What do you want?

“Then they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Be of good cheer. Rise, he is calling you.’ … So Jesus answered and said to Him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘ Rabboni, that I may receive my sight'” (Mark 10:49, 51).

All people have desires and needs. Some are poorer than others, with greater and more obvious physical needs. Others have needs that are emotional, social, or spiritual, but just as if not more urgent. Some needs are obvious, but not all. In traveling to less developed parts of the world I see many beggars. Some are blind. Others are crippled. Some are simply poor and many are old, without income or family to help. When I see them I am often moved with pity and want to help. But I also recognize that I may not see their true needs, or be able to give that which will genuinely help them. Continue reading “What do you want?”

Baptism and the principle of doubt

Years ago, I listened as Dick Sztanyo presented an excellent lesson on ethics. In it, he enumerated a number of principles for ethical decision-making. One he called the “principle of doubt.” Citing Romans 14:23, “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (ESV), Sztanyo reasoned that if one doubted the rightness of an action, one should so act as to remove the doubt.

The context of Romans 14 discusses morally neutral actions that may prick the consciences of weak Christians, thus causing them to sin. The principle of doubt calls the weak to avoid those actions and thus clear their consciences. May the principle of doubt also be applied to another class of actions?

Continue reading “Baptism and the principle of doubt”

The right order is crucial

The cart before the horse. It may be dated, but it still gets the message across. It could be updated to say, “Don’t put the caboose in the front of the train.” But now trains don’t even have cabooses anymore. What’s the world coming to!?

We have a ton of sayings that are concerned with putting things in the right order. You have to walk before you can run. That’s one.

And cooking! How many recipes tell us to mix some things first, then add other ingredients. The wrong order of the steps will ruin the recipe. Continue reading “The right order is crucial”

Character can be destiny

“Character is destiny.” This quote, attributed to the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, has been on my mind these last months. Seemingly a response to those who claim that fate controls one’s life regardless of one’s life-choices, “character is destiny” places the path and end of one’s life into one’s own hands.

Certainly, there is much truth in this statement, both from a secular and religious viewpoint. It does not mean to suggest that a person of poor character cannot be successful from a worldly standpoint. Only that the result of their life will reflect the choices which they made, and the character which informed those choices.

We might be dismayed to see wicked people, liars, cheaters, and the like, rise to prominence and power in our world. We might be saddened to see the world seemingly support such people. But we, like the Psalmist, have a more informed perspective. Continue reading “Character can be destiny”

Zacchaeus’ story provides insight into salvation

Two boys asked a baseball coach the same question, “When can I play ball?” Yet each received a different answer. The first boy was told, “You’ll need to sign up and try out.” The second heard, “Just wait. You’ll be called.” Context enables us to understand why the answers differed. One boy was not yet on the team.

Since scripture provides different answers regarding salvation, Zacchaeus’ story reminds us to interpret messages within their context if we seek an author-centered understanding. Such a reminder promotes an accurate handling of two distinct New Testament messages. Simplistically latching on to either message tempts us to disregard the other. Continue reading “Zacchaeus’ story provides insight into salvation”

Salvation comes by knowledge

It is impossible to do the will of God without knowing the will of God. Salvation comes by knowledge of how to be forgiven of sin. “You will make his people know that they will be saved. They will be saved by having their sins forgiven” Luke 1.77 ICB. God’s grace and peace come to us and are multiplied for us “through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” 2 Peter 1.2.

Salvation does not happen automatically, like the sun rising and setting. So we must put ourselves to the task of learning what salvation is all about. The gospel must be learned, Colossians 1.7. We must “be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is” Ephesians 5.17.

We ought to ask such questions as these: Continue reading “Salvation comes by knowledge”

God’s action and man’s response

Newton’s third law of physics states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. There is no similar spiritual law at work in God’s plan, since we can never equal his actions. But there is a divine principle that applies about action and reaction: Every action of God deserves a positive and receptive reaction on man’s part.

In the plan of salvation, people have sometimes ridiculed the emphasis on God’s part and man’s part. The two are decidedly unequal. God’s part deals with the procuring or accomplishment of salvation. Man’s part is described by receiving or accepting salvation.

For all that God has done for us, then, something must be done on our part. Salvation is not automatic, nor universal. There are conditions to be met. Something must be done by an individual in order to receive it. Continue reading “God’s action and man’s response”

May every soul say, ‘My Lord and my God’

In this world there is little peace for humankind and little hope for it in the future. Jesus offers an eternal peace, of the heart, free from the vicissitudes of life and politics. While Christians pray for governing authorities, they place no hope in them. Confidence, only in Christ. He came from God and returned to God. He knew why he came to earth and fulfilled that purpose. During his time on earth, he loved, and he loved to the end. He was sure of his place before the Father, having received from him all power to bring divine love to its proper conclusion. He exercised this power with wisdom and knowledge.

Jesus calls his people to imitate his example. While his love took turns that were specific to his role in the eternal plan, its serving nature, with no holds barred, must take firm hold in his people. God is not impressed with rituals, done repeatedly for points, in the human mind, or to satisfy some random demand of heaven, as man sees it. He does command some specific actions, and through those he does bring his life and Spirit, but God looks behind the acts to the motivations and yearnings of the heart. He wants to see those and the practice of love — genuine, sincere, honest, profound. Continue reading “May every soul say, ‘My Lord and my God’”

The problem is not in the harvest

He started out as a practicing Catholic. He made pilgrimages to Aparecida, Brazil’s religious center for the veneration of Mary. He hated “believers,” as fundamental evangelicals are called here. Once, he even threw a pail of water on two Protestants who were doing door-to-door evangelism.

Elijah, as we’ll call him, later converted to Protestantism. He became a Pentecostal pastor. As a dedicated man, he received in return that pail of water from someone who also hated believers. Continue reading “The problem is not in the harvest”

Taking it for granted

One of my favorite lines in hymns comes from the great Scandinavian anthem “How Great Thou Art.”

“And when I think, that God his son not sparing
Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,” (Karl Boberg).

I “get” the attraction of the first two verses. Many of us live in urban areas and feel harried and harassed. We long for the times we can gaze at the stars on a clear night, or on a mountainside, the breeze blowing gently and the birds “singing sweetly in the trees.” Continue reading “Taking it for granted”