Everyone wants to succeed at what they try. The alternative is failure. Successful people know failure. They have learned from it, worked out problems, and tried again until they succeed. That’s the way the world works. Unfortunately, the world also has pitfalls that can ultimately destroy the successful if they’re not vigilant. The Bible has many examples. Let’s look at Gideon.
When we come to the end of a novel or a movie, we know how it turns out. We get a lot of satisfaction knowing how it turns out, possibly because we can’t possibly get the same satisfaction in our own lives. After all, we’re living in the middle of the story.
Joseph had ten older brothers. Jacob, his father, essentially put him in charge of the family business. Jacob loved Joseph more than the others because he was the firstborn son of the only woman he had ever loved.
But he must have given Joseph all that authority because of his natural ability and character.… Read the rest
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
According to Matthew 6:33, “Seek first kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [material needs] will be added to you.” Simple enough in principle, but just what is this kingdom, and what does it mean to seek it first? Jesus explained the kingdom in a number of parables. Here are three from Matthew 13:24-33.
The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a man
A man sowed good seed in his field. Now, this parable comes right after Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the sower. It seems safe to conclude that the seed in both cases is the word of God.… Read the rest
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? Why? It seems that every time we attempt to justify something, a real or hypothetical skeptic has reasons why what what we want is not justified.… Read the rest
We know Abraham as the father of many nations. Arabs and Jews both claim him as their ancestor. His life story forms the very foundation of the basic Christian concept of justification by faith. He did not start out that way. We first meet him as a name at the tail end of one of the tiresome genealogies that make parts of the Bible so dry: “After Terah had lived 70 years he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran” (Genesis 11:26). How did this Abram grow to become the Abraham so many people revere?
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
“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
Why do bad things happen? Some people seem to think it’s God’s job to make everyone happy all the time. Some people even point to the suffering in the world as justification for not believing in God at all. No one seems to mind if “bad” people suffer; they have it coming to them. But good people? Righteous people?God allows them to suffer, too. Why? Why?
There is an answer that no one likes much: “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10, quoting Psalm 14:3 and Psalm 53:3, NKJV), “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).… Read the rest
David made some strong claims for himself in 2 Samuel 22:21-25:
21 “The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
22 For I have kept the ways of the LORD;
I have not done evil by turning from my God.
23 All his laws are before me;
I have not turned away from his decrees.
24 I have been blameless before him
and have kept myself from sin.
25 The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to my cleanness in his sight. (NIV)
All of us who have ever read it know our own hearts and question whether we could make such a claim.… Read the rest