Author Archives: Benj

About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, transplanted to Pennsylvania...lived and taught in Eastern Europe for six years…Old Testament professor, ordained minister, occasional liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth.

Sermon: Sage Gibson on Mark 5:25-34

This is the audio (30:08, 26.9 MB) of a sermon preached at Klaipėda Free Christian Church, on April 3, 2022, by one of my students, Sage Gibson. The main text is Mark 5:25-34. Sage completed a course on the Book … Continue reading

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Sermon: “I Stretched Out My Hands All Day Long” (Isaiah 65–66)

Have you ever had an experience with a toddler that you knelt down, held out your arms, and waited for the child to run to you to be hugged—and instead the child runs past you to someone else? (This can also happen with dogs!) No one really takes this personally when it happens, because—children are children! But if, let’s say, you’re an uncle or an aunt, and a child ignores you like this, multiple times in a row—maybe you feel a bit hurt. Well, God felt this way with Israel. He didn’t just want them to conform to some rule or standard; he wanted to be close to them. He made himself available to them, he held out his arms all day long to them (65:2) but most ignored him….
In the Gospels, we see that Jesus’s arms were open wide, to those who would answer his call and take hold of him in faith. At the cross, with his arms stretched out all day long, in excruciating pain, he looked out at a rebellious and disobedient people—Jews and Gentiles—and took upon himself the punishment for their sins, the sins of anyone who would repent. Continue reading

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Sermon: “Hide the Fugitives!” (Isaiah 15:8–16:5)

The church is Jesus’s household, his kingdom on earth. We should absolutely be a place of refuge for refugees and those fleeing for their lives—just as the Davidic kings of ancient Judah could be a safe place for Moabites and others from all over the world. Continue reading

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Sermon: “Oh, That You Would Rend the Heavens!” (Isaiah 63:7-64:12)

The prayer in Isaiah 63–64 is a great example because the faithful prophet knows what his people need: they need God to change their hearts, and they need God to be near to them. It is passionate, and thoughtful, and based on God’s promises to his people. It’s also beautiful for us to think about how God answered this prayer: including in ways that his people did not expect. Continue reading

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Seminar: “Images of Healing, Healing Images”

This presentation explores the concept of the “image of God” found in the Hebrew Scriptures, and its value for understanding the task of the healing and caregiving professions. Against the backdrop of other ancient Near Eastern conceptions of cultic images—their fashioning, care and feeding, and function to mediate the deities’ presence—the Bible describes only human beings as adequate images to mediate the presence of YHWH, Israel’s deity, into the world. Treating human beings with care and dignity, and participating in their healing, is an act that allows both patient and caregiver to mediate the presence of God to one another and into the world. Continue reading

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Article on Ezekiel 20

I’m pleased to announce the publication of an essay in the journal Biblische Zeitschrift: “‘Anger Exhausted’ for the Sake of YHWH’s Name in Ezekiel 20: Did YHWH Really Relent from Wrath Poured Out on Israel?” Continue reading

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Epiphany Sermon: “Nations Shall Come to Your Light” (Isaiah 60:1-14)

This was YHWH God’s purpose all along in calling Israel to be his people: that his glory would be shown in their midst, and the nations would see and be attracted to it. Very often, Israel failed to live up to God’s glory—as we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. None of us is worthy to carry forth God’s glory into the world. In Isaiah 60, despite all that Israel, Judah and Jerusalem had done to bring shame on God’s name: God still displayed his glory through them. In Matthew 2: despite all that the Jews, and all that humanity, had done to dishonor God: God still chose to be born a Jewish baby, a human baby, and to show his glory in the world through Jesus Christ. Continue reading

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Guest Post: Is COVID Bringing the Church to a Screeching Halt?

Our governments are against in-person Church attendance because congregating undermines their attempts to contain and subdue the pandemic that has thrown our world into such chaos. The Church needs not to be brave enough to defy the authorities merely for the sake of rebelling against human authorities. Neither should the Church be asleep when battles of cosmic nature are raging. Each congregation and believer need to seek out God’s will. When we know God’s will, we should be willing to lose our lives for the realization of that will; if we must heed the command to honor authorities and obey them, fine. However, we can still meet in our homes. In these small group settings, every member is indeed known, discipled, and held accountable to walk according to the calling they have received from God. Relationships flourish in small groups. Each person gets ample opportunity to exercise their gifts to build up the body in small groups. If we cannot meet in our thousands like we are used to, maybe God is drawing us back to what has worked in the past: house churches. The Bible warns that persecution will break out. Continue reading

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Advent Sermon: “He Will Stand and Shepherd His Flock” (Micah 4:9-5:6)

The fact that Micah mentions “the land of Nimrod” is not just trying to be more specific—“Oh, you mean that Assyria, the one founded by Nimrod.” It’s reminding us of the rebellion and evil that Nimrod spread throughout the world. But this king from Bethlehem who would bring peace and lead Israel, will not just defend his people from outside attacks, although that is part of it. In the first part of verse 6, we see that he will lead the people to the gates of Assyria, the land of Nimrod, the heart of the land where evil dwells. In other words, he is going to lead an attack, to take the fight to the evil land—and he will win! Continue reading

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Seminar on Old Testament, in English and Lithuanian

This summer, I was honored with the invitation to speak at a retreat for one of our sister churches in Vilnius, 180º Bažnyčia (Church). This Saturday seminar was in two parts and is titled, “How Can Christians Make Sense of the Old Testament?” (“Kaip krikščionys supranta Senąjį Testamentą?”) Continue reading

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