Category Archives: Matters of Faith

Finding Rest for Your Soul

A bench to give restMany years ago I built a pair of English Garden Benches to go in a therapy garden at a church.  When I delivered them they spoke of having plaques made and attached that quoted Matthew 11:28 “Come unto Me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  I don’t know if that was ever done, but it seemed like a nice idea.

A comfy bench can give rest for the body, but how do we find rest for a weary soul?  The rest of the passage quoted above holds the key.  Let’s look at that today.

Continue reading Finding Rest for Your Soul

How to Be Happy:
According to Jesus

When people are asked what would make them happy, many think of things that involve possessions, wealth, fame, or power.  To some, these things bring a fleeting sort of happiness.  But pursuit of these things always becomes just that: a pursuit, an on-going chase.  A little makes you want more.  Then more. And more. This is not happiness.

happyIn Matthew chapter 5, Jesus tells his disciples the simple formula for being happy.  Let’s take a look at verses 5 through 10.  Jesus begins each verse with “Blessed are” (actually the “are”s were added later by translators, originally Jesus said, “Blessed, the meek”, “Blessed, the merciful”) and so on.  The word translated as “blessed” is the Greek word, makarios, which means “supremely blesst, fortunate, well-off”.  It is closely related to another form, “makarizo” which indicates large in size or length. He is not talking about being a little blessed, but being hugely, supremely blessed! Continue reading How to Be Happy:
According to Jesus

Examining the Birth of Jesus

You are probably familiar the story of Christmas, at least as presented in countless school plays about the birth of Jesus all across the world: the virgin Mary has a baby, angels tell shepherds to go see Him and sing of His glory, wise men arrive from far off with gifts to offer in worship to the King of the Jews. Today I’d like to take a closer look at a few details of this account from Matthew chapters 1 and 2.

The Genealogy of Jesus

The account opens with a genealogical listing of the ancestry of Jesus, from Abraham to Joseph. This listing is meaningless to us in the sense that, in our understanding of genetics, none of the people listed are genetic contributors to the baby Jesus because Joseph was not His father: the Holy Spirit was. The only person listed who may have contributed anything genetic is Mary, and that is uncertain. Continue reading Examining the Birth of Jesus

Is There Any Evidence That Jesus Lived?

About two weeks ago I engaged in a discussion about evidence that Jesus lived with a fellow through social media.  Because it was on social media I was able to record our back and forth verbatim.  It was a good discussion: he made some good points and it never degraded into mean-spirited argument (as so many do).

This topic branched off from a discussion with others about how silly religion in general is with all its rules and clouded, conflicting information.  Here is our discussion: he is Bruce, I am Doug.

Bruce: So how do you know which parts of the bible, if any, to believe? Perhaps all of it is a creation of men.  After all, there is not one single contemporary account that Jesus ever existed, not one. Continue reading Is There Any Evidence That Jesus Lived?

John Says, “Keep It Simple”

keep it simpleThere is a tendency to get caught up with the complexities of church responsibilities: Bible-reading programs, cataloging spiritual gifts, and reading books that offer seven easy steps to this or ten quick steps to achieving that.  However, paying too much attention to even good things prevents us from focusing on what really matters: Jesus Christ.  We forget to keep it simple.

In 1 John, John says: Let me keep it simple for you; walk with Jesus.  Cling to your faith.  Stay in the light.  When you sin, confess it and move on.  Show your love for Jesus by loving your brothers and sisters in Christ.

This is not a modern phenomenon.  It was the same when the Apostle John walked the earth.  It is why he wrote this book.  I have previously written about 1 John as the Quick Start Card for the Bible; the best place for new Christians to start reading the Bible, or for established Christians who have finally decided to start learning their Bible.  1 John 1:4 – 2:2 says: Don’t let go of the joy! Continue reading John Says, “Keep It Simple”

What of This Melchizedek

In Hebrews 7, Paul discusses a fellow from ancient Hebrew history: Melchizedek.  Melchizedek was the king of Salem (later to be called Jerusalem) and the first priest of the Most High God.  Paul opens the discussion with:

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.

The “slaughter of the kings” was the time Abram (later called Abraham) and 318 of his trained servants went out to rescue Abram’s nephew, Lot, from the combined armies of 5 kings who had invaded their neighbors and carried off the people and possessions of many cities including Sodom, Lot’s home (Genesis 14). Continue reading What of This Melchizedek

Revocable Salvation

salvation There is a school of thought (or church doctrine) which claims that if a Christian messes up they have to go back and get saved again, starting over from square one.  And if you drift away from the faith your salvation is revoked and you’re toast.

This thought is based upon Hebrews 6:4-6.  Let’s take a look at that.

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away,[a] to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

When we look at this passage alone, it would seem to support the doctrine of revocable salvation.  Churches that hold this idea as a cornerstone of their denominational doctrine point to Hebrews 3:12-14 and 2 Peter 2:20-22 as support for this thought.  But it is always dangerous to pull a passage out of Scripture and wave it around to make a point.  In fact, there are four doctrinal teachings on this passage.  In addition to the one above, we have: Continue reading Revocable Salvation

About Imaginary People

Mankind has always been, at least in part, an imaginary people. Modern man: more so.  The proliferation of social media makes this easy.

imaginary peopleTo the degree that each of us manages an image, we are imaginary people.  If you have a gazillion “friends” or “followers” on social media but those people follow because of a persona you made up and maintain; you are (mostly) an imaginary person.  If no one knows what you are really like, then they don’t like you, they like a persona you created.

Social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram make it easy for us to build up a particular image.  We can forward or re-post funny, encouraging, upbeat things even if we are not funny, encouraging, or up-beat people.  On social media we can be what others expect us to be or what we wish we were.  But when we put on that mask, we become imaginary people, for we are not representing who we really are inside. Continue reading About Imaginary People

Praying For Our Leaders

Jesus is king, leader, leaders, rulersIt seems our nation is becoming more and more divided as large groups of people focus on and become vocal about their own personal desires.  Divisions are forming as social groups form up on one side or the other of many issues.  A large part of this divisiveness involves media and pundits attacking our leaders.  At city, county, state, and national levels, leadership is under attack.

We as Christians need to refrain from bad-mouthing our leaders.  The Bible calls this murmuring, and condemns it.  The word translated as murmur is also used as “complain” or “grumble” and refers to the grousing of people to one another rather than addressing the issue directly. Continue reading Praying For Our Leaders

Instruction for the Persecuted Church

The Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica was primarily to assure them that believers who died before Jesus returned would be taken up, and to answer some questions.  This was needed because when the Jewish leaders learned that Paul was teaching in this city, they incited the gentile population, persecuted the church, and drove Paul and his traveling companions out before they could teach the Thessalonians much about living as a believer.

persecutedThey left behind a fledgling church.  It was not uncommon for Paul to spend 2 or 3 years teaching a newly planted church how to live as followers of The Way (Christians) but he didn’t get that chance this time.  Before fleeing, Paul appointed the men with the strongest faith to be leaders over the new congregation and promised to return as soon as was possible.

Outsiders were attempting to infiltrate the young church and turn them from the Gospel, so Paul wrote to them to answer the allegations being made and to encourage the church to stand strong in faith: to test new teaching against the scripture, to trust their leaders.

In chapter 5:14-15 Paul says, Continue reading Instruction for the Persecuted Church