Recycled resolutions: love one another

A Christian’s New Year’s resolutions all boil down to one: I resolve to be more obedient to God’s commandments. I gave up making New Year’s resolutions years ago, not because I think I don’t need to improve, but because I don’t want to confine resolutions to do better to one time of the year. I do notice, though, that people who talk about their New Year’s resolutions tend to resolve the same things over and over. Recycled resolutions! But does God ever recycle his commandments? As a matter of fact, he does.

According to a well-known anecdote, when the apostle John was an old man who had to be carried to church, his message always consisted of a single commandment, “Little children, love one another.” When asked why he essentially preached the same sermon all the time, he replied that if his flock would just do that one thing, little else needed to be said.… Read the rest

Isaiah 40: one prophecy, three fulfillments

Isaiah 40 may be one of the best-known passage among all the Old Testament prophets. Anyone who knows Handel’s Messiah will immediately recognize the text for the first tenor recitative and aria, the first chorus, the first alto aria (with chorus), and the second alto aria among the first eleven verses of the chapter: “Comfort ye my people,” “Every valley shall be exalted,” “And the glory of the Lord,” “O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion,” and “He shall feed his flock.”

We associate these verses with the Christmas story at least because John the Baptist claimed to be the “voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,” words quoted in the tenor recitative.… Read the rest

Jonah’s grievance against God: a failure of love

God told Jonah to go to the enemy capital of Nineveh and preach to them. Jonah didn’t like the idea, so he bought a ticket to a distant city in the opposite direction. God found him and provided free transportation back to his own country.

As soon as Jonah got back on dry land, God spoke to him as if nothing had happened: I want you to go preach to Nineveh. This time, Jonah decided maybe he just would (Jonah 3-4). The Bible says it took three days to walk through Nineveh.

It’s only about a mile and a half in diameter, but ancient cities were not laid out in a nice grid.… Read the rest

Hedged behind and before

My wife and I bought two puppies a couple of years ago and started collecting information on how to raise them. Nearly every author recommended crate training, and then had to take time to defend the idea. Apparently they had heard lots of people protest that confining an animal overnight seems cruel. But dogs are not people. They are denning animals and find crates homey and comforting, especially when we put blankets over them to make it nice and dark.

Sure enough, two years later our dogs still sleep in their crates. Bed time comes and we walk together into the bedroom.… Read the rest

Fear, doubt, and love.

It never ceases to amaze me where ungodly fear can lurk—even in times of Bible reading and meditation! I offer my own recent encounter with 1 John 4 as an example of what can happen when I’m not careful. Here are a few verses from the NIV:

We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.

Read the rest

What is the Kingdom of God like?

44The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. – Matthew 13:44-46

These three verses comprise two different parables, but neither can stand without the other. The first says the kingdom of God is like a treasure, the second that it is like a merchant.… Read the rest

The joy of forgiveness

I found a very interesting post that lists 35 reasons not to sin. One person commented that knowing reasons is not enough to keep him from wanting to sin. That, in a nutshell, expresses the entire human condition. But sinning brings only momentary pleasure. Then it causes all the pain that the list enumerates. God hates sin, but longs to forgive the sinner. Forgiveness received brings  joy.

David described the process in Psalm 32. Where Psalm 51 describes his repentance for his sin with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba, Psalm 32 describes his process of receiving forgiveness and the joy it brought.… Read the rest

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

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