One December evening in the early seventies, some of the teachers at my church conspired with my parents to dress me in a white sheet and set me in front of the entire congregation, something I had never experienced during any of my seven long and illustrious years. They made the room as dark as possible, knowing how much all seven year-olds love the dark.
American Christianity is uniquely susceptible to the watering down of doctrine as cunning teachers exploit the basic human desire for things like popularity, excitement, prosperity, and success. One can draw a crowd by offering a seat at the cool kids’ table, stirring up an emotional experience, or promising the worldly success Jesus neither gained nor sought.
When describing a team’s chance of advancing, we sometimes say, “They control their own destiny.” By this we mean a team will succeed if they simply defeat their opponents with no regard for the outcome of any other games. While understood in this limited sense, the idea that we control our own destiny nevertheless smacks of presumption. God controls destiny.
Have you ever paused to thank God for all of the times in your life when the word “No” has been His loving answer to your prayers? Sometimes it is devastating for us to see our hopes and dreams go up in smoke and vanish into thin air. Whenever God refuses our request, we can be certain that He is purposefully channeling our time and energy in another direction.
From a Roman prison in AD 67, Paul gave Timothy practical advice for ministry. It was the last of Paul’s letters included in the Bible. This verse promotes delegation and discipleship in ministry. It’s a three-step process. First, we hear the truth from our teacher. Second, we teach the truth to our followers. Third, our followers teach the truth to their own students.
Although the Lord had commanded Israel to conquer Canaan, the tribes of Reuben and Gad were proposing an alternative. Since the land east of the Jordan River was ideal for livestock raising, they wished to remain there and not cross the Jordan to fight the enemies of Israel.
Referencing Proverbs 3:34, James reminds us that God’s unmerited favor is for the humble and not for the proud. Jesus teaches us precisely the same principle. “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)
Waiting is the hard part. Waiting for results from a medical test. Waiting to learn about the job offer. Waiting your turn to board the airplane or be seated in the restaurant. Waiting for just the right time to talk about a difficult subject. Waiting for the bell to ring, for the storm to pass, or for the fish to bite. Waiting for Christmas Day. Waiting for your ship to come in.
Some people assume that only Eastern religious gurus and yoga practitioners care about the relationship between body, soul, and spirit, when in fact the Bible clearly highlights both the importance and the interdependence of each part.
The biggest critics of Jesus were the Pharisees He considered to be hypocrites. They placed a heavy burden upon their followers through man-made rules that they themselves failed to keep. They tried to produce righteousness from the outside in, paying more attention to appearances than underlying realities. They demanded righteousness from others, but did not exemplify it in their personal lives.