A prayer Jesus answered, but did not grant

On one of numerous occasions that crowds followed Jesus when he would have preferred to be alone, he had compassion and set aside his own needs in order to heal the multitudes until it was already past. The disciples finally said, “We’re out in the country and it’s getting late. Dismiss the people so they can go the the villages and get some supper” (Matthew 14:15 — Message).

They made their request made known to the Lord. In other words, they prayed. Not only that, they prayed a prayer of compassion. They knew that it would soon be dark and that the people were probably getting hungry.… Read the rest

Seed sown in rocky places: the dangers of shallow faith

In gardening or farming, sun gives life to well-rooted plants, but death to others. That is why, in Jesus’ parable of the sower, seedlings in rocky places and scorched by the sun represent people who hear the word of God and fall away in times of trouble and persecution.

American Christians may not suffer persecution, or at least not to the extent that Christians in other places and times have, but no one gets through life without trouble and affliction. I don’t suppose that many would compare persecution, trouble, and affliction to the sun, but Jesus did.

The sun is good; it gives power and light.… Read the rest

Joseph: the forgotten man at Christmas


I just heard a speaker say she had searched the web for contemporary Christmas songs about Joseph and found only three. I know of a few more than that from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Most of them are secular pieces that mock him for being a cuckold. Poor Joseph deserves so much better than that.

We can learn a lot about him by juxtaposing Matthew’s account and Luke’s account of Mary’s pregnancy. When Mary told the angel, “May it be to me as you have said,” the Holy Spirit probably came upon her immediately. In the very next verse, she was on her way to visit Elizabeth.… Read the rest

Finding joy in an unexpected place

“Though you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in  him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”–1 Peter 1:8 (NIV)

I confess that I have a naturally gloomy outlook. It’s getting better, thank God, but joy has been an elusive concept for me. Imagine my surprise, then, when I really looked at this verse in 1 Peter, one of the so-called general epistles.

Unlike Paul’s usual practice, Peter did not write either of his epistles to particular congregations. He did not address them to any local issues.… Read the rest

Protected in the shadow of God’s wings

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” — Psalm 57:1 (NIV)

David, anointed king of Israel, hid in a cave from the wrath of Saul, anointed but deposed king of Israel. Through Samuel, Saul knew that God had decided to remove him as king. After a while, he recognized David as his eventual replacement. Instead of retiring gracefully, Saul sought to defy God and kill David.

Probably no one in American society is in such danger with, in human terms, so little support and so few resources.… Read the rest

Roundabout to Victory–part 5

While it still looked to the Egyptians like they had time to make it safely to shore, God  told Moses to stretch his hand over the sea. The sea flowed back to its rightful place, covering all the chariots, men, and horses.

Remember, it was daybreak. In Romans 13:12, Paul reminds Christians that the night is almost gone and the day is at hand. Two thousand years later, that is still true and will remain so until Jesus returns. The night is a time for sleep. Paul warns us to wake up, be alert, and put on the armor of light even though it is still night.… Read the rest

Roundabout to Victory–part 4

Moses boldly promised that God would fight while the people kept silent, but it appears that he was not as confident in God’s revelation as he wanted to appear. God asked  him why he was crying out.  The verse is ambiguous in  modern translations, but in the King James, God asks Moses “Wherefore criest thou unto me.” That is, “thou” (singular) and not “ye” (plural). God did not ask Moses about the people’s frantic unbelief, but his own. We, too, need to be so sensitive to God’s voice that he can interrupt our prayers if necessary. Prayer is a dialog, not a monolog.… Read the rest

Roundabout to Victory–part 3

After the ten plagues, Pharaoh had not only let the people go, he expelled them. Later it dawned on him: his entire economy depended on slave labor and he had driven all the slaves out. He had to get them back. They had obeyed the Egyptians for as long as anyone remembered. Surely he could make them return. Thus he forgot that it was God’s supernatural power, not the slaves, that had defeated

Likewise, the entire human race, and each individual in it, starts out subject to Satan. He is the god of this world and the world does his bidding.… Read the rest

Roundabout to Victory–part 2

Not only did the Lord lead the people the long way to where they were going, he told them to backtrack. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus%2013:20-14:4&version=NIV He told Moses why: he wanted to provoke Pharaoh and work one more miracle at his expense. He led them to a very vulnerable place.
It looked to Pharaoh like the Israelites were lost and easy to recapture. Where they camped was surrounded by sea and desert. He would sweep in for the kill, right into the trap the Lord set for him.

If we just look at Pharaoh as a man, it seems that God was cruel, toying with him like that, but if we look at him as a thyme of Satan, a different picture emerges.… Read the rest

Roundabout to Victory–part 1

“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt. So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.” — Exodus 13:17-18.

I always try to find the most direct route to where I want to go. When I’m driving somewhere, I get there quickly. When I’ve tried to reach life goals that way, it hasn’t worked out so well.… Read the rest