Lewis Carroll wrote, “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” (Through the Looking Glass, 1871). Wouldn’t he be amazed at now much faster we have made the world in the nearly century and a half since he published his observation?
No one literally has to run any more. We have fast cars and superhighways. Communication must be instant. We have made computers that can multitask and expect that we can and should as well.… Read the rest
Paul warned Timothy that some in the church had rejected faith and conscience. He specifically named Hymenaeus and Alexander. The chapter numbers and headings in our Bibles aren’t original, of course, but 1 Timothy 2 begins immediately after that warning, and “Instructions about Worship” is a typical heading.
“First of all,” says Paul, “I urge prayer.” He goes on to point out that God wants all to be saved. There are certainly people in churches to this day who reject faith.
How do respond to a lingering crisis? Does quietness and trust make it to the top of your list? If it doesn’t, you’re not alone. Yet God says that’s where we get his strength. What comes of failure or even outright refusal to get quiet before God?
In Isaiah 30:15 God says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.” Isaiah spent his career telling the people of Israel what it took to have God work for them and not against them, but hardly anyone paid attention. Israel’s constant bad response to a persistent problem can teach us a lot about why we see and experience so many problems today.… Read the rest
No one has any trouble understanding Jesus as a man. It’s the concept that Jesus Christ is God made man that causes problems. Peter, the first person to declare that Jesus is the Christ, had the same trouble.
Jesus first asked the disciples who men said he was. They could have mentioned that the Pharisees and others thought he was a menace to the community and unqualified to teach on Scripture, but apparently they didn’t.
All of the gospels record what the disciples had heard from the adoring crowds that had followed them. Some said John the Baptist, returned from the grave after his beheading.… Read the rest
God made a lot of promises to Abraham, including a key promise to him and his posterity, or literally in Hebrew, his seed. These promises became the foundation of the Jewish nation, but before Abraham’s posterity could inherit the land, they suffered slavery in Egypt. On the way to the promised land, they received the law.
According to the New Testament, no one can ever be good enough for God by obeying the law. So what’s the point? Paul raised that question and answered it in Galatians 3, beginning with verse 19. His answer comes in the context of explaining that the promise to Abraham and his seed is greater than the law, and that the law did not supersede it.… Read the rest
A young woman has a baby boy. That baby grows to adulthood and lives 33 years. How many times has that happened in the history of the human race? Millions?
The young woman and her boy were not members of the ruling class. They lived in an unremarkable village about 2000 years ago. He learned an unremarkable trade, and then became an itinerant teacher. Death at 33 was probably not unusual at that time, but this man was executed for his teaching, because the leaders of his community disapproved. Again, it seems pretty ordinary.
Yet today we are still celebrating the birth, life, and death of this man named Jesus.… Read the rest
I don’t know about you, but I’m tempted to skip over the introductions to Paul’s epistles and go right to what seems like the real meat. I recently noticed that in the Book of Common Prayer, one such introduction, Romans 1:1-7 is one of the appointed readings for the Sundays in Advent. It seems good to pay closer attention.
Paul had never been to Rome when he decided to write a letter to the Roman church. Therefore, he needed to introduce himself in greater detail than in the letters to churches he himself had founded.
On the other hand, he was too humble a man to write about himself more than absolutely necessary.… Read the rest
Advent is a time of preparing our hearts for the coming of the Christ child. Less often acknowledged, it is a time of preparing our hearts for the return of the triumphant Christ. Are we perhaps too comfortable with the homey images of the baby Jesus? Perhaps we should pay more careful attention to what the uncomfortably supernatural Jesus Christ has already accomplished in his first coming.
He was born of a virgin, as God promised as early as Genesis 3:15. There we read that the “seed of the woman” would crush the devil. He lived as an ordinary human, suffering every temptation any other human has ever faced.… Read the rest
In Jesus, God came into the world as a baby. Who doesn’t like babies? Even the non-Christian world likes Jesus the baby. The modern church always seems comfortable with Jesus the baby, Jesus the kind man who was nice to children, Jesus the story teller, even Jesus the corpse taken down from the cross.
But Jesus’ birth as a baby was the beginning of God’s sneak attack against sin, evil, the devil, and death itself. The supernatural Jesus makes everyone uncomfortable, even the church, even his closest friends.
In traditional translations, Psalm 146:3 says not to trust in princes. We don’t have very many princes around any more. Even in traditionally Christian countries that still have kings and queens, they reign, but don’t rule. Perhaps we could update it to say not to put trust in politicians, but what’s the point? Everyone obeys that commandment, Bible or no Bible. But let’s look at how The Message renders the verse and read ahead a little more:
Don’t put your life in the hands of experts
who know nothing of life, of salvation life.
Mere humans don’t have what it takes;
when they die, their projects die with them.
… Read the rest