Many 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
In John 8, Jesus had a heated discussion about his ministry and credentials with Jewish leaders in the temple. He left, noticed a man born blind, and healed him. It was the Sabbath, so the leaders who were offended at him before became more offended and took out their frustration on the formerly blind man. Jesus’ disciples also saw the blind man, but they took it as a springboard for a theological discussion about sin (John 9:1-7). Has the church to this day understood what Jesus said and did?
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
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
Christmas scriptures include many familiar passages, but also thoughts from books not many of us read often, such as an important paragraph from Paul’s epistle to Titus. It gives a very valuable overview of the entire meaning of Jesus coming in the flesh.
Paul says that God’s grace has appeared and offers salvation to all people. One does not have to explore any farther than posts on Old Testament scriptures in this blog to realize that God’s grace extended to Jews and Gentiles alike from the beginning. In particular, the grace revealed before the coming of Christ is what the Wesleyan tradition calls prevenient grace, that is, the grace that goes before.… Read the rest
“Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet.” — Judges 14:14 (NASB)
One day, when Samson was on his way to marry a Philistine woman, a lion attacked him. By the Spirit of God, Samson killed the lion. On the way back home, he noticed that some bees had made honey in the carcass. He stopped to enjoy it. At the beginning of the wedding feast, he proposed a riddle based on the incident.
Let’s leave aside the fact that, as one living under the covenant of Moses, Samson had no business marrying a pagan.… Read the rest
It’s hard, for me anyway, to discuss anything in Romans without it coming across like a theology lesson. Well, it is a theology lesson, but it’s very practical theology. I can testify that it can become very personally real as well.
Paul tells us we have peace with God through Christ—whether we feel like it or not. It’s an outcome of the very nature of God. God expelled sinners from the Garden of Eden and chased them from his presence, but not before he told them of his plans to redeem them from sin.
In Wesleyan terms, prevenient grace started right then and there.… Read the rest
“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
What does the Bible say to do when something wonderful happens? Praise God. That’s obvious enough. What does the Bible say to do when something awful happens? When life is so awful that we wonder if God cares at all? Praise God. Now that’s just not fair!
But it works. When we’re suffering and feel like God doesn’t care, that’s all it is: just a feeling. In reality, he does care, but not necessarily the way we’d find most comfortable. We want to get out of our troubles as quickly as possible. He wants to give us long-term joy and conform us to the image of Christ.… Read the rest
“When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them “adam.” — Genesis 5:1 (NIV, marginal reading)
It is best to regard Adam and Eve not so much the first individuals as generic humanity. Both male and female are “adam,” and God intended them to be the god of this world. His answer to Job in Job 38-42 then is not the mean-spirited rant it may first appear. It is the job description of the god of this world, which he intended the human race collectively to fulfill.… Read the rest