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:
- Who are we (am I)?
- Where did we (I) come from?
- What went wrong in the world?
- Where are we (am I) going?
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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?
Continue reading “The Supremacy of Scriptures”
A friend of mine, Chris, a student in my Sunday School class several years ago, lost a friend from COVID early this year. Chris had prayed fervently for his friend, but God allowed the friend to die anyway. I shared Chris’ sadness as we talked together. He asked me to write an article addressing the question, “What is the character of God?’” The best place to discover the character of God is in His revelation, both His general revelation, creation, and in His specific revelation, the Bible.
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What does a nation look like when God is not there? Or at least when its people live like God is absent.
Events in the world and in America have taken a dark turn at many levels in 2021. The COVID epidemic rages on, though natural and vaccine-related herd immunity is increasing. Political divisions, riots, and even hatred, continue at levels unseen since the American Civil War. False accusations fly without regard for the truth and without considering different perspectives. People and organizations lock down to protect themselves at all costs, and sacrifice individuals regardless of prior contributions or future potential.
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The last king of Judah, Zedekiah, was discontent and disobedient to his God. It destroyed him and his whole nation with him. How does his tragic experience inform and challenge us today?
Few Christians look at Jeremiah or the Old Testament prophets for guidance in modern life. Fewer still look at the wicked kings of Israel and Judah. But their folly and failure contain powerful lessons for followers of Christ today. Zedekiah is a good place to start.
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Ananias and Sapphira, early Christians who lied to God, were struck down for their sin. How did it happen?
Jesus, the Man that many believed was the promised deliverer of Israel, the Messiah, had died. But then only three days later, He had risen from the dead. Jesus had a glorified body, He was not just a ghost, and He had appeared to a few (Luke 24:39-43) and to hundreds (1 Corinthians 15:6). After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples had shared His message in Jerusalem and the Holy Spirit had come upon the people (Acts 2:1-36). Three thousand believed. Signs and wonders, miracles of healing and power, began to happen through the hands of His disciples, also known as the Apostles. The Jewish authorities arrested the church leaders, Peter and John, for proclaiming Christ. Believers began selling their possessions for the benefit of others in the church, and everyone was filled with awe. What would God do next?
Continue reading “Cause of Death of Ananias and Sapphira”
Social distancing is an important public health measure to slow or stop the spread of many diseases. God’s instructions to the Hebrews in the Bible were primarily for holiness, but also had important health benefits.
I was at the auto parts store last week buying brake pads to replace the old ones in my daughter’s Prius. An elderly woman walked in, donning a mask and gloves, and carefully staying at least six feet away from others. When a clerk approached her and when other customers walked by, she retreated. I walked the long way down a separate aisle to get around her, trying to provide the space that she needed. Given her increased level of risk, and the fact that she didn’t seem grumpy, I appreciated her caution.
Social distancing, putting space between people who may infect each other with a disease, is the major way that individuals and governments throughout the world are trying to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. It has worked many times in history, such as in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, a far deadlier disaster than the current plague. The nation, and indeed much of the world, has been staying at home, or at least away from others, for over six weeks. Public health experts have used many other interventions for infection control as well. This article will discuss social distancing and other public health actions against infectious disease.
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A summary on the bearing and raising of children, and children’s lives, in the Bible and ancient Middle East.
A reader who was preparing a Bible study asked me for some information on children in the Bible. Life in Bible times was centered around the family, and children were a vital part. Our 21st century debates in the West about whether to marry and whether to have children were unthinkable for most people in antiquity. For the vast majority of people, marriage was expected and even required. There were good reasons for this:
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Shepherds have uniquely valuable insights into this most beloved of Bible passages.
It was almost Christmas as my young family and I left for church from our town house in Bad Kissingen, Germany, a few miles north of Schweinfurt. A middle-aged German couple lived next door, and one day I asked the wife if they attend church, and what were their holiday plans. She replied that she and her family had attended services occasionally long ago, and were planning a quiet Christmas. Hoping to encourage her to go back to church, at least for Christmas, I mentioned that the Bible has some wonderful passages and asked her if she had ever heard of the 23rd Psalm. “Der Herr ist mein hirte!” she shot back, “Of course! Germans learn that as children. Do you think we know nothing?” I apologized for my inadvertent insult, but couldn’t help thinking about Psalm 23 as cultural classic versus Psalm 23 as living truth. My neighbor memorized Psalm 23, but showed no sign of living it. Followers of Christ must know it, and live it.
God uses the research, experiences, and insights of other Christians to help us see into the Scriptures. Much of the Bible is written in the language of farmers and herders. The 23rd Psalm is a beautiful, symbolic description of our Father’s care for His people through a shepherd’s eyes. As a professional shepherd and the author of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Philip Keller shares some valuable insights, which I have included.
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The resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter morning was physical, not just spiritual. Likewise, Christians do not live eternally as disembodied spirits, we will have perfect physical bodies.
During our recent trip to Athens, Anna and I wanted to see some of the key Greek places mentioned in the Bible. Philippi and Thessalonica were too far to travel during our stay, at least a six hour drive each way, but Corinth was close, just over one hour by auto. About 12 miles west of Athens on the road to Corinth, however, lies another important Greek religious site, Eleusius and the site of one of the most renowned mystery cults.
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People love their pets and want to know what will happen after they die. The Bible provides an answer.
About two weeks ago I saw John at a riverboat party. The general mood was light, but he stood alone in the shadows, his face stained with dry tears. John and his wife, their children long out of the house, had been forced to put their beloved dog, Gracie, to sleep. I listened long and said little as he shared his heart, and soon the party was over. A few days later he approached me at another gathering.
“Mark, you are a minister, right?”
“Yes, I was ordained as a Southern Baptist minister.”
“Will Gracie go to heaven? I have heard both – some people say that she will, and others say that since she doesn’t have a soul, she won’t.”
He paused. There was silence as I considered my reply. John was still visibly distressed, and I had to be right, but I equivocated.
“Well, the bottom line is that no one knows for sure.”
John’s face fell.
Continue reading “Will My Dog Go to Heaven?”
What do we do when crisis comes? What should we do? How can others help?
Carolyn, a friend in her 90s, approached me at church after the morning worship service a few Sundays ago. She and her husband Alan had had a terrible week. The previous Tuesday she was hit by another car while driving, destroying her vehicle but leaving her mercifully with only a few bumps and bruises. On Friday there had been an electrical fire in her house. She and her husband were safe but their home was badly damaged. They were living in a nearby hotel and needed prayer. The couple, another friend and I prayed together immediately, and my family has lifted them up before the Lord several times in the past few weeks.
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God used the most ordinary means to make His Church the largest and most powerful organization on earth.
There seems to be much for Christians in America to be discouraged about in 2016. Conventional wisdom holds that while the Church is growing quickly in China and the developing world, Europe and America are in the “post Christian” doldrums. The 2016 presidential campaign has taken twists and turns that have distressed some evangelical believers. In her book Confessions of a White House Speechwriter, Peggy Noonan writes that growing up on Long Island in the 1950s, a woman who attempted suicide was a celebrity because no one else did it. Divorce and even adultery were unheard of. Sixty years later, such cultural morality seems a distant dream. Christians have more children than their secular counterparts, but then lose many to an implacably hostile school system.
The paragraph above reflects the feelings of many, but contains some statements that are true and others that are false. Even if every word were true, believers in Jesus Christ should never be discouraged. Over the course of dozens of recent conversations in church and at home, I have tried to reassure my brethren with the promises of God in Scripture (John 16:33, Romans 8:28). While these verses can be encouraging, many people need more visible encouragement.
Continue reading “The Early Church – From Movement to Organization”