Saul's Conversion

In Acts 7:58 we are introduced to a “young man named Saul.” At this point in his life, Saul was diametrically opposed to “the Way.” He consented to, and played a role in, the stoning of Stephen. Chapter 8 verse 3 speaks of him saying, “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison." Chapter 9 continues this dialogue on Saul's persecution of the church, telling us in verse 1, “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord...” Recalling later, Saul told king Agrippa his purpose was to, “do many things against the Jesus of Nazareth.” The purpose of his life would change. Not through some uncontrollable force, but by Saul's willing obedience to “the Way” he once persecuted. Chapter 9 records for us this change in Saul's life. He went from the young man “dragging off men and women” who professed a belief in Jesus to the man who penned at least 13 inspired epistles. Notice a few points about Saul's conversion to Christianity.

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Make All Things According to the Pattern

After delivering the Children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt, one of the first things the Lord did was provide instructions for building the tabernacle. The tabernacle was an important structure to Israel during their journey through the wilderness. It was God’s sanctuary; a place for God to dwell among His people (Ex. 25:8). It also contained the articles and implements the Children of Israel used to worship God. 

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Is it a Trivial Thing?

Ezekiel 8:17 – “And He said to me, ‘Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it a trivial thing to the house of Judah to commit the abominations which they commit here?’” In the eighth chapter of Ezekiel God brings Ezekiel “in visions of God to Jerusalem (vs. 3).” When Ezekiel arrives in Jerusalem he is standing in the north gate door of the Temple’s inner court.  Through the rest of the chapter God takes Ezekiel on a tour through the Temple to show him “the great abominations that Israel commits… (vs. 6).”

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Baptism and Acts 2:38

I'd like to continue our consideration of baptism which I began in my last article. Four times in the Gospel of John, Jesus promises His disciples a Comforter or Helper. John 14: 16, 26; John 15: 26 and John 16: 7 all promise this Helper. This comforter is none other than God's Holy Spirit, called the Spirit of truth in Jn. 14. Jesus also says something both interesting and important in Jn. 14:7: "You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you (emphasis mine)."

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Christian Worship

The impulse to discover and worship something greater than ourselves is embedded in the human nature.  It’s apparent in this psalm that King David was inclined in this way, and so also is the rest of the human race.  Essentially every culture of every age has had at its core some kind of religious tradition whereby they venerate the supernatural powers of the universe.  These religious rituals are all very different and the objects of their worship hardly ever the same, yet there is undeniably a common compulsion to seek and serve the supernal.

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Is God the master of time, or is time the master of God?

This post was initially written as an essay for a History of Science and Religion course that I took in college, as such please forgive the length. In the beginning was the universe. Before and after that point the debate gets messy. Was there a pre-beginning? If so, what was there, God? Aliens? Other Universes? Eventually the Earth comes along, some period of time later humans crept up and asked the question, who controls this crazy place? God, or time? In order to address this question this essay will look at the views of society, science, and the bible in terms of time, and God.

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God's Justification of Man

In court a man might claim he hit another fellow because he was defending himself. The judge or jury would look through his case, and if they felt he was “justified,” they might proclaim him not guilty. We use this word justification frequently in relation to our justice system. A man might commit an act that at any other time would be considered against the law, but if he is justified in doing so, the judgment will prove him free from guilt. 

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The Apostle Paul

The Apostle Paul has always been a controversial figure. The first time we encounter him in the book of Acts he is holding the cloaks of those who are stoning Steven. (Acts 7:58) Soon after we read that he is actively persecuting the Church. (Acts 8:3) But, after his conversion he becomes the most prolific of the New Testament writers. As a result, some question his apostleship.

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To Enter

Many things converge in order to receive Jesus Christ. The gospel awakens us to possibilities beyond imagining. Influences of family and friends have a bearing on our conscience. Perhaps there is confrontation by someone who loved us enough to risk rejection. Finally, our spirit has to wrestle with the flesh. We may come to a point where we are sorry for our sins and earnestly desire a new life. Yet, this is not enough. Sincere belief in the Gospel brings us to the door, but we need to cross the threshold.  Jesus said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9) We have to choose between our own manner of self-justification and entering the door: “My parents had me sprinkled when I was a baby.” “I asked Jesus to come into my heart.” “I’ve tried to live a good life.” Yet, it is the Lord who waits. It is for us to enter.  For me, the biggest struggle had to do with the good intentions of my mother versus what was plainly written in the Bible. 

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For many are called, but few are chosen

Matthew 22:1-14 contains the parable of the wedding feast. Verses 1-7 describes a king whose son is to be married. He has planned a grand feast and invited an honored few. Despite the honor of being invited to the wedding feast some ignore the invitation and others mistreat and kill the messengers announcing the feast, in his fury the king sends his armies, executes the murderers and burns their city. This portion of the parable is a reference to God's chosen people, the Jews. God chose the Jews to be his people, he led Abraham out of the land of Ur, he led Moses and the children of Israel out of Egypt, he led the people out of their captivity in Persia. He sent them prophets and judges, blessings and curses. They ignored and killed the prophets and judges, or forgot their wisdom in a generation. They forgot about the blessings and wailed at the perceived injustice of the curses. When the Son of God came he was rejected by his chosen people.  

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Christians Cannot Sin?

In I John 3:9 it says: “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.”

When examined in a vacuum, this verse can appear to say that it is impossible for someone who has accepted the gospel to ever sin again – that it simply cannot happen. I must admit that when I first read this verse as a young Christian that is how it sounded to me. This idea terrified me because I knew full well that I had sinned a lot since obeying the gospel and being baptized into Christ. It even caused moments of doubt to creep into my mind as to whether I ever did abide in Christ.

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Baptism and I Peter 3:21

Baptism is always a worthy topic of consideration since its meaning and utility are so diluted today as to render it meaningless in the eyes of many contemporary theologians. As with any doctrine, it must be approached with one achievable goal in mind: to understand what the Will of the Lord is and, with the understanding, to execute it to our utmost. There are few doctrines, with the exception of Hell and Judgment, that are as or more conspicuous in the Bible. 

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Shall We Continue in Sin?

In Romans 6:1 Paul asks the following as a follow up to his previous point, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Chapter five explained that through Adam sin entered the world, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Sin is the breaking of law. “For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” There was offense before the covenant given through Moses. Sin was in the world, and death by that sin.

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The Sinner's Prayer

A few brief thoughts… When I was in college in the mid-nineties, I recall individuals from a local denomination walking the campus in the evening, initiating conversations with students about their salvation.  Their approach was direct, and memorable.  When afforded the opportunity, they inquired of a prospective convert, "Are you saved?"  It was a good question, and not a bad conversation starter.  I've since borrowed it myself.  Of course, if the student they asked responded with a "no," they would then attempt to share the plan of salvation with him/her as they understood it.   And they understood it differently than I do.  For if memory (and youthful perception) serves me correctly, I recall walking by one of them one evening as he was bowing in prayer with another.  I can’t be certain what they were praying about, but based on what I know of this denomination, it's quite possible they were praying what is often referred to as "the sinner's prayer."

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Unmerited vs. Unconditional

A couple of months ago there was a good deal of discussion concerning what God requires of us, if anything, in order to obtain salvation. I was following the discussion, and one of the participants appeared to be confusing unmerited favor and unconditional salvation. I would like to spend a little time discussing these two concepts. The salvation that is from the Lord cannot be earned, therefore it is unmerited.

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Spirituality

Last week, one of our contributors wrote an excellent article entitled, “Faith vs. Reason”.  Undoubtedly scientists create a false polarity by opposing faith with reason, particularly when so many scientific theories require a large measure of faith.  As Thomas well pointed out, the religiously-minded who extract reason from faith often substitute feelings/emotion.  These supposedly indicate or manifest human spirituality.  If human spirituality is either defined as or confined to those terms, what makes us different than any other creature which manifests those feelings/emotions? 

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Faith vs Reason?

Religion vs Atheism.  Creation vs Evolution.  Science vs Religion.  Many of the great debates today are phrased in the context of Faith vs Reason.  It is assumed that faith and reason are incompatible opposites.  Caricatures of both sides are often accepted as fact.  Atheists are seen as having of no faith in anything besides themselves, living sad and worthless lives.  The religious are seen as having no capacity for reason, blindly believing the words in an ancient book, living sad and worthless lives. Neither view seems to be particularly useful as a starting point in a genuine discussion.  As such this article will seek to reframe the discussion.  Are faith and reason truly opposite viewpoints, opposing frameworks from which to view the world?  Are they mutually exclusive concepts?

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Ecclesiastes 3

In Ecclesiastes 3:1, Solomon writes: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven”.

In the seven verses that follow, Solomon goes on to provide a handful of examples that cover the broad spectrum of the human experience; from birth, gain, love, peace and laughter to death, loss, hate, war and mourning. A sampling of both things we spend great amounts of time, energy and resources trying to fill our short lives with, coupled with those we go to equally great lengths trying to avoid altogether. Nonetheless, the wise and inspired writer tells us that each has its rightful place in our lives and that God has made them all beautiful in their time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

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