When you woke up and opened your eyes this morning, what was your first thought? At some point in the waking process, did you think, “Wow, I’m alive! God has given me yet another day of life!”?

Most of us probably don’t have those early thoughts. We expect to wake up. We count on another day. We seldom if ever consider the possibility of not popping open our eyes and jumping out of bed to continue what we paused doing yesterday. Continue reading

Which is the more dangerous sin, the one that creates a chemical dependency, such as drugs or alcohol, and destroys a body, or the one that creates an emotional or behavioral aberration, such as envy or complaining, and twists a person’s spirit?

We know the answer to that, do we not? All sin is dangerous. But perhaps the physical effects of many sins are not evident, so we attribute less weight to them. (Probably most or all sins have some physical manifestation.) We treat them with less seriousness. They are more respectable to us.

In a way, however, all sin is addictive. All sin traps the sinner. All sin is controlling.

The wicked will be captured by his own iniquities,
and he will be held by the cords of his own sin. Prov 5.22.

The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, but the faithless will be captured by their own desires. Prov 11.6.

The Hebrew word behind “captured” is used most of the time in the Old Testament of a city, of men, of spoils, or even of a kingdom being captured or taken, according to the Theological Wordbook of the OT. It is a powerful image for the effects of sin in one’s life. Continue reading

If you let him, God will turn your life upside-down. Or rather, right-side up. He will work a great thing in you.

He will not leave you where you are, but will sweep away the trash of selfishness and the litter of small concerns to fill you with a consuming love for him. God will transform you, change you, reorient you to himself. He will leave you marveling at grace and in awe of truth.

Further, he will remake you in his image, revealed in Christ, by the power of his Spirit, with all the might of heaven at your disposal. And he will give you the greatest mission of all, to work at his side that this image might be reproduced in others.

Satan would blind you to God’s goodness, but if you let him, God will break through your blindness and give you the sharpest vision of himself.

Make this your prayer and your goal today.

“At that time the deaf will be able to hear words read from a scroll, and the eyes of the blind will be able to see through deep darkness” Isaiah 29.18.

Focus question: Where is God working in my life? How is he effecting the promised transformation? What do I need to do to allow his transforming power in me?

The Great Commission has been quoted, preached on, written about, and dissected frequently, as one of the texts that has received some of the most attention in biblical studies. Deservedly so.

In recent days, I wrote a series of meditations on Matthew 28.18-20. And today a neighbor and I studied the same passage in his home. With all this attention given to the text, Jesus’ words about baptism made a greater impression.

The first part of making disciples, he said, is “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” Mt 28.19. First, it bears repeating that Jesus does not command that these words be said at the moment a baptism is performed in order to be scriptural. So this is not a “formula” that makes up a part of some baptismal ritual (contra Richards 578). It is an explanation of the function of baptism in God’s plan.

The English phrase “in the name of” does not apparently express the proper sense. It is not like Acts 2.38 where baptism is commanded “in (epi) the name of Jesus Christ.” Two different prepositions are used. The preposition eis generally indicates direction and purpose. It seems to mean in Mt 28.19 that people are to be baptized into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Continue reading

Last week, I started jotting down ideas for 2018 in my green-colored pen. Within a short time, twelve ideas, large and small, appeared. From those, new pages were needed to fill out some of the more appealing or practical ideas. (One of them is to finish some outstanding projects.)

Amazingly, some of those ideas, after being written down, began to seep their way into my routine and actions were taken to make them happen. They’re just ideas for now, mind you. Still, the thought and the writing influenced the mind, and the mind began working toward putting them into action.

It wasn’t that the mind saw the color green as a go sign. That small action of creating a picture of the future and of writing it down made the difference.

James Clear cites a study that showed that “Simply by writing down a plan that said exactly when and where they intended to exercise, the participants in Group 3 were much more likely to actually follow through.” More than twice as likely.

My little exercise demonstrates that the mind is a powerful tool. It works with the thoughts that we feed into it. It appreciates specific plans and positive thoughts. Continue reading

A few weeks ago I went to the bread store near our house to pick up quite a few items for breakfast, since our son and family were going to eat with us. I grabbed a little basket from the stack. Inside the second basket underneath the one I picked up was a wad of bills. I saw a R$50 and a R$20 among others. There may have been as much as R$200, although I didn’t bother to count.

The wife of the store owner was at the register. I explained what I found and tried to give her the bills. She said since I found it, it was mine. I told her it wasn’t mine, and that somebody might come looking for it. So I insisted she take it. One lady witnessing our conversation congratulated me.

I picked up the items I’d gone for, paid for them, and left. I forgot about it. Continue reading

People around me know I talk until I’m blue in the face about the importance of reading and studying the Scriptures. You can’t be a faithful disciple without giving regular, constant, unceasing attention to the Bible. Some people are limping spiritually because they don’t do it, but don’t seem to see the connection. Jesus cannot be Lord, however, unless he is heard and obeyed. And if he is not Lord, then he is not Savior.

As necessary as the place of Scripture is in a Christian’s faith, it must be read properly. Personal aspirations and cultural expectations often bend the true meaning of the Bible into an unrecognizable message. When this happens, people reject God’s plan. They miss what he is doing and oppose the true will of God.

It happened to the Jews of Jesus’ day and still happens today. Continue reading

In 2 Peter, the threat to the church comes from within. False teachers were bringing false doctrine and immorality into the church. Peter wants to warn the saints away and strengthen them against such people who have risen among them.

How to do that? He starts off by saying the saints need to make extraordinary effort to grow spiritually, 2 Pet 1.5-11. Much needs to be added to faith for it to be effective and saving. Faith that just sits there doing nothing goes nowhere, certainly not to heaven. Neither will it be able to resist false teaching when it appears.

For such intense effort, how is one to keep from discouragement? By focusing on God and his power. Continue reading

Post an article on doctrine, and especially on one of the brotherhood’s favorite subjects, and our people will flock to it. Post one on prayer, evangelism, the Christian virtues, or some other practical aspect of our faith, and watch it cry for attention. This tendency has been noted over and over again in the various sites published by Forthright/GoSpeak.

If there is a solution to this problem—and it is a serious one—only God knows. (He does know the solution: it’s called repentance. How to get our people to repent is another issue.)

If the Lord Jesus requires obedience to his covenant, let us be obedient in all things. Let us teach all his will, and practice it as well. Continue reading