by Stan Smith
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 )
“He rules the world with truth and grace.” Somehow, this seems an understatement. Abraham asked, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen.18:25). The implication is, “of course!” Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Jesus is The Truth. In Isaiah we read, “For to us a child is born, to us a son ( Click for more )
“No more let sins and sorrows grow nor thorns infest the ground.” “Here’s an impossible task,” you might conclude. “Who can prevent sin from growing?” Remarkably, Paul echoes the same theme: “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires” (Romans 6:12). So what does it mean to “not let sin reign”, ( Click for more )
“Joy to the world! The Savior reigns.” In America, we have sprung from a stock that says, “We will serve no sovereign.” Above all else, we cling to freedom. So it comes as a shock to us that “the Savior reigns.” This is a difficult concept for us to grasp and even harder to accept. Yet, in light of who the Savior is and what He has done, this ( Click for more )
It's Christmas time. I'm going to do a Christmas carol. Well, actually, I'm going to take several weeks to cover a Christmas carol. I'm planning on taking four entries (four verses) to examine and expand Joy To The World. Let's see what we can learn from a classical Christmas hymn. Joy to the World! From Psalm 98, Adapted by Isaac Watts Joy to the world! The Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare him room, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.
Psalm 98 says, “Shout joyfully ( Click for more )
This text is a one of several that are a favorite among skeptics. "We don't hear you lousy Christians preaching on this very much, do we? And you call yourself followers of the Bible!" Well, since I do believe that the Bible is the Word of God and means what it ( Click for more )
Behind the holiday is the famous "first Thanksgiving" put on by the Pilgrims in 1621. The Plymouth colonists and the local Indians shared a meal together. It wasn't until 1863 that the holiday became official. President Lincoln set aside the last Thursday in November as a national Day of Thanksgiving. Nationally, it made sense back then, but it's somewhat hard to believe today. I mean, religion in the public square is frowned upon. How in the world we get away with having a "national day of Thanksgiving" (let alone the day that follows) is hard to say. ( Click for more )
This will be necessarily provocative. I apologize in advance. I like to "get along", but to go against Scripture is not wise. So I'm going to lay this out as it is, admitting along with you that it's not "pleasant", and leave it in your hands to accept or deny. We live in a world of upside-down pottery. No, that's not my idea; that's the idea from God. He gave the concept to Isaiah to express: "You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, 'He did not make me'; or the thing ( Click for more )
It seems to be a standard question for people. "Why am I here? Why do I exist? What is my purpose in life?" Rick Warren wrote the popular book, The Purpose-Driven Life, because it is a principle concern for human beings. Of course, answering the question can be a little difficult sometimes, not because the answers are hard to find, but because there are so many. I am, for instance, a father, a son, a husband, and a brother. Each of these has its own implications for my purpose in life. And that's only scratching the surface. I am a father to my children as well as a ( Click for more )
Last week I claimed that the point of Christianity is not to make bad people into good people -- not a moral code -- but to make dead people into living people. The point of Christianity is to restore a relationship between God and His creatures. It is not to make good people, but to save us from our own evil and the bad things that result from it. "So," someone might well say, "why all this morality stuff? If the point is not to make bad people into good people, why do Christians care so much about good and bad?" Good question. The claim of Ephesians ( Click for more )
It's largely our own fault, really. I mean, look at us. We cry out against evils like abortion and sex outside of marriage and on and on, so it's an easy mistake to make. On the other hand, we have the assistance of the natural inclinations of the vast majority of people. The function of religion in almost all religions is to make people be good. Okay, "make" may be the wrong word. "Help." Is that better? Religion in the minds of the vast majority is aimed at making bad people into good people. You want to have a better world. You want people to get along. ( Click for more )
"Does the Bible teach fathers to make their daughters into sex slaves?" One of the ever-so-popular objections that skeptics and critics like to raise is the complaint that the Bible approves of slavery. Now, I've already dealt with that. Remember two key points. First, regulating something is not approving of it. (We see this quite clearly in the parallel of divorce.) Second, slavery in the Bible was not the same thing as the slavery we recognize today. But this doesn't smooth too many ruffled feathers (as if reasoned arguments are what would do so), and when they get ( Click for more )
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