it matter which term we use when? Here are some quotes from a book I'm starting to read: I'd argue that a general inability to articulate what distinguishes any gathering of believers from a local church is at the root of the confusion surrounding the relationship between baptism and ...
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McKnight, Scot. A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God's Design for Life Together. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2014). 265 pp. Publisher's description. (Amazon new price: $15.92 hardcover, $7.99 Kindle, cheaper used.) A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God's Design for Life Together This idea, that Paul's mission was a mixed assembly of differents, lies at the core of my beliefs about how the whole Bible works... Are we willing to embrace the diversity of the church ...
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Thursday is an excellent day to remember Christ's resurrection! "The Resurrection changed everything... "If there is a power great enough to bring someone back from the dead, then anything can happen!... "Is it any wonder that the news of the Resurrection became the central message of the newly Spirit-powered Christians...? Is it any wonder that the first day of the week, the day of the Resurrection, the 'Lord's Day,' soon ...
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I build sheds for people I don't know so they can store things they probably don't need. Swinging a pound or more of hammer at pieces of wood is a purposeless activity on its own, but it becomes purposeful when the action contributes to a meaningful end. But when the end is just to store more junk (or more lawnmowers to trim Iowa's ridiculously over-sized and costly yards), then the ...
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When a baby is born at 10 months, we don't usually call it premature. When a writer has been promising for that long to release an essay, however, his "baby" may still be scarcely ready for the light of day. But everyone likes babies. (Right?) And everyone handles newborns gently. (Right?) And one can definitely only handle being pregnant for so long. So I've decided it's time to release this ...
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Have you been following the story of NASA's mission to Pluto? A spacecraft named New Horizons that left earth on January 19, 2006 just reached Pluto this month. Scientists are eagerly devouring new images and data from this ninth rock from the sun. As one writer put it, the trickle of data "has been enough to completely overthrow our theories of what we expected to find at the icy little ...
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On Monday and Tuesday this week I had the pleasure of sitting for hours on end discussing theology with men older and wiser than me. It wouldn't be right to say that I felt like the 12-year-old Jesus in the temple. But I do admit that I identify with Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, singing about what he would do "if I were a rich man": If I were ...
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I enjoy praying the Lord's Prayer. Whenever I am not sure what or how to pray, it can help me approach God's throne boldly. For example, I often pray the Lord's Prayer during the wee hours on Saturday mornings, while I am driving the two dusty miles through the dark to my brother-in-law's house before we head off to market. I add my own words, but the Lord's Prayer helps ...
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Yeah, this next Sunday we get to study Melchizedek! (Said almost no one ever.) Yes, it's true: If you use the Christian Light Publications curriculum for Sunday School, this Sunday's lesson will be from Hebrews 7, about the mysterious OT king-priest named Melchizedek (or "Melchisedec" in the KJV). And yes, some of us actually do get excited about Melchizedek. Everyone seems to agree that Melchizedek is a confusing character. Beyond ...
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Several discussions lately have reminded me of deep, ongoing needs within our conservative Anabaptist churches. (I'm sure some of these needs are also present in many other churches, but I'm speaking from within my own experience.) I don't have time to expand on any of these needs at present, so I'll simply list them here as a series of short prayer requests. Please join me in prayer as you are ...
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Well, 2015 is half gone. New Year's resolutions have fizzled and summer has us all running hard. Has your Bible reading hit a slump as the mercury hits new highs? Zonya reminded me yesterday that now---half way through the year---is a good time to share the Bible reading plan she created. So here it is: A plan that takes you through the New Testament in 90 days. There are many ...
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Gathercole, Simon. Defending Substitution: An Essay on Atonement in Paul (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2015). 128pp. Publisher's description. (Amazon new price: $14.86 paperback, $9.99 Kindle.) Buy on Amazon. There is a strong tendency in current scholarship on Paul to resist seeing Christ’s death as in our place, instead of us. Rather, scholars prefer a view of Christ’s death with us—where he identifies with us rather than dying a ...
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When Mom "submits" a poem to me for publication, a dialogue begins. Since every word in a poem is important, we evaluate what Mom has written. What exactly does she mean by line X? How does the use of word Y shape the message of the poem? What would happen if we changed a semi-colon here, an image there, or a few punctuation marks? Does the title prepare the reader ...
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[For the first post in this series, see: "Tradition in the NT (1): Bad Examples."] "What you have done for my son and my family is beyond love." The writer was a mother named Lisa, and she was writing to Bald Eagle Boys Camp. Her letter continued: Perhaps you will never know how many years I prayed that Derek could find a mentor... I wanted and prayed for one mentor ...
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[For the sequel to this post, see "Tradition in the NT (2): Good Examples."] "I don't have much Scripture for this sermon." The speaker was a visiting minister and his topic was Beachys, culture, and tradition. As I recall, his main question for the evening was this: should Beachy-Amish churches retain their cultural traditions as a way to help pass on the faith to the next generation? The confession came ...
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Those of us who use the Christian Light Publications Sunday School materials will be studying Hebrews for the next three months (June, July, August). I thought I should post a few suggested study helps for this book. I have never taught the book of Hebrews, but here are some resources I would want to use if I did. First, however, let me remind you that the very best thing you ...
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I've suggested in some of my recent blog posts that multiplying church regulations isn't the solution for producing holiness. And I've said that the gospel of grace is the solution. Grace trains us in holiness: For the grace of God has appeared... training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. (Tit. 2:11-12; compare Tit. 2:11-15 with Tit. 3:3-8) ...
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My recent posts prompted a couple questions that I want to answer briefly here. Both are good questions, deserving much fuller responses than I will be able to provide. But here's a start. Q. 1: Should we be drawing parallels between Anabaptist traditions and Jewish traditions? As I understand it, the concern here is that comparing the two may cause us to downplay the value of Anabaptist traditions, thus rejecting ...
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Well, it's no surprise: The topic of church standards and traditions gets conservative Anabaptists fired up like little else. My recent posts about Gerhard Roosen's critique of Amish clothing rules, Frank Reed's warning about cultural idolatry, and David Bercot's testimony about cultural hurdles for spiritual seekers are already sitting at 1st, 3rd, and 6th place, respectively, on my list of most-visited blog posts. Evidently many of you feel that Roosen, ...
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 It's time for another poem from Mom! So I'll remind you of the introduction to this monthly series and hand the microphone directly to my mother. Enjoy! In early 2011 a precious baby girl was born to our son Brent and his wife, Carolyn. Terrifying blood sugar crashes over the next months led to a frightening diagnosis. Jasmine had hypopituitarism, an incurable, life-threatening congenital condition. This poem was born on ...
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Hopefully some of you have already read this. Several days ago Frank Reed wrote this piece on his blog, Biblical Brethren Fellowship. I asked him if I could re-post it here, since it connects so well with several of my recent posts, including yesterday's, which prompted my busiest-yet day on this blog. Who is Frank Reed? Here's how he described himself just yesterday on his blog (in another post well ...
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A couple weeks ago I posted a quote from David Bercot that received quite a bit of interest. Bercot asked us to acknowledge that Mennonite customs and traditions---"things that are added to us that are not biblical requirements"---can "add up and become quite a hurdle" for genuine spiritual seekers. What Bercot said was not unusual. It is very easy to find other people saying the same sort of thing. And, ...
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Now that it is summer, I spend my Saturdays at the Des Moines Downtown Farmers' Market, selling baked goods for my brother-in-law with Mast Family Farm. The best part of market is interacting with customers. I hope we bless them, though I am not always sure we do. This past Saturday a frequent customer walked up to me at the pie stand. As he approached, I noticed that his shirt ...
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One conversation that caught my ear at the Anabaptist Identity Conference last month was a segment of a panel discussion called "The Turtle Wins." David Bercot was asked a question from the floor: I’m concerned about the mentality that would lead us to think a radical lifestyle is a hurdle, or makes it—is going to reduce the attraction of the gospel, [unclear] make us less effective in our mission in ...
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Franz Schubert wrote a beautiful piece of music that we call the Unfinished Symphony. It is called unfinished because it only contains two movements, rather than the four that were typical in his day. Whatever the true story (was it really unfinished in Schubert's mind?), I'm glad this symphony didn't get trashed or forgotten simply because it is shorter than some. It's a work of beauty and power! (Listen and ...
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Who should be included in the Lord's Supper? As I've been researching today for my promised essay on Mennonites and ordinances, I came across this answer in the Schleitheim Confession (the earliest Anabaptist statement of faith): Concerning the breaking of bread, we have become one and agree thus: all those who desire to break the one bread in remembrance of the broken body of Christ and all those who wish ...
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The Lord is risen! Do you still remember? Yes, I know that Easter was last weekend. But that doesn't mean that the resurrection is "so last weekend." Several days ago on Facebook I suggested that those who celebrate 40 days of Lent might consider also celebrating 40 days of Resurrection. A lot of people seemed to like the idea. Even better, as one person replied, we should celebrate Jesus' resurrection ...
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Hellerman, Joseph H. When the Church Was a Family: Recapturing Jesus' Vision for Authentic Christian Community (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic, 2009). 240pp. Publisher's description and author video. (Amazon new price: $14.79 paperback, $0.99 Kindle) Buy on Amazon. I just finished a book that I underestimated. Sometime over the past months I snatched up When the Church Was a Family on Kindle for 99 cents. Between the low price and the ...
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Harrison John, and James D. Dvorak, eds. The New Testament Church: The Challenge of Developing Ecclesiologies, McMaster Biblical Studies Series (Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick, 2012). 302pp. Publisher's description. (Amazon list price: $29 paperback, $9.99 Kindle) The New Testament Church: The Challenge of Developing Ecclesiologies (McMaster Biblical Studies) Are you hungry to cut through centuries of traditions and habits and investigate what the NT actually says about the church? Then this is exactly the kind of book you should read. What ...
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How should we live today, as children of the Reformation? Should we celebrate the Reformation, looking to its heroes as a foundation for our churches? Should we continue debating and dividing among ourselves in our search for truth, emphasizing our post-Reformation denominational distinctives? Should Anabaptists read the Christian world primarily through an "Anabaptists are not X (especially Protestant)" lens? Should we see the Reformation primarily as a tragedy, dividing the ...
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Spring is almost here, bursting with new life and old longings, and I have a poem to match the season. Are you thirsty? Then read on... (See here for an introduction to this monthly series from Mom.) I think this poem will sing most powerfully if takes your ears by ambush. So, first the poem, then some reflections from Mom. LIFE THIRST: L'CHAIM How thirsty you are in the spring, Earth ...
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This past weekend I was blessed to attend most of the Anabaptist Identity Conference, held this year near Napannee, Indiana. This was the 10th AIC, and it lived up to its reputation as an event which gathers a provocative diversity of speakers and listeners. We heard an Amish speaker (David Kline) explain the benefits of organic farming, and during one meal I sat across the table from a retired Goshen ...
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A friend (and relative of a relative) raised some good questions after my last post about Psalm 122. In summary, if I understood him correctly, he wondered whether my interpretation might be another example of a flat Bible approach. Let me quote some of his questions: Are OT scriptures sometimes just that, OT scriptures? And even though we can possibly identify with the sentiment, a passage may not have been ...
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I've been listening through the Psalms lately. Sometimes I listen intently. Other times I just let the words of Scripture wash over me, allowing my mind to wander without self-condemnation. While half-listening to several psalms the other day, a familiar sentence kindly retrieved my mind from a daydream: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!" (Ps. 122:6). Upon hearing this, I immediately thought of how this verse is commonly used: as ...
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My Sunday post about Sabbath and the Lord's Day went viral. Okay, I'm speaking in relative terms. But it has certainly struck a chord: That post has already been viewed over 600 times, which is already more all-time views than any other single post or page on my website. (Even more than the one about kissing in the first century. Which is strange, because I enjoy kissing more than working on ...
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Note: This review is of a book I was received for free because I joined BookLook Bloggers. If I decide to continue, you may see one review like this every month or so. Introduction: The NIV Proclamation Bible (NIVPB) is aimed at Bible teachers of all kinds. The subtitle clarifies the goal of this Bible: NIV Proclamation Bible: Correctly Handling the Word of Truth Buy on Amazon "Correctly Handling the Word of Truth." NIVPB consists of the NIV text, about 50 ...
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When I was a teenager, on many a weekend we youth from our small church drove for 3-1/2 hours to spend time "down south" with church friends. Then on Sunday afternoon or evening, after a fine (or angst-laden) time in the Kitchener-Waterloo region with friends who sported last names like Bauman, Biehn, Martin, Frey, Horst, Martin, Koch, Weber, Martin, and Zehr, we would reluctantly hit the road north for Parry ...
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If you use the Christian Light Publications materials for Sunday School, you will be studying Matthew for March and April. This is a bit last-minute and I'll need to be brief, but I thought I'd share a few suggested resources. If you have other resources, feel free to share them in the comments below. Commentaries My favorite Matthew commentary is the big one by R.T. France in the New ...
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The idea of Tyndale having an ecclesiology is new for me. Tyndale is famous for being the father of the English Bible, not for having founded any church. Yet Tyndale did have an ecclesiology, and he did help to found a new church. Just as Tyndale's translation work lies hidden in plain site within the King James Version Bible--about 80% of the KJV NT matches Tyndale's--so his influence on ecclesiology ...
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This month's poem is the most technically challenging of any of Mom's poems that I've shared so far. Yet this poem also comes with a personal story. (See here for an introduction to this monthly series from Mom.) Back in my days at Nipissing University, I took a Victorian Literature class under Lorraine Janzen Kooistra. Since Mom enjoys the poetry of the 19th century, I asked my professor if Mom could ...
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Menno Simons, had he foreseen it, would have been dumbfounded: today there are about 1.7 million people who belong to churches that bear his name. (He would have been doubly disoriented by the discovery that over 96% of them do not live in Europe!) As one of these Mennonites,  I have good reason to be curious about what Menno Simons believed about the Church. This post continues our series on the ...
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That's "more on Calvin," not "moron Calvin"! I want to talk more about that in a moment, but first I want to share something from Calvin that I read this morning. Marks of the Church As you may have noticed several times in my series on the ecclesiology of the Reformers (begin here), one way that many Reformers tried to identify the true Church was to identify marks (or nota) ...
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John Calvin is not a name that most Anabaptists like. Unfortunately, too many people today assume either that Calvin is the ultimate theological authority or, conversely, that his theology is completely warped. Neither assumption is close to the truth. Given the traditional Anabaptist bias, perhaps it would be helpful to begin this post with a quote from Jacob Arminius (1560-1609)--the Arminius after whom Arminianism is named. After all, we are ...
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Sometimes godly wisdom involves not only identifying correct goals, but also understanding what God has affirmed about when those goals will be fulfilled. For example, the purity of the Church is undeniably a good goal; but when should we expect the Church to be pure? Two preliminaries: (1) My discussion here will raise more issues than it will answer, and what answers I do suggest will not be as firmly ...
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Huldrych Zwingli is not as famous as his German peer (Luther) or his French successor (Calvin), but his influence on the Anabaptist tradition is at least as direct. It was under Zwingli's teaching in Zurich, Switzerland, that the first Swiss Brethren developed the convictions that earned them the name Anabaptist. For this reason alone, Zwingli is worth our reflective attention. Add to this Zwingli's exceptional skill and dedication as a ...
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Martin Luther, by almost anyone's estimation, was the single most influential figure of the Protestant Reformation. (Gutenberg, with his printing press, is a serious outlying contender.) If Luther was the single most influential figure of the Reformation, the single most influential idea of the Reformation was surely Luther's understanding of justification. Luther did not set out to start a new church, and most children of the Reformation today do not ...
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I recently finished an excellent book: Theology of the Reformers, by Timothy George (republished in 2013 in an expanded 25th-anniversary edition).  This book summarizes the theology of the Reformation by focusing on five key characters: Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, Menno Simons, and William Tyndale. (Click on the names above for my posts on each, and click here for my final post in this series.) Among the many topics surveyed ...
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This month I'm sharing a poem that Mom wrote about her first grandson, my nephew Curtis, when he was about 8 months old. I'll add a few pictures and then let the poem speak for itself. I think you'll like this one! (See here for an introduction to this monthly series from Mom.) If you enjoy the poem, leave a comment here for Mom, or send her an email at ...
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Conservative Anabaptists are one of the few North American Christian groups to have retained kissing as a religious practice. But in the past 120 years we have turned this practice into an "ordinance" (an historical anomoly, though rooted in ancient ritual practices) and we often have little understanding of kissing practices or beliefs in the first century. This leaves us poorly prepared to understand what Paul and Peter meant when ...
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[Repost and discussion of an interview by Books at a Glance.] One of the wisest things a Bible interpreter can do is become familiar with the best translations of Scripture in his or her own language. The NIV (New International Version), whether or not you agree with every aspect of its approach, is certainly one of the best in English. Credit for that goes to its thoughtful and informed translators--people ...
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This is the third and final post about the Bible verses that were most popular among readers of YouVersion and Bible Gateway in 2014. (See here for background data and surprises 1-3, and here for surprises 4-7.) Hopefully this little series reminds us that even the most familiar Bible verses contain surprises worth pondering. Woe to the Bible reader who has become so accustomed to Holy Writ that he navigates its pages on ...
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Finally, brothers and sisters... let me share more surprises about 10 of 2014's most popular Bible verses. (See here for the first 3 surprises and background data for this post.) I'll summarize the first three surprises and continue: Bible reading is growing fastest in unlikely places, including Israel, South Sudan, the Republic of Suriname, Iraq, and Macedonia. “World” in Romans 12:2 might better be translated “age.” “Finally” in Philippians 4:8 ...
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In 2014, more people read the Bible on electronic devices than ever before. This gives us a clearer picture than ever into Bible reading habits and preferences. But are people also gaining a clearer understanding of the Bible verses that they are reading? That is harder to measure. In this post I want to share some things you may not know about the world's most popular Bible verses. 2014's Most ...
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I just finished reading Revelation, and... I confess I don't understand it all very well. Even in the New International Version, with its goal of "providing the best possible blend of transparency to the original documents and comprehension of the original meaning in every verse," Revelation has one or two mildly confusing spots. I know, that's hardly a news flash. But the non-news comes with a point: I, like you, ...
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It's time for more of Mom's poems. This month I'm sharing two of her Christmas poems. Enjoy! (Tips: Read these poems aloud to hear them best. And see here for an introduction to this series.)  AT CHRISTMASTIME At Christmastime the bells of joy Ring out in every town– But it was for our sorrowing That Jesus Christ came down. At Christmastime the carollers sing To celebrate good cheer. But still ...
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Two days ago I was privileged to speak at the memorial service of my father-in-law, Albert Mast. This was a great honor, and a wonderful opportunity to ponder the life that is ours in Christ Jesus--resurrection already and resurrection not yet! This post will be a bit of a tossed salad, so here's an ingredient list to help you proceed: Audio of Sermon and "So What?" Thoughts about Resurrection "On ...
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My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. (Philippians 1:23) The amount of interest expressed in my last post was unusual, breaking records for the number of daily visitors to my fledgling blog. Given your kind interest, I thought I should post here that my father-in-law Albert Mast passed away peacefully around 8:00 this morning. The funeral is planned for Wednesday morning at 10:00 a.m., ...
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My father-in-law, Albert Mast, is nearing death. At least, that's the way it looks to those of us who are nearest to him. It sounds strange to say it, and stranger still to experience it, but we are waiting for him to die. I waited beside his bed for some four hours last night, then one of his brothers waited till morning. I think Albert's been waiting longer than any ...
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Dear blog readers, Welcome back to me after a wonderful trip to Canada, Dominican Republic, and Haiti! Highlights of the southern leg of this trip included a beautiful Caribbean wedding, a Haitian airline that took our money and flew ran, visits with Open Hands groups and national leaders in Haiti, and losing my glasses in the ocean. Since this is not a travel blog, I'll leave the rest to your ...
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[See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 in this series.] Part 6: A Handful of Concluding Thoughts About Giving to the Church Now that this series is nearly over, perhaps I should discuss my title. Did you notice that it's a little clunky? "Giving To and Through the Church." Why two prepositions--to and through? And why did I capitalize them, contrary to standard practice? (You might ...
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[See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 in this series.] Part 5: Another Controversial Topic About Giving to the Church Unless I follow up on your comments and questions, this is my second-last post in this series on giving to and through the church. Some of you might be surprised that I’ve barely mentioned tithing yet. So, here we go! But first, a brief review: In my first ...
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[See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 in this series.] Part 4: A Controversial Topic About Giving to the Church After my last post, you might think that I got my titles mixed up. Isn’t pastoral support a controversial issue? Yes, it is. But this post addresses a topic that, at least for some people, is even more controversial. First, a brief review. I suggested that the NT describes and ...
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[See Part 1 for the series introduction.] Part 3: Another Primary New Testament Reason for Giving to the Church In my last post I identified two primary reasons for giving to and through the church: (1) to support needy local Christians and (2) to send relief to distant Christians. These are the reasons found in the first NT passage describing church giving and in the longest NT passage about giving. Both of ...
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[See Part 1 for the series introduction.] Part 2: Two Primary New Testament Reasons for Giving to the Church If someone asked you to list two primary reasons to give to your local church, what would you say? In this post I want to consider two reasons that appear early and often in the New Testament. Let’s begin in Acts, where giving to the church begins almost as soon as the ...
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[I expect to be away from the Internet for much of the next few weeks, so I thought I’d prepare a series of posts for you to enjoy while I’m gone. If technology is kind to us, you should see a new post every three or four days. Please comment and share freely in my absence (although new comment-ators will need to wait to have their website comments approved). I’ll ...
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Today I'm pleased to begin a new blog series in which I plan to share one poem or article from my mother, Elaine Gingrich, each month. Mom has been a life-long amateur wordsmith. She loves literature, especially poetry, and has spent many more hours enjoying literary arts than this English Literature graduate ever has or is likely to. I have a fond memory of Mom joining me in class for ...
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I read something this morning that got me thinking again about the question of original sin. (See here and here for my previous thoughts.) The "question of original sin," in my case, is the question of whether that phrase is a good and biblical way to talk about what went wrong when Adam sinned. I don't doubt that Adam's sin was the first or "original" human sin, but the term ...
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The NIV Application Commentary series is on sale on Kindle today! ($4.27-$4.99 each.) Note: Several volumes were release on Kindle for the first time only about a week ago. Click here for the sale. [Note: You may need to narrow Amazon search results to "Kindle Store" (select this from the drop-down menu beside the search window). You should find 44 results for this sale.] Sunday school teachers: Christian Light Publications ...
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Yesterday a friend of mine[1. His name is Christopher Witmer. He has a way with good questions.] asked a good question: Is the way you "do church" found in the Bible? I'm not asking if it's inherently wrong, but just wondering if it's in the Bible? I responded with this: No, and neither was the car I drive in to get to the church gathering. So there needs to be ...
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This morning I noticed an example of the NIV being very politically correct--or, to be kinder, very pastorally aware: The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. (1 Cor. 7:4) The Greek text for this verse has no word that corresponds to ...
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A friend just asked a question about the upcoming Sunday School lesson (Christian Light Publications). The topic is rather technical and not obviously important, but I'm posting it here for those want SS input. [First: I edited my last post about Romans 14:22 and the topic of keeping our convictions secret. A closer look at commentaries and textual details revealed my thinking was incomplete. My conclusions didn't change much, but ...
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[Editorial comments added Nov. 5, 2014.] While reading through Romans in the NIV this morning I came across chapter 14, verse 22: So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. (NIV) (This verse is part of an extended passage where Paul instructs the believers at Rome on how to handle their disagreements about ...
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Well, it's been just over two weeks since I launched DGO. It's time to regroup and look ahead. Thank you very much for your interest and encouragement! Thanks especially to those of you who voted to show what content you'd like to see in the future. I was unable to tell who voted for what, but your cumulative feedback is very helpful. Over 30 people voted. Voters identified themselves as ...
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I'm reading through Romans right now, on target for finishing my through-the-NIV-Bible-in-a-year goal. This morning I arrived again at that head-scratching passage at the end of Romans 5. So much ink has been spilled over this passage that a few more bytes shouldn't hurt. So here I go again, thinking aloud over this passage. (See a previous post here.) Please test my thoughts and respond below if you wish. Here's ...
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Dwight's rules about Christian virtues: Be humble about your own virtues. This starts with being humble about your humility. Etc. Paul's first words as he summarizes his ministry to the Ephesian elders: "You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I cam into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility..." (Acts 20:18-19 NIV) What gives? Here are some ...
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Be a Berean! This is a common encouragement among Bible-loving Christians. But what does this mean? Why is it important to be a Berean? And what is the alternative to being a Berean? The term "Berean" comes, of course, from Acts 17:11-12, which records what happened when Paul and his band arrived in Berea on his second missionary journey: 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they ...
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Hi friends! Welcome to Dwight Gingrich Online. (Special thanks to those of you who have been enduring my countdown on Facebook.) For a while I've been wanting a better venue for saving and sharing my reflections about biblical interpretation and the Church. Most of these thoughts have been either buried in computer files or lost to the depths of Facebook history. Sometimes this has been a great blessing! 🙂 But ...
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(Old Facebook Post - Expanded) Let's talk about social media. But first ponder, in context, this 141-character tweet from Jesus: “...When so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, 'Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.'” ...
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(Old Facebook Post) What does the Bible say about who is responsible to provide for the family? Google that question, and the first website listed will give this answer: "A father is also to provide for his family. If he does not, he “denies the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). So a man who makes no effort to provide for his family cannot rightly call ...
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(Old Facebook Post – Slightly edited and shared April 3, 2015) Since I expect to take a blogging holiday this weekend, I thought I'd share a resurrection post now before I leave. If you are troubled by a resurrection post that comes on Good Friday, well, I guess you can stop reading now! Or, better yet, receive this as a parable: Just as this resurrection blog post has broken unexpectedly ...
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(Old Facebook Post – Lightly Edited) Old Testament stories can be confusing. What do they mean? What are they intended to teach us? How can we read them in a way that helps us hear the messages that God designed for us to hear? In this post I'll share two tools that can help us read OT stories well: A multi-purpose tool: Read each story on three levels. A more ...
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(Old Facebook post, lightly revised 7/23/2016.) Facebook reminded me that I wrote this post three years ago. I wish I had more time for such study and writing today. But I am thankful that I am now living what I wrote then more fully than ever before. Prayers are welcome as I prepare to teach tomorrow (the Lord's Day) at our little church (in a friend's house). How do we ...
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(Old Facebook Post--Slightly edited and shared November 19, 2015.) When we seek to understand Scripture, we should ask not only what the words say, but what they were intended to do. It is not sufficient to consider the abstract, factual meaning of words and sentences, as if reading from a dictionary or an encyclopedia. We must also consider why they were written. What difference were they intended to make? Or, to ...
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 (Old Facebook Post – Lightly edited and reposted May 31, 2015) I recently heard a sermon based on the story of the Rechabites (Jeremiah 35), who faithfully obeyed the commands of their ancestor Jonadab, who lived several hundred years earlier and commanded them not to drink wine, etc. (See the end of this post to read the story for yourself.) I've pondered this story some since hearing that sermon, and ...
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(Old Facebook Post - Updated) Our oldest daughter's favorite Christmas gift in 2012 was The Big Picture Story Bible, by David R. Helm. The Big Picture Story Bible (Redesign) Buy on Amazon Lots of children's Bible story books do a good job telling individual Bible stories, but few do a good job telling the "big picture" of our promise-keeping God--redeeming his people, to live in his place, in his presence, under his kingship, obeying his word, forever ...
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(Old Facebook Post) I once heard three seasoned conservative Anabaptist church leaders (many of you would recognize their names instantly) discuss the challenge of motivating church members to live holy lives. Specifically, they discussed how to help members walk in holiness without the presence of multiple church standards. The first described the difficulty of awakening in members a sense of modesty. He said he found this most difficult to achieve ...
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(Old Facebook Post) Did you know that Conrad Grebel and Felix Mantz were "men learned in the German, Latin, Greek, and also Hebrew, languages"? (From the Hutterite Chronicle.) Felix Mantz had even been marked out by Zwingli for teacher of Hebrew in Zwingli's projected evangelical academy. The Hutterite Chronicle also states that "soon thereafter [after the first re-baptism service] several others made their way to them [to Grebel, Mantz, and ...
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(Old Facebook Post) A lot of rather careless biblical interpretation is happening today. (By God's grace, thankfully much of the time the truth is still being taught, even if by using questionable or haphazard exegetical methods.) On the other hand, there are a lot of really helpful books out there on how to interpret the Bible--books like Grasping God's Word that I do highly recommended. Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation Buy on Amazon What I've rarely seen, ...
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(Old Facebook Post) Have you ever wondered which are the most important Old Testament passages? Or at least which ones tell us the most about Christ? There's a fascinating old book I recently read, According to the Scriptures: The Substructure of New Testament Theology, by C. H. Dodd. It analyses the New Testament's use of the Old Testament to try to determine which OT passages were most central in ...
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(Old Facebook Post - Revised) Here's some good exegesis from Phillip Long related to the verb "will be raptured [caught up]" found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. (The Bible never mentions "The Rapture" in noun form.) Quote: "The purpose of this catching away is to “meet with Lord.” The word translated “to meet” (ἀπάντησις) is often used of a delegation sent from a city to greet a dignitary or king, usually ...
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(Old Facebook Post - Revised) Do you long for victory over sin--for yourself, or for those you love? Here is some great reading from an old Scotsman. Read it slowly, enjoying every drop. Enjoy the presentation of the gospel of Christ--for what you love, you will serve. "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection," by Thomas Chalmers. (Thanks to Tim Keller for alerting me to this old essay.) My reflections ...
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(Old Facebook Post - Revised) Are you being trained by grace today? What does that training look like in your situation? How do you discipline yourself to undergo grace's training? How does the fact that you have been saved by grace change you so that you engage in godly behaviors? "The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and ...
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(Old Facebook Post - Revised) Let me recommend these sermons on Deuteronomy. (Find HDT Deuteronomy 2007, Series 1, Series 2, and Series 3, by doing a search for the preacher "Paul Barker" and the book "Deuteronomy.") If you want to understand the big story of the whole Bible well, and only have time to seriously examine 4 or 5 Old Testament books, Deuteronomy should probably be one you include in ...
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(Old Facebook Post - Revised) Pastors, please feed the sheep! I've noticed that sheep who are fed low-nutrition, fast-food leftovers either shrivel up spiritually (sometimes in agony of starvation, sometimes dumbly, without awareness) or else start feeding in other, richer pastures. Neither will be good for the flock in your charge! So please take extra time away from your business or employment, dig more deeply in God's Word than you ...
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(Old Facebook Post) The Will of God as a Way of Life: How to Make Every Decision with Peace and Confidence Buy on Amazon Good words from a good book--Jerry Sittser writing in The Will of God as a Way of Life: "I think decision-making is inherently messy, especially when God enters the picture. It is hard enough to make a decision on one's own; it is even harder when we consider God's mysterious purposes." On the other hand: "What counts most is that God is working in my ...
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(Old Facebook Post) This is fascinating! As someone who has spent significant time pondering and reading about to what extent musical languages are universal, this article corroborates my conclusions. (Musical languages are mostly not universal. This challenges a lot of conservative assumptions about "good" and "bad" music and the "inevitable" effect certain kinds of music will have upon a person.) Worship across the Racial Divide: Religious Music and the Multiracial Congregation Buy on Amazon But this article (and the book reviewed) also ...
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(Old Facebook Post) This is great! Mark Dever here explains what he does to create a culture of reading in his church. Can you imagine what would happen if we put his advice to work in our Mennonite churches over the next 15, 25 years? The only person I know well who has come close to following this advice is Allen Roth (former lead pastor at Followers of Jesus Mennonite ...
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If you want to finally understand that bit about Melchizedek, or what to know the real reason why we today talk about Jesus being our high priest, or just want to watch a veteran Bible student demonstrate how to read the whole Bible, paying close attention to the tiniest meaningful details and tracing how the Bible writers read their own Bibles... then watch this talk by D. A. Carson. (An ...
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(Old Facebook Post) I think this is the best sermon I've heard on the following passage. Thank you D. A. Carson! "To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one ...
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(Old Facebook Post) Words about Mennonites and education from a friend on a cross-cultural mission field: "I think the challenge for me was being discouraged by the Body not encouraged. If somehow the church can see education as the beginning of service... "The challenge for us here is that we are needing people to commit about 6 years to prepare to join us. Four years for a bachelor’s degrees then ...
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(Old Facebook Post) What is the best way to teach people how to live godly lives? Michael Lawrence, speaking as a pastor at T4G (Together for the Gospel) 2012, gives an interesting answer. He begins by referring to the American Dream and other meta-narratives: "Don't think your people aren't buying into these stories in one way or another. And those stories, because they tell a beginning and an end, they ...
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(Old Facebook Post - Revised) I would rather be part of a biblical church that lasts only 10 years than be part of a human institution that lasts for 10 generations. When it comes to church governance, leadership, and applications, the question "What will work?" (that is, "What will keep my church from falling into sin?") must always be subordinated to the question, "What does the Bible teach us?" The ...
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(Old Facebook Post - Revised) Good questions and reflections here by Thabiti Anyabwile for missiologists and church leaders about the gospel and culture. I especially found this thought-provoking: "It seems to me that a lot of the popular discussion of contextualization suffers from an incomplete statement of the goal. Contextualizing isn’t the goal. I think everyone who pauses to think about this even for a moment would agree with this ...
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(Old Facebook Post - Revised) Here's a prompt for a fascinating Bible study from Psalm 139. One oft-overlooked word ("for") can mean so much: ...Darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb... My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my ...
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(Old Facebook Post - Revised) Ouch! Craig Blomberg on 1 Corinthians 11:17-34: "Those who should refrain from the bread and the wine lest they profane the eucharist are not those with a profound sense of their own inadequacy, but those who are actually eating and Neither Poverty nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions (New Studies in Biblical Theology) Buy on Amazon drinking in an unworthy fashion... 'One remains hungry, another gets drunk.' ...Once one understands that the gluttony and drunkenness described take place... at the ...
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(Old Facebook Post) Today is the day we remember Christ was in the grave. Have you ever considered that there, too, he was unexpectedly exalted? The NASB brings this out in its translation of Isaiah 53:9: "His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth." The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary Buy on Amazon J. Alec ...
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(Old Facebook Post) Isaiah 53 is a rich gospel feast. It is quoted very frequently by the New Testament writers. Following are two of the more subtle references, made by Christ himself. Jesus said: "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matt 20:28 ESV) And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks ...
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(Old Facebook Post) How is this for a definition of baptism? "Baptism is our confession of faith in Christ through which we are saved by the grace of God." (This is an attempt to define baptism as the NT church understood it--not as a sacrament in which the physical act confers grace even upon those who may not yet be capable of faith, nor as an ordinance which presents baptism ...
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(Old Facebook Post) I finished listening to St. Augustine's City of God today. Forty-five hours of listening to a master rhetorician from the 5th century. One City of God (Penguin Classics) Buy on Amazon moment I'm stirred by top-notch logic, powerful theological insights, and fascinating historical observations, the next I'm plunged into confusion by yet another hour of describing pagan gods and philosophies, and yet again I'm smiling at some strange ancient belief (salamanders can live in ...
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(Old Facebook Post) I love John the Baptist's frustrated/joyful response to those who rejected Jesus: "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. [Pulls out his hair and rolls his eyes.] You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.' The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the ...
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(Old Facebook Post) Church history is fun! Today I learned from St. Augustine what the 3 floors of Noah's ark might symbolize: 1st floor--chastity (faithfulness) in marriage; 2nd floor--chastity of widows; 3rd floor--chastity of virgins. It's easy to see which he prized as displaying the highest virtue. Tertullian's perspective was even more interesting. He thought it was no great virtue to be a virgin if you had never married--that was ...
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(Old Facebook Post - Revised) Two questions: Does a Christian still have a sinful nature? Did Adam's sin cause everyone to be born with a sinful nature? A definition: I'm understanding sinful nature to mean: an inner identity that naturally tends toward sin. To supplement my original questions: Is it correct to consider Adam our federal head--that he is our representative and, since he as our representative died, we also died ...
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(Old Facebook Post) Words from John Piper jumped out at me today as I listened. I think I now more clearly understand something that is deeply wrong with some of our conservative Mennonite churches that we love. Piper said we must target both "head and heart" in our church worship. He described the goal of worship like this: "Worship that aims at kindling and carrying deep, strong, real emotions toward ...
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(Old Facebook Post - Revised) I learned another reason why I, as a Christian, cannot serve in any military. Here is the teaching of the Old Testament regarding Israel's participation in war, as summarized by Douglas Stuart in his Exodus commentary: "Old Testament holy war... may be summarized by twelve propositions: 1. No standing army was allowed... 2. No pay for soldiers was permitted... 3. No personal spoil/plunder could ...
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(Old Facebook Post) One danger in biblical interpretation is the temptation to turn pragmatic norms into absolute rules. I've been thinking about this in relation to the question of who may baptize or serve the Lord's Supper. It is only natural and right, given biblical teaching about the responsibility pastors/elders bear to lead churches, and given socially-driven expectations placed upon leaders, that they will regularly perform baptisms and serve the ...
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(Old Facebook Post - Revised) "The Dangerous Side of Success." This article by John Johnson is a superb warning for pastors (or other leaders of spiritual institutions) about the dangers of complacency. Giving examples from the business world, Johnson observes: "Something... tends to happen with success.  Organizations become arrogant, monolithic, and inflexible." Another key quote: "Church cultures are prone to the same thing—to achieve some success and then become satisfied, ...
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(Old Facebook Post - Revised) Here's an interesting quote for historical and theological reflection, written in 1893 by J.S. Coffman (1848-98), the hugely influential Mennonite revivalist and editor: "The Virginia church and conference has done much legislating to keep our people down out of the world in dress and other things, but in spite of all the keeping down they have done, their His Name Was John: The Life Story of an Early Mennonite Leader Buy on Amazon young men are now more conformed ...
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(Old Facebook Post) Apparently the traditional 7 Mennonite ordinances go back one step earlier than Daniel Kauffman and his "Doctrines" books, to evangelist J. S. Coffman in 1891 or earlier. Here is an excerpt from a fascinating article by Mark R. Wenger in the Mennonite Quarterly Review that tells the story (through the lens of the topic of anointing with oil): Despite his personal unfamiliarity with anointing the sick, sometime ...
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(Old Facebook Post) Do you really believe in Jesus? Do you "believe into" him? This blog post is a description of true Christian belief (faith), from one of my favorite Bible teachers, Bill Mounce. Keep reading for a good insight into John 3:16: "Biblical belief means that you no longer believe or trust in yourself but rather have moved that trust out of yourself and “into” Jesus. Biblical belief is ...
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(Old Facebook Post) Reflections on Jacob's encounter's with God and Esau in Genesis 32-33: Until you experience the shock of actually surviving a solitary "face-to-face" encounter with God where you admit your true character as a heel-grasping, selfish, deceiving wretch, you may never get over your fear of facing your brother against whom you have sinned. But if you do survive such God-wrestlings, and even come out with the gift ...
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I'm scanning some Mennonite confessions of faith and booklets of instruction for new Christians, researching where we got the idea of 7 ordinances. It's pretty frustrating. One moment you're reading wonderful summaries of biblical truths, and the next moment you're left wondering whether you are reading the same Bible. Example: After quoting Rom. 12:2, we're told "nonconformity to the world in the above passage refers primarily to the way we ...
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(Old Facebook Post--Revised) Compare Luke 15:20 with Genesis 33:4. The father in the Prodigal Son parable "ran... embraced... kissed" his younger son; in Genesis the older son Esau "ran... embraced... kissed" the younger son Jacob. Perhaps Jesus is saying prodigals and sinners (see Luke 15:1) are the typological fulfillment of Jacob--and are therefore the true Israel! The Pharisees and scribes (Luke 15:2), on the other hand, aren't even as good ...
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(Old Facebook Post) Wisdom is the God-given ability to make decisions when faced with complex situations. Revelation is a voice from heaven--God speaking his wisdom directly to me. So when I am faced with a complex decision and pray for wisdom, in response to James 1:5 ("If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God..."), why am I often waiting, not for wisdom, but for revelation? And by the ...
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(Old Facebook Post) Those of you who studied Jonah in Sunday School today may especially be interested in this study which suggests Jonah's chapter 2 prayer was a sham. I agree! (There is even more evidence than given here.) Takeaway thought: Beware superficial repentance--repentance which is still self-centered, which feels worthy of God's mercy and refuses to offer it to others ...
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(Old Facebook Post) "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain" (Exodus 20:7). "The name is equivalent to the identity of the Deity... We are familiar with identity theft today, when a symbol such as a... social security number can be used to abuse or exploit the economic power or authority of an individual. Commandment three works on the same premise and prohibits divine identity ...
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(Old Facebook Post) Satan and His Kingdom: What the Bible Says and How It Matters to You Buy on Amazon Dennis McCallum on adding to God's Word: "How much should we make of Eve's addition to God's Word--that even touching the fruit would cause death? [See Genesis 3:2. God had only said, "If you eat it's fruit, you are sure to die." Genesis 2:17, italics added.] Some commentators think this is significant, and I tend to agree. "Remember, Eve wasn't around when God spoke his directive ...
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(Old Facebook Post - Revised) I find hard to believe that heavenly music will be restricted to the styles of 16th to 19th century Europe. The Bible itself demonstrates the appropriateness of borrowing from other musical cultures: “It is clear that Israel's psalms have in some places happily taken over Canaanite poetic meter, imagery, and even aspects of their mythology and utilized it all in extolling the unique sovereign and ...
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(Old Facebook Post - Revised) An excerpt from The Epistle to Diognetus, written about the end of the second century: "The difference between Christians and the rest of mankind is not a matter of nationality, or language, or customs. Christians do not live apart in separate cities of their own, speak any special dialect, nor practice any eccentric way of life... They... conform to ordinary local usage in their clothing, ...
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(Old Facebook Post) What I love most... trumps what I believe... and determines what I fear and what I confess publicly. "Many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God" (John 12:42-43, ...
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(Old Facebook Post - Revised) How would Anabaptist churches be different if we taught a doctrine of "continually renewed minds" rather than only one of "nonconformity" (Rom. 12:2)? What if Paul never mentioned clothing/hairstyles/music/etc. in this verse... or chapter... or entire letter, but he did stress humble and loving thinking within church members, springing from worship of the God who has mercifully welcomed all peoples in Christ? Reader response: "What ...
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(Old Facebook Post) Why do we let one passing reference to "the rapture" (mentioned only in 1 Thess. 4:17, in a manner open to alternate interpretations) determine our vision of where we will spend eternity, while we ignore at least four mentions of a "new earth" (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; and esp. 2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1) and 1-1/2 whole chapters about a "new Jersualem" (Rev. 21-22a; see also Rev ...
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(Old Facebook Post - Revised) It's quiz time: According to the Bible, did Enoch & Elijah die natural deaths? Hint #1: Read Heb 11:5, 13. (Use NASB or some other "word-for-word" translation, not NIV, etc.) For the sake of time, I'll cut to the chase: I think it's quite likely that Enoch and Elijah did die, and that the popular interpretation we've all heard that "they just got took"... is ...
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