A Biblical Theology of Dessert

foodBethany Jenkins has kicked off what promises to be a fascinating blog series on—of all things—the making, selling, buying, and eating of . . . chocolate cake, apple pie, and no-bake cookies. Continuing to explore the subject of vocation, Bethany has begun this week’s series by sketching a Biblical Theology of Dessert.

Sounds tasty, doesn’t it?

In truth, I’ve never thought about dessert in the Bible. I’ve considered the importance of food—it’s blessedness in the Garden, its role in the Fall, and its place in redemption. But dessert? I like dessert, but I’ve never considered what Scriptures says about it.

So I am thankful for Bethany’s interest in brownies and her theological inquisitiveness to dive into this subject. I would encourage you to tune in to this series and to let the theology of the Bible interpret the sweets you eat.

Let me give you a taste of her article: After noting the complex relationship of sweets in the Scripture, she speaks of the three modes of eating in the Bible—ordinary, fasting, and feasting. Moving past the first, she quotes Kyle Werner and Tim Keller to explain the importance of food in our lives.

In feasting and fasting, however, we see two very different modes of eating. According to Kyle Werner, a classical composer, amateur chef, and former Gotham Fellow:

In the Bible, we see God regularly calling his people to fast and to feast. Through fasting, we learn an increased dependence on God’s strength; our physical appetite helps intensify our spiritual appetite. On the other hand, feasting reminds us of the original goodness and bounty of God’s creation, the redeeming work he is doing, and our fellowship in the body of Christ. Our regular eating routines can benefit greatly by being expanded in both directions through the extremes of these two spiritual disciplines.

In feasting we see the glorious purpose of dessert. Although it is not necessary to life for daily sustenance, dessert can give us a foretaste of the divine. In Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller writes:

The work-obsessed mind—as in our Western culture—tends to look at everything in terms of efficiency, value, and speed. But there must also be an ability to enjoy the most simple and ordinary aspects of life, even ones that are not strictly useful, but just delightful. Surprisingly, even the reputedly dour Reformer John Calvin agrees. In his treatment of the Christian life, he warns against valuing things only for their utility: “Did God create food only to provide for necessity [nutrition] and not also for delight and good cheer? . . . Did he not, in short, render many things attractive to us, apart from their necessary use?”

For more on a biblical theology of dessert, see Bethany’ whole post: “Toward a Theology of Dessert,” as well as the YouTube video included at the end of her post: “A Theology of Food” by David Kim.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

 

The Power of Prayer

powerChristians have always been a praying people. In truth, since the Spirit awakens us to God our Father and moves us to cry out to him (Rom 8:15-17), it is inconceivable that God’s children wouldn’t pray. Yet, as we pray, it is worth asking: From where does the power of prayer come?

To that question we could answer in a number of ways. James 5:19 says, “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (KJV). In comparison with a passage like Psalm 66:18, we might conclude that powerful prayer depends on the person: God hears and answers his choice servants, but ignores the pleas of men who regard sin in their heart.

Surely, there is some truth in that. But there is also error, if we think that our personal righteousness is the means by which God answers our prayer. Just a few verses before James speaks of “powerful” prayer, he says, “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick.” In context, the righteous pray-er is the one who prays in faith. In other words, personal righteousness is the not the source of powerful prayer. Rather, powerful prayer comes from those who by faith confess their sins and plead for God’s mercy. Continue reading

“God is for God,” And Why That is Good News

Last week, I wrote a blog that listed a number of passages that demonstrated that God saves his people for the sake of his name. Aside from Ephesians 1, my post only listed the Old Testament passages that prove this theological point. The New Testament references were left wanting.

This week, I came across a sermon by Matt Chandler entitled “God is for God.” In his conference message, he gets at the same point that God’s pursuit of his glory is the foundation of the good news. He points out the Old Testament passages that speak of God saving his people for the sake of his name. But he also goes further.

Citing passages that speak of God pursuing his glory, he lists off a bevy of New Testament texts that affirm God’s pursuit of his glory. You can see how he introduces his point above, and in his sermon, he goes on read the following passages. Continue reading

David Wells, World Vision, and the Need for Truth

wells

In No Place for Truth, David Wells demonstrates how the last two centuries, and especially the last fifty years, have witnessed the evacuation of theology in evangelical churches. He attributes the cause of this theological decline to a number of factors, but two in particular: modernity (with its denial of biblical authority and its elevation of individual autonomy) and modernization (with its increase in technology, urbanization, cliché cultures).

Wells shows the pernicious effect that modernity and modernization have had on the church, and how evangelicals (like the liberals before them) have opted for life over doctrine, and as a result have lost both. His book is a clarion call to return to the Scriptures and to care once again about sound doctrine. Though, this book is short on solutions, it rightly diagnoses so many problems in the church, and causes pastors and churches alike to reconsider what they are doing, or better, what they are believing.

Wells book is full of quotes and insights. Here are a number on the (diminishing) importance of theology among evangelicals. (In trying to get a handle on his thesis, I typed a number of these quotes. Here’s a selection, the rest can be found in this PDF). Continue reading

Nine Things You Should Know About Noah . . . and Two More

noahI love it when the Bible meets theology meets culture. Today Joe Carter triangulates those three in his illuminating “Nine Things You Should Know about Noah.”

Highlighting the facts about, Joe Carter reminds us of who Noah really is and not just who Hollywood would make him out to be. Beginning with the literary construction of the Noah narrative in Genesis 6-9, he writes,

The story of Noah is told is chiastic parallelism (or chiasmus), a figure of speech in which the order of the terms in the first of two parallel clauses is reversed in the second. If you assign the letters A and B to the first appearance of the key words or phrases and A’ and B’ to their subsequent appearance, they follow what is commonly referred to as an A-B-B-A pattern.

A chiasm in the story of Noah and the flood (Genesis 6.10-9.19):

A   Noah (10a)
B      Shem, Ham, and Japheth (10b)
C         Ark to be built (14-16)
D            Flood announced (17)
E               Covenant with Noah (18-20)
F                  Food in the Ark (21)
G                   Command to enter the Ark (7.1-3)
H                      7 days waiting for flood (4-5)
I                         7 days waiting for flood (7-10)
J                            Entry to ark (11-15)
K                             Yahweh shuts Noah in (16)
L                                40 days flood (17a)
M                                 Waters increase (17b-18)
N                                     Mountains covered (18-20)
O                                        150 days waters prevail (21-24)
P                                       GOD REMEMBERS NOAH (8.1)
O’                                       150 days waters abate (3)
N’                                    Mountain tops become visible (4-5)
M’                                Waters abate (6)
L’                             40 days (end of) (6a)
K’                            Noah opens window of ark (6b)
J’                           Raven and dove leave ark (7-9)
I’                        7 days waiting for waters to subside (10-11)
H’                    7 days waiting for waters to subside (12-13)
G’                 Command to leave the ark (15-17)
F’                Food outside the ark (9.1-4)
E’             Covenant with all flesh (8-10)
D’          No flood in future (11-17)
C’        Ark (18a)
B’      Shem, Ham, Japheth (18b)
A’   Noah (19)

After this literary point, Carter lists eight other facts about Noah, the Ark, the animals, and the Bible. To his nine, let me add two more theological considerations. Continue reading

Good News for Bleeding Hearts and Broken Bones

dry bonesAs I have been reading in the Psalms, I’ve noticed an interesting theme: The sorrow of sinners (and those suffering from the sins of others) affects their bodies. More specifically it afflicts their “bones.” Take a listen to some of the laments offered by David and others.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled. (Psalm 6:2)

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away. (Psalm 31:9-10 ESV)

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah (Psalm 32:3-4 ESV)

All my bones shall say, “O LORD, who is like you, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, the poor and needy from him who robs him?” (Psalm 35:10 ESV)

There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me. (Psalm 38:3-4 ESV)

As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:10)

The bodily effect of sin traces it origins to Genesis 2:17, when God said to Adam, “On the day that you eat of this tree you shall surely die.” And for most Christians the connection between sin and death is well-understood: “The wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). But what is so striking about these Psalms is the way it speaks of “bones.”

Continue reading

The ‘Heart’: A Biblical-Theological Sketch

heartThe Bible regularly refers to the human heart. Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And to love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:29-30). Proverbs 4:23 indicate that guarding the heart protects the wellsprings of life. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s word judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And Matthew 5:8 implies that without a pure heart, we will not see God—or at least, we will not delight in seeing God.

Because the Bible says so much about the heart, it can be difficult to synthesize its contents. And yet, because the condition of our heart is so regularly mentioned and so vital to our walk with God, it is of the utmost importance that we have a good sense of what the heart is and what the Bible says about it’s condition. On Sunday, I preached a message on the heart from Matthew 5:8. What follows is some of the truths I found in the Scriptures as I prepared for that message.

I pray it may do your heart good as you consider this brief sketch.

Continue reading

A Decade in the Making: Rightly Understanding Matthew 5:8

pureNo verse of Scripture has been more effective in keeping me sexually pure than Matthew 5:8.

When I first became a believer, I went to a weekend retreat called Purity & Holiness. It was a two-day seminar designed to teach young people about dating, sex, and marriage.  I bless God for its impact on my life. And—not surprisingly—one of the key verses impressed upon us that weekend was Matthew 5:8.

The impact of this singular verse has been massive in my life. But not because I rightly understood its meaning at the time. In fact, I would say, that I misunderstood much of its true meaning because I took Jesus’ words as a command ordering me to purify myself . . . or else I wouldn’t see God.

Yet, that’s not exactly how the beatitudes work. Matthew 5:8, like all the beatitudes, has imperatival force, but the beatitudes are not commands. They are (speaking of their genre here) blessings that Jesus pronounces on his disciples. They are qualities that his followers must have to enter the kingdom, but they are also qualities that he gives to his followers.

When I first heard this verse, without understanding how Jesus used these words in his Sermon on the Mount, I took it as a command to stop being impure, and to begin pursuing purity. By reading it that way, Jesus’ words though emphasizing purity, did not give me any power to be pure.

Continue reading

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

pure2

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Matthew 5:8

Today I preached Matthew 5:8, which promises that the pure in heart will see God. In truth, everyone will one day see God. The question becomes, Will that beatific vision be a reason for rejoicing? Or, will it be a moment of terrifying judgment?

I pray for all who read these words or listen to this message, that seeing God would be the pinnacle of joy, and that God would purify your heart so that you might see Him. In this sermon, I considered three points

  1. What does it mean to see God?
  2. What does the Bible say about the heart?
  3. How can you have a pure heart?

If you long to see God, ponder the words of Matthew 5:8 and ask God to make your heart pure as only he can.


Soli Deo Gloria, dss

The Meek Will Inherit the Earth Tomorrow and Impact the World Today

meekness

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)

In his classic work on the Sermon on the Mount, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones contrasts the weakness of powerful organization and the power of spiritual meekness. On this Lord’s Day, consider which you are seeking:

But further, this Beatitude comes, alas, in the form of a very striking contrast to much thinking within the Christian Church at the present time. For is there not a rather pathetic tendency to think in terms of fighting the world, and sin, and the things that are opposed to Christ, by means of great organizations? Am I wrong when I suggest that the controlling and prevailing thought of the Christian Church throughout the world seems to be the very opposite of what is indicated in this text? ‘There’, they say, ‘is the powerful enemy set against us, and here is the divided Christian Church. We must all get together, we must have one huge organization to face that organized enemy. Then we shall make an impact, and then we shall conquer.’ But ‘Blessed are the meek’, not those who trust to their own organizing, not those who trust to their own powers and abilities and their own institutions. Rather it is the very reverse of that. And this is true, not only here, but in the whole message of the Bible. You get it in that perfect story of Gideon where God went on reducing the numbers, not adding to them. That is the spiritual method, and here it is once more emphasized in this amazing statement in the Sermon on the Mount. (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 53)

May we pray for and pursue meekness, that we might lay hold of our inheritance, and God might work his power through our surrendered, ready lives.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss