A possible root of the problem

When Paul said goodbye to the Ephesian elders in Miletus, he told them he knew he would never see their faces again (Acts 20:25).  However, his dealings with the church at Ephesus were not entirely completed, according to 1 Timothy 1:3,  If we believe Paul was guided by inspiration in Miletus, we have to take him at his word.  That means the church at Ephesus during Paul’s third preaching tour was dramatically different from the one with which Timothy was working just six or seven years later.

What happened?

Read More

Delete

December has five Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays this year.  That’s unusual, as you might expect.  Pointless and uninteresting, sure, but unusual.  In fact, it was suggested on Facebook (yes, I’m railing on Facebook again today) that it only occurs once every 823 years.  OK, that might push it past the border into Interestingland.

Except it’s not true.  And when you think about it, it can’t be true. 

Read More

My gift to Jesus

This time of year, most of us have cultural, familial, and guilt-induced obligations to bestow gifts on various ones near and (to one degree or another) dear to us.  For the Hammons family, thankfully, our holiday shopping is just about concluded.  (I deceive.  Apologies.  Tracie’s holiday shopping is just about concluded.)

But I keep hearing talk about Jesus being “the reason for the season.”  I like Kylie’s response to that saying — “That’s ridiculous,” she says.  “Jesus is the reason for everything.”  (They do make you proud, don’t they?) 

Read More

Chickadees

A flock of what appeared to be black-capped chickadees descended on the church property this week.  (Forgive me, Mom, if I’m ornithologically incorrect here.)  Tiny little things, just hopping all over the place looking for seeds.  Peck.  Hop.  Peck.  Hop.  Peck.

Read More

The aftermath of sin

On April 27, 2017, off-duty border patrol agent and expectant father Dennis Dickey fired a high-powered rifle at a target packed with an explosive known as Tannerite.  It exploded in a huge ball of blue smoke, indicating to the delighted crowd of friends that his child would be, in fact, a boy.

To put it mildly, things went downhill from there.

Read More

High

Young people in Indonesia are boiling women’s sanitary products (there’s a euphemism for you) and drinking the water.  Evidently it gets them high.  I am not making this up.  This is real.

This process is not safe; that fact probably does not take you by surprise.  But the illness that it reveals is far worse than any condition that might result.

Read More

Separating human myth from Bible fact

Jesus was almost certainly not born on December 25.  Shepherds watched over their flocks in the open fields, a la Luke 2:8, during the spring and summer, not the winter.  To keep such an arrangement during the cold of winter would be cruel to the sheep, let alone the shepherds.

Read More

Holiday coping mechanisms (some better than others)

Is the holiday season getting you down?  I mean, even more “down” than normal?  Do you instinctively head for the firearms section in your local Walmart when you hear yet another Christmas carol slaughtered by some boy band or country crooner?  Be of good cheer, citizen — there are a variety of remedies on the market.

Read More

Biscuits

In the latest installment of This Week on Facebook, I present a meme: “Just imagine how great life would be if biscuits and gravy made you skinny.”

       Well, sure.  But why stop there?  Let’s wish that video games increased our intelligence, or alcohol improved our driving, or pornography strengthened our marriages.  The only difference is, I’ve heard people actually argue the last three.  Not even kidding.

Here’s the report from planet earth, though: Good choices are frequently painful choices, and indulgent choices are rarely good choices.  I am no stoic, but I must decry the rampant hedonism in our culture that has been sold to us as a tonic for what ails us.

Medicine tastes bad.  Exercise hurts.  Work wears you out.  And yes, tragically, healthy food is less appetizing than fattening, artery-clogging food.  Frankly, we should be highly suspicious when someone tries to tell us different.

But we do have a tendency to believe “information” that supports our indulgences.  Most of my brethren who have tried to get around the clear teaching of Matthew 19:6 and Matthew 19:9, for instance, have a divorce and remarriage situation very close to home.  The truth does not always hurt, granted; however, it doesn’t become less truthful when it does hurt.

God’s word is truth (John 17:17).  Our current understanding of it may or may not be truth.  We owe it to ourselves to be honest — painfully honest.  If it means giving up a tasty morsel or two, so be it.

 

Read More

Dumplings

I frustrated Tracie for years over chicken and dumplings — a high-carb dish that, sadly, no longer occupies a place at the top of my requests list.  (Don’t let that deter you, ladies of the church; I will break whatever dietary rules I must at your respective houses.  It’s just the kind of guy I am.)

Tracie’s dumplings, you see, never suited. And she tried everything.

Read More

Heaven or hell: You choose

In heaven you will find holiness; in hell you will find wickedness and impurity (Revelation 22:14-15).

       In heaven you will find those who obeyed the gospel; in hell you will find those who did not (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).

       In heaven you will find Jesus (John 14:3); in hell you will find the devil and his agents (2 Peter 2:4).

 

Read More

Trending

The word “trending” has gone through an interesting metamorphosis in the social media generation.  Used to be, something was “trending up” or “trending down,” depending on whether one was discussing (respectively) butter or margarine, cauliflower or broccoli rabe.

Now things are just “trending.”   It is as though the quality of an item or topic is irrelevant; all that matters is that people are talking about it.  It’s the new version of “no publicity is bad publicity,” I guess.

Read More

Who is my brother?

One of my Facebook “friends” (actually a complete stranger to me — social media makes for odd relationships) posted the following last week: “Don’t you dare tell me who I can call my brothers and sisters in Christ!  That is way above your pay grade!”

I was tempted to respond, “Is it above yours?”

Read More

You are what you eat

Perhaps you have heard of “food deserts.”  The term refers to places where people have limited (or less) access to grocery stores and other sources of healthy food.  Now there are “food swamps” — that is, where food is plentiful, just not nourishing.  Food swamps feature lots of gas stations, fast-food joints, and other places that promote obesity and bad eating habits.  No farmer’s markets or kale smoothie shops, though.

Studies differ with regard to whether proximity to grocery stores is actually an indicator of general health.  (They sell Snickers bars at Publix, you know.)  But there’s certainly a case to be made that the food’s quality may be as much a factor as its availability.

“Food” is relative — whether the food is carnal or spiritual.  We can pat ourselves on the back all we want for “going to church” or even “reading the Bible.”  But if we are not nourishing our spirits, what good is any of it?  A preacher who does not “preach the word” (2 Timothy 2:2), substituting human philosophy and personal opinions, may be doing more harm than good.  Reading for five minutes just to say you did it, without an eye for application or contextual understanding, may be feed a sense of “fullness” that is completely misleading.

With that in mind, consider the following spiritual nutrition tips:

Read More

What costume do you wear?

I will be honest with you — I don’t get Halloween.  I mean no disrespect to those who consider it their favorite holiday, and I know there are some who do.  I don’t think every child in a mask is a Satanist.  In the devil’s world there are plenty of legitimate bogeymen to chase; I see no need to imagine any extra ones.

Read More

The Beastly Human

It is no wonder that a society that tells its citizens constantly that they are no better than the animals — indeed, no different from them — winds up seeing those same citizens act like animals.  Why wouldn’t they? How could we reasonably expect anything else?

As Christians, we hope and expect humans to rise above the animal world. Animals can be trained, after all.  Why not humans?  But culture wins over holiness, time after time. And thus we see headline after headline, proclaiming in grotesque detail how degraded a culture bereft of God can become.

Read More

Map

My good friend Brad Sullivan showed me the road to the preacher getaway to which I have made extensive reference recently in this space.  But I needed to leave the event early, so I drove home alone.  And I got lost.  As in, I didn’t know which road to get on, what direction to go, or even where to find a decent WiFi signal so my phone could educate me properly.

I needed a map. 

Read More

Gather

When a bunch of preachers gather in a single area, they tend strongly to discuss the things of the Spirit.  Perhaps that is simply to “fit in.”  Perhaps it is to demonstrate our credibility in spiritual matters. Perhaps it is simply because it is what everyone else is doing.  In any case, we look more like preachers when preachers are the only ones in the room.

That can be a result of hypocrisy, and in some instances it probably is.  Maybe some are just going through the motions to blend in with people they admire.  Maybe that’s what I do.  But I like to believe, …

Read More