Uncharmed snakes

“‘For behold, I will send serpents among you, vipers which cannot be charmed, and they shall bite you,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 8:17, NKJB).

Snake charming is an ancient practice in parts of Asia. When I started traveling to South Asia I was a little surprised to discover that it is still fairly common and popular among the people, especially those in rural areas. I have gone into a village more than once and seen a charmer with several baskets strapped to his bicycle from which he would extract multiple large cobras while playing a tune on a flute. As soon as they were placed on the ground the snakes began to lift their heads and upper torso and sway in tune with the music. I was much impressed. Continue reading “Uncharmed snakes”

Set free to live

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2 NET).

No condemnation. Nothing against us. What more encouraging words could there be? As Paul was writing in Romans 7, things seemed hopeless. But that was a life without Jesus. For those who are in Christ, it is an entirely different picture. There is no condemnation. Our sins have been washed away (Paul wrote about this in Romans 6). We have been set free from serving sin and death.

This means we need to live differently. Continue reading “Set free to live”

Snakes, gasoline and demons (Part 5)

Jesus said: “These signs shall follow them that believe” (Mark 16:17) (Part 5)

(This article is part of a continuing series. The previous article can be found here).

As we now turn our attention to the duration of miracles, we must first note some other significant limitations about the miracles recorded in the early days of the church:

Miracles were limited to apostolic ministry.

In the book of Acts – which records the early weeks (chapters 1-7), months (8-9), and years (10-28) of the church’s existence – there are numerous miracles recorded. Without fail, aside from those worked directly by God, these miracles were wrought either by (1) an apostle, or (2) someone on whom an apostle had laid hands. But did those on whom the apostles laid hands confer this gift to others? Continue reading “Snakes, gasoline and demons (Part 5)”

Baptizing babies

When people express a desire to baptize their babies, they might do so for many reasons. The motivation might be to fit in with their family’s religious or cultural traditions. Familial acceptance can provide a powerful force. Or perhaps a priest or preacher might have told them it is necessary. There can also be a concern that their baby is spiritually lost until this is accomplished.

If we are going to allow the Bible to shape our understanding regarding whether babies should be baptized, here is what we discover: Continue reading “Baptizing babies”

Not feeling at home here

Someone said it well: During the Great Depression many Christians sang of heaven, but we don’t do that so much anymore because we have it so good right now, on earth.

Think for a moment of the many songs of heaven that came from that difficult era: “An Empty Mansion,” (1937); “Beyond the Sunset,” 1936; “Heaven Holds All for Me” (1932); “In Heaven They’re Singing” (1937); “No Tears in Heaven” (1935); “Paradise Valley” (1935), and so on.

One song writer expresses it this way: “Sometimes I grow homesick for heaven” (F.M. Lehman, “No Disappointment in Heaven.”) It’s an interesting, yet true thought to be homesick for a place we have never actually seen. Continue reading “Not feeling at home here”

Five hideous truths about sin—and one great truth of hope

Behind sin works a living, personal, spiritual force called Satan. He opposes God and he considers mankind his battlefield. We know little about his origin, but we have learned much about his tactics and objectives. These should be studied carefully.

When we speak of sin, therefore, we are actually speaking of the work of Satan against God’s special creation of mankind.

Sin overpowers

It cannot be controlled. It is the lion crouching just outside the door ready to pounce and kill, Genesis 4.7; 1 Peter 5.8. It is the kudzu that will not stop growing until it has covered every good intent and smothered all good works. There is no dabbling in sin, no setting limits for sin, no negotiating with sin. Continue reading “Five hideous truths about sin—and one great truth of hope”

Who says?

Those tomatoes and peppers really should do better.

For that matter, there must be a couple dozen plants that don’t thrive in the garden as well as I’d like. Many times it is just a matter of simply not noticing that there is a problem, before I have a chance to correct it.

Luke 13:6-9 tells us of a farmer who wanted to give one tree some special treatment before he gave up on it. It wasn’t bearing figs.

His solution was one that was tried and true. Continue reading “Who says?”

Go and do the same

A lawyer asked a medical examiner, “Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people?” The medical examiner smiled and said, “All of them. The live ones put up too much of a fight.”

There are all kinds of attorneys, aren’t there? There are good ones, inept ones, experienced, inexperienced. It’s just like every other work in life, isn’t it?

A lawyer asked Jesus a question one day: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus, in Luke chapter 10, simply asked him what the law said. The expert in the law quoted the Shema which instructed one to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind and strength and to love one’s neighbor. This scribe answered the question correctly. Jesus said he did. Continue reading “Go and do the same”

Revisionist faith

“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us?’ But, behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie” (Jeremiah 8:8 ESV).

I was in a business in Khulna, Bangladesh and read aloud the words lettered on the front window in Bangla. One of the workers scoffed and said, “You are reading the English words” (which were written on the other window). I answered, “No, they are not the same.” My Bangla friend who was with me confirmed that I was right. Whether by design or through limited knowledge of English the two signs, though similar, did not say the same thing. Continue reading “Revisionist faith”

God gave them up

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, ‘The righteous by faith will live (Romans 1:16-17 NET).

God’s power for salvation is found in the gospel (literally “good news”) of Jesus and it is for everyone who will believe. That is, indeed, good news! God’s righteousness has been made known in this good news as people obey and are cleansed, made righteous, by being united with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (see Romans 6 for a detailed discussion of this). Continue reading “God gave them up”