Critical times

“So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God” (Acts 12:5 NASB).

Nothing focuses our attention more surely than emergencies. Whether they are global, national, local or merely personal, when we are confronted with great need or danger, we tend to give our complete efforts and energies towards meeting and overcoming whatever the challenge is that we face. Counselors term this approach “Crisis resolution.”

Crisis itself may be a little tricky to define and identify. Several years ago I was given this definition of the term. A speaker said, “You are diagnosed with serious illness; that is not a crisis. You go into depression because of the diagnosis – now that is a true crisis.” In other words, crisis says more about one’s reaction to a situation than it does about the situation. Continue reading “Critical times”

A beautiful picture of worship

Meeting together is a part of who we are as Christians. Church means assembly or meeting. Without the physical assembly of saints, we are not church.

The assembly appears everywhere in the New Testament. One commentator describes some of the elements of the church’s worship in Paul’s letter to the Colossians, in his comments on chapter 4, verses 7-18: Continue reading “A beautiful picture of worship”

Entering into Christ, living in Christ

Each person enters into Christ, by baptism, individually. People can even be immersed at the same time, as happened with three thousand souls at the beginning of the church in Acts 2, but the decision is personal. No one can decide for anyone else.

While we enter into Christ individually, we live in Christ as a community, as a family. Life in Christ does not exist outside of a vigorous participation with his people. Continue reading “Entering into Christ, living in Christ”

Wang and I — Helping one another

Wang, a Chinese woman from Nanning, was surprised when a bus seat was offered her, with smiles from everyone around her. Someone finally showed her the note taped to her back: “Please take care of this pregnant lady.”

Wang recognized the handwriting of her husband, who must have stuck it to her back before she left home.

We in Christ show the same care for one another. We seek to ease the burdens of those weighed down by their cares and struggles. Continue reading “Wang and I — Helping one another”

The glory of the church

In his book Family of God: A Study of the New Testament Church, Batsell Barrett Baxter’s first chapter is entitled, “The Glory of the Church.” It’s a fine title and a marvelous way to begin the subject. Brother Baxter gave eight reasons why the church is glorious: its origin, its foundation, its beginning, its relationship, its universality, its simplicity, and its destiny. It’s worth reading and appreciating.

His chapter needs no rewriting or revision. So allow me to take another tack that complements the points above. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, and the first of many problems he tackled was that of divisiveness. In the longest section of the letter (chapters 1-4), he wrote, Continue reading “The glory of the church”

Churchscape

Have you seen tree-covered mountains reaching for the sky, vast prairie plains with golden wheat swaying in the wind, or still yet tropical hills bathed in lush vegetation descending upon wide white beaches giving way to the blue ocean? What is your favorite landscape? Many contrasting topographical features can comprise a landscape.

For me, churchscape calls to mind a broad, sweeping look at Christendom revealing a wide variety of fellowships with countless overlapping and contrasting beliefs and practices. What compass do you use to navigate the churchscape? What matters to you? What should matter? Continue reading “Churchscape”

What we need

A person cannot grow in faith and works while distancing himself from the family of God. Christians need each other, 1 Corinthians 12. We belong to one another, Romans 12.5.

Neither can one be saved while neglecting the word of salvation, Ephesians 1.13; James 1.21. God’s power is in the word of truth, the gospel of salvation, Romans 1.16; 1 Thessalonians 1.5. Without the word there is no hope, Psalm 119.74, 81, 114, 147; Romans 15.4.

Whoever has no time for prayer has no time for God. To receive, we must ask, Matthew 7.7-12. “You do not have because you do not ask” James 4.2. Continue reading “What we need”

Kingdom come

“till they have seen the kingdom of God come” (Mark 9:1).

John and Jesus taught that the kingdom was “at hand” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). They obviously believed it was forthcoming.

Some followers were so convinced of it, they attempted to force Jesus to lead a coupe d’état to declare Israel’s independence from Rome (which, by the way, he rejected, cf. John 6:15). Nevertheless, Jesus continued preaching about the kingdom’s imminent arrival.

Did it ever come? Was it only metaphor? Is it yet future? Continue reading “Kingdom come”

How to overcome negativity, and other sundry thoughts

How to win over negativity? Overpower it! Repel it! The old phrase, like water on a duck’s back, is suggestive. Don’t let it penetrate. Power up your mental strength. Fill your head and heart with God’s blessing and goodness.

The use of the word “overpower” against negativity sounds militaristic, and it is. To say we’re in a battle might seem melodramatic, but the Bible describes the Way in such terms. So many of us go with the flow, however, we have yet to feel the heat of the conflict. We’ve been conquered. Continue reading “How to overcome negativity, and other sundry thoughts”

Is unity still a realistic pursuit?

The first pair of brothers was not united. Cain was jealous of Abel and killed him because of his righteousness, Genesis 4. Unity has always been a desirable pursuit, Psalm 133. It has not always been an easy exercise. Moses dealt with rebellious siblings, and Joseph was betrayed by his brothers. In Israel, tribe rose up against tribe. Abram’s sentiments to Lot are rarely heard: We are family, so let’s not quarrel, Genesis 13.8.

The early church dealt with challenges to unity at every turn. Judaizers, promoters of human philosophies, libertines, and greedy opportunists sought to slice the family of faith into pieces and prey on the weak. Continue reading “Is unity still a realistic pursuit?”