By Ron Thomas — I have always been interested in learning from where church denominations came from. As I was looking through some church history books, I came across a section in the book, Church History in Plain Language (3rd edition, 2008), by Bruce Shelley. In the section “The Idea of Denominations” (pp. 306-308) there is a brief discussion on how the concept of denominations came into being in a religious context. It took root in the 17th century, then grew in the 18th and following centuries. Why did it come into existence in the first place?
“The Reformers [Protestant Reformation leaders, RT] had planted the seeds of the denominational theory of the church when they insisted that the true church can never be identified in any exclusive sense with a particular institution” (p. 307).
In response to a recent presentation of the gospel, someone responded, “That was good, but I’ve never heard it explained that way before.” You might find it surprising that on the one hand I value presenting nothing more than the original message, while on the other hand his comment did not surprise me.
The typical gospel presentation is clear, concise and accurate. We learn Jesus can save us. It instructs us how we need to respond to Christ. People need to hear this message.
What it might lack, however, is explanatory power. When Jesus established a memorial for his death, why did he speak of a covenant? What does Jesus’ story have to do with the rest of scripture? Why are we called to respond to Christ with baptism?
If you give freely and generously of your time and money, what can you expect to receive in return? Should you expect anything at all?
One of the popular doctrines shared widely on television teaches that if you sow a gift (i.e., give money to a “ministry”) you will reap far more more money in return. Is that our hope?
Jesus does teach that if we give ourselves to him that the basic needs in life will be met (Matthew 6:25-34). But what of comfort and riches? If we give money to God should we expect more in return? The real story of giving and receiving is far richer, far deeper, and far more meaningful.
Name the most important, most powerful position you can think of among the world’s top people. President of the U.S.? The richest man in the world? The world’s most popular entertainment figure? Imagine them giving up all that they have and the position they enjoy to live in a run-down apartment in one of the most dangerous poverty areas. How hard would that be?
Such a change of lifestyle doesn’t even come close to what Jesus did. He is God. He enjoys all the glories of heaven. But he gave up his divine position and stepped down to become a lowly human being — a poor man from a podunk town. Even further, he suffered the most horrible torture and death, as an innocent man, in one of the greatest wrongs of all time. On top of that, he bore the sins of mankind on his shoulders.
Jesus is the very definition of humility. The dictionary’s entry is dry next to Jesus’ demonstration of it. Continue reading “Jesus the model of humility”
Commandment-keeping gets a bad reputation in the religious world.
There are those whose theology forces them to promote belief without obedience to Christ’s commands. There is a fly in this ointment. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
F.F. Bruce wrote, “Hitherto, Jesus has spoken of his love for his disciples and of their obligation to love one another; now for the first time in this Gospel he speaks of their love for him.”/1 Continue reading “Keep his commandments”
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39 NKJV).
A group of us were driving out of the city of Khulna when a large truck met us, driving the wrong way on our side of the divided highway. This is a frequent occurrence in Bangladesh where traffic laws are seldom enforced and many drivers are poorly trained. As we carefully steered around the truck I asked the other passengers in our van, “When Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors, did he know there would be truck drivers?”
Similar thoughts occur frequently as we are confronted with hostility, rudeness, and dishonesty in our interactions with others. There are many people in this world who are pretty much unlovable, at least in our opinions. Must we really open up to all of them and show compassion, mercy, and kindness? Does their bad behavior not excuse us from such obligations? Continue reading “That neighbor?”
No matter what country you live in, politics can be divisive. In the United States most seem divided on the current president, as they have been on the past few presidents. Some don’t believe that he can do anything right and others would take the view that although he isn’t perfect he is better than what the opposition offers.
Then in the United Kingdom, where I live, the big issue is Brexit – Britain leaving the European Union. The new prime minister has pledged to honour the UK leaving at the deadline. But some don’t want this to happen. People seem to be more aware of what is going on politically in this country than they have been for years.
But what exactly is the Christian to do about politics? Can we have political views? What should we be doing? Paul addressed this in his letter to the Christians in Rome. Continue reading “A Christian citizen”
C.S. Lewis was right when he said of Jesus:
Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to (Mere Christianity).
How did Lewis reach this conclusion? He read the gospels. The more we read the gospels the more impressed we are with what we find, particularly in the words of Jesus. The things Jesus says are so ingrained in the “idea of Jesus,” that we regularly miss the shocking nature of them. Continue reading “Options Jesus didn’t leave us”
After God completed his creation having made humanity both male and female, God saw it was very good. The differences between men and women range from our psychological make up down to our physiology.
When comedians highlight the stark contrasts in how we think, perceive and interact with our world, audiences break forth in hearty laughter. Why? Because they recognize the truth in these stereotypes. We are different.
Expressions like, “Can’t live with them. Can’t live without them,” give voice to spousal tension and frustrations. Yet, God saw all these differences as being very good! In fact, it is because of these differences that marriage can be a tool promoting spiritual development. Continue reading “Wonderful differences”
Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it (Proverbs 15:16 ESV).
One of the recurring themes throughout the Proverbs is that peace, righteousness, and the fear of the Jehovah are far superior to wealth. With so much glorification of gain, this is definitely a counter-culture mindset.
It is implicit in almost every culture that those who have are more important than those who do not. Those who have fame are better than those who are unknown. Those who are rich are better than those who are poor. Those who are talented in a visible way are better than those whose talents exhibit themselves in more modest ways. Privation is seen as a character flaw and possession is seen as proof of a superior person. Continue reading “A little with the Lord”