Jesus’ humility, Satan’s pride: whom do we follow?

Jesus' humility

Ecce Homo (Behold! The Man) / Antonio Ciseri, 1871. “The humble king they named a fraud, and sacrificed the Lamb of God.”

God is all-powerful, but when he chose to use his power to become a man, he also chose not to use power like other men. It is Satan who turns power into something coercive and egocentric.

It would be nice if we could say that Christians understand the situation and exercise power as Jesus did. Unfortunately, we can truthfully say no more than that some do, and they successfully imitate Christ maybe only some of the time.

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Hills? Help comes from God

Distant mountains

This picture was also taken from eastern Colorado, but we traveled for hours before the mountains looked this close.

When I was in high school, my dad went on sabbatical and obtained a visiting professorship in California. He decided to buy a trailer and camp across the country with the family to get there from northwestern Ohio. It turned out to be a great idea, but the trip got off to a terrible start.

The absolute worst night came in eastern Colorado, where the official state map had shown a camping place. The state highway to get there turned out to have been abandoned.… Read the rest

Universal brotherhood?

Interfaith unity?

Interfaith unity?

Many people in the church today simply assume that all humanity is one large family, with God as its Father. They take offense at the thought that maybe some people are not God’s children.

Do they realize that they are taking offense at Jesus himself? Oh well. Religious people have always found Jesus offensive.

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The coming judgment

Every once in a while, someone will make the news by declaring that some event is God’s judgment on, well, fill in the blank. The immediate reaction in the media is outrage, often well deserved. Unfortunately, such dustups obscure an important fact: God’s judgment must come upon America.  Let me approach the subject with three stories that, at first, will seem wholly unrelated.

Car troubles

It's all about me

The attitude, which we all have, that causes divine judgment

Tom, a friend of mine, once told me about the first car he ever owned. To make a long story short, he never thought to change the oil.… Read the rest

Basic social justice: what weakness hampers it?

Every society wants justice. That’s every society throughout the world beginning in prehistory. Take away superficial differences, and it appears that every society has similar views of what justice means. We’ll look at a passage from Exodus that would probably not be controversial anywhere.

Justice is hard to get when thugs take over. See the latest headlines from Syria. But I’ll bet even Assad’s courts have dispensed justice whenever it has not been against the regime’s interests to do so.

On the other hand, it doesn’t take an evil government to pervert justice. Ordinary human nature can do quite nicely at that even with the best of governments.… Read the rest

What else do we know about Judas?

Judas

Judas Iscariot (right), retiring from the Last Supper, painting by Carl Bloch, late 19th century

Surely everyone knows that Judas, one of the Twelve, accepted 30 pieces of silver from the temple treasury to betray Jesus. He attended the Last Supper with the rest, left early, and led a large armed group to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested. After Jesus was sentenced to death, Judas threw the money back at the priests and committed suicide.

For centuries, many in the church have regarded Judas simply as the most despicable traitor in history. Even today, some writers seem to assume that he was a hypocrite who intended to betray Jesus from the start,

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Faith, sin, unrighteousness, and free will

Fire angel

Do people have free will, or are their choices somehow determined? Yes.

Each of us has only one basic choice: will we trust and obey God, or will we not? Trusting God is called faith. Failing to trust God is called sin. Rejection of God entirely is called unrighteousness. Everyone, consciously or not, makes that choice–not once, not even daily, but continuously. Probably no one makes the same choice every time it is presented. Probably our conscious, deliberate choices and our unconscious choices do not consistently coincide. But we all make the choice for or against God one way or another all the time.… Read the rest

The nerve of Jesus!

The oddest thing about Jesus’ remark? No one was offended!

If you, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, now much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!–Matthew 7:11, NKJV

Imagine! In a very offhand way, Jesus told everyone who had gathered to listen to him that they were evil! Who would dare suggest such a thing to anyone today? That would even offend inmates in a maximum security prison.

Mass media did not yet exist in Jesus’ day, but today the leading outlets in print, broadcast, and online media seem to love nothing more than to hear of someone’s gaffe and jump on it.… Read the rest

Walking through the valley of the shadow of death


No one goes looking for hard times to go through, but no one escapes them, either. David described encountering and overcoming the valley of the shadow of death. What kind of hardship is your valley of the shadow of death? A path in a valley might wind through a dense forest. In David’s time, there might not even have been a real path. It might be impossible to see very far ahead. In this metaphorical valley, when we don’t know quite where we’re going, I can attest from personal experience how easy it is to be afraid. How can we come to David’s boldness in claiming to fear no evil?… Read the rest

Christian warfare: where pacifism is not an option

Did you know that all of us are at war, and there’s nothing we can do but fight or surrender? I’m not talking about Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere the U.S. military is active, ever has been, or ever will be.

Jesus Christ, the rightful Lord of the universe, has a rebellion on his hands. The rebel, named Satan, captured the human race by deceit at the beginning of time and rules as the god of this world. He can’t win, but his final defeat hasn’t yet occurred.

Whatever else it means, this spiritual warfare happens within each of our minds.

“Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all of your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.”–1 Peter 1:13, NRSV.… Read the rest