Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth / at Cloister’s Museum, New York. Artist unidentified
Thank you for coming to read this message. It means that you want to keep Christ in Christmas. And you know Christmas has meaning only because of a truth your church may affirm in the communion service:
Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ is coming again.
This season of advent, we mostly prepare for the coming of the Christ child, but it also provides a time to prepare for his return, his second advent.
God’s judgment and his grace are joined at the hip. He freely makes his grace available to anyone at all, but only those who repent of their sins can ever receive it.… Read the rest
Joshua and the Israelite People / Korolingischer Buchmaler, ca. 840
A lot of atheists are deeply offended by the God they don’t believe exists.
He commanded Joshua and Israel to obliterate Canaanite civilization by killing every man woman and child within their promised boundaries. At least one has asked, “How is it possible to believe in a good God after reading the book of Joshua?”
Read the rest of the Bible!
God did not command Israel to commit genocide. He commanded Israel to execute capital punishment. Canaanite society finally disappeared from history at the hand of the expanding Babylonian empire centuries later.… Read the rest
Have you ever felt unfit to stand before God?
If so, you’re absolutely right. You are unfit. We’re all unfit to stand before God, but he invites us anyway.
The prophet Zechariah had a beautiful vision of God’s gracious response to the unworthiness we can do nothing about (Zechariah 3:1-5).
It begins with Joshua, the high priest, standing before God, with Satan ready to accuse him.
The accuser cleared his throat and God rebuked him before he could utter a syllable. The name “Satan” means accuser, but he can’t make his accusations stick before God. Apparently, God won’t even let him utter them in his presence.… Read the rest
A small but vocal minority of people have managed to redefine marriage in the United States by judicial fiat.
Justice Kennedy excused his setting aside all of human tradition on grounds that most Americans now accept same-sex marriage.
Ten years ago most Americans rejected it. Why the change?
Because the church failed to be the church. It followed the sorry pattern of Old Testament prophets and priests.
Judgment is coming. It will not be pleasant. “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:17
Someone on social media sarcastically noted that God did not send anyone to hell because of slavery, so why would he send anyone to hell because of same-sex marriage?… Read the rest
John the Baptist, Preaching / Luca Giordano, ca. 1695
The church sets aside the season of Advent to prepare for Christ’s coming. It is a season of penitence to prepare our hearts to celebrate Christmas, the first coming of Christ. He entered the world by stealth, being born in an obscure village.
But the New Testament proclaims in many ways that Christ will return in triumph. Advent prepares us for that event, too.
Regarding John the Baptist, Luke 3:4-6 quotes a passage from Isaiah that has not yet seen its entire fulfillment:
… Read the rest
Construction of the ark, from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)
According to Romans 1:18, the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. It seems at first that Noah’s flood could be Exhibit A.
Except that a careful reading shows that nowhere in the Genesis account of the flood does “wrath,” “anger,” or any synonym occur!
The first time “anger” occurs in the King James Bible is Genesis 27:45 to describe Esau. “Wrath” first occurs is Genesis 39:19, which describes Potiphar after his wife accused Joseph of attempted rape. Abraham asked God not to be angry in Genesis 18:30 when the two were bargaining over the fate of Sodom.… Read the rest
We prepare to go to church. That’s not quite the same as preparing for worship. It is quite possible to come to church and go home without having worshiped.
Some churches make it nearly impossible for anyone to worship.
I’m thinking in particular of a service where the sermon was little more than a book review and the congregation had little chance to participate. Or of other services where the sermon has consisted of the preacher explaining away what the Scripture lesson clearly taught.
But even in churches where the content of the service is good and the congregation has ample ways to participate, it is too easy just to go through the motions and leave unmoved.… Read the rest
Christ Enthroned / Bartolomeo Vivarini (1450)
In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (NASB). What commandments?
Just a while earlier, in John 13:34, he had said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
Does that seem new?
Jesus had earlier said that the greatest commandment of the law was to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. The second was like the first: Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:28-34).
With this new commandment, Jesus raised the standard. … Read the rest
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.
… Read the rest
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