by Stan Smith
We are used to instant news and commentary. An event occurs and we get the basic facts likely followed by talking heads with deep insights who tell us what it all means. There is an interesting thing going on in some of the passages of the New Testament where the authors are telling the events of the day. We are getting a commentary along with the basic facts. This commentary, however, is not from some mere talking heads. This commentary is by divine inspiration, quite a bit better than some opinion. Consider some examples: Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord ( Click for more )
It's one of my favorite topics -- the Sovereignty of God. I am so enamored with it that I put the "S" in Sovereignty as a capital letter. That is, this "Sovereignty" so far outweighs any other "sovereignty" that it is in a class by itself. Of course, anyone who reads the Bible knows that God is sovereign. I mean, it says it, right? It doesn't take a Bible scholar to read and understand, "[Jesus Christ] is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (1 Timothy 6:15), just as an example. The word is there. The ( Click for more )
I was recently reading Peter's first epistle. I can tell that 1Peter is not going to be a popular book to discuss with people. There are all sorts of early clues, but one alarming passage is here: In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith -- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire -- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7).First alarm: "Trials." We're not too keen on the ( Click for more )
I have this joke I like to throw out there from time to time. I say that my favorite version of the Bible is the Ronco Erasable Bible. It is printed with erasable ink. That way, if I find something that I don't like in the Bible, I can erase it. Then I can write in whatever I want and God has to do it because it's in the Bible. Unfortunately, I suspect that very, very few people get the point of the joke. I'm trying to illustrate in humor what so many of us actually do. You see, it is part of our sinful nature to delete from God and His Word that which we don't like and add to ( Click for more )
You may have never heard of Manasseh. No, not the half-tribe ... Manasseh, the king of Judah. Manasseh was among the very last kings of Judah. Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah, one of the good kings of Judah. In fact, he was among the very best. In 2 Kings 24 we read, "The LORD sent against [Jehoiakim] bands of the Chaldeans and bands of the Syrians and bands of the Moabites and bands of the Ammonites, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the LORD that He spoke by His servants the prophets. Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the ( Click for more )
A paradigm is, in light terms, a pattern of thinking, but in broader terms it is a worldview. A worldview is the underlying theory and methodology that explains ... well, everything. It can, of course, be a limited worldview. That is, "in the world of biology, the paradigm is ..." wouldn't require that the paradigm in question explains what happens in the entire world. Still, a paradigm is a pretty big thing. It is the approach and understanding of a large way of thinking.
So, here I am, operating on a particular paradigm when it comes to Christianity. What paradigm? ( Click for more )
I was always fascinated by the story of the Exodus. Particularly the part about the Red Sea. You recall how that went. Israel had just undergone the 10 plagues without suffering from them. The last was the angel of death and they were spared by the blood on the door and the Passover. Pharaoh begged them to leave and the people showered them with riches just to get them out. Then he changed his mind (again) and hunted them down. That evening, stuck between Pharaoh's army and the Red Sea, they got to observe up close ( Click for more )
I've been reading in the books of Kings (1,2). There is a general consensus in there. You know the story. David was king of Israel and then his son, Solomon, became king. Solomon was wise and made the Temple. But Solomon was foolish and got entangled with pagan women and, consequently, pagan worship. So God split Israel. Ten tribes went one way and two another. The northern group was called Israel and the southern group was called Judah. I haven't found a single king of Israel that was a good king. All of them "did evil in the sight of the Lord" including, primarily, ( Click for more )
Last week I wrote about Paul's, "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." I talked about the difficulty most of us have with "to die is gain". And it makes sense. I mean, in a purely animalistic manner, we have a survival instinct. We want to live. "To die is gain" makes little sense. On the other hand, I pointed out that, given the glory of God and the awe of His presence and the wonder of an eternity without sin or tears but simply wonderful perfection, "to die is gain" absolutely makes sense. I wondered, in that piece, how Christians ( Click for more )
I have this secret that I haven't told just anyone. The reason that I haven't told just anyone is because it sounds so ... wrong. Now, I don't believe that it's wrong. Still, most of the people I know, even Christians, are likely to chide me for it. "Oh, you shouldn't say that!" Some have said that word for word. What's my little secret? I have this hope -- a quiet hope, not too big, but just there -- that I will die before I retire. Beyond that, I have this tiny little fantasy, this tenuous wish, ( Click for more )
I know that there are lots of Christians -- mostly men, I suppose, but not only men -- who wrestle with pornography. They're tempted, they succumb, they hate it, they repent, and the cycle repeats. What to do? What to do? Well, that's easy, right? Throw out the computer. You see, if you get rid of the computer, you get rid of the problem. And while that seems extreme, didn't Jesus say to cut off your hand if your hand causes you to sin? Well, if your computer causes you to sin, cut it off! I know that there are lots of Christians who wrestle with television. Well, maybe not ( Click for more )
One thing we Christians know for sure from the Bible is that we are not "under the Law". That's clear as glass. We have that down. Just reference some Old Testament Law and you'll likely get, "We are not under the Law" in response because we are not under the Law. Look. It's simple. The Bible says without ambiguity, "If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law" (Galatians 5:18 ). Interpret by the explicit, right? And that's pretty explicit. So, we are "lawless", right? We are no longer "under the law". We don't ( Click for more )
If you are anything like me, you have experienced a prayer life of questionable effectiveness. You know what I mean. You pray for stuff; God doesn't answer. Oh, okay, God answers. It's just that His answer is "No". However you want to view it. If you are like me, you've also had to question this. I mean, didn't Jesus say, "Ask, and it will be given to you" (Matthew 7:7)? Didn't Jesus say, "Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours" (Mark 11:24)? So if that's all true, why don't I get everything I ask for? ( Click for more )
I was reading in Deuteronomy the other day and came across this: 2And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: "You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 3 the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders. 4But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear" (Deuteronomy 29:2-4).
Huh? It says here "You have seen ..." and lists all the amazing works that God did that they saw. Moses concludes with ( Click for more )
One of the common complaints of skeptics is "If God was so interested in saving us, why didn't He make it more obvious? Why is He so hard to find?" We get stuck on that. We might answer boldly, "The heavens declare the glory of God" (Psalm 19:1) or "Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20) -- you know, because these are the Bible's answers -- but we're still stuck with the fact ( Click for more )
I don't think I've ever met a genuine Christian who has not wrestled with the soul-wrenching question, "Am I really saved?" I've met lots of people who haven't had a tug in that direction. Those worry me. But everyone I've ever known of whom I'm certain of their ultimate condition has struggled here. John wrote, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13). It seems as if it has been the question of every true believer since Christ walked the earth. A famous Christian ( Click for more )
I love my wife. She may not be "God's gift to mankind", but there is no doubt that she is God's gift to me. She is suited to me. We talk about just about everything, enjoy each other's company, share with each other, appreciate each other. We don't seem to suffer from the same maladies that so many others endure like conflict over finances or sex. We are just right for each other. I love her dearly. Sometimes when I'm away from her I'll find myself pining for her. Perhaps that's not the right word, but that's how it feels. I long to be with her. I just want to ( Click for more )
The banner at the sporting goods store read, "Now is the winter of our discount tents." Of course, that's not right. (I made it up.) It's not about tents. It's about discontent. I suspect that discontentment is a primary driving force for most people. We're not content with our lot in life, so we try to improve it. We're not content with our weight, so we go on a diet. We're not content with our job, so we look for something new. We're not content with our wardrobe, so we go shopping. We're not content with our spouse ... well, you get the idea. While this is certainly ( Click for more )
From a fictional real character you may know ...
"Hi. My name is Hollow Man. I am not gender-specific. You’ll find me in men and women alike. The specifics may vary, but the underlying characteristics will remain the same. Let me tell you about myself. Who knows? You may know me better than you think. My primary concern is for the individual. Of course, the individual I primarily have in mind is me. I determine right and wrong, good and bad, worthwhile or a waste of time by what best pleases me. I may take drugs because it makes me feel better or I may refuse ( Click for more )
There are still folks who use the word, "providence". No, I don't mean "the capital of Rhode Island". I almost never hear anyone refer to the capital of Rhode Island. No, I still hear people -- not too many, but some -- use the term in reference to Divine Providence. It is almost always used as an alternative to "good luck" or something like it. Something fortuitous happened, and "It was just Providence, I guess." The word comes from Latin, meaning "foresight" (pro "ahead" + videre "to see"), but you can ( Click for more )
The Reformation brought us, among other things, the "Five Solas": sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria. We know that Scripture alone is our authority in matters of faith and practice. We know that we are saved by grace alone (rather than any sort of merit) through faith alone (apart from works) in Christ alone (rather than any other means or savior). Got it. Good stuff. We're good to go. It is my suspicion, however, that, being human, we are very quick to forget that last one on the list: "Soli Deo Gloria". To God ( Click for more )
We know this one, right? Let your good works shine as a light to others so they can glorify God. Nice. Good stuff. But ... what does it mean? I ask this because we so often read it in a vacuum rather than in context. Let's look at it in context. Jesus is just starting off His "Sermon on the Mount". He has just finished off the "Beatitudes". And then He gets into this conversation about "You are ( Click for more )
Theodicy is the defense of God in the face of evil. The top question of the skeptic (and even a lot of believers) is "If God is loving and omnipotent, then why is there evil?" The premise is that a loving God would never ordain suffering.
My wise mother once told me, "Never use 'never'." She was, of course, joking, but making a point at the same time. Use of superlatives like "always" and "never" are overrated and often wrong. In fact, in terms of arguments, generally the easiest arguments to disprove include "always" and "never". ( Click for more )
Whenever Christians trot out the Scriptures that say things like "A man shall not lie with a man as with a woman", there is almost a collective response. "Oh, yeah? What about shellfish?" Okay, it may not be shellfish. It may be "What about the prohibition to cut your beard?" or "What about the command not to mix threads?" or things like this. The assumption appears to be that if there is something in God's Law that is clearly not applicable, then neither is "A man shall not lie with a man as with a woman." I'd like to look ( Click for more )
Come with me to an imaginary Tent Meeting. This Revival Gathering comes from from Hebrews 11, “the Halls of Faith”. Let's listen in to hear the testimonials and praise the Lord ...
“Welcome tonight to your Hall of Faith Revival Meeting,” the preacher says. “Tonight we have something special for you. I won’t be preaching tonight. Instead, we’ve invited people throughout time to testify of God’s faithful care for them.” The congregation offers a polite applause, with a few “Praise Jesus!” ( Click for more )
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