“Let Ev’ry Heart Prepare Him Room”: A 2013 Advent Poem

“Let Ev’ry Heart Prepare Him Room”
December 24, 2013
Advent Poem

From the virgin Mary’s womb,
The Savior came, his death to loom
From manger low to borrowed tomb,
When died he for his Bride, as Groom,
But rose to undo curse and gloom.
Let ev’ry heart prepare him room!

 

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N. T. Wright on the Ancient Modern Secular Worldview

How “modern” is our modern and prevalent secular worldview? In The Case for the Psalms, N. T. Wright says it’s not very modern at all:

The main difference between the worldview of the first Christians and the worldview of most modern Western persons has nothing to do with “ancient” and “modern.” It has almost nothing to do, except at a tangent, with the development of modern science. The main difference is that the first Christians, being first-century Jews who believed that Israel’s God had fulfilled his ancient promises in Jesus of Nazareth, were what I and others call “creational monotheists”….The ancient Jews who shaped this belief in creational monotheism, and the early Christians who developed it in this startling new way, were doing so in a world of many philosophies and worldviews (17).

What kinds of ancient worldviews is Wright referring to? Ones like Epicureanism. The philosophy…proposed that the world was not created by a god or the gods and that if such beings existed, they were remote from the world of humans. Our world and our own lives were simply part of an ongoing self-developing cosmos in which change, development, decay, and death itself operated entirely under their own steam. At a stroke, this philosophy offered liberation from any fear of the gods or of what terrors might be in store for people after their deaths. But by the same stroke, it cut off any long-term or ultimate hope. At a popular level, the message was this: shrug your shoulders and enjoy life as best you can. Sounds familiar? This is the philosophy that our modern Western world has largely adopted as the norm (17-18).

The problem with twenty-first century secularists, then, is not their rejection of the Bible’s ancient worldview for an embrace of a new and fresh and enlightened way of seeing reality. Epicureanism is an ancient worldview as well, but it has been retrieved in Western modernity as though it were a new thing (19).

There’s nothing new under the sun.

The important news in all this? Creational and covenantal monotheism is likewise both ancient and modern, rooted in God’s covenant with Abraham as described in the book of Genesis, elaborated in the great covenantal writings of the first five books of the Bible, developed in the traditions we find throughout the Old Testament, and still thriving where the followers of Jesus learn to pray and live his Psalm-soaked gospel….The biblical worldview, I will suggest, is both far more ancient than Epicureanism and also far more up-to-date (19-20).

From Jechoniah to Jesus in Matthew’s Genealogy

Matthew’s genealogy has three parts (1:2-6a, 6b-11, 12-16). The third part is the most obscure because of the names after Zerubbabel. While the characters of Jechoniah, Shealtiel, and Zerubbabel are in the Old Testament, the next nine names (Abiud, Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan, and Jacob) are from sources unknown to us.

Important to observe is that Matthew doesn’t draw a straight line from Joseph to Jesus (the 13th and 14th in this section of the record, cf. 1:17) but moves sideways to Mary first: “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ” (Matt 1:16). The “whom” is a feminine relative pronoun here and can only refer to Mary. The implication? Mary is Jesus’ mother, but Joseph is not his father. So how did Jesus end up in Mary’s womb? That’s what the next section, Matthew 1:18-25, will narrate.

The third section of the genealogy covers key events like “the deportation to Babylon” (1:12), the end of the exile and the return to Jerusalem for the temple’s reconstruction (see the Old Testament accounts involving “Zerubbabel”), and then approximately five hundred years (from “Abiud to Jacob,” 1:13-15). Much happens during those five centuries, such as the Babylonians being conquered by the Persians, who were conquered by the Greeks, who were conquered by the Romans. To put it another way, the third section of Matthew’s genealogy takes you through the time period represented by the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (in Dan 2).

“The Virgin Birth”: A 2013 Advent Poem

“The Virgin Birth”
December 21, 2013
An Advent Poem

If Jesus is the son of Mary
But of Joseph too,
Then the claim of incarnation
Simply isn’t true.

If the virgin birth is only
Fanciful delusion,
The Good News isn’t good at all
But biblical confusion.

If this man from Nazareth
Was like us–merely human–
Then no atonement has been made,
And sins are not forgiven.

And if the Son of David
Was not the Son of God,
Then we should never trust in
Such a messianic fraud.

But if the Holy Spirit came
Upon a virgin girl
To conceive within her womb
The Savior of the world,

If the boy whom Mary bore
And wrapped in swaddling cloths
Was fully God and fully man
Upon a bloody cross,

Then the promises of God,
Foretold in ancient stories,
Have come to pass now and at last
With new creation glories.

 

Can You Reject the Bible’s Teaching about the Virginal Conception and Be a Christian?

Al Mohler says NO. Here’s an excerpt from his answer:

“Christians must face the fact that a denial of the virgin birth is a denial of Jesus as the Christ. The Savior who died for our sins was none other than the baby who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of a virgin. The virgin birth does not stand alone as a biblical doctrine, it is an irreducible part of the biblical revelation about the person and work of Jesus Christ. With it, the Gospel stands or falls.”

 

Twas Mercy, All of It

In 2010 our family moved to Louisville so that I could enter the PhD program at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. As a bastion of sound doctrine and academic excellence, and with a faculty second to none, Southern Seminary was already appealing for doctoral work. But when I was living in Houston in 2005, God used a man named Jim Hamilton to impact my life, and I wanted even then to pursue a PhD under his supervision. When he eventually joined the SBTS faculty, the time seemed right for me to apply. He agreed to supervise me, and so things were in motion.

We left Texas to move to a city where we had no friends or family. We arrived in Louisville on August 2, 2010. The journey began, and it was not easy. The rigor of the program, the pursuit of job and income stability, and the multiplication of children all made for a fascinating and sanctifying combination of life challenges. We came to Louisville with one kid, Jensen, who wasn’t even two yet. He’s now five, and yesterday on graduation day, he said with a smile, “Daddy, I’m proud of you graduating.” Two other boys entered the fray as well along the way. Stacie was pregnant with Logan during my first year in the program, and she was pregnant with Owen during my last year in it. We didn’t frame it that way on purpose, but God did.

We’ve watched the Lord provide throughout these years, and we are amazed. Almost two years ago, he brought Kosmosdale Baptist Church into our path, and we are blessed to serve that church. God’s will is perfect, his timing is wise, and his care is unfailing.

Stacie and I praise the faithfulness of God who has brought us to the end of a long journey, and I do mean us. Doctoral work is not easy on a family. Many long days, long nights, long papers, and a long dissertation! I have a loving and supportive wife who is a gift from God to me. During our eight years of marriage, I have been in school somewhere writing papers for someone, and now a wonderful and refreshing change of pace has arrived.

But it was good to do a hard thing. A goal can be worth the blood, sweat, and tears. During my PhD work, Dr Hamilton once said, “When you’re standing on that stage on graduation day, you want to be able to say, ‘I’m standing here because of the mercy of God!'” Yesterday, December 13,2013,  was graduation day, and as I walked onto the stage when my name was called, I felt the truth of those words. It was by mercy, all of it. In hindsight we can see blessings that we failed to acknowledge along the way. Things that looked like obstacles turned out to be opportunities. God meant it all for good, ordering our steps at every point.

Learning is a joy and privilege, and I’m so grateful for years of study at Southern Seminary. God rained mercy on these years, and we’re still drenched. May the fruit of this academic labor bring him glory and serve the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Semester #6 at SBTS

This Fall of 2013, my journey as a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, under Jim Hamilton’s doctoral supervision, has come to an end.

My dissertation was “Resurrection Hope in Daniel 12:2: An Exercise in Biblical Theology,” and I submitted my Defense draft copies on September 20 for my doctoral committee to read. This committee consisted of Jim Hamilton, Peter Gentry, and Robert Plummer, and my External Reader was Stephen Dempster–a team I affectionately dubbed the Academic Avengers. The Avengers assembled and began reading the dissertation. At 3 pm on Monday, November 4, I successfully defended the dissertation. After completing any final edits and adjustments to the project, I uploaded my last draft on November 18. That day was “the end” for that project.

Friday December 13, 2013 was graduation day, my last official day as a student at Southern Seminary. I walked across the stage in Alumni Chapel and received the degree for a PhD in Biblical Studies. Journey complete. Praise the Lord!