Monday, September 17, 2007


Thank you for visiting.

What was started here is now being continued at

Friday, May 18, 2007

Change of Scenery

My posts have recently been hindered in their travel. They are finding it difficult to make the journey from my head to my hands, then onto the keyboard and, finally, onto the website. The hindrance seems to be related to the many changes in my family's life.

For this reason Bible in the Basement is going to take a break. Posts related to faith and culture will resume once they are able to once again make the journey described above. If you would like to be informed when they break camp, you may email me and I'll keep pun intended...posted.

Until then, you can learn about our more personal journeys here:

Thank you for visiting!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Saving the Puppy

I saved an op-ed piece from Thursday's New York Times entitled Save the Darfur Puppy.

In this column, Nicholas Kristoff describes recent psychological studies which confirm that people will contribute more eagerly to a cause with one face than to a faceless cause - or, a cause with thousands of faces. Here's a snippet from what I snipped:

In one experiment, psychologists asked ordinary citizens to contribute $5 to alleviate hunger abroad. In one version, the money would go to a particular girl, Rokia, a 7-year-old in Mali; in another, to 21 million hungry Africans; in a third, to Rokia - but she was presented as a victim of a larger tapestry of global hunger.

Not surprisingly, people were less likely to give to anonymous millions than to Rokia. But they were also less willing to give in [a] third scenario, in which Rokia's suffering was presented as part of a broader pattern.

People can relate to one starving child, but it's hard to comprehend thousands.

It so happened that a day earlier I had skimmed a book called From Baghdad, With Love, which chronicles one soldier's efforts to save an abandoned puppy he found in Iraq. Great pains were taken by this soldier and others to save this puppy, which included smuggling the needy canine across borders and abandoning protocol.

At the end of the book, the author seems to admit that this tremendous degree of effort to save a puppy seemed lopsided, considering the degree of human suffering in the country. But, he concluded, at least I saved something.

There are many lessons here. Fund-raisers need to understand the psychology of giving. But all of us need to understand our own psychology, and ethics, as relates to what we are willing - and able - to care about. We have a finite capacity to comprehend, and to care about, the world's needs - as much as we would like to think otherwise. The Sports section is more popular than the International pages.

I think about Jesus, however, who the Bible says "came to seek and save the lost" and "gave his life as a ransom for many." I think about the famous passage that explains, "For God so loved the world..." Here is one who comprehends the world's plight; here is one who cares, who acts, who demonstrates love in spite of the scale.

I also think about how, as a young person, I could care less about anyone, human or canine, other than myself. And I think about how, after meeting the Savior described above, my capacity to care grew much larger. My capacity to give grew much larger. Yet it's still nothing to boast about, so I instead must boast in him.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Martin Luther is known for histheology of the cross which is in contrast to what he termed a theology of glory. The former is the understanding that we must approach God through Jesus Christ, relying on his death for our life. Human endeavor must be forsaken; we boast only in the cross, as the apostle Paul directed. Far from being "Luther's" theology, this is basically the teaching of the New Testament.
The theology of glory, in contrast, is... well, just what is it? Since I wasn't sure exactly what is meant by this term, I thought I'd find out by visiting Wikipedia. There was a nice write-up on the theology of the cross here. So I looked up their article on the theology of glory and to my surprise was sent here - basically redirected right back to the cross!

I suppose this is how the disciples felt. Just when they were starting to understand Jesus' glory, back to the cross they were sent...

[Jesus] then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."

From Mark 8:31-38

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Morning in the Life

This morning I woke up early to the sound of birds who are a little too excited about springtime. This gave me a little extra time to catch up on some online reading.

One of my favorite sites is the "online magazine" Slate. Its founders were ahead of the curve in terms of online news and opinion and they have a sophisticated site. Its politics are "left leaning," but I don't know a better place online to find thoughtful, or at least interesting, cultural commentary.

Today I read a fun story about the NBA playoffs - basketball's my favorite sport, so you can't beat that. I was helpfully linked to a YouTube replay of Michael Jordan's top 10 buzzer-beaters. Thanks, Slate!

More significantly, I read a great piece called "Sex, Life, and Videotape: Ultrasound and the Future of the Unborn." Its author, William Saletan, is a long-time Slate contributor described on Wikipedia as a "liberal Republican." Nevertheless, his commentary about abortion ran on the "front page" yesterday (and perhaps over the weekend) and contained words like these:

Pro-lifers are often caricatured as stupid creationists who just want to put women back in their place. Science and free inquiry are supposed to help them get over their "love affair with the fetus." But science hasn't cooperated. Ultrasound has exposed the life in the womb to those of us who didn't want to see what abortion kills. The fetus is squirming, and so are we.

Saletan's point is that the ultrasound is the greatest enemy to abortion. I encourage you to read his piece here.

Laws affect morality. Legalizing abortion did not only make it a "right," it granted public sanction. Now that partial-birth abortion has been declared unconstitutional (in one of the best Supreme Court decisions in recent memory), the unacceptability of abortion is gaining a long overdue - if still faint - hearing.

The idea that public laws and public morality are totally separate issues is simply unrealistic. In a nation such as ours, the trickle-down effect of public policy is actually a torrent of peer pressure and political correctness. Therefore, we desperately need lawmakers who are wise, competent, and noble.

We also need that which is required in every age: backbone to stand against the torrent of public opinion when it is unjust or unrighteous. There aren't many people eager to defend partial-birth abortion now that it's becoming clear how gruesome it actually is. But there are nevertheless babies losing their lives every day to all other forms of abortion.

We need more than an ultrasound, but an ultrasound won't hurt. It certainly won't hurt the baby inside the womb if it serves to teach the mother just what it is that God has given her.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wanted: Intelligently Designed Discussion

Richard Dawkins is an atheist who has written a best seller entitled The God Delusion. I was able to spend some time with him since he was in New York City on Tuesday. Specifically, I spent time listening to him take calls on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show and then spent time watching him interview with Bill O’Reilly in the evening on the fair and balanced Fox News Channel.

Dawkins likes to compare belief in God – any god – to the belief in fairies. He admits, if you listen closely, that he cannot actually be certain God does not exist; but he always adds that he is just as certain God does not exist as that fairies don’t exist. Fairies and God – same basic evidence available for each.

This is highly misleading and disingenuous. There is a vast difference between the evidence for believing in God and the evidence for fairies, unicorns, or Santa Claus. Serious scholars have embraced Christianity for a range of reasons and various types of evidence. There is a reason that thick books are written concerning the evidence for the existence of God and no one writes these books about Tinkerbell. There is a reason why scientists raise challenging (and therefore silenced) objections to traditional evolutionary theory and yet propose intelligent design rather than fairy magic.

Surely Dawkins knows this, but this serves a rhetorical purpose and gets folks like me worked up. But almost as disturbing as Dawkins’ smug assertions was that on the radio interview neither the host (one of my favorite interviewers) nor any caller effectively challenged these ridiculous statements equating God with characters in children’s pop-up books. For the record, I listened by podcast rather than live, so I couldn’t call in to say, “Ummm, no.”

Enter Bill O’Reilly.

For the record, I appreciate O’Reilly. I don’t watch him regularly, but I prefer him to many but not all of his mainstream counterparts. O’Reilly, a Roman Catholic, defended belief in God against Dawkins as best he could. But in my opinion O’Reilly sold the farm:

O’Reilly: It helps me as a person.
Dawkins: That’s different, if it helps you, great, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.
O': Well, it’s true for me.
D: You mean true for you is different than true for anyone else?
O': Yes, absolutely.
D: Something has to be either true or not.
O': I cannot prove to you that Jesus is God. So that truth is mine and mine alone. But you cannot prove that he is not. So you have to stay in your little belief system and I—
D: You cannot prove that Zeus is not, you can’t prove that Apollo is not…
O': (Makes joke and changes subject.)

Once you say “it’s true for me” it’s all over. Dawkins is right: something is either true or not. That’s something we can agree on. (View video here.)

While I don’t expect atheists to convert to Christianity based on a radio call-in show, I would like to see Christianity represented well. There was a time, I think, when even those who agreed with Dawkins’ basic principles wouldn’t have accepted his caricature of the Christian faith. And there was a time when no one would have relied on the argument it’s true for me.

I know argument alone will not change someone’s core beliefs, something deeper is needed spark a transformation. Yet as a starting point, we need intelligently designed arguments. On both sides.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Baby Weighs In On Supreme Court Ruling

Found this here and thought it deserved a long overdue hearing...

Virginia Tech: What Has God Done?

Cheryl and I were traveling to Virginia this past Monday when news of the tragedy at Virginia Tech unfolded. We were not in the immediate area of Virginia Tech, but we did meet people who were personally touched by this tragedy. The family we stayed with knew a student whose life was taken that day; when paying for pancakes at IHOP, the cashier told us that her cousin was killed.

During times of tragedy like this, we begin to reflect on our deepest beliefs. We might even question our faith. This is especially true when the tragedy is so personal, and not just a violent image on the TV screen. And it doesn’t matter much how long we have been a Christian; an emotional impact is a jarring experience no matter how much knowledge we’ve gained over time.

I do not think it is wrong for such events to shake our faith. In fact, it is probably the appropriate response. By God’s grace, he often shields us from the horrible consequences and effects of sin. He shows us his goodness, generosity, and mercy daily in hundreds of ways. Even though we believe in the terrible effects and consequences of sin, these beliefs often remain somewhat intellectual – in the background. While the news offers daily reminders of violence, it is generally not so close to us; it remains, for most Americans, far away. That is, until tragedy strikes, or until a personal experience brings the reality of sin into full display.

If our life has been blessed with a degree of comfort, which would rightly be described as a display of God’s tremendous mercy, our faith is shaken by tragedies such as this precisely because God has been so good to us in the past.

Yet even though events like this may shake us up, they may also shake us free. They shake us free from false beliefs and false hope. On a national level, we are shaken free from the false hope that we can, by our own power, contain the effects of sin. Clearly we cannot. There is always a sad scramble to pin the blame on someone “higher up” who could have done something, anything, to prevent something like this… yet even if we could uncover such a person, the next tragedy will again reveal our inability to create a sin-free, violence-free world. In fact, that is exactly what has happened. Columbine, 9-11, Katrina, Iraq, Virginia Tech, and anything else that can be named… we cannot “fix” things up so well that we no longer need God.

Yet God is the “highest up” we can go, and it is for this reason that we question our faith: why didn’t he do something?

That “why” question is not a bad one. If asked in humility, it might lead us to reflect afresh on exactly what God has done. He has sent his Son into this violent world. He has offered redemption from sin and eternal life. He has given his Holy Spirit to those who believe, in order that this new life may take root now. He has given His church as a community in which we can begin to experience the comfort and joy of a worshiping and healing community. And in each of our individual lives, he has done much more.

But there are indeed things God hasn’t done. He has not shielded our world from tragedy. He has not yet wiped the planet free of sin. To do this would wipe us out! Events like this actually confirm what the Bible affirms: we live in a sin-scarred world, yet one in which redemption may be found.

Nevertheless, it’s painfully difficult at times to accept at times what God hasn’t done. This is why my prayers go out to those who are hurting right now, whether through this national tragedy or through a more personal one. We can affirm and even enjoy together what God has done, even as we wait for what he will do.

It is my prayer that those whose faith is shaken through this latest tragedy will also find their faith deepened. And if we entrust ourselves to God, that will indeed happen – because God is with us even in the valley of the shadow of death.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Communion With God

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Deuteronomy 8:3 and Matthew 4:4)

I’ve been preparing a sermon concerning communion with God, and specifically, the communion we have with God through the Scriptures.

I’ve noticed along the way that for a long while Christian thought has been chiefly concerned with the topic of communication from God, that is, the idea that the Bible truly is the word of God. Many books defend this notion from numerous angles. However, this important discussion nevertheless falls short. God does not merely want us to affirm that he has communicated to us; he wants to have communion with us.

We live in an age of communication. Telemarketers call our telephones, spammers fill our email boxes, endless commercials and radio and TV numb our senses. We shut out many of these attempts at communication… over the past three days I’ve probably deleted 300 emails (not fan mail, just plain old spam!). I responded to the spammer who claims he is trying to reach me with a million dollar inheritance with a few words about lying and about forgiveness, just to make this daily ritual a little more interesting. Lots of communication, but not much communion.

However, if a friend calls or writes, and if we give some time and thought to our conversation with them, we begin to achieve something deeper than mere communication. We might begin to experience communion: a deep sharing of ourselves, our thoughts, our experiences. This is what God is after as well.

If our Bibles gather dust in the basement, then we are viewing God’s word as just so much unused, unwanted or unnecessary communication. But if we slow down, read, listen we are experiencing more of what God has in mind: communion.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Gabfest or Deedfest?

The “Gabfest” is a political round table discussion with a youthful edge. The participants are John Dickerson, Emily Bazelon, and David Plotz. I enjoy it, perhaps because it makes me feel youthful. You can check it out at

Last week, prior to comparing Satan to a Roving political adviser, the following exchange occurred while discussing James Dobson’s endorsement(s) for president:

Emily Bazelon: This is always a tricky business, deciding who is a real Christian or Jew or Muslim. There are just so many different ways to measure someone’s faith…

John Dickerson: In my view of Christianity anyway, the most amazing people are the ones who do all these wonderful, humble acts of service and don’t tell anyone about it, and don’t go forcing it down other people’s throats.

Emily: I don’t think they run for president, John.

John: No, I guess not, and they don’t get to go on Dobson’s radio show either. But I like the idea of the humble, selfless servant, not the loud, going around picking winners and losers Christian, but you know, that’s just me.

This is just one example, of many, that remind me how important it is for Christians to demonstrate their faith through acts of genuine service to others. People who are often disinterested in hearing the gospel still like to see the gospel. People who don’t like Jesus’ words as recited by his followers may appreciate his actions as lived by his followers.

Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Both the words and deeds of the Christian faith are vital communication tools. The church must use both.

Further food for thought:

1. This is the reason Jesus is still such a popular cultural icon. People believe his actions represent something selfless and honorable, even if they don’t know, understand, or embrace what he actually said... and for that matter, the real meaning behind his "good deeds."

2. This is also why ministry through the church, and not merely parachurch ministry, is so important. Non-church ministries are sometimes teaching ministries, and sometimes serving ministries, but rarely both. They gain momentum by doing one thing well, yet a full orbed Christian witness requires more.

Note: There are parachurch ministries doing great work, and at their best they connect Christians from different backgrounds and display the Christian faith in that way too. It is only if they become a substitute for the local church that they can begin to work at cross purposes - seeking to display Christ and yet painting only a partial picture.

* * *

To hear the Gabfest discussions mentioned above, go to the website at and listen to the March 30 roundtable discussion. The discussions I mentioned are in the last 10 minutes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

'Tis the Seasons

Either Spring or Summer has arrived in New Jersey. Here's a picture of our animals showing their hospitality to Summer, inviting the warm weather to stay longer. (No, you're not on the wrong website...)

Rumor has it that Summer is only visiting, perhaps making plans for later this year.

Spring, however, plans to stay for a little while. Here's a picture I took when Spring finally pushed that ice storm aside and made its entrance...

Ahhh, you gotta love it.

No, really, you gotta! "From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised!" (Psalm 113:3)

So, in only the space of 10 days we've had visits from Winter, Spring, and Summer. It makes it hard to plan a vacation. Nevertheless, I will be on one for the rest of the week, so if you don't hear from me please check back next week. Chances are it will be Autumn by then...

Monday, March 19, 2007

All Creatures of Our God and King

This has been a very moderate winter in New Jersey. I think there were only a couple snowstorms, and the snow didn't prove particularly durable. So when the temperatures hit the 70's last Wednesday or so, we were pretty certain that Spring, if not summer, had arrived.

Not quite.

On Friday, ice rained from the sky. All day long.

Apparently, some birds were as surprised as we were. Their dining options suddenly became more limited and they had to scrounge in the few areas untouched by the ice.

Other animals were caught off guard as well. This one had plans for another rousing game of "chuck it" but instead realized the best she could hope for was a little slip & slide.

I found myself thinking about how unpredictable the weather can be, (weathermen notwithstanding), and how unpredictable God's plans for us can be as well (theologians notwithstanding). Since God created the weather, I suppose this makes sense!

Friday, March 16, 2007

That Thing Called Hope

Hope can have some pretty powerful effects. Look at what it’s doing for people who have placed their hope for a cure to stubborn diseases in stem cell research: money is raised, and voices are raised, too; lobbyists are employed, laws are passed, opinions are shaped.

Meanwhile, the days march forward to Easter. This is the day of ultimate hope, in which Christians celebrate the centerpiece of their faith: Jesus Christ, on a specific morning in history, rose from the grave. And everything about his life and teaching certified that this death was not for his own fame but for our salvation – that those who are mysteriously but really connected to him by faith will also triumph over our twin enemies, sin and death.

Yet people don’t want this hope. It’s become a nationwide joke that, as soon as spring training begins, so do the latest TV specials and news magazine reports that (allegedly) undermine any version of Christianity that actually inspires hope. Whether The Gospel of Thomas or The Lost Tomb of Jesus, something is always unearthed, along with some dubious claims that are sexy enough to sway the unsuspecting viewer.

But why? Why has this become our Spring ritual, rather than a fresh examination of the evidence for the empty tomb? Well, there are many reasons of course. Money is one, of course. The “discoveries” are always perfectly timed to coincide with a new glossy book and a new TV special.

But money isn’t the only reason. New glossy books and TV specials about the evidence for the resurrection would attract a wealth of viewers, too. Probably more.

Could it be that we don’t really want to hope? Hope is hard work. It changes your priorities, determines how you spend your time and money, and even adjusts your moral compass. This is, in fact, the ethics of biblical Christianity: those who have hope in the resurrection of Jesus, and in their union and ultimate eternity with him, will live far differently than those without hope. They will live different, better, wiser, freer, if indeed that hope is allowed any leverage.

And so begins the other Spring ritual… The Christian witness to the empty tomb, offered to those who have spent enough on hopelessness and are ready for a change.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

We Aren't the World?

A smiling contestant sang “Waiting for the World to Change” one evening on American Idol. Perhaps this upbeat song reminds some of the “We are the World” optimism of the 1980’s. That song urged that because we are, after all, the world, we should change it – lend a hand, start giving, and so forth. (The lyrics are a little too sappy to print on a website that children can access, so I will have to refer you here to job your memory.)

The words to “Waiting” are quite different. John Mayer’s song does not call to action; it explains the apathy of the younger generation:

Me and all my friends
We’re all misunderstood
They say we stand for nothing and
There’s no way we ever could
Now we see everything that’s going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it.

So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change…

The song goes on to describe how swell things would be if “they” didn’t hold all the power. They meaning they, not they meaning us. Well, you know what I mean.

What you get is what you got
Cause when they own the information, oh
They can bend it all they want.

I recently heard Mayer interviewed about his song. He said that he knew the song would never succeed if its message was “let’s change the world.” And apparently he was right: the song as it stands has been a huge hit. An excuse with a catchy tune, perhaps, but a pretty popular one. I have to give it to John Mayer, he understood what the public would and would not respond to. We are not the world – nor do we want responsibility for it!

So there are at least two responses to the broken world we face. The “We are the World” option optimistically roles up the sleeves and goes to work. Yet it runs into two problems: first, there is something about the world’s problems that is much too deep to resolve by sheer goodwill. Second, there is not enough goodwill anyway – there is a lot more apathy than we’d like to believe.

Which leads to the second option. The “waiting” option, the path of least responsibility, is the least heroic option one could possibly take. Is this the stuff that creates the next greatest generation? It’s difficult to complain that “they own the information” when you own the internet. Time’s Person of the Year is you, not them.

The biblical view of world change is not overly optimistic (or overly sappy). It recognizes that the problem is, in fact, far deeper than we imagine – and that we are part of it. Yet the biblical view of world change is not apathetic, either. Every prophet and apostle calls for action. And furthermore, the biblical approach to world change actually works. While not everything done in Christ’s name is Christlike, Western culture would be unrecognizable apart from its Christian roots. Its Christian worldview produced hospitals, universities, and concerns for equality, philanthropy, and justice.

Since this post is already long enough, I’ll cut to the chase. The most distinctive element of the Christian world view is its emphasis on personal sin. The world’s problems are not “out there.” They are right here, in our hearts. We are the world after all.

Because Christianity is a life of ongoing repentance – or should be – the results are profoundly different than “We are the World” or “Waiting on the World to Change.” We need to change the world… but it has to begin with me. And that’s not just talk. The Bible calls for a pretty ruthless self-investigation. And yet we do not grow apathetic… by the grace and work of God, we see change in ourselves. And then in our family. And then in our church. And then in our community. And then…in the world.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Filling the Silence

Occasionally someone asks me: what is the difference between preaching and teaching?

Both are verbal communication, both pass along information, and both (generally) have some kind of application associated with them. The difference is not that one is “spiritual,” since there is plenty of teaching that takes place in the church that is not preaching.

So what’s the big difference?

The first difference is that preaching is defined by exhortation, whereas teaching is defined by explanation. This is a matter of emphasis: a preacher is hopefully explaining, and a teacher may – if only on occasion – rouse his hearers to action. Yet the emphasis in preaching is on exhortation, and the emphasis in teaching is on explanation.

Second, preaching is representative. The pastor speaks as a called representative of God, a “minister” and herald of another’s message. While a Bible teacher – such as in a Sunday School class – may feel that same responsibility, it is more profound in preaching. A preacher avoids opinion, whereas a teacher sometimes offers an array of opinions on a given subject in order to excite learning. A good teacher even solicits opinions, questions, and ideas from the students, whereas a preacher does not. (This makes preaching intensely personal, by the way. To represent God’s message, one must absorb it himself.)

Third, preaching is more focused. The ultimate message of all preaching is the gospel - the work of God on behalf of mankind, and how this is displayed in our lives. The preacher is constrained by this particular goal. A teacher – again, even a skilled Bible teacher – may set for himself the same goal, but may not. No one should complain if a teacher limits his lecture to the historical evidence of Jesus’ empty tomb; but if a preacher stops here, God himself will act as judge and jury.

Fourth, there are different promises associated with preaching and teaching. The Bible says that God ordained preaching to turn hearts to Christ in repentance and faith (see 1 Corinthians 1-2). On the other hand, God promises to mature us through teaching (see Ephesians 4).

Well, those are my thoughts… I hope I have explained this well, and I’m happy to hear your opinions!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Breaking the Silence

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12)

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. (v.15)

Welcome back to Bible in the Basement! I’m glad you’re here, in spite of my protracted (ten day) leave of absence. During this silent period, I’ve had occasion to reflect on that very subject: silence.

It is said that actions speak louder than words. This is certainly the philosophy of the apostle Peter in the above exhortations, and in the background are similar statements made by Jesus and Paul. I’m actually somewhat surprised at what a pervasive sentiment this is in Scripture, given that preaching and teaching are such prominent tools for the gospel trade. Peter does go on to say that Christians should always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, yet…with gentleness and respect” (3:15-16); but his assumption is that people will only "ask" if they see something worth asking about.

Words cannot be understood apart from a context, and that context should be lives of beauty lived by believers. Apart from good lives there is no good news.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Great Distraction

“The woman at the well” is an unnamed, yet significant figure in the gospels. Her story is found in John's gospel, chapter 4. Today I realized something about this story that I hadn’t noticed previously. Before I get to that, let me review this famed interaction.

Jesus passed through Samaria one day. It seems that the divine purpose behind this was to meet this particular woman. Jesus spoke with her while seated near a well, and used the opportunity to tell her that he possessed “living water” unlike anything else she would ever drink. Contrasting this with well water, Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

This intrigued the woman, because it seemed that drawing water from the well was a thankless and difficult task. Yet Jesus was trying to convey to her that he was not speaking about H2O but about the Holy Spirit.

So Jesus said to her, purposefully, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”

The woman said, “I have no husband.”

Jesus said, that’s right, in fact “you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband.”

In the ancient world this was a source of tremendous shame. She was either widowed or divorced five times, and has now given up on the idea of marriage altogether. Furthermore, she knew her current relationship was not within God’s will for her. There is no doubt that Jesus is trying to tease out of her some honesty, some admission of need, some sort of cry for help…some repentance.

But what does she do? She changes the subject! She responds: "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship."

In other words, she is willing to speak about religion, but not about her own life.

Jesus proceeds to speak to her about religion, but continues to make it personal. And then, in the middle of the conversation, the disciples show up. The text reads, "Just then his disciples came back. So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 'Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?'"

What a convenient distraction! The disciples show up, and she takes off. In doing so, she looks pretty good by our standards – she is off telling others about Jesus. In fact, the townsfolk get pretty excited about Jesus and there’s a little bit of a spiritual awakening. It would be easy to think that this woman’s heart was truly changed, but the text never says that.

So here’s what I never noticed before: we never learn what happened to the woman at the well. We know she didn’t want to discuss her personal life with Jesus. We know she changed the subject. We know she became an evangelist of sorts, bringing others to Jesus. But we never learn whether she was ever willing to drop her guard and accept the fact that she needed living water, that she needed salvation, that she needed Jesus.

Did this woman truly open herself up to the Savior? Or did she become just another religious person on the landscape? Did she remain religiously curious, or did she receive Jesus as the Savior and the fountain of living water?

Was she willing to admit her need... or was she just happy for the distraction?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Trust Fall

Have you ever taken a trust fall, risking life and limb (or at least limb) by falling backwards into the arms of some group? They can be done from all variations of altitude, and presumably the farther the fall the deeper the trust!

There's an interesting passage in the Gospel of John that doesn't get much play, probably because it's a little difficult to interpret. Here's what it says:

Now when [Jesus] was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (John 2:23-25)

"Many believed in his name" but "Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them." Actually, the same Greek word lies behind "believe" and "entrust" in this passage, making the point that these people trusted Jesus... but he didn't trust them!

Very interesting.

John Calvin, a careful commentator, takes this passage to mean that Jesus knew that these people trusted him in only the most superficial way (they were impressed by the signs) but their faith was not the kind that would last. Therefore, Jesus despised their surface level faith. This would fit the context. Nevertheless, it is an intriguing play on words - we find life through faith in Christ, but on his part does he find us faithful? Jesus knows that by nature what is inside us is, in Calvin's words, "volatile and unsteady."

How much more remarkable it is, therefore, that John later records these words from Jesus:

"If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." (John 14:23)

Jesus actually said this in a response to a question posed by one of his disciples: Judas.

And Judas stands as a sad reminder to all who follow Jesus that they need to ever examine how and why they follow. Is it out of a true faith/trust? Does it flow from love, that is, appreciation for the salvation offered to us? Or are we out to get something for ourselves, and if we don't receive it we storm off in a huff?

Ultimately the trust fall says a lot about us. We might be hanging out with someone, but has a relationship of deep trust really developed? And for those who claim a relationship with Jesus, the same holds true with him: are we actually ready to take the plunge?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Psalm Readers

I’ve written before about my agreement with a friend to read through the Bible together. Today we finished up the Psalms and will be moving most likely into the gospels.

The psalms are ancient Hebrew poetry, yet resonate to this day. Their theology is remarkable: a God who is infinitely worthy of praise, yet with ears open not only to the praises of his people – but also their petitions, anxieties, and even complaints!

Reading the stripped down, unplugged, raw honesty of these psalms has taught me about myself. I’ve learned that I am not nearly so bold or honest in my prayers as I am encouraged to be - as I'm commanded to be.

Yet at the same time...

The psalms end by calling all people – and in fact, all creation – to praise God. That is, to recognize his Lordship over all creation and to admit that he is the source of all life, beauty, and blessing. For example, the very last psalm:

Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!
(Psalm 150)

These are imperatives. These are commands.

When I shared these thoughts by email to my psalm reading friend, he wrote the following to me based on his experience as a church music director:

" 'Praise ye the Lord' is not a choice or an option, but a command. It really grieves me to see people standing in the congregation during a hymn with their mouths closed. Basically, that is disobedience. I don't think people connect that."

While it is important to learn something about ourselves from the psalms, we’ve really missed out if we haven’t learned something even more significant about God and the praise he deserves.

Become a psalm reader today. It's easy! Just turn to Psalm 1...

(It's really too bad there's a typo on this tattoo! Plus, it's a lot harder to update to a more contemporary translation if you go this route. I'd just stick with a regular copy of the Bible...)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Ultimate Hymn

I'm a proponent of contemporary worship music, but I have to admit something. The stories behind the greatest hymns put the stories behind the hottest praise songs to shame!

I learned this as I was preparing for a Sunday evening worship service. I was browsing through a book of hymn stories and happened upon a similar book that explained the stories behind some more recent songs. The stories behind the hymns are often dark and stormy, whereas more than once the praise song story began this way: "It was an ordinary quiet time like any other..."


Well anyway, in doing that work I ran across this quotation concerning one of Charles Wesley's many great hymns:

"I would have rather written that hymn of Wesley's than to have the fame of all the kings that ever sat on earth; it is more glorious, it has more power in it. I would rather be the author of that hymn than to hold the wealth of the richest man in New York. He will die after a little while... But people will go on singing that hymn until the last trump brings forth the angel band; and then I think it will mount upon some lips to the very presence of God."
(Henry Ward Beecher)

Hyperbole? You decide.

Jesus, Lover of My Soul
Charles Wesley (1707-88)

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.

Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.

Perhaps this is why many hymns are being set to modern tunes and being sung once again!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Ultimate Question

The English Puritans asked, and answered, the ultimate question this way:

Question: What is God?
Answer: God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.
- The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question four.

I think that we would be a bit more comfortable asking "who" rather than "what is God." However, would our answer be better than theirs?

Well, we would probably add the word "love." You notice that's missing in the list of attributes, although it is perhaps implied in the word "goodness." And we might change the word "spirit" to something else, since this word tends to connote ghosts (and not Holy ones) whereas the Puritans meant that God is outside this created order.

Other than that... I doubt our answer would be better. Though I admit it would be shorter.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Just Creating

I recently listened to a lecture by Tim Keller entitled Christianity and the Creative Age (September 15, 2006, find it here).

We live in a creative age. Blogs are written, homemade videos are broadcast, and every teenager downloads a daily soundtrack to their iPod. Artists’ industries make billions of dollars and are celebrated with lavish awards shows. More down to earth are the artists who work nine to five (or ten till eleven) creating web sites and Super Bowl commercials.

With this fresh in mind, I was reading in my home office yesterday and noticed just how many gadgets cluttered my desk:

Some of these fuel my own moderately artistic endeavors, helping me to easily write, manage photos and music, and so forth. They also help me to communicate (props to the cell phone and email) and, yes, waste time (way to go, Firefox).

Just to the left of the computer was my Bible and a book on prayer by Philip Yancey that I’ve started reading. Needless to say, I’m making slower progress through both books than I would if it weren’t for these other occupations.

So I was thinking…

Finding ourselves in such an age requires not only creativity but wisdom. We need to understand how to use our creative skills in a way that honors God, the one who started this whole thing by creating the world and creating us in his (creative) image. Yet this will only happen if we “create” the necessary time to reflect, pray, and read God’s word. Only then will we have something meaningful to say, to celebrate, to broadcast through our artistic endeavors.

Which means I have to be a little bit countercultural and pick up that book on prayer and read it. Or actually pray. Not to mention study that Bible.

And then back to the blog.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

My Friend, The Cult Leader (and Follower)

Today is the birthday of a friend I’ve known for many years.

While attending Lutheran high school, I had a class in which we examined the beliefs and practices of cults. Some of the cultish practices included charismatic leadership, “love bombing” (treating the inductee with abundant affection, creating attachment to the cult), sleep deprivation, etc.

Andy read over my notes and said, “I’m charismatic… I love myself… I deprive myself of sleep… I’m a cult unto myself!”

A memorable quotation from a friend who made me laugh throughout the 1980’s. Happy Birthday, Andy!

American Idols

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see;
they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths.
Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them!
(Psalm 135:15-18)

This psalm is written by a Jewish traveler in the era before Christ, who was contrasting faith in the true God with the creatively fashioned idols of other nations. These idols were physical creations: they had shape, weight, and could sit on a shelf. If they were unearthed today, they would be quickly transferred to a museum and lauded as works of art.

Are the idols in our society the works of our hands?

I heard Pastor Mark Driscoll speak on the subject of idolatry recently. He said that some people had visited a foreign country where there were shrines to idols in every living room – it seemed unbelievable and so “old world.” Driscoll commented, “Did the idols have a remote?” In other words, Driscoll said, we quickly notice the idols in other cultures – but hardly realize those in our own.

Look around… what do you see?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Playing Favorites

Posting my two favorite verses on a whim the other day got me thinking. Surely it seems impious to speak about a “favorite verse” of the Bible, when the entire Book is meant to be treasured. The reason certain verses are favorites, however, is simply that they made an early impression on me in my walk with God. The two I cited – Isaiah 26:3 and Jeremiah 9:23-24 – both concern the privilege of knowing God.

When I gave further thought to my favorite chapters of the Bible, I found that this also led me to the prophets. Two that jump immediately to mind are Jeremiah 23 and 1 Kings 13, which both concern true and false prophecy: one a divine indictment, the other a curious (and even humorous) story. Growing up spiritually in a California megachurch provoked much thought concerning the authentic word of God, for the word written was sometimes neglected in favor of the word felt or imagined. These were formative passages indeed.

I have read the prophets, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, less frequently in the past several years. My focus has been the gospels: the life, words, actions of Jesus Christ (to whom both Isaiah and Jeremiah direct us). Incidentally, next to Jeremiah, my favorite book of the Bible is probably the Gospel of Matthew. Yet this thought process reminds me to turn to the Old Testament prophets more often. Their words are both penetrating and poetic, lending themselves well to contemplation and re-reading.

Now then, next to Jesus Christ, who would be my favorite Bible character? Well, it turns out that would also be Jeremiah too! He beats out the Apostle Peter by a hair. If you peek into Jeremiah 1 and Jeremiah 15 you will see a young man called by God, who was promised great difficulty and disappointment. He needed God’s encouragement, and it was given; but God never allowed him to be released from his difficult task. He lived a long and difficult life. When his tragic prophecies were fulfilled and Jerusalem was destroyed by its enemies, he did not gloat – he wept. Yet even then, he expressed some of the greatest words of faith ever written.

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4)

“O Lord, you know;
remember me and visit me,
and take vengeance for me on my persecutors.
In your forbearance take me not away;
know that for your sake I bear reproach.
Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart,
for I am called by your name,
O Lord, God of hosts.”
(Jeremiah 15:15-16)

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘therefore I will hope in him.’
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”
(Lamentations 3:22-27,
written by Jeremiah)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Two From the Prophets

These are my two favorite short passages of all time. They both are from major prophets:

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Isaiah 26:3

Thus says the Lord: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord."
Jeremiah 9:23-24

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ten Thousand Bucks

"The law of your mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces."
Psalm 119:72

If I had those gold and silver pieces, I would be happy to give the silver ones to charity. The gold ones alone would be a great help - I could accomplish my desires for my life much better. I'm sure you feel the same way.

Yet to do God's will should be not only our greatest priority but our greatest delight. This can be done with $10 or $10,000.

Jesus said, "One's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Our fundamental attitude should be "what does God desire of me today?" We should never think that we need something more in order to do God's will -- whether money, additional possessions, or anything else.

It is not wrong to seek financial stability, to provide for one's family, or anything like that. It is not wrong to desire other good gifts from God such as a spouse or a fulfilling career. Yet while seeking such things - and hopefully for the right reasons - we need to realize that God nevertheless gives us what we need to do his will today.

So let's do it.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Longest Day

As a pastor, I should be reading the Bible all the time, right? Right. My duties call me to continual biblical reflection. For example, I am currently studying 1 Peter for an evening series (hey, if you’re in New Jersey, come join us). My nose is in the Book for preparations for Sunday Scripture readings, Sunday school classes, and so forth.

Yet I am a Christian first, and a minister second. So although I’m utilizing the Bible throughout the week as the tool of my trade, I find it most important to read God’s word each day in a personal, or devotional, manner. Like any other Christian, I need accountability to keep me on track; so a friend and I read through books of the Bible at the same pace. For a while now, we’ve been in the psalms.
The other day our reading was Psalm 117. This is the shortest psalm in the Bible, at two verses. You can read it here.

Today’s reading is Psalm 119. This still holds the Guinness World Record for Longest Psalm, at 176 verses. We’ve decided to read this psalm over the course of seven days. If you think you can beat that, you can try your hand here.

But is it really that hard to read 176 verses?

As I’ve said before, we don’t grow by simply reading God’s word – we grow by meditating on God’s word. Psalm 119 could easily be read in the space of 30 minutes if it weren’t for the fact that it requires so much contemplation. It could be read, but not rightly. It could be read and forgotten!

In fact, Psalm 119 celebrates the benefits of reflecting on, memorizing, keeping, and loving God’s word:

“My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” (119:25)

“I will run in the way of your commandments
when you enlarge my heart.” (119:32)

“Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.” (119:105)

“I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.” (119:99)

That doesn’t take very long to read, does it?

But anyone can read. Even a demon. But not everyone can love God's word; this takes a rebirth of the heart.

I hope you are learning to enjoy and embrace God’s word. I hope that I am, too.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

God's Hand in Our Lives

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
We are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are the work of you hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)

The potter and the clay: a familiar picture for theologians, not to mention actual potters.

In declaring that we are “clay,” the Bible does not intend to strip us of our human qualities – e.g., dignity, volition, emotions, and so forth. In fact, a glance at the original context of this passage shows that the writer, the prophet, took comfort in being “clay” – he knew that he and his nation needed God’s hand in their lives.

It is the privilege of the Christian to know that God’s hand is in his (or her) life. But isn’t it true that we often acknowledge only his hand of blessing? When we perceive that he is answering a prayer, giving a gift, showing us the way to go – we are glad his hand is in our life.

But what about times of difficulty? Even then, God’s hand is in our life, shaping us.

However, if we are to be shaped into something beautiful and not misshapen, we need to accept what comes from God’s hand – both smooth and rough. As I said above, the illustration of “potter and clay” is not intended to remove our humanity: we still need to respond to God rightly. The verse I cited above begins “you are our Father.” While God will always have his way with us, this trusting relationship is what confirms that the potter's end product will be appealing.

As I write this, a new version of Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name” is playing on my iPod. The words to this famous song of worship are, “Blessed be your name when the sun’s shining down on me / when the world’s all as it should be… Blessed be your name on the road marked with suffering / Though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be your name.”

These are the words spoken by one for whom God is both “potter” and “Father.”

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Could this be the least known psalm in the Bible?

Psalm 114

When Israel went out from Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became his sanctuary,
Israel his dominion.

The sea looked and fled; Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs.

What ails you, O sea, that you flee?
O Jordan, that you turn back?
O mountains, that you skip like rams?
O hills, like lambs?

Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,

at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turns the rock into a pool of water,
the flint into a spring of water.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Jesus People

"You shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:21

So just who are "his people"? Who belongs to Jesus and is, therefore, saved?

Believe it or not, this is actually a subject we hear about quite a bit in the media. Take for example this fake news story from a turn-of-the-century edition of The Onion:

Christian Right Ascends To Heaven

TULSA, OK -- At the stroke of midnight, Jan. 1, 2000, the clouds opened above the Bible Belt and a golden staircase appeared for all born-again Christians who do not bear the Mark of the Beast to ascend into Heaven and enjoy Everlasting Salvation.

Night turned to day as Jesus Christ appeared at the top of the staircase in a blinding white sun-beam to select only 1,000 believers for ascension into Heaven, as outlined in the Book of Revelation.

"Follow Me," the bearded, unkempt Jew told His assembled flock as He unrolled a papyrus scroll bearing a list of names. The list was a veritable Who's Who of the Christian Right. "Pat Buchanan, Bob Dornan, Jerry Falwell, Fred Phelps, Ralph Reed, Trent Lott..." Jesus read on, as those named followed Him into the clouds.

Millionaire cable-TV executive and right-wing politician Pat Robertson smiled gleefully as he slowly climbed the stairs. "I've been waiting for this moment all my life," he said, his three-piece suit shimmering in the beatific glare.

"I am going to a place where everybody is like me, filled with Christian love and understanding," said conservative talk-show host and two-time presidential candidate Buchanan. "There will also be a shared hatred of gays."

(for rest of story click here)

While I don't necessarily share The Onion's animosity toward some of these figures, this satirical story raises a significant question: What's the connection between a first century (bearded, unkempt) Jew and 20th century (well dressed, polished) political conservatives?

In other words, just who are Jesus' people?

The beginning of the answer to this question is found in the verse cited above: "You shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins." Those who belong to Jesus are those who need to have their sins forgiven. They are sinners.

In fact, Matthew himself (the writer of the gospel) was a despised sinner - a tax collector. When Jesus saved him, he gave this famed explanation: "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." See Matthew 9 for more details.

If there is one thing that Jesus' followers should not be known for, it's self-righteousness. When they are perceived as self-righteous, that's when the culture realizes something funny is going on:

"Remember, Jesus loves you," said Christ, waving from atop the golden staircase, flanked by Robertson, Buchanan and Falwell, who also waved down to the damned. "So long, suckers!" Falwell exclaimed.

This does not mean that Jesus' people remain sinners. Yes, they will sin. But sin no longer defines them, sin no longer enslaves them. After all, they are now Jesus' people.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Anniversary Party

Bible in the Basement turns 1 year old today!

It all began with this post and was followed by 161 more.

Like The Twilight Zone, it is difficult to describe exactly what is the theme of this blog. It is a mixture of devotional material, theological reflection, and social commentary. What links the varied posts together is my desire that each would provoke reflection on the Bible's implications for our lives or society. My hope is that those who read also stop to reflect.

I learned early on that most readers do not leave comments, though comments are always enjoyable. Yet I have been encouraged on an as-needed basis through emails or personal run-ins with readers. So for those who read, thanks for stopping by!

Oh, and make sure to visit the many fine sites linked from here!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Another Year of...

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble."
(Psalm 107:1-2)

The next 41 verses of this psalm celebrate the diverse ways in which God delivers those who call on his name. (Read it here.)

What's amazing is that these words were written some 2500 years ago. Today, as one who has experienced the grace of God, I enjoy the promises contained here. It seems that the word "forever" in this psalm is not mere hyperbole.

In the year of our Lord 2007, call on his name - and experience his enduring, steadfast love.


Lots of talk in the news this past week concerning the late Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon. Most of the TV opinion class seem to think it was a good idea - in fact, a courageous one. But in one opinion piece that swims upstream, Slate commentator Timothy Noah expresses his disdain for the pardon.

You can read the whole piece here, but first check out this paragraph:

"Why was Ford wrong to pardon Nixon? Mainly because it set a bad precedent. Nixon had not yet been indicted, let alone convicted, of any crime. It's never a good idea to pardon somebody without at least finding out first what you're pardoning him for. How can you possibly weigh the quality of mercy against considerations of justice?"

Boy, this sure is fodder for a preacher! Apparently the idea of justice and mercy is alive and well in the American mind. And based on the above quotation, if we are going to understand God's mercy, we need to first stand trial and understand our guilt.

As the New Testament tells us:

"Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God." (Romans 3:19)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

PS: Makeshift, is this another answer to your question from Friday's post?