November 25, 2015

A Thanksgiving Pause

by Eric Davis

It’s almost Thanksgiving. But, there is still today, which is considered the single busiest travel day in the US. AAA estimates that 47 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles for the holiday. Airlines report that over 90% of their seats will be filled today.

With all the hustle and bustle, thankfulness may flee a bit. It doesn’t always come natural for various reasons. Some of us may be immersed neck-deep in immense trials. Perhaps giving thanks right now seems impossible. Others of us may be struggling to have a thankful heart towards God for no apparent reason at all. Whatever the case, Thanksgiving is an opportune, and, perhaps, a necessary time, to grow in the grace of God-ward thankfulness. In Christ, we are never without reasons for gratitude, even in the darkest of life’s valleys. But thankfulness is less of a pixie-dust emotion felt, and more of a grace cultivated through discipline.


So, whether you are standing in the TSA line, running to catch a connecting flight, in between trains, or on your way to grandma’s, here are a few of my favorite quotes and meditations on thankfulness which I hope will prepare our hearts for tomorrow’s wonderful holiday; Thanksgiving Day.

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Judging from Facebook and Twitter, It seems like everyone has the Refugee crisis figured out. Very few have come up with a balanced and cautious view like this one. It seems like most people including Christians are on either extreme of the pendulum. Some say things like.

You should let everyone in! Jesus wouldn’t deny anyone. Quit being a coward!


You shouldn’t let anyone in! You need to protect America from the terrorist, do you want another Paris?

I think its OK for us to sit down, take a deep breath and actually say “I have no idea what the right thingshut up and pray to do is.”

Our government seemed to possibly make the right call for once, and that is to take a quick pause and say “based on the fact that several people shouting Allahu Akbar just murdered over a hundred French people in public, we need to rethink and make sure we want to take in others who like saying Allahu Akbar a lot.” The dilemma lies in the fact that 25% of muslims in the world (if we believe the lady in this video and just simple math) are actively trying to murder those who are not. That leaves 75% who are probably harmless and whom we (if we have the means) probably should help!

No one person has the right answer yet, and it’s probable that if our government continues down the path that it’s been going that it will make the wrong call, but that doesn’t change the fact that you don’t know better than the government that God has sovereignly put into place. So here are my three suggestions on what we should do next regarding the Refugee Crisis.

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I have very fond memories of my grandmother, but she had one strange taste: an inordinate love of taxidermy. Her house was infested with a menagerie of stuffed animals. From the menacing buffalo head that greeted me at the door, to the glassy-eyed kudu bull who guarded the staircase, to the yellow-billed kite keeping watch over me while I played with trains. It was a pretty freaky and intimidating place to spend a weekend, and goes a long way to explain my latent agoraphobia that favors hotels over the outdoors.

But the most terrifying trophies were the leopard and lion skin rugs. My dear grandma made no effort to allay my fears that these creatures were able to maul me if I got too close.

Thankfully, none of this scarred my psyche; I still wanted to own a dog. My first puppy was a pavement special, a mutt of note. Ugly, scrawny, and dumb as dumbbell, but I’d still choose that mongrel any day of the week over a stuffed leopard, lion, or anything.

Everyone understands that a living poodle is better than a dead lion. (Of course a dead poodle is not a bad idea either). King Solomon offers us this eccentric serving of sideways wisdom in Ecclesiastes 9: 4But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.

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Syrian refugee camp

Relevant Magazine recently ran a post called “What the Bible says about how to treat refugees.” To help you understand where they are coming from, remember that Relevant seems to exist primarily to tie Christian ethics to whatever cause célèbre has captured the kids these days. The list was frustrating to read not because of what it said, but what it omitted (to spare you the click, the gist is that Christians should open their borders to refugees).

But the actual refugee problem runs deeper than that, and it is yet further evidence of the juvenilization of evangelical thought that actual theologians think the issue of Syrian refugees should be settled by pointing to Levitical law about letting foreigners reap in your grain field.

At risk of sounding pedantic, this is a complex issue with competing interests and ethics. Namely:   Continue Reading…

TriageMore than ten years ago (can’t believe it’s been that long!), Al Mohler wrote a seminal blog post outlining what he called “theological triage.” Borrowing the term from the emergency room, Mohler discussed the need for Christians to prioritize certain doctrinal issues over others. In what can be the chaos of an emergency room, medical professionals need to know how to weigh the urgency of various patients’ needs against one another; that is, a gunshot wound should be prioritized over a sprained ankle. Similarly, in the theological world, Christians must understand the difference between (a) “first-order” doctrines—where to hold an errant position actually precludes one from being a true brother in Christ—and (b) “second-” and “third-order” doctrines—issues on which two genuine Christians can disagree and nevertheless be truly saved. In other words, we need to be able to discern the difference between bad doctrine and heresy.

All biblical doctrine is important. I would go so far as to say all biblical doctrine is essential. It’s difficult to put any doctrine into a second or third tier, because it somehow feels as if to do so is to say it’s not important. But employing theological triage doesn’t mean that everything that’s not first-order is unimportant, any more than a doctor’s prioritizing a gunshot wound necessarily thinks a sprained ankle is unimportant. But the fact remains: genuine Christians can disagree on things like the mode and recipients of baptism; but if two people disagree on the triunity of God, one is a Christian and the other isn’t.

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Much of the world continues astir in the wake of ISIS’s brutal attack last Friday on Paris which left 129 people killed and more than 350 wounded.

Social media was quick to explode with prayers, cries of shock, outrage, and condemnation. But one common thread we have seen running throughout the tweets and headlines and comments of many has been along these lines: “ISIS are not real Muslims.”

We understand the desire of peaceful Muslims to distance themselves of such despicable acts. Yet, the question remains: Can ISIS be considered Muslims in any way? It’s a difficult question, especially for westerners and Christians. In order to speak accurately and intelligently on the issue, some careful consideration is needed.

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10_Questions_2Last week, I posted an article (with an embedded video) about Seventh-day Adventism. As might be expected, not everyone was pleased with my perspective, and some of the responses were quite heated.

In the comments on Facebook, I was called a “counterfeit preacher,” a “Jesuit infiltrator,” an “antichrist,” “one of Satan’s forerunners,” and a “liar and the truth of God is not in him.”

While unfounded name-calling doesn’t bother me, especially on Facebook, a few of the critics complained that I had misrepresented Seventh-day Adventist beliefs. Some accused me of violating the ninth commandment, and intentionally bearing false witness about what Seventh-day Adventists believe.

Since my desire is not to bear false witness, I decided to write one more article regarding SDA doctrine. While I doubt it will appease my critics, I hope it will bring additional clarity to my previous post. Continue Reading…

Southern Africa’s theological landscape is immersed in the heritage of the Reformers. A tide of persecution in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries washed legions of harassed French Huguenots and Dutch Calvinists up on the shores of the Cape of Good Hope. Their theology was understandably soaked with covenantalism and its most distinctive mark—infant under water

Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Methodists are all well established denominations in South Africa. The practical implication for a Baptist pastor like myself is that almost everyone who wants to join our church—old and new believers alike—inquires about why we don’t recognize their infant baptism.

I’d like to piggy-back on Jordan’s excellent post from last week, and offer a primer to help frame the discussion you may have with someone who wants all this explained to them.

This eon-old debate is very nuanced and complicated, and unlikely to be settled by one discussion unless the person is already predisposed to change their view. But this is a primer for the discussion. The following five points are not an exhaustive treatise, but may help keep your head above water in the discussion.

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By now you’ve heard that ISIS has struck again, and again they have directed their hate towards Paris. Over 100 people enjoying dinner, enjoying entertainment struck dead without a thought.

Before you think this is only a French problem, know that there are over 1000 active ISIS probes in the United States.

So many men and women, probably living in your neighborhood, are actively plotting someway to kill as many people as they can.

It doesn’t end there. There are earthquakes happening. Tsunamis are coming. There are tsunamiburglars murdering pregnant pastor’s wives.

There are mentally deranged killers walking on our college campuses.

There are thousands of people all over the world actively driving drunk. There are people who have no idea, but their bodies are filled with a sickness that will take their life at any second.

How do we deal with this reality?

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Don't Miss the Forest for the TreesSome time ago I wrote an as-condensed-as-possible version of the great story of redemption, tracing God’s gracious promise to provide the seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent through the Old Testament. I examined how that promise narrowed from the seed of the woman, to the seed of Abraham, to the nation of Israel, and to the line of David. We saw how Israel’s repeated failure to be faithful to the covenants Yahweh established with them all pointed to the One who would exemplify covenant faithfulness and fulfill all righteousness on behalf of His people. To put it another way, contrary to what some believe about dispensationalists and the Old Testament, we observed how the whole of the Old Testament finds its climax and fulfillment in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham, the Israelite par-excellence, and the Son of David. If you’ve not read that post, I’d encourage you to do so.

I mentioned in that post that a great help for interpreting the Bible properly consists in keeping that big picture in the front of our mind so that we can interpret the parts in light of the whole. We don’t want to miss the forest for the trees. This is especially helpful in the Old Testament, where the increased historical, cultural, geographical, literary, and even covenantal gaps can make us raise our eyebrows at not a few passages, which just seem wholly unfamiliar.

Now, we need to be sure that we interpret each passage on its own terms, according to its context, always in search of the intent of the original author. But keeping this grand narrative of redemptive history in mind and locating at what point in the story of redemption that a particular passage finds itself, can often help us understand why some more obscure (or at least, seemingly-removed) passages are in the Bible. Passages that look like road blocks or obstacles in our Bible-reading plans can be transformed (at least in our perception, anyway) by relating them to the larger story of redemptive history.

Today I’d like to just share a few examples.

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