God’s dwelling place

I want to go to heaven, how about you?

Each day here only further reinforces my desire. But why? What is the motivation? Why is heaven so wonderful?

We find glimpses of heaven throughout scripture: the garden in Eden, the tabernacle/temple, and the church. What do these seemingly disparate places have in common? The common theme running through these places is God’s presence. Continue reading “God’s dwelling place”

The church at the center of God’s salvation

Last week, I wrote, “The church of God is at the center of God’s salvation in every way.” What do I mean by that? What is the relationship of the church to salvation?

The saved are added to the church

Nobody joins the church of God. You can join a denomination, but you can’t join the body of Christ (which says a lot about what a denomination is and is not). This is the work of God, just as it is his work to cleanse from sin when we are immersed in water. That first moment of the gospel makes clear what the process is: Continue reading “The church at the center of God’s salvation”

A whole lot of shaking

“See that you do not refuse him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now he has promised saying, ‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven’” (Hebrews 12:25-26).

A recent Facebook post from a young Christian in Nepal read, “Another earthquake, already?!” This was in response to a moderate quake which once again shook that Himalayan nation. Readers may remember the massive earthquake of April, 2015 which devastated much of the country and resulted in almost ten thousand deaths and much structural damage. The population has strong memories of that event and even the slightest tremor causes deep anxiety and even terror.

The Hebrew writer contrasts old religious institutions of Israel with that new system inaugurated by Jesus. When it was time to begin God’s covenant relationship with Israel he brought them to Mount Sinai where he spoke to them, revealing his laws (Exodus 19 20; Hebrews 12:18-21). Though the Old Testament account does not specifically mention an earthquake, the description of “thunderings and lightenings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud” (Exodus 19:16) is consistent with the Hebrew writer’s comment, “Whose voice then shook the earth” (Hebrews 12:26). Continue reading “A whole lot of shaking”

Actions and words

As we see the kingdom of God expanding in the first century, we are amazed at how the good news of Jesus was spread as well as the people who became Christians. Although most of the teaching was initially in Jerusalem and Judea, with the increased persecution from the Jewish leaders, Christians began to enter areas farther away.

“Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralysed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.” (Acts 8:4-8 NIV)

The precise town where Philip went is not specified in the text. Scholars have suggested at least two possibilities including Sebaste and Gitta. Sebaste was the main city of Samaria at this time, having been rebuilt by Herod the Great. This was a few miles northwest of Shechem, Jacob’s Well, and the burial site of Joseph. Gitta is said to have been the hometown of Simon the Magician according to Justin Martyr. Continue reading “Actions and words”

We Won’t Hold Our Breath

There have been endless books written, lecture series taught, and sermons preached on “The Hard Sayings of Jesus,” but did anyone ever cover “The Easy Sayings of Jesus?”

In my own study, and in writing (albeit, irregularly) this column on the sayings of Jesus (“Jesus Said”), it has become my opinion that there aren’t really any “easy sayings” of Jesus. Some seem easier on the surface, but in reality, the more you listen to his voice, the more you realize how difficult it is to achieve Jesus’ ideals. But it is not just the ideals of Jesus that challenge us.

Even the worst among us are knowledgeable of lofty ideals, and capable of enunciating them. People before Jesus knew “the golden rule” – or some variation of it. Through the years, I’ve read some who attempt to discredit Jesus because he was not the first to state some exalted truth. So here is an admission: not everything Jesus said reeks of pure originality. Additionally, not everything Jesus said was of a higher moral caliber than had ever been proposed before (to be perfectly clear: Jesus’ moral caliber is not lower than anyone else’s either). Continue reading “We Won’t Hold Our Breath”

Scripture – make it a daily habit

As a leader, the apostle Paul needed to address big yet simple questions. How do Christians prepare themselves for godly service? His first letter to Timothy reveals one of his solutions.

Given our hectic American lifestyle, we need a simple practical plan for embedding his solution into our daily routine. We need more than simply knowing what is helpful.  Continue reading “Scripture – make it a daily habit”

Through the door

I recently heard a travel writer encourage people who were considering traveling abroad to just go through the door. Doors are opportunities or obstacles. Often our perspective determines reality. If we view doors as obstacles, that is what they are. To this travel writer, one needed to see the doors as opportunities for adventure, growth, and perspective.

Scripture speaks often of doors, both literal and figurative. Continue reading “Through the door”

Three reasons to watch and warn

The church is precious. Oh, I’m not talking about human divisions and denominations, but the one, true church of God established by Jesus Christ. Even the denominationalists diminish the importance of their divisions, separating them (and properly so) from the process of salvation, and then schizophrenically talk them up and exalt them. But the church of God is at the center of God’s salvation in every way.

What the apostle Paul had to say to the Ephesian elders applies generally to all Christians, as far as watching against false teachers, because of the price paid for the church: Continue reading “Three reasons to watch and warn”

A little strength

“You won’t need that many, this is enough.” This is not something you usually hear from a salesperson, but my customers often hear it from me regarding plants that they are about to purchase. Sometimes, all you need is a little bit and it grows into a lot more!

The strawberry plants that have spread out to cover much of our yard are a prime example. Five little plants from a sweet lady at a local church have turned into a never-ending supply of strawberry plants for dozens of my friends and relatives. We even get a few strawberries when we are diligent about picking them before the birds do! 

Several times, I have decided that the trouble of picking them wasn’t worth it, so I’ve given them “all” away. Of course, there were always one or two baby plants that didn’t get dug out, and now (again) we have hundreds.  Continue reading “A little strength”