We proclaim Christ because He called us out of darkness into marvelous light. Speaking of Christ should not be a chore because we are giving the good news to those who are still in darkness. If you have been brought by Christ out of darkness, you are then a new person with a new identity, but with that identity comes the need to proclaim Christ. May we never cease proclaim His excellencies throughout the duration of our exile.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9 ESV
Peter’s first epistle is filled with hope to a persecuted people. Throughout the letter, the apostle makes references to the condition of the believers’ lives, comparing their lives in this world to the Israelites in the Babylonian exile. He calls them exiles and sojourners, saying that they are of the Dispersion, which is another term for Israel’s exile. It is very clear that these Christians no longer belong to the culture around them. They feel as though they are strangers and foreigners, even though they are living in the cities of their youth.
Peter explains why in this verse. Christians are supposed to feel strange within the culture around them because we are foreigners. As followers of Christ, we are a new people group, a nation within the nations. Our primary identity is no longer our homeland nor our ethnicity; it is our being in Christ.
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By Helen Louise Herndon — 7 months ago
It appears they began working with one hand while holding a weapon with the other hand. They both worked and were armed. This is an actual and literal description of physical activity. Sound hermeneutics and exegesis require the passage be interpreted and expressed as literal. It is not intended to be spiritualized…At the same time, this passage may also be an illustration related to guidance, that is, there are times people of faith must do the work of proclaiming the Gospel and at the same time defend the Gospel. There are times to build and fight at the same time.
God’s divine revelation is an amazing book–—replete with new lessons and guidance upon continuous readings. Take the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament. We tend to see it basically as an historical narrative of Nehemiah, a Jewish captive in Persia and a wine taster for King Artaxerxes, which he was, and his mission to rebuild Jerusalem. But, perhaps there’s more to it.
In chapter one, Nehemiah requests the king to be allowed to return to rebuild Jerusalem. The king was pleased to grant him his request and allows Nehemiah leave from Persia and his duties to return to Jerusalem. Interestingly, the Bible makes special note stating: “Then the king said to me, the queen sitting beside him . . .” I wondered why God chose to include the fact that the queen was with him? Is it possible it’s a hint he might have consulted her, and she might have taken pity on Nehemiah and his concern for his country?
Chapter three is strange in that it names all the builders of the walls. It’s a bit like the genealogy chapters where name after name is communicated. Most of us wouldn’t even know how to pronounce the majority of names given.
Chapter 4 relates how zealously the workers worked to repair the various gates and walls; however, they begin also to feel threatened by the surrounding inhabitants who ridiculed the Jews for what they were accomplishing. They begin to do something differently. It describes half of them continued working while half carried spears, shields, bows and breastplates. Then verses 17 and 18 describe this remarkable activity:
“Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdenscarried with one hand doing the work, and the other keeping hold ofa weapon. As for the builders, each wore his sword strapped to hiswaist as he built, while the trumpeter stood near me.”
It appears they began working with one hand while holding a weapon with the other hand. They both worked and were armed. This is an actual and literal description of physical activity. Sound hermeneutics and exegesis require the passage be interpreted and expressed as literal. It is not intended to be spiritualized. Spiritualizing Scripture has done harm to texts and to what God intended us to learn.
At the same time, this passage may also be an illustration related to guidance, that is, there are times people of faith must do the work of proclaiming the Gospel and at the same time defend the Gospel. There are times to build and fight at the same time.
Today, the Church is assaulted and attacked from different directions with false teachings and even heresy. These attacks involve morality, identity, and adulterating sound doctrine.
Just as Nehemiah and the Jews acknowledged and recognized dangers and threats to their work and took extreme steps to protect the work and themselves, Christians should follow their example and counsel by doing the same though it involves a spiritual battle–—not a physical one.
What steps can be taken? For one be faithful and steadfast to biblical and theological teachings handed down through Scripture and the early Church Fathers. This requires faithfulness and willingness to study both. Secondly, be careful and cautious to solely apply sound hermeneutical (interpretative) principles to God’s Word with attention to context. These are areas of assault and weakening God’s communications and intentions. Thirdly, give attention to apologetics, the defense of the Gospel, Scripture, and the Church.
The above are defensive actions. Give priority to proclaiming the Gospel and “the whole counsel of God.” Be true to all of God’s Word, not just to pet or favorite passages. Be zealous in making Christ known as Judge, Lord, Redeemer, and Savior–—the only way to the Father and source of one’s salvation from sin and death. Don’t scrimp on who all Jesus Christ is, why He came and what He accomplished on the cross and in His resurrection. Present Christ and the Gospel in both truth and love. Make sure people know God is a mystery–—three in one, Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
These are just a few suggestions; there are others. Just as the Jews were ridiculed for rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, the Church and Christians faithful to God’s Word are being ridiculed and threatened in many ways today. Nehemiah and the Jews in their day serve as an example as to how to confront not only physical attacks, but spiritual attacks we are confronted with today.
Nehemiah 4: 6 states: So, we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.” This may be a message for today, that is, “. . . for the people had a mind to work.” May we also “have a mind to work.” This message is for Christians today, both clerical and laity.
Helen Louise Herndon is a member of Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis, Missouri. She is freelance writer and served as a missionary to the Arab/Muslim world in France and North Africa.
By Samuel D. James — 1 week ago
Written by Samuel D. James |
Wednesday, June 22, 2022
To miss God’s design is to not live as God intended. It’s to sell ourselves short, to make for us lives and identities and destinies that are far, far poorer than what God intends. That’s why Christians talk about this stuff: because the good life really is possible.
Let’s begin with the observable facts of anatomy. Males have different reproductive organs than females. More than that, the reproductive organs of males appear to be designed to fit together with those of females. If you took a class on safe sex in high school, your teacher (or book, or video, or whatever) almost certainly assumed that female reproductive organs had to be treated differently than male ones. Thus, every boy in that class was expected to know how to put on a condom, and every girl in that class was expected to know what the birth control pill does. I doubt there was much confusion in the class over why girls weren’t expected to practice with condoms on themselves or the boys weren’t asking questions about the pill.
Now of course, this doesn’t prove that all the biological males in the class experienced male gender identity, or that the biological girls experienced the opposite. But the point is simply that sex education depends on a meaningful distinction between maleness and femaleness, and that this distinction is a given one, not simply an artifact of culture. No one was brainwashed into thinking they have the physical parts between their legs that they can plainly see. Boys see their boy parts, and girls see their girl parts, and from the moment boys and girls are born other people relate to them not simply as generic humans but as boys or girls, mostly because of these observable human parts.
Christianity begins with the teaching that God created a man and a woman, Adam and Eve. When Adam saw Eve for the first time, he was so excited that he broke out into song. Christians take “Bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh” to mean that Eve was like Adam, yet unlike him. She was a human being, but she “completed” him in a very real way. In fact, in Genesis, we are told plainly how this completion was immediately expressed: through sex. “The man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.” Adam and Eve’s natures as like yet unlike demanded sexual union. So in the Christian religion, men and women were created by God with bodies that are like yet unlike, and the expression of this mysterious, complementary creation is sexual union. There is no sex without bodies, and there are no bodies without maleness and femaleness.
Now here is where many critics of Christianity argue that this doctrine simply fails to describe the lived reality of many people. What about the intersex? What about those with gender dysphoria? What about those who say they know they are a different gender than their biological sex?
Two answers are in order here. First, while the existence of intersexed persons and persons with gender dysphoria is often treated like a golden gun against the Christian position, this is a gross oversimplification of what usually happens with these folks. We have research that suggests more than 90% of teens diagnosed with gender dysphoria will eventually grow out of it. Gender dysphoria should be understood as a psychological malady, not as a kind of person.
Second, the Christian position certainly anticipates the possibility of feeling alienated from one’s body. Christians believe that Adam disobeyed God and introduced sin into the world. Sin corrupted the Adam’s relationship with God, with Eve, with the earth, and even with himself. Adam and Eve’s recognition that they were naked and now ashamed is a sign of profound alienation between Adam and Eve and their bodies. Before sin, they accepted themselves and each other and rejoiced without shame. After sin, they cover their bodies and hide their persons from God.
By Ben Stahl — 6 months ago
The cry of the Lord these past two years continues to be the same as the 2,000 before, “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” By all means care for your physical body, after all it is the temple of the Lord. But do not let these physical pursuits blind your eyes from Him who is eternal and who freely gives life to all who ask, seek, and knock! Death is coming. Today then is the day to find life by believing in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
Then he departed from Elisha, and came to his master, who said to him, “What did Elisha say to you?” And he answered, “He told me you would surely recover.” But it happened on the next day that he took a thick cloth and dipped it in water, and spread it over his face so that he died; and Hazael reigned in his place.
II Kings 8:14-15
Earlier this week during a driving rain I drove past a Covid testing center. More than 100 people were standing outside waiting for their chance to have a Covid test. The next day I passed a drive thru testing site where cars were lined up for more than a mile. The news is full of similar stories as the world risks sickness from exposure to the elements and spends massive amounts of time for the opportunity not to be treated for Covid, but simply to find out from tests if they might have Covid. The world has trained many to consider health the most important thing in life and worthy of all sacrifice to maintain it for as long as possible.
King Ben-Hadad and his armies had killed untold numbers of people. Men, women, and children had starved under his sieges, kings had been killed in his battles. But when sickness came upon him, Ben-Hadad was so worried he sent 40 camel-loads of gifts to Elisha not as payment to be healed but as payment for the knowledge of whether or not he would survive the illness. On that note, Elisha had good news. Ben-Hadad would recover. The results of the test? The disease was not fatal! The bad news was Ben-Hadad was focused on the wrong thing. He should have been concerned for his soul and his spiritual health more than his physical health which will one day abandon us all. Ben-Hadad was going to die anyway and in a way he seemed to have least expected — his long-time servant Hazael would smother him in his own bed!