Book Review: The Briarpatch Gospel

The Briarpatch Gospel: Fearlessly Following Jesus into the Thorny Places By Shayne Wheeler, Tyndale Momentum, 2013, 272 pp., $14.99 paperback.

Briarpatch Gospel coverIt was a bad sign that I found myself echoing the Preacher’s lament that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) very early in Shayne Wheeler’s The Briarpatch Gospel: Fearlessly Following Jesus into the Thorny Places, the latest book in the Hipster-Christian genre of publishing (where authors condemn “Holier Than Thou” Christianity only to replace it with “Cooler Than Thou” and “More Tolerant Than Thou” versions). I know absolutely nothing about Wheeler or his church so I have tried to constrain my critique to his book, without extrapolating it to his person or ministry, but I must admit that it is difficult to judge the latter without assuming that the former must logically be influenced by the views the book betrays. Continue reading Book Review: The Briarpatch Gospel

My Son, the Con Man

My 2.5-year-old son is a con man. Seriously.

This morning he had donuts and juice for breakfast. He then opened the fridge, found a sleeve of fun-size Kit-Kats and used his puppy-dog eyes and pathetic voice to get one of those. A few minutes later this conversation took place:

Elijah: “Daddy, I’m already hungry.”
Daddy: “You’re hungry already?”
Elijah: “Me too! Let’s have cookies!”

This time his charm didn’t work, which caused a small temper tantrum until he realized that wouldn’t work either.

A few minutes later he was laying on the floor playing with some toys and decided he wanted his mommy. When commanding her to come didn’t work, he pulled out his favorite trick: pretending he wants a hug. Continue reading My Son, the Con Man

A Soap Opera of Biblical Proportions

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. (Matthew 14:1-5)

The beginning of chapter 14 is a bit like one of those TV episodes where they start at the end, the go back to the beginning and work their way forward to the end they had already shown you. In verses 1-2, John the Baptist is already dead, but in verse 3, he’s alive and the following verses explain how he ended up dead in verses 1-2. It tweaks this former history teacher’s desire for things to be in proper chronological order, but it’s God-breathed so I guess that supersedes my preferences. :)

“Herod” by James Tissot

The Herod mentioned here is Herod Antipas or Herod the tetrarch (due to his ruling over 1/4 of Palestine). He was the son of Herod the Great, who earlier in Matthew’s gospel had ordered all the baby boys to be killed in an attempt to kill the infant Jesus. It is this Herod to whom Jesus will be sent on the night he was betrayed, before being sent back to Pilate.

Herod the tetrarch had divorced his first wife in order to marry Herodias, who herself had just divorced Herod’s half-brother. Salome, who we meet a few verses later was Herodias’ daughter with her first husband. (In case this isn’t soap-opera-ish enough for you, Herodias was actually the daughter of her husbands’ half-brother, thus making her the daughter-in-law of her own grandfather and the half-niece of both her husbands.) John the Baptist (correctly) saw something wrong with this relationship and publicly condemned Herod and Herodias for it. Herod wanted to kill John, but his fear of John’s followers revolting outweighed his desire for vengeance. Herodias, however, was willing to risk the revolt in order to get rid of John and his public declarations of the sinfulness of their marriage. John’s arrest takes place in Matthew 4:12, he sends messengers to Jesus from prison in Matthew 11:2, and Jesus learns of John’s death in Matthew 14:12-13.

The first 12 verses of chapter 14 comprise a sordid tale and serve mostly to set up what comes next in Matthew’s gospel. This passage can be a tough one to apply because Herod’s actions are so extreme that it’s easy to chalk it up to a historical passage about a person much more sinful than me, but I think there are still some things we can learn because it shows us truths about our own sin nature. Continue reading A Soap Opera of Biblical Proportions

Playing the Harlot

No matter how many times I read the Old Testament prophets, I never cease to be shocked by the graphic language that God uses. I imagine that perhaps his intention in using such language was so that Israel and future readers would indeed be shocked about our sin. I think we sometimes take our sin too lightly (or at least I know I do) because of the free grace we have been given. Even Israel took that view in verses 4-5:

“Even now you say to me, ‘You are my father! You have been my faithful companion ever since I was young. You will not always be angry with me, will you? You will not be mad at me forever, will you?’ This is what you say, but you continually do all the evil that you can.”

Unfortunately, I know that line all too well. I sin, quickly ask for the forgiveness I know is available, and turn around to sin again. In Jeremiah 3, however, God gives us insight into how he views our sin, and I’m not sure one can read it and ever look at sin the same way again. Just look at the language God uses to describe Israel’s unfaithfulness: Continue reading Playing the Harlot