We are the Israel of God

One of the images God used for his people, the nation of Israel, was that of an olive tree which he had planted.

“The LORD once called you ‘a green olive tree, beautiful with good fruit.’ But with the roar of a great tempest he will set fire to it, and its branches will be consumed. The LORD of hosts, who planted you, has decreed disaster against you, because of the evil that the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done, provoking me to anger by making offerings to Baal.” (Jeremiah 11:16-17 ESV)

This image is taken from Psalm 52:8, where David describes himself as a green olive tree in the house of God. In Hosea 14:6 the nation of Israel after being restored to God following captivity is described as a beautiful olive tree with its shoots spread out. Continue reading “We are the Israel of God”

Our highest love

I guess it’s not a very well known song these days. It makes use of archaic verb endings, and is as “contemporary” as a Mozart sonata. It is the first phrase that sticks out like an iceberg in the Kalahari:

“Lord of our highest love, let now thy peace be given,
Fix all our thoughts on thee above, our hearts on thee in heaven” (Gilbert Tickle).

It is a “Communion song,” the following verses a study on the emblems of the Lord’s Supper. But that first phrase still calls us: We might love many things, family, country, or music, or the out of doors, not bad things in themselves, but the Lord is, or should be our highest love. Continue reading “Our highest love”

Holiness is a big deal

This is an excerpt from Randal’s upcoming book, tentatively entitled “Total Transformation.”

In God’s eyes, holiness is the goal. Without it, we are nothing and can go nowhere, spiritually. “Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness, for without it no one will see the Lord” Heb 12.14. Holiness is the basic condition for seeing the Lord. It arises out of Christ’s sacrifice for us, so it is not strange to read this statement in the book of Hebrews. The Lord makes the effort effective. But without the effort there is no change and no chance of a future with him. Continue reading “Holiness is a big deal”

Worse than the first

Jesus began Luke chapter 11 giving us an example of prayer. He continued teaching his disciples that God is keenly interested in giving his people what they need, but that they must also keep asking him, keep seeking him and keep knocking on the door.

After the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the prince of demons, the Lord turned to them and told them that if that were true, they had nothing to worry about: he was sure to fail. But if what he was doing had God’s approval, then the kingdom of heaven had truly come. Continue reading “Worse than the first”

Uncharmed snakes

“‘For behold, I will send serpents among you, vipers which cannot be charmed, and they shall bite you,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 8:17, NKJB).

Snake charming is an ancient practice in parts of Asia. When I started traveling to South Asia I was a little surprised to discover that it is still fairly common and popular among the people, especially those in rural areas. I have gone into a village more than once and seen a charmer with several baskets strapped to his bicycle from which he would extract multiple large cobras while playing a tune on a flute. As soon as they were placed on the ground the snakes began to lift their heads and upper torso and sway in tune with the music. I was much impressed. Continue reading “Uncharmed snakes”

Set free to live

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2 NET).

No condemnation. Nothing against us. What more encouraging words could there be? As Paul was writing in Romans 7, things seemed hopeless. But that was a life without Jesus. For those who are in Christ, it is an entirely different picture. There is no condemnation. Our sins have been washed away (Paul wrote about this in Romans 6). We have been set free from serving sin and death.

This means we need to live differently. Continue reading “Set free to live”

Snakes, gasoline and demons (Part 5)

Jesus said: “These signs shall follow them that believe” (Mark 16:17) (Part 5)

(This article is part of a continuing series. The previous article can be found here).

As we now turn our attention to the duration of miracles, we must first note some other significant limitations about the miracles recorded in the early days of the church:

Miracles were limited to apostolic ministry.

In the book of Acts – which records the early weeks (chapters 1-7), months (8-9), and years (10-28) of the church’s existence – there are numerous miracles recorded. Without fail, aside from those worked directly by God, these miracles were wrought either by (1) an apostle, or (2) someone on whom an apostle had laid hands. But did those on whom the apostles laid hands confer this gift to others? Continue reading “Snakes, gasoline and demons (Part 5)”

Baptizing babies

When people express a desire to baptize their babies, they might do so for many reasons. The motivation might be to fit in with their family’s religious or cultural traditions. Familial acceptance can provide a powerful force. Or perhaps a priest or preacher might have told them it is necessary. There can also be a concern that their baby is spiritually lost until this is accomplished.

If we are going to allow the Bible to shape our understanding regarding whether babies should be baptized, here is what we discover: Continue reading “Baptizing babies”

Not feeling at home here

Someone said it well: During the Great Depression many Christians sang of heaven, but we don’t do that so much anymore because we have it so good right now, on earth.

Think for a moment of the many songs of heaven that came from that difficult era: “An Empty Mansion,” (1937); “Beyond the Sunset,” 1936; “Heaven Holds All for Me” (1932); “In Heaven They’re Singing” (1937); “No Tears in Heaven” (1935); “Paradise Valley” (1935), and so on.

One song writer expresses it this way: “Sometimes I grow homesick for heaven” (F.M. Lehman, “No Disappointment in Heaven.”) It’s an interesting, yet true thought to be homesick for a place we have never actually seen. Continue reading “Not feeling at home here”

Five hideous truths about sin—and one great truth of hope

Behind sin works a living, personal, spiritual force called Satan. He opposes God and he considers mankind his battlefield. We know little about his origin, but we have learned much about his tactics and objectives. These should be studied carefully.

When we speak of sin, therefore, we are actually speaking of the work of Satan against God’s special creation of mankind.

Sin overpowers

It cannot be controlled. It is the lion crouching just outside the door ready to pounce and kill, Genesis 4.7; 1 Peter 5.8. It is the kudzu that will not stop growing until it has covered every good intent and smothered all good works. There is no dabbling in sin, no setting limits for sin, no negotiating with sin. Continue reading “Five hideous truths about sin—and one great truth of hope”