Category Archives: Bible

What Should Christians Do About President Biden?

“What Should Christians Do About President Biden?” I hear that question, though perhaps in a less respectful form, regularly. It is more like, “What about Biden?” or “Did you hear what Biden’s done now?”

Most of my friends are Christians who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020. In conversations about politics I, who did not vote for either of the major candidates, generally find myself on the outside. I sometimes try to reframe, or perhaps enlarge the frame, of such conversations to include God’s plans for the church and the world and Christian responsibility within those plans.
What is that responsibility? What should Christians do about Biden? The biblical answer is that
they should pray for him. St. Paul urged “that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority…” As the Bible scholar Christopher Wright put it, “Paul commands all kinds of prayers for all kinds of rulers.”

How should we pray for rulers like President Biden? Continue reading

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When it Comes to Love: Know the Operating Specs

We often assume that 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a is telling us what we are ordered to do – or at least what we should do. But read it for yourself: There are no commands here—not a single imperative (or even subjunctive) mood verb in this entire section. Paul is not ordering us to love; he is describing love to us. The 15 active voice verbs in this section provide us with love’s operating specs, which we can then use in our own lives. This is intensely practical stuff.

Look at the first spec: love is patient. That lets us know that if we are living in love, we will be seeing patience. But what if we see impatience instead? That is also helpful. It means an adjustment is necessary – not that we need to try harder but that we need to come to God in trust and possibly repentance, so that love can start flowing again.

The same thing works for each of these actions listed. Love acts kindly. That is an operating spec. If I am living in love as I was designed to do, I can expect kindness to be part of my life. On the other hand, if I am easily angered or am keeping a record of the wrongs, that is an indication that I have moved out of love and adjustments need to be made.
Can you see how helpful this could be? Continue reading

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Love: It’s not a Matter of Trying Harder

That way follows a well-worn path to hypocrisy and apathy. 1 Corinthians 13 is not about what we should be doing. There is no “should” about it.

Grammarians describe “should,” “would,” and “could” words as subjunctive mood verbs. In verses one through three, where Paul describes the lengths to which someone might go to be an honorable person, there are ten subjunctive mood verbs. This is the try harder section. But where that leads – to the conviction (verse 2) that “I am nothing” and, (verse 3) that “I gain nothing” is not where we want to go.

In the next section, which runs from verse 4 through verse 8 and contains a description of love, there is not a single subjunctive mood verb. What does that mean? It means that here Paul is not telling us what we should do but what love does do. When we read this as if Paul is telling us to dig deep and be more patient, be more kind, less envious, less angry, we only succeed in frustrating ourselves—and frustrated people do not love well.

When, later in this letter, Paul tells the Corinthians to “Do everything in love” (1 Cor. 16:14), he is not saying, “Be more loving!” He is telling them to enter into love and do what they do from there. When he tells the Galatians to “serve one another in love” (Gal. 5:13), it’s the same kind of thing. It is not, “Try harder to be loving,” as if we can manufacture love, but “Keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 1:21). Since “love comes from God” (I John 4:7) and not from us, “digging deep” usually only leaves us in a hole. We need to go to the source of love. We need to go to God. Continue reading

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What it Takes for Love to Last

Hundreds of years before people began celebrating Valentine’s Day, the holiday du jour for February 14 was Lupercalia. The philosopher Plutarch refers to Lupercalia as a time when “young men of noble families run through the city naked and …strike those they meet with shaggy thongs.” They were history’s first streakers.

Though respectable people no longer took part in it, the festival was still being celebrated in the middle of the third century when a priest named Valentinus – we know him as St. Valentine –lived in Rome. Fast-forward to 496 AD. Lupercalia is a distant memory. February 14 is now the day to celebrate the Feast of St. Valentine. Continue reading

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Telling the Good News: Answering Tough Questions

“Religious people think they are better than everyone else. They are so judgmental. I don’t even want to be around them.”

How do you answer? You go back to Jesus. “I don’t know if you know this, but Jesus felt that way too. The people he liked to hang out with most were the ones religious folks looked down on. When they put them down, Jesus stood up for them.”

Jesus had a lot to say about that too. Check out: Matthew 7:1-6; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 10:3-37 (the story of the Good Samaritan); all of Luke 15; Luke 18:9-14.

Some people say, “You know, I’m just not the religious type.” Whenever someone says that to me, I always respond, “I’m not either.” They can hardly believe it. But then you can go on and say: “And you know what? Jesus wasn’t either.” Then you can tell them about Mark 7:1-13, where Jesus distinguished between religion and knowing and loving God. Religion wasn’t his thing, but he was all about God. You might go on to say that the Bible hardly ever mentions religion – that’s not what it’s all about.

Then you can ask: “What? Did you think Jesus was really religious or something?” You will get their curiosity up. Who knows? That may open the door for further conversations – either with you or with some other person God will send along.
Continue reading

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Telling the Good News: Right Words, Wrong Life?

It is natural, when we are telling people the good news, to want to make sure we have all the right words – it makes us feel safer. But having the right words won’t help if we’re living the wrong life! A life with God that is authentic and satisfying is what provide opportunities.

I’ll mention three characteristics of that kind of life. (There are of course more.) First, it is genuinely optimistic. This is not a Pollyanna, turn a blind eye, kind of thing. This is a life of hope built on the certainty that God will make things right. God is so much a part of the hopeful life that it is inexplicable apart from him. If your life can be explained without recourse to God, you’re too much like everyone else.

The authentic God-filled life is also a connected life. Connectedness is largely missing in our society. Over the past few decades, social scientists have consistently found “slippages in self-confidence, growing regrets about the past, and declines in virtually every measure of self-reported physical and mental health … regardless of gender, age, marital status, and educational attainment.” This in one of the world’s wealthiest nations.

Studies have found that this unhappiness is rooted in a failure to connect. Here’s how one sociologist summarized it: “Americans over the past several decades became increasingly detached from family and friends …. There is indeed a large body of evidence indicating that social connectedness … has a powerful influence on self-reported health and happiness.”

It was God who said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” We understand that, but we don’t know what to do about it. Jesus does. He offers a connected life. If we are living that life, connected by dozens and dozens of threads to our church family, we will have opportunities to tell others the good news.
Continue reading

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What Will Be Missing in the Future (According to the Bible)

There are other things that will not make it into God’s future kingdom. Revelation 21 and 22 mentions some of them. One, according to Revelation 21:1, is the sea. How could there be no sea?

It is important to remember that The Revelation belongs to an ancient (now extinct) genre of literature called apocalyptic, for which symbolism is its stock and trade. The symbols in Revelation are drawn largely from the Old Testament, which is the key to understanding them. One example is the sea. John says in verse 1: “And there was no longer any sea.”

This makes sense when we understand that in Old Testament symbolism the sea regularly represents chaos and evil. For example, in the Book of Daniel (which belongs to the same genre), the beasts that devastate the earth arise out of the sea. When John says that there will be no more sea, he is telling us that the source from which chaos and evil arise will be gone. There will be no more turmoil, disorder, and confusion. That is good news.

Look at verse 4: “There will be no more death.” Death is an intruder. It was smuggled into our world, our lives, and even our bodies through Adam’s sin. If you have been around for any time at all, you know The Book of Common Prayer is right: “In the midst of life we are in death.” But it is even worse than that: not only are we in death; death is in us. But through the resurrection of Jesus Christ our ancient enemy has already been defeated and at our resurrection it will be obliterated – expunged from the universe. That is good news! Continue reading

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HOPE: Good News About the Future

The Bible gives many reasons for hope. Christians believe that the future will be good – incomprehensibly and incomparably good! This sermon shows us why. (Excerpts will be posted later in the week.)

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Our Shame and Our Hope

Humans were designed to rule the world but powers they do not understand now rule them. Under God’s rule, they could rule, but the moment they stopped being subject to God, they became subject to fear (verse 10) and were … Continue reading

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Creation and the Butterfly Effect

Adam and Even needed to be trained for the awesome task before them, but they didn’t want to wait. They spurned the opportunity to rule under God and the preparation it required and chose instead to rule beside him. They … Continue reading

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