Danger Will Robinson

“Danger Will Robinson” is more intriguing than, “The influence of hermeneutical goals.” How dry!

What follows is a true story. For me, it is a sad narrative illustrating several principles, such as the powerful influence desire and fear can wield over our understanding of scripture. It also underscores how institutions, like individuals, can seem to get caught between serving Christ and pursuing either legacies or self-preservation. Continue reading “Danger Will Robinson”

Sex and lies

In matters of sexuality, the church is reflecting the world. Even to use the term “sexual immorality” is to sound as if one is from another galaxy.

I get it. We’re lonely and broken, and the promise of health and healing is held out to those contemplating extramarital relationships. The single Christian wonders if he will ever enjoy the pleasures of sexual intimacy. Married Christians seek something more in other relationships. As one woman proclaimed: “I’m happy with (this other man), and God wants me to be happy, doesn’t he?” Continue reading “Sex and lies”

What it takes to start a new congregation

Note: I published this article almost 15 years ago, on a third-party site, in the early days of Forthright Magazine. We republish it today, with a few tweaks, to give thanks for the Taubaté congregation, to encourage others to preach the gospel in every place, and to remind ourselves as we prepare for yet another church plant in the city of Jacareí.

Next Sunday, we’re beginning a new work in a major city near us, called Taubaté. This city has 250,00 population, with no church there yet.

Three couples of us met there yesterday, in a home, to worship together and plan ahead. I preached on what it takes to start a congregation from Acts 2. Let me encourage you to read this chapter before continuing. Continue reading “What it takes to start a new congregation”

Proclaiming Jesus

“When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him. Then he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Leave me alone, Jesus, Son of the Most High God! I implore you by God – do not torment me!’ (For Jesus had said to him, ‘Come out of that man, you unclean spirit!’) Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘My name is Legion, for we are many’” (Mark 5:6-9 NET).

It isn’t strange to us that a man saw Jesus, ran up, and bowed down before him. We can read about this happening quite often while Jesus was teaching and healing. What makes this man different is that he was not in his right mind. Continue reading “Proclaiming Jesus”

Judging: the forgotten 50%

How helpful is half of a car?  Would any of us be content to use half of a mathematical answer as though we possessed the whole solution? Yet, probably because of texts like Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37, we might assume that judging is equivalent to condemning. And we know that we are not supposed to judge!

However, such an understanding falls short of what it means to judge. Furthermore, we will remain oblivious to some very significant and practical applications of the command, “Do not judge.” The first four chapters of 1 Corinthians offer a healthy antidote. Continue reading “Judging: the forgotten 50%”

Hymn books versus songs on a screen

There is an article floating around the Internet that suggests churches should opt for hymnbooks rather than songs on a screen. Are there concerns about this movement?

Two caveats. First, this is a first world problem. Churches in mission churches probably have neither. Second, this is not a topic that touches on any biblical principle. The Bible says as much about hymnbooks and powerpoint presentations as it does the Pittsburgh Sealers, which is to say, it says nothing. Continue reading “Hymn books versus songs on a screen”

If you are a worker in God’s kingdom

If you are a worker in God’s kingdom, take the long view. Present afflictions, without the perspective of eternity, can be depressing. But knowing the sovereignty of God, we can be sure that he works all things for the accomplishment of his will and the good of his people, Romans 8.28.

As planters and waterers, we may not always see the growth. Sometimes we will, sometimes not. Sometimes the growth may come quickly, at others times slowly or, in our limited sight, not at all. But if God gives the growth, 1 Corinthians 3.7, we may be sure that growth there will be. Patience is key. Continue reading “If you are a worker in God’s kingdom”

Always be ready

“As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his disciples came to him privately and said, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’” (Matthew 24:3 NET).

Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24 is still amongst the most controversial of all that he taught. It seems that in every age there are some who believe that Jesus was talking about the time in which they are living. Sadly they miss the context of Jesus’ message and instead begin to look for “signs” which would show that Jesus is about to return. We should notice what prompted the disciples’ question. Continue reading “Always be ready”

What happens to us when we die?

I have often made this statement in my preaching: “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” This expresses the central mystery of Christianity: We place such heavy emphasis on feeding the desires of our physical bodies; we should instead be feeding the eternal part of our beings, our soul or spirit.

There is a movement among preachers in our fellowship who suggest that after we die we will inherit the same bodies that we have now. They point to Jesus’ resurrected body, apparently the same as the one he had before his death, bearing the marks of his crucifixion. Consider his invitation to Thomas to touch the scars in his hands and side (John 20:26-28). But it’s also worth noting the image of the risen victorious Jesus, white hair, face like the sun and eyes like a flame of fire (Revelation 1:12-16). This is clearly not describing the physical body Jesus had while on the earth. Continue reading “What happens to us when we die?”