What it means to be rich and what to do about it

There are two classes of people in this world: the rich and those who want to be rich. So said someone, and the division is not far from the mark. We might add a third: those who pretend not to care about riches.

The apostle Paul addressed both groups toward the end of his first letter to Timothy. He has words for those who want to get rich in 1 Timothy 6.9-10. Later, he gives instructions for those who are rich, 1 Timothy 6.17-19.

His words to be passed on to the rich hold three contrasts that are important to note: Continue reading “What it means to be rich and what to do about it”

Excuses and reversed causes

My former roommate from college sang a song with a quartet about excuses: “Excuses, excuses, you’ll hear them every day, / The devil will supply them, if from church you stay away.”/1 Unfortunately, even the people of God can be good at inventing excuses and justifications.

The prophet Haggai dealt with excuses and reversed causes. This short book packs a powerful punch against illogical thinking and unwilling hands. Continue reading “Excuses and reversed causes”

The divine monopoly

Monopolies are not highly regarded. A company or group that detains exclusive right or power to sell a product or service tends not to respect the client or buyer. They can charge the price they want. They are subject to few restraints. They are a law unto themselves.

God is a monopoly. He is one God with one product, so to speak, and to get it, everyone must go to him. He is the “God of all grace” 1 Peter 5.10. Continue reading “The divine monopoly”

Why so many gods?

“Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man – and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:21-23 NKJV).

Travelers to Kathmandu typically visit the expansive Hindu and Buddhist enclaves where they view hundreds, if not thousands, of images, temples, stupas and other shrines and icons of those polytheistic religions. Many westerners accustomed to faith in one God wonder why anyone would be attracted to an immense pantheon of lesser deities. Surely monotheism is a superior and more desirable faith, since it honors one Almighty, All-wise, Ever-present Being. Continue reading “Why so many gods?”

One God and Father of all

People who justify wrong ways use twisted logic. “God is one,” they say, at least where I live, “so all paths lead to God.” They apparently borrow the phrase that said, during the Roman Empire, all roads lead to Rome.

Somehow they miss Jesus’ statement that he is the only way to God, John 14.6.

The apostle Paul ends his great list of sevenfold pillars of unity among Christians this way: “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” Ephesians 4.6. God is one, and he unites all Christians in one great unity of faith, worship, and work.

The first thing that needs to be noted here is to whom “all” refers. As always, context determines the meaning. Continue reading “One God and Father of all”

Gods all too human

The gods of man are all too human. They are but human passions projected onto a large screen, full of intrigue, ambition, and desire. They are as fickle, unstable, and capricious as their human creators. But they serve their intended function: the gods allow humans to deify their desires and approve their passions. Humans are not required to adhere to an unchanging standard of conduct. The actions of the gods also explain, to a point, the vagaries and injustices of life.

Living under such gods, however, is hard. One never knows what they want, what to expect next, what to do to please them. So from Canaan to Central America, man even goes so far as to sacrifice his offspring on altars as appeasements. Life under divine vindictiveness and superhuman hate and hardness has nothing to recommend. Continue reading “Gods all too human”

The day is coming, the day is here

The fortunes of men wax and wane. Religions expand and contract. God is over all, he is in control, he guides history toward the end that he determines. Christians rejoice in his sovereignty. The coming of Jesus is their hope. Their prayer seeks to bring him all the more quickly to usher them into eternal life.

There is only one God. There has ever been only one God. Man has exalted himself and created gods galore. But one day the Lord will be seen to be one and his deity singular in number. This is the messianic prophecy of Zechariah. Continue reading “The day is coming, the day is here”

The need of the hour

The need of the hour can color the approach a teacher takes to the runway of eternal salvation. Jude changed his writing topic, so urgent was the topic he was required to address. In Galatians, Paul charges quickly into his subject, skipping over his usual introductory thanksgiving for the readers.

Some might believe that in many places in the world today the church of God needs to hear a special message. Some are already speaking it, so these words join themselves to a growing chorus of speeches and words on the theme.

The church needs to return to its one subject matter: salvation from sin and eternal life in Jesus Christ. Continue reading “The need of the hour”

One God who forgives sins

When Jesus forgave the paralytic man of his sins, the scribes went berserk. Mounce’s translation bring to the fore a fascinating thought: “Why does this man speak like that? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins except the One God?” Mark 2.7. Most versions translate it as “God alone,” “only God,” or something similar. CEB puts it this way: “Why does he speak this way? He’s insulting God. Only the one God can forgive sins.”

The scribes were much like Job’s friends. Much of what they had to say was spot on, Matthew 23.1-3. But their application of it was way off. It is true that, in the absolute sense, only God can forgive sins. What the scribes missed was that Jesus is God. And God is one. The one God has one plan for forgiveness. Continue reading “One God who forgives sins”

If one God created us all

Bible translations made for people with limited reading skills often remove many of the literary devices that enrich reading and communicate the message with powerful impact. It’s understandable why they do it, and not altogether inappropriate. At the same time, something is lost in this type of translation. (Something gets lost in every translation, so let’s not be too harsh.)

The prophet Malachi uses a series of three questions to accuse the people of Israel of breaking their covenant with God. The first two are rhetorical questions, that is, the answers are obvious. Then he comes in with a third question, based on the first two, that grabs the readers and demonstrates the inconsistency and folly of their actions. Some versions even start the third question with the adverb “then.” (See ESV: “Why then …?”) Continue reading “If one God created us all”