God is at work in your life. It might not be evident to you, though. Does looking through the Bible to discern God’s activity in us seem frustrating? After all, most of the Bible seems to be about dramatic stories of heroes of the faith. Who can really relate to God speaking to Abraham on Mount Moriah or Moses from the burning bush? So let’s look at the book of Ruth instead for more down-to-earth examples.… Read the rest
Simply saying Thomas could mean millions of people, but everyone knows who Doubting Thomas is. Generations of preachers have heaped abuse on him. But maybe Doubting Thomas isn’t the best way to describe him. And it certainly shouldn’t make him seem in any way more doubtful than the other apostles.
Let’s take a closer look to gain a more accurate picture of the man.… Read the rest
After the dramatic stories of Gabriel’s appearances to Zechariah and Mary, Luke 1:39-45 describes Mary’s visit to Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth. The two women were related.
Although artists have painted or otherwise portrayed the visitation for centuries, it’s easy to read right past it. But like many minor characters, Elizabeth has a special message for us.
Mary, probably a girl of about 14, has just become pregnant as a virgin. That’s what Gabriel said. The townspeople would eventually know only that she was pregnant out of wedlock.
Gabriel had also told her that Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age. (That likely means 40, give or take a few years.… Read the rest
The book of Judges describes Israel’s downward spiral as they fell into sin and cried out for help multiple times. Each time, God sent a rescuer, and each one was less godly than the one before.
Samson, the last of the series, had superhuman strength and worse judgment than any of the others. His father Manoah and his unnamed mother gave him unparalleled spiritual advantages. He squandered his advantage and disappointed his father and mother. Samson’s parents surely count among the spiritual giants of the Old Testament.
Like many Old Testament stories, Samson’s was passed down orally for generations before anyone wrote it down.… Read the rest
Have you ever noticed that the Bible attributes all the building blocks of civilization to rebels against God? Ungodly men started the world system.
Cain founded the first city. His descendants invented agriculture, music, and metal work. After the flood, Nimrod invented architecture, government, war, and religion.
We like to talk about the rise of civilization, but it all began as a consequence of the fall. Surely unfallen humans would have eventually invented all the best parts of it. But given its ungodly start, civilization hasn’t needed to rise. It has needed to be redeemed. God’s redemption of civilization started with Abraham. … Read the rest
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah in the Bible appear to take a very intolerant attitude toward foreigners. More than a hundred men who married foreign wives caused a great scandal that ended in mass divorce. But in the book of Ruth, Boaz becomes the hero by marrying Ruth, a foreigner.
People who think the Bible is full of contradictions have a field day. As always, a careful look at everything the Bible has to say resolves the apparent conflict. Ezra 9-10 and Nehemiah 13 describe the scandal of foreign wives. We need to understand other passages in the Bible to put these chapters in perspective.… Read the rest
Healings occur frequently in the New Testament. They testify both to the power and compassion of God. Acts 3 describes the first healing after Jesus’ resurrection: Peter and John’s healing of the lame man at the temple and the speech Peter gave immediately afterward.
The same people who hated Jesus hated Peter and John for this deliberate act of subversion. It’s easy for us to understand its life-changing impact on the beggar. It’s less easy to notice it’s meaning in the life of the church.… Read the rest
If there’s one person in history who has the most personal reason to declare, “Christ died for me,” it’s Barabbas. All four gospels relate how Pilate wanted to release Jesus and how the priests’ mob demanded that he release Barabbas instead.
It’s easy to read past Barabbas and not think much about him. The possibility that he, too, bore the name Jesus gives us an opportunity to take a closer look. He’s much more important than he might seem at first.
A textual variant encourages us to take a closer look. Matthew’s gospel, at least in some manuscripts, identifies him as “Jesus Barabbas.”… Read the rest
Some people might be thinking, “No. The serpent tempted Eve.” Not quite. Adam and Eve in Genesis represent the entire human race. They started in a perfect place, the Garden of Eden. It took both the man and the woman to forfeit that position in what we know as the fall of man.
Genesis begins with three momentous events:
- God created the heavens and the heavens and the earth, culminating with the creation of a man.
- God planted the Garden of Eden, and while it grew, he gave the man the dignity of naming the beasts and looking for a suitable helper.
Whenever I wanted peace and quiet, there he was, chattering at me. Other boys got to bully their little brothers. Not me. He just got me in trouble. The Bible says, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Not any of my friends. My little brother stuck around no matter how much I wanted to get rid of him.… Read the rest