Point of Reference
by Fred Price
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 )
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 )
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 )
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 )
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 )
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 )
What does our contemporary culture have against Jesus? Even non-Christians used to pay tribute to the author of, ‘love your neighbor as yourself, go the extra mile and turn the other cheek’; even if they seldom sought him first in all things. Today however, the fact that the Christmas holiday is meant to celebrate his birth is no longer considered essential by some nor culturally sensitive by others. Some big city administrations going so far as to allow symbols of other religious holidays celebrated during this season – the Jewish Menorah and the Muslim ( Click for more )
Most of us fail to understand or take the time to comprehend the grave disappointments Mary experienced throughout her life. No sooner had she expressed her deep faith in Gods ability to do right by her as a result of her willingness to be “the Lord’s servant” and thus glorify Him (Luke 1:38 & 46), than “trouble” started.
In telling her betrothed of her pregnancy – by God’s design – which he obviously didn’t believe (who would?), he prepared to divorce her. (Matthew 1:19) Upon his own visitation from ( Click for more )
The gospels reveal frustratingly little personal information about Joseph and Mary. The Christmas story, featuring Mary, is found primarily in Luke’s Gospel while Matthew reveals a bit more of Joseph. In fact, the gospels include only a handful of incidents concerning Joseph, contained in a limited time frame shortly before and shortly after Jesus’ birth with only a few other references to Jesus as Joseph’s son, with the exception of his presence in Jerusalem – at the temple – when Jesus was lost and found there at age 12; the last time Joseph ( Click for more )
Christians aren’t supposed to live like unbelievers do. (See 1 Corinthians 5:1,2) Nor are we to excuse what the Bible identifies as “unrighteousness” in others, especially within the church. The popularized gospel of many twentieth century churches making what we once considered unthinkable possible – it not probable – among their attendees today. Some contemporary theologians going so far as to create an entirely new category for their unregenerate brethren – carnal Christians. Which is not to say Christians can never fall victim ( Click for more )
That seems unreasonable, doesn’t it? Not everything benefits me. In fact, I don’t like a lot of what happens. Yet much of thankfulness has to do with our perspective and attitude toward life. Some people suffer through hardship or calamity and ask, “Why me?” Others realize it could have been worse, and thank God it wasn’t. Some people see gloom and doom in difficult times, others see opportunity to serve; instead of continually questioning their fate, they understand what they can and do what they must. As happiness often depends on ( Click for more )
This type of scripture makes me uncomfortable. The assurance of Luke 6:21, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.”; doing little to calm my feelings of unease. Upon further reflection however, I find that the problem – as it usually does – lies solely within me. Because quite frankly, coming to terms with the fact that my faith isn’t necessarily designed to bring me earthly joy but eternal security is difficult for me. I expect more than that, I want to be happy all the time; all my difficulties – if any should inadvertently ( Click for more )
Many in our society today question, not so much the person of Jesus – who is too widely accepted as a leading historical figure in one form or another; but questioning – even attacking – the cross. Its function and value declared grotesque and insulting to today’s sensitivities. After all, doesn’t God condemn violence? (Leviticus 19:18; Romans 12:17-19) How can a loving God then condemn anyone, let alone his own son, to death as a result of sin? (Not realizing it is the depth of his love for us that motivated him to do so. John 3:16) ( Click for more )
Sometimes we say things we don’t really mean, often as a result of anger, in an attempt to impress someone or to simply disguise the truth. It happens as well in church as we sing praise choruses to a God we don’t really know but want to impress none-the-less. One of the more insightful being “Breathe”1. It’s not complicated musically or lyrically, but if sung with conviction and understanding can be extremely powerful.
“This is the air I breathe, this is the air I breathe;” The first breath of air we take at birth signifies ( Click for more )
Should Christians be involved in the celebration of Halloween? A good first indicator might be to consider the images it conveys. Ghosts, witches, monsters, blood and gore; the devil, demons, graves and black magic – symbols of evil or good, wholesomeness or unwholesomeness? Even the cry, “Trick or Treat!” is bribery if not a threat. Treat me and I won’t play a trick on you. Don’t and you’re in for it. For some, it’s nothing more than an excuse for bad behavior, you’re gonna get it either way!
Halloween ( Click for more )
Two critical studies published in the Indy Star newspaper lend credence to concerns the church and parents have concerning who their young people spend time with and what they expose themselves to through entertainment. Cataloging the behavior of young people and the influences that help shape their actions, they corroborate the premise that who teens hang out with can and often does influence their decisions on sex, drugs and alcohol.1These statistics going a long way in reinforcing the Bible’s warning that, “Bad company corrupts good character.”; even ( Click for more )
Luke 19:10 could very well sum up Christ’s mission on earth, representing one of – if not the – single most important truth in scripture. “…the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.” (See also Ezekiel 34:16; Luke 5:31,32 & 1 Timothy 1:15)Salvation transforming us completely; the way we think, believe and act – head – heart – behavior. Paul confirming this sentiment by insisting, “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians ( Click for more )
How’s that? I understand and applaud a God who, “…will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel…” 2 Thessalonians 1:8 But why judge me – a Christian – at all, let alone first? Amos gives us a clue as to why God would hold anyone to a higher standard. Like the Israelites of old, we have been chosen, not on our own merit but on God’s ability to redeem and use us in spite of ourselves. To us has been revealed the God of the universe, whom we now represent to the world. (1 Peter 2:9) We ( Click for more )
To understand this phrase fully we should define what it means to be yoked. Webster defines it as the harnessing together of two individual creatures to fulfill a job. The yoke being a farming apparatus that fits over a pair of animals’ necks, combining their strength to accomplish a goal, creating a condition of control. The question being – Whose? He who puts the yoke in place, the two no longer choosing their separate ways but being directed – through the yoke – to a single purpose. The two now being united or bound to a common cause for a specific ( Click for more )
One of the first recorded acts of civil disobedience appears in scripture. As a result of unfounded fear of immigrant Israelites, Egypt’s Pharaoh had enacted a number of draconian decrees against these aliens within his borders; culminating in his demand that two Hebrew midwives – named Shiphorah and Puah – kill all the male children they helped deliver to Israeli women.
The only recourse these brave women had was to lie to Pharaoh, telling him the Israeli women were so fit and strong, they delivered their babies unaided. Raising the question: ( Click for more )
Only in part, the scripture referenced here fully rendered asking, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?” It continues by cautioning against self-deception – ‘God made me this way’ – ‘A loving God wants us all to be happy’ etc. – in whatever circumstance we place ourselves, and defines what God deems wicked; sexual immorality of the heterosexual and homosexual variety, thieves, the greedy, drunks, slanderers and swindlers. (1 Corinthians 6:9,10) Romans 1:29 expanding this definition ( Click for more )
Author Mark Galli has written a book titled, “Jesus Mean and Wild”; the secondary title piquing my interest no less than the first – “The Unexpected Love of an Untamable God.”1The reason being that I have felt for some time that Jesus’ story has suffered from some serious editing; many making of him an always understanding, forever patient, never demanding fairy tale character. When in fact, the hero of scripture is understanding, patient, kind and forgiving but almost as often angry, demanding, and at times somewhat confusing; a dynamo ( Click for more )
Although Saul was a “godly” man, according to his own understanding and definition of godliness, it took an intervening act of grace to actually bring him to a correct and genuine acknowledgement of God. An undeserved act of favor, mercy and grace interjected into the life of an arrogant, self-satisfied Pharisee; which drove him to his knees in sorrow, wonder and joy that he could possibly be used to proclaim the message of salvation to others.
His overwhelming sense of thankfulness and joy – and to be honest his previous education, innate ( Click for more )
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