Breaking Bronze Serpents

In my Bible reading the other day, I encountered 2 Kings 18:4, which reads in part, “. . . and [Hezekiah] broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).”

I find this fascinating.  Of all of the graven images that the Israelites worshiped in the Old Testament, Nehushtan was unique.  Unlike the other idols, it was made at the command of God.  In Numbers 21:18, God literally says, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole.”  It was the divine antidote to the poison of the fiery serpents that had been sent among the people because of their grumbling.  Continue reading

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Law and Grace

At least since Luther, and probably long before that, self-described Christians have been debating whether the law of Christ or the grace of Christ is more important.  However, any scheme of religious thought that emphasizes law at the expense of grace, or grace at the expense of law, is logically incoherent.  Law and grace aren’t opposites, such that one declines in importance as the other increases.  Instead, the more we care about either one, the more we should care about the other. Continue reading

Heaven Bound Together

Earlier this year, Shawn and I preached a series on how all of us, no matter what our individual life situation, can still be people who are bound for heaven.  There’s a sense in which every one of us has to make that journey for ourselves.

However, there’s also a sense in which we can’t make it by ourselves.  There is no such thing as a lone-ranger disciple.  Without the help of our brothers and sisters, none of us are going to inherit eternal life.  This morning, then, I’m going to kick off a new sermon series, one that looks at how we can be heaven bound together. Continue reading

Fostering and Stewardship

Last Monday, our first foster placement arrived in our home.  Let’s call him Jacob.  As the Hebrews writer would say, he’s a beautiful child.  He has makeup-model eyelashes, sparkling brown eyes, a ready smile, and an infectious laugh.  He also has the kind of problems that you would expect in a three-year-old who has ended up in foster care.  Not surprisingly, he’s been on my mind a great deal of late.

Indeed, he’s been on my mind enough that I’ve been reading the online chatter that comes my way through Jacob-tinted glasses.  Such was the case with the comment left on my post on FIRE from a couple of days ago.  The commenter noted, correctly, that FIRE easily can keep us from fulfilling our Biblical responsibilities to be good stewards. Continue reading

Resolving “Yanny” vs. “Laurel”

It seems like every so often, some perceptual illusion goes viral on the Internet.  A few years back, it was whether the dress was black with blue stripes or gold with white stripes.  Yesterday, I started encountering a recording which, when played, sounds either like “Yanny” or “Laurel”, depending on who you are.  I’m Team Laurel, by the way, which I suppose means that you hear “Laurel” if your three-year-old son ruined your hearing by repeatedly sneaking up behind you and screaming in your ear.  Thanks, Marky!

Such differences in perspective are trivial, but similar differences emerge in the critically important realm of understanding God’s word.  For instance, a week or two ago, I put up a sermon manuscript in which I argued that in the Exodus account, God began actively hardening Pharaoh’s heart sometime in Exodus 9.  However, I have some friends who are hardly Biblical lightweights who see things differently.  They think God began to harden Pharaoh’s heart from the very beginning of his encounters with Moses.  We’re reading the same text, we agree on what each verse says, but we disagree on what it means.

How do we handle that? Continue reading