God’s Character

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Should Ecclesiastes Be in the Biblical Canon?

iuMy question will likely startle some. It seems obvious to others. Count me among the latter group. I have read the book many, many times but it has never seemed clearly apparent to me that it belongs, even among the books that we call the “wisdom literature.”

I recently read Ecclesiastes again, this time in The Message. Same question: Why is it here? How does it belong?

The writer undertakes an investigation of experience at all levels. He asks questions about creation, justice, the wise versus the foolish, and the just versus the unjust. He insists that though God is sovereign over all things we cannot know exactly what God is doing or why he is doing it. What then is our proper human response? To take what we get now and use it as best we can. (Here is the observation that I wish I had learned much sooner! I tried to connect the dots of providence in my life overmuch and quite often I did so way too simplistically.)

So when various theologians and preachers tell you

Pope Francis, the Mercy of God, and the Danger of Fundamentalism

frpoorwertchPope Francis just returned from his first trip to Africa a few days ago. Those of us who watch and pray for him were amazed once again at his courage, faithfulness and continued displays of pastoral mercy. Surely “mercy” does sum up what Francis says and does as pope. Thus it is not surprising really since he has declared the coming year to be a “Year of Mercy.” He recently said that he will make twelve big (“significant”) gestures, one each month.Each is mean to demonstrate God’s mercy. This is what the Catholic Church calls a Jubilee Year. This year was pre-launched last Sunday when Pope Francis opened the Holy Door of the cathedral in Bangui, Central African Republic. One of the admirable features of Catholic Church life is the way this biblical concept of jubilee can be used to capture the minds and hearts of the whole church over a span of time.

In a brief interview in Credere, the official jubilee weekly magazine in Italian, Francis said: “There will be many gestures, but on one Friday each

Who Needs a “Jubilee of Mercy”?

“Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world: have mercy upon us.”

UnknownEach one of us, many times during our lives, have raised our voices and cried, “Lord have mercy.” Mercy is the kind of forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly. From a Christian perspective, it is the gift that God or another person offers to someone by not treating him/her in the way they deserve.

For many, this cry for mercy is a perpetual line of their daily prayers. It expresses our deepest inability to cope with the pain in our hearts or the desperate frustration with the challenges of our sinful human condition.

We all long for mercy. The tragedy is that we are not prone to offer it to others.

This past March, Pope Francis announced, to the surprise of many, a holy year. From Dec. 8, 2015 to Nov. 20, 2016, Catholics throughout the world are called to celebrate a “Jubilee of Mercy.” The celebration of a jubilee originated in Judaism and it was the occasion to offer forgiveness and reconciliation.


Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?

Philosophers have debated this question for millennia: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Christians have an answer, indeed the only answer that I believe satisfies both the mind and the heart.

the-love-of-god-tara-ellisIn the distant past there was only God. The ineffable and eternal God, existing in the triune fellowship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He was/is a God of eternal love. God is a triune fellowship of selfless, perfect, other-centered love. Further, there is no conscious life outside of God, the Father-Son-Spirit. God alone constitutes the complete whole of reality.

This is what we confess in the Creed and this really is central to Christian faith: “I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”

But in God there was never anything lacking. The picture is perfect. It is one of a ceaseless peace and joy flowing in love within the circle of the three persons in the divine trinity. God did not, simply put, create everything that is because he lacked anything or needed you or me. He created us out of a

Faith Energized By Love

UnknownAs I have been reading and writing on love for more than thirteen months now I am awestruck by so much that is transforming my own  life.

Here is but one example. A Pauline text that has deeply moved me can be read in Galatians 5:1-6:

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you.  Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law.  You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.  For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love

God Loves Me in My Muscular Dystrophy: A Guest Blog

526786_423216014368093_1079195861_nGod wants to show us his love for us in the circumstances he providentially arranges for our lives to be lived in. When all is right and rosy in our lives, it is quite easy and natural to arrive at this conclusion. God has blessed me; he must love me. Yet, as all of us who live in this world know, life is not always lived in the Big Rock Candy Mountains. We have troubles and they are never in short supply. If pleasure and ease are the barometers of goodness, it is far from evident in our natural sight that a good and benevolent God rules the universe when there is so much pain and suffering in it for the creatures he has made. By faith, however, we are shown the sufferings of One Man as the very content of God’s love for us. This is Jesus Christ, who through his suffering and resurrection offers to unite us to the life of God. In and with our Lord Jesus Christ, then, God demonstrates his mighty love

Love Alone Is Eternal (Part Ten)

Most of us realize that life is more than our limited experience of day-to-day activity. We believe there is a God we believe that it is he who sustains the world. We further believe that it is God who made us. But moments of wonder and transcendence do not mean that we know God really loves us. Explaining the world, and especially our own lives, without a personal, sustaining and loving God seems impossible. The alternative is an accident, or worse yet, pure fate!

When John says “God is love” we are prone to think, “That’s really nice.” Then a dozen popular and cheerful songs flood our minds about love, sweet love, what the world needs a little more of we say. We conceive of someone who cheers us up by being sunny and happy. But the biblical writers didn’t sing these kinds of songs or conceive of this kind of sunny personality. They surely didn’t have these ideas in mind when they spoke of God being love. Love, for the biblical writers, is the will to do good for another person, even at great cost to

Love Alone Is Eternal (Part Six)

The great English writer and poet Christopher Dawson said poetry is “the language in which man explores his amazement.” The same could be said of all great art, literature and philosophy. Yet above all this much more can be said about Christian faith. I believe we can only become truly open to eternal love when we have the “eyes to see.” These “eyes” come from grace alone.

The biblical statement “God is love” cannot be reduced to “God is loving toward us” or “God performs loving actions.” The statement “God acts in a loving way” is true but even this affirmation speaks of what God does. The biblical affirmation that “God is love” goes much, much further. It introduces us to the interior life of God – thus we can and should say that God is more than loving – because God is triune. As triune God’s love existed before anything created ever existed. Here is how the apostle expresses this when he writes of his own experience of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ:

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what

Love Alone Is Eternal (Part Five)

Every Christian I have ever met, if they have living faith in Jesus Christ, knows that God is love. Yet few Christians in the West live like they really believe this to be true. These words – “God is love” – express life’s most fundamental decision.

Unknown-1Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical put it this way:

Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choir or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Saint John’s Gospel describes that event in these words: “God so love the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should . . . have eternal life (3:16). In acknowledging the centrality of love, Christian faith has retained the core of Israel’s faith, while at the same time giving it new depth and breadth.The pious Jew prayed daily the words of the Book of Deuteronomy which expressed the heart of his existence: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall

Love Alone Is Eternal (Part Three)

The thesis of the book I am currently writing is grounded in this point – divine love is a mystery. The mystery is this  there is an infinite God who loves us eternally. This mystery is given only to those who hunger and thirst to live in his presence actively waiting upon him. We will “see” this reality, the reality of God’s eternal love, by remembering him and casting out in childlike faith into the depths of his goodness and grace. Difficulties and doubts will meet us along this way. But we must make it our daily experience to “ask . . . search [and] knock” if we would experience God’s love.

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how


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