Don’t Stop Now

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Several years ago I trained for a marathon. The first time I ran six miles I remember panting and thinking, “How will I ever run 26?” I was spent after my first long day. My legs ached. An hour of running seemed so long.

But I kept running.

I wasn’t very fast. My body creaked and cracked. And I moaned and groaned through the opening weeks.

But I kept running.

I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but at some point, the training started to be fun. The very thing I had dreaded I started to anticipate with alacrity. I had more energy. My legs were stronger. I felt good. I felt better for the effort. I honestly felt more alive. What had happened? How did running go from draining to fueling?

I had discovered the benefits of endurance.

Endurance

Endurance is the strength of mind, body and spirit to keep going. How do you develop this ability to keep going? Well, surprisingly, you develop this ability when you decide to keep going. Yes. The way to develop endurance is to endure. Not very exciting, right? But it’s a critical point of encouragement.

This realization means that there is hope in the fact that you’re still going right now. There’s hope in the midst of busyness and stress, suffering and tiredness. If you can just keep going, you will keep going. And eventually, you will find you have the strength to keep going. You will have endurance.

Christian Endurance

But this process is more than just a physical or psychological phenomenon. Endurance is a God-backed, Spirit-packed process designed for Christians. Paul writes:

“[W]e rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Suffering is what Paul calls the first part of training. The pain. The questions. The aches and dark nights. But through the power of God, these sufferings become soil for growth, and the first green sprig is endurance, the ability to keep going. This ability is not for the purpose of keeping you on a treadmill. As you keep going, you are going somewhere. You are headed towards character. Grit. Deeper faith. Resilience. Buoyancy. And all of this leads to hope. And no one can steal hope from you once you’ve got it good.

Don’t Stop Now

As we begin a new year, I am encouraged by this reminder.

Right now, life seems a little crazy. School has resumed for our children. Soccer practices are just around the corner. Ministry programs and events have started up. We are juggling as many balls as ever. I am sure your life is no different. But I strengthen myself when I remember that God is faithful to take this stress and make me better for it. Remembering that, I keep going. It will get better. I will get better. He will get bigger. God will do great things for me and you. He’s promised it!

So, don’t stop now! Keep going!

How to Read a Book Better

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Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren have done us a tremendous favor in supplying us with several excellent rules for reading.

They are as follows:

  1. Classify the book according to the kind and subject matter.
  2. State what the whole book is about with the upmost brevity.
  3. Enumerate its major parts in their order and relation, and outline these parts as you have outlined the whole.
  4. Define the problem or problems the author has tried to solve.
  5. Come to terms with the author by interpreting his key words.
  6. Grasp the author’s leading propositions by dealing with his most important sentences.
  7. Know the author’s arguments, by finding them in, or constructing them out of, sequences of sentences.
  8. Determine which of his problems the author has solved, and which he has not; and of the latter, decide which the author knew he had failed to solve.
  9. Do not begin criticism until you have completed your outline and your interpretation of the book. (Do not say you agree, disagree, or suspend judgment, until you can say “I understand.”)
  10. Do not disagree disputatiously or contentiously.
  11. Demonstrate that you recognize the difference between knowledge and mere personal opinion by presenting good reasons for any critical judgment you make.
  12. Show wherein the author is uniformed.
  13. Show wherein the author is misinformed.
  14. Show wherein the author is illogical.
  15. Show wherein the author’s analysis or account is incomplete.

Bonus: The four questions you should ask of any book.

  1. What is the book about as a whole?
  2. What is being said in detail, and how?
  3. Is the book true, in whole or part?
  4. What of it?

All of these rules and questions are wonderfully illuminated in their classic work How to Read a Book. Check it out.

Fallen Angels in Genesis

This post is overdue. I’ve been meaning to write it. I just haven’t.

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Honestly, it’s a strange topic. But here we go…

I have changed my understanding of Genesis six and the question of angels having sexual relations with humans.

What I Thought

The passage in question reads this way:

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. (Genesis 6:1-4 ESV)

In a previous post, which, interestingly enough, has become the most viewed post of all-time at Hobo Theology (probably in part because of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah movie), I said:

The details from the text are so scant that it seems excessive to read into this brief allusion a story of demonic, half-breed angel children. This interpretation would also introduce all kinds of theological complications with regards to materiality/immateriality of angels and the fate of these offspring. As renowned Old Testament scholars Keil and Delitzsch point out, “the expression ‘sons of God’ cannot be elucidated by philological means, but must be interpreted by theology alone.5 In other words, there’s more to consider here than just vocabulary and grammar. We must consider if our interpretation is in keeping with the theology of the whole Bible.6

So who were the Nephilim? It seems most likely the Nephilim were not giants or superhumanish angel offspring. They were simply a mighty warrior clan.

But there was a problem with my reading of the text. I was reading it independent of Jude.

What I Now Think

Nearly a year later, I found myself preparing to teach Jude for a college retreat. As I immersed myself in Jude, I became convinced my previous interpretation of Genesis six could not be right. This is a great example of “Me versus the Bible.” Sometimes I want the Bible to say something else, but I can’t with intellectual integrity get it to bend. As much as I’d prefer a neater, less weird explanation, I can’t get there, not reading Jude at least.

Jude writes:

And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1:6-7 ESV)

So several details became apparent in looking at Jude. Thomas Schreiner in his commentary of Jude provides an excellent summary of these points (my formatting):

We can be almost certain that Jude referred here to the sin of the angels in Gen 6:1-4. The sin the angels committed, according to the Jewish tradition, was sexual intercourse with the daughters of men. Apparently Jude also understood Gen 6:1-4 in the same way. Three reasons support such a conclusion. First, Jewish tradition consistently understood Gen 6:1-4 in this way (1 En. 6-19; 21; 86-88; 106:13-17; Jub 4:15, 22; 5:1; CD 2:17-19; 1QapGen 2:1; T. Reu. 5:6-7; T. Naph. 3:5; 2 Bar. 56:10-14; cf. Josephus, Ant. 1.73). Second, we know from vv. 14-15 that Jude was influenced by 1 Enoch, and 1 Enoch goes into great detail about the sin and punishment of these angels. Jude almost certainly would need to explain that he departed form the customary Jewish view of Gen 6:1-4 if he disagreed with Jewish tradition. The brevity of the verse supports the idea that he concurred with Jewish tradition. Third, the text forges a parallel between the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah and the angels (“In a similar way,” v. 7; hos and ton homoion tropon toutois). The implication is that sexual sin was prominent in both instances.1

I wish I could quote the full discussion that follows in his commentary. Some great stuff in there. He even mentions the origins of the now-famous “Watchers” in Jewish literature. But you’ll have to buy his book. Anyway, the short of the discussion is simply that there’s no way Jude didn’t think angels had sexual relations with humans.

A couple quick side notes. This explains in part why antediluvian earth was so exceedingly wicked and worthy of total destruction. As for the reference to the Nephilim in Numbers 13, it is likely this is a hyperbolic comparison. The Israelites compare themselves to grasshoppers and the Canaanites to giants (Nephilim). And for those who wonder if this kind of unnatural union could still occur, the answer is most certainly no. Remember, Jude said these offenders were locked up until the day of judgment.

Soooooo…..

Who are the Nephilim? I don’t know. Maybe they are the product of the unnatural union between angels and humans. Or maybe they were just mighty warriors as MacArthur supposes (which would explain Numbers 13 in a different way). But regardless, Jude clearly affirms that at one point in human history angels had sexual relations with women. Does this seem a little farfetched? Yes. But this is what the Bible teaches, and “my conscience is captive to the Word of God.”

  1. Thomas R. Schreiner, The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003), 447-448. []

Five Directions of a Missional Church

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Knowing God Takes Time

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“God, however, cannot be downloaded as can the reams of information we have at our fingertips from the Internet. Acquiring information is one thing. Understanding it is another. Learning to become wise by incorporating that information into a framework of understanding, and doing so before God, is yet something else. This, like many other things of value in life, takes time. There are no shortcuts here. Instantaneous knowledge from the Internet is one thing. Learning to know God is quite different. The knowledge of God is, in fact, a lifetime pursuit, not some instantaneous download. God has made himself known in Scripture, but we need to learn how to walk with him through life in the light of what we known of him. This journey never ends until, like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, we finally cross the great river and are welcome to the shores of eternity and the presence of God . Can we, then, set aside the impatience that the Internet tends to breed, and the habits of being distracted which our highly compacted modern lives create, in order to focus on what really matters?

“I am confident we can.”

David Wells, God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), 38.