Issue #24

Early Church Uniqueness, Psalm 148, Transgender Identities and the Church, and more...

Issue #24
Photo by Claud Richmond / Unsplash

Themes of Jonah, Part 3: Change Your Mind, Jonah! 📃→

Changing your mind is not virtuous in 2021. There are probably a few reasons for that, but one that seems to be everywhere is “tribalism” and peer pressure. Social media, like Twitter and Facebook, has allowed us to organize ourselves into tribes of like-minded people in ways unseen before in history. This isn't always bad, but it does have several dangers.

With social media, when other tribes attack our beliefs, or even just profess different beliefs, we feel the need to be quick to speak and slow to listen. We need to defend our tribe against the “outsiders.” There is very little downside to doing so because anyone we insult or offend is behind text on a screen.

And when we question our own tribe’s beliefs, we have to keep it quiet, or else we face being ostracized by our own tribe. But what does scripture have to say about changing our minds and engaging with people who are not like us?

The Sailors Change Their Minds

While Jonah sleeps soundly in the belly of the ship (Jon. 1:4-5), Yahweh tries to get his attention by hurling a storm at them. Jonah can’t hear God, but the sailors can. They call out to their various gods, but to no avail.

...Keep Reading →

Church History Corner ⛪️

5 Features That Made the Early Church Unique | Tim Keller 📃 →

Only a relatively few religions have survived the history of humanity and still have worshipers today. Nobody worships Ba’al or Zeus anymore. But few, if any, religions survived through the kind of persecution that Christianity endured for the first three centuries.

Keller explores, through the work of the late Christian historian Larry Hurtado, five reasons why Christians endured and thrived in those first centuries.

  1. The early church was multi-racial and experienced a unity across ethnic boundaries that was startling.
  2. The early church was a community of forgiveness and reconciliation.
  3. The early church was famous for its hospitality to the poor and the suffering.
  4. It was a community committed to the sanctity of life.
  5. It was a sexual counterculture.

For More:

Explore the Scriptures 📖

The Exalted Horn of Psalm 148 | BibleProject Team 📃 →

The BibleProject team has put out a new commentary video on Psalm 148. To accompany it, they’ve written a blog post going into more detail.

Here is Psalm 148:

Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his heavenly armies.
Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens.
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for he commanded, and they were created.
He set them in position forever and ever;
he gave an order that will never pass away.
Praise the LORD from the earth,
all sea monsters and ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and cloud,
stormy wind that executes his command,
mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
wild animals and all cattle,
creatures that crawl and flying birds,
kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all judges of the earth,
young men as well as young women,
old and young together.
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted.
His majesty covers heaven and earth.
He has raised up a horn for his people,
resulting in praise to all his faithful ones,
to the Israelites, the people close to him.
— Psalms 148 (CSB)

They start by setting the poem into the context of the layout of the full collection of Psalms. Then they begin to draw parallels between Genesis 1 and the psalm. Genesis 1:1 tells us that God created the skies and the land. Psalm 148 calls for all the inhabitants of the realm of the skies and all the inhabitants of the realm of the land to praise God.

But what about “He has raised up a horn for his people”? What does that mean? They draw together many lines of scripture to reveal what this horn represents. Watch the video and read the blog for more!

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Consider the Culture 🎨

Embodied: Transgender Identities and the Church with Preston Sprinkle | Think Biblically with Sean McDowell and Scott Rae 🎧 →

Is there a difference between sex and gender? What does it mean to be transgender? And what about intersex?...The interview focuses on understanding the transgender phenomenon scientifically and biblically so Christians can love transgender people well.

I haven’t heard many people who are better equipped to discuss transgenderism from the evangelical Christian camp than Preston Sprinkle. He, unlike many who comment on the topic, talks to and is friends with transgender people. He loves them, which doesn’t mean that he affirms everything they believe.

Like Sprinkle, we must be empathetic to the struggles of transgender people and befriend them if we can. That doesn’t mean that we change our beliefs or what scripture says. But when we truly care about people and befriend them as image-bearers of God Most High, we are far more likely to be the only one who can fulfill their deepest longings: Jesus our Messiah.

For More:

If you've enjoyed reading this letter, please share it with others and help us grow. We exist to help Christians grow in their faith and to make the name of Jesus our Messiah glorified in all the earth. We grow thanks to readers like you sharing what we do with others. Thank you!

Read and Reflect 📖

God Has Not Forgotten You | Vaneetha Rendall Risner 📃 →

I was in the darkest time of my life. My husband had left our family, my body was deteriorating, and I was parenting two angry adolescent daughters who wanted nothing to do with “my” God. I felt unnoticed.

But somehow, knowing that God had not forgotten me stirred me to press into him with renewed hope. Those simple words turned my mind and helped me focus on the truths that I needed to remember. That the Lord was with me and would sustain me through this trial. That God was using my suffering to accomplish something far greater than I could see or understand. And that my pain wouldn’t last any longer than was absolutely necessary.

Risner found three truths in this time to ground her in the assurance that God was with her despite her suffering.

  1. God will be with me
  2. God has a good purpose for my suffering
  3. My pain will end one day
If you are struggling today, remember God has not forgotten you. He has engraved you on the palms of his hands (Isaiah 49:15–16). He will never fail you or forsake you. He will walk with you through every dark valley. The God who has numbered every hair on your head and knows every sparrow that falls to the ground is aware of every detail of your situation. He is using your suffering and pain in ways you would not believe if someone told you.

For More:

Christianity Is True ✝️

Stephen Meyer—Return of the God Hypothesis: 3 Scientific Discoveries Reveal the Mind Behind the Universe | Skeptic with Dr. Michael Shermer 📽 →

Christian Philosopher of Science and Intelligent Design advocate Stephen Meyer is interviewed by Historian of Science and agnostic skeptic Michael Shermer about his new book.

This interview is respectful and I really enjoyed the discussion about whether these different lines of evidence can really point to a transcendent God. It’s well worth your time.

How to Talk to the Jehovah’s Witness at Your Door | Lindsey Medenwaldt 📃 →

It’s Saturday morning, and as you’re getting some cleaning done (and by “cleaning,” I mean binge-watching The Great British Baking Show on Netflix in your pajamas), you hear the dreaded knock on your door and peer out. Judging from their conservative clothes and the Watchtower magazines in hand, you quickly conclude you’re about to engage with some Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs). You now have two choices: you can either ignore the knocking and pretend you aren’t home (but really, what kind of message does that send to your kids?), or you can answer the door.

1 Peter 3:15-16 tells us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope within us, and that means we need to be ready with an answer to people who call themselves Christians but hold heretical beliefs too. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is not truly divine. God is not triune. As Medenwaldt says, Jehovah’s Witnesses prepare to talk to you, so you should prepare to respond to them.

You should read the whole article, but allow me to leave you with the number one thing you should not do:

Once you’ve heard what they have to say, you may want to take a moment to think about how you will respond. One thing you should NOT do is tell them that they belong to a cult or that their worldview is built on heresies. They will leave faster than you can say “Charles Taze Russell.”

For More:

Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️

The Cost of Following Jesus | Exploring My Strange Bible with Tim Mackie 🎧 →

This teaching explores Jesus' call to a radical way of life in following him. It's based on Luke Chapter 14, which includes some very challenging sayings of Jesus about counting the cost of following him. We will consider the balance between Jesus’s generous grace as he invites everyone into his community, as well as his stiff challenge about the great cost and sacrifice that is going to be required.

Many of us have a difficult time balancing Jesus' generosity with his intense call to follow. How do they go together?

This message is challenging in all the right ways.

Keep Your Mind on Things Above

I will be praying for you this week.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
— Matthew 5:13 (CSB)

We have just surpassed 100 members and tripled in size in the last month alone! Thank you for your support of this ministry and I hope that it has blessed you. I pray that it continues to do so.

Yours in Christ,
Joel Fischer