Thoughts on the imitation of Paul

In recent decades, it seems a lot of people don’t like Paul or his epistles very well. Even in the church, there are those who think they see a dichotomy between Paul’s words and Jesus’. The closer anyone looks, the harder it is to find any of the supposed contradictions between Paul and any other New Testament writer, but too many Christians today content themselves with an occasional glance. In 1 Corinthians 4:16, Paul urged that church to imitate him. That sends the critics into an uproar, excoriating him for his arrogance.

1 Thessalonians 1:6-10 gives a somewhat different view of the same concept, except instead of urging a church to imitate him, Paul commends a church for the way they imitated  him.… Read the rest

Love your enemy: a dangerous prayer rewarded

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”–Matthew 5:43-44 (NASB)

The Bible, Jesus in particular, has a way of commanding whatever is most counterintuitive. We are such creatures of the world that, even as believers in Christ, the ways of the world seem more normal than what Jesus asks. Here he tells us to love and pray for enemies.

Ahmadinejad on a missile, after stealing the latest election

I have prayed salvation for Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and other enemies of America and Christ.… Read the rest

Lost? Stop hiding and be found!

“Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?'” — Genesis 3:9 (NASB)

“. . . in order that I may gain Christ and may be found in Him. . .” — Philippians 3:8-9 (NASB)

As John Newton wrote in his great hymn, “I once was lost, but now am found.” Adam sinned, and then in shame, hid from God. How much better would the world have turned out if he had met God, confessed, apologized, and taken his lumps! Instead, he hid.

Now that the whole human race has been kicked out of Eden, we still hide.… Read the rest

Loving disagreement: Paul addresses heresy

I confess that I usually pass over the first few verses of Paul’s epistles without paying much attention. After all, they’re just greeting formulas and opening remarks before getting down to the real meat, right?

So I have just prepared a Sunday school lesson based on the first fourteen verses of Colossians. Colossians has fewer verses to skip over than some epistles. It begins with an account of how Paul prays for that church. I have studied that as an intercessory prayer. The assigned lesson is about faith within a community, so I have had to take a fresh look at this passage.… Read the rest

A special prayer for one of Paul’s friends: Philemon

One thing I’m starting to love about Paul’s letters is that so many of them contain prayers for the church receiving them. He wrote a brief letter to his friend Philemon, which also begins with a prayer.

While in a Roman prison, Paul met a man named Onesimus, grew quite fond of him, and came to rely on him. When Paul wrote letters, he couldn’t just put a stamp on them and expect the post office to get it where it was going. He had to enlist the help of trusted couriers. Who better than Onesimus to carry Ephesians and Colossians back to his home?… Read the rest

Welcome to Grace and Judgment

Calvin Coolidge had to go to church one day alone, because his wife was ill. When he returned, she asked him how church was. “Fine,” he said.

“Well, how was the sermon?” “Good.”

“What was it about?” “Sin.”

“Calvin, tell me what he said about it.” (Awkward pause.) “He’s against it.”

So should we all be. But how often do preachers talk about sin nowadays? Not often enough. My pastor proclaims that he’s against it, but I have heard many other preachers over the years with little acknowledgment that sin even matters. Time was when I heard and read lots of lessons about healing or prosperity.… Read the rest