Wednesday
Apr252012

Me, A Sinner  

The point of the parable is introduced in its purpose – Jesus was addressing people in his audience who saw no need for a savior, for they trusted in their own achievements, and even went so far as to look down upon others whom they considered both inferior and unworthy. While the Pharisees were infamous for this degree of self-exaltation, they were by no means alone. Today, Pharisee exists only as opprobrium, but the sect lives on in the attitudes of religious people whose trust is more in their own deluded piety than in the grace of a forgiving God. It is they who ignore the beams in their own eyes to draw attention to the specks elsewhere, and who honor God with their lips, but whose hearts are on a different planet (see Matthew 7:1-5, 15:1-9).

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Tuesday
Apr242012

From Where I Stand: Hope

The Hebrew writer’s goal was to emphasize the superiority of the covenant of Christ to a generation of people who pondered a return to the Law of Moses. He was certainly not short on arguments, and many of them continue to resonate today among disciples who contemplate a renewal of affections for this lost world. For instance, he wrote, "We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 6:19-20). Hope continues to serve as our spiritual, emotional, and moral anchor when the waves of weariness, discouragement, or temptation crash upon us. We hope to persevere, to endure, to reach the eternal shore. Our hope rests not in things temporal or earthly, but in the person of Christ who stills the winds, calms the waves, and lights the way, even into Heaven. When all else fails – and it just might – the hope we derive from trusting in a risen savior who has proven resurrection and purchased redemption steadies our nerves and soothes our consciences. Our hope is built on nothing less.

Wednesday
Apr182012

From Where I Stand: Uncanny Resemblance

Just a few weeks ago, I was reentering Bass Performance Hall during intermission. With Schubert on my mind, an older gentleman took me aside, saying, “You probably hear this all the time – You look just like Al-Assad, the dictator from Syria.” Actually, that was the first time I had heard that, but a quick Google image search uncovered a few photos of the Syrian that bear more than a passing resemblance. Presumably, the similarities end there – I dictate infrequently and my Arabic is limited. On the other hand, it is startling how two such disparate creatures can look enough alike to fool the casual observer. That is surely why the Holy Spirit warns us about false gospels and false christs. The most insidious draw power from superficial similarity to the genuine article, differing where it matters beneath the surface, where fewer bother to look (Mark 13:22, Galatians 1:6-9).

Friday
Apr132012

Fury of Fire

The writer added urgency to his warnings to the Hebrews by reminding them that, “our God is a consuming fire” (12:29). Christians, for whom the world has not lost all its luster, need to be reminded of that just as much as the atheist and the disobedient believer. The threat of apostasy remains very real and only abiding faith in Jesus can keep you from stumbling and falling from grace (see Jude 24, Galatians 5:1-6).

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Wednesday
Apr042012

Lording It Over  

The leadership of teachers and overseers begins and ends with Scripture, upholding the truth of the new covenant in both doctrine and practice. It values the soundness of the church and the welfare of the flock; it tears down error and builds up faith, promoting healthy fellowship and providing reliable guidance. Where leadership proves its affection for the flock, trust, cooperation, and fruitfulness result.

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Saturday
Mar242012

From Where I Stand: A Titanic Mistake

It was one century ago that the unbelievable and impossible happened – the unsinkable HMS Titanic sank into the frigid North Atlantic after hitting an unexpectedly large iceberg. Legend has it that the ship was lauded as invincible – that God himself could not sink her – and yet there she lies, still today, in the murky depths of his ocean. With God, all things are possible. We are not, however, suggesting that God specifically targeted the Titanic with a chunk of ice. Man, you see, often needs no help inflating his hubris to dangerous levels and will often ensure his own fall as a result. Sailing into danger, underestimating the threat, and responding tepidly – all happened a century ago on the high sea and often are repeated during the spiritual decline of believers whose pride makes them ready to sink as well. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (First Corinthians 10:12).

Tuesday
Mar132012

From Where I Stand: Lent

The observance of Lent, once connected mainly to Catholicism, has enjoyed a recent surge in acceptance by Protestant denominations and even some progressive churches of Christ. While it is a matter of personal discretion to abstain from certain harmless things, giving up sinful behaviors should not be confined to a forty-day respite, but should be treated more urgently and permanently. The New Testament even anticipates the development of such self-appeasing customs: “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:23).


Tuesday
Mar062012

From Where I Stand: Ancient Aliens

“Millions of people around the world believe we have been visited in the past by extraterrestrial beings. What if it were true?” Thus begins the narration of each episode of Ancient Aliens, a cable television series that presents evidence for the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Heavily laden with speculation and sprinkled with science, the program asserts that the world’s ancient mythology and religious texts demonstrate misperceived encounters with ancient astronaut beings from outer space.

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Wednesday
Feb292012

Why Bother With the Old Testament?

The question, then, sometimes arises – why bother reading and studying the Old Testament at all? The New Testament anticipates that concern, though, declaring “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

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Tuesday
Feb282012

From Where I Stand: A Spring in My Step

Winter 2012 will not likely go down in history as memorably as the previous one, during which Super Bowl preparations in North Texas were disrupted by three days of ice, snow and bitter cold. As Daylight Saving Time goes back into effect today and the spring equinox arrives next week, Lord willing, we will pass again from the calendar’s chilly period to its mildest months. Spring, with its welcome imagery of rebirth and new life, is customarily greeted with a mixture of relief and anticipation. The arrival of spring should remind us of the potential to start over, to seize a God-given second chance, to try our best to make life an eternal proposition, rather than a temporary uptick in an endless cycle of regret. Bask in the warmth of the sun, but let the light of God’s son illuminate a fadeless path to glory.

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Tuesday
Feb212012

God and the Google Effect

The Google Effect is a complaint that, while modern research has become more immediate and prolific in the Internet age, its results are frequently shallow and even suspect. It would seem there is likewise a Google Effect upon Bible study and research as well.

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Thursday
Feb162012

The Song of Songs, Which is Solomon’s

“The whole world is not worth the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel; all the Writings are holy, but the Song of Songs is the holy of holies.” That sentiment, so eloquently voiced by Rabbi Akiva (ca. A.D. 17–ca.137), is hardly shared by many Bible readers today. While most seem to accept the canonicity of the Song of Solomon, few find its inscrutability endearing and the book’s overt eroticism has reduced it to a homiletic footnote in many pulpits.

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Wednesday
Jan042012

Looks Like the Gardener  

Even today, Jesus is frequently misidentified on both personal and doctrinal fronts. There are those who label him a good teacher and great man, but who balk at his claims to be the Messiah. Others embrace him as the prophesied savior, but emasculate the harder things that he taught, so to make faith more palatable to recalcitrant sinners. Sadly, Jesus Christ is so chronologically removed from modern minds that his entire character becomes subject to revision and abuse.

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Wednesday
Dec212011

2012

A popular movie a few years ago dramatized the notion that the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world in 2012. Like the vague writings of Nostradamus, however, the Mayan calendar threat has been exaggerated and mythologized beyond anything credible. Could the world end in 2012? Absolutely! If it should, however, it will be due to the will of God and the readiness of Christ to return in the clouds, according to the plan revealed in the New Testament, and only coincident to the Mayans’ dayplanner. Predicting the end of the world seems almost as old as the world itself, as we will learn from our study in the book of Revelation, set to begin this afternoon at 5:00. This thirty-part series of lessons will continue with only rare interruptions on Sunday afternoons for the next several months. In it, we will learn how first-century Christians could have anticipated relief from their struggles, but not necessarily through the conquest of their enemies or the immediate return of the savior. Like them, we must be patient and redeem the time, for we know not at what hour our master will return to require of us an accounting of how we lived our lives and used our talents.

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Tuesday
Dec202011

Winter of Discontent

When the mercury conquers triple digits more than forty times in the summer, it is only natural to crave the cooler temperatures of winter, forgetting how bone-chillingly uncomfortable it can be. A crippling ice storm can quickly make just about anyone long for the return of the melting sun. We find ourselves in the calendar’s extreme seasons suffering from palpable discontent, but God’s promise to Noah’s generation holds steady: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22 ESV). I’m reminded of an old piece of wisdom regarding morally neutral, unchangeable things: Learn to love it. Six months from now, we will again be longing for these cooler months, just as much as our runny noses and cabin fever are now inspiring perverse nostalgia for the Texas summer. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV). Winter affords us more quiet times for meditation, more opportunities for lingering over the Bible or snuggled under the blankets in prayer. Take advantage of the unique benefits of earth’s coolest season and learn to love it.

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Tuesday
Nov152011

A Spirit of Slavery

Slavery becomes an appropriate way of describing a perverse dependence upon the tempter for the satisfaction of wicked and self-destructive yearnings, as well as the resulting guilt and disillusionment that shackle the wayward believer to iniquity. A spirit of slavery is surely undesirable, but is apparently inescapable where human weakness prevails.

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Tuesday
Oct182011

From Where I Stand: Don’t Take The World Serious

If my feeble memory and limited Internet research are accurate, it was a Carefree chewing gum commercial from the 1970s that I am remembering every time I intone, “Oh Abner, don’t take the world serious!” The commercial jokingly suggested that Mrs. Doubleday had inadvertently given her husband the name for baseball’s annual championship round, but clearly the episode is apocryphal. I have always liked the message nonetheless – don’t take the world serious, at least not as seriously as we sometimes do. As another baseball season gives way to the hot stove league, we have time to huddle in our homes and contemplate the passage of time and the things that really matter, baseball being one of them only by the slimmest of margins. No, what we see more clearly is that many of the world’s things which we take too seriously simply expire with use or fail to affect our eternities unless we inflate their importance so much that they take priority over matters of faith, become idols of the heart, or threaten us through temptation. The things of this world are just not as serious as matters having to do with the next. Mrs. Doubleday was right after all.

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Tuesday
Sep272011

From Where I Stand: When Children Die

I believe in the existence of the devil every bit as much as I believe in God. I believe in the ultimate goodness of God and the malevolent intent of his – and our – adversary in this world. In the last two weeks, I have become witness again of the tempter’s pernicious attacks upon humanity, manipulating the forces of chance and wickedness at his disposal to cause harm and tragedy and to foster doubts, if possible, in the minds of Christians. The deaths of two teenagers with connections to my tiny West Virginia hometown serve to remind me again that the devil is at work – directly and indirectly – as he struggles to destroy the faith of the faithful and provoke unwarranted criticism of the redeemer. Satan is a thug who commits the crime and then manipulates the witnesses to blame the innocent, the heroic, the savior, instead of him. This time, however, he must suffer yet another disappointment, for we are not ignorant of his designs (Second Corinthians 2:11). It is he who ushered sin, temptation, curse, and death into a world which God created perfectly and which he has offered to redeem ever since. Our faith in God does not waver because his adversary strikes us where we are most vulnerable. We see through him and cling to the Lord.

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Tuesday
Sep132011

Peter, Paul, and Marriage

A study of Peter, Paul and marriage reveals perfect harmony in the things they taught, even a complementariness in their writings, but also a contrast in their personal lifestyles. That contrast indicates that, in ministry, both the married and celibate lifestyles are authorized and conducive to the work, depending upon circumstances and personalities. Single Paul was able to travel the world, putting himself in harm’s way, sacrificing much of his income, without a thought to dependents. Married Peter travels as well, but at some point, settles where he can shepherd a local flock of believers. Both were bold and effective, even though their gifts differed.

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Thursday
Aug252011

Can We Talk About Your Porn Stash?

Can we talk about your porn stash? Whether it is nestled away on paper in a nightstand, lurking somewhere on a computer hard drive, or available to you by clicking on a web page, your porn stash is a filthy, addictive, morally expensive habit. You feel like you have been fortunate so far that no one has found it, but you would be better off if they did. Maybe then you would feel compelled to quit. Instead, you’re just digging deeper.

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