Point of Reference
by Fred Price
There is a little-known phrase in scripture, especially among younger believers, that has worth none-the-less. Its importance lying in its ability to highlight significant phrases, teachings or ideas; prompting us to sit up and pay attention.
Used over 50 times in the gospel books of Matthew, Mark and Luke, it appears – slightly modified – another 20+ times in John. Its use throughout the pastoral letters as well as the Old Testament likewise affirming or emphasizing a point or idea.
Yet on the surface, this phrase seems almost negligible, ( Click for more )
In an excellent book titled Jesus Mean and Wild1, a number of incidents from Mark’s Gospel concerning Jesus’ behavior are noted; of particular interest for me was His virtual “expulsion” into the desert and His experience with temptation there. (Mark writing in the “common” Greek of his day, a very basic communication with little frills or flowery language; direct, straight-forward, exclamatory conversation.) Matthew and Luke, dealing with this same story, say Jesus was led – as in directed – to the desert to confront the ( Click for more )
What is a community? Most people would start with a description of their families, a group of people living together with common goals and interests, striving for success as individuals and as a group. Beyond that, many people would consider their neighborhood, towns, counties, states and country as a community as well. Some might characterize their school or workplace as a community while still others would list clubs, athletic teams and churches as such. Again, in each, striving for individual success, but with a strong emphasis on others within that community.
( Click for more )
Why is that so hard – accepting a message of advice and direction? Why do we so often rebel against “help” even when we know it’s well-intended and beneficial? It may have something to do with the condition of our hearts. Scripture insisting that, “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:47 Granted, not everyone’s word carries the weight of Christ’s, but most advisors, such as our parents, preachers, teachers, and even bosses, don’t intend to ( Click for more )
Have you ever considered the practical applications of your faith? Many think religion is superfluous – excessive, burdensome, un-needed; impractical to everyday living. Others see it as mystical, beyond our grasp – intriguing, even inspiring, yet it’s true meaning and purpose unattainable. The Bible’s authors, however, expended much time and effort to reveal how practical our faith in Christ can and must be for it to be effective personally and productive relationally. (See Matthew 5-6-7 and Romans 12.)
Whether we see our faith as ( Click for more )
Can there be such a thing as misdirected compassion? I believe there is, the words we use to describe how we relate to people in trouble giving us a clue as to how that might happen. Such as sympathizing with someone, sharing and understanding their feelings and ideas to the extent that we at times actually participate in their struggle and emotional ordeals. Having empathy, on the other hand, involves intellectually and emotionally identifying with others while remaining separate enough from their circumstances to offer reasonable, practical solutions. The difference ( Click for more )
Even with the freedom of religion guaranteed all Americans in the first amendment to the Constitution, there was – and still are – some fundamental concerns about the institutions of government and church becoming too closely allied in an official sense. The duality of thinking concerning this complex issue demonstrated from the outset by congress’ petition of President George Washington – the day after the Bill of Rights was ratified – to, “…recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to ( Click for more )
Few issues arouse the kind of intense debate that surrounds the principle of church/state separation. A debate that could intensify even further with the recent confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and the just-nominated Brett Kavanaugh’s pending confirmation hearings; especially since he too espouses “originalist” ideals concerning constitutional interpretation. Heated debate practically guaranteed when we try to balance our country’s foundational beliefs grounded in Christian principles even as we guarantee freedom to all religious ( Click for more )
The idea of giving from our material substance to the church in support of its ministry dates back to the setting up of worship by Jehovah. “A tithe of everything from the land, …belongs to the Lord.” Leviticus 27:30-33 Proverbs 3:9,10 admonishing, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first-fruits of all your crops; (with the accompanying promise) then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” The Prophet Malachi equating withholding the tithe as robbery! God further challenging Israel ( Click for more )
A number of polls and interviews over the last several years suggest a resurgence of interest in the tenets of Calvinism – or predestination – among today’s youth. Coming in an age that is so rights’ conscious and choice demanding, and in an age group that tends to be so focused on individuality and opportunity; I find that curious. We have looked at the philosophy of predestination in detail before but I thought I’d respond here with a few brief thoughts on this puzzling yet important aspect of the Christian faith. I am making no claim to ( Click for more )
The reluctance some people have in maintaining their weekly observance of the Lord’s Day is nothing new (especially during the holidays), the Hebrew writer finding it necessary to admonish some believers to, “…not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,…” Hebrews 10:25 He, and others since, recognized the value of following the tradition of the early church in, “…devot(ing) themselves to the Apostles teaching… to… fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42; firmly ( Click for more )
Of real importance to any study of a Sabbath observance is the realization that the scripture cited above was a command, not a suggestion. And while Sabbath observances were – and are – a hotly debated subject, Jesus points out in Mark 2:27 that the Sabbath was made for man’s benefit, not so man could satisfy a religious obligation. The question being – how do we benefit from such an observance?
The Jews were to keep it holy, which meant in part to be set apart. But was there a specific purpose in observing a Sabbath? When we do so, ( Click for more )
Have you ever felt apprehensive about trying something new? Waiting for test results from the doctor or x-rays at the dentist can be unnerving. New relationships or old ones changing can make you feel unsure of yourself. Making decisions about school, work, where to live, what to do; being tempted to do something less than well, far from right. Life can be scary! But there are at least three things in your favor – invisible – but there all the same. They can help protect you, lead you and be a blessing to you if you allow them; if you become aware of them ( Click for more )
Let me say at the very beginning of this article that I am not – in any way, shape or form – attempting to disparage Jews or Judaism; with whom we Christians share a number of historical and faith-based tenets. It is however, an examination of certain elements of faith and faithfulness. The real tragedy in all this being that the long-awaited Messiah many Jewish people still seek – has come – and been missed or rejected by them.
Having said that, I found it interesting that an article in the Indianapolis Star some time ago featured the “struggles” ( Click for more )
That’s a legitimate question, posed by Elijah to the many “fence-straddlers” of his day – and ours. In doing so, he reminded the Israelis of Joshua’s insistence years before that the Israelis should, “…fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness.” Joshua 24:14 The reason being that there was – and is – a tendency for people of faith to commit to a cause and then to almost immediately begin vacillating between staying true to it and hedging their bets; maintaining relationships and activities that are incompatible ( Click for more )
Jonah, called by God to preach to the Ninevites; gentiles – considered ignorant and unclean. He didn’t want to. Travel was inconvenient; he would have to leave his home, family, job and friends. All this for people he disrespected, disliked and maybe even hated. He went elsewhere and made himself unavailable.
You know the story. There was a storm at sea. Others on board approached to ask who he was, where he came from, what God he served. They didn’t know why this calamity had overtaken them and hoped he could help figure it out. ( Click for more )
From the very beginning, Christians have been tempted to confuse – or even substitute – success for faith. Whether enduring persecution, subduing “infidels”, acquiring an education or climbing the corporate ladder – and especially in the political arena – we often become obsessed with improving our circumstances. And what could possibly be wrong with that? Certainly faith can and should impact all areas of our lives, defining what success really entails; but are we guaranteed success because of our faith? Some would have us believe ( Click for more )
Lot was Abraham’s nephew. Their families lived in Chaldea, and as such they were raised among the many “gods” of its people. But in spite of that, God decided to use Abraham and his family to change the world. His first directive was for him to “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” Genesis 12:1 But who was this God? Sure, he promised to bless Abraham by turning his offspring into a great nation but at what price? Leave the familiar surroundings of home and the luxury ( Click for more )
In an essay titled, “Nice is not the point”, Marilyn McEntyre wrote, “One of my husband’s finer moments in parenting came one day when, after he had uttered an unwelcome word of correction to a disgruntled child, he leaned down, looked her in the eye and said, ‘Honey, this is what love looks like.’”1 I dare say, at that moment, she would have disagreed. But when we as parents, teachers, friends or “the church” – following Jesus’ example – speak sternly, it’s not merely to get the object of ( Click for more )
Last week we looked at a number of scriptural and historical testimonials of our “Christian” past. This week I will conclude with a few more reminders of how we became who we are, memorializing the words and activities of the past in an attempt to understand the present and ensure a successful future.
Thomas Jefferson strongly believed in separating church and state functions, making him the darling of the anti-religion forces; then and now. While not a Christian in the sense we would prefer, he did have this to say. “My views… are ( Click for more )
Holidays are usually set aside to commemorate an historic event or person. Bridges, buildings, roads, statues, and monuments used to remind us as well. But why is it important to remember? In remembering we celebrate and rededicate ourselves to upholding the principles, sacrifice and creativity shown by those who have gone before. But what does the past really have to do with the present or future?
It has been wisely said that those who fail to remember the past are doomed to relive it. (Santayana) How so? Technologically, man today is vastly different from ( Click for more )
The Apostle John claimed, “No one has ever seen God;…” 1 John 4:12 And yet, the Bible repeatedly records God as coming among his people. (Academically referred to as a Theophany.) One of the more recognizable times God initiated contact with humans being – obviously – at creation, which was not done at a distance and then left to its own outcome, but rather God spent time with his “children” – walking and talking with them in their newly-formed garden paradise. (Genesis 3:8)
Genesis 18 records God ( Click for more )
Nobody likes change. We get comfortable where we live, with what we do, who we associate with, how we worship; and want to be left alone. But change involves work and at times discomfort as we learn something different or new. The reality being that much of what we do and who we are is superficial; camouflage really – used to hide behind, covering the real us up, only to have that real you jump out in unacceptable ways at inappropriate times. Steven Curtis Chapman dealt with this timeless topic in a song titled, “The Change.” In it he bemoans the ( Click for more )
One of the exciting aspects of being on your own, one we’ve all looked forward to at one time or another, is being able to decide for ourselves what we do or don’t do. Things like where we go, when we go there, and who we go there with. Up for debate is whether we study or not, get up early or late, eat our vegetables, brush our teeth; or on a more serious note – who we date, how long we stay out and how far we go in any relationship. Of equal importance is whether we do drugs, use alcohol or smoke.
But even though you are on your own now ( Click for more )
I enjoy watching sports and get particularly excited by a well-thrown pass in football or a well executed play in basketball. I am also inspired by the harmony and lyrics of a well-sung song or a well-turned phrase in literature; an idea masterfully conveyed by a few choice words. One such phrase jumped out at me some time ago in a song recorded by Confederate Railroad titled “Jesus and Mama (Always Loved Me).”
If you’ve not heard it, the song gives a short rendition of a young man’s life, his groping for purpose revealed in his grasping ( Click for more )
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