“Shalom” in Hebrew
Jeremiah 29:11 ranks high on the list of favorite Old Testament scriptures. As much as we love it, do we really understand how much it promises? “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)
“Prosper” translates the Hebrew word shalom, a word (a noun, by the way) so rich it has no good English equivalent. It usually appears in English translations as “peace.” In fact, many English translations of Jeremiah 29:11 say, “plans for peace” or something similar.… Read the rest
Every once in a while, someone will make the news by declaring that some event is God’s judgment on, well, fill in the blank. The immediate reaction in the media is outrage, often well deserved. Unfortunately, such dustups obscure an important fact: God’s judgment must come upon America. Let me approach the subject with three stories that, at first, will seem wholly unrelated.
The attitude, which we all have, that causes divine judgment
Tom, a friend of mine, once told me about the first car he ever owned. To make a long story short, he never thought to change the oil.… Read the rest
Christians readily agree with the statement that God is all-powerful, all-loving, and all-sufficient. But when trouble turns up, how many of us really know how to respond as if we believe it? We turn to idols instead.
Our idols aren’t quite the same as those of the ancients, but they work the same way. We trust our own resources more than we trust God. Certainly God expects us to use our own resources much of the time, but we must not trust them. We must trust God. Otherwise, whatever we trust instead becomes, functionally, an idol, the god we truly worship.… Read the rest
We think of the Beatitudes as part of the Sermon on the Mount, but they get their name from the opening words, “blessed are,” or in some translations, “happy are.” Lots of other verses begin that way, and many more with the singular, “is.” Here is the last of several from the psalms:
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
… Read the rest
Some people seem to thing sin is a good thing. It means fun, pleasure. Remember when Weight Watcher soft drinks were advertised as “sinfully delicious”?
The sculpture pictured here was taken on the grounds of Treasure Island Casino in Las Vegas. It seems more like an enticement than warning. We all know that God hates sin, though. Let’s take a closer look.
… Read the rest
In a recent post, I commented that not inheriting the kingdom of God does not necessarily mean the same thing as going to hell. I was writing about gay marriage and couldn’t follow up on that thought. Many readers may have wondered about it, and one explicitly asked.
In one well-known passage, Jesus spoke of the separation of sheep and goats.
Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come you how are blessed of my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the earth” (Matthew 25:34).
Then he will also say to those on his left, “Depart from me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
… Read the rest
North Carolina has just become the 30th state to enshrine the definition of marriage as one man and one woman in the state constitution. I am pleased by the outcome, but dismayed by the process and the rhetoric.
In the local newspaper, proponents and opponents of the marriage amendment lobbed scriptures back and forth as if a couple of verses settled the matter. That’s wrong for at least three reasons.
… Read the rest
In John 8, Jesus had a heated discussion about his ministry and credentials with Jewish leaders in the temple. He left, noticed a man born blind, and healed him. It was the Sabbath, so the leaders who were offended at him before became more offended and took out their frustration on the formerly blind man. Jesus’ disciples also saw the blind man, but they took it as a springboard for a theological discussion about sin (John 9:1-7). Has the church to this day understood what Jesus said and did?
Healing of the Blind Man / by Duccio di Buoninsegna (1308-11)
A blind man sat near the entrance to the temple.… Read the rest
Do people have free will, or are their choices somehow determined? Yes.
Each of us has only one basic choice: will we trust and obey God, or will we not? Trusting God is called faith. Failing to trust God is called sin. Rejection of God entirely is called unrighteousness. Everyone, consciously or not, makes that choice–not once, not even daily, but continuously. Probably no one makes the same choice every time it is presented. Probably our conscious, deliberate choices and our unconscious choices do not consistently coincide. But we all make the choice for or against God one way or another all the time.… Read the rest
Christ the Redeemer
Justification by faith is too important to let it become just religious talk. If we are justified by faith, what does justify mean in ordinary language? Here are some sentences I found with an online search “justify in a sentence”
- Refusal of a request to work beyond 65 must be objectively justified by the employer.
- These pluses, we feel, amply justify a rate increase.
- These features justify the expense of the software.
All of these sentences imply two questions, really.
Is it right, or OK, to refuse the request, increase the rates, buy the software, or go to war?… Read the rest