That’s easy, even fun to sing in church on Sunday or perhaps at home during personal devotions. It’s nothing but church talk if we don’t put legs on it, set our hands to work on it, and let it control our mouths and, yes, our thoughts once we close the hymnal.… Read the rest
“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” has been a favorite American hymn for about 200 years. The second verse notoriously starts, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer.” I say notoriously, because it has been generations since large numbers of church goers have understood the meaning of “Ebenezer.” It’s a stone of remembrance, set up by the judge and prophet Samuel on an occasion well worth remembering.
When Samuel was a child, two worthless priests under judgment from God decided to take the ark of the covenant into battle with the Philistines. Since they had no relationship with God and no regard for him, they must have regarded the ark as some kind of magic box that would turn the tide of battle.… Read the rest
I raise my eyes to the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. — Psalm 121:1-2 (HCSB)
“I can see the mountains very dimly!”
My little brother’s excitement woke the whole family after what had been a very difficult night. It became the turning point of our trip to California.
My father had accepted a visiting professorship at the University of California and decided to buy a trailer.… Read the rest
When you get home from church, what do you think of God? During the week, do you think of God for a morning quiet time and then hardly at all for the rest of the day? Or, admit it to yourself, do you remember God at all between Sunday mornings?
How easy it is to go to church, participate in Sunday morning activities, and have the experience wear off before we get back home. Back to the ordinary. Back to the messages of the world around us.
The television ads all try to make us focus attention on all the things we don’t have and make us discontent until we get them.… 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?… Read the rest
“Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”–Joshua 1:9, NRSV
Moses was dead. Joshua was scared. How do I know that? Because the Book of Joshua begins with God giving him a pep talk. Three times during that pep talk, God told Joshua to be strong and courageous. When he got up from there and went out among the people, they told him to be strong and courageous.
So, was it wrong for Joshua to be scared? No.… 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?
God called Abram and he answered.… Read the rest
The fool says in his heart there is no God (Psalm 14:1). Some folks over the past 200 years have become durn fool enough to say it out loud. People have been questioning God far longer than they have questioned his existence. The questions mainly come from disappointment, and the disappointment comes mainly from a false sense of our own innocence. When things don’t go well, people turn to God for help, too often as a last resort. At such times, they focus on their own needs, their own helplessness, but not on the reality of sin.
I’m adapting this post from a Sunday school lesson on Isaiah 44:21-26, but all the prophets had basically the same message.… Read the rest
A popular praise chorus goes, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” That’s Scripture, actually: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Is it really practical in this day and age? Or is it the case, as Jean Kerr observed, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it’s just possible you haven’t grasped the situation.”
The troubles we’ve seen
For the last couple of years, our economy has been rocked by very tough conditions: high unemployment, long term unemployment, lots of foreclosures on peoples’ houses.… Read the rest
Trusting God can be a struggle for the godliest people. As when Peter walked on water until he noticed the waves, the struggle comes from looking at circumstances and feelings. Even David had trouble maintaining his trust. Allow me to offer my own paraphrase of Psalm 30:6-12:
… Read the rest
When I felt secure. When I felt secure. Was I secure, or did I just feel secure? Whatever it was, it seemed, it felt like it would last forever. But it didn’t. When life took a downturn and I didn’t feel secure any more. It felt like God had decided to hide from me.