I’ve read more books on pastoral ministry and leadership in my life than I care to recall. Looking back over those many books, I find myself wishing I had returned more often to three particular texts. None of these books focuses on any leadership technique or organizational strategy. There is, of course, a time and place for such books—but the focus of these three texts is on the life of the leader in communion with the people of God. Here are the three books where I’ve found wisdom that has outlasted the latest trends:Continue reading.
Ariel Sabar, writing for The Atlantic, has presented clear and convincing evidence that the so-called Gospel of Jesus’ Wife is a forgery. Dr. Karen King unveiled the fragment in 2012 and suggested that the Coptic text came from a fourth-century copy of an otherwise-unknown second-century Gospel. The clause that gave the fragment its name was found in the fourth line, which read, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife.'”
Sabar’s careful investigation of the fragment’s origins reinforced arguments presented earlier by scholars such as Andrew Bernhard and Francis Watson that the text on the scrap of papyrus was a forgery. Now, even King has admitted that the fragment is probably fake, though she has seen no need to retract her earlier paper.Continue reading.
This exploration of Iron Man is the second in a series of posts exploring theological themes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. You can find the rest of the series here. I recommend using VidAngel to filter the content of this film for your family.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe launched in 2008 with the story of Tony Stark, the man that your parents warned you about.
Tony Stark’s ego, libido, affluence, and intelligence all seem equally unlimited. Continue reading.
When asked to provide a step-by-step process for implementing family ministry, Mark DeVries jokingly provided this progression: “Try something. Fail. Try something else. Fail again. Try something else. Stumble on one thing that works. Repeat what works. Try something else … you get the idea.” I appreciate Mark’s honesty and good humor, and there’s certainly an extent to which this progression rightly describes the way ministry happens! At the same time, most of us in family ministry could use a few more specific definitions and processes as we formulate plans for family ministry in our churches.Continue reading.
Family Ministry Field Guide is not a cure-all for family ministry, and it doesn’t claim to be. Therefore, anyone who comes to this book looking for all the Bible says about families will be disappointed. But so will the person who comes looking to find a new and improved program to upload at his church. Continue reading.
United with Christ the perfect shepherd and sacrificial lamb, all of God’s people become sheep—but not all of God’s people become shepherds. In the new covenant, the elders of the church are uniquely designated as shepherds who join in the work of the Chief Shepherd (John 21:15-19; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 5:4).
But what does it mean to serve as a shepherd leader?Continue reading.
Ariel Sabar has penned a devastating exposé of the forged fragment known as Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. The article is well-researched and well-written—but it also includes a couple of historical errors that seem to have become conventional wisdom in far too many news articles. Continue reading.
What does the book of Ecclesiastes have to say to believers in Jesus Christ today?
Quite a lot, as it turns out.
Sure, the book starts with the refrain, “Emptiness! Emptiness! Everything is emptiness”—but it doesn’t end there.Continue reading.
The fire raged six days before being brought under control. When the smoke cleared on July 23, seven of Rome’s fourteen districts had been partly destroyed and three districts were completely obliterated. Then came the rumors that changed everything.
How the Persecution Began
In the aftermath of the inferno, the Emperor Nero had—according to the Roman historian Tacitus—
food brought from Ostia and neighboring towns, and the price of corn was reduced. … Yet these measures, for all their popular character, earned no gratitude. For a rumor had spread that, while the city was burning, Nero had gone on his private stage and…had sung of the destruction of Troy.
Unable to stop the spread of rumors that he had sung about Troy while his henchmen torched the city, the Emperor Nero—again, in the words of Tacitus—
falsely charged … and punished … the persons commonly called “Christians,” who were already despised. … Those who confessed they were Christians were arrested; … a vast multitude was convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city as on the charge that they were “odious to the human race.” In their deaths they were made the subjects of sport: for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and mauled by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when the day waned, burned as torches for the evening lights. … A feeling of compassion arose towards the sufferers because—though they were indeed guilty and deserving of exemplary capital punishment—they seemed to be being executed not for the good of the public but because of the ferocity of one man.
Why Nero Couldn’t Have Fiddled While Rome Burned (and Probably Didn’t Play the Lyre Either)
The saying that survives from the accusations leveled against Nero is that the emperor “fiddled while Rome burned.”
But Nero couldn’t have fiddled while Rome burned.
The violin wasn’t invented until the sixteenth century, so not even someone as crazy and corrupt as Nero could have played a violin while his city smoldered.
Nero probably didn’t play the lyre or flute during these events either. According to the most reliable reports, Nero was miles away, in Antium, when the fire broke out. Soon after hearing about the fire, Nero headed to Rome. After he reached the city, Nero “opened the Field of Mars and even his own gardens for the relief of the homeless,” according to Tacitus.
The persecution of Christians that resulted from Nero’s false accusation was severe—but it seems to have remained limited to the city of Rome. Later persecutions of Christians broke out in other areas of the Roman Empire for more than two centuries. These persecutions erupted and faded in a variety of places all the way into the fourth century AD. That’s when the Emperor Constantine claimed to have become a Christian. It was Constantine’s confirmation of Galerius’ edict of toleration that finally brought the imperial persecutions to an end.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Christianity, take a look at the book and video series Christian History Made Easy.
Discuss in the Comments:
Watch this video about Emperor Nero and the fire in Rome. What did you learn about the early history of Christianity that you didn’t know before?
Suppose you own a Bible, but it’s translated in a style that’s difficult to understand. Or maybe your Bible has simply worn out from years of usage. If so, you can easily walk into any Christian bookstore and pick up a different version of the Bible.
The earliest Christians couldn’t do that.
There was no “Polycarp Standard Version” or “Saint James Study Bible with Limited Edition Camel-Knee Binding” on anyone’s bookshelf, and there were no printing presses or photocopy machines. Early Christians read the Scriptures from codexes and scrolls. These copies of the Scriptures were hand-written from whatever manuscripts the copyists happened to possess when a copy was needed. And so, it was crucial for copyists to reproduce these texts accurately.
But did they?
Have you ever wondered exactly how the New Testament epistles were written? Did Paul sit down with a fountain pen and a piece of papyrus? Did Peter and James sketch out an outline before they wrote their letters? And what caused the apostles to write their letters in the first place?
It was in the mid-first century that the earliest writings about Jesus Christ started to circulate in the churches. The authors of these early epistles were apostles—Christ-commissioned eyewitnesses of the resurrection. The purpose of their writings wasn’t to provide information about Jesus. Their goal was to apply the message of Jesus in the lives of people who already knew about Jesus, and their words carried the same authority in the churches as Jesus himself (1 Corinthians 14:37).
What are the “lost Gospels”?
The term “lost Gospels” usually refers to ancient writings that were excluded from the New Testament, even though they included supposed recollections of events and teachings from the life of Jesus. A few of these lost Gospels have lasted throughout the centuries. Others survive only in tiny fragments of papyrus or in brief quotations found in the writings of early Christian scholars. Several lost Gospels were discovered anew in the past 100 years. Copies of some texts—such as Gospel of Philip, Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Truth, and Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians—were unearthed in 1945 in Egypt, near a village known as Nag Hammadi.
If a Gospel is defined as an ancient retelling of the events or teachings from Jesus’ life, there are fewer than thirty known Gospels. Unlike the New Testament Gospels, many of the lost Gospels record only isolated teachings or fragmentary incidents from the life of Jesus.
To coincide with what has become one of the biggest movie premieres in history, The Christian Examiner discussed the theology behind the Star Wars universe with me.
Why is our society so enamored with Star Wars?
Incessant merchandising, of course, has been part of it from the very beginning. But there are a couple of additional factors that have sustained the saga as well: Particularly among fans who are in their 40s now, there’s a longing to be swept up anew in the childlike wonder of those original films and to share that wonder with a new generation. It’s also the story of how a powerful warrior falls into darkness because of his lust for more power; because of his son’s willingness to sacrifice his own life, the fallen father—Darth Vader—is reconciled and redeemed. Continue reading.