Manasseh’s Repentance

Walls turned into rubble
The temple stained with sin
Grieving for the children lost
Grieving for what could have been

Memories that taste like ash
Vanity like smoke that burns
Grateful for God’s providence
Grateful for the lessons learned

Damage that can’t be undone
Scars like monuments to pain
Hopeful for a second chance
Hopeful for a cleansing reign

Yes, “Go” is a Command in the Great Commission.

It is common for pastors to give novel translations of “go” in Matthew 28:19, like “as you’re going” or even “as you go about your life.” Is it because they know something that Bible translators don’t? The arguments for re-translating the Greek verb “go” are 1. it is in the passive voice and 2. it is a participle.


The Greek word πορεύω (poreuo) in the active voice means “to lead over, carry over, transfer” (Thayer). The active form of this word does not appear in the New Testament. Instead, we find it in the middle and passive voices as the normal word for “go.” For example, it is used in the passive voice in Matthew 28:16:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.

Matthew 28:16, ESV

Does the passive voice imply that the disciples were just going about their lives, and ended up at this mountain? No, Jesus directed them to go there, and they went. The form of the word is passive, but the meaning is active. This is how the word is consistently used throughout the New Testament.


In English we only have present participles, such as “going.” But “go” in Matthew 29:19 is an aorist participle, and can be literally translated “having gone” or “after going.” When combined with a command, this word also has the force of a command, because the main command cannot be obeyed without going. For example:

And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”

Matthew 2:8

No one would think of translating this “as you’re going…” “Go” is rightly translated as a command because the Magi must go in order to search. Here are the other examples of this in Matthew:

Go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.”

Matthew 9:13

Go and tell John what you hear and see

Matthew 11:4

However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself

Matthew 17:27

Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead

Matthew 28:7

In every case, the passive aorist participle is translated as a command, “go,” because going is a precondition for obeying the command. Mary can’t tell the disciples that Jesus is risen without going, and the church cannot make disciples of all nation without going. We are commanded to go.


The point of this post is not that you should immediately pack your bags and go somewhere else. My point is not that you shouldn’t make disciples as you’re going about your life. Jesus did not command you as an individual to make disciples of all nations. You have a unique calling in a specific place, and there is nothing in Matthew 28:19 to say whether that place is California or Japan.

But the church has a mission, and the mission requires the church to go. We do not make disciples of all nations by waiting for them to come to Jerusalem. The church spreads all over the world like yeast spreads through dough. An individual can be faithful in one location, but the whole church cannot remain in one location. This requires some Christians to intentionally uproot their lives and go somewhere else, while most Christians can faithfully serve where they are planted.

Biblical Insights from Lex Rex: Governments are Formed Voluntarily

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”

Declaration of Independence

Was the American Declaration of Independence a sinful rebellion based on enlightenment philosophy, or can it be defended Biblically? To begin answering this question, I am reading Lex, Rex by Samuel Rutherford to see what Biblical insights I can glean.

Politic power of government befits not a man singly as one man, except in that root of reasonable nature; but supposing that men are combined in societies, or that one family cannot contain a society, it is natural that they join in a civil society, though the manner of union in a politic body, as Bodine says, is voluntary (Gen 10:10; 15:7)

Samuel Rutherford

Rutherford considers a time when people were just beginning to be numerous enough to form governments. The great flood left a family in place, but no civil government. By the time of Noah’s great-grandson Nimrod, it made sense to start kingdoms. Why did Nimrod become a king? Because “he was a mighty hunter before the Lord” (Gen 10:9, ESV).

The manner in which Nimrod becomes king is neither supernatural nor sinful. God does not directly establish the monarchy because of Nimrod’s inherent superiority. On the other hand, Nimrod does his hunting “before the Lord,” not in rebellion to the Lord. Men are drawn to follow Nimrod because he is “mighty,” and this is not contrary to God’s good design for men.

There is no indication that Nimrod forces people to join his kingdom. Nimrod voluntarily builds his kingdom, and men voluntarily follow him. His kingdom expands into uninhabited regions as families naturally grow. This project would be unsustainable without the consent of the governed.

Note that the formation of Nimrod’s kingdom happens before the tower of Babel is built. His nation is not a result of man’s rebellion against God. It was natural for a government to form as the population grew; that Nimrod should be the king of this government was the choice of Nimrod and the people. Nimrod does not compete with God by building his kingdom, but righteously uses his strength to establish order in God’s world.

Rutherford’s second proof text in the quote above is Genesis 15:7, in which God declares that He has brought Abram to the land of Canaan to possess it. This seems less relevant to Rutherford’s point, but it does indicate that God endorses the natural formation of governments. God is not opposed to the idea that a man should come to possess a land. Since God did not directly establish the first governments, we can assume that He left men free to establish governments for themselves.

In the nation that God makes from Abraham, the first monarchy is established by the will of the people, qualifications set by God, and the direct choice of God.

When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, “I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,” you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother.

Deuteronomy 17:14-15

God does not set the king over the people; the people set the king over themselves. But they cannot choose anyone for this task; he must be an Israelite. When this happens in history, we see that 1. the elders of Israel demand a king (1 Sam 8:4-5), 2. God chooses the king from among them and anoints him (1 Sam 10:1), 3. God’s will is shown to the people by a random process (1 Sam 10:20-21), 4. the people of Israel consent to his kingship when they see how tall he is (1 Sam 10:24), and 5. Samuel explains the rights and duties of a king, according to God (1 Sam 10:25). This is a unique case because God is the true King over Israel, but it demonstrates that God endorses the natural process by which a nation chooses a ruler from among its people.

Nimrod and Saul become kings by the consent of the governed. The formation of governments happens naturally, and God approves of the general concept. Even in Israel, God does not directly set a king over the people, but chooses a king whom the people voluntarily set over themselves.

Why Paul Thanks God in All Circumstances

It doesn’t make sense to thank someone for something they didn’t do. If my wife makes me a sandwich, I might thank her dad for raising her and giving her to me, but I won’t thank him for the sandwich. But Paul thanks God for everything, because God is the ultimate cause of every good thing.

Paul thanks God for the faith, love, and hope of the Thessalonians (1 Thess 1:2-3) because these things show that God chose them (1 Thess 1:4-5). So Paul thanks God that when the Thessalonians heard the word of God, they recognized it as the word of God (1 Thess 2:13). When we see God as the source of every blessing, we will be able to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess 5:18, ESV).

Integrity and “Gender-Affirming Care”

In the current issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics, Dr R Rowland argues that mentally healthy people have a right to “gender-affirming healthcare” (i.e. hormone therapy or surgery to appear like the opposite gender), because they have a right to live and act with integrity. Rowland argues that “to live with integrity is to live in line with one’s ideal of what a good or meaningful life for one looks like.” This requires “authenticity” that can be understood as self-discovery of one’s “inner voice” or as self-creation. If someone’s idea of a good and meaningful life includes being perceived as the opposite gender, then to live with integrity he must overcome his natural limitations and change his appearance. 

This article, which claims to represent the “standard view,” seems to be written from an existentialist worldview. According to this view, humans are not bound by their own nature, but define for themselves what a good and meaningful life looks like for them. Our bodies are limitations that should be overcome to fulfill the wishes of our “inner voice.”

True Integrity

The Lord tests Job’s integrity by allowing Satan to ruin his life. Job passes the test because he is “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 2:3). The standard is not Job’s inner voice, but his complete conformity with what a man ought to be. His wife speaks with authenticity but not integrity: “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.”

Job describes his integrity in detail in Job 31. He is free from lust and deceit (1-12). He listens to the complaints of his slaves, shares every meal with widows and orphans, and clothes the naked (13-23). He does not trust in wealth or worship the sun (24-28). He loves his enemies, confesses his sins, and does no injustice (29-40). This integrity is rightoeusness, internal and external, that conforms to God’s standards of what a man should be.

Gendered Integrity

A man of integrity will act as a man ought to act, and a woman of integrity will act as a woman ought to act. God made men and women different because they have different roles, so integrity will not look exactly the same for them. Humans are not souls trapped in a body; our gendered bodies are an integral aspect of our humanity. To act with integrity, a man must become the kind of man God created him to be, and not abdicate his role in an attempt to become something else.

Boaz shows integrity on his farm and at the city gate, and Ruth shows integrity in her relationship with her mother-in-law. They both fulfill their distinct gendered duties by raising their firstborn son: Boaz preserves a dead man’s name and strengthens Bethlehem, and Ruth cares for her mother-in-law and for the next generation (Ruth 4:9-22). Integrity looks different in the roles of husband and wife (1 Peter 3:1-17). Paul’s commands to old men, old and young women, young men, and pastors are related, but not identical (2:1-8).

Gendered integrity begins on the inside, but is expressed in external appearances. A man should look and act the part of a man, and a woman should look and act the part of a woman, from the inside out. This is why cross-dressing is considered an abomination under the law of Moses (Deut 22:5), and why Paul speaks confidently about hair length and head coverings for women (1 Cor 11:2-16).


Integrity does not begin with introspection or self-creation. A man of integrity conforms body and soul to what a man ought to be. A woman of integrity conforms body and soul to what a woman ought to be. The Bible has no category for a man trapped in a woman’s body; there are only men and women, whose gendered bodies are integral to who they are and to who they are called to be.

Doctrines Evangelists Get Wrong: Assurance

How do you know you’re saved? Some evangelists are looking for one particular answer to this question, and any other answer will lead them to question your salvation. What they want you to say is something like “I know I’m saved because Jesus died for my sins and I trust in him.” Yes, that is the ultimate reason why anyone will be saved, but how do you know that Jesus died for you? How do you know that you truly trust in him?

This kind of evangelist might quote 1 John 5:13 to prove that you can know that you’re saved:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

What these evangelists will not do is walk you through “these things” that John wrote to believers. As stated in this verse, one of the purposes of 1 John is to describe the evidence of true faith, so believers can come to full assurance that they know God. Read 1 John with this in mind, and you will see that this is one of the constant themes through the whole letter.

So how can you know that you have eternal life? John lists several signs throughout his letter, which can be summarized in the image of walking in the light. First, the light represents God’s holiness. God’s children imitate their Father by obeying Jesus’ righteous commandments, loving their brother, and living like Jesus. But far from indicating sinlessness, walking in the light means willingly confessing sins instead of hiding them in the darkness. Finally, the light represents the truth of the gospel. Those who have truly come to know God will not be led away from the church by heresies, but will remain in the true teaching of the apostles.

We know we have eternal life because we have been changed at the deepest level. Our ultimate allegiance has shifted to Jesus, and we love our brothers. We look forward to Jesus’ coming, and we seek to do his will in this world. A struggle against sin can lead people to doubt their salvation, but the fact that we are fighting sin often shows that we have switched sides in the battle. Before, we served our lusts and pride; now we hate them and confess their wickedness.

When someone asks you how you know you’re going to Heaven, the right answer is because you walk in the light. If he scolds you for this, just keep reading passages from 1 John until he collapses into a puddle of self-reflection. You know, because you love your brother and want to bring him further into the light.

Organic Kingdom: Power

You will misunderstand Jesus’ kingdom if you fail to grasp the organic metaphors that describe it. It is a seed, a field, yeast. His people are sheep, branches, and living stones. Jesus’ kingdom is alive, and functions on the same principles as every other living thing He made.

Some people think that Jesus and the leaders in His kingdom reject power. They fail to see how He brought the powerful kingdom described by the prophets. But the prophets themselves compare the coming kingdom’s power to organic life.

In days to come Jacob shall take root,
Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots
and fill the whole world with fruit.

Isaiah 27:6, ESV

Filling the whole world with fruit is no small feat. It is much more impressive than collecting taxes and enforcing laws. The only reason it might not look impressive is that it takes a long time.

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

Matthew 13:31-33

Creation and multiplication are more powerful than destruction. Jesus focuses on building something good and lasting before removing imperfections. When the mustard seed was planted, every other kingdom was essentially defeated, because they could not stand against the power of life that would soon overshadow everything they had built. They could not stop the leaven of the kingdom from transforming their kingdoms from the inside.

As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

Daniel 2:34-35

Jesus’ kingdom is powerful while it is small. His divine claim to authority strikes at the root of any competition. Goliath was wrong to laugh at David’s stone, because in God’s hands it was powerful. A mustard seed of imperishable life will grow, and no one will stop it.

Christians exercise life-giving power as they speak the message of the kingdom. Sometimes the word takes root in someone’s heart and produces fruit, a hundredfold or sixtyfold or thirtyfold. Other times the word is ignored, and the hearer is left with a real threat of judgment. In both cases, Jesus’ power is on display. If it seems weak, that is only because it takes time to see the results.

Theology of Fun: Excited Enjoyment

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

1 TImothy 6:17, ESV

I have managed to write a lot about fun without defining it, but my new working definition is “excited enjoyment.” Dictionaries seem to define “fun” as mere enjoyment, but this seems to be too broad. Fun comes from the excitement of novelty, creativity, competition, fear, arousal, or anticipation. Fun has the power to absorb our focus to the extent that it is tied to strong emotions. This is why fun is so memorable.

You can enjoy something that is comforting, relaxing, good, tasty, or beautiful without having fun. A steak is enjoyable, an onion ring volcano is fun. Cuddling is enjoyable, foreplay is fun. Sunbathing is enjoyable, body surfing is fun. The beatitudes are enjoyable, imagining a man with a plank in his eye trying to remove a speck from his friend’s eye is fun.

The previous paragraph is too simple, because the line between fun and other types of enjoyment is subtle. A software programmer might have a mild enjoyment of his work, or he might have fun as his logic and creativity are absorbed by his task. An adult may experience a ferris wheel as a pleasant ride while a child is full of wonder and excitement at being raised to new heights. Wine tasting is a fun method of enjoying aesthetic pleasure.

God made the world lively and diverse, full of new experiences and challenges. It is good to enjoy these things, and it is also good to be excited about them. God commands his people to enjoy food and drink, work and rest. I expect to write a future post on the importance of celebration in the Bible. This is not necessarily a command to have fun, but having fun is one important way that we enjoy God’s creation. The world is an exciting place, and this shows that God does not want our enjoyment of it to be monotonous.

The excitement associated with fun can be addicting and destructive. When we seek fun apart from God and His righteousness, it can become a powerful idol that demands more novelty and transgression. The Puritans, along with many other Christians, almost never commend fun without warning of its dangers; but this caution is often a killjoy. My advice for now is to follow these three simple guidelines, and then lighten up and enjoy yourself: 1. obey God, 2. don’t neglect your duties to your neighbor, 3. praise God for whatever you enjoy.

As Paul knew how to be content with abundance or need (Philippians 4:12), Christians should learn to be happy with or without fun. Fun is an opportunity to glorify God, spread joy, and build community; but in difficult times when fun is hard to find, Christians are sustained by the deeper joy they have in God.

Natural Theology of Fun in Anne of Green Gables

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

James 1:17, NASB

When I started studying “theology of fun,” I was skeptical of anything that did not argue straight from the Bible. However, there is a place for learning from general revelation. In the beginning, God made everything, and it was all very good. We can learn a lot about God and His intentions for the world just by looking at the world with open eyes, even when God’s good creation is perverted by sin. Goodness and beauty are inseparable from truth, because God’s true intentions for the world can be seen in everything that is good and beautiful.

Anne of Green Gables seems to intentionally refute anti-fun Christians by showing that fun and creativity are good and beautiful, and therefore come from God. The foil for this perspective is Marilla, a woman obsessed with appearing proper in the eyes of her neighbors. Marilla is introduced with the best sentence of the book:

Here sat Marilla Cuthbert, when she sat at all, always slightly distrustful of sunshine, which seemed to her too dancing and irresponsible a thing for a world which was meant to be taken seriously; and here she sat now, knitting, and the table behind her was laid for supper.

Marilla fails to see the goodness of sunshine because she refuses to believe in one of its God-given purposes. The sunlight dances across the beautiful scenery, illuminating life and producing joy. The proper inference is that God intended for the world to be lively, to be actively enjoyed for His glory. If God made the sunlight to dance, perhaps he also made humans to dance, joining and observing the joyful movement of the cosmos. Marilla cannot see the goodness of dancing because she reasons from the bad premise that life should always be serious.

Marilla was a tall, thin woman, with angles and without curves; her dark hair showed some gray streaks and was always twisted up in a hard little knot behind with two wire hairpins stuck aggressively through it. She looked like a woman of narrow experience and rigid conscience, which she was; but there was a saving something about her mouth which, if it had been ever so slightly developed, might have been considered indicative of a sense of humor.

This description is an unflattering depiction of the rigidity that Marilla strives for; there is nothing attractive about hard angles. The thing that would make Marilla beautiful would be a sense of humor. The ability to lighten up and have a good time is not only socially appealing, but enhances a person’s physical appearance. This beauty shows the goodness of fun like a rose shows the goodness of sunlight. The beauty is a sign of life, and it is nourished by the enjoyment of friendship. A person without a sense of humor is not reaching her full potential, like a flower that fails to bloom in the shade.

I’ve only scratched the surface, but I think I’ve managed to make this point: God intended humans to actively enjoy His world together, to build community and glorify their Creator.

Theology of Fun: Aquinas on Fun as Rest

Christianity has a history of being anti-fun. After all, what role could fun have in a sober life of self-denial and service? The medieval scholastic theologian Thomas Aquinas saw that it would be irrational and sinful to exclude fun from the Christian life, because fun is a necessary form of spiritual and mental rest.

Augustine says (Music. ii, 15): “I pray thee, spare thyself at times: for it becomes a wise man sometimes: for it becomes a wise man sometimes to relax the high pressure of his attention to work.” Now this relaxation of the mind from work consists in playful words or deeds. Therefore it becomes a wise and virtuous man to have recourse to such things at times. Moreover the Philosopher [Ethic. ii, 7; iv, 8] assigns to games the virtue of eutrapelia, which we may call “pleasantness.”

I answer that, Just as man needs bodily rest for the body’s refreshment, because he cannot always be at work, since his power is finite and equal to a certain fixed amount of labor, so too is it with his soul, whose power is also finite and equal to a fixed amount of work.

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II-II, q. 168

Aquinas goes on to support the use of fun as spiritual rest from a story told by the desert fathers. The apocryphal story about the Apostle John makes the point that a man can only do his best work if he takes time to rest. Aquinas seems to tell the story inaccurately, so you can read the primary source in the screenshot below:

John Cassian, The Conferences of the Desert Fathers xxiv, 21

But play and joking are not only for our own benefit. Though he sees more danger in excessive fun, Aquinas argues that “there is a sin in lack of mirth:”

Now it is against reason for a man to be burdensome to others, by offering no pleasure to others, and by hindering their enjoyment. Wherefore Seneca says (De Quat. Virt., cap. De Continentia): “Let your conduct be guided by wisdom so that no one will think you rude, or despise you as a cad.” Now a man who is without mirth, not only is lacking in playful speech, but is also burdensome to others, since he is deaf to the moderate mirth of others. Consequently they are vicious, and are said to be boorish or rude, as the Philosopher states (Ethic. iv, 8).

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II-II, q. 168


The Bible teaches Christians to live in cycles of work and rest. God ordained night, the Sabbath, and feasts as times to rest. In times of rest we gratefully enjoy God’s creation, and are refreshed so we can gladly go back to work. Jesus understands the Sabbath as a gift to man to bring wholeness:

And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Mark 2:27-3:5

Just as Christians should rest and let others rest, Christians should have fun so that they and others may be refreshed. The spiritual and mental rest that we enjoy in games and jocular conversation is a gift from God that should be gratefully enjoyed and shared.