Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Gleanings from some genealogies

To many 1 Chronicles 1-9 sucks all the moisture out of the soul.  It is 6 pages of "begats," a list of names.  And foreign names at that.  No verbs, no story.

That section is not my favorite section of Scripture, but I read them any way.  And they're not as sleep-inducing as they used to be.  Today I read chapter 5.  And I discovered lessons there.

Ch. 5 contains the genealogies of the Trans-Jordanian tribes, the 2 1/2 tribes that settled east of the Jordan River.  When the whole context is lists with very little story, what is said by way of story is significant.  It's important to the author.

We're told that the tribes made war against the Hagrites, and these tribes "were helped against them, and the Hagrites and all who were with them were given into their hand; for they cried out to God in the battle, and He answered their prayers because they trusted in Him" (5:20 NASB).  The author wants us to know that a victory was won because they trusted the Lord which led them to call upon the Lord for aid against their enemies.  Lesson: Call upon the Lord in your trials, and trust in him.

Later we're told the reason why these 2 1/2 tribes eventually went into exile: "But they acted treacherously against the God of their fathers and played the harlot after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul, king of Assyria, even the spirit of Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away into exile, namely the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara and to the river of Gozan, to this day" (5:25-26 NASB).  Lesson: Spiritual condition has physical consequences.  God will not be mocked.  You reap what you sow. 

Further, God is involved in national and international affairs.  There are different levels of causation.  At one level, the reason the king of Assyria became malevolently interested in the Trans-Jordanian tribes was because God put him onto the scent ("stirred up the spirit").

Well, what do you know?  The lists of the past contain wisdom for the present.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Early Wodehouse a lot like O'Henry

The Man with Two Left Feet and Other StoriesThe Man with Two Left Feet and Other Stories by P.G. Wodehouse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good stories. More like O'Henry stories than Wooster & Jeeves, but some great plot lines and good spots of humor.

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Wodehouse at his best

Stiff Upper Lip, JeevesStiff Upper Lip, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

P. G. Wodehouse is hysterical, and his Jeeves & Wooster stories are the creme de la creme. When Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens debated one another, they mentioned their one area of common ground: their love of Wodehouse, at which point they started quoting lines from his works.

This novel finds Wooster trying to stave off marriage to Madeleine Bassett, and to do so he must revisit Totleigh Towers. There are more twists and turns in this story than any 3 roller coasters put together.

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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Why I believe the Christian faith

Someone asked me why I believe in Christ and the Christian faith. 

Good question.

A variety of reasons, I think.  It starts with my parents.  I grew up in a Christian home.  My dad was a pastor.  I was taught the Christian faith.

But at some point every Christian-raised child has to come to a point where the faith of his parents either becomes his own or is rejected.  As I progressed through my teen years, questions regarding truth and reality of Christianity arose in my mind.  So I started asking questions, and I sought answers from my parents, pastors, professors, and authors.

For me, the core issue was whether the Bible was reliable or not.  If it is, all is (more or less) explained.  If it isn’t, then the Christian faith collapses.

Ultimately, my foundation is the reliability of the Gospels.  I found that the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—when tested, are historically reliable documents.  There are certain tests that historians apply to historical documents to reach conclusions about their reliability.  The Gospels ace those tests.

Trusting the Gospels’ integrity, then, I learn from them Jesus' teaching about himself, about God, about humanity, about sin and salvation.  I also discover his opinion of the Old Testament.  The truth of the entire Scripture for me is verified in the assertions of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Gospels. 

Now tis true I could regard Jesus as a loony whose loony teachings and claims are accurately recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  But the full portrait of Jesus in the Gospels does not paint a picture of an insane man.  He seems self-possessed.

Why do I believe?  I’ve given two reasons so far: my upbringing and the historical reliability of the Gospels.  I offer one more.

There’s also the witness of countless other Christians—in the Scriptures, throughout history, throughout the world today, and in my own life.  Many of each of these witnesses not only believe, but they claim to know Jesus Christ, to talk with him and be led by him.  They claim friendship with him that brings joy and peace and that sustains them through troubles. 

Not only do they know Christ, but many of them have been transformed by him, changed for the better.  I personally think there’s no greater miracle than a changed heart, and one that’s changed for the better.  It seems Jesus does this far more than anyone or anything else does. 
 
Those are some reasons why I believe.