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

What does peace look like?

Peace rally

We all want peace. I’m sure we all really do. But what does it look like?

For as long as anyone living can remember, America has been either at war or in serious rivalry with other country.

Our government has also operated a long-running Middle East peace process. Is there peace there?

Bumper stickers proclaim “Give peace a chance,” and “War is not the answer.”

I well remember the unpopular war in Vietnam and attended peace rallies to protest it.

What was peace like there? People would take turns shouting angry slogans into a microphone. Occasionally, in the name of peace, some people threw bricks through windows or even burned down buildings.… Read the rest

Rejoice? Always!

A popular praise chorus goes, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” That’s Scripture, actually: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Is it really practical in this day and age? Or is it the case, as Jean Kerr observed, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it’s just possible you haven’t grasped the situation.”

 

The troubles we’ve seen

For the last couple of years, our economy has been rocked by very tough conditions: high unemployment, long term unemployment, lots of foreclosures on peoples’  houses.… Read the rest

Walking through the valley of the shadow of death


No one goes looking for hard times to go through, but no one escapes them, either. David described encountering and overcoming the valley of the shadow of death. What kind of hardship is your valley of the shadow of death? A path in a valley might wind through a dense forest. In David’s time, there might not even have been a real path. It might be impossible to see very far ahead. In this metaphorical valley, when we don’t know quite where we’re going, I can attest from personal experience how easy it is to be afraid. How can we come to David’s boldness in claiming to fear no evil?… Read the rest

An open door in heaven


“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” — Revelation 4:1 (NIV)

In the popular imagination, St. Peter is heaven’s gate keeper. That imagery serves as the backdrop for some truly hilarious jokes, but Scripture knows nothing of it. Much of the imagery in Revelation may be hard to understand, but there is nothing hard about this verse.

After hearing the voice of Jesus in the first chapter, John turned around and did not see the familiar face and body of the man he had followed in Palestine.… Read the rest

Righteousness apart from the law

David made some strong claims for himself in 2 Samuel 22:21-25:

21 “The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
22 For I have kept the ways of the LORD;
I have not done evil by turning from my God.
23 All his laws are before me;
I have not turned away from his decrees.
24 I have been blameless before him
and have kept myself from sin.
25 The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to my cleanness in his sight. (NIV)

All of us who have ever read it know our own hearts and question whether we could make such a claim.… 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

Dwelling in the secret place

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” — Psalm 91:1 (NKJV)

The secret place of the Most High means nothing less than the inner sanctum of the heavenly temple, and the shadow of the Almighty is located between the wings of the cherubim on the ark of the covenant. What does it mean to dwell there?

In the natural, I have had several dwelling places, including dorm rooms, apartments, and houses. In every case, I have been able to visit other people’s dwellings, but my own dwelling is always different.… Read the rest

Where is joy?

“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” — Psalm 16:11 (NIV)

As I write this, the New Orleans Saints just won the Super Bowl. That fills their fans with joy. We all know what it means to realize a hoped-for outcome, especially if for any reason success was ever in doubt.

Everyone but team members, though, only observed the Super Bowl win and the season leading up to it. We did not experience it. The rest of us must now return to our own realities, which may seem grim and threatening.… Read the rest

Judgment and grace even for Nineveh

The prophet Nahum decreed destruction for the Assyrian capital of Nineveh. At that time, Assyria ruled the entire Middle East, including Egypt. Only the kingdom of Judah, ruled by King Josiah, remained independent.

We learn from Jonah’s experience that God loved Nineveh, but his patience has limits. The Assyrians, at his direction, had destroyed the kingdom of Israel and resettled all its people. God chose them as his instrument of judgment on Israel, but did not tolerate their cruel pride and arrogance. So he destroyed them, but only after a prophetic warning.

Here is a prophecy directed not at God’s chosen people, but an enemy state who only knew enough about him to hold him in contempt.… Read the rest