jesus vs pharisees

Jesus, you tell us not to judge but…

If there’s one thing that progressive and fundamentalist Christians demonstrate their enthusiastic agreement upon, it’s to take Jesus with a grain of salt when he says not to judge other people. Judging is the oxygen of postmodernity for all parties involved. It’s how we define ourselves: by who we ridicule and take down. God gave me a passage about not judging from the gospel of Luke to say over and over again as a prayer practice during Lent. It’s largely failed its purpose, partly because I’m a sinner and partly because I’m genuinely confused about where the lines fall between judging and speaking prophetic truth. Continue Reading

heaven-and-hell-2

Wrestling with heaven and hell (last weekend’s #sermon #podcast)

I keep on getting busy and forgetting to post my sermon podcasts. Last weekend, for our Wrestling sermon series, we wrestled with heaven and hell. To provide a different framework than the usual one in which the question is concerned, I looked at two passages from Isaiah. Isaiah 2 starts off by talking about God’s vision for a beautiful peaceful world (vv. 1-4) and then talks about the entrenched idolatry and injustice that will need to be destroyed for God’s peace to be established (vv. 5-19). This was actually the topic of one of my first major blog posts if you’d rather read than listen. The second passage I looked at was Isaiah 6 which captures what it’s like for a human to stand in the overwhelming presence of God. I have a typed manuscript of a sermon on this that I preached in the Dominican Republic two years ago. These two components, God’s promise of a peaceful kingdom and the ability to face God with integrity, are the foundation for how I understand what heaven and hell are. Here is the audio. Sign up for the podcast if you’d like to auto-download it into your phone.

So what about other religions?

We’ve been having a very stimulating conversation at our confirmation retreat that has completely derailed from my plans, but as I learned at the Missio Alliance, the Holy Spirit is a spirit of disruption. I’ve been so grateful that these kids have been bold with their questions because my presentation felt very flat and boring. And then they made me squirm by asking about people from other religions. Do they go to heaven too? Don’t we all just have different names for the same God? Oh boy… Continue Reading

Should I convict other people of their sin?

One of the litmus tests that evangelicals make when we evaluate a potential church family is to observe whether they are comfortable talking about sin. I often measure the authenticity of my relationships with other people according to the degree to which we can share our struggles with sin genuinely. If someone insists on keeping things positive and pleasant with me, even if I know a lot of information about their lives, I don’t feel like they’re being real with me, whether that’s fair or not. A different question is whether we should offer others unsolicited feedback when they are doing things that appear to be sin. Do we have the responsibility to convict others of their sin? Continue Reading

Sinners, judgment, and fear in Psalms 25

I knew something was missing from my spiritual rhythm the last two weeks and this morning I realized what it was: Wednesday morning prayer, which a very small group of dedicated prayer warriors celebrates together each Wednesday at 8:30 am. In addition to liturgical and extemporaneous prayer, we always read a psalm responsively as part of our routine. Two months ago, this small prayer meeting got flat-out Pentecostal. For a month after that, the Spirit was breathing all over the place every time I opened the Bible. I went through a dry spell for a month and a half largely because of my lack of discipline but the breath of God came roaring back today as we read Psalm 25 and encountered sinners, judgment, and fear in a quite surprising form. Continue Reading

God’s wrath as a cosmic spiritual immune system

My reformed brother Derek Rishmawy and I have been having a stimulating discussion about the nature of God’s wrath. It’s a huge stumbling block for many Christians, and it doesn’t help that pastors are often very clumsy and barrel-chested in how they talk about it. So I want to offer the following experimental analogy with the hopes that it will help some people (like me) who hate the fact that the Bible includes the phrase οργή θεού (God’s wrath) in too many places for us to embrace a theology that doesn’t account for it. What if we think of God’s wrath as the spiritual immune system of the universe? Every time there is a violation of shalom (peace), torah (law/harmonic order), or mishpat (justice), God’s wrath is provoked like the body’s immune system in response to an infection.

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