What’s next

Every now and then a young person calls me aside and says something like this: “Thank you for being patient with me when I was a young preacher/ a student/ a teenager in your congregation. You inspired me to ministry.”

When they do this, I think of the elderly apostle’s declaration: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).

It seems I am now the older preacher in the transaction, more Paul than Timothy. Continue reading “What’s next”

“The Real McCoy”

Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew chapters five, six and seven is wholly original. Nothing like it had ever been preached before. While Pharisees and scribes almost always cited Old Testament references for their lesson points, Jesus used the Old Testament in a different way.

Six times in Matthew chapter five the phrases, “it was said,” and “but, I say to you,” were given by the Lord. Jesus was showing the truth of the Bible’s teachings in contrast to the narrow, limited and often mistaken applications of Jewish leaders. Continue reading ““The Real McCoy””

In the eye of the beholder

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins” (Proverbs 10:12 NKJV).

When I walked out on the campus early one morning before devotional, one of the teachers, Arther, was out by the main gate. When I joined him he greeted me with, “It is a beautiful morning.” We walked back together to the building where the devotional was to be, and there Siroj, a student, said, “The weather is bad today.”

On the same day, in the same place, within two or three minutes, two people expressed exact opposite opinions of the same phenomenon. How can that be? Continue reading “In the eye of the beholder”

We are special

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:6-8 ESV).

The Israelites were to be a “holy” people. They were God’s “treasured possession” out of all the people who lived on the earth. God had chosen them. God “set his love” on them.

But what does it mean to be holy? Continue reading “We are special”

The battle belongs to the Lord again

Throughout history God’s people have derived courage, comfort and strength from knowing the battle belongs to the Lord. David confronted Goliath. King Jehoshaphat and the men of Judah marched out against a vast army.

Today Christians encourage each other in song singing, “The battle belongs to the Lord.” If we allow the armor of God metaphor in Ephesians 6 to suggest a spiritual battle background lying behind the Ephesian letter, another reassurance of God’s victory comes into view.
Continue reading “The battle belongs to the Lord again”

How to improve your congregation’s singing

We all respond to good singing in worship. We recall with delight a night when the singing was “really good,” or visiting a congregation where we enjoyed the singing. We’re human, after all. This raises a question, therefore: So how can we improve our singing?

1. Get right with each other (Matthew 5:23,24). Note that the Lord expresses this as a priority – “First, be reconciled with your brother, then come offer your gift.” It’s hard to sing with zeal when you’re singing with people you resent. Continue reading “How to improve your congregation’s singing”

Careful righteousness

Jesus expects us to do works of righteousness. Our righteousness must go far beyond that of practitioners of religion, in order to enter God’s kingdom, Matthew 5.20. One way in which it must go beyond is in a superior motivation behind it.

“Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people. Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven” Matthew 6.1.

In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 6, the Lord Jesus cites three examples of righteousness that we must practice: giving, prayer, and fasting. Continue reading “Careful righteousness”

My stubborn will

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would have none of it!” (Matthew 23:37 NET).

Jesus knew the city of Jerusalem so well. He had witnessed its founding and watched as King David took the city and made it his capital.

But he had also watched Jerusalem overcome by the idolatry and sin that characterized it in the Divided Kingdom and saw it led into bitter captivity to the Babylonians. Continue reading “My stubborn will”