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). … [Read more...]

Gatekeepers or groundskeepers of God’s house?

Hope you've been having a wonderful Advent. I've gotten backed up in sharing my sermon podcasts. This one is from two weeks ago. We were looking at Isaiah 2 where it talks about all the nations coming to God's temple to bend their swords into plowshares. If we're turning our swords into plowshares, that means renouncing our self-appointed title as gatekeepers of God's house and becoming groundskeepers instead. If you'd like to receive my sermon podcast automatically each week in your phone, find … [Read more...]

Biblical Zion requires a one-state solution

The UN General Assembly today passed a resolution to grant Palestine "observer-state status," which Palestinian Authority premier Mahmoud Abbas declared the "last chance to save the two-state solution." I'm actually opposed to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. I don't think it can be supported Biblically, because the Biblical prophecy about Zion in Isaiah 2:2-4 says that it's the mountain of the Lord's temple to which "all the nations will stream" in order to receive God's judgment … [Read more...]

Can Israel love its enemies in Gaza and keep its people safe?

I realize I've had blogorrhea lately about the Gaza crisis. This is probably my last piece on it, taking a more theological angle considering Jesus' command to love your enemies as a pragmatic foreign policy strategy and also proposing that we understand Satan to be the Great Terrorist who makes us all terrorists to varying degrees according to our influences, privilege, desperation, and access to tools of violence. I'm cautiously hopeful because the Israel/Gaza ceasefire scheduled for 2 pm EST … [Read more...]

Six things I can say about Gaza

It's hard to articulate a legitimate Christian response to the tragedy in Gaza right now. My inclination is to take the side of the underdog and go against all of my fellow evangelicals whose commitment to Israel's absolute infallibility helps make Israel unaccountable for the $3 billion of our tax dollars that they get each year. But there's no way to justify the rockets that the Gazans are firing at Israel from a moral or even a strategic perspective. And I can understand that if people are … [Read more...]

A Yom Kippur dream for Israel/Palestine

It's quite presumptuous for a Christian to write about an Israeli political issue in the context of a Jewish holiday, but I do so as someone who has been blessed immeasurably by Jewish thinkers and public figures like Abraham Heschel, Martin Buber, Elie Wiezel, Hannah Arendt, Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida, and many others. I love Torah. I love the Tehillim. If I didn't struggle enough to read my Christian Daily Office and pray my Jesus Prayers every day, I would strive to embrace the mitzvot of … [Read more...]

Why couldn’t Obama say “Palestine”?

I'm really not trying to be a hater. This isn't part of a subversive strategy to delegitimize Obama as a president. But there was a word he specifically avoided saying last night, and it made my heart hurt. When Obama said we must balance our support for Israel's security with our support for peace, he couldn't bring himself to say the word "Palestine." I guess it's because if he had actually said, "Palestine," then the number of Americans who believe Obama is a Muslim would have gone up by ten … [Read more...]

The Name that Shakes the Earth

Sermon preached 1/14/2012 at Burke UMC LifeSign Text: Isaiah 6:1-8Do you have a place that’s sacred to you? My sacred place is a lake outside of Charlottesville called Sugar Hollow. I went there every weekend when I was in college at UVA. It’s surrounded on three sides by mountains. There’s a black sand beach on which I’ve taken many naps. Whenever I go back to my favorite lake, I get a feeling in my heart as I drive up the steep hill next to the dam before the lake opens out in front of me. It … [Read more...]

One State for Israel and Palestine

Nothing is more agonizing and emblematic of the nihilistic helplessness of modern diplomacy than the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I can totally understand Mahmoud Abbas going to the United Nations to petition for statehood. It's obviously going to get vetoed by the US, but I'm perplexed that anyone could criticize him for trying something different than a process which has gone nowhere for as long as I've been alive. … [Read more...]

Learning to Love God's Judgment

[This is a repost of an article I wrote for Ministry Matters on the two sides of God's judgment and the way that Christ's atonement converts us into loving God's judgment.]Many have misinterpreted this year’s battle between Rob Bell and the neo-Reformed bloggers who have dogged him for the claims that Bell makes in his book Love Wins. It’s actually not a debate about whether or not hell exists; there’s a deeper question whose answer shapes how we understand the nature of hell and what we are sa … [Read more...]


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