by Stan Smith
Worship honors God. No, that's not just a statement; it's a definition. Worship is that which honors God. It may be a formal ceremony, a specific task, or a lifestyle. The word is rooted in the Old English for "worth - ship" and recognizes God's worth. Now, if that doesn't give you pause even to hear, you aren't paying attention. How do we recognize "God's worth"? How do we recognize the infinite? There has been a lot of complaints for quite a long time, actually, about modern worship. It's too light. It's too fluffy. It isn't serious enough. It's too "seeker ( Click for more )
In John 5 we read the story of the man at the Pool of Bethesda. Without all the details, it was a guy who had been lame for 38 years trying to get healed. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, "Do you wish to get well?" (John 5:6).
What an astounding question! "Do you wish to get well?" I mean, "Duh!" What else could he possibly wish? This wasn't the only time that Jesus appears to ask a "no-brainer". In Mark 10 we read the story of blind Bartimaeus of Jericho. ( Click for more )
In a discussion recently I was asked, "How can you know you're one of the elect?" A valid question worth exploring. The proof that you can't know was that even those who believe in election have a hard time with the question. Well, I'd prefer not to use contemporaries as the formation of my beliefs, so let's see what we can find in Scripture. First, anyone who denies that the doctrine of election is a biblical doctrine is simply not reading their Bible. "You did not choose Me, but I chose you" (John 15:16). He chose us in Him before the foundation of the ( Click for more )
When I was a youngster in church activities, I was caught up in the competition. You know. We had "Bible drills" -- who could turn the fastest to a Bible verse. We had contests to see who could recite the books of the Bible the fastest. We had Bible memorization contests. Now, in these contests you were credited with "numbers of verses" or "numbers of chapters". So we learned tricks. If you had to memorize a chapter, volunteer to memorize Psalm 117. Two verses. Done! And our favorite Bible verse to memorize was John 11:35. "Jesus wept." Done! ( Click for more )
One of the attributes of God that is repeated over and over in Scripture is His wrath. Okay, enough of that. Let's move on. The topic is largely one ignored today. Many deny it. Of the rest, many ignore it. Of the rest, many prefer not to speak about it. It is unpleasant. Okay, enough of that. Let's move on. The wrath of God is one of the popular tools of the anti-theist. Oddly enough, they are either complaining that He's too wrathful or complaining that He's not wrathful enough. He's bad because the Bible says He ordered the execution of an entire group of sinful people or ( Click for more )
I think I have arrived. No, not in godliness. Or much of anything else, really. Let me explain. I carry around a bit too much weight. For years now I've been working on decreasing that problem. You know, increase exercise, decrease intake, watch what you eat, more healthy, less fatty, less sugar, more vegetables, "watch it now ... you might like something and that's likely bad for your diet!" -- that kind of thing. Count calories? Check. Increase fiber? Check. Decrease carbs? Check. Add to this certain medical conditions that have, of late, served to cut me off from other ( Click for more )
In Jesus's High Priestly prayer (John 17) He prays specifically for a particular group of people. "I have manifested Your Name to the people whom You gave Me out of the world" (John 17:6). This particular group of people are those whom the Father gave Him. Now, there are a lot of observations possible about this group and Jesus's prayer for them, but I'm only looking at one piece here. I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You ( Click for more )
Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)Taken completely out of context, this is still a fine thing to consider. Thanking God is a good thing to do. Remembering His gifts to us is a good and natural thing to do. All well and good. But Paul here references God's gift -- singular. Perhaps it would be good to look at exactly what the gift is for which Paul is thanking God. The context of the statement gives the meaning, of course. What "inexpressible gift" had he been discussing? It is one of those things of which most would say, "It is ( Click for more )
"I like Jesus, but I'm not very fond of that God of the Old Testament." Ever heard that before? Or how about this? "Today we are saved by grace, but in the Old Testament they were saved by works." I'm sure, if you haven't heard that, you've seen it, understood it, or, perhaps, even thought it. But ... is it accurate? As it turns out, the Bible has one, single message -- Jesus, the Christ. According to Paul, that was the promise "before the ages began" (Titus 1:1-3) ... which is before time. At the Fall (Genesis 3) we see the promise of Christ (Genesis ( Click for more )
There are a few things that everyone knows (or think they know) about God and Christianity. "It's a sin to do what I like." "Judge not!" Oh, and, "God is love." Everyone knows that. That's one of the complaints, in fact. "If God is love, why are there so many problems?" The problem, of course, is not the assumption that God is love (1 John 4:8), but in our failure to comprehend either the statement ("God is love") or the meaning. I remember a "church" some decades ago that used "God is love" as their mantra. ( Click for more )
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting (It'" target="_blank">Psalm 107:1).It's a simple little prayer that so many little children have learned. "God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food." Okay, so "good" and "food" don't really rhyme. But the idea is sound. God is good. "Good" is generally a relative term depending on a standard. A good meal is not the same as a good dog, and a gooddog is not the same as a good man. The standard used determines "good". In the case ( Click for more )
How many times have I heard it? "Jesus never said anything about homosexuality being a sin!" The conclusion? Well, obviously it must not be! Of course, that's clear rubbish. He never said anything about rape, pornography, or child molesting either. I suppose you'd classify them as perfectly good since "Jesus never said anything" about them? No, of course not. But is it actually true that Jesus never said anything about it? I might beg to differ. In Matthew 19 the Pharisees came to test Him. Their trick question? "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for ( Click for more )
The First Great Awakening was a revival that swept Europe and America in the 1730's and 1740's. This revival was not aimed at the unsaved; it was a call for Christians to be Christian. The movement had huge impacts on the nation and the world. First, it personalized Christianity, making it a matter of personal interaction with the Holy Spirit rather than a cold religion. It removed the classic divide of "clergy and laity". Of course there was increased religious activity, but this went far beyond religious effects. It forwarded puritan ethics which included evangelism ( Click for more )
In a debate on Facebook over homeschooling or not (actually over an originally innocuous comment that was taken to a logical if unintended conclusion), one person said, "I think public schools increase children's chances of going to Hell." On a recent blog of a fairly well-known Arminian apologist he wrote, "God makes himself dependent on our wills." A Christian apologist argues that what is really needed in order to impact those around us is a good argument with solid evidence and clear reasoning, not the Bible because, after all, unbelievers don't accept ( Click for more )
You'll find that term, selah, in the Psalms. There are a variety of possible meanings for the term. It is a musical pause. (The word means "pause".) It may indicate a change in the music or a musical direction of some sort. It may be an "Amen!" Some suggest a "forever!" I like to think of it as "Stop and think about it." God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though ( Click for more )
I've been in First Corinthians and recently read the 5th chapter. What a chapter! You know the one. "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife!" (1 Corinthians 5:1). Stunning immorality. And Paul gives a stunning response to it. ... I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the ( Click for more )
It's common. If it's not asked outright, it's considered in large circles. "What's wrong with America?" I'll ask the opposite.
Who went to war with itself to end slavery? There has been a war against slavery for a long time, but America actually went to war to put an end to it ... in America. That's dedication to a cause. Who defeated the Axis, who planned to take over the world? During World War II, Americans lost 292,000 of its own in combat deaths with a total of more than 400,000 total military deaths fighting to keep Europe and America free. These numbers are ( Click for more )
No Christian can possibly claim that God does not intervene in the affairs of men. That is, we all know that God "has His hand" in stuff. We're all fairly comfortable, for instance, with the idea that God can directly affect inanimate objects, things without their own wills. Here, let's try an example for illustration. You have an important job interview. You get ready and bound on out to your car to go to the interview and there you find that you have a flat tire. You miss the interview and don't get the job. It would be irrational for you to blame the tire. Tires ( Click for more )
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 )
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