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There’s hardly anything more painful and disheartening than being misunderstood. I can’t begin to imagine what Jesus must have felt each time the religious leaders twisted his words into something he never intended or misinterpreted his motives or impugned his character, attributing to him ideas or aims foreign to his heart.   The apostle Paul was another who often experienced this kind of misunderstanding. His actions often ran counter to the cultural...Read More

What gets you going in the morning? Aside from an alarm clock and the prospect of being fired from your job should you choose to remain in bed, what energizes you to face each day? How do you account for your decision to press on in life when there seem to be so many reasons to quit? Do you find yourself coerced by an external force, perhaps a threat, a promise, or the hope of winning the lottery (that’s not an endorsement to purchase a ticket)? Is your life defi...Read More

“Houston, we have a problem,” words made famous by Jim Lovell of Apollo 13 fame, may well apply to our efforts to understand something Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5. Careful students of Scripture will have noted that Paul is describing in chapter five, among other things, his motivation for how he conducted himself among the Corinthians and in the world at large. Yet, he appears to affirm what many would consider mutually incompatible, contradictory ways of ...Read More

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the death and resurrection of Christ? I suspect that most would point to such truths as the forgiveness of sins, or the fact that in his death the wrath of God was satisfied, or that we are redeemed and Satan is defeated and heaven is secured. Surely, all these and countless other truths are the consequence of what Christ accomplished on our behalf. But what are the implications of his atoning work for how ...Read More

Few things are more frustrating than the gradual erosion of meaning in Christian language. For example, I often wonder if the people who applaud the hymn Amazing Grace have any idea of what they are singing. Do they know what it means, biblically speaking, to be a “lost” “wretch” in need of “salvation”? Sadly, the notion of divine “grace” that redeems from sin and delivers from eternal wrath, apart from human works, has bee...Read More

If asked for a concise, biblical definition of the gospel, indeed, a definition of Christianity itself, one could hardly be faulted for pointing to the following paragraph in 2 Corinthians 5. "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, w...Read More

I “know” sin. I say this not because I can define sin, although I can. I say this not because I can identify sin when I see it, although I can also do that. I say it because I am a sinner. I “know” sin because I commit it, sadly, on a daily basis. My acquaintance with sin, therefore, does not come from associating with others who transgress or from reading a book on Hamartiology (the technical, theological term for the study of Sin). I “know...Read More

I struggle to think of a more glowing endorsement than that which Paul gave the church in Thessalonica. He applauds them for the fact that when the gospel was preached they “received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6). Again, “when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Th...Read More

Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, recently made news by announcing his intention to investigate several prominent Christian ministries to determine whether or not they have exploited their tax-exempt status as churches to provide themselves with opulent and lavish lifestyles. Those who’ve been asked by the Senator to submit financial records include Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, Edd...Read More

In case you skipped it, let me repeat the question in the title: “When People see You, does God look Good?” Not many of us phrase it in precisely that way or even think in those terms. It’s far more natural for us to ask, “When people see me, do I look good?” Do I impress them with my charisma? Are they captivated by my wit? Are they attracted by how I dress? Did they take note of my intelligence? Do they still think of me an hour or two lat...Read More

This past weekend (January 18-20, 2008) Ann and I had the privilege of attending the World Mandate conference in Waco, Texas, sponsored by Antioch Community Church and Antioch Ministries International. This was our second time to make the trip south for what has proven on both occasions to be a marvelously instructive and encouraging experience.   World Mandate has one preeminent goal, regardless of the year or the speakers or the date when it is held. That goal i...Read More

There is hardly a time when I’m more keenly aware of my sinful and selfish orientation than when my personal comfort and convenience are threatened or interrupted. When I miss a meal, I’m grumpy. When the air conditioner breaks, I’m irritable. When I’m in pain, I complain. It grieves me to see how often I act as if I deserved physical security and emotional peace and a full stomach. I’m stunned by how much time, energy, and money I devote to...Read More

What’s a Christian to do? In a world of increasing contempt for the gospel and, more often than not, overt and unapologetic opposition, how is a follower of Jesus to respond? In the face of legislation that undermines our moral convictions, a secular atheism that marginalizes our presence, and a radical Islamic fundamentalism that seeks our utter eradication, is the Christian a helpless pawn in the chess game of global maneuvering? Do we fight back, and if so, how?...Read More

On June 22, 1750, Jonathan Edwards was fired. After twenty-four years of ministry at the church in Northampton, Massachusetts, twenty-one of which as senior pastor, America’s greatest pastor-theologian was dismissed by an overwhelming vote of the male membership (women were not allowed to vote).   Edwards’ response? After enduring years of theological wrangling, bitter opposition, rancorous slander, and malicious gossip, one might have expected him eit...Read More

The dictionary entry on the word “Schizophrenia” defines it as “a situation or condition that results from the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic qualities, identities, or activities” (http://www.dictionary.com/). Another entry reads: “a state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements.”   Given these definitions, there is a sense in which Christianity gives every appearance of being schizop...Read More

I recently received an e-mail from a reader who was lamenting the tragic absence of love in the body of Christ. He was grieved by the failure of many to take seriously the words of John, who insisted that “whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:21b).   The failure of the Church to love its own is an ugly blemish on the public face of Christianity. All of us have seen it, and many have felt its pain. There are countless reasons why this...Read More

What does it mean to be in the world but not of it? How is a Christian supposed to relate to those who despise and ridicule the name of Christ? To what extent are we to engage with the surrounding culture? Should a Christian shop at a store owned by a cult? Is the boycott an essential and effective expression of the church's protest against immorality in our society? These are tough questions for which quick and overly-confident answers are unwise, and usually wrong. Al...Read More

On the one hand, I don't want to be guilty of unwarranted exaggeration. On the other, I'm hard-pressed to think of a more theologically important, spiritually encouraging, and eschatologically controversial statement than that of Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:16b. "For we are the temple of the living God"! The starting point for understanding this crucial concept is the Old Testament narrative in which we find the visible manifestation of the splendor of God among his people,...Read More

When a known liar makes a promise, few take notice. We're even skeptical when a trusted friend assures us of something that seems too good to be true. But when the God who cannot lie (cf. Heb. 6:18) puts his word on the line and stakes his reputation on the fulfillment of his declared purpose, take it to the bank. 2 Corinthians 7:1 is a call to holiness based on the rock-solid, infallible, blood-bought promises of God. "Since we have these promises," says Paul, "let us ...Read More

Books, seminars, and conferences on principles of leadership are in abundant supply today. Equally popular are those which focus more specifically on pastoral ministry. Sadly, many of these are governed by assumptions and values more suitable to the Wall Street board room or to the office of a typical CEO than to the local church. When I'm asked to recommend resources on the training up of pastors or for wisdom in shaping the future leaders of this or the next generatio...Read More

Every so often we need to be reminded of the historical nature of the Bible. Contrary to how many have conceived it, this glorious book did not fall gently like manna from heaven. Its many narratives, prophecies, and letters were forged in the grit of real life struggles and the multitude of human relational dynamics not unlike what we encounter today. Nowhere is this better seen than in 2 Corinthians. In fact, the lengthy paragraph before us (2 Cor. 7:5-16) is unintell...Read More

James Dobson may have coined the phrase Tough Love, but he didn’t invent the concept. Paul did. Well, it may have existed before Paul, but he certainly perfected its use.   Often we excuse our failure to speak truth into a person’s life because of the pain and emotional discomfort it may cause them. We live under the assumption that genuine love will do whatever it can either to prevent or alleviate the immediate distress in the object of our affection...Read More

I’ve always been intrigued by the dynamic interplay that exists within the body of Christ when it is functioning as God desires. The very imagery of the church as a “body” in which the various members contribute to the well-being of the whole is quite remarkable.   Sadly, though, we don’t experience this as often as we should. Western individualism is frequently at odds with the interdependence and mutuality that ought to exist among the ma...Read More

As we begin our study in 2 Corinthians 8-9 and dig deeply into Paul’s perspective on the subject of money and stewardship, it may prove helpful to briefly address a most controversial question.   The issue is not whether Christians are responsible to be generous with their wealth in giving back a portion of it to support the work of the ministry. 2 Corinthians 8-9, as well as other texts, make it quite clear that we are. The question, rather, is whether New ...Read More

It almost seems that people in ministry today either rarely talk about money or rarely talk about anything else! The former are afraid of sounding greedy and manipulative while the latter consider wealth a spiritual birthright of all Christians. For the one, money is an enemy, for the other, an entitlement.   The apostle Paul would take issue with both groups. He is unashamed to issue what amounts to a passionate and persistent appeal to the Corinthians that they ...Read More

I want you to think with me today on how the Bible functions in our lives. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (emphasis mine). All this so that you and I “may be competent, equipped for every good work.”   So let me come straight to the point. I’m thoroughly reproved by 2 Corinthians 8:1-2! Other translatio...Read More

I’ve already devoted two meditations to the opening verses of 2 Corinthians 8, but there is yet more to mine from this deep well of spiritual riches. Let’s look again at Paul’s words as he seeks to stir the Corinthians to a generosity equal to that of the Macedonians: “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extr...Read More

"Greed is good," declared Michael Douglas in the movie Wall Street. "Greed works." It was a shock when I first heard those chilling words spoken with such forthright and unashamed simplicity. To this day it's hard to shake free of them. Hollywood is well known for its determination to mock, deny, or otherwise undermine Christian values, and these stunning words by Gordon Gecko, the character played by Douglas, are a vivid case in point. As Christians we face countless e...Read More

When was the last time you heard or read of a financial scandal in some local church or para-church ministry? Sadly, probably not too long ago. Whether due to the exorbitant and opulent lifestyle of some leader, or mismanagement and the lack of foresight, or perhaps even outright theft, the church stands in constant threat from this problem. The churches in ancient Philippi, Thessalonica, and Corinth, just to mention a few, were no different. Human nature was the same t...Read More

Consider with me the far-reaching, all-pervasive, ever-mysterious sovereignty of our great and glorious God! He rules the heavens above, having set the stars in place. He calls them each by name and upholds them to the praise of his power. (Isa. 40:25-26; Ps. 147:4). He creates the clouds and directs their paths and forms each drop of rain (Ps. 135:7; 147:8). Snow and hail and wind and waves are subject to his command (Job 37:6; Ps. 147:16-18). Lightnings flash at his ...Read More

Much has been written in recent years both to defend and to criticize the so-called Prosperity Gospel. The best and most balanced response to this movement, in my opinion, is the book, Faith, Health and Prosperity, commissioned by the Evangelical Alliance Commission on Unity and Truth among Evangelicals and edited by Andrew Perriman (for a review of the book, see www.samstorms.org). The book was initially undertaken in response to concerns raised by the ministry in the ...Read More