What is really important? What things do you consider to be a big deal? Have you ever considered these questions? We all have principles that we believe are worth fighting for. We all have people in our lives we stand up for. But when do I cross the line from being principled to being someone who is just plain difficult to deal with? In other words, do I have the wisdom to know the difference between principle and preference? Am I standing on what I know to be vital truth or have I elevated something dear to me higher than it deserves? Knowing when to fight and knowing when to yield requires discernment, and having discernment is critical to healthy relationships.
I was recently at a service where Psalm 136 was read responsively. This psalm calls on worshipers to praise God for who he is, praise him for his great works of creation, and praise him for what he has done on behalf of his people Israel. There are 26 verses and each verse ends with the refrain for his steadfast love endures forever. Over and over the phrase for his steadfast love endures forever was repeated. My first thought was how repetitive. I think we have got the idea. Of course that kind of thinking comes from my sinful self-centeredness. We like to think God just can’t help but love us since he so loving and we are loveable. We are not amazed by the love of God because we do not understand the holiness of God. (There are those who tend to think that God could not love us because he is so holy but they seem to be a rare find.) Clearly, I wasn’t really thinking about what was being said. Later I began to think over this simple refrain and was truly humbled.
In the last blog post we covered the major difference between Christianity and Islam with regard to God’s nature and character. In this week’s blog post, we pick up the remaining two major differences between Christianity and Islam: the identity and deity of Jesus Christ, and soteriology (the study of salvation).
Have you ever had a double take? Usually it’s a compulsory second look due to something visually startling. I had one not long ago due to a conversation before a luncheon with two evangelical Christian friends who attend two different churches. The conversation led to the comment “The Muslims believe in the same God as we do, they just call him by a different name, Allah.” After my double take, but before I could blurt out, “No!”, our luncheon host called us to our individual tables.
So is a name really that important? Juliet Capulet deeply hoped it wasn’t, as Shakespeare penned “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” Ironically, name changing wouldn’t have solved their families’ feud because of the nature of the people involved. In my scenario, the name does matter, because the name is mentioned and the Being revealed in authoritative writing. For the God of the Bible, He is YHWH (LORD; I AM). For the God of the Qur’an, he is Allah. The Islamic name doesn’t translate well in English, so one Muslim writer defined it as “the unique god who possesses all the attributes of perfection and beauty in their infinitude” (1). From this alone, you can’t conclude anything–there’s no detail to make a comparison. However, there are important differences in three areas: nature and character, the identity and deity of Jesus Christ, and soteriology. I’ll cover the first in part 1 of this postcard, and the remaining two in part 2. Continue reading
As the title of this article might suggest, I am a credobaptist. If you’re not quite sure what the term credobaptist means, it simply means that I believe that the sacrament of baptism is not for infants/children, rather it is intended for people who have repented of their sin and placed their faith in Jesus Christ. This weekend I had the great honor exercising my credobaptist convictions as I baptized three people including my oldest son Jeremiah. What a time of celebration! Yet in the midst of the celebration I find it helpful to remind myself of what it is that I am actually celebrating. You see, all too often I find that my fellow credobaptists seem to make the central focus of our baptismal celebrations the individual’s response to the gospel message. And while it is certainly appropriate to celebrate an individual’s response to the gospel (see Luke 15:7-10), I can’t help but think that our celebrations ought to have as their primary focus God’s gracious and sovereign work. Continue reading
In John chapter 18 Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested. He is sent to the former high priest Annas, then to the current high priest Caiaphas. Eventually Jesus is sent to the Roman governor Pilate. Pilate at first tells the Jews to take Jesus away and judge him by their law, but the Jews are determined that Jesus be put to death and only Pilate has the authority to do that. John 18:33-38a relates the first conversation between Jesus and Pilate.