Sunday, June 26, 2016

This week's lesson (June 25 - July 1): The Restoration of All Things

For God so loved the world . . .

That he created a paradise -- a walled garden which He named "Delight" (for that is what Eden means).

And in that paradise, He placed everything that could bring joy to humanity: animals and plants, gold and jewels, meaningful work and a Companion to share it all.

And it was good.

But it was not enough.

For as anyone who has ever seen The Truman Show could tell you, a paradise with no way out is nothing more than a prison. A very nice prison, to be sure, but nothing more.

So God placed in that garden an escape-hatch. An emergency exit. An abort switch in the form of a tree -- the Tree of Know-It-All. And God said, "that tree is your ticket out; you can leave any time you are tired of being loved."

And God waited to see what humanity would do.

For God so loved the world, that He gave us a chance to love Him in return.

Or not.

It's our choice.

That's how much He loved us.

This first appeared on April 2, 2009.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

This week's lesson (June 18-24): Crucified and Risen

Redemption

Related Poem Content Details

Having been tenant long to a rich lord, 
    Not thriving, I resolvèd to be bold, 
    And make a suit unto him, to afford 
A new small-rented lease, and cancel th’ old. 

In heaven at his manor I him sought; 
    They told me there that he was lately gone 
    About some land, which he had dearly bought 
Long since on earth, to take possessiòn. 

I straight returned, and knowing his great birth, 
    Sought him accordingly in great resorts; 
    In cities, theaters, gardens, parks, and courts; 
At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth 
          
    Of thieves and murderers; there I him espied, 
    Who straight, Your suit is granted, said, and died.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

This week's lesson (June 11-17): Jesus' Last Days

"It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. . . . Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." -- Acts 4:10-12, NIV.
If Jesus could have avoided the crucifixion, then he would have done so.
  • Yes, if "the blood of bulls and goats" could take away sins, then there'd be no need for the cross.
  • If virtuous pagans could be saved "by living up to the light they have" (as if anyone ever does this), then there'd be no need for Christ's death.
  • And if God says to the last generation of humanity that "everyone else was saved by grace -- but you must achieve perfection," then you have to wonder why He doesn't just require this of everyone and be done with it.
No, somehow God's love for all humanity is enabled, revealed, and mediated through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
To be sure, we don't know exactly how God saves us -- and the fact that two theories of the atonement have existed side-by-side for the past thousand years suggests we're not likely to figure out the answer anytime soon.
Then too, we don't know exactly who God has saved; as Augustine of Hippo points out, "we don't know how grace has been offered to someone else; we don't know how graced has been received by someone else -- and that is why we dare not judge anyone else this side of Heaven."
But if you want to know what salvation means, then look at the cross.
If you want to know what salvation costs, then look at the cross.
And if you want to know how salvation is possible, then you can speculate, contemplate, meditate, cogitate, and even celebrate . . . 
But one way or another, you'll always end up at the cross.
- This first appeared  on December 20, 2014

Sunday, June 05, 2016

This week's lesson (June 4-10): Last Day Events

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your nick, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.            -- Proverbs 3:3f, NIV.
"You must also be ready," said Jesus, "because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

"Yes, you are like the children whose parents gave them the job of mowing the lawn and weeding the yard and feeding the dog while the parents did go into town for a day of shopping -- and it will be good for those children if their parents find them doing all these things when those parents return.

"But suppose those children say to themselves, 'Our parents delay their coming; indeed, they shall not be home again before it is night'  -- and straightaway they do text all their friends, and all those friends come over to the house, and they all do eat and drink and get drunk and frighten the dog mightily, and great is the noise thereof.

"I tell you the truth," said Jesus, "the parents of those children shall come home at a time when they are not expected, at an hour when it is most inconvenient, and there shall be weeping and wailing and a great gnashing of teeth.

"For you have been trusted much," said Jesus. "That is why much is now expected of you.

This is adapted from the post for May 31, 2015