An Old Testament beatitude and the grace of God

God is goodWe think of the Beatitudes as part of the Sermon on the Mount, but they get their name from the opening words, “blessed are,” or in some translations, “happy are.” Lots of other verses begin that way, and many more with the singular, “is.” Here is the last of several from the psalms:

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
 whose hope is in the Lord their God.

Read the rest

Overcoming fear with peace

peace vs fear

Jesus Praying in the Garden / by Gustav Doré

Fear is one of Satan’s weapons to keep Christians from living in the freedom that Christ purchased for us. Fear keeps the lonely from reaching out to other people. Fear keeps us all from leaving our comfort zones to reach out for any goals at all.

We naturally experience fear when we experience adversity, obstacles, or failure. We shouldn’t give into it just because it’s natural. We have supernatural advantages, just as Jesus did in the Garden.

Read the rest

The lie depression tells

Depression is an unpleasant condition at best. At worst it’s debilitating. And yet it’s basically a lie. In part, of course, it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain, but no drugs can cure it unless somehow its victim can look past the lie to find the truth.

Like all lies of the devil, it works by blinding people to their true situation. Anyone who hasn’t bought into depression’s lie has bought into something else. Although David might be the last biblical character we’d think of as someone suffering from depression, Psalm 13 clearly illustrates both the problem and the solution.

Read the rest

Gay marriage, politics, and the Bible

Men arguingNorth Carolina has just become the 30th state to enshrine the definition of marriage as one man and one woman in the state constitution. I am pleased by the outcome, but dismayed by the process and the rhetoric.

In the local newspaper, proponents and opponents of the marriage amendment lobbed scriptures back and forth as if a couple of verses settled the matter. That’s wrong for at least three reasons.

Read the rest

Faith, sin, unrighteousness, and free will

Fire angel

Do people have free will, or are their choices somehow determined? Yes.

Each of us has only one basic choice: will we trust and obey God, or will we not? Trusting God is called faith. Failing to trust God is called sin. Rejection of God entirely is called unrighteousness. Everyone, consciously or not, makes that choice–not once, not even daily, but continuously. Probably no one makes the same choice every time it is presented. Probably our conscious, deliberate choices and our unconscious choices do not consistently coincide. But we all make the choice for or against God one way or another all the time.… Read the rest

Becoming OK with God: thoughts on the meaning of justification

Justification by faith in Christ

Christ the Redeemer

Justification by faith is too important to let it become just religious talk. If we are justified by faith, what does justify mean in ordinary language? Here are some sentences I found with an online search “justify in a sentence”

  • Refusal of a request to work beyond 65 must be objectively justified by the employer.
  • These pluses, we feel, amply justify a rate increase.
  • These features justify the expense of the software.

All of these sentences imply two questions, really.

Is it right, or OK, to refuse the request, increase the rates, buy the software, or go to war?… 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

Walking through the valley of the shadow of death


No one goes looking for hard times to go through, but no one escapes them, either. David described encountering and overcoming the valley of the shadow of death. What kind of hardship is your valley of the shadow of death? A path in a valley might wind through a dense forest. In David’s time, there might not even have been a real path. It might be impossible to see very far ahead. In this metaphorical valley, when we don’t know quite where we’re going, I can attest from personal experience how easy it is to be afraid. How can we come to David’s boldness in claiming to fear no evil?… 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

Samson: a wasted life of failure. Or was it?

What do you know about Samson?  Is he a Bible character you particularly admire or respect? His story, told in four chapters in Judges, is full of foolish choices. He had a special weakness for Philistine women. His last Philistine girl friend, Delilah, kept bugging him to tell her the secret of his strength. Twice he lied to her, and twice she sent Philistine men to capture him. What kept him from turning his back on her instead of finally telling her the truth? And he had such a great start in life!

The angel of the Lord appeared to Samson’s mother, a barren woman.… Read the rest