Difficult but not impossible

“If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (1 Peter 4:18, ESV; compare Proverbs 11:31).

Traveling the mountain roads in Nepal has given me a new appreciation for the term “scraping by.” Frequently when two vehicles meet one must back up to a wider spot in order to allow the other to pass. Even in places where two can pass it is often by the narrowest of margins. I have frequently looked out my window and been unable to see any road beside our vehicle – and many times I found myself looking over a drop-off of hundreds or thousands of feet. Traffic can pass, but it is by no means easy. Continue reading “Difficult but not impossible”

Tell me the story of Jesus

The new garden bench got a lot of use today. A young couple showed me photos of the new house they just moved into, and the plans they had to take the barren yard and fill it with flowers.

As about ten different people filtered in and out of the garden today, I heard stories of how the small redbud tree could grow along with a granddaughter, and it filled my heart with joy that the plants I sell will have a story.

I, too, shared some stories. This is the optimum time to transplant irises, the state flower in Tennessee and my personal favorite. My customers smiled as I reminisced about the “Lost Iris” and my quest to fill the void left by a simple garden accident.  Continue reading “Tell me the story of Jesus”

Just the good news

If you watch the news, you’ll know that negative news leads. In fact, the negative news might be all you see. This is not a political statement, as this has been the case regardless of who is in power. Certainly, there is enough negative news to go around today, but the reason that negative news dominates is because it gets ratings. The people want to hear the bad stuff.

It is an interesting contrast then that on Sundays, many of these same folks demand only good news. Many do not want to hear of sin, punishment, or the wrath of God. They do not want to hear about the need for repentance or the command to live holy lives. Continue reading “Just the good news”

The need of the hour

The need of the hour can color the approach a teacher takes to the runway of eternal salvation. Jude changed his writing topic, so urgent was the topic he was required to address. In Galatians, Paul charges quickly into his subject, skipping over his usual introductory thanksgiving for the readers.

Some might believe that in many places in the world today the church of God needs to hear a special message. Some are already speaking it, so these words join themselves to a growing chorus of speeches and words on the theme.

The church needs to return to its one subject matter: salvation from sin and eternal life in Jesus Christ. Continue reading “The need of the hour”

Growth, grace, and the gospel

We have joined the happy horde of dog owners. We adopted a sweet and crafty Mini Aussie named Penny. She is a puppy and she acts like a puppy. She chews on toys and on items that are not toys. She digs along the fence and has escaped into a neighbor’s yard on two occasions. With love, training, and patience, she will grow beyond some of the typical puppy behavior. But right now, we cannot expect her to be something she is not. We need to have reasonable expectations.

We are not so different. Children should not be expected to behave as adults. We expect them to be respectful, but we expect them to be children. We give love, training, and patience as they grow. With God’s grace and parental dedication they will move beyond their childhood, into adolescence, and eventually become mature, godly adults. Continue reading “Growth, grace, and the gospel”

The choice is yours

There is a direct quote by the Lord Jesus that many people have misunderstood. Many know it, but some misapply it. Jesus said,

“For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Some believe that God sent his only son to those individuals chosen explicitly by him. They say God knew each individual and selected them so they could not possibly have resisted. They say others not called will never live eternally even if that was what they wanted. Continue reading “The choice is yours”

We must hear God's voice to be saved

Hear his voice

Jesus cited Isaiah 6.9-10 to explain why people didn’t understand his parables. Paul cited the same passage, and Luke uses it at the end of Acts, to explain the rejection of the gospel by the Jews.

What catches our attention about the Isaiah passage is that it follows directly the account of the prophet’s vision of God’s holy glory and his calling to go speak to the people. Continue reading “Hear his voice”

Reasoning like Paul compared with teaching Paul’s message

It is an intriguing idea. First examine Paul’s reasoning. Second, imitate it in order to use that process to navigate what it means to live and worship as a contemporary Christian. To be sure, such an approach would generate information. Can we do what Paul did? Would the results be reliable? Is this all that we need for a path forward?

This possibility introduces some interesting questions.  Would reasoning like Paul in today’s culture lead to different conclusions? Could this provide a path around inconvenient cultural trappings of the first century? Might reasoning like Paul allow us to jettison what Paul actually taught?

Continue reading “Reasoning like Paul compared with teaching Paul’s message”

How to be a Christian in a topsy-turvy world

1. Stick with the Word

Some saints want to show themselves to be intelligent by dabbling in the philosophies of the world, the theologies of the denominations, or the politics of the nations. But the world has more than enough of these. Our message has to distinguish itself clearly from all these. We preach an almighty God whose love encompasses all of history and who glory has revealed itself in terms we can grasp. From creation we move quickly to the Book of Life, whose final author knows us better than we know ourselves. The Bible is the best argument for God’s existence. His power lives in it and from it people can be convicted of the truth.

How do we stick with the Word? Continue reading “How to be a Christian in a topsy-turvy world”

Gospel – what and why

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.

When a presentation of the gospel is combined with explanatory power, it can resolve the questions of the curious as well as dissolve the harpoons of its detractors. 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?

Continue reading “Gospel – what and why”