I’m an Australian-born, Anglo-Irish, white male of a secular background. I have no reason to regret any of these characteristics as none of them were by my conscious choice. Nevertheless, on occasions I’ve felt embarrassed and even ashamed of some of these features. On my way to Britain, in late 1968, to attend university, I stopped for several days in South Africa. I was confronted with apartheid in its extreme form.
Peter was a man close to the earth. Because of his fishing background, he stated things plainly and was not afraid to say what needed to be said. And after denying Jesus, it seems that he was empowered to peel back the layers and reveal the heart of the matter. We see this at the sermon of Pentecost (Acts 2), and we see it in his epistle.
As far as I can tell, it happened only six times in the Bible. For God to personally name a mortal is a rare and significant event. In the Hebrew culture, names of children were usually indicative of either the time in history when they were born or wishes for the development of their character. Later, the use of family names became more common. When God chose to give a particular name to someone, it seems to have been a response to a specific event or issue in his life as well as an object lesson for the rest of us.
In the second grade, we had a standing assignment to write a “morning story,” a short story about whatever we did the night before, that we would read to the class the following morning. I dreaded that assignment; instead of writing about what I did, I would write about what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go. This frustrated my teacher to no end. He was so frustrated that he called my mother in for a parent-teacher conference.
I had been warned. Her husband was the church organist, so she naturally sympathized with his views on what was appropriate church music. I was a relatively new pastor, and one day she handed me a cartoon she had clipped out of a magazine. It depicted a white-robed saint amidst fluffy clouds, but this saint, newly arrived in heaven, looked baffled and confused because he did not know where to plug in his synthesizer. And that was just the point—there would not be any synthesizers in heaven. Reflecting on the source of the cartoo
What is the difference between a gift and a present?
This is the question that I have been asking myself for the past several years, every time my birthday or the holidays roll around. It is the question that exasperates my loved ones as they try to give me gifts.
Here is my own personal definition: presents are something that I have specifically requested. I would like this shirt at Macy’s. I would like that item on Amazon. When the designated gift-giving day rolls around, I get to enjoy the present that I chose.
May God Himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ.
—1 Thessalonians 5:23, The Message
I have a confession to make: I get itchy when I hear the word "holiness."
I seem to feel fine when I hear about the holiness of God, the Holy Spirit, that our God is a holy God, but when it comes to ascribing holiness to people, then I get itchy.