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In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Ephesians 1:7-10

In this passage, Paul explains the great plan that God has revealed to us: The we Christians have been saved from our sin and granted the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. And why? That everything might be united to God. We are the people who bring in God’s Kingdom. We Christians, the Church of God, are the culmination of history. What does that mean for our lives?

December is the twelfth and final month of the 12-month Gregorian calendar. Yet its name comes from decem, the Latin word for ten. So why is the 12th month called “10?”

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That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 1 John 1:1-4

In this passage, the opening to one of his letters, the Apostle John stress that Jesus, the Son of God who is equal with God, came to earth in a real, physical form. Here, John claims that he and others saw Jesus first hand as eye-witnesses. And why does he claim this? Because he wants his readers to have fellowship with Jesus and the Father. In the same way that he as a disciple lived with and communed with Jesus, all those who place there trust in Jesus can fellowship and commune with him. Though Jesus has ascended into heaven, he still is present with us through the Holy Spirit. I sometimes ask myself the question, “what would it have been like to have lived with Jesus when the disciples did?” John’s answer is: All Christians live with and experience Jesus.

Last week, I introduced the history of Thanksgiving in the United States. Since the first Thanksgiving has, retrospectively, been applied to the 1621 harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims, I’ve been exploring that history. Last week, I gave an overview of what is modern-day New England in the 1600s from the perspective of the Native Americans, particularly the Wampanoag. Today, I will look at the history of the Pilgrim Fathers, their intersection with the Wampanoag, and what is credited as the first Thanksgiving.

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Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29

Today, Thanksgiving Day in the United States, people across the country will come together and feast in a time of thanksgiving. Typically, people give thanks for their family, country, prosperity, and God. As Christians, we also have something to be thankful for: A kingdom. We will all share, one day, in the rule of an eternal land. And we also have the world around us. God made humans to be administrators of a vast and wonderful universe, and we Christians have God’s Word and indwelling Spirit to guide us in how to rightly manage and oversee it. So, are we thankful? How so? How can we give back to God all that he has given us?

It is the year 1620. Along the coasts of what are now Canada and New England, busy settlements sprawl across the beaches and estuaries. They, like the water that laps against them are fluid, ever changing, as villages ebb and flow like the tide. Borders are well-defined, but constantly in flux. It is a centuries old vibrant network of small communities bound in trade and cultural exchange, managed by capable leaders called sachems.
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He said to them, “You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’” Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” Luke 4:23-27

The people of the Kingdom of Israel, and the successor kingdoms such as Judah, the Hasmonean dynasty, and Herodian Kingdom and Tetrarchy, prided themselves on the fact that they were God’s People. They, and only they, a tiny spit of land in comparison to the vast domains of empires such as the Chinese, Indians, or, later, the Macedonians and Romans, had access to God, were given laws by God through which they could honor him. But, as Jesus makes clear in the passage above, many, if not most, Jews did not truly follow God. Jesus explains that he will be asked by his fellow inhabitants of Nazareth to perform miracles for them – not out of a desire to seek after God, but as a challenge to his authority. They did not accept his claims as a prophet and Messiah. So what does Jesus do? He tells them that he will go to places where he will be accepted, that being Jewish did not entitle them exclusive rights to his ministry. He shows that even in the Old Testament, God often rejected Israel and sent his prophets elsewhere.
What does this mean for us? I am a Gentile – I come from almost entirely a European background, perhaps some Native American mixed in, but no Jewish ancestry as far as I know. Under the Old Testament law, I would have to become a Jew in order to live in God’s Kingdom. But not so anymore. Jesus came for the whole world, his ministry was not confined to the Jews, and his death atoned for all who believe. His love is lavishly inclusive. He is Christ for the whole world.

Sorry, this post is a week overdue: My draft failed to publish for some reason.

The last Thursday of this month is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. For the remainder of the month, my History Weekend series will explore the history of Thanksgiving. For this first post, I will look at the history of Thanksgiving as a Holiday. The next two weekends will delve into the famous harvest festival that the Pilgrims celebrated, along with the historical context of that event. So, here is the history of Thanksgiving:
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Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.  Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. Romans 1:1-5

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being judged. Yet I myself judge things and people everyday. Judgement can be fine, and is even needed, depending on how we do it. We need to judge someone’s ability to carry out a task, for example, and we each have our own preferences in what artistic works that we enjoy.  So the question is, what are we judging, and on what authority? In the case of the passage above, Paul is talking about morality, and the tendency of humans, myself definitely included, to judge others in an attempt to prove our own moral superiority. We think that since we are clearly not as bad as that person, we will be saved from judgement. But Paul says here that by judging others, we judge ourselves. We all fail to reach a moral goal, we all do bad things. So what hope do we have? Perhaps that God would show mercy to us?

On Tuesday, November 8, millions of American will go to the polling stations to vote. Others have already voted. But all of them will vote in secret, either through a mailed-in ballot or else at a polling booth behind a curtain. But this is a relatively modern way of voting. Before the late 19th century, Americans, and pretty much everybody who lived in a country with a republican-style government, voted publicly, their vote known to those around them. What changed between then and today? You can thank the Australians.

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