Idolatry and redemption today

IdolatryChristians 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

An Old Testament beatitude and the grace of God

God is goodWe 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.

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God judges your sin harshly, but not necessarily you


grace and judgementSome 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.

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The kingdom of God: What does it mean to inherit, or not inherit it

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).

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Gay marriage, politics, and the Bible

Men arguingNorth 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.

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The man born blind: discuss or heal?

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?

Who sinned?

Christ heals the Man born blind

Healing of the Blind Man / by Duccio di Buoninsegna (1308-11)

A blind man sat near the entrance to the temple.… Read the rest

Faith, sin, unrighteousness, and free will

Fire angel

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

Becoming OK with God: thoughts on the meaning of justification

Justification by faith in Christ

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

A prophetic word for a new heart in hard times

hard times

Today, we’re in an economic meltdown. People are suffering in these hard times. It appears now that when people act in their own self-interest—save, pay down debt, do the kinds of things that we all should have been doing in the first place—it makes the general economic climate even worse. Unfortunately, the scope of the trouble is so large and complex that looking for someone to blame is a lot easier than deciding what to do about it. So goes the coming election cycle.

Where is God in all this? Can we cry out to him for help, or is this mess somehow his judgment?… Read the rest

Lessons on God’s grace from the potter

God told Jeremiah, “Go down to the potter’s house, and I will give you my message there” (Jeremiah 18:2, NCV). Today if you go to a potter, you will probably see him or her working on a potter’s wheel operated with an electric motor. Before the invention of electric motors, potters at a wheel operated a treadle with their feet.

The technology doesn’t matter. The wheel doesn’t matter. Then as now, the potter formed the clay with his hands. He started to make something and was not happy with how it turned out. He crushed the clay back into a ball, but instead of making the same thing, he decided to make something else.… Read the rest