The Ark & The Basket

Earlier this year, I read through the book of Genesis, and now I’ve decided it’s time to start reading through the book of Exodus as well. Part 1 transitioning into Part 2, if you will. Exodus has some pretty flashy, memorable stories, and I assume most of us are pretty well acquainted with the opening scene where Moses’ mother faces the dilemma of bearing a male child during an Egyptian edict to kill all Hebrew male babies. As a way of trying to protect and save her son from the Egyptian abortionists, however, she put him in a “basket made of bulrushes and daubed with bitumen and pitch” and placed him among the reeds of a river bank (Ex. 2:3).

I was reading a commentary earlier this morning and came across a Hebrew word study of the passage that revealed something incredibly striking that the author of Exodus is trying to convey to its readers. Check this out:

“One can hardly imagine her (Moses’ mother) relief at secretly and successfully bearing a male child, followed by her pain at having to place him into the river, and to do so in a way that would actually save his life. The parallels to Noah’s ark—the Hebrew word for “basket” is used only one other  place in the Bible, namely for Noah’s “ark”—let us know that God was acting not only to save one baby boy, or even one nation, but also to redeem the whole creation through Moses and Israel.”†

How interesting it is that the author invokes the meaning of Noah’s ark–a grand ship constructed to evade the waters of God’s righteous wrath and to carry the seeds of creation and humankind–and applies it to directly to the miniature ‘ark’ of a handmade basket, which will, similarly, evade the waters of Pharaoh’s evil wrath and carry the seed of God’s redemptive plan for all of creation and humankind.

Indeed, the story of Moses’ abortion-evading birth is not the only story happening here. In view of the author’s artful word usage, its apparent that the author is impregnating this scene in particular with the theme of biblical redemption in general.

This scene points backwards towards redemption (Noah’s ark) and points forwards towards redemption (God delivering Israel from Egyptian slavery in crossing the Red Sea, and also God using Israel as his instrument to bring redemption to the whole world, whose ultimate seed is Jesus Christ).

This scene does not simply function as merely the opening episode of the book of Exodus; rather, it is window through we which we can see the entirety of God’s purposes to redeem the world through the promise of Israel: Jesus Christ.

Something else to mull on… Do you happen to know any other Hebrew baby in the Bible who was born during an abortion edict, grew up in Egypt as a child, and was royalty yet was laid in a basket-like stable? You got it, Jesus Christ himself.

The Bible doesn’t mess around.


† Theology of Work, The Work of Midwifery and Mothering | TOW Bible Commentary.

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If Your Bible Kept A Diary of You, What Would It Say?

Some of us Christians keep a journal/diary while we read the Bible for the purpose of documenting the truths we have gleaned in that moment of reading and also for the purpose of documenting what we have learned over time. Keeping a journal of our relationship to God’s Word, therefore, can be a fruitful way of etching God’s truths deeper into our minds in particular and can also be a rewarding way of seeing God’s faithfulness through the course of our lives in general.

So, journaling about our relationship to the Bible can be a very good thing. But have you ever thought about it in reverse, such that your Bible kept a diary of you? Meaning, some of us keep a journal/diary about our relationship to the Bible, but what if our Bibles kept a journal/diary of its relationship to us?

I know that might be really weird to think about. But imagine that your Bible kept a diary about you. Of course, this is a fanciful thing, as a Bible cannot actually write in a diary. But imagine it real quick. What if it documented how you treated it? If we think through the perspective that the Bible would have towards us, maybe it will reveal more about our own bad habits than we would personally like to believe or admit.

Let’s just say that the following diary entries come from a Bible that sits in the home of an average Christian in America:

January 15th: Been resting for a week. A few nights after the first of the year, my owner opened me, but no more. Another New Year’s resolution gone wrong.

February 3rd: The owner picked me up and rushed me off to Sunday school.

February 23rd: Cleaning day. Dusted. Put back in my place.

April 2nd: Busy day. Owner had to present a Bible lesson at the society meeting. Quickly looked up a lot of references.

May 5th: Grandma is in town. Such a comfortable place here in her lap.

May 9th: Grandma made a tear fall on John 14.

May 10th: Grandma is gone. Back in my old place.

May 20th: Baby born. They wrote his name in one of my pages.

July 1st: Packed in a suitcase, off for vacation.

July 20th: Still in the suitcase. Almost everything else taken out.

July 25th: Home again. Quite a journey, don’t see why I went.

August 5th: Cleaned again. Put in a prominent place. The minister is coming over for dinner.

August 20th: Owner wrote Grandma’s death in the family record and left an extra pair of glasses between my pages.

December 31st: Owner just found his glasses. Wonder if he’ll make any resolutions about me for this next year.

Now, I wonder what the diary of your Bible would say about you. What would it write down about how you have used it?


The following blog is inspired by James McDonald’s 2nd sermon in his “Why I Believe The Bible” series. 

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Disinfecting vs. Discipling

What is the difference between ‘disinfecting’ and discipling Christians?    

The difference between disinfecting and discipling Christians is in many ways analogous to the difference between an oil change and a road trip. Changing the oil of the car is undoubtedly good and necessary for the vehicle’s functionality. However, if changing the oil is all that ever happens to this car, then it is as functional as a car with no oil at all. This is because cars were designed for locomotion. Certainly, while oil changes are necessary for a car’s locomotion, the end goal of a car is not oil changes, but locomotion.

In the same way, Christians are like cars in that they need ‘disinfection,’ but not as the ultimate priority. To be sure, ‘disinfecting’ the sin out of Christians hearts is undoubtedly good and necessary for a Christians spiritual vitality. However, if ‘disinfecting’ is all that ever happens to the Christian, then he is as functional as a non-Christian for God’s kingdom purposes after all. This is because Christians are designed for mission and discipleship. Certainly, while ‘disinfection’ is necessary in order to fuel effective Christian living, the end goal of the Christian is not ‘disinfection,’ but discipleship.

Besides, true ‘disinfection’ happens only in the context of discipleship anyways. Disinfection without discipleship is a disinfection that was never substantiated after all. This is because we do not become sanctified primarily by cleaning up the bad in our lives, but rather by engaging in the good of God’s mission. In other words, if you’re not moving forward, then you’re probably moving backwards, even if you think you’re not moving in either direction. Regression tends to give the illusion of mere stagnation; yet, its in the perspective of progression that we finally see ‘stagnation’ for what it really is–regression.

Here’s the paradox: if driving is the goal, then oil changes will happen at a whim. Though annoying at the time, oil changes will feel necessary, inconsequential, and matter-of-fact because they are part of what will allow you to do what you were designed to do: drive. Similarly, if engaging in God’s mission is the goal, then sanctification will happen more naturally and effectively in the process. On the other hand, if oil change is the main, sole preoccupation, it will simply seem like drudgery because it will seem like it is for no real purpose. However, if it is placed in the context of the thrill of driving, changing the oil will be done with a completely different attitude. But if no driving is happening, changing the oil will feel like a waste of time and a burdensome, boring, and picky chore. Likewise, the only way to not subject your sanctification to this same attitude is unless you are constantly being caught up in the thrilling momentum of God’s kingdom.

Like oil changes versus locomotion, disinfecting versus discipling is the striking contrast between potential energy and active energy.

Like cars, Christians were not designed to merely “be fixed” as much as “be fast.”

The “fast” part simply entails the process of constant fixing (as we all know is the case with any vehicle in constant use). So get driving, that’s what you were designed for. Oil changes will just have to happen along the way.

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Members vs. Leaders

How is the experience of a church member different as a leader instead of just an audience participant?    

The experience of a church member is different in that his involvement in the church is naturally much broader than the leaders of the church. I think the dynamic of an army provides helpful analogies about how we might think about the difference between the experiences of how a church leader and a church member engage in the Great Commission. For example, foot soldiers naturally assume a broader potential for geographical impact than their generals do, and this is because of the job description of each parties inherent role. Foot soldiers invade physical space to a much greater degree than do their generals, and this is because the direct role of the foot soldiers is to effectively conquer space while the direct role of a general is to administratively send out others to conquer space. Indeed, the mission is the same, but the roles are different. Similarly, church members who are not leaders intrinsically assume a broader potential for geographical or relational impact into secular environments by virtue of their jobs that they vocationally assume. Church leaders, however, naturally assume a narrower potential for relational, secular impact because their relative environments are simply not as non-Christian as their lay members. Nevertheless, while both parties equally assume their roles in the same mission, their job descriptions entail differences of design and function. It is important, therefore, for each party to recognize their inherent need upon each other and their obligation to celebrate, serve, and honor each other–for they are not two, but one.

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Big Request & Big Risks | JD Greear Excerpt

The following blog is a small excerpt out of JD Greear’s latest book, Gaining By Losing, which analogously explains why God desires us to ask big requests and to take big risks in his name:

The story is told that Alexander the Great had a general who approached him after many years of service to ask if he would pay for the wedding of his daughter. Alexander agreed and told him to obtain the funds needed from the treasurer. Soon thereafter the treasurer came to Alexander, complaining that this general was taking advantage of Alexander’s generosity. He was asking for an exorbitant amount of money, enough to host the largest wedding Greece had ever seen.

Alexander thought about the situation for a moment, then waved his hand dismissively and said, “Grant him his request in full.” The treasurer looked bewildered. Alexander continued, “My general pays me two compliments: He believes that I am rich enough to afford his request and that I am generous enough to grant it. In assuming these two things, he honors me.”

Our God is so good, gracious, and powerful that we can never ask or assume too much of him. We don’t offend him with large requests; we offend him with small ones!”


JD Greear, Gaining By Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), chapter 11.

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Engaging the Society Narrative: Absolute Negative Freedom | Tim Keller

I recently read Tim Keller’s latest book, Preaching, for a seminary class, and it was simply incredible. Yes, while the general thrust of the book is certainly angled for preachers, it is without a doubt a book for all Christians. (In fact, had I been the author, I would have renamed the title in order to broaden the target audience. And I’m kind of upset the title is “Preaching” because it’s highly likely most Christians won’t dare to pick it up.)

The main thing I appreciated about this book is its commentary on how the gospel intersects all cultural narratives and affirms/challenges their relative, foundational premises. Below is an entire section of chapter 5 where Keller addresses the holes in the Absolute Negative Freedom worldview, which is by far the most pervasive worldview in America today. Check out what he has to say, for I couldn’t possibly express the complications behind the sentiment of this worldview any better than he did.

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Freedom of choice without limits has become almost sacred. (Philosophers call this “negative freedom”—freedom from constraints—which they contrast with “positive freedom,” the freedom to pursue some good aim.) Absolute negative freedom becomes the chief moral good, so that “the [only] sin which is not tolerated is intolerance.” This poses many problems both philosophical and practical.

One is that this narrative’s sacralizing of personal choice erodes community and fragments society. Remember Taylor’s quote that “to have any kind of livable society some choices have to be restricted, some authorities have to be respected, and some individual responsibility has to be assumed.” Sociologists have documented the growing civic and political disengagement of younger adults. The more people are invested in the late-modern understanding of the sovereign self and in its younger brother, absolute negative freedom, the less they feel a loyal part of the greater body politic.

Another problem with this freedom narrative is the unworkability of what has been called the “harm principle.” Taylor summarizes it as “no one has a right to interfere with me for my own good, but only to prevent harm to others.”36 The harm principle seems to make freedom of choice into a self-correcting absolute. In this view, a society does not need to lay down any moral principles at all—it can be “value free.” Everyone is free to live in any way she chooses, as long as it doesn’t curtail someone else’s freedom. However, the Achilles’ heel of this theory is the assumption that we all know what “harm” is or that it can be defined without recourse to deep beliefs about right and wrong.

One person says that it harms no one for a man to consume pornography privately in his own home. Others counter, however, that pornography will shape how he talks and acts with others, especially with women. Beneath these different conclusions about harm lie different understandings of the right and wrong way for individuals to relate to community. In other words, any decision about what harms others is rooted in specific views of human nature, happiness, and right and wrong—each of which is a matter of faith. So even if we all agree that freedom should be curtailed if it harms people, since we can’t agree on what harm is, the principle is useless in practice.

The freedom narrative also thins out the pursuit of meaning in life. Harvard scientist Stephen Jay Gould once was asked “What is the meaning of life?” and responded, “We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures. . . . We may yearn for a ‘higher’ answer—but none exists. This explanation, though superficially troubling, is ultimately liberating. . . . We must construct these answers for ourselves.”37 If there is no God and we have not been put here for some purpose, then there is no “discovered” meaning in life—no purpose that is there, existing before us, for which we were built, and with which we are obligated to align ourselves. This absence frees us, Gould says, to decide what things are meaningful for us. We may find that building homes or painting pictures or raising a family gives us purpose. So those are the meanings we choose for ourselves.

Philosopher Thomas Nagel, however, says that created meanings are less rational in principle than discovered meanings. Most of us would agree, Nagel argues, that we only have meaning if we feel we are making a difference, that what we do matters. But, he argues, if there is no God and you write a “great work of literature that continues to be read thousands of years from now,” nevertheless “eventually the solar system will cool or the universe will wind down and collapse and all trace of your effort will vanish. . . . If you think about the whole thing . . . it wouldn’t matter if you had never existed.” In other words, if there is no God or anything beyond this material world, then whether you’ve been good or cruel or murderous will make no final difference. No one will be around to remember anything. That means you can live a meaningful life only if you are careful to not think out the implications of your view of the universe. That’s not a very rational way to live. Religious believers, however, draw greater meaning in life the more they think out the implications of their view of the universe. In their view, right actions now count literally forever.

Luc Ferry, another atheist, makes a related argument—that these created meanings are not just less rational but more selfish. We may decide to give our lives to serve the medical needs of poor people; but why, within a secular framework, is that significant? The proper answer according to the freedom narrative is that we are doing it not because we are obligated to do it but because we freely choose to find this activity significant for us. However, Ferry argues, that means we are actually helping sick people for our sake, not theirs. We are doing it because it makes us feel worthy and significant. Self-created meanings come terribly close to simply living for oneself.

The final reason that this narrative does not ultimately work is that the modern idea of freedom itself is an illusion. Remember that the modern concept of freedom is absolute negative freedom, the absence of any constraint. The fewer limits or boundaries I have on my desires, choices, and actions, it would seem that the freer I am. However, this does not do justice to the complexity of the dimensions of freedom and the realities of incarnate and communal life.

A sixty-year-old man may have a strong desire to eat fatty foods, but if he regularly exercises his freedom to give in to that desire, his life will be curtailed in some way. He must choose to lose a lesser freedom (to eat these foods he enjoys) for a greater freedom (health and long life). If you want the freedoms that come with being a great musician—the ability to move people with your music and to make a good living for your family—you will have to give up your freedom to do other things in order to practice eight hours a day for years. Freedom is not, then, simply the absence of restrictions, but rather consists of finding the right, liberating restrictions. Put another way, we must actively take tactical freedom losses in order to receive strategic freedom gains. You grow only as you lose some lower kinds of freedom to gain higher kinds. So there is no absolute negative freedom.

The ultimate proof that the freedom narrative does not work—is love. No love relationship can grow unless each person sacrifices some freedom in order to serve the other, yet these restrictions, if accepted mutually, lead to the various liberations of mind and heart that only love can bring. Most people will say they feel most like “themselves” when they are truly loved and loving another—but that requires the surrender of complete self-determining freedom. As we have seen, the late-modern freedom narrative undermines human community in general. But it is especially corrosive of marriage. A late-modern person, controlled by both the freedom and identity narratives, wants a spouse who “accepts me as I am” and neither demands that you change nor requires you to sacrifice any of your own substantial desires, interests, and dreams. This kind of marriage is a fiction—it doesn’t exist.

The very theme of the kingdom of God, when preached properly and fully, directly challenges yet fulfills the late-modern desire for freedom. We can see in daily life how the disciplines—freedom “losses” like practice and dieting—lead to other kinds of freedom gains. We also see how when employees submit to the leadership of a great CEO or team members to that of a great coach, everyone on the team realizes his potential and everyone thrives. Submitting to the right rules and the right leader can bring all sorts of great freedoms. If we see this to be the case, then how much more liberating will it be to submit to the true king of our souls? When the Bible talks about God’s returning to judge the earth, even the created order is liberated from decay (Psalm 96:11–13; Romans 8:20–23).

All of this supports the famous claim by Jesus that knowing him sets you “free” (John 8:31–36), meaning “The ultimate bondage is . . . rebellion against the God who has made us. The despotic master is not Caesar, but shameful self-centeredness, an evil and enslaving devotion to created things at the expense of worship of the Creator.”


Tim Keller, Preaching, Chapter 5: “Engaging the Society Narrative: Absolute Negative Freedom”

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Why Fiction Stories Resonate | J.R.R. Tolkien

The following blog is an excerpt from Tim Keller’s latest book, concerning the natural desires of mankind and the gospel of Christ:

Tolkien’s famous essay “On Fairy Stories” argues that there are indelible, deep longings in the human heart that realistic fiction cannot satisfy. Fantasy fiction—fairy tales and science fiction and similar literature—depict characters who…

  • get outside of time altogether;
  • escape death;
  • hold communion with nonhuman beings;
  • find a perfect love from which they never part;
  • triumph finally over evil.

Of course readers and viewers know that fairy stories are fiction, but when the story is well told and these things are depicted vividly, it provides a peculiar kind of comfort and satisfaction. What we call “fantasy fiction” is massively popular and continues to be consumed by audiences numbering in the billions. The enduring appeal of stories that represent these conditions is unquestionable. But why? As a Christian, Tolkien believed that these stories resonate so deeply because they bear witness to an underlying reality.

Even if we do not intellectually believe that there is a God or life after death, our hearts (in the Christian view) sense somehow that these things characterize life as it was and should be and eventually will be again. We are so deeply interested in these stories because we have intuitions of the creation/fall/redemption/restoration plotline of the Bible. Even if we repress the knowledge of that plotline intellectually, we can’t not know it imaginatively, and our hearts are stirred by any stories that evoke it.

The English word “gospel” comes from the Middle English word Godspell which derives from two Old English words: good and spell (story). In Old English “to tell a story” was “to cast a spell.” Stories capture the heart and imagination and give us deep joy. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Goodspell. It is the story that all other joy-bringing, spell-casting, heart-shaping stories only point to. What’s special about this one? It is the one story that satisfies all these longings—yet is historically true.

If Jesus Christ was really raised from the dead—if he is really the Son of God and you believe in him—all those things that you long for most desperately are real and will come true. We will escape time and death. We will know love without parting, we will even communicate with nonhuman beings, and we will see evil defeated forever. In fairy stories, especially the best and most well-told ones, we get a temporary reprieve from a life in which our deepest desires are all violently rebuffed. However, if the gospel is true—and it is—all those longings will be fulfilled.


Timothy Keller, Preaching, Chapter 5.

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