Following Jesus involves a cross

Crucifixion was Rome’s way of dealing with people it didn’t like. Crucifixion was Rome’s way of dealing with enemies. Its gruesome nature was a part of Rome telling people they’d best behave or they might find themselves hanging from a cross one day.

Jesus had a discussion with his disciples that put the figure of the cross front and center. In Luke 9, Jesus told the men following him that if they were his disciples, they must deny self and take up a cross. The condemned was required to carry his own cross to the place of execution. The figure is clear. Continue reading “Following Jesus involves a cross”

Completely overwhelmed

It’s not that there is a lack of bunnies in the yard; there are way too many! Those little monsters seem to know which plants are the most costly, and happily munch them to the ground. They’ll even chow down on stuff that’s supposed to be poisonous. Baby rabbits are the proverbial “dumb bunnies” and will eat any plant. They especially delight in munching just a tiny bit of stem, so that the plant is destroyed without being consumed. I’ve seen my Gerbera daisies mowed down by young rabbits. 

Even with the surplus of those pernicious little rodent-like creatures in the yard, I still love my little life-size decorative resin bunny. He’s very polite, and has never wreaked destruction on the garden like those cute but naughty live rabbits.  Continue reading “Completely overwhelmed”

Meaning behind the name

“And she conceived again and bore a daughter. Then God said to him: ‘Call her name Lo-Ruhamah, for I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel’” (Hosea 1:6 NKJV).

Don’t you often wonder why other people name their children what they do? This question arises within one’s own language and culture, but is especially frequent in cross-cultural situations. Sometimes it is simply a matter of a word (name) being totally unfamiliar, such as “Tuhin” or “Mridol.”

In other cases it is recognition that we just would not have thought of that particular name. One of the administrators of Khulna Bible College named his son “Abishai,” after the second son of King David’s sister, Zeruiah (2 Samuel 2:18). There is certainly nothing wrong with that name, and I knew of its Old Testament use, but I had simply never known any modern person to whom it had been given. When I considered Biblical names to suggest to those who requested it, Abishai was not one which occurred to me. Continue reading “Meaning behind the name”

Hold on to what you have!

Jesus’ message to Philadelphia is different than most of the ones to the seven congregations in Asia. One of the first things you may notice is that there is no criticism of these Christians. They are faithful and they are continuing to serve Jesus.

“I know your works. I have put before you an open door which no one can close, because you have a little power. You have kept my message, and you did not deny my name.” (Revelation 3:8 McCord)

Jesus had given them an “open door”. Although there is no explanation as to what this open door was, many suggest that this is an open door of opportunity to teach the good news of Jesus. We find this phrase used in this context when Paul told those in Antioch about his success during his first teaching trip, that God “had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). In his letters to the Corinthians he wrote about “a wide door of opportunity” being open (1 Corinthians 16:9) and when he got to Troas he said “a door was opened to me” (2 Corinthians 2:12). He asked the Colossians to pray “that God may open to us a door for the message” (Colossians 4:3). Continue reading “Hold on to what you have!”

The Gravity of Grace (3): Romans 1-8 Overview

Luther quipped that he hated the commonly accepted idea of “righteousness” in Romans. Accordingly, he discovered a new definition that created for him a whole new way to interpret Romans.

When we seek to understand scripture, we need to be aware that what we do not want to be true as well as what we value can exert powerful influences upon how we interpret a text. I call this the hermeneutic of desire.

Aware that this is true, my goal in summarizing Romans below is neither to conform to popular understanding nor to reject it. I neither seek to stand in Luther’s shadow nor to run from it. With your Bible at your side, you will have to judge to what extent I have been successful in summarizing Paul.

Whatever message we understand embedded within Romans will greatly influence how we interpret grace. This in turn will shape our Christian behaviors, values and teachings. Continue reading “The Gravity of Grace (3): Romans 1-8 Overview”

The Value of vision

Have you ever bumped your toe, banged your knee, or walked into a wall? I’m not talking about pain that comes from being a walking phone-zombie, but rather from the blindness that comes about from walking in the dark. Walking without sight presents great challenges. Those with good eyesight only experience those challenges rarely. But those experiences provide great lessons for us. It should not surprise us that God uses the physical realities of blindness to teach far more important spiritual lessons.

Jesus healed the physically blind as proof that he could give sight to those who were spiritually blind (John 9:1-7). The blind receiving their sight was one of the signs demonstrating he was the Messiah (Luke 7:22).

Jesus is the light of the world (John 1:5-9; 8:12). He came to shine light into the darkness (John 12:46), so that we might see where we are going (John 12:35), and not stumble (John 11:10). Continue reading “The Value of vision”

Let there be life

The quote appears now and again, and each time I read it I appreciate it less and less. It is sometimes attributed to Francis of Assisi, but one never sees attribution, so it’s doubtful that the Catholic figure ever wrote it. It appears in several forms, sometimes one compound sentence; at other times, as two separate sentences.

I fail to appreciate it because it sets up a conflict of sorts between words and life. It expresses an unbiblical dichotomy. Continue reading “Let there be life”

How’s your hearing?

What an amazing thing it is to have ears!

Think of all the things one hears in the course of a day. As I was playing golf with my grandson today, we heard the nice sound a golf ball makes when it is well hit by a metal golf club. We turned at one point in the day and heard the rustle of a deer just before it broke through the woods into the fairway. What is more relaxing than the sound of rain falling gently on leaves?

Yet, there is more to hearing than the ability to detect sounds. There are many people who hear the biblical and moral advice of parents only to walk away without really hearing anything at all. There are those who have heard the truth once but now are so far away from it as to seem ignorant of it. Continue reading “How’s your hearing?”

Give thanks for goodness

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! For his mercy endures forever. . . . Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness” (Psalm 107:1, 8-9 NKJV).

Among the innumerable attributes of God, one of the most emphasized in Scripture is his goodness. This is made evident from the beginning of creation. As God made the various parts of the universe we are repeatedly told, “And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25; see also verse 4). Finally after all was done, “Then God saw everything that he had made, and indeed it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Continue reading “Give thanks for goodness”

Wake up!

Wake up! These are two words which can annoy us, startle us, or return us to reality. When we are woken up in the middle of the night by a person, our telephone, or even the alarm, we can be annoyed or even startled. What about falling asleep in a class or during someone’s presentation? Or perhaps we have just ‘drifted off’ and need to be called back to reality.

Jesus used these two words to try to get the Christians in Sardis to see the need to return to a real life of following him. Continue reading “Wake up!”