Mary: After the Angel Departed

Mary, Simeon, Jesus

Simeon Receives Jesus in the Temple / Simon Vouet, 1640-41

Have you ever had a vivid encounter with God? What happened a day or two later? A week? Years?

Quite often Christians have reported an overwhelming spiritual high followed by a deep spiritual low.

God’s presence can be so vivid that it seems like what he says is bound to happen in the next 15 minutes, but it never does.

A cherished promise never seems as far off and distant as it does after vividness of the divine presence fades.

Does that mean perhaps that we had no genuine spiritual experience?… Read the rest

Is God a light switch?

light switchHow does a person find God? Someone suggested it’s like leading them into a dark room and encouraging them to find a light switch on the wall.

I have some experience going into total darkness and finding the switch, but I’ll only enter if I know where the switch is. Can a believer tell or show someone else where the switch is?

I think that’s the wrong question. God is the light of the world. There is no darkness in him, and he is not in darkness.

Where, then, does darkness come from? The simple answer is that darkness comes from Satan, and if people are looking for a switch, then the switch must be the light of God in a believer.… Read the rest

Universal brotherhood?

Interfaith unity?

Interfaith unity?

Many people in the church today simply assume that all humanity is one large family, with God as its Father. They take offense at the thought that maybe some people are not God’s children.

Do they realize that they are taking offense at Jesus himself? Oh well. Religious people have always found Jesus offensive.

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False religion and the God-shaped vacuum

God shaped vacuum“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man, which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”

That familiar quotation is falsely attributed to Blaise Pascal, but it’s a reasonable paraphrase of what he actually wrote.

It’s true, no matter who put it in those words.  Trouble is, sinful man has tried to fill it with something else—anything else—besides God since time immemorial.

What “spiritual” atheists think about God

I recently came across an article that talks about a remarkably high percentage of atheists who nonetheless consider themselves somehow “religious” or “spiritual.”

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The Kingdom of God has come. Now what?

Christ enthroned

Christ Enthroned: West Portal, St. Colman’s Cathedral, (Cobh, Ireland)

The kingdom of God is not like other kingdoms or nations. Since time immemorial, when one nation has invaded another, the invaded nation knows. Eventually so does everyone else who cares at all.

Most of you can probably name the years for the last two or three times Germany invaded France. It doesn’t have to be an invasion with armies, either. Regardless of where you stand on immigration, you have to know that a lot of Latin America has taken residence in the US.

Has there ever been any kind of invasion on earth where it was not clear just who was invading?… Read the rest

Wisdom: Solomon’s, God’s, and ours

Wisdom mural

Wisdom. Mural at the Library of Congress by Robert Lewis Reid

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.” That’s the caption to a mural called “Wisdom” in the Thomas Jefferson Buliding of the Library of Congress.

Wisdom differs from intelligence or knowledge. The ordinary dictionary distinction is that wisdom involves sound judgment and the ability to apply learning and knowledge to the conduct of your affairs.

In the Bible, there are four different words translated wisdom. They refer to having skill, being prudent, being upright, and having understanding.

Solomon, known above all for his wisdom, ultimately failed.

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Prophecy and the reality of the supernatural

Cyrus and the Hebrews

The clemency of Cyrus / Jean Fouquet, ca. 1470-1475.

For the past 150 years or so, some so-called biblical scholars have assumed that everything has a natural explanation, that the supernatural cannot be real, and that therefore the prophets of old could not possibly have predicted the future. In a recent post, Idolatry and redemption today, I mentioned a temporary redemption that came through the Persian emperor Cyrus, as predicted in Isaiah 44.

He reversed the long-standing Assyrian/Babylonian policy of removing conquered peoples from their homeland. He ordered the restoration not only of Jerusalem, but every other identifiable ethnic group in his empire.… Read the rest

Remember Jesus

The Resurrection of Christ / Noel Coypel, 1700

The Resurrection of Christ / Noel Coypel, 1700

Does it seem odd that Paul wrote “Remember Jesus, raised from the dead” (2 Timothy 2:8) to a dedicated minister of the gospel?

Earlier he had testified that no one on his staff was equal to Timothy. Why should a man like that need a reminder? Remember Jesus? Timothy must have spent most of every day either teaching his church about Jesus or sharing Jesus with the unbelievers in his city.

If we step back a little, though, and consider the history of God’s own people, it doesn’t seem so strange.

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The household of God and a mystery

God's household

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs / Fra Angelico (about 1423-24)

In 1 Timothy 3:14-16, Paul explains his purpose in writing. Although he planned to visit Timothy and his congregation in person, he realized that he might be delayed. So he wanted to make sure that Timothy had clear instructions on how people ought to behave in the church.

But notice how Paul describes the church. It is the household of God. I suspect not many people nowadays understand what that means. On the other hand, I suspect any modern Christian would quickly agree that “godliness” makes a good one-word definition of proper conduct.… Read the rest

The Christ Peter misunderstood

Peter's confession

Unknown Master. The confession of Peter, from Martin Luther. Kercken Postilla, 1563

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.… Read the rest