Archive for the ‘Repentance’ category

The Bible and Hot-Button Issues

April 17, 2018

Spirit FireIn today’s gospel John the Baptist says, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).

The first thing I’d like to say is about Scripture. John was a prophet. Jesus even said that to this point there was no greater prophet than John. He was a New Testament prophet. He was a prophet whose mission it was to get people ready for Jesus.

And yet, even John’s prophetic words were incomplete. John seems to assume that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit instead of water. John also assumed that when the Messiah came, there wouldn’t be any more chances to repent: the Messiah would gather his wheat (righteous people) into his barn (kingdom) and burn the chaff (everyone else) with fire (hell). The baptism of the Holy Spirit would be for the good guys and the fire of judgment for the bad guys.

Of course, what actually happened looked very different. Jesus and his disciples also baptized with water. Jesus hung out with sinners and even invited them to become his students. He said he didn’t come to judge but to save.

Instead of burning sinners he died for them.

So even though John was given the assignment of preparing people for Jesus, there was very little about Jesus as Messiah that he understood. (In fact, later he would ask Jesus, “Are you the one, or should we be looking for someone else?”)

So no biblical passage or prophet gives the whole or final word about…anything – whether it’s about Jesus, or the cross, or baptism, or the “baptism of the Spirit,” or the Lord’s Supper, or slavery, or the sabbath, or food laws, or predestination, or circumcision (the hot button in the New Testament church) or military service (the hot-button issue in the post-New Testament church, along with whether people who had folded under persecution could repent and be reinstated), or divorce (the hot button issue 50 years ago) or same-sex marriage (the hot button issue that’s dividing congregations and denominations today).

Being baptized with the Holy Spirit doesn’t guarantee our always getting it right either. John was filled with the Holy Spirit back when he was in the womb. It was Holy Spirit baptized Christians who disagreed about food laws, circumcision, Sabbath-keeping and burping in public (just making sure you’re still paying attention).

And maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s God’s way of saying that none of these are supposed to be deal breakers.

So this is what I’m wondering. I’m wondering if the fire John says is going to accompany the Holy Spirit is ultimately meant to get rid of the chaff inside each of us, the chaff that often surfaces when I’m talking about whatever issue is making me feel “hot” inside. I wonder if many of the things I think and feel when talking about same-sex marriage or abortion or politics is actually the stuff that has to be burned with fire.

Maybe the reason I’ve been baptized with the “Holy” Spirit isn’t so that I’ll always be right, but so I’ll gradually become more holy, which includes becoming more humble and loving.

Knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God” (1 Corinthians 8:1-2).


March 4, 2015

MatIn today’s gospel reading Jesus tells a man who had been lame for 38 years to pick up his mat and walk.

The mat marked his place by the pool. If he picked up his mat and walked away, he might lose his place. This was his place, this is where he hung out, where he lived.

Where do I hang out mentally? Where is my head most of the time? What kinds of thoughts or concerns occupy my mind, or captivate my heart?


It’s Ash Wednesday

February 18, 2015

FruitSpirit2What is one of the primary marks of a vibrant, fruit-bearing church?


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. (more…)

Remembering to Forget

June 23, 2011

Earlier this week I came across this quote by Paul Minear: “The present disclosure of divine will demands the forgetting of what should be forgotten and the remembering of what should be remembered.”

If you’re like me, I often forget the things I want to remember, and remember events I wish I could forget. Some memories can be “sticky.” Memories can not only distract but incapacitate us, leaving us to wallow in the mire of shame, regret or anger. They can keep us from seeing the new thing God is doing in front our eyes right now: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland (Isaiah 43:18-19). (more…)

Essential 100 Challenge: Day 69 — John 20:1-21:25

March 10, 2009

trinityrublovI will  be reflecting more on this passage next Sunday. Today I would like to focus on what our reading says about our life in the Trinity.

Jesus said to Mary, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'” (John 20:17). (more…)

Loved X 3

April 29, 2008

“LOVED X 3” was the theme of the retreat, and looking back on it, I see that we were. It felt messy to me as I was going through it: so many of us, and all so different; so many hopes and so many wounds. But of course! That’s the point, isn’t it. (Papa laughs and says, “you think?”) (more…)

The Grace that Opposes the Proud

April 7, 2008

Trinity Uploaded from avisualplanet.comAfter worship yesterday someone asked if I would send her the prayer of confession that we had on the screen. I thought I would include it here.

I’m seeing that it’s God’s grace as much as his distaste that causes him to oppose our pride. He sees how destructive and life-depleting pride is. And now that we’ve decided to follow Jesus, pride is just so unbecoming. (more…)