Sources of authority

“And coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?'” (Matthew 13:54, ESV).

In the current great political divide which has enveloped our nation, it is unfortunately quite common for one side to reject a proposal simply because it was made by their opponents. Its intrinsic worth is rarely considered, but only, “If the other party is for it, we are against it.” Continue reading “Sources of authority”

Remembering home

When you are away from home, do you ever long to be back and start missing particular settings? Perhaps you remember the past and people who are no longer alive. Perhaps it is when you are at worship in a foreign land that memories of worship ‘back home’ come flooding into your mind.

The Israelites in captivity in Babylon seem to have experienced some of this. Although they hadn’t been faithful to God in their homeland they still had fond memories of the temple and the worship that went on there. They longed to be home. Perhaps where they were had an impact on them as well, as the area around Jerusalem is very mountainous and they were exiled to a flat country. Listen as they describe what they were missing. Continue reading “Remembering home”

On seed spreaders and soil testers

A beloved brother pondered, “Are these people good soil? I don’t know.”

The parable of the sower is found in all three synoptic accounts (Matthew 13:3-9; Mark 4:3-9; Luke 8:4-8). A sower spread seed along the path, on rocky ground, among thorns, and on good soil. That which fell upon the trampled path was eaten by birds. That which fell upon the rocky ground (a small layer of soil upon hardpan) had no depth of root and withered away. That which fell among the thorns was choked out. Continue reading “On seed spreaders and soil testers”

Hell is for good people, too

“We can take solace in the fact that he was a good person and went to a better place.” Similar sentiments are often expressed at funerals.

The common religious myth is that good people go to heaven. A myth it is. Goodness, as man defines it, is evil in the eyes of God. Man has no idea whatsoever of goodness. A man called Jesus good and got a rap on the knuckles for it, since the man was using human criteria for his judgment. Continue reading “Hell is for good people, too”

A time to refrain

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. … A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 5b).

When my wife and I read Ecclesiastes in our daily devotional recently I paused at the end of 3:5 to ask facetiously, “Is this a prophecy of the Covid Pandemic?” For more than a year people have come together less frequently and in smaller groups and have practiced social distancing without handshakes, hugs or other familiar expressions of affection. Those of us who are addicted to hugging have missed that practice greatly. We understood then (and still do) the necessity of keeping safe distances, but we knew that our attempts to preserve our health came at a high price. Continue reading “A time to refrain”

Trial by fire

Have you ever felt pressured to do something or go along with what others are doing, even though you knew it was wrong? After all, everyone is doing it, so why not do it too? If you don’t do it then you will stick out.

This is the situation that three Jewish young men faced as exiles in Babylon. They had been trained for King Nebuchadnezzar’s service. They were respected and doing as well as they could as captives. The problem came when the king had a huge statue made and then ordered everyone to bow down and worship it. He summoned all his government officials to assemble and take part in a ceremony to worship the image he had made. Continue reading “Trial by fire”

The place nobody wants to talk about

Who wants to talk about hell?

Forthright has published over 10,000 articles (10,240 at the time I’m writing this), and precious few of those have been about hell. Only nine articles have been tagged with “hell.” A search reveals a few more that touch upon it, but less than 1/2 of 1% of all articles discuss hell in much depth.

I have always viewed Forthright as a wonderful place for uplifting and challenging articles. Likely you would not be reading — nor would I be writing for — Forthright were the percentages considerably higher. (These articles on eternal punishment are worth reading.) Continue reading “The place nobody wants to talk about”

A matter of the heart

“For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not be the letter. His praise is not from man but from God” (Romans 2:28-29, ESV).

No subject was more stressed in the teaching of Jesus than the need for inner conformance to the will and nature of God. From the lessons of the Sermon on the Mount to those of the last week before his death on the cross, the Lord continually emphasized that service to God requires commitment from the inner person as well as obedience to outward, physically oriented commands. His mandate, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), is best understood as demanding complete obedience, within and without, to God’s will. Continue reading “A matter of the heart”