When a blessing doesn’t look like a blessing

“Don’t be deceived,” James warns, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father … who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:16-17).

Some are indeed deceived. They mistake the temporary gratification of sin for a blessing “from above.”

After all, the pleasures of adultery are undeniable. Revenge can bring quick and cheap gratification. Crushing someone else by gossip or hurtful words can bring a kind of pleasure. Continue reading “When a blessing doesn’t look like a blessing”

Remedies for going the distance

“What’s the point?” “Is this worth the effort?” We have all heard such comments and perhaps even asked such questions in certain situations.

When such thoughts reveal a floundering faith in Christ a physician’s care may be required. Just as athletes might need some athletic tape or analgesic spay to press on, Hebrews offers remedies for going the distance in moments of doubt and discouragement.  Continue reading “Remedies for going the distance”

Grace & making effort: Are they compatible?

We know the message and it comforts our hearts. In his grace God pours out salvation upon us, the undeserving. We can be redeemed, made holy and adopted as God’s people because our salvation rests upon Christ, not our righteousness. Furthermore, the cleansing power of the Messiah’s blood is greater than any sin we might bring to him.

So, how compatible is grace with the command to make every effort to live up to God’s calling? If we feel like these are opposing ideas, we would not be alone. Continue reading “Grace & making effort: Are they compatible?”

Is patience really a virtue?

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5 NKJV).

How would you like to spend three days and nights in the cab of a heavy truck on the river bank, waiting for your turn to cross on the ferry? Or to sleep all night sitting in a doorway so as to ensure that you would be able to buy a ticket on the train to go home for the holidays when the counter opened at 9:00 a.m. the next morning?

Such experiences are commonplace in Bangladesh and other densely populated countries of Asia. The vast number of people combined with inadequate infrastructure means that it takes a long time to do almost anything, and waiting one’s turn is simply an inescapable fact of life. Add regular floods that destroy such infrastructure as there is and the problem is magnified even more. Continue reading “Is patience really a virtue?”

If faithful versus never fall

by Barry Newton

Who would confuse, “If you practice every day, you will not be cut from the team” with “You will never be cut from the team.” If anyone were to strip away the conditional nature of the former forcing it to be understood as the latter, the motive might be desire.

The impulse to hear what we want is powerful. It can deafen us to the actual message.

Just listen to Jesus’, Paul’s, Peter’s and James’ voices as they frankly inform God’s people, not the lost, that their reception of the reward is conditional upon persistent faithfulness. Continue reading “If faithful versus never fall”