I follow Jesus Christ, the Living God, and have a heart to know Him and make Him known to others. I currently reside in Jenison, Michigan with my wife, Shana, and children: Liliana, Talia, Hadasah, and Isaac. My occupation is web developer and librarian.
I thought this was really helpful at surveying the modern social justice movement and comparing it with biblical concept of justice, righteousness, and…especially…the gospel! May we hear what God is saying in this, and reject what doesn’t come from Him.
“Test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thes. 5:21)
Jesus’s ministry began with prayer at His baptism (Luke 3:21), then fasted for 40 days before His public ministry (Matt. 4:1-2). During His public ministry, He would frequently draw away to pray, even when throngs of people wanted His time (e.g. Luke 5:15-16). And shortly before his death, He prayed earnestly for His coming crucifixion (Luke 22:39-46), then prayed moments before His death (Luke 23:46).
In fact, Jesus’ time of prayer was so moving to his disciples that it prompted them to ask Him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1).
He answered this, teaching “the Lord’s prayer” (Matt. 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4).
Throughout His ministry He taught them further how to pray, “that they should always pray and not give up,” (Luke 18:1).
The Early Church
Then, after Jesus left, his followers, “all joined together constantly in prayer,” (Acts 1:14).
In fact, prayer was so important to the early church that the leaders prioritized it over their serving of the poor and needy, wanting to, “give our attention to prayer,” (along with ministering the word, see Acts 6:4).
This theme marks the early church at many other turns throughout Acts: when persecution begins to break out (Acts 4), when Peter is imprisoned (Acts 11), and all the way to the end when Paul is at a strange island (Acts 28:8).
New Testament Letters
This powerful thrust to be a praying people is seen in virtually all of the rest of the New Testament:
“Be…faithful in prayer.” (Rom. 12:12)
“I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding;” (1 Cor. 14:15)
“You help us by your prayers,” (2 Cor. 1:11)
“Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Eph. 6:18)
“In every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil. 4:6)
“Devote yourselves to prayer,” (Col. 4:2)
“Pray continually,” (1 Thes. 5:17)
“We constantly pray for you,” (2 Thes. 1:11)
“I urge, then first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people,” (1 Tim. 2:1)
“I constantly remember you in my prayers.” (2 Tim. 1:3)
“I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.” (Philemon 1:22)
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray….The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:13-16)
Husbands are told to conduct themselves with their wives in a certain way, “so that nothing will hinder your prayers,” (1 Pet. 3:7)
“If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life.” (1 John 5:16)
“Building yourselves up in the most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,” (Jude 1:20).
In unfolding the events of the future of God’s people, everything is weighed with, “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people,” (Rev. 5:8).
When looking at the apostle Paul’s ministry and letters to the various churches, there are 3 typical tones of instruction. A tone refers to a certain inflection in sound that creates variance in meaning. A person could say a word or use a phrase changing nothing of the substance but changing the pitch or tone which could convey something different than simply the words themselves. A dear brother pointed out the necessity for “3 tones” in our discipling and was encouraged by the clarity. Then I really saw it in Paul’s life and ministry as well.
First Tone of Instruction
Paul’s first tone of instruction was to teach “how/what”. For example, in the book of Galatians, Paul is instructing them about sound doctrine, which in this case, was the importance of salvation by faith alone, no works included! The “how/what” that he is teaching is sound doctrine in regards to faith and works. Many of us are familiar with this tone, it is the baseline tone of all teaching and instruction.
Second Tone of Instruction
The second tone of instruction is teaching someone how to teach “how/what”. For example, Paul tells Timothy in chapter 4 of his first letter to Timothy, “Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching…” Paul is teaching Timothy to teach sound doctrine. He is not teaching Timothy sound doctrine in the tone that he did with the Galatians, instead telling Timothy to teach sound doctrine.
Third Tone of Instruction
The third tone of instruction is one that is not always easily recognized or taken into account yet nearly as crucial to a gospel movement as the rest. In this tone Paul is teaching how to teach others how to teach “how/what”. A good example is in the letter to Titus. Titus was in Crete and Paul says he left him there “so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed.” In Crete, there were men who were teaching things that did not align with sound doctrine, they were “insubordinate, empty talkers, and deceivers..” In order to solve this disorder, Paul does not write a letter of instruction to those false teachers to tell them of sound doctrine like he did for the Galatians. Paul doesn’t even tell Titus to teach sound doctrine like he instructed Timothy to do. Instead, he taught Titus, to teach and raise up leaders/teachers (elders) to teach and correct these false teachers, and provide right instruction to the people. Amongst other reasons, many “revival”-like movements come and they go because the leaders and the pioneers do not grasp the importance of this 3rd tone of instruction and lack the willingness to embrace the intentional tactfulness of instructing in the 3rd tone. One person was never meant to bear the burden of teaching and discipling the many. In other words, tone one teaching by itself, lacks the capacity to see the longevity of depth and width in a gospel movement. Instead, the call is to pour deeply into a few faithful people, teach them the Word, then teach them to teach the Word to a faithful few, then teach them to teach others to teach others the Word.
It is balanced, compassionate, and I believe will convict anyone who reads (it did me). Most importantly, it is thoroughly biblical (and trying to bring us back to Scripture), Christ-centered, and gospel-centered in its approach to these very raw, painful, and difficult issues.
I believe all who can work through the 21 pages, with some large words (Google is only a click away ;), will be greatly built up in the Lord on this matter.
Though a lot more could be said here, what is stated below speaks to foundational elements. Without which, any continued building on these matters will be on sinking sand.
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a black man, tragically died with a white policeman kneeling on his neck.
This heartbreaking and awful scene (which, sadly, seemed all-too-familiar of heart-wrenching mistreatment of the black population through the centuries) mixed with existing tensions. The combination catalyzed outrage, protests, and riots.
Further, it deepened the polarization of an already divided country and church, this time on the extent of existing racial injustices and how the church should respond.
Thankfully, our God isn’t a, “mute idol,” (1 Cor. 12:2). He speaks on this to all with ears to hear.
God Sides With No One
First, let’s begin with Joshua 5.
Israel is about to fight Jericho to begin their long promised Canaan conquest (see Deut. 7:1-2).
Up to this point, Israel: wandered in the desert 40 years following God through a cloud and fire; endured 400 years of slavery in Egypt; were, “the fewest of all peoples,” (Deut. 7:7); had God’s special love (Deut. 7:8); and God promised they’d conquer the land (Lev. 20:24; Deut. 7:8; etc.).
In contrast, the Canaanites about to be attacked: lived 400 years in sin and wickedness (Gen. 15:12-16); sacrificed their children to idols (Lev. 20:2, 22-23); consulted evil spirits (Lev. 20:6, 22-23); committed perverted sexuality (Lev. 20:11-17, 22-23); and more (Lev 20; 25; etc.).
Surely God chose Israel, right?…Well, shortly before Israel began battling, Joshua (leader of Israel) met God’s armed angel. Joshua asked: “Are you for us or for our enemies?” (Josh. 5:13).
“‘Neither,’ he replied…Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence…” (Josh. 5:14).
God took no sides here, and, “shows no favoritism,” anywhere (Acts 10:34). He takes no sides with the police or the marginalized. God stands alone on His side, seeing who will join Him.
A Marginalized, Innocent Man Murdered By The Authorities
Next, consider the only absolutely innocent man in history: Jesus. He led a marginalized community. Then the authorities gruesomely executed him.
2 from his community tried to understand this, when the resurrected Jesus clandestinely joined them. He asked, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” (Luke 24:17a).
They were still and sad (Luke 24:17b), but replied, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (Luke 24:18).
Pause…They didn’t recognize Jesus among them. They didn’t understand the events properly themselves. And they had the audacity to presume that Jesus was the one who didn’t know.
Then, 2 things changed everything:
Jesus rebukes them for not looking to Scripture to understand their experiences. He then teaches what the Bible says on the matter (Luke 24:25-27, 32).
They pleaded that Jesus would stay with them (Luke 24:28-29). So He did, and, “their eyes were opened and they recognized Him,” (24:31).
From there they left with a completely hope-filled understanding of Jesus’ sad and unjust death.
Following this pattern, we also must:
Humbly look to Scripture to best understand, discern, and respond to our experiences.
Plead with Jesus to come near us and reveal Himself to us.
Job’s Revelation & Repentance
Next, consider God’s revelation through the book of Job.
Though the reader of Job understands why Job suffered terribly (Job 1-2), Job and his friends don’t. 70% of the book (by chapter count) is a debate on the “why” behind Job’s experiences:
Job interprets his own experiences 1 way (he assumed he was faultless).
The 3 friends interpret his experience a different way (they assumed he deserved this).
Sound similar to the systemic racism debates over the decades?…After the arguments, a young man wisely rebukes Job and his 3 friends (Job 32-37). Then God:
Corrects Job (Job 38-41).
Rebukes Job’s 3 friends for speaking wrongly (Job 42:7-9).
Never explains “the why” behind Job’s experience.
Begins by asking things like, “Who is this…Who determined its measurements…who shut in the sea…?” (Job 38:2-8). This contrasts Job’s, “Why?” (cf. Job 3). In other words, God wants focus on Himself (the, “Who,”), rather than the “Why?” we naturally debate.
Like Luke 24, once Job sees God, all changes: “Now my eyes see you; therefore I despise myself, and repent,” (Job 42:5). Then Job prays for his friends, and is truly restored.
So far, we see that we struggle to discern God’s ways and justice, our hope is revelation of Jesus/God (leading to repentance), and this comes clearest from Scripture and prayer.
These principles are magnified even further when considering true biblical unity.
Long before race divisions in the U.S., Jews segregated from (Gal. 2:11-13), showed hostility toward (Luke 9:54), and excluded from salvation (Acts 15:1) the Gentiles.
In contrast, the gospel reveals great unity between Jews and Gentiles in 3 important areas:
We are one human race, equally created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27; Acts 17:26)
We are equally condemned as sinners before a holy God (Rom 2:9)
We are equally forgiven through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection (Rom. 3:22)
In fact, in Romans, Paul spells out that both Jew and Gentile equally share sin and redemption through Christ.
As such: “He himself is our peace, who has made us both [Jews and Gentiles] one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility,” (Eph. 2:14)
Such groups that were culturally at war are now one in Christ (Col. 3:11), told to greet each other with kisses (1 Cor. 16:20) and chastised by the Lord for not uniting in heart and body to celebrate communion as one church (1 Cor. 11:17-34).
Outside a revelation of God and His Gospel, all efforts to unify will be shallow at best. And they will be unified around someone/something other than Christ and Him crucified!
Pray Against Satanic Division
Lastly: “the Lord hates…one who sows discord among brothers,” (Proverbs 6:16-19).
And: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but…against the spiritual forces of evil,” (Ephesians 6:12).
The church must know that we fight satanic efforts of division and discord (over skin color and a million other things), as well as efforts of false unity not centered on Christ and His gospel.
Jesus prayed directly about this (John 17). And He tells us to pray desperately against our enemy, like a widow with only an unjust judge to help us (Luke 18:1-8). Our life depends on it.
In conclusion, all of this is not to minimize or trivialize the very real and raw and sad and tragic death of George Floyd and other events that have catalyzed this maelstrom of racial tensions.
No. Instead, I pray this gives a proper foundation to tackle this in God’s way, seeing with God’s eyes, for God’s glory, all the way through.
More than 400 years elapsed between the writing of the Old Testament and New Testament. During this time, various books were written about God and the Bible, including 1 Enoch. But none of these have been (or should be) included as part of the Bible, including 1 Enoch.
The tricky part of 1 Enoch (also called The Book of Enoch) is that Jude (a book of the New Testament) seems to quote from it:
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all…’
So if Jude is part of our Bible, as some argue, why shouldn’t 1 Enoch also be in our Bible?
Here are my quick and dirty reasons why Christians can confidently exclude 1 Enoch as part of our Bible, and happily use the same 66 books the church has used for about 2,000 years (considered the Protestant Canon of today):
Jesus references a fixed collection of books (we now call the Old Testament) as God’s Scripture, which excluded 1 Enoch. This is seen in Luke 24:44 where Jesus speaks of “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.” To this day, those are the 3 sections of the Old Testament Bible, commonly called the Tanakh (which itself is an acronym for these 3 sections: Ta/Torah [Law of Moses] + Na/Nevi’im [the Prophets] + Kh/Ketuvim [Writings]). Each section was a fixed unit and we know exactly which books comprised it in the time of Jesus (and 1 Enoch wasn’t there). Similarly, in Luke 11:51 (and Matt. 23:35), Jesus references “bookends” of martyrs. Namely, He speaks of Abel as the first martyr and Zechariah as the last matyr. Why did He choose these 2 martyrs as starting and ending points? The death of Abel is recorded in Genesis 4, whereas the Zechariah Jesus refers to is found in 2 Chron. 24. Though there were other martyrs that died after Zechariah in 2 Chron. 24, he is the very last martyr listed in 2 Chronicles. This is significant because the fixed Jewish Bible of Jesus’ time began with Genesis and ended with 2 Chronicles (as it does today). Thus, this seemingly small reference to martyrs found in Luke 11 and Matthew 23 speak loudly that Jesus (and his audience) respected a fixed set (and order) of Old Testament books that decidedly has always excluded 1 Enoch.
The New Testament consistently appeals to Old Testament books as Scripture. This usually includes a preface like, “Scripture says,” or “God says,” or “Have you not read,” etc. I’ve read that Jesus does this with 24 of the 39 Old Testament books, and of course other New Testament writers extend this. It is significant that they never introduce 1 Enoch (or any other writing outside of the Old Testament) in this kind of a way, even though they are aware of (and do reference) other writings not in the Bible (see Jude 1:14-15, and below, for instance).
Certain phenomena about Old Testament events (that are not found in the Old Testament itself) were known and recognized by Jesus and the apostles, just as such phenomena were also written in various books between the Old and New Testaments. For instance, they acknowledge that angels were part of the giving of the Mosaic law (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19), that the names of the magicians in Moses’ day were, “Jannes and Jambres,” (2 Tim. 3:8), that Moses, “was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians,” (Acts 7:22), etc. And though things like the angels being present with Moses could perhaps be hinted at in the Old Testament (Deut. 33:2; Psalm 68:17), they are more expressly discussed in inter-testamental books (that is, books written between the Old and New Testaments). This does not mean Jesus and the apostles thereby grant authority to the entire contents of these books anymore than they grant authority to the entirety of what the Pharisees or others of their day said when they agree with them on certain points of doctrine (cf. Matt. 16:6 and 23:3). Instead, we simply conclude that events affirmed by the New Testament and1 Enoch (or other such books) are correct because the New Testament affirms those events, while no such authority should be granted to sections of 1 Enoch (or other such books) where the New Testament is silent. Further, in 1 Enoch, I’m not sure it’s correct to believe that the author originated the content of the book as much as he may have repeated content already widely held by others of his time. In either case, we continue to conclude that the current contents of our Old and New Testaments are authoritative in ways that 1 Enoch is not.
Jesus’ sheep know his voice(John 10:27). Thus, we should look at what the church (as well as Jews before Christ) received as God’s Bible throughout history. In doing this, we realize that it has been virtually unanimous that the Jews and Christians have excluded 1 Enoch from God’s word throughout history. Guthrie writes that, while the early church father Tertullian affirmed 1 Enoch‘s authenticity, “in this he is unsupported by any others,” (Donald Guthrie’s, New Testament Introduction, 3rd Ed., 1970, p. 917). And as of my writing this, according to the Wikipedia entry on the Book of Enoch: “While the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church consider the Book of Enoch as canonical, other Christian groups regard it as non-canonical or non-inspired.” Again, is it conceivable that Jesus’ sheep know his voice (John 10:27) and yet the vast majority of his sheep throughout the ages have totally missed that 1 Enoch is part of Christ’s word/voice the way the rest of the Bible is?
The Bible quotes plenty of non-biblical sources. Joshua mentions, “The book of Jasher,” (Josh. 10:13). Numbers references, “the Book of the Wars of the LORD,” (Num. 21:14). King David is written about in, “the Chronicles of Nathan the prophet, and in the Chronicles of Gad the seer,” (1 Chron. 29:29). Paul quotes non-Christian poets (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12) as well as referencing a letter he wrote that is clearly not part of the New Testament (1 Cor. 5:9). Thus, having Jude quote 1 Enoch makes it no more part of the Bible than all of these non-biblical sources quoted throughout Scripture. Again, it is one thing to show agreement or reference points on specific elements of books, but it is another thing altogether to say such-and-such a book is completely trustworthy and part of the Bible. God forbid!
On April 26, 2020, Jack Langham–a friend, mentor and co-laborer in the gospel–passed away. Jack was an evangelist. Maybe more so than anyone I’ve met.
On June 3, 2020, I had the honor of speaking for 5 minutes at his funeral. Here is an edited version of that talk.
Jack’s 4 Min. Eulogy
My name is Brian Holda.
Jack was a friend, a mentor in many ways, and most of all a dear brother in Christ to me, and I’m honored to speak at his memorial.
I’d known Jack for about 20 years, especially starting when I went to Hope College, and he and Sue routinely travelled 2 and a half hours each way to visit and minister Christ to us students.
He had so many traits I admired, but the thing that sticks out most was his straightforward truth-telling. He didn’t beat around the bush…I have a feeling most of you know what I mean. But it was really what us college kids needed most.
This continued after college, when I was engaged, and Jack took me on a walk to talk about the birds and the bees. Anyone else relate? Maybe it was just me. Anyway…he assumed I needed help and he was just the guy to give it. It was awkward at first, but I was touched by his love and frankness to help me out. And here I am with our fifth child on the way, so can’t argue with the results.
But much more, Jack’s straightforward truth-telling was the most moving to me when Jack shared about Jesus with anyone who would listen…I think many of you know what I mean. He explained to us how Jesus met him after telling God, “this life sucks,” (even though everything seemed pretty decent on the outside). And he had such a love and urgency that others would turn to follow Jesus and be saved from their sins as well.
In fact, one day he told me I needed to learn how to share this Jesus with others at my college the way he did, and so he was going to take me around Hope College to mentor me on a beautiful Saturday morning.
We went and had great conversations about Jesus, but I’ll never forget an encounter we had in the snack lounge. We sat down with an older man, and Jack made small talk at first. Then he asked him a question about Jesus. The man got so upset that he irately told Jack to beat it, in so many words. I was a bit embarrassed for myself and Jack, but Jack didn’t seem to flinch. And we soon were talking to the next person about the hope he had in Jesus.
That encounter was tense, uncomfortable, and what I feared the most. Maybe some of you here today even had similar exchanges with Jack yourself. But I keep asking myself, “Why?”
“Why would Jack take time to seek out others only to be scolded on an otherwise perfectly sunny Saturday?”
“Why would someone endure so many people giving him uncomfortable and unwelcome faces during his time on earth?”
Well…right now, Jack gets the privilege of looking into the only face that matters: Jesus. And surely seeing Jesus smile at you face-to-face is worth seeing a million frowns in this lifetime. I think Jack did it to make Jesus smile. He also, as I recall, felt like he wanted to make up for 40 years he sadly lived without Jesus. And finally, I know Jack shared Jesus (knowing some will reject) because he hoped and longed to help others find the same joy of being forgiven that he did. If you’re one of those people who had those uncomfortable conversations with Jack, he risked it because he loves you and thought you were worth the risk. And the only thing that could add to the joy Jack has right now with Jesus is if we, too, can join them both when we pass as well.
As the Bible says: “How precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints”.
In Jeremiah 23, God confronts false prophets. We don’t know how many there were, but if 1 Kings 22 gives any clue, there were likely MANY more false ones than true ones.
I get the impression that false prophets always outnumber true ones (both from Scripture and experience). This includes (and maybe is even more prevalent?) at the present time.
In any case, the prevailing flaw of the false prophets of Jeremiah 23 was their insistence on something they called, “the burden of the LORD,” (23:33, 34, 36, 38).
In fact, God was so nauseated by this focus that He told Jeremiah that, when someone asks him for, “the burden of the LORD,” he is to tell them that they are God’s burden themselves, and will be cast off! (23:33)
What is the burden of the Lord?
In context, this “burden of the Lord,” seems to relate to inner feelings, “unctions,” etc. These are subjective, internal notions, as opposed to God’s objective, external, revealed word. In other words, they were fashioning their false prophecies and concepts of God based on what they felt within.
Thus, “they speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD,” (Jer. 23:16), and, “the burden is every man’s own word,” (Jer. 23:36).
Unlike the false prophets, Jeremiah, “stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word,” (Jer. 23:18).
As a result, in contrast to deceptive inner thoughts and feelings, Jeremiah (like all true prophets) spoke according to God’s objective, external word, as the LORD revealed it to him.
In fact, God (through Jeremiah) imagined a day where his people would stop looking to internal feelings/senses, and instead look to God’s objective, revealed word (23:35-36).
What God is Saying to Us
Though Jeremiah was written roughly 500 years before Christ, it still is part of God’s, “living,” word (Heb. 4:12) that speaks to us today.
Consider, for instance, that Jesus could quote words God had spoken privately to Moses in 1500 B.C. as being words God was publicly speaking to the audience of Jesus’ day (Matt. 22:31-32), 1,500 years later.
And in the same way, are we willing to receive the true words of God from 2,500 years ago in Jeremiah 23 as words God is speaking to us today?
If so–if Jeremiah 23 is just as true today as it was then–then I believe we must grieve right now.
I say this because it seems there is a large emphasis on internal feelings, experiences, subjective understandings of things, etc., and such notions seem to dominate the discourse of the day. Even, God forbid, among the church!
Meanwhile, there seems so little emphasis on God’s objective, external, revealed word that all of our feelings, experiences, and thoughts must bow to.
I sincerely hope I’m reading things wrong. Either way, I plead with you to seriously consider with me what God is speaking to us through Jeremiah 23 (as well, of course, as the rest of Scripture–God’s external, objective, and revealed word for us).