How Do We Live at Peace in a Hostile World?

Spock_peace

Our world is marred by violence, greed, and all the fruits of sin. What this world desperately needs is a revelation of Jesus and his peaceable kingdom. But how do we live at peace in a world of hostile Herods and Pharisees? Jesus said, “When you go someplace to reveal the good news of heaven, let your peace rest on that place” (Matt. 10:12). This seems an odd thing to say, but it makes perfect sense if you grew up watching Star Trek. In the Star Trek universe, visitors from faraway places would arrive with unknown intentions. If they said, “We come in peace,” you knew all would be well. … [Read more...]

If We’re Holy, Why Does God Call Us to Be Holy?

be holy

Here's a question grace preachers hear a lot: “If we are already holy, then why does God call us to be holy?” Answer: He’s calling us to be who we truly are. He is saying, “You are my sanctified children. Act like it. Be who I made you to be.” As D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said: Holiness is not something we are called upon to do in order that we may become something; it is something we are to do because of what we already are… “Paul, I’m still confused. It seems there are a lot of scriptures exhorting us to become holy. How do we reconcile those with other scriptures that say that we are … [Read more...]

Myth 1: Hyper-Grace Preachers are Against Repentance

repentance bear

“Hyper-grace preachers say there’s no need for repentance. They dismiss repentance as unbelief.” Actually, hyper-grace preachers are for repentance, not against it. We say things like “repentance is essential” and “repentance is to be our lifestyle.” We are for repentance, for without it no one can receive the grace of God. But what is repentance? Repentance is one of those words that means different things to different people. Those with a performance-oriented mindset typically interpret repentance as turning from sin. It’s something you do (turn) as a result of something you’ve done … [Read more...]

Conversations about Hell

hell_harp_n_accordion

[The following are extracts from conversations I’ve had in the past month.] Paul, you’re opposed to inclusionism and you're skeptical about universalism. Why do you want to condemn people to hell? Me: Huh? I’ve come to embrace inclusionism (or universalism) because I cannot conceive of a good God torturing people for eternity. Neither can I, but what has that to do with inclusionism, universalism, or any -ism? Uni/inclusionism says God loves his enemies… Actually, the Bible says that – it’s Romans 5:10. It’s the gospel of grace. But the traditional church view is that God … [Read more...]

What about Those Who Never Hear the Gospel?

Palestinian kids

Everybody responds to God’s love and grace, one way or another. But what about those who die before they get a chance to respond? To pick an extreme example, what about those Palestinian children who perished last week and who presumably never heard the gospel, never heard that God loves them, and never heard about Jesus? What about Israeli children who have been killed by suicide bombers? And what about the children caught up in the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan? What happens to them? In my last post I asked the question, “What happens to babies who die?” It should be a … [Read more...]

What Happens to Babies Who Die?

Baby_thinking

What do you say to the parents of a deceased baby? What would you say to the families of the 80 children who died on flight MH17 last week? I’m not sure what you should say but I know what you shouldn’t say. Don’t ever tell them their children are in hell. “Paul, I would never say such an awful thing.” But you might if you have been taught that the kingdom of heaven belongs only to those who confess Jesus as Lord. So what about babies, young children, the mentally handicapped, and the mute who confess nothing? Are they hell bound? According to some theologians, they are. Apparently … [Read more...]

What If I Deny Jesus? (2 Timothy 2:11–13)

peters-denial_2

“Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Tim. 2:11–13) This is a trustworthy saying that comes in two parts and both parts are trustworthy for the simple reason that Jesus is trustworthy, even when you’re not. Destined to reign in life The first part of the trustworthy saying begins like this: “If we died with him.” The Christian life begins at death. This is what makes the gospel unique. … [Read more...]

The Parable of the Beaten Servants (Luke 12:35-48)

servants

There are only two ways you can respond to Jesus; positively, in faith, or negatively, with unbelief. Consequently, it makes sense to speak, as Jesus did, of people dividing themselves into two groups: sheep and goats, wheat and weeds, good fish and bad fish. But on a few occasions Jesus spoke of three or even four groups. Think of the parable of the sower where there were four types of soil (Matt. 13). Or the parable of the master who came home to three types of servant in Luke 12. Here they are: The faithful and wise servant (v.42) who makes his master happy and is put in charge of … [Read more...]

Are there Degrees of Judgment?

Downtown

Jesus once told a parable about servants getting beaten up and cut to pieces by their master. It sounds like a sadistic version of Downtown Abbey. And it’s a story that fills many Christians with terror: That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:47-48) What are … [Read more...]

God Believes in You!

Shelby

Last night I caught my five-year-old son reading in bed when he should’ve been sleeping. I asked him to give me the book and he did, albeit reluctantly. I reminded him that it was late and he needed to go to sleep because he had school in the morning. Then I put his book at the end of his bed and turned to leave. Luke couldn’t believe his luck. “Haha – I can get that book when you go!” he said with a wicked grin. “I know you can, but I hope you won’t. It’s time to sleep. Good night, son.” I closed the door and waited outside for a minute. Then I opened the door a crack to see if he … [Read more...]

5 Signs of Nose-Punching Preachers

nose-punch_med

A recent article in Charisma News warns about the dangers of ear-tickling preachers and their deceptive message. An ear-tickler is someone who tells you what you want to hear. In contrast, a nose-puncher is one who tells you what he wants you to hear, and typically does so with all the fervor of an Old Testament judge or prophet. A nose-puncher might appear respectable and religious, but he is nothing more than a bully with a Bible. He prefers doctrine to people, puts ministry before family, and he justifies his abuse of others by telling himself he is doing the Lord’s work. Jesus … [Read more...]

Who Would Be a Teacher? (James 3:1)

judge_judy

Recently I read something that made me sad. It was a Facebook note penned by a noted Bible teacher and it went something like this: “I’m a teacher of the gospel, but you’re probably not a teacher, so best not to pretend you are because you could lead people astray.” This comment wasn’t addressed to me or anyone in particular, but it made me sad for two reasons: (1) We are all called to preach and teach the gospel, every single one of us (Mark 16:15; Heb 5:12), so don’t let anyone silence you just because you’re not as eloquent as the next guy. You have a story to tell – a God-written story … [Read more...]