Judgment, grace, and natural disasters

Earthquake damaged houseRecord drought in California. Record flooding in Louisiana. Earthquake in Italy. Insurance companies call these and other natural disasters “acts of God.”

Is God trying to tell us something?

Someone, it seems, always comes out of the woodwork to say that a particular disaster God’s judgment on—take your pick—homosexuality, abortion, taking prayer out of schools, or whatever other issue riles them.

It’s not.

Read the rest

Mary: After the Angel Departed

Mary, Simeon, Jesus

Simeon Receives Jesus in the Temple / Simon Vouet, 1640-41

Have you ever had a vivid encounter with God? What happened a day or two later? A week? Years?

Quite often Christians have reported an overwhelming spiritual high followed by a deep spiritual low.

God’s presence can be so vivid that it seems like what he says is bound to happen in the next 15 minutes, but it never does.

A cherished promise never seems as far off and distant as it does after vividness of the divine presence fades.

Does that mean perhaps that we had no genuine spiritual experience?… Read the rest

It’s not about the nail

Nail in a tireMy email brought a link to a video called, “It’s Not About the Nail.” The woman whines about the effects of a nail in her head, but gets upset if the man suggests that she remove it.

The message promised that men would find it hilarious and women would wind up wondering if men would ever get it.

I’m a man. I found it hilarious. I also recognized that, apart from the stereotypes of the different conversation styles on Mars and Venus, the video points to a more profound truth.

Men and women fall into this subtler trap equally. Why do so many people, men and women alike, cling to behaviors and conditions that only cause them pain?… Read the rest

The grace in God’s disturbing acts

StormMany people draw comfort from favorite Bible verses. But what are we supposed to make of verses that aren’t comforting at all? Especially when they appear nestled among some of the grandest promises in Scripture?

In the Bible open on my desk as I write this post, Psalm 104 is titled “Praise to the Sovereign Lord for His Creation and Providence.” It extols God for creating the world and every living thing upon it. It describes in loving detail how he cares tenderly for all the birds and animals—which, it says, he made for the service of humanity.

But that psalm is not sweetness and light from beginning to end.… Read the rest

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

A prophetic word for a new heart in hard times

hard times

Today, we’re in an economic meltdown. People are suffering in these hard times. It appears now that when people act in their own self-interest—save, pay down debt, do the kinds of things that we all should have been doing in the first place—it makes the general economic climate even worse. Unfortunately, the scope of the trouble is so large and complex that looking for someone to blame is a lot easier than deciding what to do about it. So goes the coming election cycle.

Where is God in all this? Can we cry out to him for help, or is this mess somehow his judgment?… Read the rest

Why do bad things happen? Suffering and the righteous

Why do bad things happen? Some people seem to think it’s God’s job to make everyone happy all the time. Some people even point to the suffering in the world as justification for not believing in God at all. No one seems to mind if “bad” people suffer; they have it coming to them. But good people? Righteous people?God allows them to suffer, too. Why? Why?

There is an answer that no one likes much: “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10, quoting Psalm 14:3 and Psalm 53:3, NKJV), “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).… Read the rest

Saying "no" to ungodliness

Christmas scriptures include many familiar passages, but also thoughts from books not many of us read often, such as an important paragraph from Paul’s epistle to Titus. It gives a very valuable overview of the entire meaning of Jesus coming in the flesh.

Paul says that God’s grace has appeared and offers salvation to all people. One does not have to explore any farther than posts on Old Testament scriptures in this blog to realize that God’s grace extended to Jews and Gentiles alike from the beginning. In particular, the grace revealed before the coming of Christ is what the Wesleyan tradition calls prevenient grace, that is, the grace that goes before.… Read the rest

Finding blessing in dangerous situations

“Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet.” — Judges 14:14 (NASB)

One day, when Samson was on his way to marry a Philistine woman, a lion attacked him. By the Spirit of God, Samson killed the lion. On the way back  home, he noticed that some bees had made honey in the carcass. He stopped to enjoy it. At the beginning of the wedding feast, he proposed a riddle based on the incident.

Let’s leave aside the fact that, as one living under the covenant of Moses, Samson had no business marrying a pagan.… 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