Category Archives: Uncategorized

What We’ll Find in the Future (According to the Bible)

The promise of God’s presence has sustained his people. To Jacob: “I will be with you” (Genesis 26:3). To Moses: “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12). To Joshua: “I myself will be with you” (Deuteronomy 31:23). To Gideon: “I will be with you” (Judges 6:16). To his people: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” (Isaiah 43:2). The promise of the New Covenant, which was brought into effect through Jesus, was: “I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (Hebrews 8:10-11).

These are promises we cherish and yet how often God has seemed far away! Like Zion, we say: “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me” (Isaiah 49:14). God-with-us has been, because of sin, God-away-from-us.

But here is what the future holds (Revelation 21:3): “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with people, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

But here is what the future holds (Revelation 21:3): “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with people, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

But if God has desired to be with us all along, why hasn’t he? Because we couldn’t endure his presence. I don’t mean just emotionally but in every way. Sin has so unraveled us that the near presence of the holy God would unmake us entirely.

Well then how can he be with us in the future? What has changed? Continue reading

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Can We Forgive When We Are Still Angry?

One of the great examples of forgiveness in our time comes from Corrie ten Boom, the Dutch Christian woman who, during the Second World War, was arrested by the Nazis for harboring Jews. She was imprisoned, along with her sister, Betsie, in a concentration camp and subjected to brutal and degrading treatment. Betsie, and four other ten Boom family members, died as a result of the treatment they suffered in prison. Only Corrie survived the concentration camps.

Years later, at the conclusion of a speaking engagement, Corrie came face to face with the cruelest and most heartless of all her prison guards. The very thought of him had been too painful to bear. He had humiliated and degraded Corrie and her sister again and again. He had jeered and sexually harassed them as they stood in the delousing shower. He had treated them like animals. In her mind, this man was evil incarnate, the embodiment of the horrors of the Nazi concentration camp. To her surprise, he now approached her with outstretched hand and said, “Will you forgive me?”

Corrie later wrote, “I stood there with coldness clutching at my heart, but I knew that the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. I prayed, ‘Jesus, help me!’ Woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me and I experienced an incredible thing. The current started in my shoulder, raced down into my arms and sprang into our clutched hands. Then this warm reconciliation seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. ‘I forgive you, brother,’ I cried with my whole heart. For a long time we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I have never known the love of God so intensely as I did that moment!”
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People and Their Rituals: Why Do They Do That?

Life is full of rituals, from high church liturgies to baseball players’ on-deck circle routines. Humans are ritual-making creatures. Rituals connect us to the past and remind us of what is important in the present. How some rituals came into … Continue reading

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The Church’s Job: To Declare God’s Praises

St. Peter says that Jesus’s people should “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). That means we are in advertising. Our calling is to announce to everyone the great … Continue reading

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Enduring Hardship Well: 5 Things to Do and 5 Things NOT to Do

The danger in hardship is (verse 3) that “you will … grow weary and lose heart.” Another way of putting that, which is faithful to the Greek text, is: “lest you become soul-sick and fall apart.”

Falling apart is the danger. There are five things we need to know to avoid it. 1) We need to know that hardship is inescapable. We will go through it – everyone does. Even Jesus the Son of God did.

2) We need to know that, while we don’t have a choice about whether we will go through hardship, we do have a choice about how we will go through hardship. (The how is what we are looking at today.)

3) We need to know that God knows. He knows what’s out there ahead of us and he knows what’s in here inside of us. He knows what we can handle (better than we do) and will keep us from any trial that we cannot, with his help, handle.

4) God will not waste our suffering. It will only be wasted if we waste it. He will use it to change us for the better and enable us to share in his holiness. Holiness is the state in which people flourish.

5) And this is a summary of all the rest: God intends to bring good to us through hardship, whatever it may be. That does not mean that hardship is good. It means that God is. So good, in fact, that nothing can prevent him from bringing good to his people.

When we know these five things, we are ready to do the five things that keep us from falling apart and avoid doing the five things that contribute to falling apart.

The first thing to do, which comes from verse 2, is to look at Jesus. If you want to know how to do a thing, find someone who has done it. If you want to replace the O2 sensor on your Ford F-150, get on YouTube and watch the professional at 1A Auto; don’t watch me. He’s done it. He knows how. Jesus knows how to endure hardship. He’s done it. Watch him. Continue reading

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A Mind for What Matters: Philippians 4:1-9

The first instruction, given previously and now repeated, is to rejoice always.

Really, Paul? Rejoice always? You have no idea what you’re asking. Working from home amidst a thousand interruptions. The kids are out of control. Can’t find toilet paper. Didn’t get my economic impact payment from the IRS, which I need to pay the mortgage. Will probably lose my job, which means no insurance. And you want me to rejoice?

To which Paul (from a dank, dark prison cell, where he has been quarantined for a long time, separated from friends and family, and waiting to hear the outcome of his trial, which might be death by beheading) answers, Of course! “Rejoice in the Lord always.” And in case you missed it the first two times I said it, “I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).

Many people, hearing this, simply brush it aside as unrealistic and unfeasible. When you’re having marriage problems, when you can’t stomach your boss, when your hopes have been dashed yet again, when you’re sick, and tired, and in debt, how can Paul – how can God – expect you to rejoice? It’s impossible!

Yes, absolutely. It is impossible … for some people, but not for us – if our minds are undergoing a process of renewal. Continue reading

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The Stubbornly Silent Future: Learning to Trust

Our governor’s “Shelter in Place” order has changed the way we live. Rather than meeting people at church or in the coffee shop, I’ve been meeting people on Zoom. Pastoral visitation has not happened in people’s homes but on our phones. I and others have been calling our church family, checking on their health, and seeing if they need groceries or meds. Many of these members are older and, to a person, they are doing remarkably well. They are a resilient bunch.

It turns out that many of our older members were spending most of their time at home, even before the governor’s order. The pandemic has not affected them in the same way it affects the soccer mom, who puts 25,000 miles a year on her van, or the retired couple who eat out five nights a week.

While our church family is doing well, the question on their minds, and on their friends’ and neighbors’ minds is: How long will this last? They want to know what’s coming next and when things are going to return to normal.

All of us have a sort of inner gravity that constantly pulls us back toward normal, even when normal is not healthy. When will things be normal again? Our routines, which always have suffered interruptions, have now been turned on their heads. Everything has changed.
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Scapegoating, Responsibility, and Neighborly Love in the Plague

Here’s a very relevant article to the age of Covid-19 – a brief history of the church’s response to another pandemic – this one in the 14th century. There are lessons for us here, and I recommend it to you.

The writer is my son, Joel Looper (PhD, University of Aberdeen), author of the forthcoming book A Protestantism without Reformation: What Dietrich Bonhoeffer Saw in America (Baylor Press). Continue reading

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Cross Your Mind: The Humble Mind of Philippians 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrOP9Fehk4c Visit Lockwood Community Church in Coldwater Michigan. The worship service is abbreviated (a few songs, prayer, and a sermon) for online worshipers. The message is from Philippians 2 and explores the kind of mindset that can enable us go … Continue reading

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Powerful Prayers: The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation III (His Incomparably Great Power for Us Who Believe)

Paul longs for Christians to know, to the full extent of their mind’s ability, the supreme greatness of God’s power. He knows that when the Spirit of wisdom and revelation opens people’s eyes to God’s surpassing power, it changes them. It gives rise to reverence in them, what the ancients called “the fear of the Lord,” and makes them passionate worshipers. As our knowledge and experience of God’s power grows, the fear of failure, fear of people, fear of the future, fear of privation is extinguished. Knowing the power of God sets people free to try, to give, to enjoy, to love. We need to know, to the very limits of our ability, the power that God possesses.

This power, Paul says, is “for us who believe” or “for us the believing.” Do you think that is an accurate description of you? John the believing. Dawn the believing. Ethan the believing. Emily the believing. Not everyone is in position to take advantage of the power Paul is talking about. It is for the believing.

That begs the question, doesn’t it? What are “the believing” believing? In my experience, many people who confess belief in God have little more than a blur or smear of religious thoughts – some quite pagan – about a God who is generally nice and will look after us, and take us to heaven when we die. Would Paul recognize those folks as “the believing”? Continue reading

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