The Bible frequently speaks of people walking before God, walking after God, walking with God, walking in his ways, walking contrary to his ways, etc. Psalm 37:23-24 says, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand” (NASB). No one likes to think about falling, but there it is the same place we find that God establishes our steps and delights in us.… Read the rest
Isn’t it amazing how the whole meaning of a sentence can change when you shift your main attention from one word to another? Most of the time, preachers and writers seem to emphasize “content” and discuss the meaning an importance of contentment. Once, when I was in a particularly foul mood, I came across this verse and got hung up on “state.” I actually said aloud, “Paul, you were never in Iowa,” closed my Bible, and stormed off to enjoy my pity party.… Read the rest
Today, we’re in an economic meltdown. People are suffering in these hard times. It appears now that when people act in their own self-interest—save, pay down debt, do the kinds of things that we all should have been doing in the first place—it makes the general economic climate even worse. Unfortunately, the scope of the trouble is so large and complex that looking for someone to blame is a lot easier than deciding what to do about it. So goes the coming election cycle.
Where is God in all this? Can we cry out to him for help, or is this mess somehow his judgment?… Read the rest
Why are there so many books, magazine articles, TV programs, seminars and what not about boosting self esteem? Lack of self-esteem seems rampant nowadays. Everyone rushes to this year’s new book or program. Why? Didn’t last year’s do any good? Maybe we need to take a closer look at the problem. Maybe God will have something to say to us that the various leaders in the self-esteem movement don’t.
I took physics my senior year of high school, and the teacher assigned pairs of students to be lab partners. Mine promptly announced that he didn’t want to work with me and went off to work with someone else.… Read the rest
God told Jeremiah, “Go down to the potter’s house, and I will give you my message there” (Jeremiah 18:2, NCV). Today if you go to a potter, you will probably see him or her working on a potter’s wheel operated with an electric motor. Before the invention of electric motors, potters at a wheel operated a treadle with their feet.
The technology doesn’t matter. The wheel doesn’t matter. Then as now, the potter formed the clay with his hands. He started to make something and was not happy with how it turned out. He crushed the clay back into a ball, but instead of making the same thing, he decided to make something else.… Read the rest
Romans 9 may be the most troublesome chapter in the New Testament. Misunderstandings of this chapter have led to a caricature of the doctrine of predestination that teaches that God in his sovereignty has already decided who will and will not be saved and, as a result, nothing mere humans do will. They have also led to centuries of Christian teaching that God rejected the Jews. Popular commentator William Barclay even declared that Paul got the whole thing wrong!
What is the place of Romans 9 within the entire book? Notice that it is possible to finish reading chapter 8 and continue immediately with chapter 12 without any sense of having missed anything.… Read the rest
Over the past several decades, the church has become embarrassed over the fact that almost exclusively male imagery—and exclusively masculine pronouns—have always been used to refer to God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). In our day and age, how are women supposed to relate to male deity at every turn? The same way men ought to relate: God is our husband. In Scriptural imagery, God is masculine to the extent that all of creation is feminine to him. God is male to the extent that all creation is female to him. Rewriting hymns and traditional prayers and retranslating the Bible into gender-neutral forms does not broaden our understanding of God.… Read the rest
“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” — Revelation 4:1 (NIV)
In the popular imagination, St. Peter is heaven’s gate keeper. That imagery serves as the backdrop for some truly hilarious jokes, but Scripture knows nothing of it. Much of the imagery in Revelation may be hard to understand, but there is nothing hard about this verse.
After hearing the voice of Jesus in the first chapter, John turned around and did not see the familiar face and body of the man he had followed in Palestine.… Read the rest
Most everyone in America rejoiced at the death of Osama bin Laden. So did many elsewhere in the world. After all, he was a mass murderer and spent the past few years actively plotting to murder more people. What does God, who is love, have to say about him?
One thing that immediately came to mind is this: “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? . . . The One enthroned in heaven laughs: the Lord scoffs at them” (Psalm 2:1, 4). But Scripture also reminds us, “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles do not let your heart rejoice” (Proverbs 24:17).… Read the rest
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
I had not intended to write two consecutive posts on the wrath of God, but since I did, I need to be a good priest (and as a Protestant, I believe in the priesthood of all believers) and pronounce an assurance of pardon. Sin offends God greatly—until someone confesses. Then he simply cleans up the mess and goes back to what he does best: loving.
In the past two posts, I explained how wrath is not incompatible with a loving God.… Read the rest