Trusting Jesus when it makes no sense: healing the blind man of Bethsaida

Christ Healing the Blind Man of Bethsaida (14th. c.) 

Mark’s gospel records a very odd healing. Some people in Bethsaida brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him. Usually in Scripture we see Jesus instantly
moved to compassion, but these people had to beg him. Then, instead of laying his hands on the man, he led him out of town, where the story becomes odder still. Implicitly Jesus had challenging questions for the blind man, his disciples, and all of us: Do you believe me? Is trusting me still an option for you?

In Luke 10:13, Jesus pronounced woe to Bethsaida fir its unbelief at the miracles performed there.… Read the rest

Tough people in tough times: Paul’s thoughts in prison


Have you ever heard the slogan, “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do”? There’s a lot of truth in that. Unfortunately, if tough times last more than a day or two, it begins to feel like they’ll last forever.

Tough times can mean all kinds of things. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a relationship gone sour, and other bad events can trigger them. So can more ordinary stresses like loneliness or trouble paying bills, or being unable to make the kinds of changes in our lives we want to make. Eventually, all of us will go through a variety of different bad times.… Read the rest

Dealing with bad news the right way

“Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD.” — 2 Kings 19:14 (NIV)

Poor Hezekiah. He’s known as one of the good kings of Judah, but his father Ahaz was surely the worst. Ahaz inherited a secure and independent kingdom and by his  idolatry and cowardice reduced it to a tributary of Assyria. Assyria, in turn, had little interest in having smaller states paying tribute. It wanted to conquer them all and rule directly.

Hezekiah trusted God more than any other king of Judah before or after  him, and eventually rebelled as the Lord prospered him (2 Kings 18:5-7).… Read the rest

Next words of Jesus: Peace be with you

“While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.'” — Luke 24:36 (NIV)

“A week later  his disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” — John 20:26 (NIV)

Have you ever been reluctant to encounter a friend because you owe him money? Or has a friend avoided you for the same reason? If you have not experienced either case, you surely know someone who has. Something very much like that explains this fourth next word of Jesus.… Read the rest

Next words of Jesus: Do not be afraid

“So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly, Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They cam to  him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.'” — Matthew 28:8-10 (NIV)

Matthew’s account of the first resurrection appearance is very different from John’s. We need not try to harmonize them or make them fit together, as they each have a different message for us to learn.

“Do not be afraid” is probably one of the most frequent commands in the whole Bible.… Read the rest

When I am afraid. . . I will not be afraid

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” — Psalm 56:3-4 (NIV)

“Fear not.” That’s the message of lots of angels in the Bible, and some times the Lord himself when he appeared. John’s first epistle reminds us that perfect love casts out fear. And yet we all fear.

Some of us fear many things. All of us fear sometimes. Unemployed? Sick with a catastrophic disease? Seriously injured? Recently widowed? These only scratch the surface of major, long-term uncertainties that can cause the hardiest of us to fear.… Read the rest

Finding joy in an unexpected place

“Though you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in  him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”–1 Peter 1:8 (NIV)

I confess that I have a naturally gloomy outlook. It’s getting better, thank God, but joy has been an elusive concept for me. Imagine my surprise, then, when I really looked at this verse in 1 Peter, one of the so-called general epistles.

Unlike Paul’s usual practice, Peter did not write either of his epistles to particular congregations. He did not address them to any local issues.… Read the rest

Protected in the shadow of God’s wings

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” — Psalm 57:1 (NIV)

David, anointed king of Israel, hid in a cave from the wrath of Saul, anointed but deposed king of Israel. Through Samuel, Saul knew that God had decided to remove him as king. After a while, he recognized David as his eventual replacement. Instead of retiring gracefully, Saul sought to defy God and kill David.

Probably no one in American society is in such danger with, in human terms, so little support and so few resources.… Read the rest

Prayer that really works

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”–I John 5:14, NIV

I spent years, decades, comparing what I prayed for with what I got. I struggled that whole time with trying to find scriptures to “claim” so that what I asked for was according to God’s will. All that happened was that, little by little, I began to doubt that God loved me.

More recently, I have done something else. I have asked God to remake my thoughts. I have asked God to conform me to the image of Jesus.… Read the rest

A Shelter from the Storm—Really!

Have you ever noticed that nothing threatens holy people for long? Have you ever noticed that when you run into trouble, all you have to do is pray and the problems are solved? You haven’t? Hmm.

At first glance, that’s what Isaiah 25:1-12 seems to say: God has just done something wonderful in destroying the enemy’s stronghold and is promising more wonderful things in the future. Isaiah praises God as a refuge, a shelter from the storm. It certainly didn’t look like that to his audience.

The historical background for this passage is the military threat from Assyria. When the Assyrian army wasn’t at the gates, its ambassadors were breathing threats.… Read the rest