Issue #34

Small Sufferings, Peace and God's Will, Gen Z's Questions about Sexuality, and more...

Issue #34
Photo by Sunguk Kim / Unsplash

I've been dealing with a cold for the past few weeks, so the Hebrews Bible Study is taking a short break and will be back soon! As of this writing, I'm feeling much better, but these letters are usually a few weeks ahead, so it will take a little bit to get back on track. In the meantime, I have some short reflections for you.

The Victory of Suffering in Small Ways

Read these words of church father Augustine of Hippo:

Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trial. We actually progress by means of trial. We do not know ourselves except through trial, or receive a crown except after victory.
— Augustine, Commentary on the Psalms

So much of our lives are built around trying to escape from suffering and difficulty, and largely, modern Western society has been successful. It leaves us only with the small sufferings: boredom waiting in line or a fussy child, for example. Even these small sufferings we try to soothe away with Twitter feeds and television.

Yet Augustine is echoing our Messiah in his words,

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.
— John 16:33 (CSB)

How did Jesus conquer the world? Through his suffering and death (Hebrews 2:10). It is through the bearing of the cross that we become like Jesus.

My challenge to you today is to look at what small sufferings you try to soothe with time-wasting technology. What small sufferings can you endure for a purpose? While waiting in line, can you read a passage of scripture, or ask someone else about their day? When dealing with a fussy child, can you press through your tiredness to engage? How can you meet others in their sufferings today?

I challenge myself as I write these words because I will be the first to admit that this is not a strength for me. Will you join me in praying for God to give us his eyes to see the opportunities to suffer the death of our wants for the sake of others?

Read and Reflect 📖

9 Things You Should Know About ‘Christian Science’ | Joe Carter 📃 →

The Christian Science group (which is not Scientology), is a cult of Christianity born out of the 18th century that is kind of like a hyper-prosperity gospel mixed with some other heretical beliefs. Like Mormonism, they believe in the Bible, but they also add additional texts to scripture.

Generally, their fundamental belief is that sickness and pain are an illusion that can be cured through faith, belief, and prayer in mechanical terms (the “science” of “Christian Science”). There are “laws” to spiritual healing that, once tapped into, guarantee that sickness will not affect the believer.

They also deny the Trinity and deity of Jesus and teach that sin and evil are mere illusions to be overcome through belief. Read through Carter’s article for a deeper look at this group. Understanding the cults of Christianity is important because we are called to discern the real thing from the false gospel. By making the “main” thing about the “illusion” of sin and sickness and overcoming those things with the power of belief, they have left the core of Christianity: that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus bought us a hope and a future that we could not earn and do not deserve.

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Consider Another Perspective 🤔

Is Having “Peace” a Sign of God’s Will? Top Misunderstood Verse #4 (Colossians 3:15) | Sean McDowell 📽 →

Does the Bible teach that God reveals His will to us by giving us a "peace" about something? In other words, is having "peace" a sign of God's desire for how we act? In this short video, Sean brings some clarity on Colossians 3:15, which is a frequently misunderstood and misquoted passage.

Here’s the verse:

Colossians 3:15 (CSB) And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful.

I have heard “follow peace” as a decision-making process countless times, but the biblical justification for it is weak at best. There may be times that we do not have peace about a decision, but that’s because our hearts and minds may not want to do what we know is right. Sean’s video is short, just two and a half minutes. Following peace isn’t always wrong, the problem is, it isn’t always right either.

Living This Christian Life 🤴👸

Help! I Don’t Know How to Initiate Meaningful Conversations | Cheryl Marshall and Caroline Newheiser 📃 →

We’ve all been there. We’ve had small talk with a stranger on a plane, in a doctor’s waiting room, or at a park playground. We’ve talked about common interests with acquaintances at church, at work, and in the neighborhood. We’ve even shared the ins and outs of our daily lives—the mundane tasks and the significant events—with family and long-time friends. And in all these relationships, even with those dearest to us, we often find ourselves wading only in the shallow end of the conversational pool.

Whether speaking with strangers, acquaintances, or those we dearly love, we sometimes realize that we and they would greatly benefit if we would only dive deeper into our conversations and talk about God—who he is, what he’s like, what he’s done, and how those biblical truths intersect with our lives.

Their advice is threefold: pray, prepare, and practice.

For More:

Explore the Scriptures 📖

10 Things You Should Know about the Biblical Covenants | Thomas Schreiner 📃 →

As Schreiner says in thing #1 to know about covenants, “Covenants are the backbone of the Biblical story.” Following the biblical covenants is one way to help us understand how the Hebrew Scriptures point us to Jesus. Jesus fulfilled the law and prophets, which means he was also the fulfillment of the covenants God makes with various people through the Hebrew Scriptures.

This article is a good primer to help you know what they are, how they function, and why they are important.

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Christianity Is True ✝️

Don’t Blindly Follow the “Biblical Scholarly Consensus” | Testify with Erik Manning 📽 →

On this channel, I’ve made a lot of videos defending the historical reliability of the gospels. And one of the most common objections I hear is that my views aren't in line with modern biblical scholarship. And I admit it. If you’re a Christian and you’re looking for evidence for your faith, you and I are guaranteed to lose the credential war. But that doesn't mean we should blindly trust the so-called consensus modern biblical scholarship, especially when the scholars have said some obviously outlandish and wrong things.

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 Messiah glorified in all the earth. We grow thanks to readers like you sharing what we do with others. Thank you!

Challenge Your Brain 🧠

Septuagint: Why the Old Testament Greek Still Matters | Greg Lanier 📃 →

This article is going to be difficult for the majority of my audience. It’s probably hard to understand the importance of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. The vast majority of us (myself included) only read the Bible in English. What importance could a translation from a language we don’t read, to a language we still don’t read, have?

Surprisingly, I’ve been studying Hebrews, the Septuagint has been important for interpreting several passages. This article popped up around the same time and was a fascinating look into exactly those questions.

The Septuagint is deeply important for Bible study if you’re going to go into depth because the New Testament authors did read Greek. Many times when they quoted the Hebrew Scriptures, they did so from the Greek translation, other times they re-translated from the Hebrew. Those choices make a difference and mean that the Septuagint influences New Testament theology that most Bible readers, and even many scholars, aren’t aware of.

One difficult question this raises is whether the Greek translation is inspired. After all, many times the authors of the Christian scriptures chose to quote it instead of the Hebrew, even when the wording is slightly different. This is a problem because Christians believe that the original writings are inspired by God, and the Greek translation is certainly not the original writing!

Lanier answers it this way:

A better answer is this: the Jewish community and early Christians clearly privileged the Hebrew text as the locus of inspiration. However, there were no efforts (then or now) at linguistic Judaizing, whereby new converts would be forced to learn Hebrew to access Scripture. The Greek OT in its varied forms was seen as more than adequate as a translation of the word of God to reach a Greek-speaking world, and the apostles used it accordingly. Does this mean that apostolic use of the Greek OT where it appears to deviate from the Hebrew is an exercise in building theology off a faulty translation? Not at all — it simply means the NT writers felt that the Greek “pew Bible” (in modern terminology) familiar to their readers faithfully captured the theological intent of God-given words, so they used it accordingly.

These are deep waters of Biblical interpretation, but I encourage you, especially if you are a Bible teacher, to give this article some thought.

Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️

Gen Z’s Questions About Christianity: Sexuality and Gender Identity | Rachel Gilson 📽 →

In this short podcast, Rachel Gilson answers four questions:

  1. Why are we so negatively tempted by sexual desire if sexuality is God-given and purposeful?
  2. How should Christians love and care for those who identify as LGBT, while still being true to our biblical beliefs?
  3. Should I refer to a transgender person by their desired pronoun?
  4. I struggle with my sexuality. How do I maintain my faith?

This is not the only way to answer these questions, just one way, but I think it is a way that American Evangelicals don’t often hear. We are so very focused on truth (which I am not dismissing in the slightest because Jesus is the very nexus of truth), but many of us forget that Jesus dined with sinners so much that the religious leaders thought he must be a sinner himself. Paul tells us that we can have all the knowledge in the world, but without love, we are useless to God (1 Cor. 13:2).

So what Gilson has to say may challenge you. You don’t have to agree with her, but we should think carefully about these important cultural issues and have good answers when we are asked.

For More:

Keep Your Mind on Things Above

I will be praying for you this week.

…If you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same?
— Matthew 5:46-47 (CSB)

Joel Fischer