A Strong but Secondary Love

The Sermon for Sunday, July 4, is “Covenant with Freedom,” which will draw primarily from 2 Samuel 5:1-5. It will be viewable online.

Today’s Bible passage:

Zechariah 14:9 (NRSV): And the LORD will become king over all the earth; on that day the LORD will be one and his name one.


By Chuck Griffin

If your nation functions as nations should, love of nation can be a good thing. Christians know there are degrees of love, however, and love of nation has to be kept in perspective.

Those of us blessed to live in the United States and similarly free countries have much to love. We live in nations with open intellectual doors. We are free to go through them, explore the ideas we find inside, and convert those notions we judge best into the lifestyles that suit us.

Freedom for citizens of such nations should be limited only at the point where people’s choices clearly impede the rights of others. I’m talking about genuine interference, of course, not the thin-skinned, “I’ve been triggered” movement playing out now.

And yes, Christians should be the strongest supporters of such a system. Many of our democratic notions were born out of the persecution minority Christian groups faced under state-sanctioned religion. Christians in rigid, authoritarian nations still crave the kind of freedom that rapidly evolved in the 18th century.

As followers of Christ, we also keep a bigger picture in mind as we enjoy these freedoms. Something better lies ahead; this truth is at the core of how we live and what we preach and teach to others.

As we freely choose Christ as Savior, we ready ourselves for an eternal, uncorrupted kingdom, a place where God’s light and love illuminate every moment and every relationship. This kingdom is where our most important citizenship resides.

Once there, I have no doubt we will be thankful for the people who made it possible for us to freely choose eternal life. I suspect we also will be astonished at how powerfully God’s grace penetrated even the darkest, most authoritarian regimes, giving people hope.

Lord, thank you for the gift of freedom. May it continue to be guarded and used well in free nations, and extended to those needing relief. Amen.

Redeemed from Trouble

Psalm 107:1-3 (NRSV)

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
    those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
    from the east and from the west,
    from the north and from the south.

By John Grimm

It is fascinating to hear the statement: “You are not from around here.”

My accent shows that I am not from around here.  As we are preparing to live in the kingdom of God, then each redeemed person will know that we are not from around here!  It will be a joy to tell the Lord how good he is when we are living fully in the kingdom of God.

In the meantime, we get to give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast love.  It is now, today, that we can say that the Lord has redeemed us from trouble.  Was that trouble of our own making, an addiction or decision we made?  Was that trouble of someone else’s making, an accident or a decision they made, and we allowed ourselves to sin in response to those circumstances?  Through Jesus Christ, we discover that we are redeemed, brought out of trouble.  We get to say that Jesus has redeemed us.

Even today, we can hear how the Lord has redeemed people from all over the world.  It is a time of thanksgiving when we hear how God has redeemed people not from around here.  No matter our accent, we can give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast love redeeming us from trouble.  Will we start saying that we are redeemed so people not from around here can know the goodness of the Lord?

Lord, thank you for being good.  Your steadfast love endures forever.  You are redeeming people from all over the world.  Gather these redeemed people in our local churches so we can start living in your kingdom even now.  Guide us in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Toddling Toward the Kingdom

Luke 18:15-17 (NRSV)

People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”


My colleague John Grimm, a LifeTalk contributor, wrote last Thursday about the importance of transmitting the gospel from generation to generation. And it’s clear from today’s text that Jesus sees little children as having a special ability to hear the gospel.

Over the years, I have had parents tell me of their children declaring at age 5 or 6 that they believe in Jesus. Often, the parents want to know if I think the belief is somehow “real.”

Yes, it’s real. Nowhere in the Bible does it say we have to grow to adulthood, make a comparative study of religions and take philosophy classes before we are qualified to believe. We need to grow as disciples throughout our lives, but faith in Jesus is not an intellectual exercise.

It was difficult for Jesus to go to the cross, but that’s because out of love for humanity he was doing all the work, bearing the burden of every sin committed. Salvation is simple for us because all we have to do is believe in the work’s effectiveness. Jesus loves me, this I know, and for a child, salvation is a straightforward proposition.

Theologically, we do have much to work through as we get older. Concepts like soteriology (how salvation works) and theodicy (the answer to why evil continues to persist) are enough to keep our minds busy for a lifetime. But even the complicated questions require simple, childlike faith as a starting point in the search for answers.

Blessed are the children. Blessed are all who come to Christ with childlike wonder.

Lord, help us to recover and maintain the faith of a child, even as we make our way through the complicated world of adulthood. Amen.

Candy Kingdom

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

lot of people hate the advertising on their web browsers, but I’ve been unusually happy with mine the last few days. Earlier in the week, a relative was trying to remember what a circus peanut looks like, so I searched for a picture of one on my phone.

The software that pokes around in my browser took note that I had an interest in candy. Now I’m getting ads for candy of all kinds. My web pages regularly come decorated with bright jelly beans, gumdrops, gummy bears, nonpareils, and of course, circus peanuts in pink, yellow, white and classic orange.

I’m so happy with this result, I make sure I click on the ads from time to time, just so they will continue popping up. Thanks, Criteo!

Last night, I was showing my wife an unusually pretty offering of brightly colored “fruit slice” jelly candies for sale. It reminded me of the sleeve of fruit slices my mother would buy me at the candy counter in Sears before we went to a movie.

“Remember how candy was a very serious, very important subject when we were kids?” I asked my wife. “As I get older, I realize just how right we were.”

I know: Waistline, risk of diabetes, tooth decay, etc. But those concerns aside, there is simple joy—bright primary colors, explosive flavors, the heady rush of sugar. They all draw you very much into the present moment.

And being a pastor, I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Mark 10:14-15: “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”

The Kingdom of God is, after all, the sweetest truth. This broken world can really hurt us, but there’s a new way dawning, an eternal life free from the havoc wrought by sin, and we can taste that new life now. When we sense the Kingdom of God breaking into this world—perhaps in a song, a story, or a relationship—that moment can be a real rush, and we naturally want more.

Christianity is exhilarating stuff, and like a child, we should take what we’re being offered very seriously.

Lord, thank you for those moments when your plan becomes so evident, all we can do is smile. Amen.