“And the Lord did so. Thick swarms of flies came into the house of Pharaoh, into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt. The land was corrupted because of the swarms of flies” (Exodus 8:24 NKJV).
I was standing recently under the shade of a mango tree in an Asian country and noticed several flies swarming around. When I looked more closely I saw many large flies sitting on the leaves and fruit. Other insects were also flying about, but the flies were especially numerous. Almost without thinking I moved back several feet to get away from them. Continue reading “Little things”
“…the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan River, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins…So John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Therefore produce fruit that proves your repentance, and don’t begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I tell you that God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones! Even now the ax is laid at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.’” (Luke 3:1-9 NET)
John caused quite a stir when he began preaching and baptising. Can you imagine what that would have been like? For the past 400 years there had not been a prophet in Israel. The country had been invaded many times but no word from God. And then this ‘wild’ man began to preach what might have been considered a ‘harsh’ message. Can you imagine being called the “offspring of vipers”? Continue reading “A radical message”
In the beginning of John’s Revelation Jesus addressed seven letters to seven congregations in the Roman province of Asia. The first of these is addressed to the Christians in Ephesus.
The congregation in Ephesus had a wonderful beginning. Paul visited the city at the end of his second teaching trip, spending time debating with the Jews in their synagogue. Such was the interest that he returned on his third teaching trip. He spent two years teaching in this Roman city which was steeped in paganism. Such was the success of Paul and his companions that those who made images of Artemis, the local goddess, started a riot in protest. (All of this can be found in Acts 18-19). Continue reading “Do the deeds you did at the first”
In 1 Thessalonians 2.3, a section of the letter where he defends himself against accusations of disinterest or self-interest, Paul described his evangelistic work among the Thessalonians as “our exhortation.”
For the appeal we make does not come from error or impurity or with deceit, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we declare it, not to please people but God, who examines our hearts.
The quotation above, from the NET Bible, translates “our exhortation” as “the appeal we make.” An exhortation is an urgent appeal for someone to take a course of action. An exhortation tells someone, “You ought to do this.” Continue reading “Scripture foils attempts to reduce gospel by calling it ‘exhortation’”
The Romans taxed nearly everything. They taxed personal income and the use of roads and harbors. They taxed carts according the number of wheels, and they taxed for the animal that pulled the cart. If a person was walking with a bundle on his back, a tax collector could require the bundle opened and taxes could be collected on any item therein.
Many Jews became tax collectors hired by the Romans. The Jews punished these people they called, “publicans,” because of their association with the Romans. Continue reading ““They that are whole need not a physician””
“…from the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8)
In 17 years of ministry (part and full-time), I have met with numerous married, and to-be-married couples. One thing I’ve found by this experience is that to-be-married couples generally understand the concept of adultery, and see it as a legitimate – if not the only – reason for divorce. Even if their Bible knowledge is somewhat limited, or they are not Christians, they will often say that this is the only legitimate grounds for a biblical divorce. I have this in writing from almost every couple I’ve married.
Yet, in nearly every troubled marriage that I’ve tried to help, one or both have a completely different, and non-biblical view of divorce and/or adultery. Continue reading “Five (unpopular) things Jesus said about divorce”
“Unless you repent, you will all…perish” (Luke 13:3).
Most people cannot imagine Jesus saying, “You will go to hell if you do not change your ways.” I’m not sure if the scholars of the Jesus Seminar cut that phrase out, attributing it to some other source than the “real” Jesus, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Most people like the idea of what they deem to be God’s positivity – his love, his longsuffering, his grace – leading us to repentance. But can suffering and death do the same thing? Continue reading “Are some of Jesus’ sayings too harsh?”
The incident of the woman caught in the act of adultery, found in our Bibles at the beginning of John 8, has been questioned by Bible scholars as to whether this was originally part of John’s gospel. It is not the scope of this article to evaluate the arguments for and against, but this writer does believe that this is a real incident in the life of Jesus. Continue reading “Go and sin no more”
We read the biblical passage straight through, without pause, as if the dialogue were a race, without feeling the dynamic between two strangers, a man and a woman, a Jew and a Samaritan, he on the road and she taking care of home responsibilities.
If the Hebrew word “Selah” means “pause,” and if John had the habit of inserting this word of Jewish poetry in a text of prose, I imagine he would have used it in this narrative about Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Especially, right before this phrase of hers. Continue reading “The life-changing pause”
It is said that a pessimist decries the fact that roses have thorns, while an optimist rejoices that thorn bushes yield beautiful roses.
We gardeners just take the thorns in stride. We invest in special gloves that aren’t punctured easily and wear long sleeves in hot weather. We ignore the strange looks we often get, as if folks wonder who pushed us into the tiger’s cage at the zoo. Continue reading “A thorny subject”