The creation story and the nature of truth

Ancient of Days / by William Blake

I have spent considerable time over the years studying the creation story and reading some of the various things that have been written about it.

From atheists to faculty at certain seminaries, a few criticisms of the Genesis account turn up constantly.

(A retired preacher friend of mine, who loves referring to preacher training schools as “cemeteries,” is among many who has trouble detecting much difference between atheists and cemetery professors.)

Read the rest

Mary and the sneakiness of God

There is nothing subtle about how the world operates. We measure power by size. Each industry has one or two dominant and large corporations. The most powerful nations have some combination of the largest economies, international trade, military power, and diplomatic reach. Politicians vie to amass the most money so they can parlay their fundraising in to the most votes. God doesn’t work that way. Just look at how he prepared Mary for her role in God’s sneaky counterrevolution against the devil.

Satan appeared to win a great victory in Eden by corrupting the man and the woman God had made.… Read the rest

Jonah the disobedient prophet

What I find utterly fascinating about the book of Jonah is that everyone and everything else in the story obeys God except his prophet. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, which is east of Israel. So Jonah decided to go to Tarshish, which is roughly modern Gibraltar, or as far west as anyone at the time could think to go. If he’d been able to find a boat going to New York and change to one bound for Buffalo, he would have bought a ticket there.

And so a storm came up. The weather obeyed God. The sailors, figuring some god was up to something, cast lots to find out whom to blame.… Read the rest

Work out your salvation. Work out?

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. — Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV)

Paul says to work out your salvation. Some people act like that’s all he said about it. We all know folks who try really hard to be good enough and other folks that figure salvation, whatever that may mean, isn’t worth the trouble.

I mean, I know what a workout is.… Read the rest

The weapons of our warfare

“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” — 2 Corinthians 10:4 (NKJV)

The church today is divided over many issues, including war. Christians who are against any and all wars for any and all reasons usually dislike hymns like “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Do dedicated pacifists greet scriptures that talk about “our warfare” with equal comfort and disapproval? I hope not.

Neither hymn nor the scriptures have anything to do with the kind of war where people take up arms for the purpose of killing people on the other side. Regardless of what anyone thinks of American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, or any other war, “our warfare” is something else entirely.… Read the rest

Grace: free, or unavailable

Simple Simon met a pie man. We know that rhyme. He had no money, so he got no pie. That’s how the world works. If Simple Simon were around today, he could possibly get free food at a soup kitchen, but people find that humiliating. No one wants charity. How different it is with God! He operates not on working and earning, but grace. The feast is free, or else you can’t have it.

Before the days of brand-name bottled water, or even treated water distributed by municipalities, anyone who thirsted could drink water for free. They only had to find it.… Read the rest

Moses’ presumption

“And Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hands.'” — Exodus 17:9 (NKJV)

Among the many gifts God gave Moses, his rod was a tangible object that he could use any way he chose in order to release God’s power. He usually used it wisely and with great effect. Sometimes he did not use it wisely, and it got him in trouble.

His best-known mistake came when God told him to speak to a rock so that water would come from it.… 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

A squandered opportunity to walk by faith

Perhaps not many modern Christians have read the second chapter of Judges. If you have, you may wonder what it has to do with today. Actually, upon closer inspection, it has plenty to do with today. The  consequences of missing the lesson will be tragic for our society if the church today misses the point.

God came from Gilgal (the place of the memorial to God’s greatness) to Bokim (the place of loss and weeping) to speak with them. Think of it! He had to follow them because they were no longer following him!

He told them that he would never break his covenant with them, but they had already broken it.… Read the rest

The power and limits of intercessory prayer

God showed Amos a swarm of locusts that he prepared to punish Israel. Amos, a citizen of the rival kingdom of Judah, begged him to be merciful. God relented. Then he showed Amos a consuming fire. Again Amos begged for mercy and God relented.

But then God showed Amos a wall, and next to the wall, a man with a plumb line. Amos could persuade him not to destroy the apostate kingdom with locusts or fire, but God would not allow his prophet to dissuade him from punishing the sins of his people.

King Jeroboam II had built a prosperous and militarily powerful kingdom, but he refused to heed Amos’ words.… Read the rest