This is the Time for Justice

Esther pic - final - fade out edges

Esther puts her hand against the wood paneling of the door to the throne room. She whispers to herself, “If I perish… I perish.” She pushes the door open.

The king’s guards turn and draw their blades. The king has summoned no one. The only reason anyone would have to come in here without being summoned is to assassinate the king. The law is clear: Kill any uninvited guest.

Esther holds her hands out, showing she is unarmed. Her only chance is the mercy of the king. The guards tense to strike.

And Xerxes extends the golden scepter. The only thing that would keep any uninvited guest safe. “What do you want, my queen? Ask it, and it’s yours.” Xerxes smiles. His queen. The one he chose. His queen.

Esther tries not to faint. She heaves a deep breath before answering, “Come to a banquet I have prepared for you today. You. And Haman.” She gestures to the man sitting at her husband’s right hand. She gestures to the man who wants her murdered. “Come to my banquet. That’s all I want.”

Haman. The man who had masterminded a new law: On a certain day in the twelfth month, it will be legal to kill any Jew and take their possessions. He doesn’t know the queen is Jewish.

But neither does the king. (more…)


Review: The 10 Minute Bible Journey

The 10 Minute Bible Journey
by Dale Mason; foreword by Ken Ham

The Bible is a big book and it can be hard to wrap your arms around it. In The 10 Minute Bible Journey, Dale Mason takes the reader through 52 bite-size chunks that gives the “big picture” of Scripture. Each lesson is two pages of text and one page-size picture, and each lesson shows how these events connect directly or indirectly to Jesus. By the time the reader finishes the book, they should have a good idea of how the Bible fits together, to equip them to read the entire Bible on their own.

With a few caveats (one of them pretty major), I am going to highly recommend this book. It does a good job compressing the narrative of Scripture and showing how everything fits together. It keeps pointing to Jesus as the central person of the Bible, constantly directing the reader to him. While some of the lessons are little rocky in just how they present the information, many of them are compelling. The lessons on Jesus’s birth in particular are very well written, even grabbing me (who, you know, kinda know that story pretty well!). I appreciated the highlighting of Jesus throughout. (more…)

Review: Why Should I Trust the Bible?

Why Should I Trust the Bible?
By A. Trevor Sutton

Not every question about the Bible has a Sunday school answer. Isn’t the Bible racist? Isn’t it out of date? Didn’t people change it over time? And if you give a simple answer… it often doesn’t reflect reality. In Why Should I Trust the Bible A. Trevor Sutton tackles the questions head on with whimsy and panache, addressing a number of questions with a touch of sarcasm and a lot of Jesus.

I love the basis of this book. “Why can I trust the Bible? Answer: Jesus” (19). Sutton hits it out of the park by starting there. He explains: “His life, death, and resurrection provide the trustworthy foundation for every page in the Bible. The Bible would be simply a book like every other book in human history if it were not for Jesus. He is the foundation for our trust in the Bible” (16).

But the thing I love is also a liability. This book is meant to be read by Christians; this isn’t a book you’re likely to hand to someone who’s already doubting the Bible. Instead, it’s meant for Christians to read to be able to answer objections directly. The book assumes that the Bible is God’s Word from the beginning, and that it’s about Jesus. In fact, Sutton ends the book with an objection that says, “Grace is too easy.” I love that he concludes with the gospel. He also addresses it very honestly: “Fully comprehending God’s work of salvation is easily the most mind-bending, heart-wrenching, soul-stretching endeavor imaginable” (184).

In fact, throughout the book he’s not afraid to call some objections to the Bible lazy or incomprehensible if you actually read the Bible, but he takes each objection seriously. He compares the Bible to other ancient literature like the Epic of Gilgamesh. Or more modern works, like Faulkner’s stories. But every time he takes each objection seriously. For instance, one objection is, “There’s so many interpretations, it can’t be true!” He responds, “The disagreements about how best to interpret the Bible are not evidence that it should not be trusted; rather, they are proof that Christians take the Word of God seriously” (149).

Through it all, he encourages readers to investigate on their own. “Trust in the Bible is not built on sweeping statements without analysis. Rather, trust in the Bible is built on bold statements that can be dissected and discussed, explored and examined” (61). So explore and examine!

Sutton tackles a number of objections. The downside is that each objection gets about five to ten pages. What that means is that he addresses a wide range of concerns. The downside is that none of them go too deep. On the other hand, at least in my experience, most people who use these kind of objections are speaking from ignorance. Answering an objection honestly and humbly, even on the level of this book, can open up discussion and hopefully help someone realize that it’s not as open and shut against the Bible as they might think.

But as Sutton keeps driving each section back to Jesus, the reader also has an example of how to take the discussion back to what matters most: Law and Gospel.

And again, Sutton encourages further study:

Keep going. Press on. Lean in. Pray that the Holy Spirit would engage your whole heart and your whole mind in answering these questions. Read more books about the Bible, study Scripture with others, and ask difficult questions. And above all, keep following Jesus. He is at the center of Scripture. He is the Word made flesh. Jesus is the real and living person around whom the Bible coheres. And He is the one and only source of eternal life. (197-8)

This book should be on your shelf. It’s a great step into apologetics, knowing more about the Bible, and answer serious questions honestly.

Review: Gory Deaths

Not-So-Nice Bible Stories: Gory Deaths
by Jonathon Schkade; Illustrated by Gleisson Cipriano

Ever notice that not everyone dies nice and pretty in the Bible? There’s some pretty gruesome deaths. This book takes the reader through nineteen of the most painful ways to die illustrated in Scripture, and then explains why each was included in our Holy Book. Throughout, readers are pointed to Law, to Gospel, and every time, to Christ.

This book is fantastic fun. Every chapter begins with a good retelling of the biblical account of the person in question, backing up to give all the background. Sidebars bring up other questions or biblical parallels with references to go digging deeper. Each chapter ends with a section entitled “Why is this in the Bible?” tying each story to the big story of the Bible: Jesus come to save sinners. After that there’s always “Bonus Features” that will take one aspect of the story and show other places in history that kind of thing showed up. For instance, the chapter on the stoning of Stephen includes a bonus feature of how other early Christians were martyred.

If you’re looking for a great survey of Bible history for someone who doesn’t like “boring parts,” this would be a great book to give. It’s engaging and speaks everyday language incredibly well. (more…)

Meditation on Sermon Writing

God’s Word is amazing. Have you ever just sat back and absorbed it? Just opened it up and read? Just a sentence. Just two. And just… just reveled?

Has the weight of the Law ever just pressed down on you? It’s so simple. It seems so easy. And then you look at that Law, and that single statement begins a pushing down on your chest, because you see how very, very heavy it is. You see how far you have fallen from what God demands. You see how good, how very good his command is, and how good this world would be if we just did it, but I can’t do it, no I can’t, I have failed, and so it is my fault, so much my fault.

And the Law, oh, it is so good, and I am not. And as that sentence grows in my heart, I see it in so many ways. It blossoms there, this flower of such beauty that I weep that I cannot even touch its petals, I cannot even pretend to care for a bloom of such excellence, that my black thumb slays not the Law but myself. (more…)

I lost my Bible.

I lost my Bible.

I lost my Bible.

How does a pastor lose his Bible?!

A little backstory: I love my Bible. It’s an NIV 84 my wife got for me a number of years back. She searched all over for it; I’d already given an identical copy away twice to people who didn’t have Bibles. So, there’s a nostalgia factor for the source of this particular printed copy of God’s Word. Add in several notes I keep in there, and there are factors beyond it being “simply” the exact human words God chose to communicate to us.

Add in that I’ve used this Bible for years. It’s literally the only Bible I’ve used in ministry since I’ve become a pastor. The thing’s falling apart. The binding is shot.

And the memories… (more…)

Bible. Bacon. Good.

Men sat around talking about beauty aids. And by beauty aids, I mean beer. Just another Saturday morning at my congregation.

Well, not really. This was new for all of us. Saturday was our first monthly men’s Bible breakfast. The idea is fairly simple: Offer breakfast. Lots of good, terribly food. Have some fun. Have a practical Bible study. Go home fed and nourished in body and soul.

I arrived at the church kitchen, ready to cook my contribution of hash browns, at about seven-thirty. That’s a good hour before we’re supposed to start eating; I figured I’d be the first one there. No dice — I was the fifth one there! Four other men (one of them a teenager) eager to get this party started, already getting going with bacon and pancakes and making sure the eggs will be good to go.

I set up the computer and projector in the center of a U of tables and paused the slideshow on the first image:

The men who were making breakfast were… intrigued. Especially when I told them that the Bible study would concern that picture.  (more…)