Category: Thought for Thursday


Just as a general announcement, I will be suspending the weekly Thought for Thursday and History Weekend for the next few weeks, at least, while I work on graduate school applications.

These columns will return!

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?

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.

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?

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.

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?

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. Galatians 3:27-29

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Colossians 3:11

What does your church look like? Not the building, but the people. Who comprises it? In the Old Testament, only those who were circumcised into Judaism and followed the Mosaic Law were part of God’s blessing and promises. While there were select times when mercy and blessing was granted to those outside of Israel, God’s chosen people were a particular ethnic group, confined within territorial boundaries. While anyone was welcome to join this people, they had to adopt Israelite customs in order to do so. Not anymore.

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“And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:11-12

Often in my life, I seem to have trouble articulating my faith. I’ve never been on trial for what I believe, never faced imprisonment for it. Yet I still often have trouble explaining my faith to others. I think, looking at this passage in Luke, that the problem may be is that I am anxious about what to say, instead of relying on God to empower me to speak. So, how can I learn to trust God more in defending my faith? How can you?

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” – 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Tempers always seem fly during an election year, but this year even more-so than normal.  A large number of Americans are horrified at the vehement and hateful rhetoric coming from Donald Trump, and others horrified at the prospect of a Hillary Clinton becoming president, due to her past and stance on issues. But one of the two is going to win and become president of the United States, and so, no matter which candidate does win, a lot of people will have their fears realized. Many will probably be Christians. So, as a Christian, how do you live in a country with a President that you find appalling?
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I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13

This is probably one of the most misquoted passages in the Bible. Out of context, it seems to say that God will give you the strength to accomplish anything. And that’s not entirely wrong. But the verse isn’t talking about your next running match or gym competition. The fuller passage reads:

“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress.”

What Paul is talking about here isn’t really physical ability, but spiritual and emotional strength. In his walk with God, he has learned to be content. Whether praised or ridiculed, hungry or satisfied, needy or well-off, he has learned to be contented with his circumstances. God could have us win a game, but he might also have us lose. What he has promised is that we will always have the spiritual and emotional stamina to see us through if we trust in him.