A personal lesson in the fullness of grace

It’s hard, for me anyway, to discuss anything in Romans without it coming across like a theology lesson. Well, it is a theology lesson, but it’s very practical theology. I can testify that it can become very personally real as well.

Paul tells us we have peace with God through Christ—whether we feel like it or not. It’s an outcome of the very nature of God. God expelled sinners from the Garden of Eden and chased them from his presence, but not before he told them of his plans to redeem them from sin.

In Wesleyan terms, prevenient grace started right then and there.… Read the rest

What is true holiness?

A lot of people, Christian and non-Christian alike, think of holiness as not doing certain things: don’t drink or cuss or chew or run with folks that do. That’s not a biblical definition. It’s certainly not what Isaiah thought about when he saw God.

God is holy. That means at least three different things. He is unique, entirely unequaled in all he created. He is pure and incorruptible. He is separate from sin and from sinners. Yet at the same time, he desires the companionship of his creation, including the sinful human race.

According to the law, a leper had to be expelled from the community.… Read the rest

Dry bones and new life

In one of the best-known passages of an otherwise obscure book, Ezekiel described his vision of a valley of dry bones coming to life. Actually, it was more than a vision; he  had to prophesy to the bones before anything happened.

Ezekiel recognized that the bones represented the whole lineage of Jacob. Both kingdoms that represented that lineage had been destroyed, their people exiled and scattered. In their shattered hope, the survivors felt as dead and dried up as the bones.

At Ezekiel’s first word of prophecy, the bones formed together as complete skeletons, and then the flesh returned. Now instead of a valley of dry bones, it was a valley of corpses.… Read the rest

Gathering and restoration of a forgiven people

Because it refused to turn away from its sins and rebellions, God destroyed the Kingdom of Judah and sent the people to exile in Babylon. According to an overriding biblical principle, God is never finished with a situation after he has executed judgment on sin. The next step is always grace and restoration.

Through the prophet Ezekiel, he promised not only to gather up the exiles and return them to Jerusalem. He also promised to give them a new heart and a new spirit.

They would remove all of the abominations and detestable things from the land; no more would Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside see the idol worship that had led to judgment in the first place.… Read the rest

Washed? or clean?

We’ve all heard many times that thorough hand washing is the single most effective step in slowing the spread of infectious diseases. If we can’t use soap and water, now we have hand-sanitizers that kill germs and then quickly evaporate.

I was washing my hands at a restaurant once, when one of the employees came out of the toilet and left without washing his hands. I reported him to the manager. His behavior was unsanitary.

A Pharisee once invited Jesus to his home for lunch, and to his shock, Jesus did not wash his hands. But his shock was not like mine.… Read the rest

The blind man of Bethsaida and a warning

Blind man of Bethsaida

Blind man of Bethsaida

In Mark 8:22-26, Jesus performed his only two-part healing. In an earlier post, I pointed out the significance to Mark’s structure of the fact that Jesus had to lay his hands on a blind man twice before his sight was fully restored.

That is not the only odd thing about this miracle. Notice that Jesus and his disciples entered the village of Bethsaida, where some people asked him to lay hands on a blind man. He did not do so immediately. Instead, he took the man by the hand and led him out of the village.… Read the rest

The odd healing of the blind man of Bethsaida


In recent centuries, philosophers have doubted miracle stories. Some of them have asserted that only uneducated people who don’t know much about science could believe them, so the stories must have some time after Jesus’ live passed into the realm of legend.

Others have claimed that the biblical authors deliberately made up stories that couldn’t be true in order to gain a mass following among the unsophisticated and credulous.

One question, then: if someone made up a bunch of tall tales to make Jesus seem like more than just another teacher, why would they make up a story about a miracle that seemed not to work?… Read the rest

Grace and forgiveness for the chief of sinners—and the rest of us

My mind often races around like a fly, landing here and there from time to time, but circling around unpredictably and at random. That’s weird, but I guess it’s normal enough. I’ve heard and read about enough other people who testify that their mind does the same thing.

Once in a while, something I think about or see or hear or read triggers a memory of something I did or said some time in the past—even as long ago as grade school. And whether it is that long ago or much more recent, likely as not, I remember doing or saying something stupid, and I feel great shame at the memory.… Read the rest

Next words of Jesus: Wait for the gift

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised,which you heard me speak about.” — Acts 1:4

God’s ways are not our ways. The last recorded words of Jesus in any of the synoptic gospels are some form of the Great Commission. John’s version comes in the next to last chapter, but Jesus’ final comments there prepare the disciples to get to work.

In other words, all the gospels end with Jesus saying, “Go” to bewildered and reluctant disciples. The book of Acts opens with him saying, “Wait” to a team that felt ready to get started.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced a promise from God that seems so vivid that we’re bound to see it manifest in the next fifteen minutes.… Read the rest

Next words of Jesus: Haven’t you any fish?

“He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered him. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” — John 21:5-6 (NIV)

Jesus seldom does the same thing twice, yet this was the second time he told his disciples to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. Nearly every sermon I have ever heard on either passage points out that commercial fishing was and is done from the left side of the boat.… Read the rest