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
Cain Fleeing from the Wrath of God (The Body of Abel Found by Adam and Eve) / William Blake c. 1805-1809
God has a reputation as an angry taskmaster who’s difficult to please. He has a bunch of rules and punishes anyone who falls afoul of them. He lives in a place called heaven. Everyone wants to go there, but it’s hard to be good enough.
A cursory reading of the Bible confirms this picture. A careful reading reveals an entirely different picture.
Actually comparing the Bible with other ancient literature confirms the truth: God is love. He prefers mercy to wrath and grace to judgment.… Read the rest
Would you ever think to compare Jesus to a thief? The Bible does in describing Jesus’ return. More than once.
Living by faith requires living not only in the light of the resurrection, but also in the hope of the second coming of Christ.
In his flesh, Jesus didn’t know when he’d return, but he knew it will be a time when no one expects him.
Jesus himself said, “If the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into” (Matthew 24:43, NASB).”
Paul wrote, “Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.… Read the rest
You’ve read a lot about claiming promises in the Bible. But then you look at many of them and find that God made them to specific individuals for specific purposes.
Are those promises really for you? What can you do with them?
Somehow we don’t have the same curiosity about commandments in the Bible, but at least some of them raise the same questions.
In Joshua 1:6-9, God gave commandments and promises to Joshua. Joshua had long known that he would succeed Moses as Israel’s leader and take them into the Promised Land. Now, Moses had died. It was time for him to step in.… Read the rest
Pentecost / El Greco (1597)
Did your church acknowledge Pentecost? If so, how? The church has become divided over the significance of the events of the first Christian Pentecost.
Pentecostals emphasize the supernatural events and consider them normative. Others fear them and try to explain them away.
Some even teach that God no longer performs supernatural acts and that anyone who claims otherwise follows the devil! So what happened? And what does it matter now?
… 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
Jesus died between two criminals. Did you realize that he died between two believers? The first one asked, “Aren’t you the Christ?” The expected answer to that question is, “Yes.”
But he was disappointed that Jesus wasn’t acting like he expected the Christ to act. In his hostility, he joined the unbelievers and scoffers and railed against him.
When something goes wrong, who do you blame? Or as the disciples asked about a man born blind, who sinned? They gave Jesus a choice of the man or his parents. The criminal on the cross blamed God himself.
… Read the rest
Have you ever made something from a kit? A cabinet, perhaps, or an exercise bike. The kingdom of God is something like that.
You bring your kit home from the store and open the box. Inside you find lots of parts, both large and small.
You also find some instructions. They can be hard to understand. Your task is to assemble all the parts to make something that looks like the picture on the box. And it has to work, too.
I have gotten my project assembled in three different ways. Sometimes I just do it myself. Sometimes I work with someone else.… Read the rest
Mosaic of St. Peter in Basilica Saint Peter Vatican Rome Italy
Have you ever wondered about what Jesus meant when he gave Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven? It can be confusing.
Somehow, the phrase has been turned into “keys to the kingdom,” which incorrectly suggests that Peter somehow had authority to decide whom to allow into the kingdom. God, not Peter is the ultimate judge.
Use of the wrong preposition isn’t the only way Christians have interpreted the passage in Matthew 16:19 in ways Jesus probably didn’t intend.
… 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