As Jesus is the cornerstone upon which the Church is built, so are his teachings the unifying cornerstone of Christian doctrine.

Good Happens!

Remember Forrest Gump? It was just a real joy to watch and the time just flew, watching a bumbling anti-hero win the day. Over the years, I have quoted the Forrest Gump rule many, many times. “**it happens!” Yes, bad things do happen. However, it is a negative approach to life. Watching too much news gives us a steady diet of negativity. Interviews of different business, scientific, social, educational and political "leaders" who just keep touting more know-it-all criticism of things. It’s just hype. Truth is the world is run by people who don't have a clue. Let’s focus more on the positive side of life, the good that is all around us. Let’s let go and let God take care of things. Let’s remember the Counter-Forrest-Gump rule: GOOD HAPPENS! (Philippians 4:8) May good happen to you today!

How the Church Got Here

How did the Christian Church get where we are today? Churches older than Rome gradually formed the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Roman church became the only cohesive force in troubled Europe. Western Christianity became corrupt. Efforts to reform the western church were often brutally suppressed, until Luther, who found support among northern German states. Protestant Reformation gave incentive for Catholic Reformation, but it was too little, too late. While Protestants quickly formed their own traditions, Rome turned theories about Mary into "infallible" dogmas, greatly offending both Eastern and Protestant Christians. However, Christians are unified in the important areas: All believe that salvation is only available in Jesus Christ, that we must repent of our sins, be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit and that the most important teachings of the entirety of Christian history are those of its founder Jesus Christ.


Who is the Holy Spirit? How do we receive the Holy Spirit? What does it mean to be filled or baptized with the Holy Spirit? What does the Holy Spirit do today? These are questions in pneumatology. The Greek word pneuma (πνευμα) means wind or breath — a metaphor for the spirit. Does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father alone or both from the Father and the Son? That argument caused the Great Schism between eastern and western Christians. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, and is involved in the calling, regeneration, indwelling, baptizing, sanctifying, teaching, empowering, guiding, gifting, sealing and filling of believers. If anyone is interested in studying this topic further, ask your nearest Christian book retailer to recommend a good one volume book on theology and look up the section on pneumatology.


How great is God? In Isaiah 55:8-9 we read that his ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Theologians call this God's transcendence. He is far higher than his creation and greater than it in every way. From the beginning, God has been called the "most high" (Genesis 14:18-22; Numbers 24:16; Mark 5:7; Acts 7:48). The songwriter asks the rhetorical question "Who is like the LORD our God, Who dwells on high" (Psalm 113:5). Karl Barth described transcendence as God being unable to be known except by revelation. Søren Kirkegaard explained that God is qualitatively distinct, beyond dimension. Historically, we have viewed God as above time. When things happen and we don't understand why, people often reply that God only knows, and they are right.

The REAL Santa

Why not tell our kids about the REAL Santa this year? Saint Nicholas was Bishop of Myra in ancient Turkey. He was well known for his generous giving of gifts. One famous story speaks of his giving dowries to a poor man, so that his daughters could get married rather than turn to prostitution in order to survive. Often he would travel to distant villages on a donkey to give gifts. He did not have elves, but he did apparently save an Ethiopian boy name Piter from slavery, who was so grateful that he hung around as Nicholas' assistant. Rather than condone paganism, Nicholas is said to have destroyed several pagan temples. The REAL story of Santa is about giving. Maybe we could teach our children what Acts 20:35 says, that it is more blessed to give than receive.


Our God Is NearHow near is God? In Jeremiah 23:24 we that read that God fills heaven and earth. Theologians call this God's immanence. Acts 17:27-28 declares that God is not far from every one of us. God is not absent, at the other end of the universe. He is immanent, quite near to us. So next time that we are feeling like God has gone way off, and is very far from us, let's remember these words from Scripture, that he is in reality very near to us at every moment. That's why Christians can refer to God as "my God" and "Abba, Father" - a first century saying of great nearness and affection for God. God was with us from conception and remains with us always, causing every beat of our hearts, every breath we take.

Why I Love EVERYTHING About Xmas

Xmas is pagan? So what! God converted pagan people. Why not pagan days! It’s not the right date? Who cares! We celebrate a birth not a date. Xmas is too commercial? So what! Even Shinto Japan hears the gospel in Xmas carols in every store. X-ing Christ out by writing Xmas instead of Christmas? X is the Greek letter for Ch, an abbreviation for Christ. Jeremiah 10 forbids Xmas trees? Wrong! It condemns idols made from wood. Santa Claus? The REAL Santa Claus was from ancient Myra. His life of generous giving was exemplary. Critics import Pharisaism into Xmas. Touch not taste not! That’s not Christianity. We have the freedom to create days to celebrate Christ! So, leave us be, and go have your little anti-Xmas rant. As for us, we will celebrate the Incarnation of our Savior. Merry Xmas!


Believe it or not, the word catholic is not found in the Bible. Where did it come from and why do people use it? It's from a Greek word katholikos (καθολικός) meaning "universal." It was coined by Ignatius to refer to Christianity's universal inclusivism, as opposed to Judaism's national exclusivism. Many Protestants understand this use of the term and gladly refer to themselves as catholic (small c). And so the credal phrase referring to "one holy, catholic and apostolic church" is used by many Protestants, although some substitute the word "universal" for catholic, just so there is no confusion. Orthodox and Anglican churches also consider themselves to be Catholic (big C). The strange paradox is that the western Roman church which formally calls itself Catholic (big C), now sees itself as the Jews did, in an exclusive fashion.


What is Armageddon? It is actually means Mount Megiddo, a place in modern day Israel. It is often portrayed as the spot where a final battle takes place between God and evil forces (Revelation 16:16). Some Christians interpret this as a literal battle in a literal place at the end of the age. However, Revelation is a book written in the apocalyptic genre, a largely symbolic writing style. It is an ancient style that most closely resembles political satire today. Ancient writers who might have been burned at the stake for criticising their leaders, wrote in symbolic language to disguise their political jibes. Today, we might picture a political party by a donkey or an elephant for instance. Revelation pictures religious and political systems as various beasts. If it is symbolic, Armageddon pictures God's eventual triumph over evil.


When Ray Kroc began McDonald's, in one sense it really was nothing new. We have been doing McChurch for almost two thousand years. It didn't take too long for Christianity to become formulaic, assembly line like with real-estate based franchise arrangements. McDonald's is praised for its cleanliness and efficiency or their business model, but rarely for the quality of its food. What about the spiritual food that our churches feed? Did Jesus teach assembly line Christianity — stand up, sit down, kneel or fall over backwards, raise your hands, bow your heads, sing to the music, you pay we pray, and fast-food Happy-Meal sermons with all the nutrition of a cardboard box. Are we uninterested in what Jesus taught? We seem to prefer spiritual junk food (2 Timothy 4:3). Whatever happened to the Christianity of Christ?

Good News from a Far Country

A man once started a bakery. He had not heard about a recession and his business thrived. One day, somebody told him that things were bad. He began to fret and became overly cautious. His business went downhill. The daily news spewed forth a constant diet of negativity. He lost everything. Sometimes we need good news to bring a little healing (Proverbs 12:18). This man decided to eliminate negativity from his life. He ignored the news, restarted his business and it became one of the most successful in the area, attracting tourists and bringing employment to outback Australia. Paul also suggested that we accentuate the positive (Philippians 4:8). There is good news out there! It can actually do wonders for our health...and the best news of all is that God wants us to live with him forever!

Jesus and Nepotism

Matthew 10:1-4 shows some brothers among the disciples of Jesus. Was this nepotism? There are two extremes to nepotism  politicians who award government contracts to family members and businesses that break families apart, forbidding them from working together. Yet, family businesses can be very healthy. What if the most qualified person for the job actually IS a family member? Should we discriminate because some have abused the privilege, because of favoritism? Jesus' first disciples, those who became the apostles, the founding fathers of the early church, included a couple of brothers, Peter and Andrew. Throughout the Bible, we see many families who were used by God for great purposes. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are only one example. Family businesses, family ministries and family members hiring family members can be a good thing. More than ever, family is very important.

Inerrant vs Truth

The Bible does not use the word inerrant. Does that make it errant? John 17:17 describes God’s word as truth, a different word to inerrant. So why do some use the word inerrant? In today’s culture, people ask, "What is truth?" Many believe that there is no absolute truth, a truth that can never change. So, the word "inerrant" can be helpful to explain truth today. Some define inerrant narrowly and others more broadly. Does the Bible contain no error, factual, historic or doctrinal. There are translation errors and nobody has the original manuscripts, the autographs. The earliest surviving books of the Bible are copies of copies.  Most Christians call the Bible God’s Word because we believe that God moved the redactors, authors, editors, copiers, printers and translators. It is truth in the sense that the Bible is God-inspired.

To Valuable Harvest Workers

Matthew 9:37-39 says that the laborers in the harvest are few. That sounds so much like the 80-20 rule, where 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. Certainly church work never seems to end. There is always the need for someone else to help. Often the most dedicated people, who do the 80%, get burned out. Some leave their church because they are just tired. What a loss! If you are one of the 20% who is burning out from overwork, would you perhaps like to take a moment to consider just doing one less task? Your absence due to exhaustion would be a great loss for us all. One of the most valuable words in church life is no. Just say no to over-involvement so we can enjoy your company a long, long time.

Everywhere, but Ignored

When will the astronomer discover the heavens, the sun, moon and stars singing praise to God? When will the meteorologist see the lightning, hail, snow, clouds and wind dancing in acknowledgement of God? When will the geologist see the mountains and hills announcing God’s praise? When will the arborist see the tributes from fruit trees and cedars declaring God’s reverence? When will the zoologist hear the wild elephant’s hymn of praise to God and the veterinarian hear the domestic cow’s homage to her maker? When will the ornithologist hear the bird’s song of praise to God? Could there be a message that we are missing? Could it be that we are so prejudiced against the idea of God, that we are rendered incapable of discovering the deeper truths? Psalm 148 challenges us to listen to the praise that is everywhere.

Ubiquitous Praise

Psalm 148 suggests that there is praise to God to be shouted by all creation for those who will hear. Whales and dolphins makes sonar songs and dance in the depths praising God. Flames in a winter fireplace dance in praise to God. Hail pounds out a thunderous message and snowflakes whisper in tranquil celebration. Clouds fill the sky with praise and the wind howls a word of adoration. The weather offers an ever changing landscape of accolades. Mountains and hills make us climb to hear their praise and get a better view of what God has made. Trees spring forth in colorful and fruitful praise. Elephants trumpet, dogs bark and cows bellow praise. Kookaburras laugh in derision at those who mock the idea of a Creator. The message is loud and clear and ubiquitous. Will we join the dance?

All Creation Praises God

Psalm 148 suggests that all creation praises God. Some people may object. Surely birds, for instance, are not singing but shouting territorial warnings at each other. That is a rather superficial explanation, only looking at the immediate and not at the profound communication going on. There is often a meaning behind the message that shallow thinkers miss, but deep thinkers have understood throughout the ages. In Romans 1:18-25 the author argues that all creation points to an obvious conclusion which has been ignored by fools who claim to be wise. Why would intelligent people disregard the obvious? The writer of Romans suggests that among other reasons, there may be sinful motives and a preference for lies that excuse wrong desires and sexual impurity. To the rest, all of creation sings a song with a deeper meaning  praise to God.

Stars Praise God

Psalm 148 exhorts the sun, moon and stars to praise God. They already do simply by their witness to his greatness. How many stars are there? Our Milky Way galaxy probably contains 100 billion stars. Add that to the possibility that there are 100 billion galaxies in the known universe. So 100 billion times 100 billion is a 1 followed by 22 zeros, or ten billion trillion stars. The previous Psalm makes an even bigger claim, that God not only knows the number of the stars he created, but also their names (Psalm 147). God who created so many suns, is praised by their very existence. It is an incomprehensible majesty to puny humans. Some argue about origins without divinity, yet the evidence is obvious to all but the willfully ignorant. Praise him sun, moon and all you shining stars!

Angels Praise God

In Psalm 148 is an exhortation to all angels to praise God. How many is that? the largest number associated with angels is given in Revelation 5:11 where we are told that a myriad times a myriad surrounds God’s throne in heaven. A myriad is literally 10,000 and a myriad times a myriad is literally 100 million. Is a number in a book written in a symbolic genre meant to be taken literally? Probably not! Some have speculated that there may be as many angels as humans who have ever lived. Others have thought that if stars picture angels, then perhaps the number of stars visible to the naked eye correspond to the number of angels. In ancient unpolluted skies that may have been as many as 45,000 stars. However many there are, they all praise God.

Heights Praise God

Psalm 148 speaks poetically of inanimate objects praising God. The very first line says to praise God from the heavens. How high are the heavens? The word used means the things above us, what we would call the sky today. So how high is the sky? If we are asking how thick the atmosphere is, it is about 300 miles thick. If we are asking how far in the known universe we can see with the naked eye, that is perhaps the Andromeda galaxy about 2.5 million light years away. We can only see it in the countryside away from city lights. With the Hubble telescope, the farthest we can see is about 13 billion light years away. Nobody knows what is beyond that and the best educated astrophysicists can only speculate. It all continually shouts praises to God.

Jesus is... We are Not

When the angel in Luke 2:1-20 announced the good news of Jesus’ birth, he was not using a new term. It was common at the time to announce Caesar’s various military victories as good news. His announcement also said that a Savior was born, the Messiah, the Lord. The announcement was in effect saying that this child is savior and Lord and Caesar is not. It would be the equivalent sense of saying today that Jesus is Lord and national leaders are not. Jesus will save us and puffed up, pompous science will not. Jesus is Messiah and the high priests of medicine are not. The joy of our Savior’s birth has nothing to do with temporary good news of worldly gifts and human abilities, but the permanent good news of peace on earth to all in him alone.

The Savior from Podunksville

The Caesars of this world’s politics and industry often hope to be Saviors. They make enthusiastic promises, but in the end they fail to deliver salvation to a suffering humanity. Interestingly, the true Savior’s birth is introduced in Luke 2:1-20 with a name, Caesar Augustus, known in his day by the title “Savior of the world.” What a contrast! Many so-called saviors of the day claimed to have been given birth by the gods, but they only saved themselves. Next, we are introduced to Quirinius, whose census just served to bully people into submission. A very pregnant Mary was given no mercy, but forced into traveling on a long journey. He too was not a savior, but born into privilege and abusive power. The true Savior would come from what we might call today Podunksville, a place of humility.

Christianity — Religion or Not

One key to studying the Holy Scriptures is to learn Bible definitions of words rather than assume that a modern meaning is sufficient. For instance, today some do not like to call Christianity a religion, meaning empty man-made traditions. Sadly, that redefines the word and also contradicts one of the writers of the Bible itself. This unfortunate idea tends to prejudice us against James using that same word. In James 1:27 he speaks of pure and undefiled religion before God. To prejudice ourselves against the word religion tends to make James look like an idiot for using the word to describe Christianity. So, what then does James describe as this pure religion? Caring for orphans and widows and keeping ourselves unpolluted by the world. We can’t have Christianity without the religion. Real Christianity includes the essentials of pure religion.

Shepherdless Sheep

In Matthew 9:32-36 Jesus had compassion on crowds of people because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. But the Pharisees and Sadducees were their spiritual leaders. However, they were not perfect shepherds. They did not recognize their own Messiah, but persecuted him to protect their own religious turf. It is the religion of men that put Jesus on the cross. Isn't it about time that we looked to Jesus to teach us about his religion? Real religious leadership is not about authoritarianism, turf wars, esoteric doctrines or control. It's about being crucified with Christ. Where are the Christian church leaders willing to die to their power structures so that their churches can live? Where are the church leaders who are willing to die to self, so that the shepherdless sheep can be fed?

Family Priority

A would-be disciple of Jesus asked to go and bury his father before following him (Matthew 8:18-22). The Bible says to honor our parents. So, Jesus' response was shocking. He told the man to let the dead bury their dead. Jesus was not teaching to dishonor our parents, but rather that following him is a greater obligation. Anything that gets in the way of unqualified commitment to Jesus, must be set aside.* Family is one of life's highest priorities. However, family cannot be allowed to take a higher priority over our commitment to Jesus (Matthew 10:37-39; Luke 14:25-26). This requires wisdom and the application may not always be easy. What's in it for you? Are you willing to place Jesus as first priority in your life, even above honor to parents and family responsibility?
* Michael J. Wilkins, "The NIV Application Commentary - Matthew," Zondervan (2004): 350.

Read the Bible without going Nutty

How can we read the Bible and not get weird ideas? First, read what the text actually says and not what it does NOT say. We also need to exegete (extract from the text) not eisegete (insert what we want the text to say). That involves God, the author, the text, the ancient audience, the cultural context and finally the modern audience - in a word, research. Rather than look for secret meanings most often the plain sense makes common sense. Don't string verses together out of context. Be careful of application which can become man-made rules or worse, heresies. Finally, learn from a Bible scholar who can rightly divide the word of truth. Bible teachers who are willing to learn from what the Holy Spirit has taught others down through the ages are the most balanced and true.

Which Bible

What are the advantages and disadvantages of various Bible translations? The most accurate is a Greek or Hebrew interlinear Bible for those who know the original languages. The next best thing is a word-for-word translation such as the New American Standard Bible or the King James Version. At the other end of the spectrum are paraphrase Bibles which use contemporary street language. A popular paraphrase is the Message. In the middle are balanced or dynamic equivalent translations such as the New International Version and the New Living Translation. For accuracy and doctrine, an interlinear Bible or a word for word translation is best. For inspiration and personal encouragement, a paraphrase is excellent. For the best of both, a dynamic equivalent is good. The essentials of the faith are in every translation. Pick any translation that you like and begin reading.

Private Faith

Jesus quietly healed several blind men. He did not ask them how much faith they had to be healed, merely if they had faith (Matthew 9:27-31). They answered in the affirmative and so Jesus healed them privately and without fanfare. Faith is central to the Christianity of Christ. Power is often central to the religion of men. So, Jesus told them sternly not to tell anyone about their healing. New believers are often naïve to the realities of religion in the hands of men. The healed men forgot Jesus' request for privacy, so the news spread rapidly and persecution from religious leaders was not far behind. When faith in Christ threatens the religion of men, bullying and the abuse of power are often the result. Even Jesus thought that it was sometimes best to keep his faith to himself.

4 Kinds of Church

The word for church is usually translated from the Greek word εκκλησíα (ekklesia), those called out to an assembly. Sometimes the faithful are unable to assemble with others. The Bible describes four kinds of situations wherein believers find themselves. Since the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized, there have been many lone Christians. Some are in jail or live in fear of persecution. Abraham was the spiritual leader of his family. They did not attend a larger church, yet he is described as the father of the faithful. Early churches were usually persecuted house churches. A fourth kind of church is large meeting like on Pentecost in Acts. Which is the best form of doing church? The Bible reveals many forms of church which are all "right" with God. It depends. Each form has something valuable to contribute to the Christian experience.

Saved from What

Saved? From what? Saved is used in several ways in the Bible. A woman who touched Jesus' cloak was saved or healed. Jesus told her that her faith had healed her. The Greek word often used for healing has a double meaning, physical healing and eternal salvation. In Matthew 9:18-26 Jesus laid hands on a young girl who was by all accounts dead, and she was saved. Jesus told the doubting crowds that she was just asleep. They laughed because they knew she was dead. However, Jesus brought her back to life. This is where Christians get the euphemism for death as like a sleep. By calling death a sleep, we express our faith in the resurrection, and that death is not the final word.* Jesus ultimately saves us from death so we can spend eternity with him.
Hagner, D. A. (2002). Vol. 33A: Word Biblical Commentary : Matthew 1-13. Word Biblical Commentary (251). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

Good & Bad Traditions

In Matthew 9:9-17 we read how Jesus broke several religious traditions. He chose a seemingly inappropriate individual, Matthew the collaborator, to become one of his leading disciples. Jesus also ate with immoral and crooked people. Moreover, Jesus did not demand that his disciples practice the religious discipline of fasting while he was still on earth. Why did Jesus disregard such standards of conduct? The Bible reveals two kinds of traditions, good and bad, the good tradition of the elders and bad traditions which only serve to imprison us and detract from the message of Christ. Traditions which enhance the Gospel can be good. However, Jesus came to do away with narrow formal religion and careful ritual* which often does more harm than good. Christianity is about faith not ceremony, hope not rules of men, and love not religious exclusivism.
* Wenham, Motyer, Carson and France (1997). New Bible Commentary (916). IVP.

Authority to Solve World Problems

Guesstimation: Solving the World's Problems on the Back of a Cocktail NapkinWhen healing a man, Jesus pronounced his sins forgiven (Matthew 9:1-8) shocking the religious establishment. They claimed that only God has the power to forgive sins, precisely Jesus’ point. He was God in the flesh. All sickness is caused by sin. It may not be directly caused by any sin of the sick person, but is certainly the result of the sins of humanity in general accumulating since the beginning. Jesus' primary mission was overcoming sin through the cross.* Healing is only a temporary, secondary solution pointing to the eternal solution of the cross. The most important work of Jesus in the world and our lives is the conquest of sin and all the consequences of evil. God does have a long-term plan and the authority to solve all humanity's problems and it centers on the cross.
* Hagner, D. A. (2002). Vol. 33A: Word Biblical Commentary : Matthew 1-13. Word Biblical Commentary (232). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

Confronting Evil

Many people today do not accept the existence of a devil or demons. Yet, humanity acknowledges the shocking reality of evil every day in the news. The Bible reveals unseen spiritual forces so foul and sinister that the whole world is deluded and troubled by them. Christians are called to confront the evil around them with good. Sometimes evil is so confronting that we are forced to face it. How do we handle ourselves when good confronts evil? Jesus' confronted two violently insane people who inhabited a graveyard southeast of Lake Galilee (Matthew 8:28-34). The exchange revealed that Jesus is superior to evil.  In fact, Jesus has the power and authority from heaven to conquer all evil. He will some day triumph over every evil in the world. Will we let him defeat the evil in our lives now?

Storms of Discipleship

Lake Galilee has been well-known for its sudden violent storms anciently as well as in modern times. Crossing in an open boat with some of his first disciples, Jesus was sound asleep. Meanwhile, huge waves suddenly threatened to drown them all (Matthew 8:23-27). Some would-be disciples had decided not to follow Jesus because his was an itinerant ministry and he could not promise them a comfortable, established vocation. Those disciples that did follow him immediately ran into a life threatening situation. When they awoke Jesus, he instantly calmed the storm by a divine miracle. Discipleship sometimes leads us into stormy situations. At such times it may be important to remember Jesus' words to his first disciples. Why are we so afraid? Do we have so little faith? Let's remind ourselves that even the winds and waves obey him.

Jesus vs Established Ministry

Jesus replied to a would-be disciple that foxes and birds have established places, but the Son of Man has nowhere (Matthew 8:19-21). What does that say to our established churches today with beautiful buildings, music and wealthy finery? Jesus indicated that his ministry would not yield an institution with cozy benefits.* This is a warning for us today. There is a grave danger in being an established church. We can become comfortable, materialistic, afraid to let the truth of the Gospel upset the apple cart. We may be men-pleasers, not wanting to offend major financial supporters, unwilling to preach against sin, afraid to speak the truth plainly. Preachers are tempted to speak "smooth things" and prophesy deceits (Isaiah 30:10). Are we willing to follow Christ wherever he leads, even if it means that you will be uncomfortable?
* Jack Dean Kingsbury, "On Following Jesus: The 'Eager' Scribe and the 'Reluctant' Disciple (Matthew 8:18-22)," NTS 34 (1988): 47-52

Wonderful Anointed Preaching

People often describe a particular sermon or preacher as "really anointed." What do they mean? They may mean stirring or exciting, but that is not what the Bible means by anointed. Some do genuinely give the Holy Spirit credit for the preaching, but then when asked how they know this, the answer is often similar: enthusiasm and excitement. How does the Bible describe real anointed preaching? In Isaiah 61:1-3 we find words like good news, binding up broken hearts, proclaiming liberty, freeing prisoners, proclaim God's favor, his vengeance and to comfort those who mourn. Now that could be done in a manner that is calm and quiet or loud and enthusiastic. The volume or level of excitement has nothing to do with being an anointed preacher. The content has everything to do with it. That’s the teaching of Scripture.

Bigotry over Celibacy & Poverty

Peter left fishing to follow Jesus, but Matthew 8:14-15 shows that he did not give up everything. He owned his own house, with a wife and family. Celibacy is an honorable choice, but it is not something Jesus demanded. Voluntary poverty is also an  honorable choice, but is not something Jesus demanded. Peter had a mother-in-law. He was married and he had a house. Peter took his wife along with him (1 Corinthians 9:5). It is not necessary to give up all earthly things for the kingdom of heaven. Paul did encourage celibacy under certain circumstances. It is an honorable alternative. However, an attitude of unconcern about material things is what's really important, placing them low on our list of priorities. Living an ascetic or celibate life was never a biblical requirement, not even for an apostle.

I don't give a hoot... (a parody of 1 Corinthians 13)

I don't give a hoot if you speak in every language of men and angels. If you don't love anyone else but yourself, it's comes across as just a useless, loud, attention-getting noise.

I don't give a hoot about your prophecies and your shoving of your pop theology down my throat. I don't give a hoot that you seem to believe that you are so superior to the rest of us in faith. In fact I wouldn't give a hoot if your faith could move Mount Everest. If you don't love anyone but yourself, what the heck use is it?

I don't give a hoot about all your great charity efforts, even if you think you are Mother Theresa, and I don't care about the great self-sacrificing you brag about. If you don't love me, who cares!

If you really love me, you will put up with me for a long time, you won't envy me and put me down when I do something good, you won't brag about yourself, or be rude to me, put yourself first, be irritated by me, nor think evil of me. You won't laugh and revel in filth, but in the truth.

You will bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.

Love never fails, but your prophecies, preaching, predictions will all fail. Tongues? They'll all end. Know-it-alls will eventually have nothing to brag about. We don't know very much at all, whether it's doctrine or the future. Our weak works will all end when Jesus' perfect work is fully realized.

When we were children we thought we were the ants pants too, but we grew out of that. Now that we are adults we should realize how little we really do know about anything. Unlike now, one day we really will know it all. In the meantime, the only really important things are faith, hope and love. The most important of all is love.

Ethnic & Religious Bigotry

Matthew 8:5-13 challenges us. Why is there an attitude of exclusivity in some churches? Does belonging to an exclusive group guarantee you God's blessings more than others? Is salvation only available in one particular church? People used to believe it was only available in the ancient nation of Israel, also called the church in the wilderness. Jesus' healing of a Roman soldier's servant showed several things. Healing does not need a person's touch to be accomplished, because Jesus just said a word and it was done. Also, the door to the kingdom of heaven is open to those who believe, whether or not they belong to a particular faction. Exclusive thinking can be spiritually dangerous, because it produces a certain kind of laziness, that relies more on membership of a particular group than faith in Christ.

Bigotry against the Sick

In Matthew 8:1-4 Jesus touched a diseased man and healed him when others would not have touched him at all. Jesus told him not to tell anyone. This was no healing show staged for attention. It was a normal part of New Testament church life. However, taboos of the law such as not touching a sick person, interpreted in the letter, could provide an excuse to avoid visiting and serving the sick. Jesus was the God of the Old Testament. That's why he is called Lord. He authored the law, and did not interpret it in the letter, but in the spirit. Rather than merely pronounce healing, he touched the leper first and then healed the man. For us, it can also be an act of faith to visit and serve the sick and pray for their healing.

A Pagan Christmas

Like almost everything in this world, Christmas too can be a mixture of good and bad. If we avoid any mention of Jesus or good things, but only spend our time on fables and materialism and debauchery and credit card debt, then perhaps we could have a completely godless Christmas. However, if we focus on Jesus’ birth, good will, and that even Saint Nicholas was once a Christian who gave gifts to the poor, and that giving to the least is the same as giving to Jesus, then perhaps they could even have a very Christian Christmas. There is no biblical mandate to celebrate Christmas. It entered the Church 300 years after Jesus. Like many pagan peoples, it too was converted to Christianity. Let us too convert our Christmas to a celebration of Jesus and not act like the pagans.

None of that Matters

Some Christians love to talk to saints in heaven. Others are afraid that may be forbidden. Some Christians babble on and on in syllables. Others are afraid that may be a deception. Some Christians believe Jesus permits alcohol. Others are afraid of that devil drink. Some Christians love hymns. Others are afraid they are unsuited to modern evangelism. Some Christians love the King James Bible. Others are afraid that is inadequate for today. Some Christians love traditions. Others are afraid they may be too burdensome. Some Christians love to see miracles. Others are afraid that is not always faith because Jesus said an evil generation seeks signs. None of these things matter. Only one thing matters: the bread of life. Whoever comes to Jesus will never go hungry, and whoever believes in him will never be thirsty (John 6:24-35).

What Kind of Christian

It doesn’t matter if you are a legalistic fundamentalist. If you only have the law but don’t have the bread from heaven you are still hungry. It doesn’t matter if you are a bleeding-heart liberal. If you only love your neighbor and don’t have the bread from heaven you are still hungry. It doesn’t matter if you obey all the rules made up by mere men. If you only have traditions and don’t have the bread from heaven you are still hungry. It doesn’t matter if you break all the rules made up by mere men. If you only have your freedom and don’t have the bread from heaven you are still hungry. The only kind of Christian that really matters is the kind that comes to Jesus. Only his teachings and his nourishment can truly satisfy (John 6:24-35).

Let Go

One of life’s greatest lessons is simply letting go. We let go of family members, friends and if a marriage lasts a lifetime, one partner usually dies before the other. We also make many mistakes in life, develop a few bad habits or have anger issues that we must let go of. Eventually, we must all let go of our own lives, as we face the ultimate end. So, when Jesus described himself as the true bread in John 6:24-35, he was explaining something which we need to grasp rather than let go. We find it hard to let go, and food is one of the hardest things to give up. As we eat delicious foods it is good to remember that we must eventually let go of even that and grab hold of the true bread of life.

Threatened by Q

When John wrote John 6:24-35, he was not making a journal, but a teaching biography composed perhaps 70 years after the events. Some Christians are afraid of such suggestions. Perhaps their faith is not built on a foundation of truth and are threatened by truth. Q is another honest theory of forensic literary research, from the German word “Quelle” meaning source. Q postulates that Matthew and Luke were compiled using an earlier set of notes about Jesus. Some people claim that this proves that the Gospels are not inspired by God. That’s just dishonest. Let’s not feel threatened by such theories. Let’s realize that God can inspire even material written years later or composed using a common source. Forensics is not a threat to our faith. It gives some clues as to a possible note-taker among the original disciples.

Living with impermanence

In the modern world, we live with built in obsolescence. It is a short-sighted mechanism built in to products sometimes due to greed, economics or politics. In some countries houses are built to last hundreds of years, whereas in others they last only a short time before needing new roofs or siding. No matter the local time frame, all things are temporary. That is one of the main lessons of Luke 21:1-19. Jesus pointed out that even the well-built temple would be destroyed. As a centerpiece of national life, it had been rebuilt about five hundred years before Jesus’ prediction. The first temple had lasted about 400 years before being destroyed by the Babylonians. The second temple was the one Jesus predicted would also not last. There is only one permanent thing we can build. Everything else is temporary.

Modern Gender Bigotry

When we read modern commentaries on the Bible, a large number of them tend to prejudice the reading with a self-righteous approach about how women today are supposedly treated so much better than they were anciently. There is a bias about gender unfairness and how those were male dominated societies where women lacked justice. Hence anything we read about the Old or New Testament becomes tainted as we look down our noses at our ancestors. A case in point is the idea of levirate marriage which was referred to in Luke 20:27-40. These were arranged marriages where a brother married his widowed sister-in-law in order to provide for her. Rather than look down at our ancestors, perhaps we need an honest look at ourselves. Our families suffer from historically unprecedented breakdowns. Perhaps our ancestors can teach us a lesson.

Sex in Heaven

If what Jesus said in Luke 20:27-40 is not merely rhetorical, then there will be no sex in heaven. What a disappointment for most of us! Does that mean that heaven will be no fun? Does that mean that we will not recognize Mom and Dad as themselves, because they will no longer be of a distinctive gender? The Bible simply does not say. However, it does give hints that whatever we experience here on earth, including sex, will pale into comparison with what we will have in heaven. The thrills and excitement of earthly life are a mere shadow of the reality that we will have for eternity. So, whether or not we will specifically have sex in heaven, we will have something far better. Sexual fulfillment is fleeting. Heavenly bliss is far superior and will last forever.

Illogical Doctrines

In faith matters we have a human tendency to defend various positions illogically. People on different sides may not always be honestly looking for the truth, but a way to justify their own opinions. An example of this is the classic confrontation of the Sadducees with Jesus over the doctrine of the resurrection in Luke 20:27-40. The Sadducees were wealthy fundamentalists who believed that only the first five books of the Hebrew Bible had authority. Their debate with Jesus was designed to lead to an unreasonable (if unstated) conclusion, that the resurrection cannot be true because if it was, the widow could have seven husbands. Jesus pointed out the illogical conclusion by simply stating that such gender issues would be irrelevant in the resurrection. Do we have the courage to change when confronted with the religion of Jesus Christ?

Levirate Welfare System

In our modern self-righteous disdain of historic gender arrangements, the idea of levirate marriage probably gives many great excuse for looking down their noses at our ancestors. A question that "liberated" moderns avoid is why our families are so broken in comparison. We have no reasons to brag. When Jesus was challenged with a riddle about levirate marriage in Luke 20:27-40, we may ask, what was that all about? We live in a world where marriage legalities have been taken over by the church and government. It once was strictly a family affair. The same is true of welfare. The well-being of widows was taken care of via family arrangements. In a world where clan and family were very important, marrying a brother’s widow to provide for her was common. Rather than disdain their culture, can we learn something?

How the Resurrection Works

In all the Bible’s discussion of the resurrection there is little explanation of how that works mechanically. In our striving for doctrinal superiority and one-up-man-ship there are many people who treat mere human theories with dogmatism. There are those who claim that we are resurrected with the same bodies. Does that mean the same molecules? How does that work with decayed bodies that contributed matter to vegetables that other people ate? Others claim that the dead are asleep. How does that jive with what Jesus said in Luke 20:72-40, that God “is” the God of the living, not “will be?” Dogmatism over unclear matters often reveals a degree of ignorance of all the facts and a lack of humility. Many teachings about the resurrection are mere human speculation. One issue is plain. The resurrection is taught as a fact.

The Age of Martyrs

In Christian history, the first few centuries are sometimes referred to as the Age of Martyrs. From Stephen, the first known martyr to the conversion of Emperor Constantine, Christians were persecuted first briefly by the Jews and then much worse by the Romans. However, more Christians have died for their faith over the past century than throughout all history. A common estimate for the number of Christians who have been murdered for their faith throughout history is 70 million. It has been calculated that 65% of that number, or 45 million died during the twentieth century. Living in the relatively free west can mask the reality of the world situation. While these numbers are estimates, they do point out that rather than improving over time, persecution has actually gotten worse. All Saints Day is a time to remember the martyrs.

Where a Constitution Means Nothing

Can a nation’s constitution guarantee freedom? According to Renovo Media, North Korea’s constitution supposedly guarantees freedom of religion. However, a piece of paper guarantees nothing when leaders abuse their power. According to Voice of the Martyrs, in 2004 a North Korean army general was executed for attempting to preach Christ to his troops. In 2009, a woman there named Ri Hyon Ok was executed in public for distributing the Bible. This normal Christian deed is seen as anti-government activity in a country where the head of state claims to be a god. There may be 30,000 Christians in North Korea. However, the official state ideology is Juche a North Korean variance of Marxism, which deifies its leader. According to Open Door, North Korea is the world’s worst persecutor of Christians. This All Saints Day let’s remember North Korean Christians.

Today’s Persecuted Saints

With some facts from Open Doors, this All Saints Day we remember modern persecuted saints. North Korea arrests, tortures, kills, and reportedly uses Christians in biological and chemical warfare tests. In Iran Armenian, Assyrian and Chaldean Christians are abused, harassed and forbidden to allow former Muslims to enter their churches. In Saudi Arabia non-Muslim worship is forbidden. In Afghanistan Christians face fierce persecution. In Yemen leaving Islam is forbidden. Chinese Christians in non-state churches can face imprisonment and punishment. In India anti-Christian violence is high in a number of Hindu states. In Algeria, the government regulates religion and has ordered half of evangelical churches to close. In Kuwait getting permission to build churches is difficult and evangelizing of Muslims forbidden. In Indonesia, the government fails to protect Christians from unofficial persecution in many states. 100 million Christians face persecution today.

Remembering Armenian Martyrs

The Armenian Church traces its origins to two of the early Apostles, Bartholomew and Thaddeus. Because of this, that church is today called the Armenian Apostolic Church, an Oriental Orthodox Church. The Armenian diaspora today stretches worldwide. In modern times Armenians have experienced one of history’s worst persecutions. It occurred immediately after 1915 in the Ottoman Empire, modern day Turkey. It is estimated that one and a half million Armenians were killed. Over half of the Christian Armenians were killed by forces of the Muslim government. Many Muslims including some national leaders, who sought to protect their Christian neighbors suffered and many of them were also murdered. This Armenian genocide is remembered on April 24. All Saints Day is also a time to remember Christian saints, living and dead. It is likewise a time of special remembrance for Christian martyrs.

Is Halloween Christian

In the imaginary two-dimensional world of the false dichotomy, everything is either right or wrong. However, that world simply does not exist. Many things certainly are right or wrong. But, a lot of things are neutral and can be put to a good or bad use. The same is true of Halloween, the evening of all hallows or saints. We have a choice. So, the question, “Is Halloween Christian?” is erroneous. Halloween can be good and focused on Christian saints or it can be evil and focused on things that oppose Christianity, or it can be harmless fun, depending on how it is used. Some people celebrate evil, others mock evil and others celebrate saints living and dead. Probably most people are just having a little fun and not even thinking of God. We can make it a Christian celebration.

Recapturing Halloween

Halloween is a modern celebration with mixed roots. A challenge to us is to recapture certain original Christian purposes. Some very valuable lessons have been almost entirely forgotten by commercialized versions. The word Halloween has nothing to do with witches and goblins, but saints. All true Christians are saints. Halloween means the evening before all hallows or all saints day. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, early Christians remembered the death of their martyrs, those murdered by ancient Rome for their faith. Some Protestant churches remember saints of the church who have died as well as martyrs in countries where Christians are persecuted even today. Even some of the customs of Halloween were used by Christians to poke fun at evil, facing the demons that persecuted the Church and laughing at them so to speak. Facing our demons can be therapeutic.

Infant Baptism is Biblical

Does Acts 2:38 demand that only someone old enough to believe can be baptized? Are churches that baptize infants wrong? An honest look at the very next verse would reveal that children are included in the promise that accompanies baptism. Another case study is much clearer about children being included in baptism. The entire families of ancient Israel were baptized into Moses in the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:1-4). On three separate occasions in the New Testament whole households were baptized (1 Corinthians 1:16; Acts 11:13-14; Acts 16:15, 31, 33). Logic dictates a high probability that at least one of those households contained a child. Baptism also pictures circumcision (Colossians 2:11-12) a ritual performed on infants and adults. Churches that include infant baptism with confirmation of faith later in life have reasonable biblical precedent.

Baptism is not Immersion ONLY

Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries
Baptism in the
Early Church
When people say that the word baptism means only immersion, they are ignorant of the whole truth from the Bible. The Holy Scriptures use the word in other senses. It was used to mean wash in several places (Mark 7:4; Luke 11:38; Acts 22:16) and it described the passage of Israel through the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:1-4). Not all washing is a dipping, though that could be argued. However, the Israelites were not literally immersed in the Red Sea, but figuratively. According to the historic account they walked through with dry feet. They were baptized into Moses without being literally dipped or immersed in the water. So, biblical use of the word baptism reveals that it can be either immersion or some other use of water such as washing or a symbolic passage via water.

Most Important Lesson in Politics

Narrowly, we think of politics as only relating to human government. However, it also has a much broader meaning. Politics also refers to the complexity of relationships between people in any society, even in churches. Whether we only look narrowly at government or more widely at all human relationships, successful politics must involve a very important principle which is so often forgotten - forgiveness. Jesus taught one of the greatest needs of human politics in Luke 17:1-10 - simple forgiveness. Why? Why do we need to forgive each other? Human systems of government have always promised more than they can deliver. No human society, even the Church, has ever been able to create utopia, perfection on earth. Such a flawless system is impossible as long as the people within it are imperfect, and so we must forgive or perish.

A Forgiving Community

Why did Jesus encourage us to forgive one another (Luke 17:1-10)? Why should we be forgiving? Offenses are normal. Sunday school teachers must forgive rowdy students and students must forgive overbearing teachers. Ever church seems to contain at least one bully who needs forgiveness for ungrace. Every choir or music group must forgive a lack of appreciation. Every new person must forgive the overzealous and pushy evangelists among us who think they must shove Christianity down others' throats. Every mother must forgive a son with tattoos and a rebellious streak and every father must forgive a daughter who went astray. Every child must forgive an imperfect parent and every grandparent must forgive the lack of honor shown. Every pastor must forgive the critics and every congregation must forgive the offense of preaching. Community involves offense. Forgiveness is the antidote.

Forgiving National Leaders

Christian conversation regarding national leaders is a travesty of unforgiveness. Yet, on the cross, Jesus said, Father forgive them, they know not what they do. How did we in the church let ourselves slide into such a state of graceless and merciless hatred when it comes to those in political office? How do we allow ourselves to pray “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” and at the same time spew forth hate-filled vitriol and constant accusations about our national leaders? In Luke 17:1-10 and many other places Jesus emphasized forgiveness. Are political leaders an exception to that Christian ideal? Do we live in a dreamland where we somehow believe that national leaders can actually be flawless? Do we really believe that salvation is possible through presidents and prime ministers instead of Jesus Christ?

What is Sin

When we think of sin, we assume that it is a religious word associated with God’s law or a religious definition of morality. That can be true, but a word most often used in the New Testament actually carries a broader meaning than our modern understanding of the word sin. For instance, in Luke 17:1-10 Jesus said that if a brother sins against you seven times a day and has a change of heart forgive him. The word for sin in this passage literally means to miss the mark, but was used in ancient Greek society to mean any kind of flaw. In the historical and textual context Jesus was referring to anything that causes an offense between people, not just the law of God. In any endeavor involving people there will be failings. The key is to forgive.

What is Forgiveness

In Luke 17:1-10 and many other places Jesus emphasized forgiveness. What does it mean to forgive? In a brutal world with wars, destructive political rhetoric and road rage is there room for forgiveness? Even in businesses that attempt to be positive, mistakes are described as opportunities to improve, not as forgivable. Yet, we describe a forgiving tennis racket as one that allows error or weakness. In human relations, forgiving is giving something up. It is giving up the resentment or expectation of punishment or repayment for real or imagined wrongs. It means giving up anger and hatred.  When we forgive, we also do immeasurable good for our own mental and emotional health. Unforgiveness creates dysfunctional politics, families and churches. Forgiveness creates healthy nations, families and churches. Maybe that’s why Jesus said to forgive each other seven times a day.

The Grace-Filled Christian

A lot of Christians claim to be spirit-filled, but how many really are grace-filled? When our political leaders are bombarded by Christians with accusations where is the grace? When Christians fight over picky issues of doctrine where is the grace? When church members criticize each other and denigrate church leadership where is the grace? When ordinary people with all their foibles and weaknesses do not find a safe haven in local churches where is the grace? Luke 17:1-10 says that occasions to stumble and criticize and sin are bound to come. Is one small step towards becoming grace-filled Christians simply learning to forgive always? Can we forgive our national leaders, our local leaders, our church leaders and each other? Can we show grace instead of bitter rancor and cynical criticism? Where is the forgiveness? Where is the grace-filled Christian?

When Tradition Tempts to Sin

What happens when church traditions stand in the way of the Gospel or tempt people to sin? What about the tradition of mandatory celibacy in some churches? Does it tempt people to sexual sins? What about traditions that place an obstacle course in the way of the Gospel and stunt church growth? Can denominational administration be so heavy handed or pedantic that it tempts local churches to rebel? Can music be so tradition bound that it insults the tastes of moderns who are frustrated and tempted to leave? Can denominational disciplines be so burdensome that they create more problems than they solve? Grace-filled Christians must learn to forgive those over them in the Lord. In Luke 17:1-10 Jesus warns that sorrow awaits those who cause temptations and that those who are frustrated by such human weakness ought to forgive.

Acting like a Christian

How many times have we heard criticisms leveled at the Christian community. A frequent critique is that somebody was not acting like a Christian. These are usually made by people in or outside the Church who seem to assume that Christians are supposed to behave in a certain manner. Misconceptions about Christianity are common even in the Church. Christianity judged by outward appearance or behavior can be a form of legalism. Real Christianity has a lot to do with a change which occurs on the inside, in the heart. Naturally, certain behaviors will become evident after a change of heart. Anyone can put on an act. However, real Christianity is not an act. It includes some characteristics which are impossible to pretend for long, such as forgiveness. In order to forgive, a measure of faith is required (Luke 17:1-10).

Miracle of Forgiveness

Some Christians want the buzz of miracles and signs and wonders. They look to hyperbolic statements such as those found in Luke 17:1-10 where Jesus describes how little faith it takes to move a tree. However, they don’t look at the context in which those statements are made. A form of naive and immature Christianity makes outward signs and visible miracles a measure of faith. Real faith is not in observable things but in things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). It is so easy to forget warnings about an evil and adulterous generation that seeks after a sign (Matthew 12:39). The comment about faith to move a tree comes right after Jesus’ challenge to forgive seven times a day. Forgiving others is hard. It is not natural. A real miracle that requires uprooting is unforgiveness in our hearts.

Graceless Churches

Unbinding Your Church (Pastor's and Leaders' Guide to the Real Life Evangelism Series)
Unbinding Your Church
Some churches are stiff and unbending in their approach to life. They don’t tolerate ordinary human beings. Children are told to be seen and not heard. They do not enjoy church or Sunday School and leave. Ordinary activity is frowned upon. Morals and right behavior rather than grace and mercy are the standard. Those with less than perfect lives leave finding no love or acceptance. In Luke 17:1-10 we read of the necessity to forgive seven times a day, a metaphor for complete forgiveness. Church life involves rubbing shoulders with people who have different opinions and personalities. Churches that are judgmental and harsh, that do not love children as Jesus did, that do not accept others despite differences of opinions on lesser issues, do not survive. Only grace and forgiveness provide opportunity for human relationships to survive and thrive.

Triggers in Traps

In Luke 17:1-10 we read that things which cause people to sin are bound to come along. The original Greek uses a word for a trigger mechanism in a trap. Temptation is like that. If we allow ourselves to be led into a dangerous situation, it can be almost a foregone conclusion that we will sin. Lying is like that. Adultery is like that. Stealing is like that. Murder is like that. We are all guilty of shading the truth, having lust in our hearts, stealing time from a boss or glory from those who should be honored and harboring hatred, which the Bible describes as the same as murder. We so easily use words or actions to entice or incite others to sin or lose faith. However, if we do it leaves us a heavy burden of sorrow.

Three Words for Hell

The Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades are often used to describe the place of the dead. They are used in different contexts to mean the grave or a place of torture. Another Greek word, Gehenna pictures a fiery place of punishment. These are the three words most often translated as hell. Ancient Jews believed in both annihilation and eternal suffering. The ancient Greeks believed in an immortal soul and a place of eternal punishment. There are lot of popular myths about heaven and hell. Theologians are more cautious about describing our eternity. Jesus removed the curse of death. When the elect die, their spirits will go to where God is, in heaven. The Bible does not thoroughly discuss what happens in the intermediate state between death and the resurrection. However, the saints will ultimately be with God for eternity.

Jubilee economics

One Christian may support the capitalist right, while another may lean to the socialist left. Yet, neither of those modern political ideals fits exactly what God gave ancient Israel. One brilliant economic model is found in Leviticus 25. It is neither a form of socialism, with big government and large public ownership, nor is it unbridled capitalism, where large corporations dominate trade and prices. It is a radical departure from both of those modern systems. It speaks of a jubilee and regular, equitable redistribution of some assets but not others. It does limit the twin evils of big government and large corporate greed. Ancient Israel’s idealistic system has never been applied by any government since, and yet there are still principles of faithfulness in unrighteous mammon that we can apply, even though we may have very little (Luke 16:1-13).

Jesus' Silence

Have you ever noticed how remarkably silent Jesus was on various topics which divide Christians today? He said notably little about tongues. He said nothing about homosexuality. Jesus taught nothing at all about prayers to Mary. He did not ban alcohol or dancing. Nor did Jesus enforce any rules about resting on a Saturday or Sunday. So, why do Christians tend to focus on ideas that Jesus did not? Why do we not allow the founder of Christianity to teach us what is important and what does not deserve attention? Why are we divided over things that Jesus did not consider important enough to instill in his earliest disciples? When we spend so much energy on issues that he was silent about, do we then diminish the importance of issues that he did teach? Is the Christianity of Christ important?

Who will Build the Church

What did Jesus teach about church growth? He said that he will build his church (Matthew 16:18), yet Christian retail stores are full of books on how we can build Christ’s Church. Many people are anxious and distracted by a desire for church growth. Gimmicks and marketing techniques exist that would make even the most ardent workaholic weary. But have we forgotten the foundational principle of church growth: Jesus will build his Church? Where is our focus? Do we trust in our complicated works instead of Christ? The example of Martha in Luke 10:38-42 is that of someone who believed that her elaborate works took precedence over listening to the teachings of Jesus. When we believe that we can grow a church through our efforts to the neglect of allowing Jesus’ teachings to take center stage, then are we sadly mistaken?

Church Bullies

As with any area of society, the church has its share of bullies. Luke 10:38-42 reveals Martha as one of those people who tended to create more work than necessary given the circumstances. Instead of preparing a simple snack so that she could take time to listen to Jesus, she seems to have made elaborate preparations and so missed out on what was more important. Then, instead of realizing her mistake she tried to bully both her sister into helping and Jesus into taking her side. However, Jesus would not have a bar of it. Bullies are everywhere. They range from the proverbial leaning, smiling elephant, who applies pressure until people give in, to those who use blunter objects like intimidation and guilt. Martha tried the latter and a reply to her bullying was a simple statement of priorities.

Going Overboard

Service to others is a hallmark of Christianity. From the story of the Good Samaritan to the Golden Rule, service to others is a valuable part of the Christian way of life. However, when is it too much? In Luke 10:38-42 we read about Jesus and his interaction with Martha. She was a fabulous host but was greatly distracted by her detailed preparations. She went overboard. What could have been simple turned into a major effort. Service is important, but sometimes we tend to go too far. Contrast a simple Christmas or wedding with an elaborate one where everyone is stressed out and financially overburdened. Contrast a simple church service where the Gospel is preached with an elaborate one where great emphasis is placed upon liturgical detail. We can do too much. Only one thing is essential, hearing Jesus.

A Perfect Worship Service

Some church services seem to be scripted to perfection. A detailed liturgy may include announcements, prayers of confession and thanks, singing of psalms, hymns and other spiritual songs, offerings, a sermon, saying of one of the creeds, and various Bible readings. Perfectionists can get very distracted by making sure that a church service goes as planned and get rather annoyed at anything that is not quite up to par. However, what really is a perfect worship service? If the words of Jesus to Martha in Luke 10:38-42 are any guide, we could conclude that the most important thing is to ask what did Jesus say? If the sermon does not teach what Jesus taught, or a reading from the Gospels is not included, then it cannot be perfect? Is not a perfect worship service one where Jesus is taught?

When a Yes is really a No

In Luke 10:38-42 we read about a wonderful woman devoted to service. She had said yes to a number of very important tasks. Martha was like many people in the Church today, always serving, always available, at every fundraiser, board meeting, choir practice, preparation for the liturgy and a whole host of other such activity. Church work is very important, but it is also never ending. It can be like a black hole that sucks a person in and never lets them out. It can take a person away from what church is supposed to be all about. A yes to serving others can be a no to Jesus. One of the most important words to say in life is no. It is important to know when saying no is saying yes to a priority with more important consequences.

Choice between two Goods

A Choice between good and evil is easy for most of us. A choice between two evils is somewhat more difficult. An example of that is when Rahab chose between lying and allowing two men to be murdered. She chose to lie and is counted among the faithful. Another difficult choice is between two goods. In Luke 10:38-42 Jesus taught Martha a valuable lesson. She was very distracted with doing the work of a deacon, serving. Christian service is a very high honor and priority. However, there is one thing that is much more important. Church missionary efforts often face the same choice: building hospitals, schools and physical projects versus teaching people about Christ — service versus the Gospel. Local churches face the same choices: physical service versus evangelism. Both are good things. One is more important than the other.

Where are the Conservatives

Where are the Conservatives — 

We hear plenty these days from people who claim to be conservative Christians. What does that mean? When I look around I really can't find any. If we baptize by any method other than immersion, are we not liberals? If we have changed wine into grape juice for communion then are we not liberals? If we allow women to lead the church then are we not liberals? If we rest on Sunday instead of Saturday then are we not liberals? If we shave off our beards are we not liberals? If we have made any modifications to the culture and practice of the early church are we not all liberals? On the other hand, if we all believe that Jesus Christ is Savior of the world (John 4:42), what does that make us? Perhaps we are all conservatives after all.

So Wrong

So Wrong — 

In John 16:2 we read of those who put others out of places of worship and kill people in the name of religion and believing they are doing God a service. Doing the wrong thing and believing they are right is something that all people experience at one time or another. Former generations stole the lands of native peoples and killed whole villages thinking that they were doing right. In wartime, peoples have destroyed whole towns including vast numbers of innocent civilians thinking they were doing right. Our grandchildren may look in bewilderment and disbelief at our generation which disregards the human rights of defenseless unborn children by the brutal and primitive practice of abortion. What does a civilization do when it wakes up and sees how wrong it has been! Father forgive them! They don't know what they're doing!

Failure can be Success

Failure can be Success — 

In a world which operates on the paradigm that he who dies with the most toys wins, it can be difficult to feel successful. Capitalism can be a tool for good, but it can also cause a deep sense of failure. A motive can be to sell goods and services to gain wealth whether or not other lives are really improved. Many merchants operate on a win-lose philosophy more akin to the survival of the fittest than a true win-win ideal for the greater good. When business operates on the law of the jungle consumers are the losers. The hardest thing for us to believe deep down inside is that the seeming loser can be the real winner. That is one message of the cross. Many who seem to be first will be last and vice versa (Mark 10:31).

Failure can be Success

Failure can be Success — 

In a world which operates on the paradigm that he who dies with the most toys wins, it can be difficult to feel successful. Capitalism can be a tool for good, but it can also cause a deep sense of failure. A motive can be to sell goods and services to gain wealth whether or not other lives are really improved. Many merchants operate on a win-lose philosophy more akin to the survival of the fittest than a true win-win ideal for the greater good. When business operates on the law of the jungle consumers are the losers. The hardest thing for us to believe deep down inside is that the seeming loser can be the real winner. That is one message of the cross. Many who seem to be first will be last and vice versa (Mark 10:31).

Fake Promises

Fake Promises — 

If we were to listen to those televangelists who offer a pain-free life without trials or troubles, we might be shocked and dismayed when difficulties come. But, if we listen to Jesus, we will not be surprised at all. In John 16:1-4 Jesus told his original disciples to prepare for rough times. They would be thrown out of meetings. Some would be killed by people thinking they were doing God a favor. Why? Were the original disciples disobedient and cursed by God? No, they were told that their troubles were caused because others never really knew Jesus or the Father. Jesus told them these things so that when the time came they would remember his warning. Perhaps the preachers of health and wealth have not remembered Jesus' warning. Perhaps they do not get very much of their teachings from Jesus.

Relative Terms

Relative Terms — 

How often have fellow believers described themselves as conservative or liberal Christians? What exactly are they conserving or liberalizing? Some will say that they are conserving the Christianity of their forefathers. To honor our forefathers is good. However, what if their Christianity was just different in some ways to that taught by Jesus? Would they then be more liberal or more conservative than Jesus? Some want to conserve so-called family values or a national way of life. What if that way of life or those family values are different than what Jesus taught? Would they then be more liberal or conservative than Jesus? In John 15:26 it says that a mission of the Holy Spirit is to testify about Jesus. Are terms like liberal or conservative used relative to this world's values or to the ultimate benchmark, what Jesus taught?

Christian Clutter

Christian Clutter — 

In John 15:26 we read that a mission of the Holy Spirit is to testify about Jesus. That is how the Church's slate began, with a simple Christianity, a testimony about Jesus. However, given the proclivity of people, things were added over time. The slate became crowded with traditions and ideas as people became enamored with their own opinions of these most important events in the history of the world. The higher the position of an individual, the greater ability he had to impose his ideas upon others. Over time the traditions and teachings which resulted began to crowd out the simplicity of Christ. Beside the teachings of Jesus were a whole host of ceremonies and do's and don'ts created by mere men. The challenge is and always has been to put the teachings of Christ in their rightful place.

Miserable Comforters

Miserable Comforters — 

2,000 years ago, Jesus often quoted from the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint. There the Greek word Paraclete is used in Job for his "miserable comforters" (Job 16:1-2). Job was in the worst of distress and several friends tried to comfort him, but instead only criticized and accused him. It is easy to give the wrong advice and offend rather than help. In John 14:16 the writer used the same word for the comfort that the Holy Spirit gives to Christians. Sometimes human beings, even at their best, are of little or no comfort. We simply don't always have the wisdom to say the right things. The Holy Spirit is a comfort at all times. He stands with us and in us to comfort and support us in ways that no fellow mortal possibly can.

Comfort, Defend and Encourage

Comfort, Defend and Encourage — 

When Jesus was about to exit this world, he promised another comforter — an encourager, an advocate — in John 14:16. The word another in Greek implies someone, a Person who encourages and defends others just like Jesus. Temptations to denounce and reasons to condemn fellow Christians and other denominations are everywhere. But Jesus came not to condemn but to save. The Holy Spirit does not defend an inerrant Church nor infallible individual Christians. Christian history is a mixture of good and evil. The Holy Spirit is like a defense lawyer who stands beside each person in the Church giving comfort and encouragement, while the accuser attacks. Christians everywhere know their own guilt. The prosecutor has a solid case, except for one thing, the cross. Without the cross the accuser wins. Should we likewise comfort, defend and encourage one another?

Do We Believe the Bible?

Do We Believe the Bible? — 

Men say that the Bible is inerrant. The Bible nowhere uses that word. Do we believe the Bible? Men say that the writings of Paul are infallible. The Bible makes no such claim. Do we believe the Bible? The Bible speaks of certain writings as Holy Scriptures or holy writings. Do we believe the Bible is holy writings? Men say that Christians ought never to drink. The Bible says that Jesus turned water to wine and that wine cheers both God and men. Do we believe the Bible? Men say that God did not use evolution. The Bible makes no claim about evolution but only that God created all things. Do we believe the Bible? Men say that only political and religious conservatives are Christians. The Bible says that Jesus turned the world upside down. Do we believe the Bible?

Another Comforter

Another Comforter —

What did Jesus mean in John 14:16 when he said he would ask the Father to send another Comforter? Does that mean that the Holy Spirit is like a blanket or a hug? The English word comforter has changed meaning over the centuries and a look at the original Greek is very helpful. When that passage was written, the word was Paraclete and it meant literally someone called to our side — in general use, a legal advocate. In that sense, the Holy Spirit is a Person who stands beside us to help. We must not miss the word before: we read of another Advocate. The Greek word in this context means an Advocate exactly like Jesus. The Holy Spirit is like Jesus. He is a Comforter and also an Advocate who stands beside us to strengthen and intercede for us.

After We Own Everything

After We Own Everything — 

Accumulation is a major goal for most people. So, after we own everything imaginable what then? The universe is so vast that even a billionaire is nothing by comparison. After the castles, private islands, jets, yachts, farms, luxury cars and baubles what else is there? After we have accumulated everything imaginable we still die — what then? Why did Carnegie say that millionaires never smile? Could there be something more satisfying than things? In Matthew 16:26 Jesus asked, "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" What good is it to slave away on a treadmill for status and things, and pay for it all with our lives? Is it really worth it to have great wealth and ignore what comes next? Is there something more, like life beyond this one?

Double Negative Bigotry

Double Negative Bigotry — 

We've probably all heard the grammatical rule against using double negatives, but did you know that it came from clergyman Robert Lowth who declared it a sin against the King's English? Chaucer and Shakespeare used many double negatives as a double emphasis. In Appalachia, an Elizabethan dialect is still widespread. It's common to hear people say things like "ain't never" or "don't need no" as a double emphasis. It is perfectly acceptable speech in its cultural context, with just as much right to its own grammatical rules as other varieties of English. Some linguists believe that rules coming from prejudice in favor of only the King's dialect need to be reformed. Some Christians love making rules, but we are justified by faith not law. The Old Testament contained over 600 laws "imposed until a time of reformation." (Hebrews 9:10 NASB)

The "Selfless" Evangelist

The "Selfless" Evangelist —

A televangelist said that she used to be selfish but stopped, but now makes millions of dollars. What a contradiction! An evangelist in charge of a Christian charity also makes big. It's his right to take what is offered to him by his followers and his board of directors. But please don't expect me to be impressed or believe that people like that are selfless. I am not impressed. There is only one person who does impress me. His name is Jesus, a man who some claim owned houses and rich clothing to justify their opulent lifestyles. Historically, we could argue that Jesus still had some of the gold left over given to him at his birth, but he did not live that lifestyle. He chose a ministry of sacrifice both in life and death. That's why I follow Jesus.