Ukraine, Prayer, and Lament, When Others Fall Away, and more...
Church, Do Not Dismiss the Single Life
No one likes to be lonely. Some handle it better than others, but nobody, absolutely nobody, likes the feeling of loneliness. It violates our deeply human need for connection. Yet the American church seems to have an unhealthy view of marriage. Being a single person in the church can be a strange experience. We divide "singles" and "marrieds," as if singles don't need married mentorship, and sometimes, vice-versa. Let's take a closer look at the state of the church, a short theology of marriage, and what the church should do about it.
Weep with Those Who Weep 😢
Ukraine, War, and Dictators: What Does the Bible Say? | Patrick Miller and Keith Simon 🎧 →
Praying Through Wars, Real and Imaginary | David French, Curtis Chang, and Tish Harrison Warren 🎧 →
These two podcasts tackle the Ukraine war in different ways. The first is a short look at how the Bible applies to what we should think about war, dictators, and the Russian-Ukrainian war. The latter is a look at how we should pray about this and any war. Are we justified in praying for Russian president Vladimir Putin’s death, or should we only pray for peace? I recommend both of these podcasts to you to give you a theological perspective on this unfolding tragedy.
To Cry Is Human, but to Lament Is Christian | Mark Vroegop 📃 →
Who taught you to cry? The answer, of course, is “no one.” Although you don’t remember it, the first sound you made when you left the warm and protected home of your mother’s womb was a loud wail.1 A heartfelt protest.
Every human being has the same opening story. Life begins with tears. It’s simply a part of what it means to be human—to cry is human.
But lament is different. The practice of lament—the kind that is biblical, honest, and redemptive—is not as natural for us, because every lament is a prayer. A statement of faith. Lament is the honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness.
It’s been some time since I linked to something about lament, but with the current situation in Ukraine, it seems appropriate. Lament is a severely underutilized Christian discipline. It requires us to enter into the suffering of others, to feel their pain, and cry out to God in both pain and faith. The book of Lamentations—which I’ve written on before—is an example of this kind of lament as survivors of the sacking of Jerusalem struggled with God’s seeming abandonment of them.
I’m sure that some of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine are feeling something similar as they watch their homes destroyed with rockets and their streets filled with rubble.
Lament can be defined as a loud cry, a howl, or a passionate expression of grief. However, in the Bible lament is more than sorrow or talking about sadness. It is more than walking through the stages of grief.
Lament is a prayer in pain that leads to trust.
Throughout the Scriptures, lament gives voice to the strong emotions that believers feel because of suffering. It wrestles with the struggles that surface. Lament typically asks at least two questions: (1) “Where are you, God?” (2) “If you love me, why is this happening?”5 Sometimes these questions are asked by individuals. At other times they are asked by entire communities. Sometimes laments reflect upon difficult circumstances in general, sometimes because of what others have done, and sometimes because of the sinful choices of God’s people in particular.
Read and Reflect 📖
Miracles Are Outlasting the Arguments Against Them | Christopher Reese and Craig Keener 📃 →
In the halls of the academy as well as on the street, there is no more controversial aspect of the Bible than its accounts of miracles. Skepticism about supernatural intervention in human affairs—rooted in the Enlightenment, especially the writings of philosopher David Hume—has become mainstream in the modern mind. At the same time, however, there is a growing body of documented evidence, as well as compelling stories by credible witnesses, of miracles taking place.
Ten years ago, prominent New Testament scholar Craig Keener assembled a large collection of this evidence in his two-volume work Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts, and he returns to the topic in his latest publication, Miracles Today: The Supernatural Work of God in the Modern World. Freelance writer and editor of The Worldview Bulletin Christopher Reese spoke with Keener about the reasons for widespread skepticism of miracles and about some of the amazing stories his new book recounts.
Christianity Is True ✝️
An Argument for God from Biology, Dr. Sy Garte | Cameron Bertuzzi 📽 →
A pre-eminent biochemist and Christian gives a presentation on how biology points to God. If that didn’t pique your interest enough, I’ll go on. Garte says in his talk that over 80% of biologists are atheists. So why is Garte a Christian?
He deals with this question and with the contention from some atheists that DNA isn’t really code like computer code, so it can’t be used as evidence for design. Garte disagrees and goes deep into why. He’s coming from a theistic evolutionist perspective, which I don’t know that I hold, but his presentation is helpful no matter which view of creation you hold.
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Explore the Scriptures 📖
Did Jesus Forbid Us from Taking Oaths? (Matthew 5) | Dan Doriani 📃 →
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
— Matthew 5:33–37
This is definitely a passage that has confused many people. What problem is Jesus addressing here? What does it mean for us?
In Jesus’ day, rabbis concocted a system that defeated the purpose of oaths. They taught that oaths might or might not be binding, depending on how one swore: If one swore by Jerusalem it was not binding, but if one swore toward Jerusalem, it was. If one swore by the temple, it was not binding, but if one swore by the temple’s gold, it was. If one swore by the altar of sacrifice, it was not binding, if one swore by the gift on the altar, it was.
This illustrates the way in which certain teachers manipulated God’s Word in Jesus’ day. When they read a challenging law, they reduced it to something manageable. When they heard, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” they redefined “neighbor” so that not everyone counted as one (Luke 10:29). They refrained from adultery but claimed a right to divorce freely, then take another woman. When they did something similar with oaths, Jesus cut off oaths entirely: “Do not take an oath at all” (Matt. 5:34a).
The rabbinic teaching perverted the purpose of oaths. Instead of calling on God to assure honesty, oaths were phrased so as to avoid God’s punishment when speaking dishonestly.
If this is a passage that’s perplexed you, this article is a great use of 10 minutes of your time and explains the passage well.
Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️
Let’s Talk: When Others Fall Away | Jackie Hill Perry, Jasmine Holmes, and Melissa Kruger 📽 →
In this episode of Let’s Talk, Jackie, Jasmine, and Melissa talk about the pain of watching someone lose their faith. They discuss why so many people are deconstructing their beliefs and what sorts of things churches may be able to do walk with those who are doubting so that they don’t ultimately walk away. They also note that while the language we use to describe doubt may be new, the phenomenon is not.
I found this video difficult to listen to, but insightful. What do we do when those we love and have shared Christian life with renounce Christian belief. Why does it happen? How can we help them? What do we do afterward?
Keep Your Mind on Things Above
I will be praying for you this week.
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
— Matthew 6:30 (CSB)