Solomon conducted a grand experiment, perhaps the grandest. He gives a brief summary of his experiment in Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. An experiment is conducted to test or prove something. What was Solomon trying to prove? For that, we need to go back to chapter 1 and allow the preacher to state his problem and define his terms.
Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 states the problem he experiments to overcome. He names the problem vanity and vanity of vanities (Ecclesiastes 1:2), and spends the following nine verses defining his terms. Vanity can be quickly defined as empty or meaningless. Some are quite satisfied with that and immediately assume Ecclesiastes teaches us that everything on earth is empty and meaningless, so we are best to avoid as much as possible. Of course, if that is the case, we really need nothing beyond the second verse of the book, we Christians are the most pitiable and miserable of men (1 Corinthians 15:16-19), and “let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). This is a tricky business, but how can we hope to make proper sense of his experiment, initial findings, musings, and final conclusion, if we do not pay attention to his definitions? Read more
No such thing as a slow news day these days.
When we got on board this train in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2006, no one could have envisioned that ten years later the potty break would be as controversial as the photographs, cakes, and flowers. Of course, many thought the destination was Washington D.C. in 2015, but that was only a stop for fresh supplies and a bigger engine. What began with the picture taker, the baker, and the arrangement maker was just that, only a beginning.
Where we are right now
It’s difficult for commentary to keep up with news developments today. We hardly have time to think about something that has happened before the next thing happens. The fire of the moment is the battle over bathrooms. The City of Charlotte passed an ordinance then the state of North Carolina passed a law. Target announced a policy. The courts are hearing cases on bathrooms and locker rooms in schools. Other state governments are debating the issue, and it does go on.
On April 19, 2016, Target posted a statement in explanation of their policy concerning the use of changing rooms and bathroom facilities in their stores. The statement consisted of 226 words in which the corporation spoke of their “beliefs” four times and referred to their stance/commitment/position four times as well. Seven times in the statement, they referred to how they act on, or exercise, their core beliefs.
Let me start by saying I agree with Target. Read more
As far as parables go, this one is rather simple and the point is clear. Jesus told this parable in direct response to Peter’s question: “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?” (Matthew 18:21). Peter asked about forgiving our brothers and seemed to have repeat offenders especially in mind.
Jesus answered, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, until seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). He then proceeded to illustrate forgiveness with a parable that serves a few purposes. It provides a narrative illustration, which makes an impression. It highlights the basis for forgiveness and concludes with a sober warning to the unforgiving.
Before we look into the parable, let’s have a few words about parables in general. We have to be careful with them that we let them make their point and not try to press them too far. Sometimes people want to pick up every detail in the parable, no matter how minor, and try to tie it to some significant teaching. This can do more harm than good and possibly lead into serious error.
In the parable before us, Jesus is not laying out a whole theology of forgiveness, nor seeking to explain fully how God forgives sinners and reconciles them to Himself. This is an important point to understand, as we will see later on. The context clearly indicates this parable is about forgiveness between men and particularly brothers in Christ. The conclusion in verse 35 confirms this.
At the very least, this parable speaks to the child of God about how we are to handle forgiveness toward others. The parable does not try to get into every possible scenario of offense. We can all appreciate how tangled and thorny situations between people can be. But the point of this parable is clear: We are to forgive one another.
Scruples is a card game invented in 1984 and marketed as “The game of moral dilemmas.” Many questions seem to involve awkward social situations or relationships. For instance, there might be a question about what you would do if you spilled something on the carpet at a party. Would you tell the host or not? Or, if a friend asked you to give them a reference for a job and you know they are not qualified for it, would you give them a positive reference or not. So the question gives you a scenario and two choices. I guess it’s also supposed to be fun but doesn’t sound like much fun to me.
Those kinds of questions are low stakes moral questions and get boring quickly. To make that kind of game more dramatic, you have to raise the stakes morally. So you would ask something like: the cashier gives you change for a hundred dollar bill instead of the twenty dollar bill you paid with; do you keep quiet or tell her about the error? Or, you and two friends are adrift at sea. In order to survive do you eat the skinny friend or the fat friend? You are hiding spies in your house and the army commander tells you to either turn in the spies or be killed. Which do you do? You get the idea.
Two thousand sixteen is an election year and Christians seem to focus on little else at such times. Twelve years ago I wrote an article that resulted from a study of the Bible to discern what Scriptural directions a Christian has to guide them in making voting decisions. The article was entitled, “The Christian Voter’s Guide.” I received a little feedback from it, including a piece of hate mail in which I was called some ugly names by someone I don’t know and didn’t respond to. It reminded me of the intellectual level of a school yard exchange that includes many, I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I’s. I guess they took their ball and went home because I haven’t heard anything else from them. Oh well, life goes on, time heals all wounds, and all that.
2015 was a peak and plunge kind of year. We were reeling in the summer from the anti-consitutional Supreme Court decision when undercover Planned Parenthood videos began rolling out exposing the most vile and indefensible wickedness in that organization. Thus far the only thing that has resulted has been the indictment, not of Planned Parenthood, but of the investigator responsible for the videos. If we learned nothing else from these things, we know, regardless of the sitting president, we have wickedness in high places.
Racial tensions across the country were also very high, but it gets confusing when we come to the intersection of racial issues and abortion. Though the racist past and present of the abortion industry has been well documented, none or little of the aforementioned tension knocks on the abortionists’ doors. I wonder if we could finally raise civil ire if we would segregate the abortion mills so that you kill the white babies in one building and kill the black babies in a different building. If that ever happened, you could weigh the irony in kilos and sell it legally in some states.
The serious issues facing this country are far too many to list but they come into sharp focus during a major election year. Based on posts, comments, discussions, and the haunted look about the eyes of many Christians it would seem the times are desperate. When things get desperate, otherwise sane men do desperate things.
Once again, we need to look to the Bible and ask if there’s any light for our current situation and upcoming election. Paul said, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning” (Romans 15:4). Considering Israel, He wrote to the Corinthians: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Peter added concerning the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah: “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly” (2 Peter 2:6).
In the verses previous to those of our present text, the extravagance and indulgence of Ahasuerus is manifested. His excessive feasting speaks much about his true character. Just as we might find glimpses of our own true character if we examine the areas of excess and indulgence in our life. In the verses now before us, we shall see the consummation of the grand feasts.
The previous article was an introduction to the Book of Esther. This book is remarkable in teaching the providence of God. We noted there are no extraordinary miracles or supernatural events. Rather, this book sets forth the glory of God in the mundane. As we study this book, we want to be careful to pay attention to the details and seeming incidentals. In this article, we wish to begin looking at the verses of the first chapter.
The book of Esther is named for its primary character. Esther was an orphan, Jewish girl raised by her uncle Mordecai who rose to fame and prominence through some rather unusual means. She is really the main focus of the book. The Hebrew name of Esther is Hadassah which means myrtle. The name “Esther” is a derivation of the Persian word for star. It is commonly referred to as the volume of Esther by the Jews.
“Out of the south cometh the whirlwind . . .
He causeth it to come, whether for correction,
or for his land, or for mercy”
~ Job 37:9, 13
Once again, America and the world have been given an awesome reminder of the power of God’s creation. This power is so great that many men without faith stop to ponder its magnitude and come to the inevitable conclusion that the creation is mightier than they are. Incredibly though, they fail to see God who created such power and come then to the sound grasp of the infinite power of the Almighty who created and directs all things. “By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened. Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud: he scattereth his bright cloud: And it is turned round about by his counsels: that they may do whatsoever he commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth” (Job 37:10-12).
Some have erroneously supposed that God began the processes of evolution and then held Himself aloof while they ran their own course. They do not see God conducting the affairs of the earth. But, they are amiss for, “He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: his word runneth very swiftly. He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes. He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold? He sendeth out his word, and melteth them: he causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow” (Psalm 147:15-18). They can easily see a major storm as nature run amok. However, not only is the storm not beyond His control, but it actually comes from God and accomplishes His purpose. “The LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet” (Nahum 1:3).
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, numerous theological lessons beg to be drawn out of the rubble and that which was, and is, and is to come. Undoubtedly, many will rise to that challenge and bless us with observations likely dominated by the morbid and morose. However, let us not take up the form of the strictly theological, but rather consider some biblical worldview and Christian commentary on current events—a sort of cultural exegesis.
“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice:
but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”
~ Proverbs 29:2
As Christian citizens, we sometimes wonder what the extent of our involvement with the civil government of our country should be. Usually, election time sparks a renewed interest in this issue. In this article I would like to consider especially one aspect of civil involvement—voting. Voting is one means by which we may be involved and help to elect leaders that will cause “the people” to “rejoice.”
Our text makes it obvious that we have a certain interest in the government of our land. The people can be made to “rejoice” or “mourn” by those in authority. Our government can affect us positively or negatively. In fact, our leaders have a profound power to impact our lives morally, socially, and economically. They can affect us as citizens, as churches, and as families. The government can encroach on our freedoms through expansive government, complex regulations, and burdensome taxes, or we may enjoy more liberty with a small, limited government that stays within its proper jurisdiction.
In America, we have a representative republic. The magistrates are elected to office by the citizenry of this country. This means that every adult citizen has the privilege of voting in elections. In light of our text, it would be foolish not to vote because of apathy or irresponsibility.
Perhaps, some do not make use of this privilege because voting can seem to be such an overwhelming endeavor. There are so many candidates and offices and it is hard to find reliable information. We can simplify things somewhat when we consider that each voter elects roughly about sixteen key candidates to public office on the national, state, and local levels combined. The overall number may vary given a person’s exact location, e.g. if a person lives outside of an incorporated city, he will not vote for a mayor, city councilman, etc.
We can elect five candidates on the national level—a president, a vice president, two senators, and a congressman. We can elect about five candidates on the state level—a governor, a lieutenant governor, an attorney general, a senator, and one or more representatives. Depending on the place of residence, we may elect about six candidates on the local level—a mayor, a city councilman, a city attorney, the school board, a county supervisor, and a sheriff.
These are the key public office holders that we may vote for. We elect them and pay their salaries with our taxes. They are supposed to be servants of the public and representative of their constituency. They should especially represent us morally.
When we consider the number of offices that we are responsible for, it is not such a large task to be informed of this small number of people. This brings us to the question of how we are to determine a candidate’s suitability for office. Is there some reliable guide by which we can make determinations of how fit a candidate is for the office he seeks? Yes, there is such a guide; the Bible is the best Christian voter’s guide.
Let us now look into our guide and see if we can find help for the voting dilemma. Let us consider two main questions and as we proceed, I will also try to address some common questions and difficulties we meet with as Christians trying to vote with a clear conscience.