God is the God of everyone and calls everyone to rejoice in him. The Bible clearly teaches that from beginning to end, but people have often had trouble accepting it.
At one point, God confided in Abraham that he intended to investigate Sodom’s evil. Abraham knew well their wickedness, but prayed for whatever righteous people lived there, declaring, “Will not the judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:19).
But the nation of Israel ignored God for centuries as they pursued other gods. Then, purged of that sin, they came to regard God as exclusively their own.
In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (NASB). What commandments?
Just a while earlier, in John 13:34, he had said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
Does that seem new?
Jesus had earlier said that the greatest commandment of the law was to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. The second was like the first: Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:28-34).
With this new commandment, Jesus raised the standard. Moses had said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which for all practical purposes is imperfect love.… Read the rest
John Wesley observed, “The church recruited people who had been starched and ironed before they were washed.” With all due adjustments for differing laundry habits, the same can be said for the church in all times and places from the beginning.
Maybe even before the beginning. In Mark 7, the Pharisees complained to Jesus that his disciples didn’t properly wash their hands before they ate. Jesus didn’t respond with the deferential apology they evidently expected. In effect, he pointed out that they might be ceremonially washed, but not clean.
When we come to the end of a novel or a movie, we know how it turns out. We get a lot of satisfaction knowing how it turns out, possibly because we can’t possibly get the same satisfaction in our own lives. After all, we’re living in the middle of our story.
Joseph had ten older brothers. Jacob, his father, essentially put him in charge of the family business. Jacob loved Joseph more than the others because he was the firstborn son of the only woman he had ever loved.
But he must have given Joseph all that authority because of his natural ability and character.… Read the rest
Do people have free will, or are their choices somehow determined? Yes.
Each of us has only one basic choice: will we trust and obey God, or will we not? Trusting God is called faith. Failing to trust God is called sin. Rejection of God entirely is called unrighteousness.
Everyone, consciously or not, makes that choice–not once, not even daily, but continuously. Probably no one makes the same choice every time it is presented. Probably our conscious, deliberate choices and our unconscious choices do not consistently coincide. But we all make the choice for or against God one way or another all the time.… Read the rest
According to Matthew 6:33, “Seek first kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [material needs] will be added to you.” Simple enough in principle, but just what is this kingdom, and what does it mean to seek it first? Jesus explained the kingdom in a number of parables.
Matthew 13 contains several parables Jesus used to teach about the kingdom of heaven. He preached some of them to crowds, probably several times each. He taught some to his disciples privately. Matthew has placed them in a logical order. The three of them in Matthew 13:24-43 have undertones of trouble in the kingdom as we experience it on earth.… Read the rest
We know Abraham as the father of many nations. Jews, Christians, and Muslims 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. His name was Abram. We first see him only as a name in the last line of Shem’s genealogy: Shem. Arphaxad. Shelah. Eber. Peleg. Reu. Serug. Nahor. Terah, who became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran (Genesis 11:26).
How did this Abram grow to become the Abraham so many nations revere?
David made some strong claims for himself in 2 Samuel 22:21-25:
21 “The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
22 For I have kept the ways of the LORD;
I have not done evil by turning from my God.
23 All his laws are before me;
I have not turned away from his decrees.
24 I have been blameless before him
and have kept myself from sin.
25 The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to my cleanness in his sight. (NIV)
All of us who have ever read it know our own hearts and question whether we could make such a claim.… Read the rest