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Point of Reference

    by Fred Price

Although we are called to be holy (1 Peter 1:15,16) and perfect (Matthew 5:48), we are never called to be better than anyone else; merely better than we were before. We are said to be saints (Colossians 1:12), a title we should aspire to while recognizing we are yet sinners (1 John 1:8) saved by grace. (Ephesians 2:8,9) Which is where our distinctiveness is derived. As people who don’t always get it right but who know the difference by virtue of an association with Jesus Christ, we strive to do our best as defined by Him in His word. Distinctiveness…  ( Click for more )

Scripture at times gives frustratingly few details of many of the characters involved in spreading the gospel story; large gaps even left out of the life of Christ. There’s a reason for that, seeing how we have such a difficult time accepting, understanding and sharing what we “know” properly; much else would undoubtedly be a distraction and hindrance for us. However, that lack of personal information doesn’t indicate lack of worth. Rather it focuses our attention on Jesus while fostering an acceptance of our station as assistants in spreading…  ( Click for more )

In the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he speaks both of God being “Blessed” (the NIV’s “Praise be”) by our acceptance of his grace and purposes, and our receipt of a seven-fold blessing in return.

First, He blesses us with “every spiritual blessing,” salvation being uppermost in our minds but daily guidance, grace, the Holy Spirit’s intercession for us, etc. quickly follow as reasons for praise and thanksgiving.

Second, He chooses us as his own. To be sure, we need to respond to…  ( Click for more )

So says Psalm 34:7, with the assurance then that “he delivers them.” But what does that mean? There have been a number of tragedies in our church family over the years, with the resultant questions of: Why? To what purpose? And finally, How could God make – or allow – this to happen?

Which in turn raises the question: Does God deliver us out of all trouble or lead us through it? The disconcerting answer being – both. Disconcerting because we don’t want to be delivered through our problems but avoid them altogether. The…  ( Click for more )

Precious little is written about John Mark in scripture, but what is recorded is fascinating and instructive. His story actually begins with Peter, who had been arrested by Herod as part of a pacification program, probably intending to kill him as he had James. But God had other plans, miraculously releasing Peter the night before his trial. Upon his escape, Peter went to a local house-church overseen by Mary, John Mark’s mother. From there, Peter went into hiding as Herod continued to search for him, hoping to please his Jewish subjects who were agitating for…  ( Click for more )

In continuing our examination of the lives of Joseph (last week) and now Esther, we are compelled to once again remember Romans 8:28 “…we know that in all things God works for the good of those how love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

ESTHER - A member of the “weaker sex,” yet a strong arm of God and a means of salvation for her people. The story of Esther is recorded in ten short chapters of the Old Testament. Certainly not every incident, circumstance or emotion of her life is recorded but the essentials are…  ( Click for more )

A brief look at the lives of Joseph and Esther – heroes of faith and action – quite effectively illustrate how God’s will can be found in confusing, even contrary circumstances. Their stories highlighting the fact that we are never promised an easy, problem-free life as believers; in fact, just the opposite. Jesus assuring us of an exchange of better things for the good we may be required to give up in following him, reminding us of the fact of his persecution, which would only reasonably lead to the same for those choosing to follow in his foot- steps.…  ( Click for more )

So writes Paul to the Corinthians, finishing that thought by explaining, “…so that by all possible means I might save some.” Does this suggest an elasticity that allowed him to change according to whoever he was with at the moment, becoming who they were to accommodate their sensibilities and preferences?……  ( Click for more )
April 17, 2020

The extent to which many of us worry can hardly be overstated. We are concerned for our future, fuss over politics, and wonder about our health. We fear violent crime, bemoan racial divisions, and fret over the economy. Insecurity abounds and often wreaks havoc on our psyche and our relationships. Molly Bell, writing in the “Atlantic,” recently noted, “Fear is in the air, and fear is surging. Americans are more afraid today than they have been in a long time.” And now, with the Coronavirus outbreak, many lives are filled with unmitigated…  ( Click for more )

The gospel’s offer of salvation is both an appeal and a command for sinners to repent and follow the dictates of the Savior; not a plea of passive acceptance, becoming a salve for guilty consciences – nor a means of enabling willful individuals to do as they please even as they claim the blood of Christ for salvation.

Jesus’ first recorded message was, “Repent and believe the good news!; on the heels of which he challenged his first “converts” to, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Mark 1:15-17…  ( Click for more )

The concepts of mercy and grace are cornerstones of Christian salvation, but do the spiritual attributes of mercy and grace have anything to do with our personal relationships with others? We know Jesus, “…came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 9:10 He did so by becoming the substitutionary sacrifice for our sin; offering forgiveness and heaven in exchange for a recognition of need, acknowledgement of responsibility and repentance of sin. But to what extent does being merciful apply to us? We certainly can’t “forgive” sin,…  ( Click for more )

Songs and liturgy have always been used to reinforce ideals. Some are better at it than others; while some we recite without consideration. ‘Holiness’1 is a praise song with the unique capability of teaching and inspiring if we pay attention and let it. Verse 1 starts out with, ‘Holiness, holiness……  ( Click for more )

With all the bad news emanating from our TV’s concerning the global Coronavirus outbreak, a glimmer of good news has begun to surface as well. In my area of Indiana, which hasn’t been particularly hard hit – yet – schools have been closed, while the governor has strongly suggested a limit on crowd sizes pertaining to both religious and entertainment venues.

Beneath the groundswell of hoarding and grumbling about High School and college tournament cancellations, as well as the stoppage of professional sports seasons, some signals that not…  ( Click for more )

March 13, 2020

One of the more pervasive ideals of American society has been that of rugged individualism, where all an individual needs is to be left to his own devices to succeed. We especially don’t believe we need anyone advising us as to what to do – let alone how to do it – nor where or why. Which simply is not true. We all need companionship, help and encouragement and are lesser beings without it; particularly in spiritual matters. We must stay connected to the source of our worship; which usually won’t happen if we’re aloof and non-involved. Scripture…  ( Click for more )

March 6, 2020

Last week we looked at Jesus’ call to Peter, not just to follow him but to become a “rock” of the church. Not that Peter in any way resembled who he would become at his calling, but that once filled with understanding through the Holy Spirit, his faith would indeed become the “Rock” Jesus would construct his church on.

Simon had a long way to go before becoming Peter, as Matthew 16:13-19 & 21-23 given ample evidence. The three Synoptic Gospels all including Peter’s ringing declaration of faith, when he alone boldy asserted…  ( Click for more )

February 28, 2020

Little is actually said of most of the twelve disciples throughout the New Testament. Even John, the “beloved disciple,” is mentioned only about 20 times in the gospels; as is Judas Iscariot. (He mostly because of the nefarious role he played in the last week of Jesus’ life.) Andrew is named 12 times, Thomas 10, the rest only 3 times each. Peter, however, is mentioned over 120 times.

He is noted as the leading character of the church in the first half of the Acts of the Apostles. (Paul stepping into that role in the second half of that…  ( Click for more )

Some say absolutely not and do everything within their power to keep us from gaining information to the contrary, and while scientists are typically regarded as committed to open-minded inquiry – pursuing evidence wherever it leads – that’s not always true. The controversy surrounding Stephen Myers, a PhD from Cambridge and research fellow at the Discovery Institute proves this point.

Mr. Myers prepared an article several years ago based on very specific biological research that appears to scientifically support intelligent design. Submitting…  ( Click for more )

Do you ever get frustrated by what appears to be a lack of response from God to your seemingly dire circumstances? Do you feel like you’re constantly asking for help, pleading for direction, begging for a way out of indecision or difficulty? Or maybe you have it all figured out, your plans finalized in your own mind while waiting for God to sign off on them, enabling you to feel empowered and right in your decisions. Both are issues based on a misconception of who God really is – or His function in our lives. For God cannot be badgered into revealing –…  ( Click for more )

February 7, 2020

For you non-Latin speakers, that means “Oh, happy guilt”; a staple of medieval theology still celebrated in the Holy Saturday liturgy of the Catholic Church. This should, however, not be confused with the issue Paul dealt with in Romans 5 & 6, where he insists that the guilt occasioned by the law largely served to increase trespass, making it more evident – more definable. “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,…” Romans 5:20

Yet, to head off human nature, which always seeks the easy way out or an excuse…  ( Click for more )

January 31, 2020

Philosophers, theologians and evangelists have long insisted that there is a God-space in us all, seeking satisfaction in a relationship with the Almighty. All over the world, man has identified and worshipped God or gods in various ways; expressing a universal need to understand the unexplainable, searching for a place in the grand scheme of things, finding answers and alleviating doubts concerning the after-life – coming to terms with something or someone greater than ourselves. The question being: Has man created God in his own image or did God create man in His?…  ( Click for more )

January 24, 2020

Many people are fed up with what they consider to be “business as usual” from their political representatives. To a certain degree, they are justified in feeling that way. Congress’ inability to even talk civilly, let alone exchange ideas of any worth in an effort to get something useful done is effectively bringing our country to a standstill. On the other hand, some of what we’re experiencing is the essence of what a democracy is all about; the sometimes shrill, often unruly, occasionally hateful debate of ideas. People can express themselves…  ( Click for more )

January 17, 2020

Shortly after Paul’s conversion, he went up to Jerusalem to join the disciples there. His reception was less than enthusiastic as his reputation as a persecutor of all things Christian had preceded him and the sincerity of his turn-around was questioned. “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul, on his journey to Damascus, had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.” Acts 9:26,27 Which had ruffled some feathers. So, having gained a measure…  ( Click for more )

January 10, 2020

Grace is like a multi-hued flower, with the various shades of color revealed when we examine it closely. The first thing coming to mind in any discussion of grace usually being the unmerited acceptance of sinful beings by a Being who has no tolerance of sin. (See Habakkuk 1:3) But who none-the-less loves sinners. (Demonstrating that love by giving himself for us “while we were still sinners.” See Romans 5:8) Prompting us to then, “…love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 John further defining what love for God looks like, “This…  ( Click for more )

The first mention of Saul – later to be known as Paul – is found in Acts 7:58, witnessing and approving the stoning of Stephen. Which was merely the start of a “great persecution” of the newly established church in Jerusalem. (Acts 8:1) To avoid it’s savagery, many believers fled to the surrounding countryside and cities. (Acts 9:1) Luke reintroducing Saul into the narrative by noting the “murderous threats” he was making against those who belonged to the Way and his desire to go to Damascus, with the High Priests blessing, to…  ( Click for more )

As we begin a new year, we would do well to heed the writer of Ecclesiastes 9:10, who says “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,…” This includes your spiritual and educational endeavors! However, some people believe education and religion don’t mix, espousing the confused notion……  ( Click for more )
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