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

How Gideon failed at success

Gideon and the angel

The Angel Puts Fire on the Altar of Gideon / James Tissot

Everyone wants to succeed at what they try. The alternative is failure.

Successful people know failure. They have learned from it, worked out problems, and tried again until they succeed. That’s the way the world works.

Unfortunately, the world also has pitfalls that can ultimately destroy the successful if they’re not vigilant. The Bible has many examples. Let’s look at Gideon.

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God vs mammon

Worship of Mammon

The Worship of Mammon / Evelyn De Morgan (1909)

Lots of people seem to get upset with preachers because they’re always talking about money. Those same people wouldn’t have liked Jesus’ ministry very much, either. Almost half of his parables (16 of 38) have to do with money.

And that’s not all he had to say about it, either. Here’s a portion of the Sermon on the Mount:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,

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Overcoming fear with peace

peace vs fear

Jesus Praying in the Garden / by Gustav Doré

Fear is one of Satan’s weapons to keep Christians from living in the freedom that Christ purchased for us. Fear keeps the lonely from reaching out to other people. Fear keeps us all from leaving our comfort zones to reach out for any goals at all.

We naturally experience fear when we experience adversity, obstacles, or failure. We shouldn’t give into it just because it’s natural. We have supernatural advantages, just as Jesus did in the Garden.

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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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Basic social justice: what weakness hampers it?

Every society wants justice. That’s every society throughout the world beginning in prehistory. Take away superficial differences, and it appears that every society has similar views of what justice means. We’ll look at a passage from Exodus that would probably not be controversial anywhere.

Justice is hard to get when thugs take over. See the latest headlines from Syria. But I’ll bet even Assad’s courts have dispensed justice whenever it has not been against the regime’s interests to do so.

On the other hand, it doesn’t take an evil government to pervert justice. Ordinary human nature can do quite nicely at that even with the best of governments.… Read the rest

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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See what God has done: praise in rough times

In an earlier post, I wrote of the struggles I used to have with the meaning of praise. From the opening of Psalm 66, I explained both my problem and what I came to learn about it.

When in v. 5 of the same psalm David writes, “Come and see what God has done,” he turns his focus from telling God how wonderful he is to reminding those who sang it of a familiar and beloved story.

Looking back

Worshiping the golden calf, as in Exodus 32:1-35, illustration from a Bible card published 1901 by the Providence Lithograph Company

The escape from Egypt through the sea and entrance into the Promised Land through the Jordan River at flood stage formed the backdrop for the Jews’ entire national and religious identity.… 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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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