The Mississippi River establishes a natural border between a number of states - two of them are Tennessee and Arkansas. At least that was the case until March 7, 1876 when one small town in Tennessee was relocated from the eastern bank of the Mississippi to the western bank. In roughly twenty-four hours, the river abandoned its course along the western side of Reverie, TN, and established a new channel east of Reverie. One morning the river was on the west, and the very next day it was on the east. Forty-two years later, the Supreme Court had to determine that the town should remain part of Tennessee rather than be annexed by Arkansas. Almost 142 years later, the citizens of Reverie (which is still part of Tennessee) send their children to Arkansas schools and have their mail delivered to Wilson, AR.
How far is too far? Where are the boundaries for physical contact prior to marriage?
Christianity has always held fast to the idea that sexual intercourse is reserved for marriage. Outside of marriage, it is always a sin - either as fornication or adultery. Not many people, especially those in the evangelical community, dispute this notion. However, how should a Christian think about conduct that may be sexual in nature, but isn't sexual intercourse? The Bible isn't clear on that and we each figure it out individually, right?
A number of modern day artists are transforming common, everyday trash into notable works of art. Sayaka Ganz hopes to reduce waste through creative use of discarded objects. Paul Villinski collects discarded beer cans from New York streets and transforms them into cross-cultural symbols of rebirth. Ann P. Smith creates animal works of art from broken electronics and machine parts. However, the concept that lies behind all these artists' work is nothing new. Jesus has been practicing the exact same kind of artistry for thousands of years.
Have you ever bought a used car? There's a certain trepidation that goes along with such a purchase. It's easy to be suspicious of a seller's integrity and wonder if there's anything he's not telling you - some crucial bit of information that might reduce the value you place on his vehicle. Or have you ever walked through a public market in a country where every price is negotiable? The uninitiated naturally question whether someone is trying to take advantage of them. The Lord envisioned exactly these kinds of transactions when he gave the Old Testament law to Israel.
Bread. Any time we need it, a quick trip to the grocery store puts a large number of ready-to-eat options at our fingertips. Would you like white, rye, or whole wheat? Bagels, tortillas, or French baguettes? Cornbread, biscuits, or poppy seed muffins? In developed nations it can often be taken for granted because of its ubiquity, but bread has not always been so easy to enjoy.
A previous post argued that the toil and hardship we face in our daily work is one of the means God uses to focus our attention on the world to come. The struggles we face with our jobs are reminders that this world is passing away and we should guard against setting our hopes on temporal realities.
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? Ecclesiastes 1:2-3
Many teachers have experienced it - a mother who is convinced her children possess above average intellect with extraordinary gifts and talents. And every teacher should recognize her children's abilities as well. Apparently, the mothers of the first century were no different.
Zeal? Energy? Enthusiasm?
A growing number of people consider these to be essential elements of a genuine worship experience. They want worship that reveals a deep love for a magnificent and awesome God. They want to engage in worship with both head and heart, mind and emotions. They want "passion."
Should you be using a different Bible?
To put it simply, yes. But let's not put it quite so simply.
In a previous post, we looked at the relationship between reverence and reservation in worship. In particular, reverence should not be equated with reservation. That is, reverent worship is not always reserved worship.
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Heb. 12:28-29
A red sports car swerves into your lane, forcing you to slam on the brakes and spill your coffee. You watch in disbelief as the driver speeds past another car and abruptly shifts back into the previous lane. As you try to compose yourself and slow down for the yellow light ahead, the maniac in the red car squeezes through the light after it turns red and solicits horns from cross traffic.
A little less than a year before his death, Pablo Picasso completed a series of self-portraits. The most well-known of those portraits is his Self Portrait Facing Death. While some see a look of anguish, others see a look of courage. Regardless of how we understand these paintings, it's apparent that Picasso was reflecting on his life and the realization that death would eventually come, just as it comes for every one of us. Like Picasso, we all have some perception of our self and occasionally give expression to it.
In a previous post we saw that while Paul opposes legalism, he knows the consciences of some believers lead them to observe a more restricted lifestyle than others. It is the duty of other believers to not only respect them but also support them in their decisions.
Common sense should teach us that Jesus' baptism is significant based on the fact that it's referenced in all four gospels. But what significance does it carry? What's revealed in Jesus' baptism that's important for us to understand?
When thinking about the Sabbath, it's common to focus on the character of the Sabbath day and what it means to rest. You shall not do any work, etc. But it's equally important to consider the character of the other six days as days of work. What did it mean to work and how was work different from rest? These may seem like odd questions since we can tell fairly quickly when we're working and when we're resting, but what should we understand from the Bible about work? More importantly, what would the Israelites have understood about work when Moses gave this command?
Debate rages in Galatia over how Christians are to live, especially Gentile Christians. Is their standing before God - their justification - determined by how closely they keep the Jewish law? In particular, must they be circumcised as Jews and observe Jewish dietary customs to be justified before God?
To put it simply, our hermeneutic (her-meh-new-tik) is the set of principles we use to interpret the Bible, and there are various hermeneutics that Christians might apply depending on their understanding of Scripture and its inspiration. Many Christians have at least a vague sense of the principles they apply when trying to understand what a passage from the Bible means, but a lot of us would benefit from developing a greater appreciation for the various aspects that go into well-rounded Biblical interpretation.
One of the most notable aspects of Jesus' teaching is his use of parables to instruct his disciples. These parables have been subject to numerous interpretations and ongoing debate among scholars. One parable that has taken on various interpretations is the Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25:14-30.
On the surface this would seem to be an appropriate connection. However, nothing in this verse should immediately direct our thoughts toward heaven. In fact, Paul had something completely different in mind as he wrote these words. Paul is actually calling our attention to something we have right now.
Though Timothy had been placed in a position of leadership within the young Ephesian church, he still has some rough edges that are going to be apparent to those he leads. There aren't any issues that would disqualify him from planting this church, but it is going to take some effort to grow into a seasoned leader - diligent, watchful, persevering effort.