How can Christians say they know the truth about God when their theology and beliefs are fractured in so many ways? How can any one group be sure of themselves, that they got it right? The same way anyone else becomes sure: engage the mind and examine the knowledge for oneself. Normal life is like a supermarket, with an abundance of things and ideas to choose from. Continue reading
Jesus made clear what is the greatest commandment: to love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:34-40). Here is God’s highest aspiration for His creation. Yet so many of us, religious and non-religious, fail to go in this direction. Why don’t more people grow spiritually? May I propose one significant reason, which was stated in Proverbs? “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 21:2a).
Sin tells me to put self first. So any thoughts that promote my self-comfort will sit well with me. Any ideas or acts that advance my self-interest will have my blessing. Every intent of the heart that boosts my self-righteousness (and puts down others) is right in my own eyes. Continue reading
Some of you are praying for a loved one’s healing of a dreaded disease. Others are praying for someone’s salvation or that she will return to the Lord. However, it’s hard to believe God for the outcome if you don’t know what will happen. Counsel like “God answers our prayers with ‘yes,’ ’no,’ and ‘not right now’ ” are intellectually and emotionally unsatisfactory. Continue reading
A centurion came to Jesus and told Him, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” Have you felt paralyzed at home lately? You have decisions to make, but feel too frozen to move? You have things to do, but can’t get going? You are tormented by things nagging in your mind, but can’t find the energy or will to do them? It’s like a sickness in you that you can’t heal. Continue reading
The Bible expects us to grow in love. For instance, Philippians 1:9 tells us, “that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment.” When we were saved, God did not limit our salvation to merely escape from judgment and enter heaven, but to change us that we become more like his son, Jesus. How, then, does this process occur? Continue reading
Of course it is fair. Heaven is God’s home. If a person arrived at your doorstep saying they’re a good person, would you let him in to live with you as long as he wanted? Of course not! If you have a good excuse not to let that good person in, then give God the benefit of the doubt too. He has given us reasons in the Bible. Continue reading
I see two striking examples of people in @#!*% that give us an answer. Let’s look at the longest one first, found in Luke 16. Jesus told this story to the Pharisees: Continue reading
The TV sit-com Modern Family integrates a technique used in reality shows such as Survivor and Master Chef in which the contestants talk candidly about themselves on camera away from the others. The Office also used this means to comedic effect, and it was a staple of the series. Continue reading
We see so many things going wrong in the world today that we wonder if God is really in control as much as people seem to believe. We suffer relationship problems, money issues, physical and mental anguish, and wonder whether God is really with us. Is God really working things together for good? Is God really for us? All our struggles seem to indicate the opposite! One verse in the Bible seems to imply that God is in full control of all that happens: Continue reading
We often perform our work in response to something, or to fulfill some purpose. We do our homework in response to a teacher’s assignment. We do our work according to the responsibilities our boss gave us. We take care of our family based on the needs we see. We amuse ourselves with different activities for rest and recreation. We fill Christmas boxes with the intention of donating them as gifts to the poor. Our activities are either self-directed (serving our own interests) or directed to others.
We work to fulfill the obligations to others, like our teachers, boss, and crusade to feed the poor, even doing the work in the absence of the leaders. In the same way, we read God’s word and follow its directions as though God himself is telling us what to do. So we can serve God even though we can’t see him, just like we can do our homework in the absence of our teacher. Continue reading
Richard Dawkins, author and atheist lecturer, said that “Religion is a fairy tale for those who are afraid of the dark.”
In response, a Christian said, “Atheism is a fairy tale for those who are afraid of the light.”
From Pastor Brian Broderson, Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa.
Are Christians more intolerant than other people or groups? Let’s start with the dictionary definition of the word ‘intolerant’ to make sure we are on the same page:
1. Unable or unwilling to endure something [such as endure criticism].
2. Unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression esp. in religious matters.
3. Unwilling to grant or share social, political, or professional rights.
(From Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary)
Nowadays, ‘intolerant’ has been redefined as an unwillingness to get along; a refusal to conform to a protestor’s expectations. It’s popularly used in the sense of “Why are you intolerant — why won’t you go along with what we do and believe?” Continue reading
Is it true that people who have died and gone to heaven can observe what we are doing on earth? Some people believe the first line of the following passage supports this idea:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2, NKJV).
Here is the full passage from Romans 6:10-13:
For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
In Romans chapter six, Paul makes some key points that tell us why we have victory over sin and the bad habits of the old life. In some mysterious way, God has linked us with Christ’s death and resurrection. When Christ died on the cross and was buried, then our sinful selves were crucified and buried with Him (Romans 6:4-8). And when Christ rose from the dead, our new selves rose with Him (also in Romans 6:4-8). Continue reading
Read from the beginning of the book
The best way to study the Bible is to start at the beginning. Either the beginning of the Bible (best) or beginning of any of its books. Do not jump in at random, for this will lead to many problems. For instance, if I were to read the first page of a thriller, where the hero drives a white car, then jump to page 200 and find the hero driving a red car, do I throw the book away in disgust, saying, “this book is full of contradictions”? No; for if I read straight through, I’ll discover that the car on the first page was his own car; he drives to the airport, flies to another country, and picks up a rental car, which happens to be red. No conflict. No contradiction. Read the book from the beginning to the end. Continue reading
“Why did God allow this to happen?” “Why didn’t God protect us?” “Why doesn’t a good God stop this evil?” These are all variations of the question that recurs — that never goes away – in the aftermath of any great and not-so-great tragedy. “Where is God when it hurts?”
While exploring the question, Philip takes us on trips to some of the saddest places on earth, including Japan following the tsunami, Sarajevo and the ‘ethnic cleansing,’ the child killings at Newtown and Sandy Hook. The question has only slight variations in these places; in asking, the questioner instinctively assumes that God is a good God.
Philip’s hardest task comes when trying to find words to answer the question in a way that would comfort the hearers who have suffered loss. Going from place to place to give talks on this subject, he advances several perspectives. One I remember most is when he asked the parents who lost a child in Newtown (my paraphrase), “Now experiencing the worst pain a parent could feel, where everything seems so empty and lost, and your spirit crushed, how many of you would rather never have experienced the joy of having your child at all?” None of the people raised their hands; though their pain is most unbearable, the joy beforehand was still worth it. Continue reading
The Bible is hard to understand in places. It’s also a thick book – who can remember it all? Therefore, many of us have ultra-simplified our theology, condensing it down to, “When I die, I go to heaven.” That’s simple and easy to remember. But its very simplicity is deceptive.
Consider Hebrews 12:2, for example: “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Here, Jesus was not cowering under the shame of being on the cross, nor was He screaming for the pain and agony to end. Jesus on the cross is our example of how to accept the will of God and endure pain for Him (1 Peter 2:21). As a reward for His faithfulness to death, God set Him up on a throne to rule in the kingdom (Philippians 2:5-11). Continue reading
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Jesus spoke these words as part of a sermon on a mountain to the people. The context of the sermon answers the question of the narrow way’s identity. The sermon is about the character of the kingdom of God in a believer’s life. The narrow way is the kingdom of God, as distinct from the established religion the people were familiar with. Let’s look at several examples taken from the Sermon on the Mount, from each of its three chapters. Continue reading
When Paul made an argument for his faith in Acts 24:10-21, he affirmed his belief that both the just and the unjust will be resurrected (24:15). What is the resurrection of the just and the unjust? When we encounter a doctrine in the Bible that isn’t well-developed in our minds, we may change the words a bit to make the verse fit our theology better. In the case of the resurrection of the just and the unjust, we may adapt it to our way of thinking by making it say, “the resurrection of the saved and the unsaved,” or “the resurrection of the believers and unbelievers.” (This makes us feel good about ourselves, too.)
We tell ourselves that Jesus saved us and imputed His righteousness to us, so we are among the “just,” which means righteous ones. Because we are saved, we Christians will surely be resurrected or raptured, and all the unbelievers left behind. I will touch more on this later.
If this thinking were true, then Paul’s next words would not make any sense: “I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (24:16). I used to take it for granted that because I am saved, I would make the first resurrection. But Paul saw two resurrections, not of the saved and unsaved, but of the just and unjust. They are not the same thing. “Just” does not mean “believer” or “saved.” Continue reading
Some atheists claim that the Bible is full of fairy tales that Christians have contrived in order to find order, purpose, and comfort in this life. But what about the fairy tales the atheists believe? And why do they think Christian beliefs are mere fables? Continue reading
“I am a Baptist.” “I am a Presbyterian.” Perhaps when spiritual conversation ebbs and flows around you, at one point the tide may bring you in, and all you can say is that you are a member of a denomination, or that your family has been of that denomination for years.
But when we appear before the Lord in Heaven, Jesus will not be asking us what denomination we belonged to. He will tell us to give an account of our lives to evaluate how we have responded to His Word. Obedience to His Word is high on His list of priorities for His people, so then how does our denomination come into play? Continue reading
A lot of implied assumptions are found in this statement: “When I die, I’ll go to Heaven.” What’s missing from that assertion? No mention is made of the time from now until death, and no mention is made of the eternity-defining event between death and Heaven. Our eternity will depend more on a life lived than on our death, and the time between death and Heaven will focus on rendering a judgment on that life, which will determine our riches and honor for eternity in Heaven. Continue reading
Did Jesus demand that people believe on Him by faith only, or did He present proofs and reasons to believe? Let’s start off with this incident:
Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?”
Jesus answered and said unto them, “Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matthew 11:2-5).
Here, John the Baptist, thrown into jail earlier, was possibly wondering if Jesus was the Messiah. How did Jesus answer this question? Did He insist, “Just believe – that’s all you gotta do. Just believe!” No; Jesus gave him proofs to ponder. The Jews knew that when the kingdom of God would come, then the lame will walk again, the blind will see, and the deaf will hear. Jesus not only told the people, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” He provided proofs by the miracles that He performed that the kingdom was indeed at the very door. Continue reading
I remember when I first became aware of the impact of my biases upon myself. A Republican lady from church emailed several people about the negative actions of a certain Democrat. I rolled my eyes with the attitude of, “Well, he’s a Democrat, so what do you expect.” Later, I received another email that railed against a Democratic official’s policy. But this time I remembered Snopes.com and checked to see if the email content was faked. It was. I sent the email back to inform the other recipients. Once again I received an email from the lady against a Democrat. Once again I checked it against Snopes.com and found it to be a fake. I alerted the other recipients ….
What made me focus on the Republican bias I had against anything Democratic was a man saying that he could not accept the link to an article I sent him because of the Creation bias of the writer. When the above email incident occurred, this conversation came to mind, and I saw my Republican bias for what it was. I’ve since thought long and hard on the incident above, and came up with several ramifications of having a personal bias. Here they are … Continue reading
Actually, God uses regular and faithful Bible preaching to share His truths about life. Here is what the Bible says of itself:
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, [thoroughly] furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)
So based on this passage, what’s the aim of Bible preaching? Continue reading
Posted in The Bible
The covenants God made in the OT with the Hebrews were “for ever.” However, from what we understand in the book of Hebrews, they could only continue if the priesthood continued, and if God Himself continued it. As it is, the Aaronic priesthood has been replaced by Jesus’ Melchizedec priesthood (Hebrews 7), and God Himself rejected the law because it never did what He wanted; the old covenant was replaced by the new covenant of faith in Christ (Hebrews 8:7-13). God said the OT law was ineffective and ready to get the boot. Why keep something around that never perfected anyone (Heb. 10:1)? Continue reading
You deal with sexual desires the same way as any other feelings, whether of envy, hatred, avarice, pride, and so on. The foundational teaching is Romans 6. There, we learn that when Jesus was buried, He took our “old man,” or sinful nature into the tomb with Him, then He rose again. Since the old nature is buried with Christ, it no longer has power over us. We no longer have to follow them. When they come, we can say, “I am risen with Christ and seated in the heavenly places with Him. Lord, I come to Your throne of grace and ask for help to turn my heart and thoughts to You.” Then you turn and get busy with something else immediately (Romans 6:13). It takes time to take up this new way of thinking, but like any other new process in life, if you apply it again and again, you’ll find God following through to enable you, then even shield you from its effects. Continue reading
I’ve sung several hymns where this point of view is held. The crossing of the river Jordan into Canaan’s land is held to represent death, and the land itself is Heaven. I don’t hold to that view, and I’ll explain why.
Remember when God sent spies into the land to check the land out in Numbers 14? The men returned and said it was a terrible place. Enemies everywhere! “There are giants there,” they said. “Let’s go back to Egypt!” That doesn’t sound like a report of Heaven to me!
Furthermore, after that incident, God had the Israelites turn back to the desert. He told them that only two of them would enter, Joshua and Caleb, because they believed God, while all the rest of the people would die in the wilderness. Only their children would enter the land. Would that then be symbolic of missing Heaven because you thought something bad about it? Multiple problems attend the idea of entering the land as symbolic of entering Heaven. Continue reading