The kingdom of God: some assembly required?

Unassembled furnitureHave you ever made something from a kit? A cabinet, perhaps, or an exercise bike. The kingdom of God is something like that.

You bring your kit home from the store and open the box. Inside you find lots of parts, both large and small.

You also find some instructions. They can be hard to understand. Your task is to assemble all the parts to make something that looks like the picture on the box. And it has to work, too.

I have gotten my project assembled in three different ways. Sometimes I just do it myself. Sometimes I work with someone else.… Read the rest

Holiness, glory, and sin

River Jordan with the ark of the covenant, holiness of God

Joshua passing the River Jordan with the Ark of the Covenant / Benjamin West

What do you do for Lent?

It’s just not a time to exercise will power and give something up for a month and a half.

Lent is a time of reflection. It’s a time to prepare ourselves spiritually to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection at Easter.

It’s a time to consider holiness.

Why did Jesus have to die and rise again from the dead? Because God is holy, and we are not. God created Adam in his image and breathed his own life into him. Adam chose to obey Satan instead and forfeited that life.… Read the rest

Sin: Whatever Is Not of Faith

Sin

Society acts like it’s a good thing!

Lent is a time of preparation for Easter, during which Christians are encouraged to ponder their sin and their own mortality. Sin can be difficult to face. Quite apart from the fact that no one really wants to think of their own evil, it can be difficult to identify what sin is.

Despite the claims of an odd team of Christian legalists and enemies of Christianity, biblical Christianity has no list of rules or prohibitions. The Bible says, “everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).

That verse comes at the end of a chapter that demonstrates that something can easily be sin for some people, but not sin for others.… Read the rest

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

What else do we know about Judas?

Judas

Judas Iscariot (right), retiring from the Last Supper, painting by Carl Bloch, late 19th century

Surely everyone knows that Judas, one of the Twelve, accepted 30 pieces of silver from the temple treasury to betray Jesus. He attended the Last Supper with the rest, left early, and led a large armed group to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested. After Jesus was sentenced to death, Judas threw the money back at the priests and committed suicide.

For centuries, many in the church have regarded Judas simply as the most despicable traitor in history. Even today, some writers seem to assume that he was a hypocrite who intended to betray Jesus from the start,

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Praying the Lord’s Prayer with Daniel

Wait a minute! Daniel was in the Old Testament and Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer in the New Testament? What does Daniel have to do with that?

In many churches, maybe most churches, the congregation recites every Sunday. Everyone has it memorized from the familiar King James translation. It is one of the few parts of today’s services where the language hasn’t been updated. It takes less than a minute. How many people actually pray it? Daniel did, as recorded in Daniel 9.

Praying the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew

Lord's Prayer, chant notation

The Lord's Prayer, in Gregorian chant notation

Jesus gave the church a model prayer, not merely to be words to memorize.… Read the rest

Lent and the spiritual wilderness experience

Death Valley

Death Valley, California

The season of Lent recalls Jesus’ 40-day temptation in the wilderness. All Christians sooner or later go through their own spiritual wilderness. And so, in the Old Testament, did one of the Sons of Korah, who left behind Psalms 42 and 43to instruct and comfort us in our own struggles with wilderness experience.

These two psalms appear to have been originally one song of three verses with refrain: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (I use “verse” in the sense of familiar songs or hymns, not in the sense of a verse of scripture.)

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Not exactly a fast: the substitution principal.

“. . . to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of the spirit of fainting, so they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”–Isaiah 61:3 (NASB)

Twice in one recent day, I encountered the concept of fasting from bad attitudes. I see what the two people are getting at, but I don’t think “fasting” is quite appropriate. Fasting generally means not eating for a period of time. Jesus and Moses each fasted for forty days.… Read the rest