Moses / Michelangelo
We Christians love God. We sing of our love for God in hundreds of hymns and praise choruses. But have you ever thought about what it is about him you love?
Somehow, I suspect many Christians would come up with a long list before they ever echoed the psalmist:
Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandments have made me wiser than my enemies,
for they are continually with me. – Psalm 119:97-98 ( all references from MEV)
I have no idea how many times I read past that verse before I noticed a problem: It’s easy to love promises and attributes.… Read the rest
Scripture is like food for the spirit. There are different kinds of foods. Some may be more pleasant than others.
The Paul (1 Corinthians 3:2) and writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 5:12) told their readers that they weren’t mature enough for meat, so they had to feed them milk.
Daniel didn’t want to make himself unclean with the world’s meat, so he ate only vegetables for a time in his youth (Daniel 1:12). Does that seem like a strange choice?
… Read the rest
Jesus with a sword. 14th-century fresco, Monastery of the Ascension, Kosovo
Have you ever noticed that Jesus can be downright offensive?
Even many people who don’t claim to be Christian find Jesus very attractive. As a great moral teacher, he told some wonderful stories. He was always kind and compassionate to people in need. He “spoke truth to power” in taking on the religious establishment.
But then he says things like
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household’ [quoting Micah 7:6] – Matthew 10:34-36 (NIV)
How do Christians today respond to passages like that?… Read the rest
Joshua and the Israelite People / Korolingischer Buchmaler, ca. 840
A lot of atheists are deeply offended by the God they don’t believe exists.
He commanded Joshua and Israel to obliterate Canaanite civilization by killing every man woman and child within their promised boundaries. At least one has asked, “How is it possible to believe in a good God after reading the book of Joshua?”
Read the rest of the Bible!
God did not command Israel to commit genocide. He commanded Israel to execute capital punishment. Canaanite society finally disappeared from history at the hand of the expanding Babylonian empire centuries later.… Read the rest
Saint Matthias / workshop of Simone Martini, ca. 1318
There is a common teaching that God intended that there would be only 12 apostles. When Judas killed himself, Peter and the church chose Matthias to take his place, but later God overruled them and chose Paul. Then how come the New Testament names other men—and a woman—as apostles?
In order to believe the teaching that the appointment of Matthias was a mistake, it is necessary to believe that
- Peter acted impulsively, having been misled in his prayer and meditation on the Word as described in Acts 1.
- After Peter and the entire assembly prayed, the Holy Spirit allowed them to make a fundamental error and start the whole church on the wrong foot.
… Read the rest
The clemency of Cyrus / Jean Fouquet, ca. 1470-1475.
For the past 150 years or so, some so-called biblical scholars have assumed that everything has a natural explanation, that the supernatural cannot be real, and that therefore the prophets of old could not possibly have predicted the future. In a recent post, Idolatry and redemption today, I mentioned a temporary redemption that came through the Persian emperor Cyrus, as predicted in Isaiah 44.
He reversed the long-standing Assyrian/Babylonian policy of removing conquered peoples from their homeland. He ordered the restoration not only of Jerusalem, but every other identifiable ethnic group in his empire.… Read the rest
Ancient of Days / by William Blake
I have spent considerable time over the years studying the creation story and reading some of the various things that have been written about it.
From atheists to faculty at certain seminaries, a few criticisms of the Genesis account turn up constantly.
(A retired preacher friend of mine, who loves referring to preacher training schools as “cemeteries,” is among many who has trouble detecting much difference between atheists and cemetery professors.)
… Read the rest
Christ the Redeemer
Jesus looked at the law and turned traditional understanding of it on its ear. Is it any wonder that his apostles would do the same with the entire Old Testament? The book of Hebrews sets out to declare that Jesus is greater than the prophets, greater than angels, greater than temple worship, greater indeed than the best traditional Judaism had to offer.
Why? Because Jesus is Jehovah of the Old Testament, come in the flesh. I want to look at three of several psalms the inspired author quoted in the first two chapters.
… Read the rest
Pentecost / Josef Ignaz Mildorfer, 1750s
This past Sunday was Pentecost. It coincides with an ancient Hebrew festival, but the events of Acts 2 on a particular Pentecost right after Jesus rose from the dead marks the birthday of the church. Alas, the church is divided into various Orthodox, Coptic, Catholic, Protestant, and Pentecostal denominations, but we all have but one birthday.
“They,” probably the same 120 believers mentioned in Acts 1:15, gathered together in one place, and most certainly not for the first time. This group probably amounts to the first messianic synagogue. On Pentecost, Jesus baptized them with the Holy Spirit as he had promised.… Read the rest
North Carolina has just become the 30th state to enshrine the definition of marriage as one man and one woman in the state constitution. I am pleased by the outcome, but dismayed by the process and the rhetoric.
In the local newspaper, proponents and opponents of the marriage amendment lobbed scriptures back and forth as if a couple of verses settled the matter. That’s wrong for at least three reasons.
… Read the rest