by Stan Smith
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 )
Here's another popular objection to the Bible. Does the Bible teach slavery? Well, of course it does! Everyone knows that! Silly question! Or ... is it?
There is no doubt whatsoever that the word "slave" in its variety of forms (slave, slavery, bond-servant, servant, etc.) appears in the Bible. There is no doubt, either, that there are many regulations given in the Old Testament about slavery. I wish to point out first and foremost that nowhere does the Bible command slavery. So don't let anyone tell you otherwise. The biblical regulations around slavery limit slavery ( Click for more )
I really like the Bible. No, that's not accurate. I consider the Bible of utmost importance. To me, the Bible defines reality (rather than vice versa). It is God-breathed and, therefore, infallible and inerrant, the sole authority on matters of faith and practice. I also know that not everyone sees it that way. The Bible, according to polls, is falling into less respect by "Christians". And some of the reason for that is those difficult passages. So maybe I'll do a series here. Maybe an irregular series. I've heard too many of these accusations that the Bible teaches what ( Click for more )
I've been reading in John recently and was struck by this: Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." But when Jesus heard this, He said, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it." Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when ( Click for more )
Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God (1John 3:9) (KJV).
This has always been a gut-wrenching read for me, taking the Bible as seriously as I do. What does John mean? Is this a call for sinless perfection? Or is it hyperbole? "Oh, no, everyone sins and sins a lot! He's just saying that, well, we shouldn't." Is that all it is? Let's take a closer look. First, the King James (and other older translations) all say it like that -- "doth not commit sin". Taken at face value, ( Click for more )
(I wrote this in the days following Sep. 11,2001. I wrote it for myself. Not too many others have seen it. But on this, the 10th anniversary, I thought I'd share it with others.) The events of September 11 and following have been shocking, frightening, unnerving, devastating. They have stirred emotions and responses that one wouldn’t have found a week before the aircraft hit those buildings and killed thousands of Americans. In the aftermath, an interesting series of events has unfolded. A resounding “God bless America!” has been shouted around the country ( Click for more )
I think it is safe to say that one of the major disputes with Christianity is the Christian concept of Hell. To be fair, I think that most Christians aren't entirely comfortable with the concept. I say that because so many have tried to explain it away. The first objection, of course, is the enormity of "eternity in torment." "No, no, that can't be. That's just ... too big." I mean, eternity is hard enough to grasp. An eternity of torment? Way outside our comfort range. And then there's the obvious objection, "That's not fair!" How is it fair to have ( Click for more )
Sure, sure, we know. People do bad things. You know, "To err is human." Our own saying. But as almost every religion on the planet will tell you, it's just not that bad. As long as your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds in the end, you'll be okay. We find this concept denied on one hand and supported on the other when it comes to Christianity. Sure, we know that "All have sinned" and "The wages of sin is death," but, look, how bad can it be if God can just forgive it all? What's the big deal? We have a problem with definitions here. First, we think ( Click for more )
Paul boldly said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'" (Romans 1:16-17) We like that "I am not ashamed" thing. Bold. Brash. Good stuff. Why is Paul not ashamed of the gospel? Well, because it's the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Good reason not to be ashamed. But how is it the power of God for salvation? Did we read ( Click for more )
I'm sure you've heard the term, or, rather, the warning. "If you hold your position, you'll find yourself on the wrong side of history." Or something like it. The idea is that things change in history and these changes are always for the better, so if you don't change with them, history will show that you're a loser. It's the idea that "newer is better," that "progressive" is enlightened and improvement. Now, certainly things change with history, but I question the second premise. Always for the better? But if that's not the case, the whole thing comes ( Click for more )
The Barna Group has brought us another study that tells us of "significant changes" in the church in the last 20 years. That we need a study to tell us that might in itself be a sad statement. But what changes do they see? They see declines in church attendance, Sunday school attendance, volunteerism, Bible reading, and the claim of being "Christian". There has been a drop in those who claim to have made a personal commitment to Christ and a drop in those who believe that "God is the all-knowing, all-powerful and perfect Creator of the universe who ( Click for more )
We are all aware of the enemy all around us. We see that evil "head banging music" and know that can't be right. We hear the rappers who glorify killing and abusing women and we know that can't be right. And there's that whole "porn industry" thing that no moral person really doubts is evil at its core. We hear the voices of the far left telling us to exterminate humans and give animals human rights and to steal from the rich and give to the poor and we know that can't be right. The enemy is quite clear. Or is it? My suspicion is that the most intrusive ( Click for more )
There are those today who suggest that the concept of the church choir is outdated. However, if we look at the history and purpose of the choir, I suspect we will find that this ought not be the case. The “church choir” has its origins not in Roman Catholicism or in Christianity at all, but in the Old Testament. The first “church choir” was appointed by King David some 3000 years ago. These choirs were far more serious than anything we have today. Now these are the singers, heads of fathers' households of the Levites, who lived in the chambers of the temple ( Click for more )
I was a youth at the time when I heard the story. An older woman came to her pastor and said, "Pastor, I don't know what to do. My adult son lives at home. I've been supporting him with my nursing work since he lost his job. He hasn't looked for another since. But now I've been diagnosed with a problem that will prevent me from working. What will we do?" The pastor talked to her about prayer and trusting God and such, but then he asked her, "Think it through. What's the worst that can happen?" "Well, we won't have any income." "And then?" "We ( Click for more )
All Christians are "repeat offenders." In general, none of us in this life are free of the sin from which we are saved (1 John 1:10; 1 John 2:1). And each of us have what we call "besetting sins," those particular sins that just keep coming back. We commit them, we repent, we confess, we turn, we call out for help ... and a day or a week or a month later we find ourselves right there again. It is true for all of us. Paul wrote what we all feel. "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24) We all have ( Click for more )
Forgiveness. It is in very short supply in our society today. Ours is the "cancel culture." Violate one of our cardinal rules and you are not only in violation -- you are out ... as permanently as we can make it. (That is, as long as your not one of the insiders.) Forgiveness, however, is critical. When the disciples asked their Teacher to teach them to pray, one of the fundamental components of prayer offered by Christ was "forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). What can we learn from this? Since this is a fundamental ( Click for more )
The most common description of "relationship status" these days seems to be, "It's complicated." Well, welcome to everyday living. It's complicated. We all have a stack of things we're juggling all the time. There is family and friends, work and play, culture and faith. We have all the concerns of physical, emotional, economic, and religious well-being along with every other factor. We have our plans and our dreams, our shortcomings and our disappointments, our successes and our tragedies. So we try to pick our way through all of this to arrive at what's best for ( Click for more )
We are a culture largely shaped by media. I mean all media. There is news media and there is social media and there is ... you get the idea. We live in this sea of media, this constant tide of public opinion and perspective. And like the tide, they relentlessly beat on us trying to sway us to their perspective. And it is never without a bias.
We like to think that the news media in particular is reporting "just the facts." What we often fail to see (besides the fact that they never do) is that the very nature of the news concept is biased. You see, no one prints ( Click for more )
If you've been around much at all, you've heard the accusation. "You Christians pick and choose which verses you're going to obey." Pretty common. Why do they say it? Well, at the bottom, of course, it's because they figure if they can cast aspersions on us, they can use that as a reason to ignore God. Fine. But what is the more surface reason? Well, it's largely based on the fact that we don't follow the Jewish laws of dress and food and animal sacrifice but do aim to follow the moral law, not for salvation, but to obey the God we claim to follow. Because of the fact that ( Click for more )
The Problem of Evil is the complaint about God that if evil exists, He doesn't. You know. If God is all good and all powerful, why doesn't He eliminate evil? Must not be there. Another way this question is put to the believer is this. "Do you think this is the best of all possible worlds?" It's a tricky question. We all dream of utopia. Stories are written about it. In large and small ways we figure out how things would be better. "If only" is the phrase. And then there's heaven. Surely that is the best of all possible worlds and this is not heaven. So we must ( Click for more )
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