Jesus had a way of saying offensive things. At least if you stop to think about them.
In Matthew’s gospel, the first words out of Jesus’ mouth as a preacher called people to repent (Matthew 4:17). Next, he began the Beatitudes by proclaiming blessings for spiritual poverty (Matthew 5:3).
What does “poor in spirit” mean? The Greek for “poor” is ptochos, which means destitute of wealth, influence, position, or honor. Reduced to beggary. Now, he wasn’t making a virtue of being broke. He didn’t invite scorn for the rich. After all, he specified poor in spirit.
You’ve read a lot about claiming promises in the Bible. But then you look at many of them and find that God made them to specific individuals for specific purposes.
Are those promises really for you? What can you do with them?
Somehow we don’t have the same curiosity about commandments in the Bible, but at least some of them raise the same questions.
In Joshua 1:6-9, God gave commandments and promises to Joshua. Joshua had long known that he would succeed Moses as Israel’s leader and take them into the Promised Land. Now, Moses had died. It was time for him to step in.… Read the rest
Perhaps nothing so starkly displays the fall more starkly than comparing the first verse in Genesis (which begins, “in the beginning”) and the last (which ends, “in a coffin in Egypt.) Unfortunately, the story gets worse from there.
Until his death, Joseph was Egypt’s prime minister and held nearly unlimited power. Lord Acton’s saying, “power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely” is only partly correct.
Power reveals and intensifies the level of corruption already present. Strong faith in God reduces that level substantially. If sons of godly people show themselves corrupt, it’s because they did not inherit faith.… Read the rest
God is all-powerful, but when he chose to use his power to become a man, he also chose not to use power like other men. It is Satan who turns power into something coercive and egocentric.
It would be nice if we could say that Christians understand the situation and exercise power as Jesus did. Unfortunately, we can truthfully say no more than that some do, and they successfully imitate Christ maybe only some of the time.
“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” has been a favorite American hymn for about 200 years. The second verse notoriously starts, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer.”
I say notoriously, because it has been generations since large numbers of church goers have understood the meaning of “Ebenezer.” It’s a stone of remembrance, set up by the judge and prophet Samuel on an occasion well worth remembering.
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?
There is nothing subtle about how the world operates. We measure power by size. Each industry has one or two dominant and large corporations.
The most powerful nations have some combination of the largest economies, international trade, military power, and diplomatic reach. Politicians vie to amass the most money so they can parlay their fundraising into the most votes.
God doesn’t work that way.
Just look at how he prepared Mary for her role in God’s sneaky counterrevolution against the devil.
Satan appeared to win a great victory in Eden by corrupting the man and the woman God had made. God declared that the seed of the woman would ultimately defeat him.… Read the rest
The following passage, Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV) may be a portion of a hymn sung in the Philippian church. Of course, it matters less whether anyone ever sang it than whether anyone lives up to it. It tells us Christ Jesus’ attitude–not as the risen Lord of glory, but the humble rabbi who walked the earth teaching the unreached. He expects his followers to have the same attitude.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.