The Prostitute, the Pharisee, and the Prophet

matt261.jpgIt looked like another night of degradation, of providing sexual favors to men who’d preach her into hell the following Shabbat—men who enjoyed her presence at night but denied knowing her by day. Miriam hated her life and was beginning to hate herself.

As she walked to her usual spot, she saw two women rushing toward the home of Simon the Pharisee. She could just barely hear them talking. “Simon has invited Jesus of Nazareth to dinner! They say this Jesus can do miracles! Some say he’s a prophet,” the first one said.

“That’s nothing,” her companion said. “He even forgives sins. At least he says he does.”

“You mean, like John the Baptist? Will he baptize us?” Continue reading

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The Church Treasury, Judas, and Jesus’ Money Bag: A Parable

collection.jpgIt was perhaps the most well-attended elders and deacons meeting ever. The elders had called the meeting to discuss building a new church building, and everyone wanted to participate in such a momentous decision.

There was no choice but to relocate. The city had condemned the building for an interstate extension and had paid very well for the church’s lot and building. Continue reading

Entertainment, Applause, and Worship

Angel with harpRecently, we received a complaint that something we were experimenting with at church is wrong because it’s “entertainment. This is not surprising. Many Church periodicals have taken to condemning various practices on the grounds that the practice is entertainment, as though the Bible somewhere makes entertainment a sin. I suppose you can’t sell a magazine unless you have something to harp on. Surely, though, we could find something to write about that’s actually in the Bible. Continue reading

Advice for Two New Elders

ShepherdWell, we ordained two new elders today—poor guys. I was supposed to join them for lunch today and offer some words of advice, but my old nemesis, kidney stones, intervened to keep that from happening.

During those few hours when I was abuzz with narcotics, my mind was filled with brilliant words of wisdom, but as I descended from my high, the ideas seem less worth repeating. Oh well …

I can’t say that a mere three years of eldering have given all the answers. They most certainly haven’t. Still, a few ideas may be worth sharing— Continue reading

Lord of the Sabbath

bible.jpgI’m teaching a class on Luke and this is the next passage. It’s not an immediately transparent passage, at least not to me.

(Luke 6:1-10) One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. 2 Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” 3 Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 5 Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Continue reading

James, Faith, and Works

grace.jpgFor reasons I can’t really explain, I’m just fascinated by Church of Christ listservs. I’m endlessly fascinated by the discussions that take place. Some are really quite insightful, even brilliant. Others are just a little odd, even worrisome.

One of the recurring themes in these discussions is our insistence on hanging our doctrine of salvation on James’ teaching that faith without works is dead. It’s as though we can recite this incantation and magically all of Paul’s theology just evaporates. Suddenly, because we said the magic James-words, Paul no longer teaches salvation by faith, not works. Continue reading

Martin Luther, John Calvin, Faith Only, and Baptism

grace.jpgWe in the Churches of Christ often resist the idea of being saved by “faith only,” as stated in the classic Reformation formulation, for fear of denying the necessity of baptism. Indeed, many who take a Calvinistic view of baptism, such as the Southern Baptists, like to argue that making baptism the event at which salvation occurs by the blood of Christ turns baptism into a “work,” which cannot be necessary to salvation.

This is one of those cases where both sides are wrong. The Baptists are wrong in calling baptism a work. The Churches of Christ are wrong in insisting that we are saved by faith plus works. Continue reading