Category Archives: Peace with God

Absalom, Absalom: The Temptation of Power

In this sermon we dig into the story of King David’s son Absalom. We see how people can be lured away from the good life God has planned for them by the temptation to attain power illegitimately. We also see … Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Peace with God, Sermons | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

You Are the Man – But God Is Still God

But now David ends the cover-up, confesses his sin, and the prophet tells him that God has forgiven him. How could God do that? David didn’t even have a media consultant to craft a public apology. There was no teary mea culpa, no woke gift to the Survivors of Sexual Exploitation Fund. I ask again: How could God forgive? Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Peace with God, Sermons, Spiritual life | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Would Have Given You Even More: David and Bathsheba

What might that phrase, “I would have given you even more,” include? What did David miss out on that would have been his? What joys, what adventures, what honors, what insights and raptures might have been David’s, had he not forfeited them by his disastrous choices?

Look at what God says he had given David. An anointing: He anointed him king when he was still a teenager and an unknown. Deliverance: he delivered him from ruin and death at the hands of Saul. Authority: He had given him his master’s house with all its symbols of power. People: He had given him Israel and Judah: their admiration and love, as well as their obedience and submission.

What about us? Has God given us anything? Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Peace with God, Sermons, Spiritual life | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Party at My House: How Jesus Thinks of God

One day I met a couple who both had AIDS and had several children at home with the disease. This was in the early to mid-80s. I visited them at their home, and they told me about how people in the pharmacy that week had turned and almost ran the other way when they saw them. They told me how people at work didn’t want anything to do with them. Everyone was afraid that they would give them the virus.

That’s when they asked me if I wanted a cup of coffee, and offered me an old stained, chipped cup. I accepted, but as I sat looking around at their unclean, messy kitchen, I wondered if that cup had even been washed. The idea that the virus might mutate crossed my mind. I drank their coffee, but I wondered if I was putting myself at risk.

We know now there was nothing to worry about, but at the time it seemed like a risky thing to do. Well, in the first century, that’s how people felt about eating and drinking with people who were not Jews, or were not following ritual practices, or who were living sinful lives. Being around them might very well contaminate you. It is hard to overstate how universal and how powerful this idea was. And yet Jesus welcomed these people and whenever they invited him over for a meal, he went.
Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Peace with God, Theology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

It Cannot Bear to Admire, Respect, or Be Grateful

Envy is a terrible thing. It is one of the chief sources of evil in the world. Here are some of the things the Bible says about envy: It can destroy someone (Job 5:2); it will steal a person’s peace … Continue reading

Posted in Peace with God, Sermons, Spiritual life | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Doubt Roots Deeply in a Closed Mind

Faith is one of Christianity’s cardinal virtues. St. Paul ranks it alongside hope and love as something that will survive the end of the age. Christians are taught that they are justified by faith and must learn to live by … Continue reading

Posted in Peace with God, Spiritual life, Theology | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Learning Theology at the County Fair

I went to my first county fair during the summer between sixth and seventh grade. My friend’s parents took us, and we boys headed immediately to the midway to scope out the rides. The first one we tried was “The … Continue reading

Posted in Peace with God, Theology | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Envisioning a Changed Life

Jesus presents this life as free from the terrible burden of anger. And anger is a terrible burden to bear. It is like carrying a heavy wire basket full of knives, with points sticking out on top, bottom, and all four sides. You try to hold it away from your body, but whenever you get tired and let down your guard, you get poked. You try to shift the weight, but it happens again and again. And it’s not just you: the people close to you keep getting hurt. Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Peace with God, Spiritual life | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Clearing Away the Confusion Surrounding Forgiveness

In what is arguably the most oft-recited Scripture text in history, Jesus teaches his apprentices how to pray. We call this, “The Lord’s Prayer,” or the “Our Father Prayer,” but it might be more accurate to call it, “The Disciple’s Prayer.” It was given as part of Jesus’ brilliant Sermon on the Mount and was meant to serve as a pattern for the disciple’s own prayers.

Jesus apparently felt one part of the prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” required clarification. Immediately following the prayer, he explained: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” With these shocking words Jesus puts us on notice: Our forgiveness is related to our choice to forgive.

Experience has taught me that many people struggle with this issue. They know, all too well, that they need forgiveness, and genuinely want to forgive those who have hurt them, but they don’t know how. When the pain of the past still washes over them like ocean waves, leaving a residue of bitterness and profound sorrow, what can they do?

The fact that God’s forgiveness is linked to our willingness to forgive can be unsettling, but one can learn to use that dynamic to one’s own advantage. A person who relishes God’s grace in forgiving his sins will find the grace necessary to forgive others’ sins, which is why Paul says, “Forgive, as in Christ God forgave you.” One ought to give thanks for God’s forgiveness, even bask in it. Only those who have experienced forgiveness can fully extend it.

“Forgive . . . as he forgave you.” If God’s forgiveness is the standard, then we must attempt to understand how he forgives. When God forgives us, for example, does he say, “Oh, don’t worry about it. Forget it. It was nothing”? Not at all. In fact, he takes sin so seriously that he sent his Son to die for it. Offering forgiveness never minimizes the seriousness of the offense. Continue reading

Posted in Peace with God, relationships, Spiritual life | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Identifying a Cause for Society’s Perforations

President Donald Trump is frequently blamed for the divisions in our society and it is hard to deny that he has been a contributing factor. But the president is like a person tearing a sheet of perforated paper. The perforations were already there.

Those perforations were created by sociological and psychological forces that are constantly at play in our culture. Many of these are well-attested and frequently cited: race and sexual discrimination, wealth disparity, and educational inequality, to mention a few. One dynamic that is often overlooked is the human need for belonging.

Among the life qualities that social scientists and psychologists say contribute to personal satisfaction, none is more important than a sense of belonging. Wealth, goal setting, sexual fulfillment, and even the practice of religion cannot substitute for it. A sense of belonging is a primary human need.

Our church sends students and adults to Tijuana, Mexico to help and encourage disadvantaged children and elderly adults living in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Each year when they return home, they always tell the same story: the people there have nothing compared to us, but they are happy. They belong.

This reality exposes the hollowness of the lone ranger, I-don’t-need-anyone narrative that is so often told in America. People experience the need to belong, whether they admit it or not. That need is not only present in us, it has an impact on our attitudes and actions, even when we are not aware of it.

This has been apparent throughout the pandemic and the run-up to the election. Continue reading

Posted in Peace with God, relationships, Worldview and Culture | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment