Category Archives: Bible

Concerning Philippians 1

Well, I’d been sick for a few days. Like, in bed all day sick for all of Sunday. Would have been Friday & Saturday, too, but I was working. I went to the Doctor on Tuesday. But that really didn’t help that much (apparently it’s not an actual infection). So I just spent yesterday resting as well (since I had the day off from work again).

Anyway, this puts me even farther behind. But like I said before, no worries. I was slowly catching up with my Bible Reading, but I of course got set back a little with being sick. Nevertheless, I’ve only got another week or so of double readings to catch up.

So, today’s reading is still actually from last month: March 27, concerning Philippians 1. I was struck with D.A. Carson’s explanation of a verse that I had probably read hundreds of times before (literally, because I once tried to memorize all of Philippians): Philippians 1:29-30. “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.” Carson writes:

What a remarkable notion! Paul does not say that these Christians have been called to suffer as well as to believe, but that it had been granted to them to suffer as well as to believe – as if both suffering in Christ and believing in Christ were blessed privileges that have been graciously granted. That, of course is precisely what he means. We often think of faith as a gracious gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9), but suffering?

(D.A. Carson, For the Love of God Vol. 2, Kindle Loc 2094)

Man, do I ever have things to say about that. The least of which is to explain the conduct of some Christians that I know in how they’ve faced their suffering. One of these examples is Matt Chandler (lead Pastor of The Village Church in Dallas, Texas), who famously dumbfounded journalists with how he responded to a diagnosis of brain cancer. Here’s the video of his announcement to his church…

God grant me the courage to respond with joy like this in face of the grace of suffering that you may grant in my life.

20140104

Concerning Exodus 16

Kind of a little behind again (though I’m catching up today), so this is from yesterday’s reading. This is a problem with a lot of Christians today. The kind of grumbling occurs when you have a really warped view of God. This is what D.A. Carson has to say about why the Israelites grumbled about not having meat despite just witnessing God’s miraculous salvation through the plagues and through the parting of the Red Sea…

Why should people who have witnessed so spectacular a display of the grace and power of God slip so easily into muttering and complaining and slide so gracelessly into listless disobedience? The answer lies in the fact that many of them see God as existing to serve them. He served them in the Exodus; he served them when he provided clean water. Now he must serve not only their needs but their appetites. Otherwise they are entirely prepared to abandon him. While Moses has been insisting to Pharaoh that the people needed to retreat into the desert in order to serve an worship God, the people themselves think God exists to serve them.

(D.A. Carson, For the Love of God Vol. 2, pg. 34)

20140104

Concerning 1 Corinthians 16

It’s a new week, but I’m still a little behind on my Bible Reading. This comment is concerning readings from 2 days ago, but I wanted to post this quote because it really speaks to the heart of issues concerning men of my age and situation: the inability to act. That is, the inability to act without any “spiritual guidance”. It’s such a prevalent issue that a book was written about it. It’s called “Just Do Something” by Kevin DeYoung (I’m sure there are other similar books).

Anyway, in the comment concerning 1 Corinthians 16 in particular, D.A. Carson talks about how much of Paul’s ministry was made up through “planning, instruction, pastoral judgements, even uncertainties – much like our own ministries” (Loc. 1495). This is despite the many “dramatic moments” in Paul’s life that seemed to lead him in a concrete direction. And so that’s really something that I am learning to trust God about. I don’t need some huge sign to find out his will for direction in my ministry. Sometimes, as is the case right now, what’s required is some careful planning, and a whole lot of uncertainty, before things get moving in a direction which I am sure is ordained by the Lord. Here’s what D.A. Carson has to say:

Today there is a form of ethereal “spirituality” that wants to wait for explicit guidance for every decision., that regards a phrase like “if the Lord wills” as a sanctimonious cop-out. That was not Paul’s perspective, and it should not be ours.

(D.A. Carson, For the Love of God Vol. 2, Kindle Loc. 1511)

20140104

Concerning 1 Corinthians 12

Haven’t posted anything in a few days. So here’s a quick quote from my reading this morning. I must have read through this chapter a dozen times before (I wrote I paper on 1 Corinthians in my first year of Seminary), but I completely missed the Trinitarian presentation of the Gifts of the Spirit (Should we still call it that? The Gifts of the Triune God maybe?).

The implicit Trinitarian reference is striking: different gifts, given by the same Spirit; different kinds of service, but the same Lord (Jesus); different kinds of working, but the same God. This does not mean that Paul is parceling these things up absolutely, as if, for instance, the gifts came from the Spirit but not from Jesus and not from God. Rather, this is a preacher’s device for insisting that however diverse the gifts and graces, there is but one source: the triune God.

(D.A. Carson, For the Love of God Vol. 2, Kindle Loc. 1417)

20140104

Concerning Job 16-17

I must say, I’m really enjoying D.A. Carson’s sustained treatment of Job (at least in the little space he has for the book). Job isn’t exactly the most popular book to be studied: Most find the verse where it says, “Blessed be the name of the Lord” and go on their merry way. I know I’ve been guilty of that in the past (although I did almost take a course in Job at one of the Catholic Seminaries at the TST. I went to a couple of lectures, but dropped it. I really wasn’t feeling the Prof. and I didn’t want to risk a blow to my GPA).

Anyway, I thought today’s meditation was especially good. It speaks to the heart of what Job is about. And it also speaks to at least some of the problems surrounding Christianity today. There are some obvious examples of this. Like the Westboro Baptist Church business (I take pain at even calling them a church). But I wonder how far we can/need to apply this truth in how the rest of good, Orthodox, Biblical Christianity interacts with the world around us.

There is a way of using theology and theological arguments that wounds rather than heals . This is not the fault of theology and theological arguments.; it is the fault of the “miserable comforters” who fastens on an inappropriate fragment of truth, or whose timing is off, or whose attitude is condescending, or whose application is insensitive, or whose true theology is couched in such culture-laden clichés that they grate rather than comfort.

(D.A. Carson, For the Love of God Vol. 2, Kindle Loc. 1225) Having read through that quote again, I can’t believe how appropriate it was to bring up the Westboro folks. Pretty much every single one of Carson’s problems apply to them, heavily. Anyway, while I bring up such an obvious example, again, the point is to reflect and see where I and the Biblical Christianity that I subscribe to has been guilty of this same thing before…

20140104

Concerning Genesis 44

I personally am not all that into finding “Types of Christ” in the Old Testament. Oh of course, I am into OT Biblical Theology, and I love to see how Christ is revealed throughout the OT (which is why I absolutely love the Jesus Storybook Bible). But “Types of Christ” aren’t my thing. But once in a while, one really grabs your attention, and in the Joseph narrative, Judah is certainly one.

Pretty messed up, this Judah. He is the one who instigated Joseph being sold into slavery. And then, he sleeps with his daughter-in-law, thinking she was a prostitute. Now, see, in this narrative, what I would highlight is the fact that this illicit affair with his daughter-in-law somehow makes it into the Line of David, and thus in the line for the Messiah (Thank you, Matthew’s Begats!). But another cool imagery is being explicated here in Genesis 44 as Judah offers to stay behind in Egypt as a slave in place of Benjamin, and here’s Don Caron’s explanation of it…

This is the high point in what we know of Judah’s pilgrimage. He offers his life in substitution for another. Perhaps in part he was motivated by a guilty conscience; if so, the genuine heroism grew out of genuine shame. He could not know that in less than two millennia, his most illustrious descendant, in no way prompted by shame but only by his obedience to his heavenly father and by love for guilty rebels, would offer himself as a substitute for them.

(D.A. Carson, For the Love of God Vol. 1, p. 42).

20140104

Concerning Mark 7

Wowowowow! This is my third day in a row posting about my Bible Reading Plan (I had only planned to post once a week), but this one is too good to pass up. D.A. Carson is commenting on Mark 7 and what Jesus has to say about “traditions”. First he makes the very helpful distinction between how we moderns distinguish which traditions are good or bad. This, we tend to do on the basis of social acceptability rather than what is true in scripture. He writes:

In short, we make distinctions on the basis of the social effects of traditions, not on the basis of whether or not they are true. But in the New Testament, traditions are praised or criticized not on the basis of their social function but in light of their conformity or departure from the Word of God.

Now, why is this so important? Well, this is one of the main complaints Evangelicals have against liberals who prefer the social function of a particular interpretation of scripture, or tradition, over what conforms to the Word of God. Which obviously is a problem. But Carson also turns it around brilliantly. All I can say is… Ooohh.. That cuts to the heart.

We must recognize that confessing evangelicals who nominally eschew tradition sometimes embrace traditions that effectively domesticate the Word of God. These may be traditional interpretations of Scripture, or traditional ecclesiastical practices, or traditional forms of conduct that are “allowed” in our circles but that are a long way from holy Scripture. In every case, fidelity to Christ mandates reformation by the Word of God.

(D.A. Carson, For the Love of God Vol. 1, p. 341).

20140104

Concerning Job 2

Another gem from For the Love of God (Volume 2 this time.. I realized I almost always quote Volume 1, because I read it first). This is a truth that I am learning to apply in my life, especially since it is the first question taught in the New City Catechism. On that note, it’s really cool how all of this study material inevitably speak into each other. After all, they are all concerned about the same God and the same word.

We belong to God. He may do with us as he wishes. There is something deep within us that rebels at being reminded of that elemental truth. But truth it is. Indeed, our rebellion in the face of it is a reminder of how much we still want to be at the centre of the universe, with God serving us. That is the heart of all idolatry.

(D.A. Carson, For the Love of God Vol. 2, Kindle Loc. 906).

20140104

Concerning Genesis 34

There are, occasionally, some chapters in the Bible that just make you scratch your head and wonder why it is that God ordained it to be there. Genesis 34 is one of those chapters. Here, one of Jacob’s neighbours in Canaan, Schechem, find his daughter Dinah and rape her. After he does so, he begs his father to get her as his wife, and so they then enter into negotiations with Jacob to do so. Dinah’s brothers, though (She’s the daughter of Leah, who has the most kids) find out about it and plot a scheme: they tell them that in order to marry into the family, they must be circumcised like Jacob’s family. The Canaanites agree enthusiastically, but
in the 3rd day when they were sore”, two of Leah’s sons, Simon and Levi, murder their entire village and then the rest of Jacob’s sons plunder it to take their wives, children, livestock, etc… Difficult chapter to understand, let alone preach on, maybe (I’ve heard very few sermons on Genesis, and certainly none on Genesis 34).

One observation before I get to Carson’s comments. This is definitely one of those chapters that opponents of the faith will point to and say “see, look, the Christian God is an amoral monster”. To which, the easy response is that the story is descriptive and not proscriptive.. In other words, it doesn’t depict a proscriptive command by God but a descriptive narrative of what God’s people did in their sin. So why include it in the Bible? Well here’s what Carson has to say…

Just because God has once again graciously intervened and helped his people (as he does in Gen. 32-33) does not mean there is no longer any moral danger of drift toward corruption. Further, once again it is clear that the promised line is not chosen because of its intrinsic superiority; implicitly this chapter argues for the primacy of grace.

(D.A. Carson, For the Love of God Vol. 1, p. 33).

20140104

Concerning Genesis 28

A few years ago, I watched a movie with some friends called “Father of Lights”. We had to be very discerning in watching it. For one, it was being shown at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (no known as Catch the Fire), which was home to the heretical “Toronto Blessing” movement from a couple of decades ago. They’re still rather ultra-charismatic, even if they’ve softened their tone a bit from their Toronto Blessing days. Secondly, the movie itself was rather charismatic, and while all of us guys who went considered ourselves Continuationists/Reformed Charismatics, we certainly knew where to draw the line.

Anyway, there were some beautiful things about the movie, which talked about evangelism in India. One of them was this quote from Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke:

When I stand up to preach the Gospel, I often preach to people who have no idea who God is because they worship idols, very terrible idols. They spread the table for their gods, and I tell them that the Christian God does it the other way around. He spreads the table for His children. In the other religions people always seek God. In the Christian faith, God seeks man.

I thought of this quote today as I was reading D.A. Carson’s devotional concerning Genesis 28. For those who don’t know the story, Genesis 28 is about Jacob fleeing his brother Esau (under the pretence of finding a good wife among his mother, Rebekah’s family). While on the run, he sees the LORD in a vision, and as a result, sets up a memorial stone which he calls “Bethel” or, “House of God”. Carson briefly comments on how “Bethel” has been appropriated as a name by numerous churches. And so, he wanted to show the significance of the institution of this name in the first place. He writes:

One of the great themes of scripture is how God meets us where we are: in our insecurities, in our conditional obedience, in our mixture of faith and doubt, in our fusion of awe and selfinterest, in our understanding and foolishness. God does not disclose himself only to the greatest and most stalwart, but to us, at our Bethel, the house of God.

(D.A. Carson, For the Love of God Vol. 1, p. 27).