Archives For Jesse Johnson

I’m preparing to spend the Spring preaching the second half of 2 Samuel (15-22) to my congregation.  This is my letter to the congregation introducing this often overlooked passage of Scripture, and explaining what I hope they learn from our time in it:

spittingThings Fall Apart is a gripping novel about how Nigeria changed when Christianity was introduced in the early 1900’s. It is a book of chaos, and it depicts desperate people trying to appease unknown tribal gods—gods who occasionally require fathers to kill their own children. By the end of the novel, nothing is left standing. African traditions have been obliterated, tribal customs abolished, and the entire culture is changed forever.

The book of 2 Samuel has always reminded me of Things Fall Apart. It begins with David in charge, and as the plot moves forward we see David increasing his grip on the kingdom. He gets Jerusalem to be the capital, and gets the ark moved in from the wilderness—albeit with much difficulty. He fulfills his covenant with Jonathan, he goes to war, and he conquers Israel’s enemies.

But in the middle of his book, things begin to fall apart. David sins sexually, covers it up with murder, and then is cornered by Yahweh’s prophet. Once cornered, he repents and receives God’s forgiveness, but his sin still planted the seeds of destruction.

The fruit of that sin is the story of 2 Samuel 15-24. David’s sin with Bathsheba leads to a complete revolution in Israel. Four of David’s sons die, David is overthrown, his wives are raped in public, and the kingdom seems to collapse. David is cursed, spit on, and ends up fleeing in disgrace—a disgrace brought about by his own sin.

Of course, David is eventually able to come back to Jerusalem and retake the capital. Thanks to a general who was more faithful to David than he was to Yahweh, the rebellion was put down and the traitors were executed.

However chaos remained. To punish Israel for neglecting her covenants, God struck them with drought. David had to give grace and mercy to his enemies, while in one instance executing seemingly innocent people in order to keep peace with his neighbors. By the end of 2 Samuel there is suicide, bodies hung from cliffs, and pools of blood on the ground. A wise woman decapitates a military leader and throws his head over the wall to buy peace for her city. Yahweh strikes his people with yet another famine.

In short, things fall apart, and it appears that the kingdom will be lost forever.

But then the book turns on a dime, and ends in peace. How can this be?

Well, the closing scene gives us a clue. The book concludes with a scene of David worshiping Yahweh, and declaring his allegiance to the only king who is always faithful.

On the one hand, 2 Samuel is the story of how David lost the kingdom. It will never again be gained, at least not until Jesus himself comes to claim it. This is the story of how things fall apart.

On the other hand, this is very much the story of how the worship of Yahweh held things together. When it appeared that the entire Israelite nation had come unraveled, there did indeed remain one more thread holding things together—that thread is the faithfulness of Yahweh.

He remains faithful when his people are faithless. When his people are bloodthirsty, and indifferent to justice, Yahweh remains the only one who can hold things together. As chaos ensued, there was always peace to be found in the presence of God.

In that sense, 2 Samuel 15-24 is a picture of life in a depraved world. Things fall apart, but God holds them together. The kingdom may be lost, but Jesus will come to seek the lost—and he will always save those whom he seeks.

Here are the letters I wrote them before Judges, 1 Samuel 1-15, 16-32, and 2 Samuel 1-14

January 28, 2016

Tor and the Trinity

by Jesse Johnson

Wheaton College Professor Larycia Hawkins, in yellow, stands next to the Rev. Jesse Jackson as she prepares to speak during a Chicago news conference earlier this month.

It started with a hijab during Advent, and ends with a foundational lesson in the Trinity.

Larycia Hawkins, a professor of Politics and International Relations at Wheaton, decided to wear a hijab to her classes. She explained on Facebook that she did this as part of her “advent worship” in order to demonstrate that she:

“Stand[s] solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

In addition to her strange identification of Christians as “people of the book” (which is an Islamic category), her expression of solidarity with Muslims was poorly timed, to say the least.

For many Middle Eastern Christians, the hijab represents the brutal oppression of women by Muslims. Moreover, in much of Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and Libya, this was the first Christmas season in 2000 years without Christians to celebrate it. Islamic terrorists (who require women to wear a hijab by law) have essentially eliminated churches through much of the Middle East. So from the comfort and safety of Illinois, an American Professor publically showed “solidarity” with those who are slaughtering Christians by wearing a symbol of Islamic female suppression.   Continue Reading…

There are many passages that teach the sinfulness of abortion, but often overlooked is the encounter between Yahweh and Moses described in Exodus 3-4. This passage is particularly applicable to those considering abortion because of some perceived defect or genetic disability diagnosed in the baby.

The scene is this: Moses had been in Midian for decades, and had obviously settled down. He had a wife, a family, and a job. But Yahweh “remembered” Israel, called Moses out of retirement, and told him to go and lead the Israelites to freedom.

Moses declined, and gave a series of excuses to God. First, he said he wasn’t sufficient (God’s answer: of course you aren’t, but the Lord is). Then he said he didn’t even know who God is (God’s answer: Yahweh). His third objection was that nobody would believe Yahweh spoke to Moses (God’s answer involved leprosy, snakes, and turning water into blood).

But then Moses got personal. He told God that he couldn’t go lead Israel, because his tongue didn’t work. God made him with a defective mouth. Literally, he says “my tongue is too heavy, my speech is unintelligible” (there is debate in commentaries about if Moses always had this impediment, or if he developed it by burning his tongue with a coal, as many Jewish historians allege). The point is Moses couldn’t talk well, and—in the interest of full disclosure—God should know about that if he is going to ask him to lead.

And here is where Yahweh’s response to Moses’ objection gives a window into why God hates abortion:   Continue Reading…

January 14, 2016

How the gospel works:

by Jesse Johnson

I recently came across a video ambitiously titled, “Proving that nobody can get into heaven.” It was produced by Marshall Brain, the same guy who founded the How Stuff Works website, and the author of How “God” Works, which is essentially an argument for atheism.

The video is ten years old, but it’s still making the rounds online. To spare you the 8-plus minutes of it, I’ll summarize Brain’s argument here. He claims he can prove that heaven is “a fairy tale” by looking at the eight times Jesus was asked what it would take to go there. According to Brain, here are the eight answers:   Continue Reading…

Many of the most well-known (and most enduring) songs are Christmas songs—scan through any hymnal, and you will be surprised about the percentage of songs that are devoted to Advent.

Not all Christmas songs are good, of course. In fact, some of them are particularly cheesy. But many more tend toward excellence than silliness, and the reason for this is simple: they start with the birth of the Savior.

But if they focus only on the birth, or the silent night, or the oxen and what-have-you, then they will be mired in shallowness. The reason many Christmas songs do become exceptional is because they don’t stay in the manger. Instead, they use the birth of Christ as a launching point to survey his life. The best of these songs even make it all the way to his cross and Second Advent.

This is true of all hymns, and not just Christmas ones. If any song is narrowly focused, or focused on the softness/stillness/nearness/gentleness of God, it will likely be a lame song. But if a song progresses through—from God in human flesh, to what that God did, to why he died, to his resurrection, and ultimately to eternity—then it is at least set up to be an exceptional song. Here are three Christmas songs that do just that:   Continue Reading…

This week Karen Swallow Prior, part of the Southern Baptist “Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission,” wrote an article for Christianity Today called “Loving our Pro-Choice Neighbors.” She appealed for Christians to be more loving to those who practice abortion, and one practical example she gave was that we should stop referring to abortion as murder.

Here are her words:

Continue Reading…

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…

I recently came across this short article (perhaps it was even a sermon outline?) by W. H. Pike, who pastored Eagle Rock Community Church in Los Angeles in the early 1900’s. It serves as the introduction for “The Summarized Bible,” by Kieth Brooks, which is a Logos resource I recently stumbled across and can’t put down (if you have Logos, look for that work). It is a list of commands the Bible has concerning itself. In other words, it tells you what to do with the Bible:    Continue Reading…

October 22, 2015

The myth of race

by Jesse Johnson

One of the most harmful effects of evolutionary theory is the concept of race. Despite having zero scientific validity to it, the idea that human beings can be categorized into general “races” that are supposedly connected to their biology has wormed its way into our world views. It needs to make a quick exit—stage left.

Thabiti Anwaybwile (pastor of Anacostia River Church in DC) said it this way: “Believing in race is like believing in unicorns, because neither exist.”

Certainly cultures exist. Certainly ethnicities exist. And certainly racism exists (largely fueled by the whole notion of race to begin with).

But unicorns do not, and neither does race.

Here is a definition of race, followed by four reasons you should evict the concept of race from your vocabulary and your worldview:  Continue Reading…

Last week I was doing a Q/A session with AWANA students, and one of them asked this question:

In light of the shooting in Oregon, where the gunman asked students if they were Christian, and if they said ‘yes’ the gunman shot the student in the head, what would happen if a Christian lied? What if it would have been me, and I would have said ‘no’? Would I still go to heaven when I die?

This question is of particular importance because Christianity contains no exception to prohibitions against lying. Islam, for example, has a doctrine called Taqiyya, which allows a Muslim to temporarily deny his faith if his life is in danger—so long as it is not a “heartfelt” objection. Continue Reading…