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

Sin and grace in the Book of Ruth

In Saturday’s blogpost, I examined the four women mentioned in the genealogy that opens Matthew’s gospel. In order to stick to one point, the necessity of the virgin birth of Jesus, I had to pass over some important lessons on grace in the Book of Ruth.

The law of Moses forbade intermarriage with Canaanites and Moabites. Yet we see in the genealogy that Salmon married the Canaanite Rahab and Boaz, apparently his son, married the Moabite Ruth. The law further mandates that the offspring of forbidden marriages be barred from the assembly of the Lord down to ten generations. That is, all of Salmon’s children, grandchildren, etc.… 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

The pain God allows, and doesn’t

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.”–Psalm 37:23-24 (NASB)

I went through years of struggle with doubting that God really loved me. Now that that is settled,  I’m learning so much more. And in case anyone else is struggling, God not only loves you, he delights when you walk in the way he has established for you.

God does not delight in rebellion, of course. Doubts of God’s love come to people who think they’re doing all the right things, but troubles keep crashing in upon them.… Read the rest

Jesus’ anger

“He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.”–Mark 3:5, NIV

We don’t like to think of Jesus being angry. We like to think of him as gentle, meek, mild. Whatever else he was, he was never mild. Perhaps one reason we find Jesus’ anger uncomfortable is that we so often find our own embarrassing. Anger feels sinful, but the Bible commands us to be angry without sin.

Much of the congregation in the synagogue waited to see if Jesus would dare heal on the sabbath.… Read the rest

Who are you calling evil?

If you, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, now much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!–Matthew 7:11, NKJV

“If you, then, being evil. . .” Who today would dare address a crowd that way? And if someone did, wouldn’t everyone be too offended to listen to the rest of the message? We like to think of ourselves–and all of humanity–as basically good.

The Bible describes many occasions on which a crowd was so angry with Jesus that they argued heatedly, or even wanted to kill him.… 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

Welcome to Grace and Judgment

Calvin Coolidge had to go to church one day alone, because his wife was ill. When he returned, she asked him how church was. “Fine,” he said.

“Well, how was the sermon?” “Good.”

“What was it about?” “Sin.”

“Calvin, tell me what he said about it.” (Awkward pause.) “He’s against it.”

So should we all be. But how often do preachers talk about sin nowadays? Not often enough. My pastor proclaims that he’s against it, but I have heard many other preachers over the years with little acknowledgment that sin even matters. Time was when I heard and read lots of lessons about healing or prosperity.… 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