Perry Paulding 's Articles

Sorry, Not Sorry: The Merits and Limits of Apologetics


 

How useful are apologetics in convincing someone about the truth of the gospel?


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Women Are Made in God’s Image, Too


 

But you wouldn’t know it by how we treat them.


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Feel Your Worth: How Christmas Anticipates the End of Futility


 


Editor’s note: Yes, Thanksgiving is still a day away. But Advent begins Sunday, November 27, along with our Christmas sermon series. Pastor Perry Paulding gives us a preview of what to expect over the next few weeks.


Three thousand years ago, the wisest man who ever lived (Solomon) despaired at the utter futility of life “under the sun.” I’m tempted to do the same. For example, just yesterday, after an hour of attempting to blow out my sprinkler, I had to concede defeat and call in an “expert.” A single, two-second “trick” would have saved me 40 bucks. A couple years ago, one of my noble attempts to get healthy and save some money backfired and landed me in the ER with an $8,000 bill. I could write a book on futility. It abounds. Does the gospel offer us any concrete hope that we can escape the stifling sense of vanity that plagues our daily lives?

Futility is part of the curse. We know that when Christ returns, Revelation 22:3 says, “. . . there shall no longer be any curse.” But what about now? 1 Peter 1:18 offers us some hope:

 

“. . . knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers . . .” (1 Peter 1:18)

 

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Relationship Status: Do We Really Have a “Personal Relationship” with Jesus?


 


Being a relational creature, I had to wrestle with a popular phrase that came to my attention very early on in my Christian journey. To this day, it is used like bait for the spiritually hungry and emphasizes a dimension of experiential faith that stodgy religion rarely even acknowledges. You won’t find this phrase in the Bible. The concept is there but its connotations have elevated our expectations so high that we can actually succumb to frustration, disappointment and even despair.

So what is this tantalizing carrot-on-a-stick that seems to have trumped all other benefits of the gospel—including eternal life itself? It’s the popular phrase, “My personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Humanity craves spiritual experience like I crave a stout, French-pressed dark roast on a crisp fall morning. It’s why saints throughout the ages have employed stained glass and statues, icons and artwork, candles and incense in order to heighten their sensory “connection” with the divine. In contrast, unassisted faith in God’s word can seem drab, cognitive and unsatisfying. There is nothing inherently wrong with subjective experience but it can easily morph from means to end. Is this “personal relationship” really an orthodox summary of what is offered us in the gospel or is it a therapeutic placebo, catering to a culturally conditioned version of Christianity?

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You're Starving and Not Just for Dinner: On Feasting through Fasting


 


“One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet” (Proverbs 27:7).

How often I’ve experienced this! Hunger enhances our ability to enjoy food—both physically and spiritually. Many of my most inspiring biblical insights and encouragements have come from being so engrossed in Scripture, that I unintentionally skipped meals.

Physical hunger is a powerful motivator. It is also a fitting illustration of the intense level of desire we should have for God, his word and his will. Sometimes, however, we experience difficulty sustaining a fervent desire for the things of God. It happens to the best of us.

What are we to do when the spiritual feast that is set before us loses its attraction? The same as if it was a literal feast: We allow hunger to work in our favor until the feast is once again enticing. Fasting has a marvelous ability to strip us of worldly affections, distractions and dullness of heart. It’s not “fun” in itself, but it can lead to a richness of intimacy and satisfaction.

This may seem paradoxical, but the Bible is full of such paradoxes.

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