Monday, January 28, 2008

Greed and grace

Have you ever noticed what poor businessmen God expected the Israelites to be? The Lord told them not to harvest the corners of their fields or to pick up the fruits and vegetables that fell on the ground (Lev. 19:9-10). That’s not the way to maximize profits, especially in the days before tractors and combines. The owner’s put his own money and sweat into that field. He’s taken the risk—why let someone else reap the fruit?

It’s the difference between greed and grace. One’s the way of business; the other’s the way of God.

(c) Copyright 2008, A. Milton Stanley

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Which kingdom?

“Let my people go.” Those words from God to the king of Egypt are some of the best known from the Bible. All kinds of folks—abolitionists, labor organizers, civil rights activists—have used them as a rallying call for getting out from under some kind of oppression.

But getting away is only half the story. The Israelites weren’t cut loose from Pharaoh so they could go running around on their own. They were freed from serving Pharaoh so they could begin serving the Lord. The Exodus wasn’t so much slaves breaking free from their master as it was a transfer from one master to another.

The same thing’s true today. No matter how much we think we’re on our own, we’ll always have a master, the one we’re ultimately serving. The big question is: which kingdom, and which king?

(c) Copyright 2008, A. Milton Stanley

Monday, January 21, 2008

Saints

We’ve all heard the word, but do we know what it really means? Saints are not necessarily the super-Christians, the spiritual elite. “Saints” literally means “the holy ones,” the ones set apart. The idea goes back to God’s instruction in Leviticus: “You be holy, for I am holy.” God is totally separate from sin and wants his people the same way.

Of course, there’s only one way to be a saint: in Christ. Saints are made holy by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. That means every Christian who believes in Christ, repents of sin and is baptized into his death and resurrection is a saint. In other words, saints are Christians—no more, no less.

God calls the ones he makes holy to live holy. A big part of Christian discipleship is learning that we are, really, saints, and that in Christ we have the power to live that way.

(c) Copyright 2008, A. Milton Stanley

Thursday, January 17, 2008

More on knowing God’s will

You can’t know God’s will without knowing God’s Word. You can’t know God’s Word without knowing God’s people. You can’t know God’s people without knowing God’s love. You can’t know God’s love without knowing God.

(c) Copyright 2008, A. Milton Stanley

Monday, January 14, 2008

Open doors?

Why do so many Christians think “open doors” are a sign of God’s will? You know what I’m talking about: you're wondering what to do and suddenly, there it is—an open door! No need to think any more, just walk on through the open door; it must be God's will, right? On second thought, I think I see the appeal: God makes the right way not only easy to see, but easy to walk.

Too bad the Bible paints a different picture. Think about Jonah, for example. He found some wide open doors in Joppa: a boat going in a direction he wanted, money to pay his way, calm seas, and a bunch of guys willing to take him on board. Only thing was, taking that boat was exactly opposite of what God wanted for Jonah. So the Lord closed a door or two to get Jonah’s attention.

If we can’t know God’s will by looking at open doors, what can we do? For a start, how about looking at that picture we just talked about?

(c) Copyright 2008, A. Milton Stanley

Thursday, January 10, 2008

It's hell

Reconciling the idea of a loving God and an eternal hell is an old problem. The Apostle Paul wrote about those who don’t obey the gospel: “They’ll suffer punishment, eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and the glory of his might” (2 Thess. 1:9). That sounds pretty unfair: suffering unlimited hell for choices made during a limited lifetime.

But is it really? When you think about it, aren’t the lost getting exactly what they’ve spent their lives trying to have—life without the encumbrance of God’s mastery. In a sense, hell is God’s way of giving the lost what they’ve wanted all along. Tragic, yes; unfair, no.


(c) Copyright 2008, A. Milton Stanley