Nahum – The Four Fears

Nahum, an oft-overlooked minor prophet in the Old Testament, details God’s final judgment on the neo-Assyrian Empire and its leading city, Nineveh. The prophet Jonah, famous for his episode with a fish, had preached in Nineveh a century earlier and sparked a great repentance. In the intervening decades, the Assyrians returned to their wicked ways. Nahum, while showing none of the ethnic animus that so vexed Jonah, felt burdened by the sins of the Assyrians and the oppression of Israel. He asks the Lord what He will do about it, and God replies that His patience passed its limits, Nineveh would soon be destroyed.

Nahum chapter 1 overflows with the power of God, His wrath against evil, and His determination to punish the guilty. The Lord of Hosts reminds His prophet in a thousand ways about His strength to crush His foes and save those who trust in Him. The prophet concludes chapter 1 with the joys of bringing good news – being a herald of peace.

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In Christ Alone

How can man approach God?[1] People from the Aztecs to the Zulus have asked this since the dawn of humanity, and man has imagined thousands of answers.[2] These answers boil down to three possibilities.

  1. Man cannot do anything to approach God, and therefore can never approach Him.
  2. Man does something, or a group of things, to earn the right to approach God.
  3. Man cannot do anything to approach God, but God in His grace brings man to Him.

These possibilities are exclusive, as each includes a world view that is inconsistent with the others. It is logically impossible to select 1 and 3, for example, or some other combination.

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Failing or Forging

Do the fires in your life forge you into greatness, or do you fail in the heat?

The Navy Exchange at the base in Rhode Island had a plaque which read, “Some people are lost in the fires, other people are forged in them – Marines.” The finest swords are heated again and again to burn and melt away impurities that weaken the steel, making it brittle, prone to shatter, and worthless for war.

Life is full of fires, including everything from health to money to relationships. The flames of suffering burn throughout every life, waxing and waning as the days pass. No moment is completely free of pain. Ultimately, these fires will consume the mortal coil of every one of us.

During our earthly walk, some people are damaged or are even destroyed by their fires, while others grow stronger. Some fail while others are forged. A few become truly great. What makes the difference? Four factors characterize those who are forged in their infernos.

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Abortion – The Great Divide

Abortion is the largest issue dividing America, the world. The US Supreme Court is considering the biggest change since Roe. What to know?

American politics is as divided as it has been since 1856, when, in a premeditated assault, South Carolina Democratic Representative Preston Brooks beat Massachusetts Republican Senator Charles Sumner with his oak walking stick. Brooks was arrested but soon reelected, and after a prolonged recovery, Sumner also made his way back to the Senate. The issue then was slavery, and the issue now is abortion.

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Our Weltanschauung, Our Metanarrative

Weltanschauung, the German word for worldview, allows us to interpret our otherwise confusing world. Our  metanarrative, the overarching story, provides our weltanschauung, and gives meaning to our existence by answering four existential questions:

  1. Who are we (am I)?
  2. Where did we (I) come from?
  3. What went wrong in the world?
  4. Where are we (am I) going?

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Whom Do We Thank?

Thanking people for their contributions to our lives is good, but thanking God, from whom all blessings flow, is indispensable. And that is the part that we neglect.

The word “thanks” is found 73 times in 71 verses in the King James Version of the Bible. In Hebrew, four words (two same stems) are used to describe it:[1]

  1. הֻיְּדוֹת (huyyᵊḏôṯ) – thanksgiving
  2. יֶדָא (yeḏā’) – thank, give thanks
  3. יָדָה (yāḏâ) – praise, give thanks, confess, thank, make confession, thanksgiving, cast, cast out, shoot, thankful
  4. תּוֹדָה (tôḏâ) – thanksgiving, praise, thanks, thank offerings, confession

The Greeks, on the other hand, used five words (two same stems):

  1. ἀνθομολογέομαι (anthomologeomai ) – give thanks
  2. εὐχαριστέω (eucharisteō) – give thanks, thank, be thankful
  3. εὐχαριστία (eucharistia) – thanksgiving, giving of thanks, thanks, thankfulness
  4. ὁμολογέω (homologeō) – confess, profess, promise, give thanks, confession is made, acknowledgeth
  5. χάρις (charis) – grace, favour, thanks, thank, thank, pleasure

In every instance of the use of one of those words, the context refers to giving thanks to the God, the Lord of all.

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Equation of Sin

Sin can be illustrated by an equation, and that can help us understand it and reduce it.

Our Sunday School class is studying the New Testament book of James, written to the Jewish Christians of the diaspora by James the brother of Jesus in the late 40s AD. James was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, and He provides powerful, practical advice for successfully living the Christian life. The first eight verses of chapter 1 discuss the Christian’s need for wisdom and God’s promise that He will provide it, so long as the believer asks in faith. Verses 9 to 11 mention the transitory nature of life, and the consequent even more transitory nature of riches.

James 1:12-18 takes a different track, discussing the nature of temptation and sin, and explaining that God cannot tempt or be tempted, but instead creates His people and provides every good thing for them. One could summarize these verses with the following equation:

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Where are you from?

Usually, the question “where are you from?” is not a “microaggression” but an honest effort to meet a new person. For either party to interpret it otherwise is foolish, selfish, and reduces the possibility of a relationship that could bless them both.

A stocky, white, middle-aged man stood behind the counter at the fencing school as I approached. “I am looking to take lessons. Do I sign up here?”

“Yes,” he said in a thick Russian accent.

I love to get to know people, the studio wasn’t very busy, and I knew nothing about “microaggressions,” so I asked, “Where are you from?”

“Minnesota,” he replied.

“No, where are you from originally?”

“Baltimore,” he answered.

“OK, where is your accent from?” I persisted, eager to learn about his big life adventure.

“Russia,” he said.

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The Supremacy of Scriptures

The Holy Bible is the supreme authority in Christianity, as it reflects the person and power of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Most Christians take it far too lightly, and suffer confusion and powerlessness in life as a result.

The founder of the Hindu religion is unknown, but he bequeathed a political and cultural system entrenched in thousands of lives and dozens of cities to the residents in the Indian subcontinent. Moses granted his heirs a religio-legal system and a powerful nation on the brink of conquering its Promised Land. On his death, the Buddha left behind an oral tradition of teachings as well as a network of thousands of monks and lay followers, and many monasteries in northeastern India. Muhammad left a religion, a political system, and an empire for Muslims. Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, and Muslim religious and political leaders ended their earthly lives with books, songs, people, cities, armies, land, money, and everything else befitting a mighty character in history.

Jesus Christ left behind little, at least by conventional historical standards. He wrote no book and sired no offspring. He controlled no lands, no cities, and no armies. He developed no political structure and did not establish a religious order. The Rabbi from Galilee did not even leave a building in His name. What did Jesus pass on to history? 120 followers (Acts 1:15), a little money, and His words and actions as recorded by others. With such a slim posterity, why is He the central figure in human history and the faith that He taught, Christianity, the largest religion on earth?

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