Delving deeper into faith

What is faith? This probably sounds like a silly question – but only if we have given it no thought because we assume we fully understand it. Consider one small sampling of the evidence.

In the second and third centuries before Christ, Jewish scholars translated their Hebrew Bible into Greek. We call their work the Septuagint. Interesting questions might be: When they used the Greek word pistis (faith), what Hebrew words and ideas were they trying to convey? Was their understanding of faith broader, the same or narrower than ours? Take a look.

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Squelching worry

A life free from worry.  Any takers?

We know we ought to embody Jesus’ teachings to abstain from worrying about tomorrow.  Disciples are not to be anxious about life. In fact, in his parable about the Sower, Jesus described the cares of this life as one of those distracting forces that can stifle God’s word within our lives.

Yet, achieving a worry free lifestyle may not be as easy as understanding the goal. How often does expending energy focused upon “I’m not going to worry” only seem to heighten the problem? Fortunately, scripture and research converge suggesting some strategies forward.  Here’s one of them. Continue reading “Squelching worry”

God’s kingdom is not new

Since the Bible was written during a span of perhaps 1500 years by about 40 authors utilizing different languages while living under the influence of various dominating cultures, it certainly holds a unique status. Even more amazing is that in spite of their lack of collaboration, those who penned the Old and New Testaments present many unified messages. One of these is that God is King. God’s kingdom is not something new.

For Americans, kingship is an unfamiliar reality. We have experienced presidents and congresses, but not kings.

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Releasing the captives

Under the cover of darkness and utilizing stealth technologies, a couple of Black Hawk helicopters approach a political prisoner compound. Deploying with rapid descent a team of highly specialized soldiers drop into the compound neutralizing opposing forces. The prisoners suddenly realize they are being rescued. The thought of release flooding their minds quickly evolves into experiencing good news.

Such storylines comprise action filled cinematic drama. The New Testament recounts a story no less dramatic and exquisitely more applicable to each of our lives. Why? Because it is an historical story revealing good news for our lives. The good news of the kingdom is more than just a story about God making forgiveness possible. It announces the complete triumph of God’s power through Christ. Continue reading “Releasing the captives”

Kingdom future

Jesus, his apostles, as well as the early church proclaimed a message revolving around the good news of the kingdom. After Jesus’ death and ascension, preaching shifted to Christ and the kingdom.

This kingdom proclamation contained a message for the present. Through Christ, God’s power was overcoming all the binding weapons of evil to usher in a new manifestation of God’s rule. Christ brought release. People were to live with kingdom values and behaviors. Upon Jesus’ resurrection, he was exalted as Lord.

However, their proclamation also included a message regarding the future. At the end of time, some would inherit the kingdom while others would not.

How does today’s preaching compare with their message? Continue reading “Kingdom future”

Kingdom now

Jesus lived at a unique juncture in history. It was a time when God related to his chosen people based upon the old covenant, yet Jesus was about to inaugurate a new covenant relationship from God available to all people.

For centuries God’s rule and kingship had been announced over his chosen people, Israel. Yet Jesus was born king of the Jews. He would die as king of the Jews. With his upcoming resurrection he would ascend to sit on God’s right hand, crowned as Messiah and Lord possessing all authority in heaven and on earth.

Living within this juncture of service and inauguration, Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom, the future hope of the Old Testament prophets, was at hand. He taught how people would respond to this coming kingdom, as well as what kingdom ethics, economics, values, attitudes, and behaviors look like.

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Zacchaeus’ story provides insight into salvation

Two boys asked a baseball coach the same question, “When can I play ball?” Yet each received a different answer. The first boy was told, “You’ll need to sign up and try out.” The second heard, “Just wait. You’ll be called.” Context enables us to understand why the answers differed. One boy was not yet on the team.

Since scripture provides different answers regarding salvation, Zacchaeus’ story reminds us to interpret messages within their context if we seek an author-centered understanding. Such a reminder promotes an accurate handling of two distinct New Testament messages. Simplistically latching on to either message tempts us to disregard the other. Continue reading “Zacchaeus’ story provides insight into salvation”

Thy kingdom come – the synoptic gospels’ perspective

When Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them how to pray, he included beseeching the Father, “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2).  If you are like me, you may have been exposed to at least two different interpretations what this request seeks. Is this a petition for the arrival of God’s kingdom at the end of time? Or was this an appeal for God to fulfill his will through events which were near? Continue reading “Thy kingdom come – the synoptic gospels’ perspective”

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”

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”