Issue #27

Greater than John, Theology of Worship, Liberty University, and more...

Issue #27

Themes of Jonah Part 5: Love Your Enemies, Jonah!→

If you’ve been following the Themes of Jonah series, this isn’t new, but I thought this theme needed its own space. It deserves to be emphasized.

What is Jonah’s fundamental motivation in the book of Jonah? Why does he flee to Tarshish, why is he willing to drown, why does he get angry with God when the Ninevites repent? I think the answer is perhaps a little messy: hatred of Nineveh and its people born of his love for his people. But a love that leads to hatred is not the love that pleases God.

Merciful to the Wrong People

We learn that Jonah is mad at God because God was merciful to a repentant Nineveh (4:3), and later because God destroyed the plant shading Jonah (4:8). In other words, God was merciful to the wrong things.

In effect, Jonah is saying, “God, you are supposed to love me, not them. Be merciful to me, not them. Don’t you know they’re Israel’s enemies, and I’m your prophet?”

For Jonah, Nineveh’s continued existence posed a threat to the safety of Israel. Why would God allow a people that hasn’t served Him to continue to live (Jonah 2:8-9)?

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Challenge Your Brain 🧠

Is the longer ending of Mark authentic?: The Mark Series pt 69 (16:9-20) | Mike Winger 📽 →

Mike Winger’s teaching series on the book of Mark has finally hit Mark 16:9-20—the part of Mark that is probably in brackets in your Bible.

Why is it in brackets? Did Mark write it or not? Should it be in our Bibles? Mike spent several weeks full-time studying this passage. He brings us the scholarly arguments for and against in a form that’s (relatively) easy to understand. There’s manuscript evidence, historical evidence, literary-critical evidence (which means arguments based on the writing styles of Mark compared with 16:9-20).

Because the video is over 2 hours long, I will give you his conclusion: it’s probably not authentic, but it should be in our Bibles anyway. See his previous video for an analysis of the content and theology of v16:9-20, and his later video for an analysis about why Mark would have ended his gospel at verse 8, “And they said nothing to anyone, since they were afraid.” (CSB)

I still recommend you watch the full video to deepen your understanding of this topic, and the way that historical arguments about disputed Bible passages work. Note that there are only really 3 “major” disputed passages in the New Testament, and they’re all clearly marked in any modern Bible translation.

If you want to know why this passage in your Bible is in brackets, I haven’t found a better source.

Explore the Scriptures 📖

How Is the Least in the Kingdom Greater Than John the Baptist? | Justin Dillehay 📃 →

Suppose I were to compare myself with some great biblical prophet (like Isaiah) and conclude I was greater than he. That would seem foolish, not to mention arrogant. The apostle Paul warns us that when we compare ourselves with one another, we’re not being wise (2 Cor. 10:12).

But what if Jesus were the one making the comparison? And what if you and I came out looking better in his comparison than in mine? Well, it’s not “what if”—Jesus makes this exact kind of comparison in Matthew 11:11: “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

As Christians, we could still argue over which of us is greatest in the kingdom (and we wouldn’t be the first; see Mark 9:34). But according to Jesus, even if we were the least we’d still be greater than John. So what does this mean? Let’s try to answer this question based on the broader context of Matthew 11:1–19 (cf. Luke 7:18–35).

If this piqued your interest, we could be friends. Dillehay gives us a thorough look at the text.

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The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy | Timothy Keller 📚 →

When studying Jonah for the Bible study I read through Dr. Keller’s book on Jonah. He wrote the book based on sermons that he has preached over the years.

While I don’t agree with some small points he makes, but in broad strokes, this book is a great introduction to the book of Jonah from a skilled preacher.

In The Prodigal Prophet, pastor and New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller reveals the hidden depths within the book of Jonah. Keller makes the case that Jonah was one of the worst prophets in the entire Bible. And yet there are unmistakably clear connections between Jonah, the prodigal son, and Jesus. Jesus in fact saw himself in Jonah. How could one of the most defiant and disobedient prophets in the Bible be compared to Jesus?

Jonah's journey also doesn't end when he is freed from the belly of the fish. There is an entire second half to his story--but it is left unresolved within the text of the Bible. Why does the book of Jonah end on what is essentially a cliffhanger? In these pages, Timothy Keller provides an answer to the extraordinary conclusion of this biblical parable--and shares the powerful Christian message at the heart of Jonah's story.

Watch and Wonder 📽

Discussing the Theology of Worship with Shane & Shane | The Remnant Radio 📽 →

Shane & Shane is a prolific worship band whose renditions of the Psalms and Hymns in modern worship style are among my favorite modern worship songs.

In this interview, they discuss everything from whether worship should be performed without instruments (as some Christians claim), to whether a worship band can “usher in the presence of God.”

I love the thoughtfulness that Shane & Shane displayed in their answers, and if you haven’t heard their music, you should.

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Consider Another Perspective 🤔

The Seed of Every Sin (with Neil Shenvi) | Southside Rabbi 📽 →

I have linked to articles, podcasts, and videos on critical race theory for a few reasons. First, I think it is the most divisive issue in the Christian church right now. If we cannot learn how to listen to each other in love, Christ’s church will be powerless to love a world in turmoil.

Second, I think that some of the disquietude in the church comes from misunderstanding what critical race theorists are claiming. CRT in scholarship is a lens to try to understand why the racial disparities we see exist. In itself, it does not offer a solution to the problem of racial injustice.

I think that this interview shows that the differences between Christians open to using critical race theory and those criticizing it are much smaller than we may suppose. Dr. Shenvi and the Southside guys agree on so much of the problem of racial injustice.

I also think that this interview is a great example of Christian charity and listening to one another. Is it perfect? No. But it is better than I’ve seen from many other Christians discussing this issue.

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Living This Christian Life 🤴👸

Pray Until You Pray: A Simple Way to Begin Each Day | Jonathan Parnell 📃 →

…Whether it’s anxiety-ridden regret or self-sufficient resolve, something fills our minds as soon as we awake, directing us to look beyond ourselves, or at least deeper within. And here’s the thing: unless we intend for our prayers to accord with truth, they won’t.

In this practical and helpful article, Parnell argues that “praying true prayers habitually” is helpful to ensure that we don’t end up prayerless. To focus our minds on Christ, before we pray spontaneously, we should pray the same written prayers every day at the same points in the day. This keeps our minds from wandering, which so easily happens (at least to me) in the mornings.

This method applies both pieces of Carson’s advice: it makes prayer a regular practice, and it keeps our prayers on track. By repeating true prayers habitually, we kill a few birds with one stone: we’ve eliminated prayerlessness, we’ve mitigated the possibility of mental drift, and inasmuch as these repeated prayers are indeed true, we’ve directed our prayers according to truth, which was our problem from the start.

I’ve written about liturgical prayer in the past, and that’s exactly what this is. It’s the creation of rhythm in our life through prayer that focuses our minds on Christ. I have and use Common Prayer | Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro 📚 and Every Moment Holy | Douglas Kaine McKelvey 📚 I know many Christians use the Anglican Book of Common Prayer 📚. Parnell has recommendations for short prayers in his article as well.

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Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️

Jerry Falwell Jr. and Liberty University, Episode 1: Quid Pro Quo | Gangster Capitalism 🎧 →

This season of the investigative journalism podcast “Gangster Capitalism” focuses on Jerry Falwell Jr.—the former president of Liberty University—and the scandal the ended his tenure there.

Liberty is the largest Christian University in America. The tawdry tale of sexual exploitation, cover-ups, greed, and sin is awful to behold. And yet, behold it we must. If we are Christians, we are called to a higher standard. We know that all will face justice at the hands of a holy God, but we are called to bring justice where it may be found.

Many people were exploited. The powerful fought, and continue to fight, to keep their power and money in their corruption. Christians must fight such injustice, even if it comes from people claiming to be in our tribe and institutions.

Please listen to this whole season. The entire tale needs to be known, and it has many twists and turns.

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Keep Your Mind on Things Above

I will be praying for you this week.

“You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Whoever insults his brother or sister, will be subject to the court. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hellfire.
— Matthew 5:21-22 (CSB)

May the peace of Christ be new for you every morning,
Joel Fischer