Roman relief: sacrifice of bull. Now at the Antiques Museum, Royal Palace, Stockholm
Have you ever noticed that the world of the Bible is very different from our own society? Sometimes it can seem hard to relate to some of the topics.
But we’re not as far removed from the ancients as we like to think. After all, we’re human, too.
The church at Corinth sent Paul a letter with some questions. We can reconstruct them in the structure of 1 Corinthians.
Paul begins various sections with the phrase “now concerning.” In 1 Corinthians 8, it’s “Now concerning meat sacrificed to idols.”
It still matters.… Read the rest
Light of the World / William Holden Hunt (1853)
Do good people go to heaven? No. There aren’t any! Only redeemed people go to heaven, and we’re redeemed only through knowing Jesus.
It takes more than going to church. It takes more than acknowledging Jesus as a historical figure. The living Christ is a real person. He is active in the world—and in the life of every individual.
He does not appear to our physical senses. We can neither see him, touch him, nor hear the sound of his voice. How can we know that we know him?
The Bible has a simple answer: “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3, NASB).… Read the rest
Have you ever felt unfit to stand before God?
If so, you’re absolutely right. You are unfit. We’re all unfit to stand before God, but he invites us anyway.
The prophet Zechariah had a beautiful vision of God’s gracious response to the unworthiness we can do nothing about (Zechariah 3:1-5).
It begins with Joshua, the high priest, standing before God, with Satan ready to accuse him.
The accuser cleared his throat and God rebuked him before he could utter a syllable. The name “Satan” means accuser, but he can’t make his accusations stick before God. Apparently, God won’t even let him utter them in his presence.… Read the rest
How does a person find God? Someone suggested it’s like leading them into a dark room and encouraging them to find a light switch on the wall.
I have some experience going into total darkness and finding the switch, but I’ll only enter if I know where the switch is. Can a believer tell or show someone else where the switch is?
I think that’s the wrong question. God is the light of the world. There is no darkness in him, and he is not in darkness.
Where, then, does darkness come from? The simple answer is that darkness comes from Satan, and if people are looking for a switch, then the switch must be the light of God in a believer.… Read the rest
Light of the World / William Holden Hunt (1853)
What does it mean to be a Christian? It means much more than going to church and trying to be a good person. In fact, it means acknowledging that we can’t be a good person on our own. We need Jesus to help us.
The risen Lord can’t be a historical character that we read about, but a person whom we know as much or better than any other person we know. We can’t see him. We can’t touch him. We can’t hear the sound of his voice. How, then, do we know that we know him?… Read the rest
In John 8, Jesus had a heated discussion about his ministry and credentials with Jewish leaders in the temple. He left, noticed a man born blind, and healed him. It was the Sabbath, so the leaders who were offended at him before became more offended and took out their frustration on the formerly blind man. Jesus’ disciples also saw the blind man, but they took it as a springboard for a theological discussion about sin (John 9:1-7). Has the church to this day understood what Jesus said and did?
Healing of the Blind Man / by Duccio di Buoninsegna (1308-11)
A blind man sat near the entrance to the temple.… Read the rest
A Christian’s New Year’s resolutions all boil down to one: I resolve to be more obedient to God’s commandments. I gave up making New Year’s resolutions years ago, not because I think I don’t need to improve, but because I don’t want to confine resolutions to do better to one time of the year. I do notice, though, that people who talk about their New Year’s resolutions tend to resolve the same things over and over. Recycled resolutions! But does God ever recycle his commandments? As a matter of fact, he does.
According to a well-known anecdote, when the apostle John was an old man who had to be carried to church, his message always consisted of a single commandment, “Little children, love one another.” When asked why he essentially preached the same sermon all the time, he replied that if his flock would just do that one thing, little else needed to be said.… Read the rest
God told Jonah to go to the enemy capital of Nineveh and preach to them. Jonah didn’t like the idea, so he bought a ticket to a distant city in the opposite direction. God found him and provided free transportation back to his own country.
As soon as Jonah got back on dry land, God spoke to him as if nothing had happened: I want you to go preach to Nineveh. This time, Jonah decided maybe he just would (Jonah 3-4). The Bible says it took three days to walk through Nineveh.
It’s only about a mile and a half in diameter, but ancient cities were not laid out in a nice grid.… Read the rest
Probably anyone with a nodding acquaintance with the New Testament, believer or not, knows about the ending of 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul says that faith, hope, and love abide and identifies love as the greatest of the three.
Perhaps the very familiarity of the passage robs us of the power inherent in the juxtaposition of those three virtues. Fortunately, there are plenty of lesser-known passages where we can see the power with fresh eyes.
1 Thessalonians is the earliest extant letter of Paul. People study it less than some of the others not because it’s harder to pronounce, but because the themes that characterize Paul’s teaching are not yet fully developed.… Read the rest
The Beatles claimed, “All you need is love,” but “Now That the Magic Is Gone” by Joe Cocker contains these words:
You know love can be tender
Love can be cruel
It can smile like an angel
While it treats you just like a fool
It captures and haunts you
Until you give in
And it starts the dice against you
In a game you never can win
Just when I was thinking
Maybe luck was here with me
You’re telling me it’s over
Say it’s time for breaking free
That’s love in popular song. Everyone has heard lots of songs about the magic and rapture of love, and many others about the pain when it ends.… Read the rest