Wages you don’t want to collect


“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). God’s judgment says that all have sinned, so all will die. God’s grace says that whoever puts faith in the work of Jesus will live forever. God’s final judgment will result in a second death for those who refuse his grace (Revelation 20:14). All will die the death of the body, but those who refuse God’s grace will also suffer the death of the spirit in the lake of fire.

How many hundreds or thousands of sermons have been preached on those texts trying to scare the hell out of people? But that is not my intent.… Read the rest

What is the Kingdom of God like?

44The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. – Matthew 13:44-46

These three verses comprise two different parables, but neither can stand without the other. The first says the kingdom of God is like a treasure, the second that it is like a merchant.… Read the rest

Redeemed from the curse of the law


“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” — Galatians 3:13-14 (NKJV)

What, exactly, is this curse of the law that we are redeemed from? Check out Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. Both chapters begin with a blessing that the people would obtain for keeping up their end of the covenant. Both chapters enumerate the dire consequences of failing to keep the covenant. … Read the rest

All things are become new

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.” — Matthew 3:16 (NIV)

Last week it was 2009. This week it’s Twenty-Ten. Just think. Last week when we wrote a check, we might have had to think about the day, but not the month or the year. I suppose for most of us it will be another month before writing 2-0-1-0 becomes second nature.

When the calendar changes, our whole society is programmed to think of other changes, too.… Read the rest

Double meanings at Christmas time

Scripture means so much on so many different levels. As one example of a scripture with multiple meanings, Isaiah’s rebuke to a weak and fearful king turned out to foreshadow the coming of a new King who would have the power to defeat the devil  himself.

Ahaz, King of Judah, was frighted when the kings of Syria and Israel invaded his territory. God sent Isaiah to  him with a message of hope. Isaiah told Ahaz to remain calm and have faith in God. Instead, he asked the King of Assyria to help him out.

And so in a second confrontation, Isaiah told Ahaz to ask for a sign.… Read the rest

The sin in Jesus’ family tree: why his mother had to be a virgin.

Most readers of Matthew’s gospel, I suppose, skip the first chapter entirely. After all, it is only a boring genealogy. But at least look at the first six verses. Genealogies in the Bible do not often mention a man’s mother, but Matthew took time to identify four mothers, and each mother reminds us of a particular sin.

The disgusting story of Judah and Tamar, told in Genesis 38, reads like the story line of the edgiest of soap operas. God took the life of Tamar’s husband, Judah’s oldest son Er, for unspecified wickedness. It then became the responsibility of the second son, Onan, to provide his brother with an heir by having sex with his widow.… Read the rest

Cleansing blood

“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”–Revelation 1:5b-6, NKJV.

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? The very question has always made me cringe. Blood is sticky and messy. It stains things, ruins things, contaminates things. A fountain filled with blood? Yuck. Plunged beneath the cleansing flood? Sounds disgusting. And yet. . .

That’s what happens when blood gets outside the body. When it’s inside the body, cleansing is exactly what it does.… Read the rest

A Shelter from the Storm—Really!

Have you ever noticed that nothing threatens holy people for long? Have you ever noticed that when you run into trouble, all you have to do is pray and the problems are solved? You haven’t? Hmm.

At first glance, that’s what Isaiah 25:1-12 seems to say: God has just done something wonderful in destroying the enemy’s stronghold and is promising more wonderful things in the future. Isaiah praises God as a refuge, a shelter from the storm. It certainly didn’t look like that to his audience.

The historical background for this passage is the military threat from Assyria. When the Assyrian army wasn’t at the gates, its ambassadors were breathing threats.… Read the rest

The true prophetic word, or, why things often feel so wrong

You’ve all heard the jokes that start out, “I have some good news and some bad news for you.” That could also serve as an introduction to the message of the Bible. The trouble is, no one wants to hear the bad news, but the good news doesn’t seem like much without it.

There’s no shortage of bad news in our mass media. We all know that the national economy is getting pretty soundly thumped. Some of us are getting pretty soundly thumped in our personal life, too. I’m going through a really serious thumping right now. Maybe some of you are, too.… Read the rest