Monthly Archives: October 2015
Back in the day when people thought enough about hell to joke about it, the assumption among many was that it was sort of a fun place. People that I know would tell me they anticipated ending up there and they would be among their friends to pretty much do what they always wanted to do here: party, drink, run around, and have a grand old time unfettered by well-intentioned friends, family, and now, even death!
I was never sure if such folks actually believed hell was little more than Mardi Gras on steroids or if they just wanted to see my reaction. Either way, they didn’t take it very seriously and moved on to another topic rather quickly. Continue reading
The term spiritual warfare has a way of igniting the imagination. One thinks of rebuking an evil spirit or casting out a demon. One passage records, “And someone from the crowd answered [Jesus], ‘Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.’” (Mark 9:17-18).
Nothing you want to mess with. But then, few people do.
But there is a more subtle form of conflict. In flipping through the pages of the Bible, one notices the killing of the infants in Bethlehem; Christ’s temptation in the wilderness and later in the garden of Gethsemane, and all that transpired at Calvary. No writhing on the ground, foaming at the mouth, or screaming obscenities. Continue reading
The debate is usually framed as between sovereignty and free will and it can be both perplexing and painful. If humans have free will, how can God be sovereign? If humans don’t have free will, are we not mere automatons? Using a question and answer format, the apostle Paul thinks through some of these questions in Romans 9-11. “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?” (Romans 9:19-20).
Anyone who’s done even an introductory study into this tension knows one must proceed slowly and carefully, giving due diligence to everything the Bible says about the doctrines involved. Slide too far in either direction and one ends up with an inflated anthropology or a deflated theology or both. Continue reading
The old adage, “the truth lies somewhere in the middle,” can go a long way in aiding one to live the Christian life. For instance, people who think the Bible fell from heaven; untouched by human hands, deny its own testimony that “men spoke from God.” Those who think it is simply the product of human invention deny such men “were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).
Individuals who understand the Trinity as three separate gods must wrestle with “You believe that God is one; you do well” (James 2:19). Those who don’t see any distinctions need to consider what Jesus meant when he said “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30). Continue reading
Few emotions are as debilitating as panic. One source defines the word as a sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, that produces hysterical or irrational behavior, and that often spreads quickly through a group of persons or animals.
Panic has two speeds, fast and slow. High-speed panic comes on you when you read that first exam question. The slower form begins when you see the date of the exam on the syllabus and realize you have months to worry about it.
Most of us know how to overcome it. Prepare as much as possible, stay calm, and just do your best. I have both received and given that advice dozens of times. Continue reading
I’ve seen a lot of different reactions to dying. Some people, usually the young, are afraid of it. Others, usually the elderly and ill, look forward to it. Both reactions are found in the Bible.
The author of Hebrews refers to the death of Christ in these words, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (2:14-15). A fear of death and lifelong slavery describes a lot of people. Continue reading
It’s ironic how contentious things can get around understanding the Lord’s Supper. Whoops, I mean Communion. Whoops again, I mean the Eucharist. See my point? Even a cursory reading on this simple meal will introduce you to terms such as transubstantiation, consubstantiation, sacramental union, pneumatic presence, memorialism, closed and open services. Ministers have even been dismissed over communion conflicts (i. e., Jonathan Edwards).
Having presided over hundreds of communion services, I find my “sweet spot” is somewhere between the formal and informal. Since this is an act of worship of a righteous and holy God, there is no room for frivolity and foolishness. “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil” (Ecclesiastes 5:1). Continue reading
I’ve often thought all of life is summed up in the latter half of Acts 1:1. Writing about Jesus, Luke opens with, “I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach.” Everything seems to fall into one category or the other, doing and teaching.
But it can be confusing when the two don’t sync. When the cop breaks the law, the advocate against drunk driving receives a DUI, the priest is a pedophile. They are teaching one thing but doing another. Continue reading
My friendships cross denominational lines. I’ve had coffee with Baptists, Presbyterians, folks from the Assembly of God, and learned something from all of them. I’ve also learned a few things from Liberals (I learned they think I’m a Fundamentalist), and from Fundamentalists (who think I’m a Liberal). The differences are present, but the stories are good.
I recall a Pentecostal friend of mine making this observation about our two churches, “The difference between us is that I get the holy rollers and you get the back row snoozers.” Good point. Continue reading
It can be frustrating to have someone tell you your motives. “I know why you said that. You’re not fooling me!” “You did that to impress, but I know better.” “Oh sure, to everyone else it looks good, but I know the real reason.”
Now I grant that sometimes we are not fooling anyone. We are trying to ingratiate ourselves, impress, or curry favor. Our philanthropy is sometimes long on anthrōpos (human being, in this case, ourselves) and short on phileo (love of a friend).
But at other times we know ourselves better than others do. At least we think we do. Continue reading