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”

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”

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”

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”

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?”

Holy, spiritual and acceptable sacrifices

It’s fascinating to watch a building go up on a construction site. Builders, architects, engineers, owners, suppliers, and workers participate in a highly coordinated process to make it happen. Sometimes, however, the process is interrupted, and the construction is slowed or stopped. The finished product is always a sight to behold.

Christ is that first and living stone in the spiritual temple of God. He is God’s firstborn, for he brings other living stones to build up this temple. Our work is to bring still more of these living stones into this temple. This is our priestly work. Continue reading “Holy, spiritual and acceptable sacrifices”

The sacrifice of fools

“Church.” Religious ideas vary in the extreme. Religion is nothing more than human approaches to God. Man assembles a jumble of concepts and prejudices about religion and throws a mixture of practices into the bowl, with a heap of emotion for dressing.

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil, Ecclesiastes 5.1 ESV.

When you talk about, deal with, seek after God, you had better get your head down and your ears open. Religious buildings are full of fools who ignore what God wants and follow their own lights. Continue reading “The sacrifice of fools”