Gathering and restoration of a forgiven people

Because it refused to turn away from its sins and rebellions, God destroyed the Kingdom of Judah and sent the people to exile in Babylon. According to an overriding biblical principle, God is never finished with a situation after he has executed judgment on sin. The next step is always grace and restoration.

Through the prophet Ezekiel, he promised not only to gather up the exiles and return them to Jerusalem. He also promised to give them a new heart and a new spirit.

They would remove all of the abominations and detestable things from the land; no more would Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside see the idol worship that had led to judgment in the first place.… Read the rest

Washed? or clean?

We’ve all heard many times that thorough hand washing is the single most effective step in slowing the spread of infectious diseases. If we can’t use soap and water, now we have hand-sanitizers that kill germs and then quickly evaporate.

I was washing my hands at a restaurant once, when one of the employees came out of the toilet and left without washing his hands. I reported him to the manager. His behavior was unsanitary.

A Pharisee once invited Jesus to his home for lunch, and to his shock, Jesus did not wash his hands. But his shock was not like mine.… Read the rest

True spiritual leadership

Christians today find it easy to  hold the scribes and pharisees of Jesus’ day in contempt. If Jesus was so critical, then they must have been evil religious hypocrites, right?

We forget that they were among the most highly respected people in their society. Most of them, at least, must have been sincere and  honorable. Alas, too many modern Christian leaders take after the ones Jesus scolded. (One, of course, is one too many.) When they come under criticism, many of their followers go to great lengths to defend them.

Indeed, religious leaders who live less than godly lives have always presented a quandary. … Read the rest

The wisdom and folly of Solomon

People find it easier to start well than to end well. Nowadays, we see it in the tremendous number of anointed ministers of the gospel who fall into some kind of gross sin. (Failures of lay Christians get less press but provide similar evidence.) In the Bible, we see it in the lives of all of the ancient kings that God declared good.

Early in his reign, Solomon delighted God one evening. He asked God for a discerning heart to be able to judge rightly and thus fulfill his kingly duties. Because it is impossible to please God without faith, we know Solomon asked in faith for such wisdom.… Read the rest

Is not his word like fire?

“Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” — Jeremiah 23:29

From the heavenly fire that consumed Sodom to the lake of fire in Revelation, fire serves as a powerful symbol in Scripture. I suppose most people, on associating fire and God, think of hell. Let’s not neglect other meanings.

Christians read, or ought to read, God’s word every day and think about it regularly even without an open Bible nearby. If God’s word is like fire, the Christian certainly does not experience it as hellfire. So what kind of fire is it like?… Read the rest

A squandered opportunity to walk by faith

Perhaps not many modern Christians have read the second chapter of Judges. If you have, you may wonder what it has to do with today. Actually, upon closer inspection, it has plenty to do with today. The  consequences of missing the lesson will be tragic for our society if the church today misses the point.

God came from Gilgal (the place of the memorial to God’s greatness) to Bokim (the place of loss and weeping) to speak with them. Think of it! He had to follow them because they were no longer following him!

He told them that he would never break his covenant with them, but they had already broken it.… Read the rest

Judas

“What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. — Matthew 26:15

What was Judas thinking? He had followed Jesus as one of the twelve chosen apostles for three years. He had received teaching not trusted to outsiders. He had not only seen miracles but performed them under Jesus’ tutelage.

He had been present when Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. From that time on, he must have known that whenever he looked at Jesus, he saw the face of God.

John’s gospel points out that Judas kept the money  for the group.… Read the rest

Life without God: a fool’s errand

The fool says in his heart, there is no God. The only difference between now and David’s time is that today, we’ve got plenty of people who are darn fool enough to say it out loud.

Nowadays, we use the word “fool” to mean someone who is stupid, thoughtless, unwise, or easily deceived and imposed on. In the Bible, it also means someone who is wicked or impious. It refers not so much to a person’s mental equipment as to his outlook on life.

Whatever a fool may say outwardly, or whatever he may attempt to appear in terms of religious observance, in his heart he does not acknowledge God at all.… Read the rest

Faith: the real thing

“I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” — Jude 3

Isn’t it amazing how many people hold the truth in utter contempt? Plenty of people try to make the case that the Holocaust never happened, even though survivors live to this day, the sites of concentration camps still stand, and many eyewitnesses have left both written and photographic accounts of what they experienced or saw.

It’s nothing new. Other examples have occurred throughout history. In New Testament times, while people who had personal memories of Jesus and his teachings still lived, false teachers dared to offer their version of his life and ministry as an alternative.… Read the rest

The power and limits of intercessory prayer

God showed Amos a swarm of locusts that he prepared to punish Israel. Amos, a citizen of the rival kingdom of Judah, begged him to be merciful. God relented. Then he showed Amos a consuming fire. Again Amos begged for mercy and God relented.

But then God showed Amos a wall, and next to the wall, a man with a plumb line. Amos could persuade him not to destroy the apostate kingdom with locusts or fire, but God would not allow his prophet to dissuade him from punishing the sins of his people.

King Jeroboam II had built a prosperous and militarily powerful kingdom, but he refused to heed Amos’ words.… Read the rest