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 it also provides explanatory power, it can resolve the questions of the curious and 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”

The gospel of power

Let us never speak of the requirements of the gospel without speaking, in the same breath, of the power of the gospel, not only to save, but to sustain.

Many in the world are power-seekers, Jeremiah 9.23. It gives them a sense of worth and purpose. From the school-yard bully to the national dictator, not a few want to be the winner of the fighter’s ring. Their glory is the knock-out. Continue reading “The gospel of power”

The gravity of grace (4): Overview of Romans 6-8

Within Romans, Paul addressed an ancient human urge that can be captured by the expression, “I want to have.”  In chapter 1 such desires erupted as idolatrous rebellion against God. For Paul, sin is not merely an activity that a person might step into and then out of, rather he treats it as an enslaved spiritual identity.

Grace figures predominantly in how God righteously saves us. An illustration can help us review while also preparing us to survey the next few chapters. Continue reading “The gravity of grace (4): Overview of Romans 6-8”

Let there be life

The quote appears now and again, and each time I read it I appreciate it less and less. It is sometimes attributed to Francis of Assisi, but one never sees attribution, so it’s doubtful that the Catholic figure ever wrote it. It appears in several forms, sometimes one compound sentence; at other times, as two separate sentences.

I fail to appreciate it because it sets up a conflict of sorts between words and life. It expresses an unbiblical dichotomy. Continue reading “Let there be life”

Loving the unseen

“For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ” (Colossians 2:1-2, NKJV).

“Out of sight, out of mind” is a secular proverb that describes the attitude of many. Most humans tend to focus their attention and efforts on those people and things which are in close proximity to themselves. We don’t usually spend much energy on those whom we have not met, or on needs that are at a great distance.

Paul was not of that mindset. He wanted the Christians that lived in the cities of Colossae and Laodicea to know that they were important to him. Though they had never yet seen him “up close and personal,” he knew who they were, he knew of their faith, and he had great love for them. He also was willing to invest great energy, both emotional and physical, in their spiritual growth.

Continue reading “Loving the unseen”

Sundries: Sex, memory, and a bad sort of minimalism

I avoid sensationalism, preferring the understated approach. Sex is one of those subjects that turns a lot of heads. In Brazil, money and religion are volatile subjects. So when addressing them, we try to deal with them in all sobriety. Last week, I posted for the congregation in Brazil 26 summary points on the biblical teaching about sex and marriage. Maybe I’ll share it here one of these days. (Update: Read them here.)

The points reinforced a lesson to the church on sexual immorality. To be holy means, in part, knowing how to deal with our sexuality.

Modern society is soaked in sensuality. The word is counted as a good thing. Not so in Scripture. It’s the door to immorality. Continue reading “Sundries: Sex, memory, and a bad sort of minimalism”

A son or daughter; not a slave

In the first century A.D., slavery was everywhere. According to estimates, 30-40 percent of the population of Italy were slaves.

Slaves did not have relationships with their masters. No master ever let a slave know his business. Slaves were considered living tools for the master. Slaves obeyed their masters or faced the lash.

It is important to realize Jesus did not want slaves. He told his disciples everything they needed to know to discharge their responsibility to preach the gospel to the world. He made his disciples partners in helping others find salvation. Continue reading “A son or daughter; not a slave”

Harvest time

“Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest?’ Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest. And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together” (John 4:34-35 NKJV).

Harvesting of the IRRI rice crop in Bangladesh is well underway at this time. This is one of three or four seasonal harvests in this semi-tropical country. IRRI rice is a variety (or group of varieties) developed by the International Rice Research Institute for production in what was formerly an “off-season” for rice. It has become an important part of the agricultural economy of Bangladesh. Continue reading “Harvest time”