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.
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
Seven spirits, searching eyes,
Wheels spinning, whispers blowing,
Dwelling, changing, dwindling passions,
Filling with joy, to fight the demons,
Words of comfort, willing partner,
Peace descending, pain receding,
Holy Spirit to heaven leading.
2 Kings 2.1-18
Elijah moved from place to place, and with him,
Faithfully, his man Elisha. Prophets
Said along the way the Lord would take him.
Elisha cried before the wind and chariots.
By sin or silence, let us never block
The light of Christ! The world is lost in blackest
Night! Let burning lamps be set on high
For all to see, the church shining on the hill.
Inspired by an article by Joe Slater.
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