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Faith Versus Feeling

This is a column based on what I believe parts of scripture say, not based on your or my feelings or experience. I am arguing that we should consider taking the promises and affirmations of God’s word prayerfully and seriously, even when it is confusing and we are not experiencing the fulfillment of particular promises.
My long-time friend Brad Long, who is the head of a Presbyterian and Reformed renewal organization, once made a comment I have not forgotten about “the fruit of the Spirit” and “the gifts of the Spirit” in the Bible. Many but not all of the gifts of the Spirit (I Corinthians 12:8-10, 12:28, and other passages) tend to be miraculous or supernatural. They include gifts such as healing, prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues, word of knowledge, etc. (According to Paul, only a minority of people in a church might have any one particular gift, but every Christian has been given at least one spiritual gift.) Brad pointed out that some of the more “supernatural” of these…

Receiving the Power of the Holy Spirit

Recently I was writing to a friend (who is studying the Bible) about the difference between believing that we are saved (put right with God) by our works and believing that we are saved (put right with God) by God’s free gift (given in Jesus Christ) which we receive through child-like trust and by giving our lives over to God.
Paul makes the argument for the second option (justification by grace through faith) in numerous places, including in the letter to the Galatians. But if you read what he wrote there, something surprising appears which many modern-day churchgoers may not understand. He says to his hearers: now when you received the Holy Spirit did you receive the Holy Spirit by doing good works or did you receive the Spirit by hearing the word of God and believing?! (Galatians 3:2) (“Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ.”)
The pro…

More Than We Can Ask

As we wrestle with mantle cell lymphoma which has gone into my brain, and which is, at present, responding to high dose chemotherapy, my thoughts go to lots of places. One of those places is Jesus the Healer.As Paul wrote to Gaius in 3 John 1:2, “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” I like that passage because the emphasis is on God’s simultaneous ministry to both body and soul! We need both.
Another scripture which comes to me is Matthew 24:44: “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” While I think this passage primarily refers to the return of Christ at a time which we do not know, I think it also encourages us to be ready to go to Him at a time we do not foresee.” So I have these two almost contradictory thoughts jostling around in my mind: On the one hand Jesus wants to heal body and soul. On the other hand, we need to be ready to go to Him…

Basking in Son Light

Basking in Son Light
I was reminded this week of a verse I had not seen in a while. Galatians 5:6 says, “For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.” (New Living Translation)
Faith expressing itself in love. Other translations of the Greek say “faith working through love.”
Galatians is the early letter to the church in Galatia, sent by Paul--the Jewish Pharisee converted now to Jesus--who has now become an apostle (early leader) in the church. One reason he is writing the letter is because he fears the new Galatian Christians have deserted the gospel (good news) of Christ for another gospel. By the true “gospel” he means the proclamation that sinful people have been “put right” (justified) in their relationship with God through the sheer grace of God’s Son dying for them on the cross—and by trusting Him as Savior.By “another gospel” (Paul clearly believes there is not a…

There is Another World

There is Another World
In the late spring of 1975, I was in my mid-twenties. I was visiting some family members in northern Arizona. Two second cousins, Wendy and Jill Varnum, whom I had met for the first time and who were a bit younger than I, introduced me to the Narnia Tales by CS Lewis, books I had never encountered and which they had at their house. After a successful year of law school, I was about to attend a trial year of seminary at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia. I was looking for a deeper relationship with God. But would it affect my career? Would I change careers, or go back to law school in a year? Who knew?
I did know I was seeking God, but, more importantly, I knew that God was seeking me. (I had recently heard at law school an excellent sermon by a young pastor, Rev. Harry Smith, about how the God of the Bible is always coming after us and seeking us.)At that time in my pilgrimage, God used CS Lewis’s Tales of Narnia, especially two of them—the Lion, the Witch, a…
Sometimes I wonder if I should not have lived in the 19th century!



 My wife and I have old maroon Presbyterian hymnals that we often sing from when we have our own worship services on Sundays, mainly because it’s often not good for my immune system to be around too many people. We find that many (but not all) of the songs we love to sing were written in the 1800s!



Recently, too, I was talking to someone about my illness and about looking forward going in His time to the place that Jesus promises he has  prepared for us. But some people I talk to like that seem very focused on this world and this life almost as if this were the only home we had. How sad!

I sometimes feel like I would have found more kindred spirits in the 19th century! In that era, many people spent a lot of energy getting ready to make the transition from earth to heaven, seeking Jesus, and being surrounded by friends. Many reported seeing long departed loved ones as the prepared to leave this world— and they especially …
Something (Not Quite Simple) To Keep Reading and Keep Praying
Luke 18:1-3, Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow, is interesting to me. In his one-verse introduction to the parable (18:1) Luke, the gospel writer, gives its meaning and the reason Jesus told it. He says, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show they that they should always pray and not give up.”
In the parable and in its further explanation, (verses 2-8) we encounter the cast of characters. There are only three. First there is a judge who does not fear God or care about people. Second there is a widow who persistently comes to the judge with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.” The third character is the woman’s adversary, who owes her justice. Because he won’t act, she needs the judge to compel his action.
We learn from Jesus that the judge, though he cares for nothing beyond himself, will eventually give the widow justice though he does not care for God or people. He will do this for entirely selfi…