Thoughts on Bible prophecy: reading the future in Scripture

I just led a Sunday School class on the eighth chapter of Daniel. It got me thinking about Bible prophecy and what it means when prophecies are fulfilled. Just what are we supposed to learn from goats and rams with weird-looking horns that turn out to mean something that even Daniel could make no sense of? This chapter seems to have been entirely fulfilled by the reign of Syrian king Antiochus IV in the second century B.C. Or was it? Does it also refer to the final Antichrist? Can we find clues of what is still ahead for the world?

Twenty-five years ago, when I watched a lot of Christian television, I caught two consecutive shows on Bible prophecy.… Read the rest

The unchanging sign: it’s not in the zodiac

Here in the US, anyway, society is abuzz with the news about everyone’s zodiac sign. The position of the earth has changed relative to that of the stars over the past 3,000 years. According to relationship of the sun and twelve constellations in the original astrological charts , everyone’s astrological sign is off by a month. Apparently Geminis are now Tauruses or something like that. It appears to be a matter of hot debate whether anyone’s signs have really changed.

Why does anyone care about zodiac signs? Simply because according to astrology the relationship among the earth, sun, moon, stars, and other planets at someone’s birth determines that person’s character and fate.… Read the rest

How to eat the Bread of life

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. . . If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” His audience of devout Jews grumbled. So did his disciples, so much so that some of them stopped following him (John 6:66). It’s still a disturbing thought, but for the Christian, the obvious application of this metaphor is communion. Jesus said the bread is his body and the wine is his blood.

Jesus compared his claim to the manna in the desert, except that everyone who ate that food eventually died. Yet Paul makes it clear that the manna was spiritual food, as well as physical food.… Read the rest

Hearing the voice of God

Back in the mid ’80s I had an apartment in what used to be a storefront. My door opened directly onto the sidewalk. One winter it snowed a lot, and there was a stretch of several days when there was just a deep puddle during the day, then at night it would freeze. I didn’t know what my liability was, but I didn’t want to be responsible for someone slipping on the ice and breaking a hip or something.

I felt kind of helpless. There’s not much you can do about either a puddle or a sheet of ice with a cheap snow shovel.… Read the rest

Thoughts on the bread of life: you are what you eat

Photo by John Snyder - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Photo by John Snyder – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

What happens when we eat, say, a piece of bread?

  1. Most foods are not bite-sized, so we have to cut it up, tear it apart, or bite off a chunk.
  2. When we put it in our mouth, we chew it. That breaks it up even more.
  3. We digest it in our stomach and intestines, breaking it up very thoroughly.

From there, it enters the bloodstream and is carried to every cell in our body.

On the last evening of his earthly life, Jesus broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take.… Read the rest

Identifying and dealing with false teachers

Besides his  epistles to churches, Paul wrote four of them to to three individuals: Philemon, Timothy, and Titus. 1 Timothy begins with a warning about false teachers. These are not just men who somehow disagreed with Paul. They taught things that could only drive a wedge between the people who believed them and the grace of God.

Sound doctrine enables righteous people to remain righteous. Righteousness does not come through anyone’s own effort. It is a gift that we can receive only by faith. The law is like a medicine to apply when the moral nature is diseased.

Some people, with no understanding of righteousness by faith, and no interest in understanding, taught that Christians can only be righteous by following every detail of the Mosaic law.… Read the rest

Strength in teamwork

“Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him, and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” — Ecclesiastes 4:12

As John Wesley frequently said, “The New Testament knows nothing of solitary Christianity. The Scriptures refuse to believe that there could be such a thing as un-churched Christian.” God expects Christians to meet together, but even more than that, he encourages teamwork. That’s one way that they get the strength to carry out work for the kingdom.

Sometimes two seemingly unrelated incidents in Scripture can shed light on the meaning of a third. Paul’s experience in Athens and Jesus’ preparations for  his last visit to Jerusalem may seem unrelated, but they both illustrate the truth of the quotation from Ecclesiastes about strength in teamwork.… Read the rest

The flood: grace and judgment on display

Here’s the quickie narrative of the flood that almost everyone knows: God made people and got mad at them, so he decided to wipe them out. He liked one fellow, though, so he made him build an ark and collect pairs of animals. Everyone else drowned, but when the floodwaters subsided, the few people and animals on the ark repopulated the earth.

On the surface, that sound like overkill. I mean, surely there must have been some nice folks that died along with the bad guys, right?  To many people who understand only that much of the story, God must be some kind of angry, capricious monster–at least until gentle Jesus meek and mild came along.… Read the rest

Pentecost

In the Old Testament, Pentecost was the offering of first fruits, a memorial of the establishment of the Mosaic  Covenant. Along with Passover and Tabernacles, it was one of three times during which the Law required Jewish men to present themselves at the Sanctuary.

By New Testament times, hardly anyone was able to get to Jerusalem for all three festivals. The largest number of foreigners came for Pentecost (Greek, by the way, for “fiftieth,” because it started fifty days from Passover).

The year of our Lord’s death and resurrection, Pentecost began ten days after the Ascension. The disciples had been waiting in Jerusalem for the promised empowerment of the Holy Spirit.Read the rest

The tree of grace and judgment in Romans

The book of Romans, Paul’s most systematic statement of theology, moves step by step from the universality of sin in the first two chapters through the marvelous statement of what it means to be free of sin in chapter eight. His basic argument continues most logically in chapter twelve, but he interrupts it for an important but parenthetical discussion of the judgment of the Jews.

Near the end of that parenthesis, having concluded that Israel’s rejection of Christ and God’s consequent rejection of Israel are neither total nor final, Paul introduces the analogy of an olive tree.

Taking a branch from one tree and grafting it onto another is a common enough practice.… Read the rest