In this lonely, painful world, how can we have deep, meaningful relationships? How can we be true to each other?
In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the Roman Emperor shouts “et tu Brute?” when he sees his close friend, Marcus Junius Brutus, among his assassins. Though most Americans are not plunging daggers into each other, relationships in the world, the United States, and even the Church are shriveling and dying. According to US Census Data in 2020, our population growth has slowed to its lowest point since the 1930s. Experts blame COVID and economic troubles, but this trend has been present for decades. Marriage is less common, and couples are having fewer children. People are having less sex, and even dating less. Research from the Barna Group indicates that Americans have fewer friends and higher levels of loneliness than in the past. Elders are less lonely than Boomers, who are less lonely than Gen X, who are less lonely than millennials. The stereotypical image of a lonely widow in our culture may be less common than that of a lonely teenage girl.
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“Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever” opined the famous French general and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. American society today seems to have taken him at his word. We are told to dream big, take chances, and make our mark on the world. To be remembered in posterity, “write something worth reading or do something worth writing about” wrote Benjamin Franklin. We are even told to misbehave, “Well behaved women seldom make history (Laurel Thatcher Urich).” It is as if 100,000 of us were standing in a stadium screaming to be heard, and spending our lives trying to be distinctive enough to feel important.
Sometimes the Christian community looks little different. In his book You Are Special, Max Lucado writes of a village of little wooden people called wemmicks who spend their days putting stars or dots on each other, stars for doing something that they like and dots for doing something that they don’t. The best had special awards (a sequel, Best of All) and perhaps even monuments to be widely known and remembered. These fictional children’s stories describe an all too common trap into which even followers of Jesus fall.
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The resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter morning was physical, not just spiritual. Likewise, Christians do not live eternally as disembodied spirits, we will have perfect physical bodies.
During our recent trip to Athens, Anna and I wanted to see some of the key Greek places mentioned in the Bible. Philippi and Thessalonica were too far to travel during our stay, at least a six hour drive each way, but Corinth was close, just over one hour by auto. About 12 miles west of Athens on the road to Corinth, however, lies another important Greek religious site, Eleusius and the site of one of the most renowned mystery cults.
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The anointing of God, so vital to saints of old, is available and active today. Seek it out from the godliest person you know, and you will be blessed.
Tim was retiring from the US Air Force and moving out of the national capital area. He had had a stellar career and had been seeking civilian work. He showed great confidence in the future, but as the weeks passed, worry crept into his face. Tim, his wife and daughters moved out of their rental house and moved in with extended family, but several job opportunities had faded away.
They visited with us after Vacation Bible School one afternoon, as we were going through the same transition. As Tim and his family were leaving, my family gathered around to lay hands on them and pray. We prayed for their journey to Texas, their search for a new house, their transition to new schools, a new church, and a new community, and most of all, for a job. Once we finished, I turned to Tim and said “Congratulations, you have received the anointing of the Spirit for this task in your life. You will be successful.”
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Prejudice, or pre-judging others on irresponsible bases, robs them and robs us. God hates it, but how can we minimize its impact?
On 31 October 2017 the world will remember one of the unlikeliest and yet most important events in human history, Martin Luther’s posting of his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Following the custom of the day, the young priest had written them in Latin to avoid bringing unnecessary controversy to the Church and he posted them in a public place to invite clerical discussion. Luther never expected that his theses would be translated into German within days, printed on recently invented printing presses, and spread throughout Western Europe within weeks. The Protestant Reformation had begun.
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Will a genuine believer in Jesus Christ who kills himself still go to heaven?
My wife called me at work several weeks ago; the morning was good but the news was not. Our daughter had been perusing her friends’ posts on Facebook and saw some from one family that were unclear but disturbing. We called them, close personal friends for over 15 years, and learned that their oldest son had killed himself.
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The Apostle Paul emphasized righteousness, faith, redemption, and justification in his letter to the Romans.
The book of Romans has been described as the magnum opus of the Apostle Paul. In it, Paul laid out his theology of Christ and salvation in his clearest, most concentrated style. Scholars have labored to plumb the depths of Paul’s words and concepts for centuries, and much is still to be written. Luther and the other Reformers found in the first five chapters of Romans their fundamental idea for the Reformation, justification by faith alone.
Righteousness (δικαιοσύνη dikaiosynē) to Paul was not a result of good works, earned by the person, as though he could gain a favorable account with God by his deeds. Rather, righteousness is a standing imparted by God as a result of faith (Romans 4:3), which is itself a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). For centuries, Christian scholars have contrasted righteousness by faith, a Pauline Christian teaching, with righteousness by works, a Judaistic teaching. E.P. Sanders work minimized “righteousness by works” in Judaistic teaching in the first century and emphasized “righteousness by covenant”. This has significantly shaped the modern discussion, and borne some good fruit by improving Jewish-Christian understanding. However, Sanders’ “covenantal nomism” has a serious flaw. If the Jews are saved because they are God’s covenantal people, but must still perform good works to stay in that relationship, salvation still depends on works.
Continue reading “Key Concepts of Paul in Salvation – Romans”