Archive for the ‘Gospel’ category

Spiritual Practices 5 and 6: Having Spiritual Conversations with Believers and Those Not There Yet

November 16, 2016

spiritual-conversationI apologize for not getting out a post last week about our fifth spiritual practice: “Engage in Honest, Authentic Conversations with Other Believers.” Let me say something about the spiritual practices in general. The only way any of these spiritual practices can really work is if we want to do them.

For example, most days I spend a few minutes practicing scales on my guitar. (Don’t worry, that’s not one of the nine practices.) It’s something I enjoy doing because I love the sound of a guitar and because I’d like to improve my playing. What doesn’t work is comparing my guitar skills with Tim Sawicki’s, for example. Then my inevitably small signs of progress can seem like a waste of time.

Likewise, it would be completely off the mark for any of us to compare our spiritual lives with the spiritual lives of other people. Jesus is our teacher, and each of us is his very personal disciple or student. We’re all wired differently — by his design. It’s also not going to work to treat these spiritual practices as obligations or requirements. Like I said earlier, at some level, we have to want them, or at least want the life they point to. (more…)

An Even Better Story

December 5, 2012

MotherTeresaYesterday’s gospel reading talked about a man who planted a vineyard and rented it to some farmers. Of course, when you rent from a landlord, you expect to pay, well, rent. But these tenants decided to withhold their rent. Instead, they pummeled the rent-collectors, which would have sounded pretty foolish to those who first heard the story. What were those tenants thinking?  Then again, what was the landowner thinking when he sent his son to collect the rent? Why not just call the cops, or lead a small army of friends and servants to collect the rent and evict the tenants? Why risk the life of your own son?

Some of Jesus’ parables communicate a moral. This one communicates the gospel. Like many of Jesus’ parables, instead of stating the facts, it understates the facts. It leaves the reader to make the comparisons with the real story and to fill in the blanks. (more…)


May 29, 2012

In yesterday’s gospel reading, Jesus says, “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32).

So which is it? First Jesus says, “Every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven.” But then he says, “Blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” First Jesus says there are no unforgivable sins; and then he says there are. Are there unforgivable sins? If there are, is blasphemy against the Spirit (if we can figure out what that means) the only unforgivable sin, or might there be other exceptions to the “anything can be forgiven” rule? (more…)

Mandate or Mission?

January 7, 2012

Yesterday was Epiphany. Epiphany is the celebration of the revelation of Jesus as God’s Son to the Gentiles. It’s historical reference point is the visitation of the Magi to the baby Jesus.

And it’s surrounded by controversy.

I mean, what’s God doing using astrology to announce his Son’s birth? Astrology is a forbidden practice in the Old Testament, and is always seen in a negative light. The Hebrew word for astrology literally means “divining by the heavens.” In Leviticus 19:26 we read, “Do not practice divination or sorcery.” Just this week I talked with a friend whose mind was twisted into a spiritual knot because of what a Christian astrologer told him. He had no idea, being a young Christian, that “Christian astrologer” is an oxymoron. (more…)

The Hallmark Gospel

October 27, 2011

On Sunday I talked about the “Hallmark Gospel.” It’s a gospel that says God loves us just as we are, and nothing is going to change that, as long as we’ve accepted what Jesus did for us on the cross. Embracing this gospel basically gives us a ‘pass’ on Judgment Day, and guarantees that heaven is pretty much in the bag. One version of the Hallmark Gospel says that until Jesus comes back, he’s about the business of helping us fulfill our dreams and destinies.

The Hallmark Gospel sells. It sells really well. And it contains some truth, like the fact that God loves us. But as it stands, it’s not the gospel that Jesus preached, or for that matter Paul or anyone else in the New Testament. (more…)

Essential 100 Challenge: Day 68 — John 19:1-42

March 9, 2009

christcrossSo who won? When Jesus said those final words, “It is finished,” it was pretty clear that the devil had won, Rome had won, the Jewish leaders had won. Clearly Jesus hadn’t won. Clearly Jesus was finished.

But Jesus didn’t say, “I’m finished;” he said, “It is finished.” In other words, he had accomplished what he came to do. Instead of being his victors, Pilate, Caiaphas and Satan unwittingly operated as Jesus’ accomplices. They actually helped Jesus accomplish what he came to do. (more…)