For the past 150 years or so, some so-called biblical scholars have assumed that everything has a natural explanation, that the supernatural cannot be real, and that therefore the prophets of old could not possibly have predicted the future. In a recent post, Idolatry and redemption today, I mentioned a temporary redemption that came through the Persian emperor Cyrus, as predicted in Isaiah 44.
He reversed the long-standing Assyrian/Babylonian policy of removing conquered peoples from their homeland. He ordered the restoration not only of Jerusalem, but every other identifiable ethnic group in his empire. Today I’m returning to that chapter, verses 26-28, as an example of the fulfillment of predictive prophecy.… Read the rest
Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you.” He did not say, “Ask and it will be given to you immediately.” He also did not say, “Ask and it will be given you exactly as you envision it.” When we ask and seem not to receive, it’s easy to fall into some kind of crisis of faith.
Ordinarily, Bible teachers deal with the questions of unanswered prayer by looking at the text in detail in order to point out conditions or the various ways we sabotage our own faith. Instead, let’s look at Joshua.
The 11th chapter of Joshua might not make the most fascinating reading, but it does summarize the accomplishments and answered prayers of one of the Old Testament’s most successful leaders.… Read the rest
Every once in a while, someone will make the news by declaring that some event is God’s judgment on, well, fill in the blank. The immediate reaction in the media is outrage, often well deserved. Unfortunately, such dustups obscure an important fact: God’s judgment must come upon America. Let me approach the subject with three stories that, at first, will seem wholly unrelated.
Tom, a friend of mine, once told me about the first car he ever owned. To make a long story short, he never thought to change the oil. Of course he never read the owner’s manual.… Read the rest
Does it seem odd that Paul wrote “Remember Jesus, raised from the dead” (2 Timothy 2:8) to a dedicated minister of the gospel?
Earlier he had testified that no one on his staff was equal to Timothy. Why should a man like that need a reminder? Remember Jesus? Timothy must have spent most of every day either teaching his church about Jesus or sharing Jesus with the unbelievers in his city.
If we step back a little, though, and consider the history of God’s own people, it doesn’t seem so strange.
Pontius Pilate famously asked, “What is truth” and turned away without waiting for the answer. He had no inkling that Truth stood in front of him. He had no inkling that he was about to condemn Truth to crucifixion.
Fulfillment of Scripture demanded that Jesus be crucified. The ordinary way of executing prisoners under Jewish law was stoning. Only the Roman governor, Pilate, could authorize a crucifixion. He was initially unwilling.
Pilate thought he was in charge of the situation. He was wrong. Jesus was in charge. In the face of many obstacles, he had to insure his own crucifixion. It turned out to be hard work.… Read the rest
Christians readily agree with the statement that God is all-powerful, all-loving, and all-sufficient. But when trouble turns up, how many of us really know how to respond as if we believe it? We turn to idols instead.
Our idols aren’t quite the same as those of the ancients, but they work the same way. We trust our own resources more than we trust God. Certainly God expects us to use our own resources much of the time, but we must not trust them. We must trust God. Otherwise, whatever we trust instead becomes, functionally, an idol, the god we truly worship.… Read the rest
Nehemiah’s best-known accomplishment is getting a wall built. Lots of people have supervised similar construction projects. Not many have done so in the face of armed opposition that forced them to resort to multitasking. And even fewer have had their stories enshrined in Scripture so that thousands of years later, we can learn spiritual lessons.
Nowadays, multitasking seems to be the rule, not the exception. I have long observed people who claim they can be more efficient by doing several things at once. Usually I observe that they do at least one of the tasks so badly that they have to do it over.… Read the rest
Much of the Old Testament can seem pointless. Take Numbers 33; 31. Consecutive verses begin, “And they journeyed from.” After a brief interruption, there are 9 more verses that begin the same way. They journeyed from some place we’ve never heard of, went some place else we never heard of, and stayed there for. . . Who cares? I remember similar disappointment when I encountered my great-grandfather’s journal. But there is a point.
My great grandfather
Several years after the death of his first wife, Rev. Benjamin Franklin Morgan remarried. His new wife bore him a daughter, my grandmother, when he was 61.… Read the rest
In 1 Timothy 3:14-16, Paul explains his purpose in writing. Although he planned to visit Timothy and his congregation in person, he realized that he might be delayed. So he wanted to make sure that Timothy had clear instructions on how people ought to behave in the church.
But notice how Paul describes the church. It is the household of God. I suspect not many people nowadays understand what that means. On the other hand, I suspect any modern Christian would quickly agree that “godliness” makes a good one-word definition of proper conduct. Paul calls the source of godliness a mystery.… Read the rest
Many people draw comfort from favorite Bible verses. But what are we supposed to make of verses that aren’t comforting at all? Especially when they appear nestled among some of the grandest promises in Scripture?
In the Bible open on my desk as I write this post, Psalm 104 is titled “Praise to the Sovereign Lord for His Creation and Providence.” It extols God for creating the world and every living thing upon it. It describes in loving detail how he cares tenderly for all the birds and animals—which, it says, he made for the service of humanity.
But that psalm is not sweetness and light from beginning to end.… Read the rest