Category Archives: Bible

The Workout

I know that some reader will get jittery, seeing the words “salvation” and “work” in the same sentence, worried that I’m espousing some kind of works salvation. But don’t forget that long before I used those two words in the same sentence, the Apostle Paul did. It was he who wrote, “Work out your salvation.” Salvation is a workout, not a sit-in. If your salvation rouses you to no effort, something is wrong.

We even had a sit-in at my high school, though I can’t remember why exactly. I think we might have been protesting cafeteria food. (Our ideals were, I’m afraid, less altruistic than those of others.)

Salvation is not a sit-in. It’s a workout. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you…” Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Spiritual life | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Let’s Get Our Bearings Before We Give Directions

In the summer of 2016, my wife and I were on a 70,000-acre lake in Quebec that we had never been to before. On the third or fourth morning we were there, I took the boat out by myself. The sun hadn’t yet risen, but the east was already turning colors and steam was rising everywhere off the lake.

It was so gorgeous that I fumbled around for my camera and was taking pictures as I headed toward a spot we had fished the previous evening. I didn’t stop the boat to take pictures because I was hoping to reach that bay before the sun broke the horizon. So, with the outboard at full throttle, I’d take a picture, look at it in the view screen, delete it if I didn’t like it, then take another.

I had been doing this for five or ten minutes and was passing through a straight that opened up into a much larger arm of the lake. That was when I looked around and realized I didn’t know where I was. The landscape was not at all familiar. I was lost.

When you don’t know where you are, you don’t know how to get where you’re going. I immediately stopped the boat and sat still on the glassy water. I got out the rudimentary map we had been given when we arrived – it was more like a restaurant placemat than a real map – and tried to figure out where I was.
Continue reading

Posted in Bible, In the News, Worldview and Culture | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How to Handle Pressure (Part 2)

St. Paul knew all about stress and he knew how to handle it.

In Corinthians 4:8, Paul describes what his stressful life could be like. He says he was “Pressed” – squeezed like grapes – on every side but not crushed.” The word crushed is interesting. It means caved in, restricted. We get our word stenosis – the narrowing, closing of an artery – from this word. Paul is the only biblical author who uses it, and the only other time he uses it is to picture one’s affection being so restricted that it no longer flows. That is the danger. When we are under pressure, the flow of affection can be shut off – to our spouses and children and friends. Paul knew that it need not be that way. “Pressed . . . but not crushed.”

Then Paul says he is perplexed. A number of other biblical writer use this word. Several times it is translated as “at a loss.” Etymologically it carries the idea of not knowing which way to go. At a loss, Paul says, but not in despair. He had been perplexed enough times to know that, though he was at a loss, he would not lose out. God would make a way; he is the way-making God. He “makes a way in the wilderness,” the prophet says, and the apostle adds that he makes a way out of every temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). We sometimes find ourselves at a loss, at a seeming dead-in, like the fleeing Israelites when they came to the Red Sea. There is no way to go forward, and no way to go back. Paul had known that experience, and yet God always made a way. Perplexed, but not in despair.

Things got even worse. Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Peace with God, Spiritual life | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Give Me Chapter and Verse: A Brief History

My wife and I went to Turkey a few years ago on a tour of the seven ancient cities mentioned in chapters two and three of the Book of Revelation. In many of the places we traveled, we saw engravings dating back nearly two millennium and written in Greek. Since I know some Koine Greek, I was eager to read these signs.

It was more difficult than I expected, partly because the Greek sometimes differed from the Koine I know, but largely because (as I anticipated) the Greek letters were all capitals and there was no spacing between words. Students of biblical Greek usually learn the language as it is printed today, with lower-case letters and with spaces between words and sentences.

Try reading the following well-known Bible verse in English: JUDGENOTLESTYOUBEJUDGED. You were probably able to read this and may recognize it as something spoken by Jesus and recorded in Matthew’s Gospel. But imagine what work it would be to locate and read a particular passage if the entire Bible ran together like this.

We take our Bibles for granted, but navigating the text was not always as easy as it is now. Translating the original language into English was, of course, an enormous task, but even after it was translated, and word spacing was introduced, and upper and lower cases were used, it was still much more difficult to find a text than it is today. That is because the books of the Bible were not divided into chapters for more than a millennium or into verses for more than 1500 years. Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Church | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Life That Means Something: Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Join Lockwood Community Church’s May 10th service, premiering at 11:00, at this link: https://youtu.be/GqIfTXx03no Today’s message, from Deuteronomy, helps us understand the kind of life God wants for his children – a life that matter; a flourishing life. The manuscript … Continue reading

Posted in Bible, From the Pulpit, Sermons | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The logical – and theological – problem with Red Letter Christians

ABC published this article by Joel Looper on May 5th. It is thought-provoking and I wanted to share it with you. https://www.abc.net.au/religion/joel-looper-the-logical-and-theological-problem-with-red-letter/12215602 Joel Looper (PhD from University of Aberdeen) is the author of the forthcoming book, A Protestantism without Reformation: … Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Theology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Mind for What Matters: Philippians 4:1-9

The first instruction, given previously and now repeated, is to rejoice always.

Really, Paul? Rejoice always? You have no idea what you’re asking. Working from home amidst a thousand interruptions. The kids are out of control. Can’t find toilet paper. Didn’t get my economic impact payment from the IRS, which I need to pay the mortgage. Will probably lose my job, which means no insurance. And you want me to rejoice?

To which Paul (from a dank, dark prison cell, where he has been quarantined for a long time, separated from friends and family, and waiting to hear the outcome of his trial, which might be death by beheading) answers, Of course! “Rejoice in the Lord always.” And in case you missed it the first two times I said it, “I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).

Many people, hearing this, simply brush it aside as unrealistic and unfeasible. When you’re having marriage problems, when you can’t stomach your boss, when your hopes have been dashed yet again, when you’re sick, and tired, and in debt, how can Paul – how can God – expect you to rejoice? It’s impossible!

Yes, absolutely. It is impossible … for some people, but not for us – if our minds are undergoing a process of renewal. Continue reading

Posted in Bible, From the Pulpit, Peace with God, Sermons, Spiritual life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation (Part II)

You’re reading a novel in which the main character has a fantastical experience which changes him. From that time on, whenever he shakes hands with someone, he can see what that person will be in twenty, thirty, even forty years.

He meets a handsome young man who is brilliantly successful – straight A’s in college, captain of the basketball team, with acceptance letters from Harvard Business and other top graduate schools. But when he shakes his hand, he can see that alcoholism will destroy his life, his wife will leave him at 35, take the kids, and he’ll be dead by 50.

He is amazed to see how people’s lives turn out, some beautifully and some tragically. Then he meets and shakes hands with … you. Continue reading

Posted in Bible, From the Pulpit, Prayer, Sermons | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where is Heaven? (Clue: It’s Closer Than You Think)

In 1869, The Scientific American ran a short (and sardonic) piece on Dr. D. Mortimer, a medical doctor who believed he had found the location of heaven. His suggestion, if I understand it correctly, was a fascinating one. According to Dr. Mortimer, heaven lay within the sun as a vast globe, “at least 500,000 miles in diameter.”
Apparently, Dr. Mortimer believed that the blessed occupants of heaven were either shielded from its heat or transformed physiologically (an idea based on the Apostle Paul’s writings) so they might flourish there. This location also offers the added convenience of close proximity to a large “lake of fire” for those who are not blessed. Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Theology | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Was Shakespeare Right: Is Love Blind?

Okay, so someone is bound to tell me it wasn’t Shakespeare but Chaucer who coined the phrase that love is blind. I’ll give you that, but Shakespeare popularized the phrase by his repeated use of it: The Merchant of Venice, Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Henry V all include it.

Before someone has the chance to object that some Persian poet who predated Chaucer really composed the line, I’ll concede the point, but the question remains. Was Chaucer and Shakespeare (and whoever else) right? Is love blind?

The answer depends on what one means by love. Eros, I think, is often blind. Friends and family watch the lover as he ignores glaring signals and stands poised to fall into a deep ditch. Love has made him blind to his situation and deaf to his friends. Continue reading

Posted in Bible, relationships, Spiritual life | Tagged , , | Leave a comment