Do you love money? Or would you rather be content?

Greed

Is money the root of all evil? Lot’s of people think that’s what the Bible says, but it’s not. The correct quotation is that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. There’s a big difference. We all need money, but money is a tool, not the proper object of love. Here is the verse in context:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

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Gay marriage, politics, and the Bible

Men arguingNorth Carolina has just become the 30th state to enshrine the definition of marriage as one man and one woman in the state constitution. I am pleased by the outcome, but dismayed by the process and the rhetoric.

In the local newspaper, proponents and opponents of the marriage amendment lobbed scriptures back and forth as if a couple of verses settled the matter. That’s wrong for at least three reasons.

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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

Becoming OK with God: thoughts on the meaning of justification

Justification by faith in Christ

Christ the Redeemer

Justification by faith is too important to let it become just religious talk. If we are justified by faith, what does justify mean in ordinary language? Here are some sentences I found with an online search “justify in a sentence”

  • Refusal of a request to work beyond 65 must be objectively justified by the employer.
  • These pluses, we feel, amply justify a rate increase.
  • These features justify the expense of the software.

All of these sentences imply two questions, really.

Is it right, or OK, to refuse the request, increase the rates, buy the software, or go to war?… 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

Stubbornness and faith: the man with the withered hand


At the height of his popularity, but when the Pharisees were beginning to view him with suspicion, one Sabbath Jesus entered a synagogue, by definition a Pharisee stronghold. Not that it was unusual for him to attend synagogue services; he probably attended somewhere every Sabbath of his life. But on the occasion Mark describes, a man with a withered hand was there.

All the Pharisees looked Jesus and the man with the withered hand, and what they saw was not so much a man in need as a reputed law breaker in their synagogue. Would Jesus have the audacity to heal the man on the Sabbath?Read the rest

Achan’s sin and the judgment and grace of God

Stoning of Achan

The stoning of Achan, Mid-fifteenth-century Flemish miniature

Achan appears in  the seventh chapter of Joshua. All the spoils of Jericho were supposed to be devoted to the Lord. All of its gold and silver should have been taken to the treasury in the tabernacle and everything else destroyed by fire. Achan helped himself to some gold, silver, and a beautiful robe and buried them in his tent. God’s anger became apparent when the Israelite army suffered a humiliating defeat. He told Joshua to cast lots to find who sinned to cause it. The lot fell to Achan. He confessed his deed.… Read the rest

Our pride and God’s patience: Nebuchadnezzar’s dream

People don’t like to wait for answers to prayer. But what about when God warns of something bad that will happen some time in the future? In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar had a disturbing dream that involved a large tree being chopped down. Daniel interpreted it and said the king would be driven from human society for seven years and then be restored. He also said that Nebuchadnezzar could avoid his fate by repentance from his sin. The king forgot all about it. God did not.

28 “All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. 29 Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon.

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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

Beatitudes vs Ten Commandments

A large store posted its core values where everyone could see them. They included friendliness and good customer service, but one clerk was providing particularly surly and reluctant service. When a customer pointed out, as gently as he could, that she was not living up to those core values, she snapped that she considered them as just words on paper.

The Beatitudes are the core values of the church. There is probably no other passage in the New Testament that is so widely known and admired. Some people even hold them up as the be all and end all of Christianity.… Read the rest