dispute

When Christians disagree

The names “Paul” and “Barnabas” seemed to go hand in hand during the early years of Christianity. It was Barnabas who took time to find out about Saul, the former persecutor of Christians, when he was trying to join the Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-27Acts 9:26-27
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26 When Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join himself to the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.

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). Later, when he saw such a great opportunity in Antioch, he went to Tarsus to find Saul.

For the next year they worked together and “taught a significant number of people” (Acts 11:26Acts 11:26
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26 When he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. It happened, that for a whole year they were gathered together with the assembly, and taught many people. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

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NET). They became part of the group of “prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch” (Acts 13:1Acts 13:1
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13 1 Now in the assembly that was at Antioch there were some prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen the foster-brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

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). The Holy Spirit told this group to “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2Acts 13:2
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2 As they served the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Separate Barnabas and Saul for me, for the work to which I have called them.”

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). Barnabas and Saul sailed to Cyprus and later went into the Roman province of Asia proclaiming the good news of Jesus, before returning to Antioch. Continue reading

Conformity

Conformity through identification

We tend to identify with our heroes; we seek to share in their substance. Through identification we assimilate some, often many, of their characteristics, and so our views, and opinions and actions, are formed through identification.

There are several passages which speak of our being conformed to the likeness of Christ, or our identification with Christ.

“And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, … them he also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30Romans 8:28-30
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28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. The word for “brothers” here and where context allows may also be correctly translated “brothers and sisters” or “siblings.” 30 Whom he predestined, those he also called. Whom he called, those he also justified. Whom he justified, those he also glorified.

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ASV).

Among the goals of man’s redemption in God’s purpose is conformity to the image of his Son. Glorification consists of being made Christ-like, the perfect image of God in human nature. His people “are transformed into the same image (Christ’s image or “likeness”) from glory to glory” [or “ever-increasing glory” – ISV(2 Corinthians 3:182 Corinthians 3:18
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18 But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit.

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), so glorification is both present and progressive as we grow more and more into the likeness (image) of Christ. Continue reading

Drunk

God, lovingkindness and longsuffering

As a young man, in the late ’70’s I worked construction on a framing crew, and as is often the case, there were several rather unique characters among them. The lead foremen had an odd sense of humor and nick-named everyone and everything. While working with the crew was generally a good time, the man we worked for was a raging alcoholic, whom the foreman nicknamed “the Strapper”.

The Strapper was a master of verbal abuse and humiliation. He was no carpenter himself, but he always had plenty of work lined up and paid every week. The two foremen who were the actual builders were willing to put up with the abuse because the pay was good and the work was steady. Continue reading

road ahead

Looking ahead

“Brothers I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining toward what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13,14Philippians 3:13,14
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13 Brothers, I don’t regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do. Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

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, ESV).

We make the mistake of looking back in three ways:

  • Mistakes in the past: Here we marinate in our mistakes, hobble our current Christian endeavor, because we made mistakes. Paul certainly had much to regret in his past. Yet we can learn from our mistakes, repent of our sins, and grow. Don’t look back in regret.
  • Past achievements: The church had good preachers “back then.” The church was successful and victorious “back then.” Constantly saying so is not respectful to current servants of the Lord, discourages them, and appears to be our excuse for doing nothing now.
  • Past wrongs: Here we recall – in vivid Technicolor! – the wrongs someone did to us in the past. We recall each inflection of their voice, every gesture of their betrayal, nursing again and again our hurt. Yet you cannot live any length of time without collecting cuts and bruises.

Continue reading

Greed

A punch in the gut

“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10Luke 16:10
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10 He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much. He who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

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, KJV)

Greek scholar A.T. Robertson called the above statement “one of the profoundest sayings of Christ.” I’ll have to agree. Nothing punches us in the gut quite like Jesus sticking his nose in our personal business, especially our money (which is under consideration in the context of Luke 16). Jesus didn’t mind going “from preachin’ to meddlin’,” as they say in the country.

The Doobie Brothers used to famously (and repetitiously) belt out, “Jesus is just alright with me.” That’s the truth. For most people, Jesus is just “alright.” He is tolerable. Most people don’t mind rubbing shoulders with Jesus. He was a good man, a generous person, concerned with people and their problems. Continue reading

Love Match

Preaching and living

We must become Christians if we want to enter heaven. Christ paved a path to follow to reap the rewards of eternity. Head, heart and hands must all join as we live for the Lord.

Everything in Christianity was organized before time began (Ephesians 1:4Ephesians 1:4
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4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and without blemish before him in love;

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), and God’s Word will be supreme after it ceases. What happens in the middle can have no effect because God’s will is so much bigger than we are.

God writes on a canvas larger than the universe and we’re an infinitesimal spot on the fabric (Psalm 139:7-12Psalm 139:7-12
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7 Where could I go from your Spirit? Or where could I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend up into heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the dawn, And settle in the uttermost parts of the sea; 10 Even there your hand will lead me, And your right hand will hold me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me; The light around me will be night;” 12 Even the darkness doesn’t hide from you, But the night shines as the day. The darkness is like light to you.

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). Humility is easier the more we immerse ourselves in Scripture (James 4:10James 4:10
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10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will exalt you.

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). We must perpetually place God on his throne as we sit in the dirt. Continue reading

little-engine

Moves, changes and choices

You may have noticed something different in the Forthright/GoSpeak sites recently. We’ve moved many of our sites to a new host server. Others will be moved there also after the first ones are tweaked. With the move come some minor issues, such as some missing articles, but we’re getting them resolved. Our thanks to webmaster Matt Clifton for his work on transferring the sites.

Yours Truly is traveling in the US and, for the last four days, off the grid. Today is yet another travel day for The Missus and me, as we head back to our base in middle Tennessee and look forward to our return home to Brazil next week. Continue reading

Potted plants

Whose garden is it, anyway?

Why do we dig in the dirt and lovingly plant gardens? For ourselves?

The reason we take care of our plants in the garden is for our own use and pleasure. However, we must understand and respect the needs of the plant, or our efforts may well be in vain.

God demands respect. He wants us to worship him and is clear in scripture how that is to happen. (Spoiler alert here: it’s all about God, not about us.) Continue reading

centurion

A centurion and his faith

The Jews had fought long and hard to gain their independence from the Seleucids only to see the high priest’s office fall to a man who was unqualified.

The Romans then brought their legions and standards into Jerusalem prompting a reaction of hatred from the Jews who were sensitive to the idolatry that had been forced on them through Hellenization.

So, when a friendly Roman came to Palestine and took an interest in Judaism, it must have caused excitement within the ranks of the Jewish rulers. And just such a man, a centurion, did come expressing an interest and even built a synagogue for the Jews. Continue reading

Standing in Line

Is patience really a virtue?

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5Romans 5:3-5
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3 Not only this, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering works perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: 5 and hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

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NKJV).

How would you like to spend three days and nights in the cab of a heavy truck on the river bank, waiting for your turn to cross on the ferry? Or to sleep all night sitting in a doorway so as to ensure that you would be able to buy a ticket on the train to go home for the holidays when the counter opened at 9:00 a.m. the next morning?

Such experiences are commonplace in Bangladesh and other densely populated countries of Asia. The vast number of people combined with inadequate infrastructure means that it takes a long time to do almost anything, and waiting one’s turn is simply an inescapable fact of life. Add regular floods that destroy such infrastructure as there is and the problem is magnified even more. Continue reading