Osama bin Laden and the love of God

Ground zero, Jan. 10, 2002. ©Stefan Plogmann

Most everyone in America rejoiced at the death of Osama bin Laden. So did many elsewhere in the world. After all, he was a mass murderer and spent the past few years actively plotting to murder more people. What does God,  who is love, have to say about him?

One thing that immediately came to mind is this: “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? . . . The One enthroned in heaven laughs: the Lord scoffs at them” (Psalm 2:1, 4). But Scripture also reminds us, “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles do not let your heart rejoice” (Proverbs 24:17).… Read the rest

Confessed sin no longer matters!


“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

I had not intended to write two consecutive posts on the wrath of God, but since I did, I need to be a good priest (and as a Protestant, I believe in the priesthood of all believers) and pronounce an assurance of pardon. Sin offends God greatly—until someone confesses. Then he simply cleans up the mess and goes back to what he does best: loving.

In the past two posts, I explained how wrath is not incompatible with a loving God.… Read the rest

How can a loving God have wrath?

Christ Cleansing the Temple / Luca Giordano, mid 1670s

God is love. If you want to know what love is like, look at God. But the same Bible that proclaims God’s love also proclaims his wrath. We usually see Jesus as gentle, kind, and loving, but he lost his temper once and got violent in the temple. He also described hell more graphically than anyone else in all of Scripture.  What’s going on here?

First of all, just what is wrath? The original Greek word is variously translated anger, indignation, vengeance, and wrath. It comes from a word that means to stretch oneself or reach out after.… Read the rest

God’s love and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami


How can we reconcile God’s love with disasters? For a couple of weeks now, the news media have brought us new images of the disaster in Japan: the worst earthquake there on record, a tsunami that struck the coast within 15 minutes and that caused a nuclear catastrophe worse than any other except Chernobyl. We have probably all received multiple reminders to pray for Japan, and I hope this post will serve as another, but I want to consider the question of how a loving God can allow such devastation.

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’   “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.… Read the rest

Daniel’s vision of a blessed future

The book of Daniel contains some of the most obscure visions in Scripture. Weird looking beasts represent empires in Daniel’s future, but mostly our past. We can identify many rulers by name and understand references to what each of them did. The evil doings of Syrian King Antiochus IV appear at greater length, except there always seem to some details that don’t fit. They point to a coming Antichrist. I have recently touched on one of the visions in Thoughts on Bible prophecy: reading the future in Scripture. Daniel’s final vision relates the ultimate destruction of Antichrist and promises bodily resurrection for everyone afterward.… 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

Light, darkness, and the return of Christ

Living by faith requires living not only in the light of the resurrection, but also in the hope of the return of Christ. Jesus himself said that he, in his earthly body, did not know when he would come back.  He told his disciples that they should always be ready, because a thief cannot surprise a homeowner who is watching.

There are times in my life when a promise of God seems so vivid that I’m sure it will happen in the next fifteen minutes. Then the waiting starts. I know I’m not alone. The whole church has been waiting impatiently for the return of Christ for about two thousand years.… Read the rest

The joy of forgiveness

I found a very interesting post that lists 35 reasons not to sin. One person commented that knowing reasons is not enough to keep him from wanting to sin. That, in a nutshell, expresses the entire human condition. But sinning brings only momentary pleasure. Then it causes all the pain that the list enumerates. God hates sin, but longs to forgive the sinner. Forgiveness received brings  joy.

David described the process in Psalm 32. Where Psalm 51 describes his repentance for his sin with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba, Psalm 32 describes his process of receiving forgiveness and the joy it brought.… Read the rest

The violence of Jesus: cleansing the temple

We probably all have our favorite images of Jesus. In a well-known scene from Talladega Nights, Ricky Bobby preferred to pray to the Baby Jesus. Others of us might be drawn to the healer, the teacher, the man who loved children. I suppose all of the favorite thoughts come under the heading “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.” So what about the violent man who upset tables and drove the money changers out of the temple?

It is one of the few incidents in his life mentioned in all four gospels: Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, Luke 19:45-46, John 2:13-22. According to the synoptics,  Jesus erupted after his triumphal entry.… Read the rest

The wrath of Jesus

Christ Preaching at Capernaum

Christ Preaching at Capernaum

“And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths I the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.” — Matthew 11:23 (NIV)

Christians today like to think of Jesus as loving, kind, gentle, and accepting. He is certainly all of that. The thought of Jesus getting angry or rejecting anyone bothers us. The Greek for “the depths” is Hades, or hell. That makes us very uncomfortable. Let us not make the mistake of ignoring Jesus’ wrath

Early in his ministry Jesus moved from Nazareth to Capernaum.… Read the rest