Dietrich Bonhoeffer (February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism. He was involved in plots planned by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He was arrested in March 1943, imprisoned and eventually hanged, just before the end of the Second World War in Europe. I have lately been enjoying Bonhoeffer’s classic work The Cost of Discipleship, written at the height of his conflict with Nazi ideology and with the compromising German church.
Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity (1 Corinthians 16:12). Even our very best plans often meet with significant snags. Many variables can conspire to derail our plans, but one in particular often proves a great help or hindrance in our efforts: people. Planning would be so easy if it weren’t for other people with other opinions! Pastoring, marriage, child-rearing, and evangelism would all be a cinch if you just didn’t have to
There is a well-worn and pessimistic saying that the only things that are sure in life are death and taxes. And it certainly is true that life is full of uncertainties. Health can deteriorate in an instant. Even the most promising of careers can meet with disappointment. The best of plans can fall apart. And even after a lifetime of faithfulness, one temptation can catch us by surprise. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.
This beautiful, biblical description of a Christian comes from James Smith in 1856. As you read this pastor’s wise and insightful summary of the Christian life, prayerfully consider — not only whether these words describe you, but — how they may better describe you. May each of us as Christian believers learn Christ’s doctrines better, trust his promises better, and do his will better. If anyone is in Christ — he is a new creature:
Not long ago I was asked to give a biblical overview of “The Oneness of Humanity” at a Christian hip-hop album release party in Cincinnati. The more I thought about this subject, the more prominently I perceived it in Scripture. This issue is touched on all over the place in the Bible, but my task was to give a bird’s eye view of this topic, flying over it to hit some major points. I hope that sharing a brief outline of my message will be like the ravens that brought Elijah food; I hope it leaves you hungering for more
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1). With these words, the Apostle Paul challenges his young protégé, Timothy, not to grow weary or weak as he endures for the sake of the gospel and the church in Ephesus. The church at this time was experiencing heavy persecution from the Ephesian culture around it, which had little interest in the gospel. But the church was also facing pressure from inside in the form of false teachers. The church, and Timothy, was pressed on all sides.
In further preparation for and meditation toward Father’s Day, I share this outline from a January 2009 men’s breakfast. It is a sobering, awe-inspiring, standard-raising thing for God to say to us: “Be holy like I am holy.” The following includes just some of the many meditations that we might biblically derive from the call to be God-imitators:
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). Paul’s exhortation to be regularly testing the sincerity and purity of your own faith is not given in order to make you doubt your salvation every other day. Faith in Christ is exactly that: faith in Jesus’ finished work, not in our own faithfulness. However, we are to be regularly doing the hard work of honest self-appraisal.
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh” (Jonah 1:1-2). God spoke plainly to Jonah and instructed him to visit the capital city of Israel’s enemies with a message of repentance and, ultimately, grace. Yet Jonah refused. Why did Jonah — and why do we still today, as recipients of the Great Commission — disobey God?
Give us each day our daily bread (Luke 11:3). (We continue today in our brief series on the Lord’s Prayer.) The opening requests that Jesus models for us are about God — so like God they are majestic, huge, and inspiring. A lesson Jesus clearly means for us to learn in this prayer is that God comes first, and only when God is first does everything else matter or fall into place. However, the following pleas that Jesus himself places in our mouth are about us — and like us they are daily, mundane, unspectacular.
“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it“ (1 Corinthians 3:10). Paul emphasizes over and over again that his labors were “according to the grace of God.” In other words, we can only do what God enables us to do. We are only as strong or skillful or successful as God’s grace working in and through us. Have we been blessed to persevere in Christian service for several years or decades? We are
Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding. (Proverbs 9:6) It is interesting how these two things go together: 1) forsaking foolishness, and 2) living wisely. In order to pursue the way of truth, the way of understanding, you must forsake the company of foolish companions. You can’t have both. You can’t go in the way of understanding, and also keep your foolish friends close by. “Forsake the foolish and live,” and in forsaking the foolish, “go in the way of understanding.” To pursue wise ways of living, you must—you must—forsake the company and counsel of
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13). The whole phrase “act like men” comes from one Greek word, basically taking the noun for “men” and turning it into a verb, i.e. “Be men,” or “Man up!” It is a peppy, catchy phrase, but what does it mean? What is Paul specifically wanting us to do, as a result of this command? What does it mean in biblical terms, to “man up”?
David Brainerd observed, “The idea that everything would happen exactly as it does regardless of whether we pray or not is a specter that haunts the minds of many who sincerely profess belief in God. It makes prayer psychologically impossible, replacing it with dead ritual at best.” The answer to the question “Does prayer make a difference?” is definitely, “Yes!”. But let’s consider how and why the Bible teaches us that prayer matters so much.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Nothing could be more purely practical than this passage, this claim by Jesus! Yes, it is a theological claim, but it should be far more than another point of orthodoxy for us as Christians.