Baptism: only the beginning

In their recent book, Down to the River to Pray: Revisioning Baptism as God’s Transforming Work, John Mark Hicks and Greg Taylor observe that in baptism it is God who transforms us, not we ourselves. However, they also claim that God has many ways to express his gift of grace, and we ought not to “limit” (in their words) the ways God offers it. Thus their ultimate conclusion is that baptism is not necessary for salvation. Continue reading “Baptism: only the beginning”

A second chance

It is time in middle Tennessee for what we call the “second crop” of vegetables to be planted. I am about to plant my cucumbers for pickling. No, not the second crop, like some are doing. This will be the first round.

It is great to have a long growing season, as the vegetable garden didn’t get planted as early as usual. The extended season is giving me a second chance at having fresh tomatoes to freeze or can, and plenty of zucchini to steam, grill, bake into bread, and finally to foist on my neighbors. Continue reading “A second chance”


“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Corrie ten Boom describes the time she and her sister were digging trenches, watched by NAZI guards. Her sister Betsie, a petite woman, and frail from months of mistreatment in the Concentration Camp, could only shovel small spadesful of earth. One guard grabbed the small pile of earth she had just dug, and held it aloft, calling attention to it and laughing with his fellows. Corrie had had enough. She grabbed her shovel and began to charge the offending guard. The only thing that stopped her was the voice of her sister: “Don’t look at him, Corrie,” she said. “Look at Jesus only.”

But the story does not end there. Continue reading “Forgiveness”

Your personal well

Everyone has dug a well.  Even the most kind-hearted soul with the best of intentions has picked up a shovel. We tried to make the best decisions. Maybe we encouraged a spouse to sign on to our plans and timetable. Maybe we entered into a project or business venture with a family member or close friend.

Regardless of the details, we have all made noble decisions to only discover months or perhaps years later these choices hurt others. Our decisions, although well-intentioned, dug a hole testifying to our failings. We are not perfect people.

At the other extreme of well digging, we might have flung dirt much more dramatically. Perhaps motivated by selfishness, anger, envy or bitterness, we dug furiously with a backhoe. We intended our actions and words to hurt. Our well testifies to our failings. Continue reading “Your personal well”

When Christians disagree

The names “Paul” and “Barnabas” seemed to go hand in hand during the early years of Christianity. It was Barnabas who took time to find out about Saul, the former persecutor of Christians, when he was trying to join the Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-27). Later, when he saw such a great opportunity in Antioch, he went to Tarsus to find Saul.

For the next year they worked together and “taught a significant number of people” (Acts 11:26 NET). They became part of the group of “prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch” (Acts 13:1). The Holy Spirit told this group to “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). Barnabas and Saul sailed to Cyprus and later went into the Roman province of Asia proclaiming the good news of Jesus, before returning to Antioch. Continue reading “When Christians disagree”

Looking ahead

“Brothers I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining toward what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13,14, ESV).

We make the mistake of looking back in three ways:

  • Mistakes in the past: Here we marinate in our mistakes, hobble our current Christian endeavor, because we made mistakes. Paul certainly had much to regret in his past. Yet we can learn from our mistakes, repent of our sins, and grow. Don’t look back in regret.
  • Past achievements: The church had good preachers “back then.” The church was successful and victorious “back then.” Constantly saying so is not respectful to current servants of the Lord, discourages them, and appears to be our excuse for doing nothing now.
  • Past wrongs: Here we recall – in vivid Technicolor! – the wrongs someone did to us in the past. We recall each inflection of their voice, every gesture of their betrayal, nursing again and again our hurt. Yet you cannot live any length of time without collecting cuts and bruises.

Continue reading “Looking ahead”