My Problem with Preterism

For several years, one of the low-level fusses in the brotherhood has been about preterism.  Otherwise known as the 70 AD doctrine, preterism argues that all of the prophecies about the end of the world have already been fulfilled.  Thus, 2 Peter 3’s discussion of the earth and its works being burned up should be read in the same light as the Joel 2 prophecy of the sun being turned to darkness and the moon turned to blood.

I think preterists make some valid points.  We need to be careful to read the apocalyptic language of the Bible apocalyptically.  Also, many texts that are commonly read as being about the end of the world are about events that happened thousands of years ago.  I think Revelation 1-19 falls into this category.  Drawing the line between fulfilled prophecies couched in apocalyptic language and unfulfilled prophecies predicting literal future events is not always an easy task! Continue reading

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Twisted up by Evil People

When we read the Bible, we learn about some people we simply have to feel sorry for.  Hosea has to marry a prostitute.  Jeremiah has to faithfully proclaim God’s message to a wicked nation that doesn’t want to hear it and will kill him for saying it.  And so on.

On the list, though, we must include Saul’s son Jonathan.  From beginning to end of his life, he seems like a high-character guy.  The major sins that mar the reigns of Saul and even David are absent from his life.  Continue reading

The Superiority of the Son

Ever since I started preaching the gospel, I’ve made a point of trying to honor the sermon requests that people make.  A few weeks ago, I got one such request from Cindy Coleman.  She asked me if I’d be willing to preach a sermon on Jesus.

It’s a rare gospel preacher who could refuse a request like that!  Last week, as I was trying to decide what to say about Jesus, my mind turned to the book of Hebrews.  Hebrews was my dad’s favorite book of the Bible, and it also says many things about Jesus that are not found anywhere else.  As a result, I decided it would be profitable to all of us if we looked at the Hebrews writer’s opening arguments about Jesus.  Let’s consider, then, what he tells us about the superiority of the Son. Continue reading

Baptism and the Faithfulness of God

Whether most Christians think about it or not, their entire belief system is based on the premise that God is faithful.  God’s faithfulness is what makes it reasonable for us to trust in Him and devote our lives to doing His will.  We know that if we keep covenant with Him, He will not disappoint us.

If this were not true, if God were arbitrary and capricious rather than faithful, we would have no reason to seek Him at all.  The day of judgment would be a spiritual lottery, in which one person would be unpredictably rewarded while another is unpredictably punished.  At that point, it makes more sense for us to do what is right in our own eyes and take our chances. Continue reading

What God Sees

One of the great themes of 1 Samuel is the difference between personal appearance and personal worth.  Saul gained immediate approval as king of Israel because he stood head and shoulders above everybody else.  In the words of Shakespeare, he was every inch a king.  However, he failed the tests of kingship, revealing only his moral and spiritual shortcomings.

After Saul’s failure to obey in 1 Samuel 15, God sends Samuel out to anoint Saul’s replacement.  However, even though Samuel has witnessed Saul’s failure, he fails to draw the correct conclusion.  When God directs him to the sons of Jesse, he again evaluates the candidates on the basis of appearance.

In response, God makes the point that Samuel has missed.  He says, “For the Lord sees not as man sees:  man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  God isn’t concerned with height or attractiveness.  He cares about character instead. Continue reading

Encourage One Another

I’ve heard it said that it takes 10 compliments to cancel out one criticism.  As a parent, that makes me wonder if criticisms in chunks count as one criticism, like when I have to tell my kids five times in succession to stop messing with something.  Does that count as five or one?  If it’s five, their self-esteem might never recover!

Even if the precise math here might be up for debate, the overall principle isn’t.  Children or grownups alike, all of us appreciate positive feedback and reinforcement.  When we don’t get that positive reinforcement, whether verbally or through some other means, we’re less likely to continue doing the right thing.

This is particularly important when it comes to serving God.  Christians who never receive any praise, any sign that they matter to somebody else, any kind word at all, may well end up falling away.  From time to time, all of us need somebody to lift our spirits and help us to keep going.  As part of our series on being heaven bound together, then, let’s consider what we can do to encourage one another. Continue reading

Hymn Form and the Congregation

When it comes to congregational worship, I believe these three things are true:

  1. Content is the most important characteristic of a sacred song.
  2. Structure makes content accessible.
  3. Most members of a congregation are not trained singers, so unfamiliar music hinders them in their worship.

Taken together, these three things indicate that the most useful songs for the congregation contain good content in a highly structured form with music that is as easy to learn as possible.  I don’t think it’s any accident that this description matches many of the best traditional hymns. Continue reading