In the mystery of God’s providence, we have the efforts of Ezra and Nehemiah to thank for our Savior’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. God saved us through Jesus, and we see God’s sovereignty in tension with human responsibility as we consider how Ezra and Nehemiah worked to ensure that there would be a Joseph and a Mary so there could be a Jesus. They didn’t know that would be his name, but it was concern for him, hope for him, that drew Ezra and Nehemiah back to the Scriptures, kept them on their knees, compelled them to call the people to repent, and caused them to seek the rebuilding of people and wall.
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I love Jason Duesing’s writing. I started to excerpt his first and last paragraphs, then urge you to go read the whole thing.
I decided not to excerpt them because they are so much more powerful in the context of the whole.
If you wonder what seminaries have to do with taking the gospel to the unreached, you MUST read this.
If you wonder why we should go to the unreached, you MUST read this.
The gospel is the only hope the lost have. If they perish without Christ, consider what they face.
Read. Reflect. Pray. Go. Send.
Christ comes soon.
Broadman and Holman allowed me to put an excerpt of my new book on Ezra–Nehemiah on Christianity.com. The chapter excerpted deals with how to live a wartime lifestyle on a millionaire’s budget. Here’s a bit:
Can you imagine slaughtering an ox a day? I don’t know how big Nehemiah’s herd of oxen was, but he referred to a twelve year period of time in 5:14. Twelve years multiplied by 365 days per year is 4,380 oxen. He either had a herd big enough to sustain that or he had the money to buy that many oxen. He also slaughtered six sheep per day, and in twelve years that’s 26,280 sheep.
This is enormous wealth. Nehemiah trusted God and loved God’s people, so he did not exploit the privileges of his office. But I see no indication at all that he felt the slightest bit guilty about having the means to sacrifice an ox, six sheep, and enjoy “all kinds of wine in abundance” every ten days (Neh 5:18). There are poor people in the land. Nehemiah does not give any indication that he feels wrong about being extravagantly wealthy while others are poor.
The rest is here.
Searching on Bibleworks 9 for Mac
BW9 offers several options to search the Bible and other texts (e.g. Apostolic Fathers, Josephus, Philo etc.). The most common and easiest search options to access are the right-click search option and the command window. When one right-clicks on a word or a selected phrase, BW9 offers different options for searching.
Form Search: This searches for the inflected form of the word selected.
Lemma Search: This searches for the dictionary form of the word. This search does not give homonyms; it is limited to the form of the word in question that has the same meaning. Using the lemma search, one can do an exhaustive study of the word as it appears in the lexicon, Greek or Hebrew texts. For example, when I searched “θέλημα”, the “search for inflected form” option listed 13 occurrences whereas the lemma search offered 62 occurrences of the same word.
Homonym Search: This search is only available when searching a Hebrew text. Homonyms are tagged by letters: Homonym 1=a, 2=b etc. From the Browse Window, right-click the word and choose “search for Homonym” or enter the search in the Command line. In the Command line the search for II_בראlooks like: . ברא@v*+Ha*|
Phrase Search (Greek/Hebrew): This search retrieves a string of words instead of a single word; it hunts for two or more words as an exact phrase (the same inflection of words) or the same phrase with varying inflections of the words. If one is searching for a phrase with the same words and inflection, simply select the phrase, right-click on it, and choose “search for phrase” in the menu.
For a lemma based phrase search one must select the text version that is morphologically tagged. Type the version abbreviation (eg. BGM, BNM) into the “Command line” and hit enter. Insert the control character of a single quote make (‘) for a phrase search, then enter the lexical form of the each word in place of the inflected form, accents are not necessary. If you wish to search on a phrase in a verse in the verses your studying, enter the phrase as displayed in morphology version in the Browse Window.
The manuscripts in BW9 are transcribed and fully searchable as well. The manuscripts are tagged with verse references and scroll with the verses as you change them.
BW9 comes with close to six hours of “How to Videos” well organized to ease new users learning process. These videos are extremely helpful for new users. One of the challenges for buying a Bible software like this is the difficulty of learning how to use it. However, the developers have made it easy by providing these videos. There is no excuse to not know and make proper use of this software. There are also contextual helps: place your mouse on a window or button and press the F1 key for contextual help.
It is very difficult to use the lemma search option to look up a phrase, meaning that it cannot search several lemmas from a direct highlight and search. The lack of this feature can make research time-consuming. To lemma search a Greek or Hebrew phrase, you have to type out the phrase or clause in the command window in Greek or Hebrew, along with some additional symbols. This means that you must know how to use the Greek and Hebrew Keyboards to do phrase/clause searches.
On the PC version, the keystrokes, Control+Shift+B on a word processor opens the “Popup Verse Copy Window,” a very handy feature for fast copying of verses from any version or versions of your choice into your word document. This feature, however, does not work on the Mac version.
Despite a few improvements that would make this software even user-friendlier on the Mac, it is a great resource for those who desire to study the Bible, especially in the original languages. This may not occur every time, but in my case, since I installed Bibleworks, Hebrew font has been working perfectly in Microsoft Word office for Mac. This may be an additional benefit, and I cannot explain how excited I am about this. I am still exploring the software, but I’d highly recommend it. The price for all that comes with it is unbeatable. Buy, study, and grow in love for God and his church.
PhD Candidate, SBTS
BibleWorks 9 for Mac: Software for Biblical Exegesis and Research. Norfolk, VA: BibleWorks LLC, 2011, $359.00
I am so amazed at the wealth of the resources with which God has blessed this era to study his Word. No era before now has enjoyed the blessings of tools such as Bibleworks for easy, fast, and enjoyable study of God Word. At this point in history, just with a mouse click, one can find every occurrence of a given word in the Bible, in any language of one’s choice. What a privilege to be living at this point in time. This privilege comes, according to scripture, with responsibility. “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48 ESV). With this sobering thought I offer my review of Bibleworks 9 (BW9) on the Mac platform.
From its inception, Bibleworks, one of the premier Bible software of our time, was designed for Windows PCs. Now the most recent version, Bibleworks 9, runs on Mac using a $6 Mac adapter. From my perspective, a Bible software is as good as the searches it can conduct and the resources it provides. Thus, while this review will touch on other features of this software, the bulk of attention will be given to these two capabilities.
BW9 has three interface windows: Search window, Browse window, and Analysis window (the third can be subdivided). These windows are all inter-connected.
The first I will discuss is the search window with the command line. To do a search in the command line, one must enter a word preceded by a period or a phrase preceded by a single quotation mark. The results are displayed in the search window. You can then select which verse you want to study, click on it, and it will appear in the browser window.
On the browse window, one can toggle between the full text and a single verse in different Bible versions, just with a single click. When you pass your cursor over a word or verse reference, detail information about the word or reference appears in the analysis window.
The analysis window displays all of the resources in your library that have the highlighted word or reference. To expand any of them, simply hold down the shift key while the cursor remains on the word in the browse window. While holding the shift key down, you can move the mouse cursor over to the analysis window and click on any of the displayed resources to see the entire context of the word or reference. I find this feature very helpful because it spares you time. You do not have to search your entire library; BW9 does it for you immediately as your mouse runs over a word or after you click a verse reference.
The analysis window has additional features that are helpful for research. The analysis window can be partitioned to add a fourth column. With the option to divide the window, one can access two resources at the same time, which greatly increases efficiency. The analysis window also has several tabs, which function differently.
The Analysis tab is useful when you are studying the Bible in Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic. When you place your cursor on a word in one of these languages in the Browse window, BW9 will draw helpful resources into this tab, such as lexicons and grammars, to give you more detailed information on the word’s meaning. As you would expect, on the note tab, you can take notes. There you find options to save, copy, cut, paste, etc. The cross-reference tab (X-Refs) lists all cross-references for the selected verse in the browse window and categorizes them according to the frequency of use. The statistic tab gives a graphic display of the search result, which shows in which book the word or phrase on the search window occurs the most and the number of times in each pericope. Another tab, probably the most helpful for those who are interested in New Testament text criticism, is the manuscript tab. Under this tab one has access to several manuscripts, which include Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, and Sinaiticus, among others. All of these manuscripts are fully transcribed and morphologically tagged, and their digital images are also tagged with verses references. The Tischendorf apparatus and New Testament Critical Apparatus from the Center of New Testament Textual studies are also included. These manuscripts and apparatuses set Bibleworks miles apart as a leading electronic resource for detailed manuscript analysis and textual criticism, particularly in the New Testament. Astonishingly, all of these come in the base package; there are no additional prices for the manuscripts! Finally, the analysis window has an Editor tab, which offers all the functions of the Window WordPad editor, but with more features and neatly integrated with BW9 itself.
The Analysis window can be hidden with a simple mouse click. Click the Analysis Tab on the bottom bar if you need more space for the Search or Browse Windows.
Although BW9 runs on Mac, the interface is not what one would expect for a Mac software; it looks exactly the same as the Windows version. Although it is not the most user-friendly interface, the price of the software and its functionality silences the rushing complaints of a cluttered interface. The type of interface is not a major issue for me because the software still does what it was designed to do. It may take a few keystrokes to understand the different icons, but it does not take long to learn how to navigate the software.
PhD Candidate, SBTS
Just in time for Easter, check out this creative lyric video from The Gray Havens:
Have you noticed the double brackets in the ESV that surround John 7:53–8:11? Those double brackets mean that the ESV’s translation committee does not consider this passage to be original to John’s Gospel. You also find double brackets around Mark 16:9–20.
Do you know what it means that these passages are marked off–correctly–as not coming from the authors of these respective Gospels? If John did not write what is enumerated as 7:53–8:11, that means it doesn’t belong between John 7:52 and 8:12 because it does not come from the author who was “carried along by the Holy Spirit.” If John did not write this passage, it isn’t Scripture because it was not “breathed out by God.” If it isn’t Scripture, it shouldn’t be in the text, and pastors shouldn’t preach it.
That’s what those double brackets mean about these passages. I submit that if a translation committee has come to the conclusion that they should put double brackets around these texts, they would serve pastors and Bible teachers better by putting these texts in a footnote rather than in the text. Those double brackets are too easy not to notice. The ESV puts John 5:4 in a footnote because the editors do not think John wrote that verse. The same should be done with Mark 16:9–20 and John 7:53–8:11.
What is the evidence for such a conclusion? In what follows I will only present the evidence for John 7:53–8:11, evidence that comes from the New Testament manuscripts (external evidence) and from the flow of thought in John’s Gospel (internal evidence). [If you're interested in the Mark 16 issue, I discussed that passage also from the pulpit].
We are dealing with books written long before the printing press and long copied by hand. John 7:53–8:11 is not in any of the earliest manuscripts, and Bruce Metzger notes that “No Greek Church Father prior to Euthymius Zigabenus (twelfth century) comments on the passage, and Euthymius declares that the accurate copies of the Gospel do not contain it.” That means that at some point a scribe copied this passage into a manuscript of John’s Gospel, and then that got perpetuated. The fact that we have enough evidence to determine this to be the case should increase our confidence in the text of the New Testament. That there is a consensus on this point should make us more confident in the Scriptures not less.
John 7:53–8:11 is not in any of the best texts: P66, P75, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, etc. As the note above the passage in the ESV states, the earliest manuscripts do not include it. As the footnote in the ESV text states, some manuscripts contain this passage, but not following John 7:52. Some have it after John 7:36 or 21:25 or even Luke 21:38. Again, the fact that we have enough manuscript evidence to arrive at this conclusion shows that we can be practically certain about the original contents of the text of the New Testament.
The Flow of Thought in John’s Gospel
In addition to the manuscript evidence indicating that John the author of the Gospel did not put this passage here, we can also observe that the passage interrupts the flow of thought in this section of the Gospel. The opponents of Jesus are ready to kill him (John 5:18; 7:19–20, 25). They seek to arrest him (7:30, 32), and they are frustrated when the officers don’t bring him in (7:45–47). Their minds are made up. They have just rejected Nicodemus’s counsel that they investigate Jesus (7:51). They are past the point of testing Jesus or seeking charges to bring against him, as the interpolated passage has them doing in 8:6. They do not need charges against Jesus. He has called “God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18), so they can bring him up on charges of blasphemy.
There are accounts in other Gospels similar to this one about the woman caught in adultery, but there are no accounts like this one in John. The passages most similar to this interpolated passage are the ones that depict the scribes and Pharisees disputing directly with Jesus over someone who is in need. Interestingly, the two accounts closest to this one involve the healing of the paralytic and the man with the withered hand. Mark places both of those incidents (Mark 2:1–12; 3:1–5) prior to the Pharisees’ fateful decision to seek to kill Jesus (Mark 3:6).
John Doesn’t Talk This Way
Have you noticed that John always refers to the opponents of Jesus as “the Jews”? Did you notice that John never refers to the scribes? The only instance of the word “scribes” in John’s Gospel is in the interpolated passage at 8:3. In fact there are 14 words in John 7:53–8:11 passage that occur nowhere else in John’s Gospel.
Continuity Between John 7 and 8
If we pass over 7:53–8:11, we find that the setting and situation in the rest of John 8 matches the setting and situation of John 7. As we move to John 8:12, John continues to present Jesus speaking at the temple (7:28; 8:20) on the last and greatest day of the feast (7:37).
Not only is the setting of John 8 the same as that of John 7, the points under discussion are the same. Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of the water pouring ceremony of the Feast of Tabernacles in 7:37–39. That water pouring ceremony likely commemorated the water from the rock in the wilderness (Exod 17:1–7; Num 20:2–13). In addition to the water pouring ceremony there was a ceremonial lighting of candles, likely commemorating the way the Lord lit Israel’s way through the wilderness by the pillar of cloud and flame. In John 8:12, Jesus will assert that he is the light of the world. Other points of contact between John 7 and 8 include the following:
- Testimony, 7:18, 28; 8:13
- Where Jesus comes from and where he goes, 7:25–30, 31–36; 8:14, 21–22 (cf. esp. 7:34–35 and 8:21–22)
- Righteous judgment, 7:24; 8:15
- The Jews don’t know God, 7:28; 8:19, 55
- The seeking of glory, 7:18; 8:50, 54
A Plea to Translation Committees
Bible translation committees responsible for the ESV, CSB, NIV, NAS, and any other translation preached from pulpits should do pastors a favor and put these texts in footnotes. Mark 16:9–20 was not written by Mark, and John 7:53–8:11 was not written by John. Those passages do not belong in the text and should not be preached from pulpits. The snake-handlers are woefully mistaken. They should not think there is any warrant in the New Testament for such a practice. Similarly, those who cry that no one should throw stones anytime sinners are called to repentance have misunderstood this interpolated passage (Jesus does tell the woman to stop sinning in 8:11), but still the passage has no business in the text. It was not written by John, and it should not be there interrupting the flow of though between 7:52 and 8:12. Put it in a footnote.
[it was my privilege to preach John 7:53–8:29 at Kenwood Baptist Church today, and for any who may be interested in the way I addressed this issue from the pulpit, the sermon audio is online].
Can you imagine anything more vulnerable than a woman laboring to give birth? Women in labor are completely occupied with giving birth. They are not thinking about defending themselves. They cannot strategize about how to escape from danger. They are focused on one thing: giving birth. The process of giving birth is a colossal struggle for life. The whole of a woman’s mental energy, emotional strength, and bodily power are focused on what seems impossible and is nothing short of miraculous. A human being is about to come into the world out of her body, and the baby seems bigger than the birth canal. It looks impossible. It is a miracle of frantic human determination and astonishing divine design.
Can you imagine anything more frightening or threatening than a huge dragon? Let me suggest a way to make a dragon even more dreadful: give it seven heads. Put a horn on each head, and on three of the heads have two horns, so there are seven heads and ten horns.
Put the two images together and you have a drama. A pregnant woman in the process of giving birth, and she is threatened by a massive dragon who wants to eat her baby the moment he is born. She cannot run. She cannot hide. What hope does she have?
Do you want to heighten the desperation and urgency of the situation? The child about to be born, sure to be eaten by the dragon, is the world’s last hope. This is an epic pageant of intense, unprotected goodness confronted with a shocking evil that looks powerful, inevitable, devastating.
John writes in Revelation 12:1–2, “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.” The first thing we should note is that this woman is a “sign.” She is a portent of symbolic significance. So the symbol is a pregnant woman about to give birth, and she is clothed with the sun.
Imagine a woman wearing the sun as a garment. She has the moon under her feet, and she has a crown on her head. The crown is of twelve stars. These heavenly bodies are reminiscent of Joseph’s second dream in Genesis 37:9, where Joseph says, “Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” Joseph’s father Jacob, a.k.a. Israel, interprets the dream in 37:10 saying, “Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” So in Joseph’s dream, Jacob/Israel is the sun, Joseph’s mother Rachel is the moon, and Joseph’s eleven brothers are the eleven stars, with Joseph evidently the twelfth.
When God created the heavens and the earth he made the two great lights on the fourth day, the greater light to rule the day, the lesser light to rule the night with the stars (Gen 1:16), and they were “for signs and for seasons, and for days and years” (1:14). Portraying the family of Israel as these “ruling signs” seems to communicate that Israel will rule the world, and the patriarchal luminaries of Israel bow to Joseph. Revelation 12:1 seems to evoke Genesis 37:9–10 to portray Jesus as a new and greater Joseph.
As for the woman being pregnant, Micah 4:10 presents the “daughter of Zion” being in labor and it seems that Israel will remain in exile until the child is born in Bethlehem (5:2). Micah 5:3–4 says, “Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who was in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.” Psalm 72:8 and Zechariah 9:10 also speak of the Messiah reigning “to the ends of the earth.” So this woman seems to symbolize the nation of Israel in general and in particular Mary, the maiden of Israel, daughter of Zion, who gave birth to Jesus. The birth of Jesus is interpreted here as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies that point to the birth of the child bringing redemption for God’s people and ruling over all the nations of the earth. This child is the hope of the world.
There is a second sign in Revelation 12:3–4, “And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.” Imagine seeing this huge red dragon, but it isn’t your ordinary dragon with one head, it has seven heads! With the seven heads, it has ten horns.
The portrayal of the dragon’s tail sweeping down a third of the stars of heaven and casting them to the earth depicts a dragon massive in proportion to have a tail so large. Perhaps the dragon sweeping these stars out of heaven and casting them to earth refers to Satan convincing one third of the heavenly host to join him in rebellion against God.
The dragon being ready to devour the child about to be born to the woman reminds us that God cursed the serpent in Genesis 3:15, putting enmity between the serpent and the woman, between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, and promising that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. These symbols depict the cosmic, epic battle between God and Satan. Satan looks like he has all the advantages—he’s a dragon with seven heads and ten horns against a pregnant woman! Who would you bet on in that conflict?
In Revelation 12:5 we see the identity of the child about to be born to the woman: “She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne.” This clear allusion to Psalm 2:7 identifies the child as the Lord’s Anointed, his Messiah, Jesus. Out of the mouths of babes God has established strength.
Satan goes to war as a dragon, and God overcomes him by a pregnant woman giving birth to a baby boy.
Does it sometimes seem to you that Satan has the upper hand in the struggle of the ages? Does it look like he is the one who knows how to fight to win, and God always seems to pick the losing strategy? Turn the other cheek. Bless those who persecute you. Love your enemies. Preach Christ and him crucified and not with what the world thinks is eloquent wisdom. Choose the weak things of the world.
It’s almost as though God shows up on the playground to pick his team, and instead of picking the guys who look like they can play, he picks the obviously inferior team. And how does it always turn out? God triumphs every time.
Do you ever look around your life and feel like God has dealt you a losing hand? If you’re a student of the Bible, when you see what looks like a losing hand, you know that God is about to triumph in a way that will give him all the credit for the victory. Isn’t that the kind of victory you want? So when everything in your life looks unimpressive, sure to lose, insignificant, let me encourage you to trust Christ and watch for the glory of God to be demonstrated.
This is precisely what happens when the child is caught up to God and to his throne in Revelation 12:5. In verse 4 the dragon is poised to devour the child. God looks like he has the short end of the stick. Satan is a dragon, and God has left this poor pregnant woman and her newborn baby to face the dragon alone. Suddenly victory is snatched from the dragon’s jaws as the child is caught up to God and his throne.
This being caught up to heaven seems to collapse the whole life of Jesus, from ministry to cross and resurrection, so that we go straight from the birth to the ascension. When Jesus died on the cross, it looked like Satan had conquered. God turned certain and total defeat—his own people rejecting and crucifying the Messiah—into the victory that saves the world. When it looked like the last defense against evil had fallen, Christ rose from the dead, decisively breaking the back of evil.
That dragon was thwarted at the baby’s birth.
This post is an excerpt from Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches
The 2013 Issachar Award: For the Book that Best Understands the Times and Teaches What God’s People Should Do
Tis the season when the books of the year are being announced, and in that spirit here at For His Renown I’m inaugurating The Issachar Award, so named for the reference in 1 Chronicles 12:32 to the “the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do” (NAS).
The Issachar Award goes to the book that best understands the most crucial issues facing the church and most faithfully communicates the truth of the Scriptures on these issues for the good of God’s people and the glory of God.
The recipient of The Issachar Award for 2013 is Denny Burk, for his book What Is the Meaning of Sex?
Here are the top ten reasons What Is the Meaning of Sex? wins the Issachar Award for 2013.
10. The meaning of sex–that word referring to both the distinguishing of the human species as males or females and the act whereby man and wife are physically united as one–is under attack today, and the attack on the nature of sex as God created it comprises the most controversial issue the church now faces.
9. The question of the meaning of sex–again, what it means to be male and female and what that means for marriage–has become the canary in the coal-mine for the question of Religious Liberty. The freedom to worship and to live in accordance with the dictates of conscience is under threat because of the efforts to revise the meaning of sex.
8. These realities make the meaning of sex one of the biggest evangelistic hurdles Christians face as we seek to communicate the gospel to unbelievers.
7. The reality that every human is either male or female makes the meaning of sex foundational to our identity as human beings.
6. Our culture desperately needs men who are manly in Christ-like ways, with ladylike women who are the crowning glory of God’s creation, as the Scriptures teach.
5. Like Hitler seeking to demoralize the British in the Blitz, Satan’s concentrated attacks on the meaning of sex make this the most intense point of the raging onslaught, the line where the battle flames hottest, the place we must stand in the ongoing spiritual warfare. Satan pursues his attacks on the meaning of sex through sexual temptation, growing persecution, and false allegations of bigotry, all of which urge Christians to shut up, to refrain from confessing the truths of Scripture on these issues.
4. Traditional marriage is hands down the best program for advancing social justice, for helping others, for loving our neighbors, for ensuring the academic success of children, for protecting kids against drugs and predators and gangs and whatever else. The meaning of sex is therefore basic to the best social program that could be advanced for children in underprivileged areas. Traditional marriage is also the best protection for unborn children and at-risk mothers in this lusty, bloodthirsty land.
3. More important than anything said to this point is the glorious truth that marriage as God created it to be is a mini-drama of the relationship between Christ and the church. Marriage is about the gospel. The meaning of sex impinges directly on the meaning of the gospel.
2. This book teaches that sex is for the glory of God.
1. This book will tell you what the Bible says about these most disputed questions, questions whose answers will determine the kind of world in which our children will live: whether they will retain the free exercise of religion, what kind of moral norms and expectations will permeate the atmosphere, and the accessibility of the gospel in this society.
The future of western civilization depends on what kind of answer we give to the question What Is the Meaning of Sex? For the gospel, for the children, for the culture, for the glory of God, we need to know how the Bible answers that question. For all these reasons, this year’s Issachar Award goes to Denny Burk for his book What Is the Meaning of Sex? published by Crossway Books.
Congratulations to Crossway Books and Denny Burk on winning The Issachar Award for 2013.
I shall henceforth refer to What Is the Meaning of Sex? as an “award winning book,” and when speaking of Denny Burk I will freely use the phrase “award winning author.” I would encourage you to do the same, and if you don’t yet have a copy of the book, the linked title above will take you to Amazon where you can remedy that deficiency.
Saul Sarabia Lopez has come through again! Here is his translation of my essay, “Were Old Covenant Believers Indwelt by the Holy Spirit?”
Here are the other essays he has translated (links go to posts where the Spanish translations can be found):
Spencer Haygood shared this Dr. Seuss style poem with me for the Christmas season. I loved it, and he gave me permission to post it here. Enjoy!
We Watch Every Year!
B. Spencer Haygood, Jr
We all know the story, we’ve all heard it told,
of the Who’s down in Whoville, and the Grinch, bold and cold;
how the grouchy old Grump greatly hated their joys
and grinningly plotted to steal all their toys.
Oh, we watch every year, at least most everyone.
We watch, and we watch, as the dark deed is done;
as the Grinch takes the toys of the Who girls and boys
and away, on his sleigh, takes them all, without noise.
And up on a ledge, at the top of Mount Crumpit,
the meany old Grinch sits ready to dump it
all off the edge of the ledge to the pit
he means to dump it all, yes, all of it.
“For what could he do worse than this,” he surmised
“than take away all of these things that they’ve prized?”
But just as he’s ready to shove it headlong,
from the town comes a sound … “Oh no, it’s a song!”
A song, being sung, while the Who’s all hold hands
A song that now echoes throughout all Who-land
And a great celebration of life and its ways
of family and friend and fun holidays
And the grouchy and grumpy old Grinch-heart was stirred.
That heart two sizes too small had heard
something that made him see Christmas was more
than all of these “things” that were bought at a store.
And so he returned all the toys to the Who’s
And all they thought lost they didn’t really lose
So they all joined together at the grand Christmas feast
and the Grinch, you remember, carved the roast beast.
It’s all a good story, with a good moral, yes!
Life doesn’t consist in the things we possess.
But is that all Christmas is, an Enlightenment tale,
of peace and good will, beyond things for sale?
Is Christmas just time for family and friends,
a year-ending festival of food without end,
with check accounts empty, and credit cards full,
a few sincere wishes, and a whole lot of bull,
when presents are given—some are hers, some are his—
is that really all we believe Christmas is?
Oh, I know a story, a story that’s old
and of this story’s glory not the half has been told
of Paradise first, and then Paradise lost,
of the deepest rebellion, and the terrible cost,
of the entrance into “Ourville,” not of an old Grinch,
but of that ancient Serpent, and sin and its stench,
and how he stole, not some toys, but life from our race
leaving us with no hope, not even a trace.
But then the first promise of One who would come
and undo the undoing the Undoer had done.
From that moment on, as the story proceeds
everything points to this coming seed.
From Seth to Noah to Shem it flows
then to Terah and Abraham, it goes and it goes
on to Isaac and Jacob and then David the King
the line can’t be stopped, not by anything.
Finally to Christ everything leads
prophecies, promises, patterns, and seeds
the portrait grows clearer and clearer, till the day
He appears in “Ourville” who will take sin away.
How perfectly, perfectly the round is maintained
Paradise lost, now Paradise regained
The way to the tree of life that was barred
now opened in him once more, evermore.
It’s true, in the Garden the first Adam fell
and if that were the end … what a story to tell
but the last Adam came and took all our loss
stood all the test, endured the cross
paid what we owed, went to the grave
then rose the third day, mighty to save.
It’s the story of sacrifice, of changing of place
of love everlasting and infinite grace
of sweet mercy offered to us, due the worst,
now freely accepted, freed from the curse.
Oh, we watch every year, least most everyone
we watch, and we watch, as the great Deed was done
from the grandeur of heaven to the grime of the stall
comes the Lord of all glory, and the great King of all
who’s born there in Bethlehem that dark, starry night
for the purpose of making what’s wrong once more right.
We all know the story, we’ve all heard it told
this story of glory, and this good news of old
Oh, for the wonder and witness once more
of our voices, with angels, raised evermore,
singing, shouting, filling earth with the praise
of the glorious Gospel of God’s mighty grace.
Just yesterday I was asked: does the Bible teach that women are to do anything more than schlepp kids and keep house?
Proverbs 31 has lots to say about what wise women do, but this video turns the question on its head, capturing the profound majesty of mothering:
Someone said: Only a Philistine could fail to love the Psalms.
David “Gunner” Gunderson doesn’t just make last second shots, he thinks and writes well, and I’d encourage you to check out his important review of an important book, Gordon Wenham’s Psalms as Torah. Here’s a snippet:
The Burden of the Book: The Shaping Power of Praying the Psalms
Christians often talk about “the power of prayer,” and rightfully so. But what’s usually meant is the power of prayer to change things by summoning the sovereign power of God. This book is all about the power of prayer, but Wenham is taking a different angle. He wants us to see that prayer not only reshapes the landscape of our lives by moving mountains but reshapes the landscape of our hearts by recrafting and renewing our attitudes and commitments.
[P]rayer has an impact on ethical thought . . . If we praise a certain type of behavior in our prayers, we are telling God that this is how we intend to behave. On the other hand, if in prayer we denounce certain acts and pray for God to punish them, we are in effect inviting God to judge us if we do the same. This makes the ethics of liturgy uniquely powerful. It makes a stronger claim on the believer than either law, wisdom, or story, which are simply subject to passive reception: one can listen to a proverb or a story and then take it or leave it, but if you pray ethically, you commit yourself to a path of action (57).
Therefore, it’s not enough for the church to retell the narratives, preach the gospels, and exposit the epistles. We must also pray the Psalms, individually and corporately. [the whole thing]
We love the Psalms. Often in family devos around here we will be reading a Psalm nightly until the whole family can recite it. Right now we’re reading Psalm 29.
I’m hoping and praying for the creatives among us to come up with more and more tunes for singing the Psalms in ways that resonate today. May the Lord bless us with his word.
Saul Sarabia L. has blessed me with Spanish translations of my essays “The Center of Biblical Theology in Acts” and “Biblical Theology and Preaching,” and now he has also translated “The Seed of the Woman and the Blessing of Abraham.”
If you know Spanish language students of the Bible, please do pass this on to them: “La Simiente de la Mujer y la Bendición de Abraham,” translated by Saul Sarabia Lopez.
May the Lord use us to carry out the great task of making disciples of all nations.
I’m honored to commend the new book by R. Reed Lessing and Andrew E. Steinmann, Prepare the Way of the Lord: An Introduction to the Old Testament, Concordia, 2014.
Here’s my endorsement:
To read the Bible is to risk a thrilling adventure through wild jungles with thunderous cataracts and soaring timbers teeming with life. Some turn its pages like those who would make rain forests into concrete wastelands for billboards and bobos. Others, and we thank God for the likes of Drs. Steinmann and Lessing, come to the forest with a gleaming eye and forward lean, eager to plunge in, to explore the glories and relish the sights and smells and sounds, for there is always more to see. This book will take you on a life-changing expedition through the Book of books. Your guides are as faithful as they are courageous, and you will not regret your time on this excursion with these authors. Enjoy!
We transgressed, defiled and raged,
And he gave his son.
For our filth and shame, staining sin,
He sent the pure one.
Bloodied hands and bloodsoaked lands,
The Lamb—he held his tongue,
His blood was spilt; the church was built,
Because he gave his son.
Now free from chains and all your pains
To living waters run
For cleansing life where Jesus reigns,
The risen, ruling Son.
Worthy he of all our praise,
Honored as his name we raise,
Constant through all time he stays,
Jesus all who trust him saves!
From the sermon “This Is How God Loved the World” on John 3:16–21, preached at Kenwood Baptist Church on October 13, 2013.
Muhammed Ali said, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.” He also said, “Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.”
We see the opposite of that pride in John 3 from John the Baptist, and the reason John’s perspective is so different from Ali’s comes down to two things: he knows the identity of Jesus, and he knows the part Jesus plays in God’s plan.
From those realities I make these two assertions about true humility:
1) True humility results from encountering Jesus, who is true greatness.
2) True humility arises from knowing the part Jesus plays in God’s big plan.
Two applications: knowing the greatness of Jesus and the part he plays keeps us from thinking that we’re the world’s Savior, and it helps us to know what our own role is and isn’t.
From what the Baptist says in John 3:27–33, we see 15 things that he knew that kept him humble:
1. What can’t be done:
“A person cannot receive even one thing . . .” (John 3:27a)
2. Where gifts come from:
“unless it is given him from heaven” (3:27b).
3. Who he is:
“You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ’” (3:28a)
4. What his role is:
“but I have been sent before him” (3:28b)
5. Who Jesus is:
“The one who has the bride is the bridegroom” (3:29a)
6. What his relationship to Jesus is:
“The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him” (3:29b)
7. How to respond to Jesus:
“rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete” (3:29c)
8. What must happen:
“He must increase, but I must decrease” (3:30)
9. Where Jesus is from:
“He who comes from above” (3:31a)
10. What place Jesus occupies:
“is above all. . . . He who comes from heaven is above all” (3:31b, e)
11. Where he, the Baptist, is from:
“He who is of the earth belongs to the earth” (3:31c)
12. How he speaks:
“and speaks in an earthly way” (3:31d)
13. How Jesus speaks:
“He bears witness to what he has seen and heard” (3:32a)
14. How Jesus is rejected:
“yet no one receives his testimony” (3:32b)
15. What it means to receive the testimony of Jesus:
“Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true” (3:33)
Pride comes from thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. By recognizing that he is not the Messiah, the Baptist has accepted the fact that he is not Israel’s king, not Israel’s champion, not Israel’s Savior. John knows who he is and who he is not. John also knows what his purpose is. His purpose is to prepare the way for Jesus. John knows his own origin. He is from earth, not heaven. John knows that he has nothing he has not received (1 Cor 4:7), and that whatever he has received has come as a gift from God (John 3:27).
One reason we are not humble is the fact that we have not experienced greatness. We have not encountered majesty, so in our ignorance and lack of experience we begin to think that we are grander and greater than we really are. We begin to overestimate our own importance. This doesn’t happen to John because he has experienced greatness, majesty, authority, incomparability in the person of Jesus. John knows that Jesus is the bridegroom (John 3:29) who comes from above, that is, heaven (3:31).
One manifestation of our pride is the assumption that we will succeed where others have failed. What keeps John from that pride? He knows that there has never been a better witness than Jesus, and “yet no one receives his testimony” (John 3:32). No one has a better perception of reality than Jesus. No one has more right to be heard than Jesus. No one could communicate more clearly than Jesus. And his testimony was not received.
What do you expect will happen to your testimony? What right do we have to think that we will have more success than Jesus had?
We cannot receive what has not been given. We are not Messiah. We are not from heaven but from earth. We are not the world’s Savior. We were created to reflect the glory of the image of the invisible God. We were made for Jesus, not the other way around. Therefore we should feel what John articulates about himself and Jesus in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
From “He Must Increase, But I Must Decrease,” preached at Kenwood Baptist Church on October 27, 2013.
I’m sure you’ve heard what J. K. Rowling said about Albus Dumbledore: “I always thought of Dumbledore as gay.”
Dumbledore is a hero, one of the good guys through all seven novels. Unlike the way he is portrayed in the movies, Dumbledore is neither bumbling nor weak. He is commanding, authoritative, strong, sure, and only defeated by superior forces, never inferior ones. Dumbledore didn’t die because he made mistakes or because he absentmindedly mismanaged some magic. He died because he laid down his life, playing his appointed part in the outworking of a grand providential plan into which he had remarkable insight.
How do we deal with the information that Rowling has given us? How do we respond to her declaration that she thought of him as gay?
This calls for wisdom.
We should ask, I think, at least two questions: (1) what does Rowling show us of Dumbledore’s conduct as it relates to homosexuality/same-sex desire, and (2) what is it that makes Dumbledore a hero? Let’s start with the second first.
Is Dumbledore a hero because he has decided that the desires he feels must be right? Has he concluded that his appetites are to be gratified? Has he chosen what he wants over what he deems right? Has he chosen what is easy or what is true and good? Has he done whatever he wanted to do without concern for how it affects other people? Does he advocate that his impulses, his freedom, and his right to do whatever he wants to do matter more than any consideration of traditional morality or societal standard? Does he demand the right to throw off moral norms and be considered righteous by everyone?
The answers to these questions are obvious to anyone who has read the fabulous Harry Potter stories. Dumbledore is a hero not because he has thrown off Christian morality and Christian conceptions of what is good and true and beautiful but because he has embraced them. Dumbledore is a hero because he selflessly opposes evil—moral evil—and the definition of moral evil in the Potter stories corresponds to the definition of moral evil in the Bible. Dumbledore is heroic because he is Christ-like.
There is a character in the Harry Potter stories who has moved beyond traditional morality, who has decided that his appetites are to be gratified, that what he deems right is what must be true, that what he wants he will have without respect for the way it harms others. This character says that there is no good and evil, only power. There is a character who chooses that path, but his name is Voldemort not Dumbledore.
I would suggest, then, that Dumbledore’s same-sex attraction does not take away from our conception of him as a hero but adds to it because it shows us one more way in which Dumbledore has crucified evil, selfish, fleshly desires for the sake of what is morally true, ethically right, lovingly beautiful, and in every way good.
Skeptical of my interpretation of Rowling’s intentions? Need proof? Let’s move from the second question to the first: what does Rowling show us of Dumbledore’s conduct as it relates to homosexuality/same-sex desire. We’ll answer this question at two levels: on the surface, then under the surface.
On the surface, Rowling shows us nothing of Dumbledore’s same-sex attraction. That’s why people were shocked when she announced it. Observe: Dumbledore never overtly declares that he is gay. He never says or does anything to identify or define himself in those terms or by his own desires. Dumbledore never evidences a desire for a day when people’s conception of what is “moral” will be different so that he can pursue his impulses without social stigma. Dumbledore never encourages anyone to “transcend” moral norms of acceptable sexual orientation. In fact, I contend that Dumbledore would view that not as transcendent but as transgression, and this is precisely what makes him heroic.
Had Rowling not told us Dumbledore was gay, we would never suspect it. We would have seen Dumbledore as the self-sacrificial, wise, good hero that he is. And we would be right. Now let’s move from the surface, from what we can know from reading the novels for ourselves, below the surface, to what we might suggest about what Rowling shows in the novels now that she has given us this tidbit about her conception of Dumbledore.
I want to make three suggestions here: first, Dumbledore seems to have chosen a life of celibate singleness. Second, Dumbledore seems to take steps to protect himself and others from his own harmful impulses. Third, Rowling is therefore implicitly presenting Dumbledore as a heroic model for how those who struggle with same sex attraction can nevertheless be good and true.
First, Dumbledore has no partner. Rowling indicates that he had a dalliance in his youth, a dalliance that involved a plan to raise up a new world order, likely extending to a redefinition of sexual morality. While Rita Skeeter and other slanderers use Dumbledore’s youthful mistakes to call his character into question, the characters in the novel who see the truth understand that while Dumbledore may have forayed into those waters in his youth, he fled them and spent the rest of his life fighting those floods. Dumbledore seems to have learned from his own past, and he seems to view his youthful involvement with Grindelwald as a mistake. As a result of his own mistakes and his awareness of his own weaknesses, he is prepared to extend mercy, to give second chances to the likes of Rubeus Hagrid and Remus Lupin. He even trusts Severus Snape. Dumbledore is a great man not because he looks at people’s wickedness and trusts them anyway. He is a great man because though aware of people’s past wrong choices, he is willing to give them new chances to make the right choices. I would add that Dumbledore is fully prepared at all times to accept responsibility for his mistakes, for his own wrong choices, and he confesses them and repents. His desire in giving second chances is a desire for others to recognize their own wrongs, turn from them, and do right in the future.
Second, think of the way that Dumbledore protects himself and others from his own weaknesses. In chapter 37 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore explains to Harry that he distanced himself from Harry to keep Voldemort from exploiting any perception that their “relationship was—or had ever been—closer than that of a headmaster and pupil.” Dumbledore explains that had Voldemort known of his love for Harry, Voldemort would have used Harry against Dumbledore. There is nothing in the book at this point that would lead anyone to the conclusion that Dumbledore might have felt inappropriate, perverse desires mixed with his appropriate love for Harry, but the passage takes on deeper, unstated meaning in light of what Rowling has told us about Dumbledore’s inclination. In fact, what Rowling has told us enables us to see Dumbledore as more heroic, not less. There is not the slightest hint that Dumbledore used his position as headmaster of Hogwarts to gratify his own desire. There is every indication that Dumbledore recognized ways that magic could be used in the service of illicit pleasures and he opposed all such use of magic—think of the way that Dumbledore warned Harry of the temptation presented by the Mirror of Erised.
All this leads me to think that what J. K. Rowling is celebrating is not homosexuality but virtue as traditionally conceived. Virtue is not the redefinition of sexual morality away from biblical norms, away from the dictates of nature. Virtue is the rejection of wicked desire, desire that would lead us away from biblical norms. Virtue is choosing the true, the good, and the right, even if—precisely when!—what we want is the false, the bad, and the wrong. Albus Dumbledore is heroic because he is virtuous, because he is Christ-like, because he is a celibate single who refused and repudiated his own immoral impulses.
In reaction to Rowling’s declaration, “One blogger wrote on a fansite: ‘My head is spinning. Wow. One more reason to love gay men.’” But Rowling herself contrasts Dumbledore with Bellatrix Lastronge. She said of Dumbledore, “he met someone as brilliant as he was and, rather like Bellatrix, he was very drawn to this brilliant person and horribly, terribly let down by him.” (source). This comparison is instructive: Bellatrix is evil because rather than repudiating what attracted her for the sake of what was right, she abandoned what was right and chose what she desired. Dumbledore did the opposite. Rather than indulge his desire though it was wrong, he crucified his desire and chose to do what was right. That blogger misunderstood. Rowling’s declaration is not “one more reason to love gay men” but one more reason to celebrate and admire those who—whether repentant traitors or werewolves—repudiate their own evil impulses and choose what is good and right instead.
Postscript: I haven’t read Jerram Barrs’ book yet, but I just saw on Justin Taylor’s blog that Barrs has an appendix in his forthcoming Echoes of Eden entitled “The Outing of Dumbledore.” I’ve been thinking about what Rowling said about Dumbledore since it was first brought to my attention, and seeing that Barrs has an appendix on it spurred me to finish this post. I don’t know what Barrs will say, but this is my take on Rowling’s declaration that in her conception of Dumbledore he felt same-sex attractions.
This post originally appeared at Christianity.com.
And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
A text worth memorizing!
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