The car illustration: works versus doing

It all began last week in a Bible study at a retirement home. The focus was upon a familiar parable, The Good Samaritan. Suddenly, one of the seniors exclaimed, “All of our lives we have heard sermons that, ‘We are not saved by works.’ Yet Jesus’ parable is all about what we do!” She had just finished reading some texts highlighted on her study sheet, specifically Luke 10:25,28,37.

A teachable moment had arrived. Positive instruction could be shared about Jesus’ parable. The breadth of Paul’s usage of “works” could be underscored. Furthermore, the distinction between trying to be justified by works and doing something could be explained. Continue reading “The car illustration: works versus doing”

Watching the greatest

Who is the greatest you have ever seen? There is something special, something almost poetic in watching the greatest perform. Seen in person, a Michael Jordan fadeaway, a Messi shot on goal, a Jack Nicklaus approach shot, a Federer down-the-line running forehand, or a Willie Mayes moonshot would leave an indelible memory.

Perhaps you hang upon every note as Eta James sings or Dizzy Gillespie wails on the trumpet. Or maybe it is the works of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, or Dvorak, brilliantly performed that draw you in. You dare not turn away when the best take the stage, for something great may happen. Continue reading “Watching the greatest”

Love for self is selfishness

If any age of man is the era of selfishness, ours is it. The selfie is our symbol. If Narcissus had his pool of water, we have that ubiquitous extension of our personalities, the smartphone.

In the last letter that has remained from his hand, the apostle Paul warned his son in the faith, Timothy, away from false teachers and manipulators of souls. The entire passage deserves reading, but start with these six verses: Continue reading “Love for self is selfishness”

A pearl and an apple

One of the shortest parables of the Lord Jesus is in Matthew chapter 13. Like most of Jesus’ teachings, its meaning and wonder extend beyond the simple 32 words of the text.

The Lord said the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for pearls. Then, he saw “one pearl of great price” and desired it so much he sold all he owned to buy it (Matthew 13:45-46). The merchant knew what was important to him and sacrificed everything he had. Continue reading “A pearl and an apple”

Manpower

“Solomon had seventy thousand who carried burdens, and eighty thousand who quarried stone in the mountains, besides three thousand three hundred . . . who supervised the people who labored in the work” (1 Kings 5:15-16).

One project in Bangladesh involved considerable digging and moving of dirt. A team of ten men were used, three or four of whom dug out the dirt and loaded it into baskets. These were then carried on the heads of the remainder of the crew to the place where the dirt was dumped. Each basket weighed an estimated 80 to 100 pounds. As I watched I could not help but be reminded of the massive building projects of Biblical times, such as the pyramids of Egypt and the great Temple and other buildings of King Solomon of Israel. Continue reading “Manpower”

Lost and found

Have you ever lost something and couldn’t find it? You search your entire house and even start looking in the same places again because you know it has to be there somewhere, but you just can’t find it.

What do you do when you find it? You are overjoyed – in fact you may be ecstatic! I’ve found it! And you have to tell someone (isn’t it the nature of good news that it has to be shared with others?). Continue reading “Lost and found”

He was not mentioned but he was there

By Johnny O. Trail — Esther is a small book found in the Old Testament that many have read throughout the millennia. It is interesting to note that the word for “God” is not found in this ten-chapter book. While God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, one finds him providentially working in the lives of his people.

The book of Esther and the lives of the people mentioned therein illustrate some powerful biblical principles. Some of them are:

  1. Esther demonstrates how the prideful reason about themselves.
  2. God providentially works in the lives of those who are his people—in Esther’s age and ours too.
  3. Obedience is necessary to effectuate the salvation of God’s people.
  4. Hatred and racism are age-old problems that all generations of people have had to face.
  5. The prideful will fail whereas the humble will find refuge and protection in God’s care.

Continue reading “He was not mentioned but he was there”

Churchscape

Have you seen tree-covered mountains reaching for the sky, vast prairie plains with golden wheat swaying in the wind, or still yet tropical hills bathed in lush vegetation descending upon wide white beaches giving way to the blue ocean? What is your favorite landscape? Many contrasting topographical features can comprise a landscape.

For me, churchscape calls to mind a broad, sweeping look at Christendom revealing a wide variety of fellowships with countless overlapping and contrasting beliefs and practices. What compass do you use to navigate the churchscape? What matters to you? What should matter? Continue reading “Churchscape”