If you want to know God as he has revealed himself to us in Scripture, you need to hold together his justice and his love. These are not two different sides of God, as if God is a split personality like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Nor are these two different ways that God has dealt with his people throughout history, so that in the Old Testament he was all fire and judgement but in the New he is all love.
God has always been and always will be both just and loving toward us. At best, we can say love and justice are two different aspects of the same God, but one aspect never exists apart from the other. God does not have good days and bad days like we do. He does not wake up on the wrong side of the bed some mornings. He does not get hangry.
Many people get hung up on the virgin birth of Jesus. It seems utterly impossible, because we observe no predictable pattern in nature that comes close to it. Yet is this not the point? If God wanted to get our attention, what better to grab it than through a virgin giving birth?
The word for “miracle” in the Bible literally means sign. God designed these events to grab our attention and point us to him. Like a road sign points to a destination, these miracles point us to the grandeur, power, and majesty of God. They come unexpectedly, because if they occurred with any greater frequency, they would cease to be what they are. They would become normals instead of miracles. God uses these to wow us to him.
Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua. What did Joshua do for Israel? God used Joshua to save Israel from her enemies in the promised land.
Let us think about that for a moment. In the days when the angel spoke to Joseph, Israel was under Roman rule. Joseph may have thought this child would one day, like Joshua, save Israel from her Roman oppressors. The angel did not say that. He said, “he will save his people from their sins,” not from Rome but from their sins.
Like first-century Israel we often mistake the hope of the world for geo-political solutions. We say we want someone to save our nation, someone who will stand up for what is right in society, a hero by our standards who will take care of whatever or whoever we think our enemy is. Jesus does not save in this way; his salvation works on a deeper level.
A well-known Youth Minister once told the story of the year his youth group decided to forgo their usual annual carwash fundraiser and instead offer car washes for free to anyone who wanted one. It was intended to demonstrate God’s grace, which comes to us through no effort of our own.
During the event, a man drove up, rolled down his window, and asked the Youth Minister, “how much?” Pointing to the sign, the Youth Minister said, “It’s absolutely free.” “Oh, I know how this works, buddy,” the guy quipped, “you say it’s free but you really want a donation; how much do you want?” The Youth Minister repeated, “It’s free, because God’s grace is free.” The man rolled up his window and drove away.
“The Lord’s Prayer” or “Our Father” is one of the best known and most often recited portions of Scripture (Matthew 6:9-13). The words of this prayer have united Christians throughout history and across denominational lines. Every word of this prayer is packed with meaning. Let’s look at just the first petition. Continue reading →
Let me test your Bible knowledge. This question ranks like a high cash-value question on Jeopardy. Did the law of Moses require the nation of Israel to be perfectly obedient to God? If you answered in the negative, you correctly answered this question.
Why did God choose to make circumcision the covenant sign of Israel?
When people made covenants in ancient times, they often would perform a covenant sign to remind each other what would happen if either party broke the covenant. In the case of Israel – do not think too hard about this – God required every male Israelite to have a small, sensitive part of their body cut off. They were declaring that if the nation broke covenant with God through habitual disobedience, God, in his perfect justice, ought to cut them off from him, each other, and even life itself.
Just as Israel habitually broke the covenant that God made with them through Moses, we all have disobeyed God’s holy law. God’s justice requires we be cut off. Yet, Jesus allowed himself to be cut off for our behalf, so that we would not need to.
A seminar presenter was teaching his audience about time management. To make a point, he took a large jar, placed some fist-sized rocks in, then some smaller ones, then gravel, and finally sand until the jar filled to the brim. He was pointing out to his audience that if you do not put the big, important things on your agenda first, the small things will push them out.
In Acts 6:1-7, Jesus’ Apostles needed to follow a similar procedure to resolve a problem. How they solved the problem reveals the bedrock from which all other activities in the church spring.
The esteemed pharisee Gamaliel once warned, “You might even be found opposing God (Acts 5:39)!” Jesus’ apostles were on trial for teaching in the name of Jesus. The Jewish Sanhedrin was on the brink of sentencing them to death when Gamaliel made this bold assertion.
Many today do not give much thought about the implications of the existence of God. Undirected, evolution, while a widely fanciful idea, has convinced many that the world we live in no longer requires the intelligence of a designer for its existence. Meanwhile, the latest science shows us, with every discovery, how narrow the margin of error for life’s existence is.
I came across an online article entitled “3 ways to harness positive psychology for a more resilient you.” This was the first way: “Expressing gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what you have – from a roof over your head to good health to people who care about you. When you acknowledge the goodness in your life, you begin to recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside yourself. In this way, gratitude helps you connect to something larger than your individual experience – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.”
This pop psychology is not wrong. However, Christianity can give a “name” to that goodness outside ourselves better than any other worldview. Continue reading →