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(Added this post to my list of Biblical Survey posts – each of which shows a whole category of items from the Bible.)

As you may have heard, this month, my friend Andy Naselli, New Testament Professor at Bethlehem College and Seminary, has put out his concise commentary of the book of Romans, the “greatest letter ever written.” This book is complete and helpful, and my only critique is the same as Tolkien on his own work: It is too short.

One literary aspect that Andy brings out in several places is the potential presence of chiasms in Paul’s epistle. I believe he points out five of them.

Wikipedia defines chiasm as a “reversal of grammatical structures in successive phrases or clauses.” The most simple would be where the phrases are formed in an A B B’ A’ pattern but it can be more complex with more levels – like:

And so forth. In all cases, a set of ideas or phrases are repeated but in reverse order. And apparently (at least according to my study Bible) this was a somewhat common literary structure in Paul’s time.

I bring this up because last year I finished memorizing the book of Romans and just at the end I noticed a phrase, “to bring about the obedience of faith” in Romans 16:26, the second to last verse in Romans. I remembered this from Romans 1:5 – the same phrase – “to bring about the obedience of faith”. It’s the only time this phrase is used in Romans, or indeed in the whole Bible. In fact, in the whole Bible, those are the only two passages with the three-word phrase “obedience of faith.”

So I wondered, what if there was a large scale verse-level chiasm in Romans?* What would that look like? Well, there would be presumably something before 1:5 with a similar phrasing from after 16:26. And there was one: Christ Jesus in 1:1 and Jesus Christ (note the reversal) in 16:27. A good obvious choice to begin and end a chiasm with.

So I looked inward and remembered 1:7 (“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the  Lord Jesus Christ”) – similar to 16:20 (“The God of Peace … grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you”). Here’s a picture of the proposed Chiastic structure with color coating:

The First Three

So I continued and found that in both cases (moving inward) Paul moves from talking about the good traits of his readers (1:8 and 16:20) and then the bad traits of evil people they are in contact with (in 1:25 and 16:18):

Extending to Five.

So now I was intrigued, and I kept going inward. And I worked and found several more.

At this point, you might have two questions:

  1. How many more did he find?
  2. What’s in the center?

The short answers are (1) lots and, (2) something better than I expected.

Before I elaborate – two disclaimers:

  1. I make no claims that this massive precise chiasm was inspired or intentional (or even that it actually exists), although I could imagine Paul, or even Tertius who “wrote this letter” slipping these in during a re-write. For important purposes.
  2. I don’t know Greek. I’m using the ESV. If you’re looking at the Greek or another translation, your mileage may vary.

Getting back to my two questions…

  1. How many did I find? To be more precise, the answer is 44 – give or take. Some stretch the concept a little. Below is a picture of the whole thing and I have the full list at the bottom of the essay.
All 44.
  • 2. And what did I find in the middle?

First, I ask you to consider, if you were looking for evidence there was a real and intentional verse-level chiasm in Romans, what would you expect to find in the middle?

In any case, as I was moving inwards, I found myself in chapter 7 on the front site and chapter 9 on the back. And then moving from both sides into chapter 8, which appeared to be the center of the chiasm. So I found 8:1 (“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus“), corresponding with 8:34 (“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died“)

And 8:6 (“to set the mind on the spirit is life and peace“) pairing with 8:27 (“he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit“). Now just 21 verses apart.

And so on until I found the only two usages of the phrase ‘we wait’ (or even just the word ‘wait’) in the book of Romans – 8:23 (“as we wait eagerly”) and 8:25b (“we wait for it with patience.”). Now we’re only a verse apart. So what’s in verse 24-25a?

It turns out to be perhaps the most repetitive passage in Romans.

The Proposed Center of Romans.

It’s a sentence with Hope-See-Hope repeated twice with a bonus ‘hope’ and ‘see’ on either end. It’s like a double chiasm within itself. Awesome.

This time I did look into the Greek and found something similar – the pattern is Hope-See-Hope-See-Hope-See-Hope. So it’s also symmetric.

So here’s what the center looks like:

The Middle Six

That’s something I might expect to find in the center of a giant chiasm.

So what do you think? Does this seem reasonable/possible/interesting to you? And if you think the chiasm is actually there, does it glorify God?

I leave creating a First and Second Corinthians chiasm as an exercise for the reader.

To conclude, here are the verse/passages, as I found them, listed out in order, from the outside-in.

Note: In the second column: I’ve put a ‘R’ if this is the only place in Romans that one of the phrases appears, a ‘B’ if this is the only place in the Bible that one of the phrases appears, a ‘T’ if the similarity is more topical than actually employing the same word, and a ‘C’ if there are contrasting/opposite ideas in the two passages.

Thanks for reading! I appreciate any comments.

In case you’re curious, here is a list of other posts on my blogs which show a whole category of items from the Bible.

* By the way, I’ve seen other attempts at making a big chiasm out of Romans. What is different here is the extent of the intricacy and precision.

If what used to be a good sign is now a bad sign, this is a good sign.

Your passivity is assertive.

(Timing this post just as interest in this odd and controversial slogan is waning – so maybe you should consider it a debriefing)

  1. The F-word is one of the harshest in the English language.
  2. I’m not going to say that a Christian should never use the F-word, but Christian, never use the F-word.
  3. A good Christian honors his or her leaders.
  4. Specifically, a president should be respected.
  5. So it is wrong-minded to say F Joe Biden (henceforth ‘FJB’). This is not what a Christian should want.
  6. It is more wrong-minded to chant it.
  7. Nevertheless, President Biden has done many things that most conservatives think are wrong-minded, foolish and/or unpresidential.
  8. And the main-stream media generally overlooks or laud these things.
  9. So it’s might be a little comforting for a conservative to hear that there are crowds that really disagree with President Biden’s presidency, enough to chant against him.
  10. It’s at least a little funny, at least for a conservative, that the reporter said on camera that the crowd was chanting “Let’s Go Brandon” (henceforth ‘LGB’), when it’s clear they weren’t.
  11. It is possible, perhaps even likely, that the reporter actually thought she heard them say this, so it might have been an honest mistake.
  12. But It really fits into the fake news narrative that she knew what they were saying, but claimed it was LGB.
  13. There are people who believe that saying LGB is the same as saying FJB.
  14. For this reason, I would advise a Christian to not say LGB in any public forum.
  15. There are people, perhaps most of the people who say it, who say LBG but don’t mean FJB.
  16. They may just like highlighting the fact that some reporters are clueless, or deceitful.

                Or the fact that some reporters push a false narrative.

                Or the fact that there is a high Anti-Biden contingent in the US.

17. For this reason, I would advise a Christian to not judge those who say LGB too harshly.

The message, as it so often is, is ‘Be careful what you say and how you judge.’

Oh, and perhaps: 18. That wasn’t a church meeting. Please calm down. Handwringing isn’t necessary.

To any reader, I’d be interested to know which of these 17 statements you find the most offensive.

Phil 1 6

Book Review:

An Alphabet for Change

Observations on a Life Transformed – By Steve Hallblade.

The premise and structure of this book is simple – one letter at a time, it walks through the alphabet, spending a chapter defining for each letter an attribute or practice seen in lives transformed by Christ.

So for example, in the first three chapters he describes and points out how the Bible prescribes A – Authenticity, B – Benevolence, C – Compassion. And right there, even with those first three, you can see the value – I feel like it’s a worthy use of our time, to consider how God is calling us to live out these traits.

It’s a good idea for a book.

As I began reading it, however, I had three questions:

  1. Since this book is about human traits and behaviors, does it only focus on the works of human action on its own and neglect the subject of God’s will, grace and providence in human lives? Or said another way, is this a legalistic or works-oriented book?
  2. Does this book, as all Christian books should, spend time encouraging the reader to think about the Gospel and how it affects and directs a Christian’s behavior?
  3. What does he do for the letter X?

As for the third question, I’ll let you find out for yourself – it was a new one for me. Happily, however, the answers to questions one and two are No and Yes!

So for example, in the chapter for H – Humility, he says this:

Christ’s example in humility is hard to humanly comprehend. Here is the creator of the universe (equal status with God) willing to become human. And why? He did this so he could live out a selfless, obedient life, die, and become a ransom for many. And while we will never come close to matching this type of humility, we are called to follow his example as best we can.

And then he continues with Paul’s words in Philippians 2 to describe ways in which we can strive to do that.

And later, in the chapter about L – Love, he says:

Jesus ups the game on the earlier command to love one another as you love yourself. The new command calls for our love toward others to be the same as Christ’s love toward us. But how can we do this? It’s definitely a very high standard, but with God’s help, we can love as we are called to love.

And right now, I’m resisting the temptation to give spoilers as to why he thinks we should have a Zeal for God. But there is a lot of good Gospel and God’s Grace in this book. And Scripture in every chapter.

For each of these traits, the author ends the chapter with a “Stepping Towards Transformation” section that offers a helpful basic step or goal for moving towards that practice in our lives – such as “Consider getting into a small group!”, or “Read the book of Job.” These sections extend the book from thoughtful and provocative to directed and practical.

Perhaps a fourth question I should have asked from the outset is “Will this book make me feel guilty?” Again, happily, the answer is no. This is a refreshing, conversational, personal book and every chapter – every letter – was a helpful reminder as to the types of behaviors God wants us to exemplify as Christians. Over and over, I found myself thinking, “Yeah, that’s something I should be thinking about. That’s a description I should be working towards.” But the author doesn’t hit you over the head with these concepts and he never claims to have them totally figured out in his own life.

I encourage you to get this book and read it, and I pray that God will use it to draw you closer to him as you remember more of how you are called to live as a response to what God has done for you.

I made a list of traits of activities that I find myself procrastinating on and now I’m presenting it to you. My hope is that seeing the reasons will make me disregard them as legitimate.

What makes me not want to do stuff
14 descriptors of activities that I put off

It’s expensive (or might be)
It’s multi step
It might reveal my ignorance
It might cause other work
Not sure what first step is
It requires learning (two step)
It requires me to ask for help
I might be very late in doing it
I might fail
I’ll get dirty doing it.
Not fun to do (actually unpleasant)
Physical work
Might learn I’ve procrastinated too long
Other more fun stuff I’d rather do

Would you add any?

May God bless President Biden –with an effective four years resulting in a more godly America and all the way to heaven.

This image, with the knowledge that it came from the rally the proceeded the Capitol riots, is evocative, provocative and triggering.

Here are some wrong (sinful or foolish) thoughts that a person might have as they look at this photo:

Disclaimer 1: I might have thought some of these.
Disclaimer 2: It’s possible that some of these have been thought by no one. But I doubt it.
Disclaimer 3: I’m not only suggesting they are wrong, I’m further suggesting that almost all Americans would agree that these are wrong. Or at least possibly wrong.
Disclaimer 4: It’s a dangerous thing to be this condemnatory; as such I’d be interested to know if you think any of these are correct or wise.

  • Aha! This is evidence that Jesus is on the side of Trump supporters.
  • Aha! This is evidence that all Trump supports subvert/pervert the true message of Christ.
  • The people that put up that sign are definitely idiots/evil.
  • The people that put up that sign are definitely strong Christians.
  • The people that put up that sign were definitely aware of/ in agreement with the rioting that happened in the capitol.
  • Great! I can describe this image in a way that makes it look like all Christians are rioters.
  • The people that put up the sign were definitely thinking “Jesus Saves with Trump as president.”
  • No one at the rally saw that sign and thought “Yes, Jesus Saves with Trump as president.”
  • Great! I don’t like Trump supporters and I can use a pretext of care about truth, or racism, or Jesus to make Trump look bad. Yet again!
  • It’s a ‘Jesus Saves’ sign! What could possibly be seen as dangerous/wrong-minded about that?
  • If there’s a chance that a person might take a sign wrong, we should definitely not put it up.

And here are some correct/wise responses – which I hope all Christians would agree with:

  • The people that put up that sign might be well-intentioned and might have done some good.
  • People at rallies really should be careful with Christian imagery they post.
  • There is such a thing as feigning offense.
  • There is such a thing as feigning fear that others will see the wrong message.
  • There might be people who looked at that sign (at a gathering literally called the “Save America” rally) and be reminded that Jesus transcends politics and presidents in His ability to preserve and defend America.
  • Yes, Jesus does save.

With all the statement about judging (from Jesus, James, Peter, Paul) in the Bible, I think we should always tend towards grace and trust in God. But it’s sometimes very difficult to do that.

Scott Adams is most known for his highly successful Dilbert comic. He’s also a prolific author on wide variety of subjects. 566,000 people follow him on twitter.

He’s generally an advocate for Trump, but he’s an athiest, he describes himself of “left of Bernie”, he advocates for legalizing drugs, he’s prochoice and recently he said, “I’m the most pro-LGBTQ person you’ve ever met.”

So what do you think he thinks is the most central aspect of Christian behavior? How would you expect him to talk about how he sees Christians acting these days?

He has a daily periscope podcast (“Coffee with Scott Adams” – Today’s had 85,000 viewers). Earlier this month, he experienced something and his comments about Christianity made me glad.

As I say, he’s usually pro-Trump, but not always. He was so disappointed in Trump’s performance in the first debate (including not taking a stronger stand on white supremacy), he openly proclaimed on his podcast that he wasn’t going to vote for him unless things changed.

And you might think that people who don’t like Trump would be pleased to hear this and would be encouraging to Scott. But that’s not what happened. And the negative thoughts that came at him from left caused him to say the following ideas. [Note: even with his disclaimer, I disagree with his overly-negative description of democrats, so I took them out, but thinking towards fairness and completion, I’ll be adding them in the comments of this post. And yes, his description of Republicans is almost certainly overly positive. More’s the pity.]

(From around time marker 22:15)

I’ve noticed that there’s a distinction between Republicans and Democrats and it goes like this… This is going to be a gross generalization, so I’m not going to say every Republican and I’m not going to say every Democrat…

Would it be true that Republicans tend to be Christian or Christian-biased, meaning that they tend to be influenced by the Bible, and by that teaching? Even if they’re not actively religious, they probably came from that culture.

And one of the biggest elements of Christianity is forgiveness. In fact, there’s almost nothing more central to Christianity than forgiveness, right? Second chance, you know, you can make up for it in heaven. It’s all about forgiving sins.

The Democrats, on the other hand, tend to be a little more godless…

So here’s the distinction: Republicans will, by choice – this is actively their philosophy – they will forgive you for actual real sins. Including, you know, you saw the president do that First Step Act, if you can get your life together in prison, learn something and serve some of your time, you are forgiven. You’re released.

And I think Christians actually mean that. It’s really baked into them. You can do some pretty bad stuff, but if you’re genuinely forgiving and you do something with your life, you can be forgiven.


What he’s missing here, of course, is the source of a Christian’s interest in forgiveness: Jesus and the fact that we’ve been forgiven by him as a result of what he did for us on the Cross.

But just like with Louis C. K., I’d like to commend the Republicans that Scott’s been talking to. It looks like you’ve represented Christianity (and Christ) well. May we all be more like that.

And Scott, thanks for the nice words.

One of the last times I read through the new testament, I kept track of all of the passages that outline positive and negative behaviors, vice lists and virtue lists*. There were more of both of them than I expected.

I then charted all of them, listing the vices and virtues – and I would like to present a summary of them here – vices first (I’ll show the virtues in another post – you know, end with the more positive).

There are 19 passages and 159 total items in this list, but (since many of them are repeated, there are 83 unique items on the list.

34 of those unique items appear on more than one list and 49 of them only appear once.

What vice do you think is on the most lists? It’s not a big surprise – Sexual Immorality. It’s on ten of the lists, so more than half. And this isn’t the only one having to do with sexual sin.

The rest of this post has two parts:

  1. The context of each of the posts, which the authors say is true about all of the listed vices.
  2. The full list of all of the vices and how often they appear.

I hope you find it helpful and interesting and motivating.

1. Vice List Context Passages – What You Should Know About These Sins

For out of the heart come … But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

What comes out of a person is what defiles him… All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done….

… Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in … But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the … will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be … I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: … I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

… has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: … On account of these the wrath of God is coming. … seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for …

… imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

This is not the wisdom that comes down from above…

… the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do

… they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

… their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

2. Full Vice List

Here are a few things to note:

  • I put all of the full passages – lists with context, in the post right before this one.
  • I used my own discretion when combining, but I didn’t do that too often
  • I’m using ESV
  • With most of these passages, I’m always surprised to see the dark and horrible sins mixed with the more acceptable sins.
  • Entries that are in both of the gospel passages (Matthew 15:19 and Mark 21-23) I only counted as one. They are fairly similar lists.
  • I’ll do the Virtue list summary soon.

Here’s the list of all the vices on all the lists.

Sexually immoral – 10
idolaters – 7
slanderers – 7
anger (fits of anger)(quick tempered) – 5
drunkards – 5
envy – 5
malice – 5
murder/murderers – 5
deceit (lying) – 4
impure – 4
jealousy – 4
Sensual (sensuality) – 4
Conceit – 3
covetousness – 3
evil (desires)(thoughts) – 3
foolish (talk) – 3
liars – 3
orgies – 3
passion – 3
quarrelling – 3
sorcery/sorcerers – 3
wrath – 3
adulterers – 2
boastful – 2
disobedient – 2
disorder – 2
dissensions – 2
faithless – 2
gossips – 2
greedy – 2
homosexuality practicers – 2
lawless – 2
strife – 2
thieves – 2
ambition (selfish) – 1
Bitterness – 1
Clamor – 1
Controversy (unhealthy craving for) – 1
cowardly – 1
crude joking – 1
demonic – 1
depraved in mind – 1
deprived of the truth – 1
detestable – 1
disobedient to parents – 1
divisions – 1
dogs – 1
enmity – 1
empty talkers – 1
enslavers – 1
evil suspicions – 1
filthiness – 1
friction (constant) – 1
hated by others – 1
haters of God – 1
hating one another – 1
haughty – 1
heartless – 1
hostility – 1
hypocrisy – 1
insolent – 1
insubordinate – 1
inventors of evil – 1
led astray – 1
maliciousness – 1
obscene talk – 1
perjurers – 1
practice contrary to sound doctrine – 1
practices falsehood – 1
pride – 1
profane – 1
revilers – 1
rivalries – 1
ruthless – 1
sinners – 1
strike their parents – 1
swindlers – 1
ungodly – 1
unholy – 1
unrighteousness – 1
unspiritual – 1
violent – 1
wickedness – 1

In case you’re curious, here is a list of other posts on my blogs which show a whole category of items from the Bible (Biblical Surveys).

*Yes, that’s a chiasm

Here they are. There are 19. To be used in a soon to come post. Please let me know if I missed any.

These are all from the English Standard Version

Matthew 15:19

[19] For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. [20] These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

Mark 7:20-23

[20] And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. [21] For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, [22] coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. [23] All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Romans 1:28-32

[28] And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. [29] They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, [30] slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, [31] foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. [32] Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Romans 13:13-14

[13] Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. [14] But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

[9] Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, [10] nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. [11] And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

2 Corinthians 12:20-21

[20] For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. [21] I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.

Galatians 5:17-21

[17] For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. [18] But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. [19] Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, [20] idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, [21] envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 4:31

[31] Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

Ephesians 5:3-8

[3] But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. [4] Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. [5] For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. [6] Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. [7] Therefore do not become partners with them; [8] for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

Colossians 3:5-10

[5] Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. [6] On account of these the wrath of God is coming. [7] In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. [8] But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. [9] Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices [10] and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

1 Timothy 1:9-10

[9] understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, [10] the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,

1 Timothy 6:4

[4] he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, [5] and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. [6] But godliness with contentment is great gain,

Titus 1:5-8

 [5] This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—[6] if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. [7] For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, [8] but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.

James 3:14

 [14] But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. [15] This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. [16] For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. [17] But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

Titus 3:3

For cwe ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

1 Peter 2:1

 [1] So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. [2] Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation

1 Peter 4:3-5

[3] For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. [4] With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; [5] but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

Revelation 21:8

[8] But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Revelation 22:15

[15] Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

As another entry in my Biblical survey posts, I thought it might be a revealing study to consider the first occurrence of key words in the Bible.

A few notes:
I’m using ESV
No proper names, (except Satan, I guess)
Yes, I know there are translations issues.
Nine times I list out word pairs (like Joy and Joyful, Praise and Praising) in different passages.
About half of them are found in Genesis.

One result of this study is that I’m (once again) very grateful to be a New Testament/ New Covenant Follower of God.

The following shows the first occurrences of each word – in Biblical order:

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:4
And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.

Genesis 2:3
So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

Genesis 2:4
The Creation of Man and Woman
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

Genesis 2:9
And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2:17
but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 3:6 – So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Genesis 4:1
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”

Genesis 4:7
If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

Genesis 6:18
But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.

Genesis 9:2
The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered.

Genesis 12:2
And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

Genesis 14:13
Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner. These were allies of Abram.

Genesis 15:1
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”

Genesis 15:14
But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

From God’s Covenant with Abram
Genesis 15:15
As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age.

Genesis 16:5
And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!”

Genesis 18:23
Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?

Genesis 18:25
Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

Genesis 19:16
But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.

Genesis 20:3
But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.”

Genesis 20:7
Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”

Genesis 20:7
Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”
(So both Prayer and Prophet are first found in Genesis 20:7)

Genesis 21:23
Now therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my descendants or with my posterity, but as I have dealt kindly with you, so you will deal with me and with the land where you have sojourned.”

Genesis 22:2
He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

Genesis 24:50
Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing has come from the LORD; we cannot speak to you bad or good.

Genesis 25:21
And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.

Genesis 29:35
And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing.

Genesis 31:54
and Jacob offered a sacrifice in the hill country and called his kinsmen to eat bread. They ate bread and spent the night in the hill country.

Genesis 42:16
Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. Or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.”

Genesis 43:14
May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”

Genesis 49:18
I wait for your salvation, O LORD.

Exodus 15:11
“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

Exodus 33:19
And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

Leviticus 17:7
So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.

Leviticus 19:4
Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the LORD your God.

Amen (this one is especially dark)
Numbers 5:22
May this water that brings the curse pass into your bowels and make your womb swell and your thigh fall away.’ And the woman shall say, ‘Amen, Amen.’

Numbers 11:23
And the Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.”

Numbers 12:7
Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house.

Deuteronomy 4:6 – Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’

Deuteronomy 11:22
For if you will be careful to do all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the Lord your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him,

Deuteronomy 12:7
And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.

Deuteronomy 16:15 – For seven days you shall keep the feast to the LORD your God at the place that the LORD will choose, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.

Deuteronomy 32:2
May my teaching drop as the rain,
my speech distill as the dew,
like gentle rain upon the tender grass,
and like showers upon the herb.

Judges 19:3
Then her husband arose and went after her, to speak kindly to her and bring her back. He had with him his servant and a couple of donkeys. And she brought him into her father’s house. And when the girl’s father saw him, he came with joy to meet him.

Ruth 1:12
Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons,

Temple (place of worship)
1 Samuel 1:9
After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord.

2 Samuel 22:3
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence.

2 Kings 25:25
But in the seventh month, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama, of the royal family, came with ten men and struck down Gedaliah and put him to death along with the Jews and the Chaldeans who were with him at Mizpah.

1 Chronicles 21:1
Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.

1 Chronicles 23:30
And they were to stand every morning, thanking and praising the Lord, and likewise at evening

Esther 2:17
the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.

Psalm 65:3
When iniquities prevail against me,
you atone for our transgressions.

Proverbs 25:15
With patience a ruler may be persuaded,
and a soft tongue will break a bone.

Disciple(s) – This is the only time it’s in the old testament
Isaiah 8:16
Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples


Here are seven words that are not found in the Old Testament

Matthew 4:1
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Matthew 4:23
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.

Kingdom of God
Matthew 6:33
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 10:1
And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.

Matthew 16:18
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

John 1:41
He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ).

Acts 4:24
And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them,

In contrast with the first Amen, the very last Amen in the Bible (the last word of the Bible) is much more joyful.

Revelation 22:21
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Any other words I should add to the list?

In case you’re curious, here is a list of other posts on my blogs which show a whole category of items from the Bible.

Here is the complete (I think) list of Biblical Surveys (everything I could find in the Bible of a certain kind) in my blogs:
Read the rest of this entry »

Jamsco Rule 89: The person who is the most sensitive on a certain subject should not be in charge of making corporate decisions about that subject.


Let’s try a mental experiment where instead of avoiding getting the Covid virus, you’re actually trying to contract it. Like, what if you’re told that you have a rich uncle that says (because he’s, you know, crazy) if someone in the family is clinically diagnosed with the Virus, he will give that person a million dollars. You know that if you catch it, you have less than a 1 in 20 chance of dying from it, so you decide to go for it. You now want to catch Covid 19.

But how?*

Well, first you stop washing your hands, and you start touching your face. Like all the time. Then you leave your home. Obviously without any mask. But then what?

You remember reading this article that states that it’s possible to catch the virus from a stranger even while taking a walk (or biking or jogging) out in the great out of doors. And you say triumphantly, “Aha!” and choose that method.

But … then the math starts to get you down. Let’s say you live in my state, Minnesota, which currently has 1242 confirmed cases. And it has a total of 5.6 million people. That means only one in 4500 people actually have the sickness. And about half of them (675) have recovered. And those who are still sick with it aren’t out jogging.

But (you think optimistically) we keep hearing (accurately) that there are many people out there who have it in their system and are contagious but aren’t showing symptoms. Maybe, you guess, there are as many as ten time as many contagious people, some of whom might be out for a walk right now!

That lowers the odds to about 1 in 450. You’re standing outside and you think – that guy that just walked by at the park (not one with a mask, obviously!) there’s really less than a 0.2 percent chance that he has it. This makes you downhearted. But you start to follow him anyway, still trying to be glass-half-full about it.

As you walk, you check back in with the article and see that you have to be within 5 meters of him (in his “slipstream”) to have any chance of catching it. And you can only be directly behind him, because ‘diagonally’ the opportunity to catch the sickness from him is measurably less.

So you estimate the distance of 4.5 meters (you’re more of an Imperial system guy yourself) and then try to get that close to him without making him nervous. It’s really quite close. He keeps looking back at you. Maybe he thinks your about to mug him. But you smile and he eventually does his best to ignore you.

So far so good. If he’s one of the 1 in 450 you’re on your way!

But then you check back in with the article and it says you will only catch it if you’re in his slipstream AND the person coughs or sneezes. And you remember – the fact that this guy is out here almost certainly means he’s not symptomatic. If he was, he probably wouldn’t be exercising.

But still, maybe he’ll cough or sneeze eventually, right? You wait. He doesn’t. You follow him for several minutes.  Did he just cough? No, he’s just chuckling at something from the podcast he’s listening to.

And then … finally … he does cough! Kind of. Slightly. But into the crook of his arm! The odds that he just created a “cloud of droplets” that you might be able to harvest from his slipstream comes close to approaching nill!

“It’s hopeless!” you decide as you stop and walk home deflated. I’m never going to get Covid like this!

You decide your only recourse is to go lick the shelves in your grocery store’s empty toilet paper aisle.


My point is, you can give yourself permission to go for a walk.

* I did my best to not make any major errors here, but the odds that there are none in this thought experiment also comes close to approaching null.


Earlier this year, the pastor in charge of small groups at our church, Pastor Sam, asked several of us to present our thoughts about a set of texts that he suggested – in under five minutes – in a small group leaders meeting.

When I got this request, my mind went pretty quickly to a memory from work. An executive VP, in preparation for a large group meeting, asked several people to present “three-minute drill” talks, and I remembered how one wise lady had handled the time-limited challenge – by writing a poem. So I thought, well, that’s what I’ll have to do then. One big difference, during the big meeting, the EVP put up a countdown timer with an oddly distracting and fairly loud alarm that went off if the speaker went over the time limit. Pastor Sam didn’t do that.

The passage I chose was Matthew 7:13-14, and it is this.
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

And these were Pastor Sam’s questions to consider:
• What is destruction?
• What is life?
• Explain “easy.”
• Explain “hard.”
• How is Jesus central to all these dynamics?
• What potential do small groups have to foster life and not destruction?

Here is my poem. I’m finally getting around to posting it, and I think it applies well to these times. The form is the same used by Pastor John for his advent poems, which my daughter Adelyn says is iambic octameter.

Thoughts On Matthew 7:13-14

Yes, enter by the narrow gate,
Commands our Christ, so it’s the fate
Of those who follow Him to go
This way, against the ebb and flow.

For many go another way.
It’s hard, we hear, so why obey?
His reason told: it leads to Life.
Not fear, not death, not curse, not strife.
Destruction is a fright’ning word.
It means disease that can’t be cured.
It means a death forever felt.
To many will its curse be dealt.
There’s one who wants its death for you.
He sings against the good and true.
The Prince of Darkness points to wrong,
And calls it good. Resist his song.

But life here means to be with God.
Not under His just, chastening rod.
But in His loving, strong embrace
And under His bright shining face.

So: what is meant by easy? All
our undirected minds will fall
In line and follow our own way.
We’re gone tomorrow, here today.
It’s easier to hate, ignore,
Or scorn the One you should adore.

And what is meant by hard? This way
Will mean we choose to trust, obey.
And that’s not what we tend to do.
We still don’t want to follow through
And follow the creator who,
Yes, by the way, created you.
We walk a different path away
So we won’t have to trust, obey.

And how is Jesus central to
all these dynamics? Sam*, don’t you
already know the answer? He,
the human in the trinity,
This Jesus made this blessed gate
And laid a path, clear, level, straight.

And if it’s hard to walk God’s will,
It was for Him much harder still.
He didn’t cross the easy gate.
He stepped out in the face of hate
And walked a cruel, horrid path.
He felt God’s full, just, potent wrath.
So what else can we do but choose
His road, t’ward life we cannot lose.
If Satan wants dark death for all,
There’s joy for those who heed Christ’s call.
He’s stronger than the Prince of Pain.
So choose the path of hope and gain.

And what about that group you’re in?
You all will lean t’ward ease and sin,
Forget God’s plan to cure and bless-
This we will surely do, unless
We enter by the narrow gate.
And not just pass, then sit and wait.
You aren’t in a one act play.
No. Choose this hard gate ev’ry day
And every minute, every hour.
And not by your mere human power,
But by the strength that He gives you.
Thus choose the hard way found by few.

Our one-another goal: Exhort.
And not just: “Hey, hold down the fort.”
Say more: in trust and joy, step out
In faith, walk straight, not roundabout.
Step t’ward each other, and with them
Then side by side thus walk t’ward Him.
Step down the path He walked for you.
He made it well, it’s straight and true.
Again today, choose joy, don’t wait.
Yes, enter by the narrow gate.

* Or, if you like, ‘Saint.’

I’m glad you’re here. Please take a look around.

And while you’re here – can I suggest looking at two other things I’ve worked on?

1. I’ve been posting a series of stories for parents to read to their kids (and to themselves) which illustrate allegories found in the Bible.

2. We have six Fighter Verse Song CDs (for Bible Verse Memorization). Please take a look here:

(or go straight to the Amazon page.)

I don’t go to church regularly (or read the Bible, or pray) so it will make me a better (more spiritual, more Godly, more living-in-line-with-the-Gospel) Christian than other people. I do these things so it will make me a better Christian than I would be otherwise.

It’s been a long time, (perhaps a decade) since I’ve tasted alcohol. And it’s possible that tomorrow I’ll be in a situation where I decide it’s a wise choice to drink something with alcohol in it, but this, I’m guessing, is quite unlikely.

This is not because I think it’s a sin, so this is another issue where I don’t encourage people to be like me. But I do have reasons for not drinking that are less morality-based. Here are eight. I should say that there are a few that I’m not proud of, like the first one.

  1. It doesn’t taste good to me.

This one falls under the “I’m a big baby” category. People talk about acquired tastes about many things, but I’ve never acquired a taste for anything and that includes wine, champagne, and beer. And from the expressions on people faces when I see them drink harder liquors, I’m pretty sure I would dislike them even more.

  1. I’m a volumes guy.

I see people on TV pouring themselves a glass of whiskey and it’s always very small and I ask – what’s the point of that? If I want to drink something, I want to be able to safely drink a lot. When I drink liquids I want to quench my thirst, not sip.

  1. It’s expensive.

Even if you buy the big cheap bottles, pretty much any kind of alcohol is the most expensive way to get fluids into your body. Why would I spent five dollars at a restaurant to get one glass of wine when a (to my mind) much better tasting bottomless Cherry Pepsi is $2.50? (And ice water is free!)

  1. It’s possible I’m a lightweight.

The last time I drank, I had a glass and a half of wine (or less). I felt it. I think I got a little dizzy. I don’t want to pursue that.

  1. The Bible

There is a fair amount in Scripture that warns against over-drinking. Choosing to completely abstain make this a total non-issue.

  1. Everyone should have something

I think there is some wisdom in having something you totally forgo.

  1. Holding down one end of the spectrum

If there are people in the world (or at any given adult gathering) who drink too much, it seems like there should be someone who doesn’t drink at all, perhaps to help other people who don’t want to drink feel more comfortable. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

  1. Minding my words.

My whole life I have done my best to attempt (with an imperfect success rate, as some of you can attest) to keep myself from saying stupid things. It is my guess that my stupid-things-said-by-me to things-said-by-me ratio would increase exponentially (yes, I’m mixing my math metaphors) if I drank alcohol. I fear this. I fear this to the degree that I have difficulty understanding why other people don’t fear this.

Those are my reasons. I hope they make sense, and maybe these thoughts help you understand others you know who are like me.


Here is my post linking to all the posts in this “Why I do/don’t do this” series of posts.

To write a good story, it’s often helpful or necessary to describe what’s in the mind of a character. An author can do this with perfect certainty. A journalist can’t. Any time a news story makes assumptions about what is in the mind of one of the people in their narrative it is deceptive journalism. Beware.

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March 2023