May 29

I have revised two posts on my blog

Faith and Experience- The Crowd- Experiencing a miracle

The Just Shall Live By Faith- Habakkuk’s prayer

May 28

God does his best work when things are not perfect

God uses imperfect people

God uses imperfect people who have disappointed him greatly to do great things when they decide to turn their lives around.

God told the Jews through Moses that if they did not obey the covenant he would punish them. The final punishment if they continued to rebel would be expulsion from the Promised Land. (Deuteronomy 28:63-68)

After many centuries of neglecting God the Jews were taken into captivity by the Babylonians. The captivity lasted 70 years.

After that time God used Persian rulers to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem. These kings told those who wanted to return to go and rebuild the temple to God. Some returned but for almost twenty years they worked their land, built nice homes and neglected the temple. They said that the time was not right to rebuild. (Haggai 1:2-11)

People can change

The prophet Haggai told them that the time had come and they were to stop focusing only on their own profit and build the temple.

They began to rebuild the temple. Some of the older leaders who had seen the temple build by Solomon knew that this would be a far inferior building and wept. (Ezra 3:8-13; Haggai 1:12-2:3)

God blesses imperfect people when they decide to change

Haggai told them that God would bring greater glory to this newer inferior temple. He also said that God would give peace there.

He did that when Jesus walked and taught on the grounds of this temple.

God worked his greatest miracle there. He sent the Messiah who brought forgiveness and the possibility for true peace between people and God and among people who had hurt each other.

The people who returned to Jerusalem and neglected God had separated themselves from him. When they changed their priorities God blessed them. (Haggai 2:9-19)

How has God used imperfect parts of your life to serve others?

What are imperfect parts of your life that you really don’t think God can use?

Do you ever think that you have disqualified yourself from serving God and others because of past mistakes?

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May 25

Even when God calls you to a dangerous future He will be with you

Even when God calls you to a dangerous future He will be with you

Samuel the Leader

Over three thousand years ago Samuel played an important role in the history of the Jews. He was critical in the transition from local tribal leaders and ad hoc judges to a permanent kingship.

His infertile mother prayer for him and when he was a boy she gave him back to God as a servant to the aged High Priest, Eli. He grew before the people and they respected him. When God judged the lax Eli and his corrupt sons Samuel led the spiritual life of the nation. He united the nation militarily to defeat the Philistines. (1 Samuel 1-4)

As he aged his own sons were corrupt and the Jews asked Samuel to give them a king like the other nations. (1 Samuel 8)

A king would give the Jews central, permanent, secure leadership. Samuel reminded them that God had used the system of judges and temporary leaders to lead them in the Promised Land for over three hundred years. But the people were insistent. God told Samuel to follow their wishes and he anointed the first two kings.

Samuel was called do the hard thing

Samuel anointed Saul as the first king of the Jews. He disobeyed God commands. When God rejected him his moods became darker and he was prone to dangerous violent outbursts.

God told Samuel to anoint David as Saul’s replacement. Saul was still on the throne but his kingship would end and David would succeed him. (1 Samuel 16:1-13)

Samuel told God that he was afraid that Saul would kill him if he did this. God told him to do it and that He would be with him and show him what to do. God guaranteed his presence during Samuel’s risky obedience. (1 Samuel 16:3)

Samuel was part of a great failure

Saul’s reign was a failure and God called Samuel to be part of that failure. It was clear that Saul was responsible. Even so Samuel assured the failed king that he would pray for him.

Samuel would be part of a great but not perfect success

Samuel anointed King David. David’s line will last forever when his descendant Jesus, the Messianic King, will reign in the future. (1 Samuel 16:1-13; 2 Samuel 7)

David restored true worship. God promised David that his son, Solomon, would build a great temple for the true worship of the true God. David gave political stability to the Jews. His armies were successful. The nation was secure.

However, David was not perfect. He stole Uriah’s wife and had him killed when he did not cooperate in David’s plan to cover his adultery. (2 Samuel 11-12)

God would be with Samuel

God’s assurance to Samuel was simple and powerful. When he anointed David to be king instead of Saul God would be with him. (! Samuel 6

In another post, I wrote about Abraham. When God asked him to leave his homeland and family and when he asked him to sacrifice Isaac God promised to be with him. (Genesis 12:1-3; 22:1-19)

The presence of God makes all the difference in the world.

When have you had to commit to a risky obedience?

Have you even encouraged someone else who face this type of choice?

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May 24

The most expensive verse in the Bible

We often think that if we could just start all over again everything would change.

Sometimes we do get a new beginning in an area of our lives but usually we find that we are the same person with the same strengths and weaknesses and everything doesn’t change.

The downward path

After creation there was a downward moral spiral. Adam and Eve rebelled. Cain murdered Abel. Lamech bragged that he was worse than Cain and should get greater consequences. Finally, there was a flood where the vast majority of humanity was destroyed. (Genesis 3:1-19; 4:1-16; 4:19-24; Genesis 6:5-8 7:17-24)

Good made a choice

After the flood there was a new beginning for Noah and his descendants who repopulated the world.

God promised Noah that he would not destroy the world with another flood. (Genesis 9:11-17)

He also told him that humanity would enforce his law against murder. He punished Cain but now humanity would punish murderers. (Genesis 9:1-7)

God would not intervene to stop every crime. He would still judge directly on occasion but he delegated responsibility to humanity.

A system began that grew into governments, laws, police, courts, jails, etc.

It is hard to fathom or calculate how much time, energy and money humanity has spent because of crime. Our moral failings are costly in many ways.

Genesis 9:6 may be the most expensive verse in the Bible.

Our sin has consequences

When we act immorally there are consequences.

We are separated from God.

We create divisions between others and ourselves.

We create habits and addictions that further drag us down.

We may injure our bodies in ways that limit our lives.

And, we may break laws and have civil consequences.

We can’t get it right

Our system of laws and enforcement never seems to work perfectly.

Some who are guilty are not punished and some who are innocent are convicted.

Paul lived under Nero and told the Roman Christians to submit to the government and to pray for government officials. (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-2)

In a democracy citizens have rights and responsibilities that make us a real part of the problem and the solution.

We should submit and pray. We should participate and question. We are part of our world and should seek to change it for the better.

How do you view your role in the world and what difference does this make in your life?

How can you personally make your world a more just place?

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May 19

I have revised two posts on my blog

Faith and Experience John the Baptist- A word from God

Faith and Experience- Moses and the Jewish elders- Experiencing the presence of God

May 11

I have just updated two posts on my blog

God and Tell… and …Come and See

Faith and Experience- Peter- A Great Experience

May 09

How big is your God?

Some of the events recorded in the Bible seem strangely quaint.

People believed in localized or oddly restricted deities.

Naaman, Syrian general, followed the advice of his captured Jewish slave girl and sought healing for his leprosy through the Jewish prophet Elisha. He was told to wash in the Jordan River but wanted to wash in superior Syrian rivers instead. After he washed in the Jordan and was healed he wanted to take some dirt home with him so he could worship the God of the Jews. He also told the prophet that as part of his duties he had to go into the temple of the Syrian god and worship with the king. He wanted the prophet to assure him that God would pardon him for this. The prophet excused his narrow view of God and sent him on his way with the dirt. (2 Kings 5)

After a defeat at the hands of the Jews on a hilly battlefield, Ben-hadad, a Syrian king, concluded that the God of the Jews was a god of the hilltops. He arranged to fight the next battle on the flat plains but was defeated there as well. (1 Kings 20)

Balak, a king of Moab, hired the prophet Balaam to curse the Jews. He thought changing locations would change God’s message from a blessing to a curse. But God led Balaam to bless the Jews from every location they tried. (Numbers 22-24)

Even among the Jews there were curious contradictions. Rachel stole her father’s gods when she left Syria to return with Jacob to the land of Abraham. As they approached a time to worship God on their return Jacob told the members of his family to put away other gods before they worshipped the true God. (Genesis 31:19; 25-35; 35:1-4)

When he knew he was near death, Joshua gathered the Jews who had recently experienced the miraculous crossing of the Jordan, had seen the walls of Jericho fall, and had seen God give them victories over the Canaanites. He told them to renew the covenant with the God who had brought them to this point. They agreed. He told them that their ancestors worshipped false gods and they must not do this. They agreed. Then he told them before they could renew the covenant they had to put away their idols. The mixing of the worship of the true God with the worship of lesser gods was a consistent problem for the Jews from the time of Joshua until the exile under the Babylonians about 800 years later. (Joshua 25; 2 Chronicles 36:11-16))

The message of the Bible is clear. There is no place where God is not God.

Today, we are sure that we are more sophisticated that the ancients. Are we? Christians acknowledge that God is all-knowing and present everywhere but we keep areas of our life that are not submitted to his control. It might be our thoughts, money, or another area we try to keep secret from an all-knowing God.

Are there any areas of your life where God is not allowed?

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May 08

I have revised two posts on my blog

How to be a living sacrifice.

Usually it is best to slow down

May 05

What is the book of Romans about?

The Bookends of Romans

Bookends give the reader clues to the author’s central message.

I have written in earlier posts about the bookends to Matthew’s gospel and to the entire Bible.

I believe there are also bookends in Paul’s letter to the Romans. The bookends are Romans 1:1-7 and 16:25-27.

Unifying concepts in the bookends

The following concepts are seen on both passages:

 

God                                        1:1,7               God                                                  16:26-27

Christ Jesus                           1:1                  Jesus Christ                                     16:25

Gospel                                    1:2                  Gospel                                             16:25

Beforehand                             1:2                  long ages ago                                  16:25

Prophets, Holy Scriptures       1:2                  prophetic writings                            16:26

Regarding his Son                  1:3                  of Jesus Christ                                16:25

With power the Spirit              1:4                  by command of the eternal God      16:26

Gentiles                                   1:5                  nations                                            16:26

Faith                                       1:5                  believe                                              16:26

Obedience                              1:5                  obey                                                 16:26

 

What do these bookends teach us?

Faith and obedience are part of the gospel message. There is no true faith without a changed life.

The Gospel is consistent with the Hebrew Scriptures. We can and should see Jesus in the entire Bible.

The Gospel is for everyone. There are not separate message for different groups of people.

Have you been tempted to separate obedience from faith?

Have you even been tempted to treat the Hebrew Scriptures as irrelevant for Christians?

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May 01

I have just revised two posts on my blog

Why did God judge the Canaanites?

If you are more than 60 years old or ever expect to be, you should read this book.

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