Apr 27

Do we trust God even when it looks like we shouldn’t?

Bookends of 1-2 Samuel

Writers often use bookends to let us know what is most important to them. Bookends are very similar concepts or words at the beginning and end of a book. They remind us what we need to remember.

The books of 1 and 2 Samuel were originally one book.

The writer put two songs, one at the beginning and one at the end, to show us what we must remember when we read this book. Hannah and David each praised God for how he treated them.

Other Bookends

I have written posts on the bookends of the Bible in general, Paul’s letter to the Romans, and the Gospel of Matthew.

Hannah

Hannah was a married woman who wanted to be a mother. Her husband had taken a second wife which probably meant that they have been childless for a long time. The second wife had children and Hannah was deeply discouraged.

When they went to the Tabernacle she was so deep in prayer that the High Priest, Eli, thought she was drunk. She told him that she was not drunk but praying. Eli told her that God would grant her request.

She conceived and bore a son. She called him Samuel and gave him back to God as a servant to Eli at the Tabernacle. She visited him each year and she and her husband had other children.

She composed psalm of praise to God because he answered her prayer even though she was a poor and humble woman. (! Samuel 1-2)

David

Near the end of his life King David reflected on where he came from and how God has worked in his life.  He was the youngest son and was sent to watch his father’s sheep.  He was destined for a humble life as a minor member of his family in a small village.  God reached out to him and made him king.  As he thought about these things he wrote a psalm praising God. (2 Samuel 21)

These two songs are the bookends of Samuel.  The theme of this book is that God reaches out to the humble and needy.  He reaches out to those who need him and trust him.

The Virgin Mary’s praise to God

The Virgin Mary composed a song of praise when she learned that she would be the mother of the Messiah.  One of the curious facts of her song was that she reflected on and alluded to Hannah’s song.

Hannah was a married woman who desired a child she did not have.  Mary was an unwed teenager who faced a doubting world with her pregnancy.

Upon reflection Mary realized that a common characteristic of their pregnancies was that God was using humble people to do great things.  Her response was to praise God for how he was using her. (Luke 1:46-56)

Jesus’ parable

Jesus taught a parable about how God raised humble people.

Jesus was invited to dine with one of the religious leaders. There was a sick man there and Jesus healed him. As everyone’s attention was focused on him, Jesus talk to them about the best way to view yourself.  He told them that when they were invited to a feast that that should take a humble seat and let the host elevate them.

He was reminding them of the principle that Hannah, David, and Mary all saw in their lives.  People who are humble and trust God are the people God elevates and uses. (Luke 14:1-11)

Questions for consideration:

Have we ever had to wait a long time for the solution to a difficult problem?

Is patience hard for you?

What have you learned waiting patiently?

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Apr 25

Links to begin the week

Link to a previous post on my blog

Two fires that changed Peter’s life

Links to things I’ve read recently

You should not assume that I agree with everything said in these articles but I did find them thought provoking.

Christianity and Korea. How did the religion become so apparently prevalent in South Korea?

The Singular Humility of America’s Only Ordained President. In 1880, James A. Garfield won the country’s highest office. He never wanted it.

5 Ways to Make It through a Difficult Season

Harriet Tubman. The “Moses” of Her People

Some couples in Canada practising prenatal sex selection in favour of male fetuses, studies suggest

How to Lead When Tragedy Strikes

10 Things You Should Know about J. I. Packer

Links to books I’ve recently started

I usually have about 15 books going at once. These are ones that I have started in the last week. I often reread books that I find enlightening. I obviously don’t agree with every statement in these books. Often, I find books written by those without any Christian faith to be very stimulating as they are addressing issues that are faced by all people.

I did not start any new books this week.

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Apr 19

Links to begin the week

Link to a previous post on my blog

Two ways we might be baptized as a Christian that we usually don’t think about

Links to things I’ve read recently

You should not assume that I agree with everything said in these articles but I did find them thought provoking.

Having a Pilgrim Mentality about Money and Possessions

When Religious Groups Do What the Government Won’t

7 Suggestions For When You Preach About Homosexuality

Trusting God And Dreaming Big

‘Evangelicals Around the World’ Wins Gold Medal in Third Annual Illumination Book Awards

Discovery: Ancient Inscriptions Suggest Hebrew Bible Older Than Many Believed

Watch: the incredible spread of the world’s 5 major religions

Is the Church Disappearing in Our Culture?

What’s Your Conscience Worth?

You Were Made to Meditate

Christian Women Worldwide Are The Most Religious … and the Most Persecuted

2016 World Watch List drawn from world headlines

The Local Church Isn’t Going Anywhere

5 Reasons Why We Need To Rest

Links to books I’ve recently started

I usually have about 15 books going at once. These are ones that I have started in the last week. I often reread books that I find enlightening. I obviously don’t agree with every statement in these books. Often, I find books written by those without any Christian faith to be very stimulating as they are addressing issues that are faced by all people.

Jim Andrews. Dispatches from the Front Lines: Reflections on the Glory and Grind of Pastoral Ministry

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Apr 11

Links to begin the week

Link to a previous post on my blog

Sometimes we just don’t understand what God is teaching us because we have our own agenda… just like Jesus’ disciples.

Links to things I’ve read recently

You should not assume that I agree with everything said in these articles but I did find them thought provoking.

4 Responses to Cultural Change. Christians must know how to engage culture.

Q&A with Nabeel Qureshi, author of Answering Jihad

“Facing a Task Unfinished” Global Hymn Sing

Mary Magdalene’s Home Town

Why some Jews have said Yemeni Jews aren’t welcome in Israel

20 Christianese Phrases We Really Need to Stop Saying

Sex Before Kissing: 15-year-old Girls Dealing With Porn Addicted Boys

Physical Pain and a Gospel Perspective

Camille Paglia: Feminists have abortion wrong, Trump and Hillary miscues highlight a frozen national debate

Why Most of Us Hate Silence

Israeli Cafe Offers 50 Percent Off To Arabs And Jews Who Eat Together

Five Marks of Contentment

Why Musicians Need Silence in an Always-Connected World

Why Hospitality Beats Entertaining

Think Christianity is dying? No, Christianity is shifting dramatically

The Holocaust, the Left, and the Return of Hate

Links to books I’ve recently started

I usually have about 15 books going at once. These are ones that I have started in the last week. I often reread books that I find enlightening. I obviously don’t agree with every statement in these books. Often, I find books written by those without any Christian faith to be very stimulating as they are addressing issues that are faced by all people.

Claire Diaz-Ortiz. Design Your Day: Be More Productive, Set Better Goals, and Live Life On Purpose

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Apr 07

How good things turn bad

We all have memories and memories are important.  But, memories can work against us. Sometimes we so focus on a memory or a relic from a past victory that we lose focus on what is really important.

Moses

During their wandering in the desert before they entered the Promised Land the Jewish people rebelled against God many times. One of the times God sent snakes among the people and many were bitten and died.

The people realized their sin and repented and asked God to heal them.

Moses prayed for the people and God had them make a bronze snake. When Moses held it up on a pole the people looked at the snake and were healed. (Numbers 21:4-9)

Jesus

Jesus saw this bronze snake as an illustration of his work as the atoning Messiah. When he reasoned with Nicodemus he pointed out this clear picture of his work. Nicodemus, a teacher of the Law, was surely familiar with this passage. Jesus even used the detail of the pole being raised as a cryptic reference to his death on a cross. (John 3:1-15)

Hezekiah

For 700 years this bronze snake was preserved. In the troubled history of the Jews the sacred city of Shiloh was destroyed. The Ark of the Covenant was lost for a time to the Philistines but the bronze snake was in the temple until the reign of Hezekiah.

Hezekiah was faced with a brutal, perplexing choice. People were treating the bronze snake as an idol and were making sacrifices to it. Hezekiah destroyed it during his reforms against false worship in Israel.  (2 Kings 18:4)

The snake was a relic of the repentance and healing of the people. But for some it became an idol. Good things can turn bad when they turn our focus away from God.

Question for consideration:

How do we remember the spiritual milestones in our lives? I think every prayer notebook should have a section of recorded blessing so that we do not forget. When Jeremiah lamented the Fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians, he reminded his readers that we have hope when we remember. (Lamentations 3:21)

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Apr 04

Links to begin the week

Link to a previous post on my blog

What were the two reasons for the Jewish Sabbath and what can we learn from them?

Links to things I’ve read recently

You should not assume that I agree with everything said in these articles but I did find them thought provoking.

How My Husband’s Death Changed the Way I See Easter

How God became Jesus. An interview with a seminary classmate of mine.

Redeeming Theology

Tom Hanks had this to say about the residents of Gresham, Oregon. Collette lived in Gresham and attended church there for many years.

Links to books I’ve recently started

I usually have about 15 books going at once. These are ones that I have started in the last week. I often reread books that I find enlightening. I obviously don’t agree with every statement in these books. Often, I find books written by those without any Christian faith to be very stimulating as they are addressing issues that are faced by all people.

I have not started any books this week.

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Apr 02

What happens when our comfortable faith meets a crisis?

Our childhood faith

Many of us were raised in religious homes. Until something happens we have a comfortable faith. We pretty much do as we wish.

Then a crisis comes.

A crisis of faith

A powerful man with a comfortable religion met Jesus. He was powerful and comfortable and wanted a civil, courteous conversation with Jesus. (Luke 18:18-29)

He called Jesus a good teacher, a nice but not lofty title.

Jesus did not settle for a civil, courteous conversation.

He did not settle with Nicodemus or the Samaritan woman and he pushed the powerful man beyond his comfort zone.

He did not accept the good teacher label and pushed the powerful man on Jesus’ true relationship to God. He also pushed the man on the depth of his religion.

When questioned by Jesus the man claimed that he had kept all of the commandments since his youth. Jesus glossed over the probably exaggeration and went right to the core issue. When told that he should sell all of his possessions and follow Jesus the man was no longer confident and powerful. He was sad.

Jesus was not merely good but was the God-man Messiah. He was not an interesting conversation partner. He was the one who is owed all allegiance.

Questions for consideration:

Have you had a crisis that pushed you to a growing vibrant faith?

How is your faith different than it was ten years ago?

Have crises in other people’s lives been used to strengthen your faith?

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Mar 29

A post from Easter past: “He is risen…His is risen indeed”..actually…”They have taken the body.”

He is Risen

At many Evangelical churches each year at Easter the worship leader comes to the microphone to begin the service and energetically says, “He is risen.”

It may take three attempts but eventually there is a semi-crisp response. “He is risen, indeed.”

Some among us assume that we are trying to recreate the triumphal moment on the first Easter morning.  The followers of Jesus came to the tomb and saw that he was not there and cried. “He is Risen ..,.He is risen indeed”.

Actually, it didn’t happened that way.

Mary Magdalene arrived first with some women and saw the empty tomb and ran to tell the disciples “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb.” (John 20:1-2; Mark 16:1-8)

Peter and John ran to the tomb.  As John remembered the momentous morning decades later, he looked inside, went inside and believed. He noted that the disciples did not understand that Jesus had to rise from the dead. (John 20:3-9)

They leave and Mary saw two angels in the tomb. They asked her why she was crying and she told  them that Jesus’ body had been removed from the tomb. (John 20:10-13)

She turned and saw a man that she assumed was the gardener. She asked him if he had moved the body. (John 20:13-15)

Finally Jesus spoke her name and she realized that it was Jesus and that he was alive. She went to the disciples and told them what had happened. (John 20:16-18)

That evening the disciples were not empowered by the news of the resurrection. They were hiding in fear. (John 20:19-23)

This is very different from a victorious “His is risen…..He is risen indeed”.

Earlier, on the day of the Transfiguration, Peter, James and John saw a radiant Jesus talking with Elijah and Moses. As they came down the mountain Jesus told them not to talk about the incident until after he rose from the dead. The kept quiet but wondered what rising from the dead might mean. (Mark 9:9-10)

Just before Jesus gave the Great Commission Matthew recorded that some in the group doubted. (Matthew 28:17)

In the less than two months from Jesus’ lessons to the disciples the night before he died until the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost the disciples wrestled with doubts. They had an incomplete understanding of the mission of Messiah. However, empowered by the Holy Spirit, they led the dramatic growth of the church recorded in the first chapters of the book of Acts

We stand on their shoulders and we can say, “He is Risen..He is risen indeed.”

Questions for consideration:

Do you ever have doubts about key elements of the Christian faith?

How do you face your doubts?

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Mar 28

Links to begin the week

Link to a previous post on my blog

The Gospel is for everyone. (So that you may believe. John 20:30-31)

Links to things I’ve read recently

You should not assume that I agree with everything said in these articles but I did find them thought provoking.

Resource: A Helpful List of Short Apologetic Videos 

Dutch Bros employees pray for grieving widow at drive-thru. Dutch Bros is a popular chain of coffee kiosks in the Portland area.

Does Islam Inevitably Lead to Violence?

Brussels pastor: ‘Our city is in pain’

Nabeel Qureshi in USA Today: The Quran’s deadly role in inspiring Belgian slaughter

The Message of Islam vs. The Gospel of Jesus

God Has a Confusing Plan for Your Life The believer’s call is never to certainty, but to faith.

Why Four Bible Translators Martyred in Middle East Won’t Be The Last. Technology has made spreading Scripture faster and cheaper, but not safer.

15 Pieces Of Writing Advice From C. S. Lewis

The Top 10 Books on Reconciling Divine Sovereignty and Free Will

Links to books I’ve recently started

I usually have about 15 books going at once. These are ones that I have started in the last week. I often reread books that I find enlightening. I obviously don’t agree with every statement in these books. Often, I find books written by those without any Christian faith to be very stimulating as they are addressing issues that are faced by all people.

I have not started any books this week.

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Mar 21

Links to begin the week

Link to a previous post on my blog

Can there be reconciliation after decades of deceit, separation and hated?

Links to things I’ve read recently

You should not assume that I agree with everything said in these articles but I did find them thought provoking.

Links to books I’ve recently started

I usually have about 15 books going at once. These are ones that I have started in the last week. I often reread books that I find enlightening. I obviously don’t agree with every statement in these books. Often, I find books written by those without any Christian faith to be very stimulating as they are addressing issues that are faced by all people.

Brad Hambrick. Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk: How and Why Christians Should Have Gay Friends.

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