The mission of making people happy

“But I determined this within myself, that I would not come again to you in sorrow. For if I make you sorrowful, then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me?” (2 Corinthians 2:1-2 NKJV).

Paul had a tumultuous relationship with the church in Corinth. He apparently wrote at least three letters to them (1 Corinthians 5:9), one of which he described as being produced “with many tears” (2 Corinthians 2:3). While writing the letter we know as Second Corinthians he mentions plans for a third physical visit to them (2 Corinthians 13:1). At least one of his previous visits seems to have been confrontational, producing grief (2 Corinthians 2:1). Continue reading “The mission of making people happy”

He died for us

Isaiah has often been called ‘the fifth gospel’ because of the great detail in has in depicting the life of Jesus. When we read through Isaiah 53 I think we can see that this is justified as it depicts the suffering and death of the Messiah, not just the physical aspects but why he died.

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6 NIV)

Continue reading “He died for us”

Sacred space

Paul instructed the church that whatever we do we should do it to the glory of God. He would also write that to sacrificially live for God constitutes our spiritual act of worship.

Have you ever started to list what we can do and say in order to serve God on a daily basis? It is a long list.

We might then begin to wonder – if we worship God through daily activities and we gather on the first day of the week to worship, are daily worship activities proper within the assembly? After all, if it pleased God on Friday why would it be offensive on Sunday? Or might the worship assembly be a sacred space shaped by specific parameters? Continue reading “Sacred space”

Baptism and deathbed conversion

The following question and answer was published in Edificação magazine and translated for our editorial today. The questioner wrote that he was satisfied with the answer: “I never received an explanation as good as this.” Pray that he may soon be immersed into Christ.

Q: What is your opinion, based on the Bible, of people who accept Christ as they are dying? Is baptism a condition for the Christian to go to heaven? -S.P.

A: Questions about baptism are always welcome, since the subject is of great importance in the New Testament. It is also important to rely on the Bible as the word of God and its unique authority on any spiritual matter. Thus, the truths proclaimed by it do not constitute opinion, but rather revelation from God. Continue reading “Baptism and deathbed conversion”

Solitude

“The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him” (Mark 1:12-13 ESV).

When traveling to distant and sometimes unfamiliar places I miss home, with all of my family, friends, and normal routines. Though I am usually busy and in the presence of many people, I can still feel lonely and isolated because of who I am not with and what I am not doing. Loneliness is a condition most of us experience at times, and it is one that is not generally pleasant. Continue reading “Solitude”

The coming Messiah

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” (Isaiah 42:1-4 NIV)

It should not surprise us that we have information about the coming Messiah centuries before he came. Most agree that the first indication that he would come took place back at the beginning: when God cursed the snake he said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

The offspring, or ‘seed’, of woman who would crush the head, delivering a death blow to Satan, was none other than the Messiah in his death and resurrection. Although Satan did “strike his heel” in the betrayal and crucifixion of the Messiah, he crushed the head of Satan by conquering sin and death. Continue reading “The coming Messiah”

Logs in our eyes

“… first remove the log from your own eye …” (Matthew 7:1-5).

The Sermon on the Mount is meant to draw a contrast between the kingdoms of men and the Kingdom of Christ. Jesus says, “You have heard it said … but I say.” In this text (Matthew 7:1-5), Jesus says, “Here is what some people do; but here is what I want you to do.”

He included a strange, if not humorous, image to get attention and make his point: someone with a log in his eye trying to get a splinter out of someone else’s eye.

We suggest these four thoughts from the text: Continue reading “Logs in our eyes”

Authentic ≠ justified

We value genuineness and hence transparency. We shun hypocrisy. We listen to the lament and impeccatory Psalms where psalmists authentically pour out their hearts to God. We infer we too can express ourselves genuinely to God.

Then we notice on social media or perhaps in personal conversations, disciples venting their rage and ranting. They might even claim to be justified before God because they are being transparent and genuine. What are we to think?

I am reminded that many missteps involve partial truths. We need to be careful.

Continue reading “Authentic ≠ justified”

Four steps to eternity

Walter Scott was a pioneer preacher. Born in Scotland, Scott immigrated to the United States in 1818 and subsequently moved west. Scott famously contrasted the tenets of Calvinism with a five-finger exercise.

When he came to preach in a community, Scott would teach children that Acts 2:38 teaches (1) faith, (2) repentance, (3) baptism, (4) forgiveness, and (5) the gift of the Holy Spirit. He’d then tell the children to tell their parents that he would be preaching that message later on in the day.

Scott’s mnemonic device is imminently scriptural, and provides a basis for more teaching on how God saves man. He helped people find salvation in Christ using this teaching method. However, if we are not careful, it can transform into something resembling a check-list, which after completion obligates God and satisfies our service.

I want to suggest a complement of sorts. Consider, if you will, four steps that will take you from where you are to eternity. Continue reading “Four steps to eternity”

Must my sacrifice be greater than yours?

People don’t say it much any more, probably a sign of the times. Back in the day, however, when my wife Vicki and I would visit churches, some kind saint would often praise us for the sacrifice we were making on the mission field. While I would always thank the person for their comment, it also invariably left me uncomfortable. Time and again I felt the urge — to which I never gave in — to ask, “And what sacrifice are you making for the Lord, where you are?”

If the saints of God were indeed sanctified, consecrated, and devoted as the name “saint” implies, it would be a fine question to ask, causing no discomfort, confusion, or consternation. If our people understood and practiced true discipleship, the question would be a natural part of a spiritual conversation. But it is not, generally, a conversation that is held among us, nor can it be. Continue reading “Must my sacrifice be greater than yours?”