What is “Contextualization”? What is “Syncretism”? Guidance from the Apostle Paul

Contextualization is putting the gospel into cultural forms that are easier for recipients to understand and receive without changing the gospel. Syncretism is mixing the gospel with false philosophical or religious ideas, resulting in the gospel message getting changed or substantially diluted. Contextualization is good and necessary. Syncretism is dangerous and should be avoided. Although … Continue reading What is “Contextualization”? What is “Syncretism”? Guidance from the Apostle Paul

What is a “Stronghold”? (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

“We pray against this stronghold…” Have you ever heard someone utter this line in prayer—or have you uttered it yourself? If you have ever used this expression, what did you mean when you used it? What is a “stronghold”? The answer to this question depends upon 1) whether you are trying to define the word … Continue reading What is a “Stronghold”? (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

“All Fall Short of the Glory of God.” But What is the “Glory of God”?

What is the meaning of “fall short of the glory of God” (ὑστεροῦνται τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ) in Romans 3:23? (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”)  It is not uncommon to hear people in our churches paraphrase this clause as falling short of God’s righteous standard. But where else does … Continue reading “All Fall Short of the Glory of God.” But What is the “Glory of God”?

“Authenticity”

Authenticity. Now there’s an important word in our generation. Young people are fed up with fakeness and sick of sham. Not long ago a youth pastor told me that the kids in his youth group preferred listening to unpolished or even stammering speakers whom they perceived as genuine over speakers who were slick but inauthentic. … Continue reading “Authenticity”

What Does the Word “Comfort” Mean in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7?

What do you think of when you hear the word “comfort”? I think of a flannel shirt I bought twenty years ago (and still sometimes wear!), the world’s softest feather pillow, or the elusive first-class seat I never get to enjoy on an airplane. What about the verb “comfort”? What comes to mind when you … Continue reading What Does the Word “Comfort” Mean in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7?

Life is Christ

“What do you want out of life?” The trained interviewer appeared relaxed—even casual—as she asked me this question, but I could tell she was intent on figuring out who I was. In the context of interviewing for a summer job at a local department store during my break from college, that only meant that she … Continue reading Life is Christ

Christian Hospitality

My wife is remarkably hospitable—far more than I. For ten straight years at her instigation, we invited all of my enrolled college students over every week during the academic year for dinner and spiritual conversation. (Fortunately, it never happened that they all showed up on the same evening. Whew!) We have scaled back a bit … Continue reading Christian Hospitality

When Have Been the Most Sorrowful Times of Your Life?

This probing question was asked me by a young man with whom I was spending regular mentoring times a few years ago. Now, I cannot answer the question for you today with specifics (though I tried to for my younger friend). But there is one insight about suffering that came out of that discussion that … Continue reading When Have Been the Most Sorrowful Times of Your Life?

Church Bells, Biblical Bells, and Redemption

In the Christian world, at least before the advent of modern telecommunications, church bells were the most common way of reminding Christians that a worship service was about to begin. But there is another kind of bell—a “bell that goes off in your head”—that is really useful when you read the Bible. For years I’ve … Continue reading Church Bells, Biblical Bells, and Redemption

What is an “Open Door”?

Not every door that appears to be is an open door. And not every door that appears to be closed is a closed door. Just because a ministry setting looks like it’s going to be hard doesn’t mean that it is a closed door. For the Apostle Paul, an open door was a God-given opportunity … Continue reading What is an “Open Door”?