Struggling in the storm

Jesus had not planned to feed a crowd. Earlier that day he had invited his disciples to come away to a quiet place where they could get some rest and talk in peace, but a large crowd of 5,000 men and who knows how many women and children had interrupted their plans. Perhaps it was from compassion that Jesus told the disciples to get in the boat and row across the Sea of Galilee while he dismissed the crowd.

Whether Jesus intended to be compassionate or not, it appears the disciples didn’t like the idea. The NIV says he made them get into the boat.… Read the rest

Elijah meets a prosperous widow

Elijah prophesied that it would not rain in Israel until he said so. That got the king upset with him, so he went into hiding. God sent him directly to Queen Jezebel’s homeland, perhaps the last place anyone would look for him.  Eventually, he stayed with a widow in Zarephath. To herself and everyone around her, she looked destitute. Actually, she more nearly represents the biblical model of divine prosperity than anyone else I can think of.

It has been a long time since I have watched much Christian television. Many popular ministries I know of preach some kind of gospel of self-esteem.… Read the rest

Tough people in tough times: Paul’s thoughts in prison


Have you ever heard the slogan, “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do”? There’s a lot of truth in that. Unfortunately, if tough times last more than a day or two, it begins to feel like they’ll last forever.

Tough times can mean all kinds of things. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a relationship gone sour, and other bad events can trigger them. So can more ordinary stresses like loneliness or trouble paying bills, or being unable to make the kinds of changes in our lives we want to make. Eventually, all of us will go through a variety of different bad times.… Read the rest

Work out your salvation. Work out?

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. — Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV)

Paul says to work out your salvation. Some people act like that’s all he said about it. We all know folks who try really hard to be good enough and other folks that figure salvation, whatever that may mean, isn’t worth the trouble.

I mean, I know what a workout is.… Read the rest

Learning what Satan is like–the hard way

I suppose not many readers spend much time with 1 or 2 Kings or 1 or 2 Chronicles. That’s too bad, because the stories in the Old Testament often provide clear pictures off New Testament truths. Amaziah, a king of Judah who served God half-heartedly, illustrates what happens to the double-minded man mentioned in James 1:6-8.

This post will comment on the time when he was afraid that his army wasn’t strong enough for a war he wanted to make against Edom. He hired mercenaries from Israel, but then a prophet said if he let them fight, he would lose.

Amaziah fussed a bit about the money he had already paid for the Israelite soldiers, but before he went to war, he dismissed them.… Read the rest

Moses’ presumption

“And Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hands.'” — Exodus 17:9 (NKJV)

Among the many gifts God gave Moses, his rod was a tangible object that he could use any way he chose in order to release God’s power. He usually used it wisely and with great effect. Sometimes he did not use it wisely, and it got him in trouble.

His best-known mistake came when God told him to speak to a rock so that water would come from it.… Read the rest

Dealing with bad news the right way

“Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD.” — 2 Kings 19:14 (NIV)

Poor Hezekiah. He’s known as one of the good kings of Judah, but his father Ahaz was surely the worst. Ahaz inherited a secure and independent kingdom and by his  idolatry and cowardice reduced it to a tributary of Assyria. Assyria, in turn, had little interest in having smaller states paying tribute. It wanted to conquer them all and rule directly.

Hezekiah trusted God more than any other king of Judah before or after  him, and eventually rebelled as the Lord prospered him (2 Kings 18:5-7).… Read the rest

Holy Saturday and dashed expectations

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, his admirers expected that he would eventually be crowned king and begin the process of freeing the land from Roman occupation. His disciples expected to occupy important cabinet ministries in the kingdom .

Jesus didn’t behave much like a king. By the end of the week, it no longer looked like he planned to live up to expectations. Perhaps Judas acted as he did trying to force Jesus’ hand.

On Thursday night, Jesus hosted a pre-Passover meal and behaved very strangely and started talking somberly about death. All of the disciples’ expectations and hopes were dashed when Judas led soldiers to capture him.… Read the rest

Faith: the real thing

“I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” — Jude 3

Isn’t it amazing how many people hold the truth in utter contempt? Plenty of people try to make the case that the Holocaust never happened, even though survivors live to this day, the sites of concentration camps still stand, and many eyewitnesses have left both written and photographic accounts of what they experienced or saw.

It’s nothing new. Other examples have occurred throughout history. In New Testament times, while people who had personal memories of Jesus and his teachings still lived, false teachers dared to offer their version of his life and ministry as an alternative.… Read the rest

Scorning shame for joy

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” — Hebrews 12:2

“Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed nor be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth and will remember the reproach of your widowhood no more.” — Isaiah 54:4

It may seem we’ve landed in a world without shame. Couples are no longer ashamed to live together without being married; women are no longer ashamed to bear children out of wedlock, and so on.… Read the rest