Judgment, grace, and natural disasters

Earthquake damaged houseRecord drought in California. Record flooding in Louisiana. Earthquake in Italy. Insurance companies call these and other natural disasters “acts of God.”

Is God trying to tell us something?

Someone, it seems, always comes out of the woodwork to say that a particular disaster God’s judgment on—take your pick—homosexuality, abortion, taking prayer out of schools, or whatever other issue riles them.

It’s not.

Read the rest

Sanctification: Perfection in Christ

Worship service--sanctificationThe story of Job begins with the statement that he was blameless and upright. That’s NIV. KJV has “perfect” for “blameless.”

As I pondered that, I wondered, who else does Scripture describe in that way? King Asa of Judah, for one. And that sets the bar awfully low.

So what does it mean that Asa was blameless (or perfect)? And what does Asa have to do with Christian perfection and sanctification?

Read the rest

Justification: by grace or works?

Saint Paul

Saint Paul / Bartolomeo Montagna (1481)

Does the Bible contain contradictions? It can appear so.

Paul wrote, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28), and a few lines later, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God” (Romans 4:2).

James, on the other hand, wrote, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? . . . You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:21, 24).… Read the rest

The grace in God’s disturbing acts

StormMany people draw comfort from favorite Bible verses. But what are we supposed to make of verses that aren’t comforting at all? Especially when they appear nestled among some of the grandest promises in Scripture?

In the Bible open on my desk as I write this post, Psalm 104 is titled “Praise to the Sovereign Lord for His Creation and Providence.” It extols God for creating the world and every living thing upon it. It describes in loving detail how he cares tenderly for all the birds and animals—which, it says, he made for the service of humanity.

But that psalm is not sweetness and light from beginning to end.… Read the rest

Lessons on God’s grace from the potter

God told Jeremiah, “Go down to the potter’s house, and I will give you my message there” (Jeremiah 18:2, NCV). Today if you go to a potter, you will probably see him or her working on a potter’s wheel operated with an electric motor. Before the invention of electric motors, potters at a wheel operated a treadle with their feet.

The technology doesn’t matter. The wheel doesn’t matter. Then as now, the potter formed the clay with his hands. He started to make something and was not happy with how it turned out. He crushed the clay back into a ball, but instead of making the same thing, he decided to make something else.… Read the rest

God is our husband


Over the past several decades, the church has become embarrassed over the fact that almost exclusively male imagery—and exclusively masculine pronouns—have always been used to refer to God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). In our day and age, how are women supposed to relate to male deity at every turn? The same way men ought to relate: God is our husband. In Scriptural imagery, God is masculine to the extent that all of creation is feminine to him. God is male to the extent that all creation is female to him. Rewriting hymns and traditional prayers and retranslating the Bible into gender-neutral forms does not broaden our understanding of God.… Read the rest

Beatitudes vs Ten Commandments



Quiet contemplation--beatitudes, ten commandments

A large store posted its core values where everyone could see them. They included friendliness and good customer service, but one clerk was providing particularly surly and reluctant service.

When a customer pointed out, as gently as he could, that she was not living up to those core values, she snapped that she considered them as just words on paper.

The Beatitudes are the core values of the church. There is probably no other passage in the New Testament that is so widely known and admired.

Some people even hold them up as the be all and end all of Christianity.… Read the rest

Wages you don’t want to collect


“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). God’s judgment says that all have sinned, so all will die. God’s grace says that whoever puts faith in the work of Jesus will live forever. God’s final judgment will result in a second death for those who refuse his grace (Revelation 20:14). All will die the death of the body, but those who refuse God’s grace will also suffer the death of the spirit in the lake of fire.

How many hundreds or thousands of sermons have been preached on those texts trying to scare the hell out of people? But that is not my intent.… Read the rest

New life on both sides of the grave


Christians look forward to the resurrection of the dead, as promised through Jesus’ own resurrection. What about the resurrection of the living? How many of us go through life doing the same things, including making the same mistakes, over and over? Someone has observed that a rut is nothing but a coffin with the ends knocked out. Just as there is new life after physical death, so is there new life after stagnation. Lazarus died physically, but we can take his death and rising from death as a metaphor for reawakening to new life after a period of spiritual slumber.

When Lazarus became deathly ill, his sisters sent for Jesus.… Read the rest

What I have learned about the readers of Grace and Judgment

I have been writing Grace and Judgment since October 2009, so 2010 marks the first complete calendar year of its existence. I will be studying statistics for the year carefully to see how I can build on the blog’s successes and improve on the weaknesses I discover. Meanwhile, I will use a post to share what I have learned about the people who read it, to introduce you to each other.

People have visited Grace and Judgment from 57 different countries representing every inhabited planet on Earth. Almost 58% of traffic comes from search engines, 30% from referring sites, and the rest from direct traffic, which I understand includes people’s bookmarks.… Read the rest