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”

Fluid worship practices?

To say that something is fluid envisions flux, change and perhaps substantial differences. Just how fluid or homogeneous was the early church?

A recent presentation led me to ask some historical and theological questions. To what degree did cultural forces shape the early church? Did it possess a mooring prohibiting divergent practices? Can we know? Does it make any difference for us today, whether they were quite fluid or solidly homogeneous?  Continue reading “Fluid worship practices?”

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”

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%”

Breaking down barriers

If the Gospel of Luke is a handbook on discipleship, then Christian behavior should tear down human barriers. After all, Jesus blazed this trail as through word and deed he revolutionized social norms by dismantling its boundaries. When people are willing to walk in his steps, his principles continue to transform social perception, values and behavior. Here are two examples how his kingdom principles alter daily living. Continue reading “Breaking down barriers”

Praying at night

According to Luke, Jesus had the habit of seeking solitary places for prayer (Luke 5:16). Throughout this Gospel, Luke highlights the importance of prayer in Jesus’ life. We get the impression that Jesus did not add prayer to his lifestyle, rather, prayer was at the center enabling each step along his journey.

At several important junctures within his retelling of the story, Luke draws our attention to the time Jesus spent in prayer. On two such occasions Jesus went without sleep in order to pray.
Continue reading “Praying at night”