The question that hovers over this entire passage is whether the author is talking about a future rest – in other words, the rest that will be part of the future kingdom of God – or whether he’s talking about a rest we can enter already today, within the present manifestation of God’s kingdom. Is this rest a future reward for present behavior, or is it a present possibility that we’ll experience more fully when Jesus comes back? Read the rest of this post »
Categories: Judgment, Knowing God, Scripture
Okay. Today I want to address some of the very real challenges we encounter when reading Scripture, partly because our various lectionary readings bring them to the surface. Because this is just a blog post, I’ll have to keep my thoughts (relatively) brief, which feels a bit risky. But I hope that you will come back with any questions or concerns that you have. Let’s make this a dialogue.
The first issue has to do with God’s judgment. As much as people try to distinguish the God of the Old Testament from the God of the New Testament, judgment is found throughout Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus talked about it. He warned the seven churches in Revelation about it. It’s everywhere, right alongside the love and grace and forgiveness of God.
One of the challenges, I believe, is that many of us tend to read the Scriptures almost exclusively in terms of what it’s saying to us personally. I’ve heard more than one pastor, for example, describe the Bible as a “personal love letter from God.” Please know that I believe it’s very important for us to allow the Bible to speak to us personally. I try to do that every day. But it’s actually usually speaking to groups of people — for example, the entire nation of Israel, or whole churches. Read the rest of this post »
Categories: Repentance, Scripture, Transformation
I realize that love is definitely at the top of the list. But the kind of love that Christ modeled and taught doesn’t happen without repentance.
I’m not simply talking about the repentance that provides an entry point into the kingdom. I’m talking about ongoing repentance, the kind that makes ongoing transformation possible and enables us to walk deeper and deeper into the heart of God’s kingdom. Read the rest of this post »
Categories: Commitment, Kingdom of God, Scripture
Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the season of Lent. If we take out the six Sundays of Lent (when people didn’t traditionally fast), that leaves forty days, which commemorates the forty days Jesus fasted and was tempted by Satan in the wilderness.
Which is interesting (sort of), but what does that have to do with us today?
We often view this season as an opportunity to tune up our spiritual lives, which is a fine thing to do. But is that what Jesus was about?
Matthew writes, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” So the Spirit led Jesus into the desert in order to be tempted by the devil. That seems a bit strange, doesn’t it? Isn’t the whole point to avoid temptation? Read the rest of this post »
Categories: Discipleship, Taxes
Tags: Ruth's Place
“So the spies questioned him: ‘Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’
He saw through their duplicity and said to them, ‘Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?’
‘Caesar’s,’ they replied.
He said to them, ‘Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’
They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent” (Luke 20:21-26).
I thought I would say a few words about this morning’s gospel reading because a lot of people seem to be confused about it, and because it provides important insight into what life in the kingdom of God is like. Read the rest of this post »
Categories: Baptism, Children, Community
We’ve tried to learn what we can from John’s baptism, as well as John’s baptism of Jesus. Today I’d like to look at one more baptism story – the baptism of the first Christians at Pentecost, a day that many consider the Church’s birthday.
“‘Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’
“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’
“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:37-39).’”
If you’ve read the previous posts about baptism, you’ll recognize some familiar elements in this Acts account – repentance, forgiveness, the emphasis on Jesus, receiving the Holy Spirit, the focus on mission (i.e.“for all who are far off”). But there are a couple of new aspects as well. First, there is the fact that baptism and the Holy Spirit are offered not only to adult believers but to their children. (At other points in the book of Acts we read about whole households being baptized.) I’m not going to attempt to defend infant baptism to those who hold exclusively to what’s often called “believers’ baptism.” No matter how we understand the appropriate timing of baptism, all of us have to ask ourselves where children fit into the life of God’s people, his church, the covenant community. Read the rest of this post »
Categories: Baptism, Holy Spirit, New Creation, Transformation
So why a dove?
We’ve been talking about baptism, and what we can learn from John’s baptism as well as John’s baptism of Jesus. John talked about the Holy Spirit coming with fire. The apostles got fire too (i.e. the tongues of fire at Pentecost). So why did Jesus get a dove?
Actually, the dove is the clue that unlocks Jesus’ entire mission. Read the rest of this post »