The grace in God’s disturbing acts

StormMany people draw comfort from favorite Bible verses. But what are we supposed to make of verses that aren’t comforting at all? Especially when they appear nestled among some of the grandest promises in Scripture?

In the Bible open on my desk as I write this post, Psalm 104 is titled “Praise to the Sovereign Lord for His Creation and Providence.” It extols God for creating the world and every living thing upon it. It describes in loving detail how he cares tenderly for all the birds and animals—which, it says, he made for the service of humanity.

But that psalm is not sweetness and light from beginning to end.… Read the rest

The law and the Seed

Scripture scrollGod made a lot of promises to Abraham, including a key promise to him and his posterity, or literally in Hebrew, his seed. These promises became the foundation of the Jewish nation, but before Abraham’s posterity could inherit the land, they suffered slavery in Egypt. On the way to the promised land, they received the law.

According to the New Testament, no one can ever be good enough for God by obeying the law. So what’s the point? Paul raised that question and answered it in Galatians 3, beginning with verse 19. His answer comes in the context of explaining that the promise to Abraham and his seed is greater than the law, and that the law did not supersede it.… Read the rest

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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