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Point of Reference

    by Fred Price

Last week, in an attempt to discern the significance of baptism to the Christian believer and thus, its application within the church today; we looked at a number of Biblical calls for its practice and thus, its importance to the early church. This week I’d like to look at some specific examples of New Testament convert’s responses to this call for genuine sorrow, repentance and redemption embodied in this simple act of obedience.

After delivering the very first Christian sermon, Peter was asked by his conscience-stricken audience – ‘What…  ( Click for more )

The significance of baptism as part of the plan of salvation is often questioned. Is it merely a work (which we are supposed to be free of), a ritual (practiced as an initiation rite), or an act of obedience called for by God?

Baptism is included in the list of elementary or foundational teachings of Christianity found in Hebrews 6:1,2 – so it must be important. But how important is it really? Many ask, ‘Can’t I be saved without it?’ (Amazing how often we ask, ‘How much do I have to do?’ or ‘How little can I do and still…  ( Click for more )

April 6, 2018

…not so very long ago, everyone – at least every male – carried a pistol on his hip and a rifle in a saddle-holster on his horse. Not merely for show, they were genuinely needed for personal protection, as well as safeguarding their families and maintaining their possessions. The lawless state of the country, or at least the area many inhabited, necessitating a source of power to validate their quest for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But then something happened, slowly but inexorably. With the advance of civilization, people…  ( Click for more )

March 30, 2018

What kind of images do you associate with spring? Baby chicks and bunnies, decorated eggs, new clothes? What about green grass, budding trees and flowers emerging from the ground? Some anticipate an egg hunt, toys and candy. Others participate in a Sunrise Service and contemplate Jesus crucified yet risen. Hopefully the latter is prominent on your list, because while there’s nothing wrong in looking forward to the former items on our list, the latter – Jesus – is the reason we truly celebrate Easter.

Unbeknownst to some, the secular side…  ( Click for more )

March 23, 2018

The dual usage of the term man – or mankind/humanity, has long been understood to designate a species and/or the male component of that species. Much as the Hebrew word for the first man – Adam/Adamah is derived from the word for ground/dirt, from which Adam was created and which then consequently became his name. (Genesis 2:7 Present-day science finding that mankind is composed of a number of chemical compounds found in and throughout the earth, characterizing us as carbon-based creatures.) Again, the Hebrew word for man and woman being similar, yet designating…  ( Click for more )

March 16, 2018

Green – the color of Ireland, the emerald isle; fostering the tradition of the wearing of green on St. Patrick’s Day. Images of a pugnacious character, with a look of defiant determination on his face and shamrocks abound. Pride in being Irish is expressed in parades and ceremonies all across the country. But beyond celebrating one’s Irishness, who was St. Patrick (Ireland’s patron Saint) and why should we remember and honor him?

Patricius, a Romanized Briton, was captured by slave-traders from Ireland at the age of 16. During his exile…  ( Click for more )

The problem with the renewed debate over gun control, sparked by the most recent school shooting in Florida, is that much of what is being said has been said before. One major issue with this debate being the extremes to which both proponents and opponents of gun rights choose to frame their concerns. Gun rights activists are portrayed not as merely wrong, but complicit in murder. Likewise, gun control advocates are characterized as not only mistaken, but jack-booted thugs preparing us all for an authoritarian government. All of which makes reasonable, incremental change…  ( Click for more )

March 2, 2018

So-called “New Atheists” such as Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins claim that kindness, generosity and goodness are not found exclusively among religious people. (Which is true to a degree.) But then they go on to assert that these social inclinations are part of our “human nature” and can be explained within the framework of Darwinism; the good or moral things we do having value because of their beneficial influences on our species and thus our societies. Claiming that morality and social order don’t need a God or religion…  ( Click for more )

February 23, 2018

I have to admit that some scripture still confuses me. In particular, that used to espouse predestination, such as Romans 9:16 - 21. Salvation declared as not dependent “…on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” I get that, but then to declare that some “vessels” are destined from the very beginning of time to heaven or hell, presumably regardless of the person they become or the life they live, or their hearts are “hardened” and they lose the capacity to respond more appropriately, is beyond me. (And yes, I…  ( Click for more )

February 16, 2018

I recently came across an article published by Readers Digest that I had tucked away for future use – and promptly forgot – that reinforces the idea that people of every age and type face similar issues, struggles and temptations throughout their lives. Very often, we believe our present circumstances are unique to us, looking fondly on a past time that we imagine was simpler and less troubled; envying those so lucky as to have lived “back in the good old days.” All the while, many of our predecessors did likewise, coveting a supposedly slower-paced,…  ( Click for more )

February 9, 2018

Have you ever wondered how some holidays got their start? All of them intend to be a reminder of something or someone, commemorating the day a significant event occurred or the person who did it. Some are obvious; Christmas, Easter and the 4th of July. Some, however, we view in a light not at first anticipated; one of those being Valentine’s Day.

Originally this celebration commemorated the martyrdom of one, possibly two priests; named Valentine or Valentinian – a common Latin name. One was a priest and physician; the other, the bishop of Terni;…  ( Click for more )

February 2, 2018

Sometimes, especially in a crisis, we don’t know what to say or do. At other times, when we’ve tried all we know and things still aren’t going the way we expected, we’re at a loss to even know what to think! That’s when we need to learn to be quiet. To remember what we’ve been taught about God’s character, to reflect on Jesus’ example and teaching; to do what we know to do and then – for the moment – leave the rest totally up to God. Let his Spirit speak for and to you. There’s no need to panic and…  ( Click for more )

January 26, 2018

Paul taught Timothy, a young protégé of his in ministry that, “…requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving (should) be made for everyone…” 1 Timothy 2:1; which became the essence of the early church’s practice of powerful, effective prayer. Prayer being our means of communication with God, encouraging a time of meditation on His goodness, including reflection on His word and will. As such, we focus on Him, committing ourselves to His will – not through selective moments of obedience but a continuous lifestyle;…  ( Click for more )

I have no desire or intent to become a social/political commentator, giving my opinion on every social ill, political subversion, entertainment excess or religious stumble. However, whenever one of these issues are directly dealt with scripturally and specifically impact Christians, I will. Our Bible dealing broadly with most aspects of life, directly or by inference covering nearly everything we are confronted with.

One issue I’ve struggled with responding to is what Christina Hoff Sommers labels as the Great Sex Panic of 2017. And while I agree that the…  ( Click for more )

January 5, 2018

John Meacham is politically and religiously a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. He is also highly intelligent and very well-spoken. I’ve seen him interviewed on television and read a commentary he wrote on an article featured in Newsweek Magazine when it was still in publication; I’ve also read one of his published works titled, “American Gospel.” 1 In the one he was belligerent and condescending; in the other, he did indeed question the impact faith had on our founding fathers attempt at establishing a country based on democratic ideals, but raised a number…  ( Click for more )

December 29, 2017

At this time of year, when so many people are re-evaluating their lives and their motivation for living – for our purposes here – trying to determine who we are going to follow or serve in the new year, a rather unique song comes to mind; “Gotta Serve Somebody” by Bob Dylan.

If that seems a bit over-stated, it won’t when you reflect back on some of the habits we routinely try to break free from and the new commitments we attempt to establish in their place; many of them being down-right addictive, others merely ingrained in our…  ( Click for more )

December 22, 2017

With the pressure to be joyous and generous during this time of year comes the temptation – or for some, the compulsion – to overspend. But there’s something to be said for the concept of buying less and having more.

In one particular incident, Jesus deals specifically with this concept. Matthew relating the story of a young man who approached Jesus asking, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life? …obey the commandments. ….I have… What still do I lack?” Jesus’ answer being, “ If you…  ( Click for more )

So said Lord Melbourne, William Wilberforce’s chief opponent in the drive to abolish slavery throughout the British realm. A sentiment echoed throughout history – up to and including the present – by those who believe religion to be strictly a private affair, having no real import or impact on what we do or say on a daily basis. Certainly irrelevant to politics and the personal ethics of those involved in running “the real world.” Scripture’s response to such nonsense aptly expressed in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems…  ( Click for more )

December 8, 2017

The opening statement of an Associated Press editorial titled, “Institution Under Siege,” refers to a cultural debate intrinsically tied to our religious base as a nation. Leading with the statement, “The U.S. Supreme Court ruling that outlawed state bans on homosexual sex was the latest loud volley in an ongoing culture war over the shape and nature of personal relationships.” The Justices having ruled a couple of years ago that a Texas sodomy law, used to arrest, fine and jail two Houston men caught in the “act” violated their right…  ( Click for more )

So begins Charles Dickens’ novel, The Tale of Two Cities; describing the social, political and moral atmosphere of society in England and France during the mid-1800’s. It was a time not unlike our own, dealing with issues that at times seemed insurmountable but by their very nature created opportunities for success as well, forcing people to rethink their expectations; actually exciting some who saw past the difficulties to the possibilities of impacting their own particular society and the world as a whole.

Appreciating the past while remaining relevant…  ( Click for more )

Children seemed to readily accept and be drawn to Jesus. (Matthew 21:14-16) In return, Jesus often used child-like faith and trust to encourage, teach and even scold his adult listeners. In responding to the question – ‘Who is greatest?’, “He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’” (As the child probably came forward a bit shyly yet happily accepting the Lord’s attention.) “Therefore,…  ( Click for more )

November 17, 2017

Author Rodney Stark boldly concludes his book, The Rise of Christianity, by asserting “…Christianity brought a new conception of humanity to a world saturated with capricious cruelty and the vicarious love of death.”1 (As in the “spectacle” of the gladiatorial games, the “sacrifice” of people and animals in the ring and elsewhere, the cavalier approach to the needs of the war-weary, poverty-stricken people throughout the Roman Empire who were sick, starving and often enslaved.

How did they accomplish that? Again, Mr. Stark…  ( Click for more )

November 10, 2017

To proclaim the substitutionary death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the purpose and function of the church. And there is no more simple yet graphic way to do so than participating in the memorial service of communion; which had, has and always should have a central place and primary focus in our churches. With this routine practice can come a sense of complacency and even disrespect, which was one reason Paul directed his letter to the Corinthians. (See 1 Corinthians 11:17-34) But this can be and often is true of anything of importance. That…  ( Click for more )

November 3, 2017

Many social issues divide our culture and churches today, my intent here is not to address each one. Suffice it to say that our Bible deals in a straight-forward manner with most of them and must be adhered to. Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, wouldn’t at first glance seem to be a divisive issue – but it is – it’s importance, meaning and place in worship routinely questioned and debated. At its inception, it was closely associated with the Passover Feast of Judaism, which memorialized Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and the Death Angel’s…  ( Click for more )

Doesn’t that seem a bit odd? To proclaim the death of an individual and the apparent defeat of their cause, as a victory? That’s part of the uniqueness of Christ’s gospel; winning by losing, living through dying. (Matthew 10:39) His power revealed in death’s defeat at his resurrection. (And his promise to return to retrieve the rest of us – thus the “…till He comes.”; from the latter part of 1 Corinthians 11:26) His love shown at all points during his life and ministry, reaching a pinnacle in his voluntary substitutionary…  ( Click for more )

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