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
It’s easy to think that Jesus ministered for three years and then the Holy Spirit showed up on Pentecost. In fact, Jesus’ earthly ministry could not have happened without the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus the same way he empowers believers today. In part, that means mostly operating in the background.… 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
We get the story of David and Goliath wrong.
For one thing, it’s not the story of the underdog beating the powerful against impossible odds. For another thing, it’s not David defeating his enemy. In fact, Goliath wasn’t David’s enemy. David only cared about him because he was the enemy of Israel, God’s people. For another, David didn’t defeat Goliath. God defeated Goliath, and David was his tool.… Read the rest
After Matthew described how Joseph decided to go through with his marriage to apparently unfaithful Mary, he added a comment: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means God with us).”—Matthew 1:22-23 NIV
We might be tempted to think that, of course God is with us. Naturally. God is everywhere. But that’s too hasty. The standard warning in such cases is that we shouldn’t take it for granted. Actually, however, we should take it for granted: God granted us his presence by grace.… Read the rest
The bit of real estate you occupy is not your dwelling. At least, not in the biblical sense. Psalm 91:9-10 says, “If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent” (all quotations NIV unless otherwise noted).
In this day of “name it and claim it,” Christians who live in the path of a hurricane or other natural disaster might try to put faith in that passage to preserve their house or apartment.… Read the rest
Many of us often feel invisible, as if no one notices our efforts. Many of us feel invisible to God, too. But as Hagar learned, no one is invisible to God. God’s grace and love extend even beyond his covenant relationships.
Hagar was Sarai’s servant. Or in the most recent English translations, slave. Slavery in ancient times wasn’t quite the unmitigated evil as chattel slavery in the US.
It was more humane among Hebrews than even other contemporary societies. And in modern English, slave and servant have different meanings, even though both words translate the same Hebrew word.
God cares nothing about human notions of social status.… Read the rest
In Psalm 27, David begins with a stirring declaration of faith and then plunges into near despair before emerging with another, calmer declaration of faith.
The change is so abrupt that many commentators have suggested that somehow two separate psalms got jammed together. Unless some unknown editor was thoroughly incompetent, that doesn’t explain the structure of the psalm as we have it.
The suggestion comes, perhaps, because no modern poet would structure these thoughts the way David did. Perhaps no European poet even back in antiquity would structure these thoughts that way. So one lesson of Psalm 27—repeated by many other Old Testament passages—is that the ancient Hebrews didn’t think the way we do.… Read the rest
Are those promises really for you? What can you do with them?
Somehow we don’t have the same curiosity about commandments in the Bible, but at least some of them raise the same questions.
In Joshua 1:6-9, God gave commandments and promises to Joshua. Joshua had long known that he would succeed Moses as Israel’s leader and take them into the Promised Land. Now, Moses had died. It was time for him to step in.… Read the rest
God’s first words to Joshua are, “Moses my servant is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan.” Joshua had known that this moment would come.
Everyone knew that Moses would not lead the people into the Promised Land.
We have all experienced starting a new venture or getting a big promotion, something that we have prepared to do for a long time.
But when it comes time to actually start working, it’s only natural to have some jitters about our adequacy.… Read the rest