Walking and falling as a child of God

Toddler walkingThe 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.

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A prophetic word for a new heart in hard times

hard times

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

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

Letting go of the past


Dove release

Symbolic release of 21 doves

Are you so entangled in the past that you miss present opportunities? Usually the advice to let go of the past refers to emotional recovery from a divorce or job loss or other big disappointment. Hanging on to grief or bitterness or resentment over an unpleasant experience certainly holds people back from recovering and getting on with life. Actually, though, holding on to past victories and joys can just as easily prevent us from moving on.

The prophet Isaiah wrote of the exodus, a pivotal time in Israel’s history. Israelites had deliberately and rightly kept that memory alive.… Read the rest

God is our husband


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

An open door in heaven


“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

Osama bin Laden and the love of God

Ground zero, Jan. 10, 2002. ©Stefan Plogmann

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

Confessed sin no longer matters!


“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

How can a loving God have wrath?

Christ Cleansing the Temple / Luca Giordano, mid 1670s

God is love. If you want to know what love is like, look at God. But the same Bible that proclaims God’s love also proclaims his wrath. We usually see Jesus as gentle, kind, and loving, but he lost his temper once and got violent in the temple. He also described hell more graphically than anyone else in all of Scripture.  What’s going on here?

First of all, just what is wrath? The original Greek word is variously translated anger, indignation, vengeance, and wrath. It comes from a word that means to stretch oneself or reach out after.… 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