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Archive for the ‘Dennis Prager’ Category

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On a recent radio program, Dennis Prager brought up the idea of the news of the day being either interesting or important. O.J. Simpson, for example, being paroled from prison is interesting. The decision by the hospital and courts in Britain to override the authority of Charlie Gard’s parents is important to the broader culture. Prager said that talk-show hosts such as himself have to be able to tell the difference between the two.

That got me thinking about hermeneutics – the art and science of interpreting the Bible (yes, my mind does work that way!). Distinguishing between the interesting and the important in a particular passage of Scripture is necessary for proper interpretation.

For example, it’s interesting that Psalm 34 is an “acrostic psalm,” or “alphabetical psalm.” The first verse begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and each successive verse with the next letter (and so on, down through the entire psalm and alphabet). It’s an interesting piece of information, but it doesn’t rise to the level of importance for one reason – the acrostic structure doesn’t make any difference in how the psalm is interpreted. The structure of Psalm 34 (as well as Psalms 9, 10, 25, 37, 111, 112, 119, and 145) doesn’t have much to do with it’s meaning.

The meaning of Naomi’s name, however, is important. Naomi is introduced to us in the book of Ruth – she’s Ruth’s mother-in-law. In Hebrew, her name means “pleasant” (Ruth 1:2). She started out “pleasant,” but after her husband and both of her sons died, she was left destitute with two daughters-in-law. Upon her return from Moab to Bethlehem, the women of the city said, “Is this not Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me” (Ruth 1:20-21). Naomi went from “pleasant” to “bitter” (the meaning of the name Mara). That’s not simply an interesting tidbit or factoid, it’s important  because it helps us understand the story of Ruth and Boaz, as well as their part in the history of redemption as ancestors of the Lord Jesus Christ.

When you read and study God’s Word, learn to make the distinction between what is interesting and what is important. It makes a huge difference.

P.S. A word to pastors and teachers of the Bible: I know you want to share the wealth of your study with those to whom you preach and teach (I know i do!), but spend more time on the important than you do on the interesting. Important changes lives; interesting rarely does.

 

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As Dennis Prager says in his the subtitle of his book, The Ten Commandments,  it is “still the best moral code.” Individuals, families, and nations would prosper simply by following and obeying them. In this short book, Prager gives his thoughts on each of the commandments. I don’t agree with all of those thoughts, but the book is a good, quick read. It’s interesting to read what a non-Christian thinks of the Ten Commandments (Dennis is Jewish and calls himself an “ethical monotheist”).

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On a recent “Happiness Hour” on his radio program, Dennis Prager made the point that in order to be happy, we have to realize that everything has a price. Once we know the price, we have to ask ourselves if we’re willing to pay it.

Moving to another city to take a job has a price. We may leave a church we’ve loved and been part of (and may have a difficult time finding another one). We’ll be farther away from our extended family. We’ll disrupt our own family life with a move. We’ll need to find and make new friends and develop a new routine in the new city. The job will have to be settled into. We deceive ourselves when we think there will no price to pay and that everything will turn out “just fine.” The job may pay more a look great, but are we willing to pay that price? On the other hand, looking for jobs in only one geographical area will limit your possibilities.

There is a price to having children, and not having them. There is a price to going on a diet, and a price for eating whatever you want whenever you want. There is a price to be paid for achieving excellence as a musician. There is a price to be paid in order to become a world-class athlete.

Not surprisingly, there is a price for being a disciple of Jesus Christ, too. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26) Are we willing to pay the price?

There are consequences to everything – a price tag, in other words. If we don’t realize that, happiness will elude us.

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As I was listening to a podcast of the Dennis Prager radio show – which I think is fantastic – I heard a caller say something tremendous, and I wanted to pass it along to you. This is a paraphrase of what he said, not an exact quote.

When my wife was pregnant with our son, I had a specific image of my son. He’d be a star athlete who made the honor roll, too. When we found out he had Down Syndrome, I was devastated. I was angry with God and I asked Him, “I don’t deserve this!” Twenty-one years later, I say the same thing to God – “I don’t deserve this!” It would take me hours to tell you about the positive differences he’s made in our lives.

“I don’t deserve this!” can mean two completely different things. The turn of a phrase.

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As we moved closer to the 10-year anniversary of the Islamic terrorist attack on the United States on September 11th, 2001, there were dozens, if not hundreds, of articles and statements on talk radio and television made about the lessons we’ve learned.

I’m glad we’re thinking about the subject, but I don’t think we in the United States, and Western Civilization in general, have learned that much. What people have “taken away” from 9/11 is different, sometimes wrong, and often dangerous. Dennis Prager published this column which echoes my thoughts. Please read it and reflect on it. One lesson I’ve learned from 9/11 and the ten years that have followed is that the United States desperately needs revival – sent sovereignly by God and focused on the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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I listened to an interview with Vincent Bugliosi on a podcast of Dennis Prager’s radio talk show, and was surprised – not in a good way. Bugliosi’s latest book, Divinity of Doubt: The God Question, is his case for agnosticism. He is neither a theist (one who believes in a divine being) or an atheist (one who does not believe in a divine being), but rather an agnostic (he doesn’t know and doesn’t think anyone can know for certain if a divine being exists).

I was surprised by the weak, and frankly childish, case against the Bible that Bugliosi presented. I expected more from the man who prosecuted Charles Manson, wrote an excellent book on the assassination of President Kennedy, and is considered a brilliant legal mind. The two points he raised in support of his contention that the Bible is not to be believed or trusted were these:

  1. Genesis 1 and 2 present contradictory accounts of creation. (No, they don’t. Genesis 1:1-2:3 are an account and description of God’s act of creation. Genesis 2:4-25 gives the details of the sixth day of creation, that of human beings which are the focus of God’s action from this point forward. Anyone who reads the text and pays attention should understand there is no contradiction here.)
  2. In Genesis 3:9, God asks Adam “Where are you?” If God is omnipresent and omniscient, why did He have to ask this? Because He asked the question, God is neither omniscient nor omnipresent. (God didn’t ask the question out of ignorance on His part. God knew precisely where Adam was when the question was asked. The purpose of His question was to “bring Adam out in the open,” so to speak. Adam had disobeyed and rebelled against God earlier in the chapter, and was hiding from Him. God wanted Adam to confess his sin and take responsibility for it, which he wasn’t doing. In fact, in verse 10 Adam says he hid because he was afraid of God.)  

Bugliosi’s argument is weak, which surprised me. In an interview which spanned about twenty minutes, it seems that he could have brought up some stronger objections. I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know how he makes his case, but if he has stronger arguments he didn’t mention them. If I had twenty minutes, I’d want to highlight my strongest points.

Bugliosi’s comments show that even highly intelligent people don’t always think clearly and end up making false claims. It also confirms the idea that there are answers to the questions people have; that we don’t need to be alarmed by every new book written trying to debunk Christianity; and that we need to do our homework (“study to show yourself approved” – 2 Timothy 2:15) so we can debunk the debunkers.

 

 

 

 

 

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Brevity can be beautiful.

Doug Wilson, in some form or fashion, has said that Christians need to develop “one-liners” to answer questions, make points, and “close the mouths of the obstreperous” (to quote John Calvin). We need quick, brief, succinct statements that start, carry, and sometimes end a conversation.

Even though I’ve fought against the popularity, and even the presence, of sound-bites, there is wisdom in what Pastor Wilson says. Brief statements can carry a tremendous amount of weight because they can be memorized and passed along easily. Some of the greatest lines in history were short and to the point: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (Franklin D. Roosevelt); “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!” (Ronald Reagan). It takes a tremendous amount of work to boil an idea down to a few words or a few sentences. Some have called this an “elevator speech” – what would you say to someone in the space of an average elevator ride (15-20 seconds)?

Obviously, brevity does not, and by nature cannot, explore a topic or answer a question in depth. What we’re trying to do is plant a seed, put a rock in someone’s shoe (as Greg Koukl says), get a conversation started, and make a point – not to give a full explanation.  Yes, detailed explanations are needed, but brief statements are meant to make a point quickly.

Here are some examples:

  • “Today’s atheists are saying two things: God doesn’t exist and I hate Him.” (Doug Wilson)
  • “The bigger the government the smaller the citizen.” (Dennis Prager)
  • Scripture alone reveals that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone with all of the glory going to God alone. (What the Reformation is all about)
  • Worship is focusing on and responding to God.
  • There is one God eternally existent in three distinct persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Definition of the Trinity)
  • Someone says, “Don’t judge me!” The proper response is, “By making that statement, you’re judging me.”

Of course, these statements don’t deal with everything. Much more could be said, and should be, but it’s an important part of the conversation. There is far more involved in the subject of judging, for instance, but it gives the “judger” something to think about.

There is something to be said for brevity, even though this post has been anything but.

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