Who can be saved? That is a question Christians have sought to answer for millennia (Mark 10:26). When Cornelius and his house received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-45), God provoked a major controversy within the church. Can uncircumcised Gentiles inherit the Kingdom of God? “Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’” (Acts 15:1). It’s amazing how many times preachers of the good news of Christ try to prohibit God’s outpouring of grace. For some Jewish believers, confession in Christ and baptism (water and Spirit) were not sufficient. To their way of thinking, to be saved the Greeks must become Jews. Peter witnessed the Spirit’s outpouring upon the Gentiles, and the Spirit had prepared him through a visionary experience (Acts 10:9-16). Peter declared, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35).
This book should be required reading for every ministerial candidate. I have read dozens of good books on conflict resolution in the church, but none better than Firestorm. The narrative style makes the principles of conflict resolution accessible to all readers. Ron Susek’s story of Pastor Steven Gates and Central Baptist Church is the narrative in which Susek weaves much pastoral wisdom. The presentation is so straightforward that a pastor, or church leader, could easily use this material for sermons or training church leadership.
We have watched with anger and horror the events throughout the Muslim world this past week – riots and terrorist attacks on September 11. Americans have been targeted, attacked and killed. I am deeply concerned about the radicalization of Islam throughout the world. I fear that we will face this conflict for decades to come.
On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, I was sitting in class at Pentecostal Theological Seminary. During a break, someone told me that a jet had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers. At that point I thought, “What a terrible accident.” Later, back in class, someone interrupted the class to announce that the Pentagon had been attacked. We were still in the dark, but we knew a horrible tragedy was occurring. Classes were dismissed and the entire student body gathered in the chapel to pray. Later, someone brought a television to the student center and we all gathered to watch the events. It was there that I saw the towers fall.
The story of the kings of Israel offers to us a powerful reminder of the corruption of politics. After a period of rule by heroic judges and prophets, the people of Israel cried out, “Give us a king!” (1 Samuel 8:6). The desire for a king was nothing less than a subtle form of idolatry. “The Lord said to Samuel, ‘…they have rejected Me from being king over them…’” (1 Samuel 8:7f). Beginning at Mt. Sinai, the people of Israel often flirted with the pseudo-gods of Egypt and Canaan. Their desire for a king was a rejection of the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Following the words of the Lord, Samuel warned the people that a royal dynasty would be oppressive and corrupt and then he anointed Saul as king over Israel.