Adoration of the Shepherds / Bartolomé-Esteban Murillo, ca. 1650
Matthew describes the virgin birth of Jesus from Joseph’s viewpoint in Matthew 2. Have you ever studied the first chapter of Matthew? Most Christians probably skip it. It seems like nothing but a boring genealogy.
But let’s pay some attention. Matthew mentions four women in the first six verses. And all four names recall stories of sin.
Jesus had to be born sinless, live a sinless life, and die as a perfect and unblemished sacrifice. Everyone from Cain and Abel onward has been conceived and born in sin.
And that’s not because they were conceived through sexual union.… Read the rest
Suggest that some natural disaster represents God’s judgment, and people will fall all over themselves condemning how judgmental you are. After all, God is love. But God is also judge.
And he’s also Father. Disobeying any father always has consequences.
No one can connect whichever natural disaster is currently in the headlines with any particular judgment.
So I’d like to suggest a sign of judgment, indeed a sign of a curse, we all know.
… Read the rest
Hell. Right panel of Haywain Triptych / Hieronymous Bosch, ca. 1516
I recently came across a Christian teenager who posed this theoretical situation: a person who never sinned, did everything perfectly according to the Bible, but didn’t believe in God. Why, he asked, would God want to send anyone to hell just for that?
Once upon a time, churched and unchurched people alike recognized God as the judge of mankind. They recognized that he stood against a category of behavior called “sin.”
Much of discourse within the church centered on how to be good enough to avoid going to hell.
Nowadays, churched and unchurched people alike are more likely to regard God as the defendant who must justify his opposition to sin.… Read the rest
Jesus died between two criminals. Did you realize that he died between two believers? The first one asked, “Aren’t you the Christ?” The expected answer to that question is, “Yes.”
But he was disappointed that Jesus wasn’t acting like he expected the Christ to act. In his hostility, he joined the unbelievers and scoffers and railed against him.
When something goes wrong, who do you blame? Or as the disciples asked about a man born blind, who sinned? They gave Jesus a choice of the man or his parents. The criminal on the cross blamed God himself.
… Read the rest
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
Joshua and the Israelite People / Korolingischer Buchmaler, ca. 840
A lot of atheists are deeply offended by the God they don’t believe exists.
He commanded Joshua and Israel to obliterate Canaanite civilization by killing every man woman and child within their promised boundaries. At least one has asked, “How is it possible to believe in a good God after reading the book of Joshua?”
Read the rest of the Bible!
God did not command Israel to commit genocide. He commanded Israel to execute capital punishment. Canaanite society finally disappeared from history at the hand of the expanding Babylonian empire centuries later.… Read the rest
Have you ever felt unfit to stand before God?
If so, you’re absolutely right. You are unfit. We’re all unfit to stand before God, but he invites us anyway.
The prophet Zechariah had a beautiful vision of God’s gracious response to the unworthiness we can do nothing about (Zechariah 3:1-5).
It begins with Joshua, the high priest, standing before God, with Satan ready to accuse him.
The accuser cleared his throat and God rebuked him before he could utter a syllable. The name “Satan” means accuser, but he can’t make his accusations stick before God. Apparently, God won’t even let him utter them in his presence.… Read the rest
A small but vocal minority of people have managed to redefine marriage in the United States by judicial fiat.
Justice Kennedy excused his setting aside all of human tradition on grounds that most Americans now accept same-sex marriage.
Ten years ago most Americans rejected it. Why the change?
Because the church failed to be the church. It followed the sorry pattern of Old Testament prophets and priests.
Judgment is coming. It will not be pleasant. “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:17
Someone on social media sarcastically noted that God did not send anyone to hell because of slavery, so why would he send anyone to hell because of same-sex marriage?… Read the rest
Moses Pleading with Israel, as in Deuteronomy 8:11-20, illustration from a Bible card published 1907 by the Providence Lithograph Company
Lent is a time of repentance and preparation for Easter. That Jesus died for our sins and rose again to take them away means nothing if we don’t recognized ourselves as sinners. For all our individual differences, we all have one sin in common. We forget God.
Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt to the doorstep of the Promised Land. and they refused to enter.
They had forgotten God’s power, protection, and provision. When they heard the report of fortified cities, they wailed and declared it would have been better if they had died in Egypt.… Read the rest
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