Self esteem: not as the world gives

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

Luke’s introduction to his gospel: why should we trust him?

St. Luke window

St. Luke window

Is the Bible a reliable historical document? Can we trust it?

How can we know the truth of the Bible?

A careful examination of the introduction to Luke’s gospel gives us a lot to think about.

After all, he wrote it to someone asking exactly the same questions.

Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.

Read the rest

The church: sons of God


So in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. – Galatians 3:26-29.

As I wrote last time, ” Attempting to emasculate the language of our hymns, prayers, and Bible translation does not make our worship more inclusive. It merely hides and obscures profound imagery that could lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and our relationship to God.… Read the rest

God’s love and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami


How can we reconcile God’s love with disasters? For a couple of weeks now, the news media have brought us new images of the disaster in Japan: the worst earthquake there on record, a tsunami that struck the coast within 15 minutes and that caused a nuclear catastrophe worse than any other except Chernobyl. We have probably all received multiple reminders to pray for Japan, and I hope this post will serve as another, but I want to consider the question of how a loving God can allow such devastation.

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’   “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.… Read the rest

Courage

“Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”–Joshua 1:9, NRSV

Moses was dead, and Joshua, his designated successor, was scared. That’s a good place to be for anyone who is about to start on a new ministry. Any ministry worth doing will be bigger than one human can handle by himself. If Joshua had been supremely confident in his ability to carry on, it would have only demonstrated that he was not adequately prepared.

So what do we do when we know what the Lord wants from us, and it seems more than we can do?… Read the rest

Welcome to Grace and Judgment

Calvin Coolidge had to go to church one day alone, because his wife was ill. When he returned, she asked him how church was. “Fine,” he said.

“Well, how was the sermon?” “Good.”

“What was it about?” “Sin.”

“Calvin, tell me what he said about it.” (Awkward pause.) “He’s against it.”

So should we all be. But how often do preachers talk about sin nowadays? Not often enough. My pastor proclaims that he’s against it, but I have heard many other preachers over the years with little acknowledgment that sin even matters. Time was when I heard and read lots of lessons about healing or prosperity.… Read the rest

A Shelter from the Storm—Really!

Have you ever noticed that nothing threatens holy people for long? Have you ever noticed that when you run into trouble, all you have to do is pray and the problems are solved? You haven’t? Hmm.

At first glance, that’s what Isaiah 25:1-12 seems to say: God has just done something wonderful in destroying the enemy’s stronghold and is promising more wonderful things in the future. Isaiah praises God as a refuge, a shelter from the storm. It certainly didn’t look like that to his audience.

The historical background for this passage is the military threat from Assyria. When the Assyrian army wasn’t at the gates, its ambassadors were breathing threats.… Read the rest

Trusting God

Sometimes it’s hard to trust God. I don’t just mean times when everything in life seems to be going wrong. Sometimes we just get into the habit of occupying our thoughts with all kinds of things that are none of our business. Psalm 131 is a good picture of childlike trust. David compares himself to a weaned child: a child no longer a baby, no longer considering the mother’s breast her most important attribute. A weaned child is a content child, enjoying mother’s company. Here is one of a number of passages where God is compared not to a father, but to a mother.… Read the rest

Patience and suffering–and joy

When my dad was in graduate school in the early 1950s, he needed very sophisticated calculations. He arranged to have them done on a computer, and if I recall the story correctly, he got his results back in about a week.

Computers almost immediately started getting faster and more powerful. He got in the habit of describing his project to computer experts and asking how long it would take newer computers to finish it. Each time he asked, the estimate of time diminished, to days, then hours, then minutes. He stopped asking when he found that computers could spit out the answer in less than a second.… Read the rest

The true prophetic word, or, why things often feel so wrong

You’ve all heard the jokes that start out, “I have some good news and some bad news for you.” That could also serve as an introduction to the message of the Bible. The trouble is, no one wants to hear the bad news, but the good news doesn’t seem like much without it.

There’s no shortage of bad news in our mass media. We all know that the national economy is getting pretty soundly thumped. Some of us are getting pretty soundly thumped in our personal life, too. I’m going through a really serious thumping right now. Maybe some of you are, too.… Read the rest