As they opened their front door, immediately their eyes fell upon the shattered vase on the floor. The babysitter was sleeping soundly upon the sofa. One of their two young boys greeted them with, “the dog broke it.” At that moment their other son was nowhere to be seen.
Like most parents, an innate detective gear kicked into action. The dog was still in his doghouse in the backyard. In spite of the rain, no muddy dog prints were on the kitchen tiles. The babysitter had slept through the crash and could offer no insight.
Explanatory stories are powerful. Accurate explanations answering “why” empower attitudes and action. Continue reading “Inventing the reason why: Galatians 3:28”
We are all broken. We all need a fresh start. Through Christ, God delivers.
The letter of 1 Peter, which some have termed a handbook for new Christians, reminds God’s people how God has enabled us to have a new life and what we can expect from this new beginning. Continue reading “The God of new beginnings: the hope of the new birth”
When it comes to how we live, we tend to either be like thermometers or thermostats. In no ambiguous terms, the New Testament informs us that we should be similar to the latter and not the former. Continue reading “Thermometers or thermostats?”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer is frequently praised within Christendom for standing up against the prevailing culture of Nazi Germany in support of biblical principles. I recently witnessed a celebration of Carl Spain, whose chapel speech in 1960 at an all white college condemned racism among Christian colleges.
The question invariably comes to mind, why were there not many others, who profess Christ, standing with Bonhoeffer or Spain? Seriously? Continue reading “Bonhoeffer, Culture & 1 Corinthians 11”
Sometimes people deny their brokenness and their need for good news. Jesus met some people who rejected his suggestion that they needed his help. He called them blind (John 9:39-41). Continue reading “We are all broken”
Have you ever heard something that you did not want to be true? We all have.
I remember a visiting professor from Oberlin College and Conservatory telling our class that when it comes to church history, practice has often preceded theology. Everything within me screamed this was wrong. Our understanding of God’s word should shape what we do and how we think. What we want or what we are doing should not determine how we read God’s word!
Walking with him across the parking lot after class, I discussed this with him further. He graciously pointed out that “what is” does not always align with “what should be.” My naivety was crushed. I had not considered that some might want to take a path other than the original message. Continue reading “The hermeneutics of desire and fear”
During the 1st century some rabbis described Gentiles as “a new-born child” when they converted to Judaism (Yebamoth 22a, 48b, 97b). Proselyting to Judaism required a baptism. During the same time that the rabbis were using this language of new birth, John the Baptizer was calling people to reorientate their lives with a baptism of repentance. (Luke 1:15-17; 3:3)
This was the religious background when Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling class, visited Jesus. Jesus taught Nicodemus that no one can enter God’s kingdom unless he is born from above, namely “born of water and Spirit” (John 3:3,5). Continue reading “The new birth”
Many baptisms and ceremonial washings existed in the first century A.D. Yet, by about 60 A.D. Paul could affirm there is “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). God meant for this one baptism to be one of the foundations for a united people.
What follows are aspects of Jesus’ story and how the baptism that is “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19) fits into the spread of Christianity. This water baptism is commonly referred to as Christian baptism. Continue reading “Jesus and the one baptism”
Perhaps as people partake of the Lord’s Supper, church projectors hurl an eyecatching graphic above the worshippers’ heads. Emblazoned on the screens are the words, “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). Or maybe this verse appears as a knockout quote in a church bulletin.
Opportunities to draw the wrong conclusion have appeared. As the old addage says, a text without a context is simply a pretext for a proof text of what we want it to mean. Continue reading “Opportunity to draw the wrong conclusion”
God has had many purposes for his people then and now. God chose to bless all nations through Abraham. God commissioned Israel to be a kingdom of priests serving others. As those who had witnessed God’s power and love, God commissioned Israel to announce to the nations his greatness, thus drawing others to God. A theme emerges from these beginnings revealing God’s love for all people. Continue reading “God’s people then and now: Their purpose”