The return of Christ and the harrowing of hell

Harrowing of hellAdvent is a time of preparing our hearts for the coming of the Christ child. Less often acknowledged, it is a time of preparing our hearts for the return of the triumphant Christ. Are we perhaps too comfortable with the homey images of the baby Jesus? Perhaps we should pay more careful attention to what the uncomfortably supernatural Jesus Christ has already accomplished in his first coming.

He was born of a virgin, as God promised as early as Genesis 3:15. There we read that the “seed of the woman” would crush the devil. He lived as an ordinary human, suffering every temptation any other human has ever faced.… Read the rest

Approaching the darkness that might surround God

When Moses came down from the mountain and read them to the people, something very unexpected happened. Instead of bright lights and angelic rejoicing and good cheer, an odd kind of storm erupted. There was thunder and lightning, but instead of rain, there was smoke.

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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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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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Becoming OK with God: thoughts on the meaning of justification

Justification by faith in Christ

Christ the Redeemer

Justification by faith is too important to let it become just religious talk. If we are justified by faith, what does justify mean in ordinary language? Here are some sentences I found with an online search “justify in a sentence”

  • Refusal of a request to work beyond 65 must be objectively justified by the employer.
  • These pluses, we feel, amply justify a rate increase.
  • These features justify the expense of the software.

All of these sentences imply two questions, really.

Is it right, or OK, to refuse the request, increase the rates, buy the software, or go to war?… Read the rest

Christian warfare: where pacifism is not an option

Did you know that all of us are at war, and there’s nothing we can do but fight or surrender? I’m not talking about Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere the U.S. military is active, ever has been, or ever will be.

Jesus Christ, the rightful Lord of the universe, has a rebellion on his hands. The rebel, named Satan, captured the human race by deceit at the beginning of time and rules as the god of this world. He can’t win, but his final defeat hasn’t yet occurred.

Whatever else it means, this spiritual warfare happens within each of our minds.

“Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all of your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.”–1 Peter 1:13, NRSV.… Read the rest

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

Pontius Pilate on trial

As far as the Sanhedrin was concerned, they had arrested Jesus and put him on trial. Since Rome had long since taken away their right to carry out a death sentence, they had to take him to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate for another trial. In fact, however, Jesus never was and never can be on trial. Whoever encounters Jesus for whatever reason is on trial. The stakes are higher than life or death of the body. The outcome of the trial determines eternal destiny.

The Jewish leadership dragged Jesus to Pilate’s palace and accused Jesus of sedition against Rome.… Read the rest

The weapons of our warfare

“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” — 2 Corinthians 10:4 (NKJV)

The church today is divided over many issues, including war. Christians who are against any and all wars for any and all reasons usually dislike hymns like “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Do dedicated pacifists greet scriptures that talk about “our warfare” with equal comfort and disapproval? I hope not.

Neither hymn nor the scriptures have anything to do with the kind of war where people take up arms for the purpose of killing people on the other side. Regardless of what anyone thinks of American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, or any other war, “our warfare” is something else entirely.… Read the rest

Roundabout to Victory–part 5

While it still looked to the Egyptians like they had time to make it safely to shore, God  told Moses to stretch his hand over the sea. The sea flowed back to its rightful place, covering all the chariots, men, and horses.

Remember, it was daybreak. In Romans 13:12, Paul reminds Christians that the night is almost gone and the day is at hand. Two thousand years later, that is still true and will remain so until Jesus returns. The night is a time for sleep. Paul warns us to wake up, be alert, and put on the armor of light even though it is still night.… Read the rest