The perils of prosperity

Throughout history people seem to have had the idea that those who were rich would get to heaven and those who were poor would struggle to get there. This seems to have been backed by this idea: the wealth of the rich was evidence that God was blessing them; the poverty of the poor was proof that God was not with them. As attractive as that philosophy has been, it doesn’t take much reading in the Bible to discover that, more often than not, it is the poor who are faithful to God.

This brings us to the young man who came to Jesus who was quite rich. He asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to gain eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16 NET). He had the idea that if he did something good he would be given eternal life. And since he was wealthy, he could afford to do whatever it was that this teacher asked of him. Continue reading “The perils of prosperity”

Moving beyond “why?”

We have all said it when confronted by disappointment. What elicited our question? Was it just an unexpected event or something much more significant? What is certain is we did not like it and we asked, “Why?”

When shallow platitudes are insufficient, “why” can consume massive amounts of our time and energy. Yet resolving it can remain as elusive as ever. Job can help us move beyond asking why to something more productive. Continue reading “Moving beyond “why?””

Graduation to glory

We lost two great men this week to the cause of Christ. Or, more accurately, two great men graduated to glory. Parker Henderson, missionary to Thailand and Trinidad, and Doyle Gilliam, missionary to Malawi and Zimbabwe. Together they spent close to a century as missionaries. The number of conversions to Christ is known to none but the Lord alone.

I knew and respected brother Henderson from a distance. I wish I could do justice in expressing my admiration for his lifetime of service. I was, however, privileged to know Doyle Gilliam personally. He was a scholar, an author, dignified, and humorous. He was a very good preacher, but an even better teacher. He became fluent in the Chichewa language, preaching and conversing in it with ease. He served for a number of years in the midst of a civil war, and was most adept at developing long-term relationships with brethren in southern Africa. He took time for a foolish teenager who had, well, questions. Continue reading “Graduation to glory”

What did you go to see?

John the Immerser was imprisoned by Herod Antipas about 70 miles from where Jesus was preaching.

John sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the coming one or not. No one is sure why John did this, but it is understandable since he was about to lose his head for telling the king the truth about his marriage to his brother’s wife.

After answering John’s disciples, Jesus turned to the other people and asked them a question. When they went out to the wilderness, what did they go to see (Luke 7:24-26)? Continue reading “What did you go to see?”

Isolate the cause

Green peppers are ripe in the garden! Oh, the possibilities — pepper pizza, fajitas, stuffed peppers, and any number of dishes with these tasty green fruits as a flavoring.

I brought in the first two bell peppers from the garden yesterday. One was perfect! The other was a terrible disappointment, after cutting into it and finding brown spots on the inside. I needed to know how to prevent the rest of my pepper crop from succumbing to such an unappetizing problem. Continue reading “Isolate the cause”

Desolation

“Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire; strangers devour your land in your presence; and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. So the daughter of Zion is left as a booth in a vineyard, as a hut in a garden of cucumbers” (Isaiah 1:7-8 NKJV).

As one drives through Bangladesh he sees many fields of rice, vegetables, or other crops, as well as many ponds used to raise shrimp or fish for the export market. All of these various kinds of produce are valuable, and since the fields and ponds are generally, unfenced they are vulnerable to thieves. Continue reading “Desolation”

Make time for God

“Now when Jesus heard this he went away from there privately in a boat to an isolated place. But when the crowd heard about it, they followed him on foot from the towns” (Matthew 14:13 NET).

Jesus had just received news of the death of John. We know from Luke 1:36 that their mothers were related, so it may not be speculating too much to suggest that Jesus and John may have known each other as children. Being close in age, if there had been family gatherings they would probably have ended up together. Continue reading “Make time for God”

Squashing doubt and fear

Doubt can creep into our lives through many different avenues. Will this plan succeed? Will I be OK? Doubt spawns fear which erodes faith.

Spiritual doubt can arise when different voices spew forth conflicting messages about God and accessing eternal life. Even in the first century some Christians were wondering about questions similar to: What is my actual relationship with God? Have I chosen a sufficient spiritual path?

John provided a handbook so that God’s people could navigate such doubts. Anchoring his message upon a firm foundation, he offered evidence to squash doubt and fear. Here are some of his confidence builders. His letter provides a slam dunk. Continue reading “Squashing doubt and fear”

Jesus did what was right

My wife watches me when we cut grass together. She watches closely. If I start mowing in a way she doesn’t like, she will stop her mower and make hand signals to correct me. I don’t mind. She’s only trying to help.

Jesus was at the synagogue one day and the Scribes and Pharisees were watching him closely. They weren’t watching Jesus to help him. Their motives were darker. Dr. Luke wrote they were watching to see if Jesus would heal someone on the Sabbath. They wanted to accuse him of doing something wrong (Luke 6:7). Continue reading “Jesus did what was right”