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
The first time recorded in Scripture that John the Baptist ever saw Jesus, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, CSB). The next day, he said the same thing to two of his disciples, Andrew and John, when Jesus passed by them. The two left him to follow Jesus.
The scene has become so familiar that it’s easy to fail to notice how little John’s society was prepared to hear it. Not to mention ours.… Read the rest
Christians can probably quote some Bible verses about how Christ has redeemed us. Otherwise, we don’t use “redeem” much anymore these days. When we do use it, it has two basic meanings.
It used to be that we could take books of stamps to a redemption center and exchange them for a toaster. That is, we redeemed the toaster by presenting the stamps. We can still redeem something we’ve taken to a pawn shop. And we talk about redeeming a coupon, although we don’t say we redeem our discount by presenting the coupon.
Or second, when we fail somehow, we can do something to redeem ourselves.… Read the rest
This season of Lent invites us to contemplate our sin in order to prepare for Easter, a time of new beginnings. The story of the waters of Jericho illustrates God’s role in new beginnings.
When Israel entered the land of Canaan, it immediately sacked and destroyed the fortified city of Jericho after God collapsed the walls.
In Joshua 6:26, Joshua pronounced a curse on anyone who would rebuild the city. It would cost the lives of his eldest and youngest sons. 1 Kings 16:34 tells us that, in Ahab’s time, someone named Hiel rebuilt Jericho. The curse occurred just as Joshua had prophesied.… Read the rest
We don’t pay as much attention to hope as to faith and love. I even heard a faith preacher disparage hope. He said it’s wrong to hope instead of believe. But Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the substance of things hoped for. How can we believe without hoping? How can we have real faith without real hope?
Part of the problem is that the technical vocabulary of Christianity seems so simple. If you see “polyphosphazenes” and you’re not a chemist, you know only know it’s technical jargon. You won’t misuse that word, if you ever try to use it at all.… Read the rest
We’re all going to die. We’re all sinners. Apart from God’s grace, we all deserve hell.
But Lent also gives us a chance to consider God’s extravagant grace It’s free, but it costs us everything. In this post, I’d like to pay special attention to God’s extravagance. And what it can cost.
Extravagance can seem like wastefulness. Consider, for example, the life of William Borden, heir to the Borden dairy fortune. Instead of inheriting the family business and living a life of ease, he decided to become a missionary.… Read the rest
We Christians love God. We sing of our love for God in hundreds of hymns and praise choruses. But have you ever thought about what it is about him you love?
Somehow, I suspect many Christians would come up with a long list before they ever echoed the psalmist:
Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandments have made me wiser than my enemies,
for they are continually with me. – Psalm 119:97-98 ( all references from MEV)
I have no idea how many times I read past that verse before I noticed a problem: It’s easy to love promises and attributes.… Read the rest
I recently came across a Christian teenager who posed this theoretical situation: a person who never sinned, did everything perfectly according to the Bible, but didn’t believe in God. Why, he asked, would God want to send anyone to hell just for that?
Once upon a time, churched and unchurched people alike recognized God as the judge of mankind. They recognized that he stood against a category of behavior called “sin.”
Much of discourse within the church centered on how to be good enough to avoid going to hell.
Nowadays, churched and unchurched people alike are more likely to regard God as the defendant who must justify his opposition to sin.… Read the rest
. . . I do not want you to be ignorant (1 Corinthians 12:1). Despite Paul’s stated desire, most of the church is indeed ignorant, even fearful, of spiritual gifts. The New Testament described gifts in three passages: Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Corinthians 12-14.
Some years ago, my church at the time bought a course on spiritual gifts, which was available in a version for congregations that chose not to acknowledge tongues. Why would anyone censor any part of Scripture?
The authors noted that each of these passages has some gifts apparently in common with other passage, and some unique to itself.… Read the rest
According to Romans 1:18, the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. It seems at first that Noah’s flood could be Exhibit A.
Except that a careful reading shows that nowhere in the Genesis account of the flood does “wrath,” “anger,” or any synonym occur!
The first time “anger” occurs in the King James Bible is Genesis 27:45 to describe Esau. “Wrath” first occurs is Genesis 39:19, which describes Potiphar after his wife accused Joseph of attempted rape. Abraham asked God not to be angry in Genesis 18:30 when the two were bargaining over the fate of Sodom.… Read the rest