Screenshot 2019-03-06 at 10.41.29 AMIf you don’t know about the recent special session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, the issues at hand nor the potential for that denomination to split, I’m going to assume it’s because you have been trying to avoid hearing about it. I’m not even going into it here. I suspect you either know all you want to and more or you are really trying hard not to find out.

I only bring it up because one of my friends posted a link to Facebook last week and one his friends, that I do not know, went off on a tangent about denominations. He first denounced the Methodist Church for even having a vote on such an issue then denounced all denominations across the board referring to the practice of denominationalism. What does he even mean by that? Continue reading

What Shall We Do?

Peter preaches In the first chapter of Acts, Jesus told the Apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the promise. He then ascended to Heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father. In Acts 2 they were gathered in one place and the Holy Spirit filled the entire house. Each one filled with the Spirit began to speak in tongues, and they went out into the streets of Jerusalem. This event is known as Pentecost and is still celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday. Some in the crowd that day objected that the Apostles were merely drunk and Peter responded with a turning point sermon in the history of the church.

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Is Baptism Required for Salvation?

Ron Boatwright wrote this webpage, arguing that without baptism one is not saved, and then sent me an e-mail asking me to read it and tell him what I thought.

From the website:  Jesus says in Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned“.  But just as 1+1=2, Jesus says belief + baptism = saved.  One needs help to misunderstand Jesus.  How much clearer could Jesus have said it?  Jesus placed both belief and baptism prior to being saved.

What Jesus said and what Boatwright claims he said are not the same.  Jesus lumps believing and baptism together as almost one single activity – he who believes and is baptized.  What Jesus says next is “He who does not believe will be condemned.”  Not believing equates with condemnation (hell).  In Mark 16:15 Jesus had told the disciples to preach the gospel to every living creature.  Those who believe that message, and are consequently baptized, will be saved.  Rejecting the gospel is what sends non-believers to hell, not refusing baptism.  If this were the case Jesus might have also said “He who believes but is not baptized will be condemned.”  He didn’t say that.  Jesus does not equate belief and baptism as being essential to salvation, but he is assuming belief and baptism are a package deal. Continue reading

From the Mouths of Babes

Our daughter Johannah is 26 months.  This past Sunday she looks at the mural behind our baptistry and says “Jesus is taking a bubble bath.”

It was adorable at the time, perhaps because a bubble bath is the only kind of bath she knows about.  It took me three days to realize she can recognize pictures of Jesus when she sees them.  Wow.

The Gospel of the Old Testament

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the Gospels in that they tell the story of the life of Jesus.  Jesus preaches in Mark 1 “repent and believe in the gospel.”  More than those four books, gospel means good news.  Jesus died for our sins; he is the way, the truth and the life; he brings the New Covenant, and we are no longer under the Law; all things things are part of the gospel message.  Paul says the Law is bad news; it cannot make us righteous, only more guilty.  But there is more to the Old Testament than the Law, and it’s not all bad news.

The Bible has many stories and characters, but only one message.  (Have you read this?)  The Old Covenant was about keeping the Law and bearing the mark of circumcision.  Paul has many analogies about the difference between the Law and the Gospel; the Gospel brings life, the Law only brings death.  But my point is that there is plenty of good news in the Old Testament as well.  It is part of God’s message. Continue reading

Baptism and Re-Baptism

There’s a story in 1 Samuel about the Israelites carrying the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them.  They had beaten by the Philistines and wanted a rematch.  So they carried the Ark with them into battle so that, in their own words, “it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.”  Rather than asking God to save them they thought “it” would save them.  They confused the symbol with the thing it represented.  The symbol is not the thing.* Continue reading

Bible Survey: The Covenant of Circumcision

Here’s the deal: it’s been one year since I started Bible Survey, and I have now posted 10 times.  I refuse to quit.  Bible Survey is a project that I’m working on in addition to blogging theology, working full time in the ministry and being a husband/father in my family.  The goal is to work systematically through the Bible not doing a verse by verse commentary but an overview of the major points.  There’s a lot of important business in the Bible dealing with Abraham and his family (that’s right; I’m still in the first 25 chapters of Genesis) but afterwards I think the pace will really take off.  I’m hanging in there; I have the rest of my natural life or until Christ comes back.  Whichever.

In Genesis 17, God gives Abraham the covenant of circumcision.  If you don’t know what circumcision is, I’m afraid this post doesn’t get that plain.  If you’ve always wondered exactly what God is doing and what circumcision means, I think I can help with that.  What’s the purpose for circumcision?  Should Christians be circumcised?  What’s the difference between Abram and Abraham?  What does the name Clark mean?  No, really.  All of these answers and more when you follow this link to Bible Survey.