The church: the household of God

“. . . if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15, NIV).

Probably the first thing that comes to mind when we think of the church as “God’s household” is that Christians are God’s family. After all, household means the people who live in a house, and in our society, that’s usually a family. Indeed, God has adopted all believers into his family. But to gain a deeper understanding of Paul’s meaning, I would like to propose a different way of looking at it, not to replace the notion of the household of God as God’s family, but to enrich it.… Read the rest

Moses and the Burning Bush: The Presence of the Living God

The story of Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3) is one of the most familiar stories in the Bible. Pharaoh had ordered all Hebrew baby boys killed. Instead, Moses’ mother put him on a raft so Pharaoh’s daughter would find it, and then joined her household. Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s court with all of its privileges, but also with full understanding of his heritage. In his zeal for justice, he murdered an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew, then fled. God met him in the burning bush forty years later. Sometimes the story’s very familiarity keeps us from understanding its meaning.… Read the rest

Thoughts on the bread of life: you are what you eat

Photo by John Snyder - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Photo by John Snyder – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

What happens when we eat, say, a piece of bread?

  1. Most foods are not bite-sized, so we have to cut it up, tear it apart, or bite off a chunk.
  2. When we put it in our mouth, we chew it. That breaks it up even more.
  3. We digest it in our stomach and intestines, breaking it up very thoroughly.

From there, it enters the bloodstream and is carried to every cell in our body.

On the last evening of his earthly life, Jesus broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take.… Read the rest

Identifying and dealing with false teachers

Besides his  epistles to churches, Paul wrote four of them to to three individuals: Philemon, Timothy, and Titus. 1 Timothy begins with a warning about false teachers. These are not just men who somehow disagreed with Paul. They taught things that could only drive a wedge between the people who believed them and the grace of God.

Sound doctrine enables righteous people to remain righteous. Righteousness does not come through anyone’s own effort. It is a gift that we can receive only by faith. The law is like a medicine to apply when the moral nature is diseased.

Some people, with no understanding of righteousness by faith, and no interest in understanding, taught that Christians can only be righteous by following every detail of the Mosaic law.… Read the rest

Examine yourselves

“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you are disqualified.” — 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NKJV)

“These things I have written 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 (NKJV)

My mother had an uncle named John. He was  one of the leading businessmen in his town, and active in one of the Methodist churches.  When he was in his late 80s, a Baptist friend suggested he should really do something about his baptism; “You’re too good a man to go to hell.”

That’s but one example that immediately comes to mind of people assuming that someone else will go to hell for some perceived failing.… Read the rest

Next words of Jesus: Who is it you looking for?

“Woman, who is it you looking for?” — John 20:15a (NIV)

Everyone knows about the seven last words of Christ on the cross. Many churches probably offered musical settings of them some time during Holy Week. Of course, as I wrote in the immediately previous post, Jesus violated everyone’s expectations by his resurrection from the dead. And then he had more to say. Easter Sunday has passed, but not Easter season. It’s a great time to look at the next words of Christ after the cross.

[I recently came across a book by Shane Stanford, The Seven Next Words of Christ: Finding Hope in the Resurrection Sayings (Abingdon Press, ©2006), and acknowledge my debt to it.]

We probably can’t reconcile the four surviving accounts of what happened on that chaotic Easter morning, but all agree that Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Christ.… Read the rest

Holy Saturday and dashed expectations

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, his admirers expected that he would eventually be crowned king and begin the process of freeing the land from Roman occupation. His disciples expected to occupy important cabinet ministries in the kingdom .

Jesus didn’t behave much like a king. By the end of the week, it no longer looked like he planned to live up to expectations. Perhaps Judas acted as he did trying to force Jesus’ hand.

On Thursday night, Jesus hosted a pre-Passover meal and behaved very strangely and started talking somberly about death. All of the disciples’ expectations and hopes were dashed when Judas led soldiers to capture him.… Read the rest

Jesus, the towel, and us

“The night before Jesus was betrayed, he took the bread. . .” We have probably heard that every time we take communion, but what about, “The night before Jesus was betrayed, Jesus took a towel. . .”? Why is that towel not as much a symbol of Christianity as the cross or the communion elements?

Jesus always surprises because he refuses to act like the rest of us. Before the feast of the Passover, when he knew he would be seized, tried, and executed illegally, he remained calm. He knew that Judas would betray him, but he remained loving. He chose an especially dramatic way to demonstrate  his love.… Read the rest

Worshiping through the Apocalypse

“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.” — Revelation (a.k.a. Apocalypse) 1:3 (NASB)

Someone has said that the New Testament is so simple that you need someone to help you misunderstand it. We’ve all had plenty of help! As far as Revelation is concerned though, I doubt if many find it simple at all.

There seem to be two predominant kinds of Christians when it comes to that book. Many avoid it entirely; it is too overwhelmingly confusing. Others teach from it all the time, attempting to guide people through the spiritual implications of today’s news.… Read the rest