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?

A world of peoples, cultures, languages,
Lies beyond my small horizon,
Across oceans, over mountains,
Around the corner from my house.

My little circle draws a line
To neatly hold my loved ones in,
Define those I consider mine,
Exclude who isn’t my kith and kin.

To others the kingdom’s door is shut,
My comfort rules, I can’t be bothered,
In my own clan my treasure’s put —
The gospel? By someone else be offered.

A new Bible, a new journal, a new page,
a new day, a new start, a new age —
So much newness! So much hope! Unspoken fear!
Can I really and truly change in this new year?
Growth has happened, progress made, but oh! how slow!
God prepares his people with patience — Yes, Lord, I know!

This little gem was sent to my Cloudburst poetry list back in 2008. Nobody saw it outside that now defunct list. (Here’s the post I wrote on the occasion.) So I thought I’d revive it, since it applies even more, now that we have some grandkids near us to share the holiday with. What doesn’t apply is the mention of cold. All the windows are open here, and the fans at high speed.

May your day be blessed today. Continue reading

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

“How,” the man thought to himself, “how
Did I ever reach this lowest point in my life?
And now it seems I have no strength to stop.
The end is in sight, this path’s ignoble ruin.
Must I observe my final steps to death?”

He did not reach his present state at once,
But inch by imperceptible inch was moved
Away from ultimate good, by a velvet voice,
His conscience squelched, his eternal soul convinced
That one small step made no real difference.

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

Who prays for me? A few I know,
But many must hasten to heaven’s gate
Whose names I’d never guess—they go
To God on my behalf—up straight
Their intercessions rise.

I know because the angelic horde
Protects, defends, and circles ’round
Against the earthly, airy lord—
His fiery arrows fall to the ground—
Gabriel’s army flies.

The Master spared me many a hurt,
His mercy a sure reply to prayer—
Else I’d lay prone, face-down, in the dirt,
If not for a righteous multitude’s care—
Faithful, hidden allies.