Faith vs. Reason


A_starry_sky_above_Death_ValleyToday Some years ago I heard a sermon by Alistair Begg on the life of Abraham (actually, at the time still using the name Abram). At one point Pastor Begg said something like, When faith comes up against questions, then the questions have to go.

He was referring to 75-year-old Abram, having believed God when He promised to give his descendants the land He’d brought him to, confronting questions ten years later: How long do I have to wait? Is this really going to happen? Maybe I misunderstood and this nation will be built through my servant who stands to be my heir.

No, God said, your descendants will be as numerous as the stars.

So, another thirteen or so years pass, with missteps along the way. And when Abram knows it is impossible for he and his wife to have a child, God renews His promise.

What’s Abram to believe? His rational understanding of the way the world works (he knew his body was as good as dead when it came to procreation and he knew his wife was past her child-bearing years), or the promise of God? His reason, or his faith?

“And Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, and he was called the friend of God” (James 2:23).

Abraham believed God.

He didn’t hope something into existence without cause and against all odds. Rather, he believed God was powerful and completely true to His word. He believed God was not limited by what Abraham had heretofore experienced. (I’ve never seen a 99-year-old man father a child, so it can’t happen.)

Oddly, this kind of faith is out of vogue. Well, I suppose it isn’t so odd. After all, Satan, a liar and the father of lies, has been lying about God and His work and plan since those days in Eden. Then along came modernism, buoyed by rationalism. And we have professing Christians saying things like this:

Our earlier understandings of Creation and of most Christian doctrines no longer make sense because we now know more about Creation, that is, we know more about God’s acts as Creator. We’re capable of higher understandings.
– Acts of Being: Updating Thomistic Existentialism

So why, I wonder, wasn’t Abraham justified by reason instead of by faith?

Published in: on August 19, 2015 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Shame And Trusting God


RockClimbingA growing concern connected to Internet communication is shame. I read a post yesterday that cited several instances in which shame campaigns grew up around something a person posted—either a picture or comments. In the end, more than one person lost their job.

I’m not linking to the article because I disagree with the solution—and that’s not really my topic. The problem of shame is.

I have a friend who recounts ways a particular family member shamed others. The baggage from that cares over to adulthood.

I’d never thought about shame before. I came from a family with parents who loved me. It wasn’t perfect. My siblings and I were quite competitive and always struggled with the idea that one or the other (but never me—and we all thought this) was favored. Still, though I suspected I wasn’t the favorite, I still knew I was loved.

As a teen, of course, I was sometimes embarrassed about my family and even about my faith, but I didn’t feel shame in the way my friend describes it.

I wonder now if freedom from shame was connected to my being a Christian. What I’m discovering in Scripture, though, are verses addressing shame.

I suppose it would help if I gave a picture of what I perceive shame to be. Let’s say a person is expected to be the top of his class, but in the last semester, he forgets to write down the due date of a major paper, turns it in late, and gets a B. Someone else claims top honors. He had his chance and blew it. He bears the shame of his failure.

Shame is also something a person feels when a person you hold in high esteem says they’re disappointed in you. Or they tell others things like, he probably won’t have the grades to get into med school. It’s a public declaration of inadequacy.

So here are the verses about shame that have caught my attention. There are four. First, in Philippians:

Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.(1:18b-20)

Paul was essentially saying he knew he’d be delivered (he was imprisoned at the time), and that he would not be put to shame for believing so, whether he lived or died because Christ would be exalted either way.

1 Peter 4:16 is the next passage:

but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.

At first this verse seems to address the kind of embarrassment I felt when I was a kid having to tell people I belonged to the Mennonite denomination—which most people in my SoCal public high school had never heard of. But the context would seem to indicate there’s much more to this. Peter was addressing believers who were being persecuted because they believed in Jesus. Writing to the churches in Asia Minor, the Apostle Peter wanted to assure them that their suffering was not a sign of defeat. He encouraged them by reminding them that it was temporary, that it was expected, that it gave glory to God, that they were blessed that God had chosen them to suffer for His name’s sake.

In other words, suffering as a Christian was not a mark of failure but of accomplishment. Therefore, they had nothing to be ashamed about.

The thing is, when someone trusts God and then continues to suffer and even to die, the world can point the finger as they did at Jesus Himself and say, See, if your God was real, He could get you out of this mess. He’s failed you because He doesn’t care or isn’t strong enough or because you didn’t believe enough or He plain isn’t there.

Peter was assuring these early Christians that none of those accusations was true. In fact, in chapter five, he specifically mentions the devil, who, among other things, is the Accuser of the brethren. It’s easy to miss the connection between what Peter says about the devil and what he says right afterward about suffering, but I think it’s the issue of shame. Here’s that passage:

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. (5:8-9)

Suffering, Peter says, is an experience Christians all over the world are going through. It’s not a sign of failure. It’s not something to be ashamed about.

There’s another one in Psalm 37, but I’m going to cut to the last one since I sneaked in a second passage from 1 Peter. This last one is the one that has helped me tie my thoughts together about this. It’s a short verse: Psalm 71:1.

In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge;
Let me never be ashamed.

The unidentified psalmist is putting his life, his destiny, his soul in God’s hands, and if that decision turned out to be foolish—if God failed Him—he’d be ashamed before those who didn’t think God could take care of him.

I view this as sort of his “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” moment. He’s tying himself to God. There is no one else to which he could go—just as Peter said about Jesus. But he knows how this must look to those who haven’t made God their refuge. It looks dangerous, foolish.

You know the old joke, about the guy who falls from a cliff but is able to grab hold of a safety rope. He starts yelling for help: “Is anybody up there! I need help!” Suddenly a voice from heaven says, I’m here. What do you need. “I can’t hold on much longer,” the guy says. “Can you help me get back to the top?” No problem, the voice from heaven answers. Let go of the rope, and I’ll catch you. The man hesitated a moment, then yells, “Is anybody else up there?”

Dangerous. Sometimes the things God asks of us feel dangerous. Or foolish.

We aren’t risk takers. We’ve been taught to be good stewards of our resources, so we want to know we have enough money stashed away for retirement, for example, to cover our expenses should we live to be 143. We cringe when we read about Abraham going, not knowing where, just because God told him to pull up stakes and head in the direction of the Great Sea. Most likely Abraham didn’t even know there was a Great Sea. He was simply going until God told him to stop.

He wasn’t ashamed to be a friend of God, even when it meant marching to the top of a mountain with his son as the intended sacrifice. He did what others may have thought risky, foolish. But he had confidence in God. Ah, one more passage:

yet, with respect to the promise of God, he [Abraham] did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. (Romans 4:20-21)

Fully assured—not in himself, but in God and His promise! I’m pretty sure that’s what keeps a person from being ashamed.

Published in: on June 2, 2015 at 6:05 pm  Comments (8)  
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Adam Loved His Wife Too Much, Revisited


Earlier this month, I brought up the idea that Adam disobeyed God, possibly because he loved Eve more than he loved God. I’d forgotten that back in 2011 I wrote entire post on the subject. I thought it might be a good idea to bring it forward, especially for those who found this idea something new. So, without any further explanation, “Adam Loved His Wife Too Much”:

A man is supposed to love his wife—to forsake all others and to cling to her—so it may seem odd to say Adam loved his wife too much, but that’s the truth. Mind you, I’d heard this before: Eve was deceived, but Adam willfully disobeyed.

A little study shows this statement to be true. Scripture tells us Eve was deceived: “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3—emphases here and in the following verse are mine). And it tells us Adam was not: “And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Tim. 2:14).

Adam, then, walked into sin with his eyes open. He knew the penalty for eating of the tree — death. He knew Eve was guilty and would have to die. So he ate too.

Why did he? The most logical explanation is that he loved her so much he couldn’t imagine life without her. I suppose he could also have thought that she now knew what he did not, and he couldn’t bear losing her that way either.

But here’s the thing: it hit me that if I were somehow the only sinful person in the world, Christ would still have died. For me. He, the Good Shepherd who goes after the one lost lamb, would come seeking to save me.

That’s precisely the situation Eve was in—the one and only sinner in the world. But Adam, instead of believing that God could display his mercy along with his justice, apparently chose God’s gift instead of God. He had heard and understood and believed God’s clear command. Consequently, on one hand was God, but on the other was his wife, destined to die.

What Adam did, might actually seem noble and endearing. He loved his wife so much he was willing to die with her. But actually it was faithless. He could not see a way God could fix this mess. He therefore saw God as limited in His power or not loving enough to care or good enough to act. He chose Eve because he did not trust God.

In contrast, Abraham years later also heard God’s clear command—sacrifice your son. But previously he’d also heard God’s promise—through Isaac your descendants will become a great nation. On one hand God, on the other, God’s gift, so like the dilemma Adam faced.

Abraham believed God, and came through.

The interesting thing, though, is this: I don’t think Abraham loved his son less than Adam loved his wife. After all, this was the son of his old age. He’d waited eighty years for this boy (assuming he didn’t start wanting a son until he was an adult). And for fifty years, he and Sarah were “the infertile couple.”

Everything was at stake here. Everything. He had believed God, followed Him to the ends of the earth. He had no Bible to turn to for assurance, just a remembered encounter, a promise he trusted.

And it all hinged on this lad, this beloved son, this teenager who was to inherit his wealth and grow a nation. If Abraham took the knife to him, and he died, all he believed would crumble to ash. He’d lose his son, but he’d lose his God, too, for surely he couldn’t continue to worship a faithless deity.

Did Abraham wrestle with such issues? Did Adam? Scripture doesn’t tell us, but we know how the two men acted. Abraham chose God. He believed both the promise and the command. He committed to his son by committing to God.

Adam did the opposite. He chose his wife. He doubted God’s unspoken promise—His provision of Eve to meet Adam’s need—which led him to disdain the command.

If only he had loved God a bit more than he loved his wife!

Published in: on March 19, 2015 at 5:28 pm  Comments (2)  
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Darkest Before The Dawn


dawnI don’t know if the expression “darkest before the dawn” has a bases in nature or not, or if darkness is even a measurable quantity. But we’ve all heard the adage, and we understand it because there seems to be experiential truth.

Novelists often take characters into the “black night of the soul” before a climactic reversal and triumph. And readers accept this as “real.”

Scripture chronicles a number of instances when the darkness got darker before God moved.

Lazarus got sick, seriously sick, and then … Jesus came? No, then Lazarus died. And was entombed for four days. Darkness at it’s darkest before Jesus showed up and said, Come out.

Or how about the enslaved Israelites, crying out to God because their burden was grievous. At God’s command, as a direct result of their cries, He sent Moses. And things went from bad to worse.

Keep making bricks, their slave masters told them, only now you have to collect your own materials because you’re so lazy. And when they didn’t meet their quota? Their leaders were beaten.

Darkness turning darker. And then the exodus.

Or how about Gideon. Already out manned, God reduces his fighting force, not once but twice. Darkest darkness. And then God intervened to defeat the enemies.

And even for those saints who died. The thief on the cross had Jesus’s promise that he would be with Him that day in paradise. Stephen, as he was dying, had a face that shone like an angel’s.

But here’s where I’m glad I have the Bible. I think of Abraham hiking up to the mountain with his teen son Isaac, ready to sacrifice him on the altar they would build. He didn’t know how that darkest moment of his life was going to turn out. He just knew he needed to trust God completely and obey.

The Israelites didn’t know that Moses was indeed the one who would lead them out of slavery. They thought he was, when he showed them the miraculous signs from God. But then the slave masters’ demands came and the beatings came. Suddenly, Moses’s own doubts resurfaced:

O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people; and You have not delivered Your people at all.

The thing was, God intended more for His people than just release from slavery. When Pharaoh finally sent them away, they had acquired silver and gold from their neighbors. They had a reputation as a people blessed by God, so when they arrived in Canaan, the locals were scared to death.

My temptation, when the darkness comes, is to find my own way into the light. I’m impatient and don’t want to wait for the fullness of God’s time. If I would only remember, dawn follows the darkest of the dark.

– – – – – –

This article is a re-post of one that appeared here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction in August 2009

Published in: on October 7, 2014 at 5:48 pm  Comments (6)  
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When Did God Stop Talking To People?


Abraham005God talked with Adam personally and directly. With Eve too. Not just before they sinned, but afterwards when He was handing down their punishment and then when He made garments for them.

He talked to Cain, too—first when he presented an unacceptable sacrifice to God, then after he killed his brother and when He “appointed him a sign so that no one would slay him.” Regardless, Cain “went out from the presence of the Lord.”

God was still talking to other people, though, and after Seth gave birth to his son, “Then men began to call upon the name of the LORD.” Men began to pray? To ask God for what they needed? Had something changed that required them to ask? Had God initiated the conversation up to this point, but now Humankind felt the need to do so? Why?

In some ways, this is a moot point because we know from Scripture, society moved further and further from God. Eventually Noah alone found favor in God’s sight. He was blameless, righteous, and “walked with God.” I don’t think it’s a stretch to extrapolate from that that God and Noah talked with one another.

Certainly God talked to Noah when He gave Him the explicit instructions involved with building the ark. And bringing in the animals. And his family.

After the flood, God continued to talk with Noah, telling him when to come out onto dry land, giving His promise never to flood the earth and destroy humankind in that way again.

Further, He repeated the first command He’d given to Adam and Eve, this time to Noah and to his sons: Be fruitful and multiply. He also told them the animal kingdom would fear them from that point on, He gave them animals for food, and He prohibited killing humans.

When Noah died, 350 years later, the world was a different place, with various people groups, located in different areas and speaking different languages. Six generations from Noah, the earth was divided, which I take to mean, the continents were formed.

And where was God during this time?

For one, He confused the people’s speech which caused them to develop different languages, and He dispersed them on the earth.

Why would He do that? Apparently because in concert they were acting for themselves and not for God’s glory:

They said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.

The next interaction between God and humanity that Scripture records is God’s call to Abram, who we know as Abraham:

“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

In all this, I don’t see God pulling back or being silent. In addition, the people who were dispersed throughout the earth were all descendants of Noah’s sons who were party to that covenant God made after the flood.

It seems disparate cultures retain a flood story as part of their mythology, a logical outcome if those three young men passed on to their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren what they’d experienced. And if those great-grandchildren told their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, the story would be preserved in some form or other.

The Biblical account, of course, has the advantage of being inspired by the Holy Spirit.

But here’s my question. What did all these different generations say about God? They told the flood story, but what did they tell their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren about God?

Were they angry with Him for confounding their language and dispersing them throughout the earth? Did they ignore Him so that their iniquities caused a separation between them and their God and their sins hid His face from them so that He did not hear when they called to Him?

Did He do what Romans 1 says—give them over to the lusts of their hearts?

We talk today about general revelation—the evidence of God in what He has made. Paul was clear:

That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

I believe in this general revelation, but what seems abundantly clear to me is that God first gave “special revelation”—His specific disclosure to those who would listen.

Cain didn’t listen, going so far as to leave God’s presence. The people who tried to elevate themselves by building a tower that reached to the heavens apparently didn’t listen to God, so He removed them from His presence.

But Abram, He talked to. Abram heard Him and believed Him and obeyed Him. Makes me think the question is wrong. God never stopped talking to people. Instead, why did people stop listening to God?

Published in: on May 6, 2014 at 7:36 pm  Comments (3)  
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The Way Of Salvation: An Addendum


Abraham005This morning I once again thought about inclusivism and salvation, Jesus and the unreached peoples, Abraham and faith–many of the same topics I covered in yesterday’s post “The Way Of Salvation.”

Why Abraham? Because a number of those in the Facebook discussion I was a part of mentioned Old Testament figures such as Noah and Job and Abraham as examples of people who, like the unreached peoples today, did not know Christ but who had faith in God.

I remember some time ago thinking about Abraham’s faith. Scripture says, “And Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (James 2:23b). What, I had to ask, did Abraham believe? It had to be more than that God exists–James makes the point earlier in the same chapter that the demons believe God is.

So what precisely did Abraham put his faith in?

I concluded by reading the account we have of his life in Genesis that Abraham believed what God told him, whether it was command or promise.

So when God told him to leave his home and go into a land he didn’t know and keep going until God told him to stop, Abraham said OK. When God said He would give him a son, Abraham said OK. When God told him to circumcise his household, Abraham said OK. When God told him to send Hagar and Ishmael away, Abraham said OK. When God told him to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham said OK.

At every turn, Abraham listened to what God said and did what God asked.

As I thought about Abraham today, I realized that he had this direct, special revelation from God and his faith was based on believing what God told him.

So if Abraham were a parallel with today’s “unreached people,” God presumably would give them the same kind of special revelation. He would communicate to them personally and specifically as He did with Abraham. Would their faith, then, be consistent with what Scripture says about salvation?

The question doesn’t go far enough. If God communicated with the “unreached people” today, giving them personal and specific revelation, wouldn’t He tell them about His Son Jesus? He wouldn’t have to tell them about circumcision or sacrifice. He could tell them specifically about His Son who came to be a blessing to the nations.

This kind of special revelation is absolutely within the power and possibility of an omnipotent, unlimited God. I have no trouble believing that God can reach down through miraculous means and save “unreached people” by preaching to them the gospel which they would believe.

I think God’s Word is clear that there is only one way for people to come to Him–through the Door, by the Way, by means of the one Mediator, the man Christ Jesus.

As I see it, those who believe in inclusivism have flipped God’s message on its head. They believe that God will bring them to Jesus so they can have salvation through His shed blood, but Scripture teaches that Jesus will bring us to God so that we can be reconciled to Him.

The inclusivism view seems to ignore the problem of sin. Scripture teaches throughout that sin is the problem humankind cannot overcome:

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short
That it cannot save,
Nor is His ear so dull
That it cannot hear,
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,
And your sins have hid His face from you so that He does not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2)

Praise God that He sent His Son Jesus to conquer sin once for all.

Published in: on April 8, 2014 at 7:01 pm  Comments (2)  
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It’s Not About Us


beach umbrella-1-1288990-mFalse teaching seems to be increasing. More people are buying into old lies and new lies are popping up at an alarming rate. There is an ever growing number of people who want to camp under the umbrella of Christianity but who don’t hold to some of the most basic tenets of the faith–such as, God exists.

I don’t mean to be snarky here, but I don’t see the rationale behind the idea that a person is an “agnostic Christian.” The Christian faith is centered on Jesus Christ and His work to reconcile us to God, so how can a person be a Christian if he’s uncertain about God’s existence?

But those who identify as agnostic Christians have lots of company when it comes to people who claim the name of Christ while ignoring what He said. My point here isn’t to start a list of false teachings. Rather, I want to focus on what those false teachings seem to have in common.

In a word, I think all false teaching is self centered. It’s more important to those believing a false teaching that they are comfortable or tolerant or intellectually satisfied or rich or right or inclusive or whatever else different people set ahead of God.

Some will even say, in essence, If God is like the Old Testament describes Him, then I don’t want anything to do with Him. God, in other words, has to conform to their wishes. He must be made in their likeness, as opposed to they made in His.

The truth is, Christianity is not about what we wish God were or what we’d like Him to do. We don’t get to tell Him how He should deal with suffering or sin. We don’t get to exclude Him from creation or salvation. Any attempts to change Him and what He’s said or done are actually forms of rejecting Him.

That’s not to say we can’t question. Those who embrace a false teaching often say people who cling to the God of the Bible are unwilling to search for answers. But that’s simply not true.

Job asked more questions than a good many people ever will, and God didn’t scold him for asking. He confronted him about his accusations against God, and Job agreed that he was wrong. God “in person” showed Job what sovereignty and omnipotence and wisdom really meant, and Job repented in dust and ashes.

Gideon questioned God, over and over. He wanted to be sure he’d understood that he was to be a part of the great victory God had planned. He wanted to be sure he got it right that he was supposed to decrease the size of his army. He wanted to be sure he was supposed to go forward in the face of his fear.

David asked questions, too. Why do the wicked prosper; how long, O LORD; why have You forsaken me; what is Man; why do You hide Yourself, and many others.

Abraham was another one who entertained doubts. He, and Sarah, weren’t sure they’d got it right. God was going to make a great nation from his descendants? God must have meant heir, or, if descendant, then birthed by a surrogate, not Abraham’s barren wife.

No, and no. God corrected him and repeated His promise.

Mary questioned. Me? A virgin? How could that possibly happen?

Moses doubted which lead to such despair he asked at one point for God to simply kill him then and there because he couldn’t continue leading an angry and rebellious people.

I could go on, but the point is this: asking questions is not wrong–it’s thinking that our answers are better than God’s that is wrong.

And that’s what all false teaching has in common. Man has secret knowledge of God, or can earn his own way into God’s good graces, or can come to God however he pleases, or can worship the god of his own choosing, or can manipulate God to do his bidding–all of those and a host of other false ideas put self ahead of God, as if it’s all about us.

But it’s not.

But Even If He Doesn’t …


Joseph016I find myself drawn to heroes who faced impossible circumstances with unwavering trust. Some of them, whether people we know from Scripture or from extra-Biblical sources, died, some of them lived to recount for the world to hear God’s miraculous provision. The point is, going into their circumstances, none of these people knew what awaited them. The faith of both was equally strong.

Abraham was that kind of person–more than once. Initially God told him to go to a land He would show the then young Abram, so he went, not knowing where he was going. Later, as an older man with the son he’d waited his whole life for, he went again, knowing where this time but faced with the task of giving up the son he loved so much. We know this side that God provided a ram to substitute for Abraham’s son and that He gave him the Promised Land to be the home of his people. But Abraham was on that side and didn’t see what we see. He made his choices based on his faith and trust in God.

That’s appealing to me.

Joseph spent thirteen years as a slave and kept his faith in God–not knowing he would end up the second in command to Pharaoh. Daniel’s three friends had no way of knowing they’d walk out of a furnace heated so hot it killed the guards that put them inside, but they believed God was capable of rescuing them. Daniel prayed even though he knew he’d end up with the lions, and didn’t know he’d survive the night.

On the other hand, Stephen died because he preached Jesus Christ as Messiah. Jim Elliott died taking the gospel to an indigenous people group in South America, Corrie ten Boom’s sister Betsy died in the German concentration camp despite her faithful witness and unselfish life. Yet these people who don’t appear victorious are just as compelling to me. They faced death and they didn’t waver, they didn’t back down or give into the temptation to call in question God’s character.

I think the thing is, I realize that each of those people–the ones who came through the trial happily, even miraculously, and the ones who died shared the same faith. They knew that God was trustworthy. They didn’t measure His goodness or love or mercy or provision or faithfulness based on the stuff of this world, not even their life breath.

Habakkuk said it best, I think:

Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

The point is, God is worthy of our exultation whether we have the stuff of this world or not. He is the God of our salvation. He has transferred us from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son. What else do we need as proof of His love and care?

Published in: on May 10, 2013 at 5:51 pm  Comments Off on But Even If He Doesn’t …  
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Did God Really Say … ?


Adam_and_Eve019Long ago, when Humankind lived in harmony with God, nature, each other, and themselves, Satan approached Eve with a simple question: Did God really say you shouldn’t eat from every tree in the garden?

It was a question that opened up a discussion in which Satan essentially called God a liar. What’s worse, Eve bought it. Maybe not the lying part, but she may have thought Adam got it wrong–after all, she hadn’t been created yet when God told Adam to stay away from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Or perhaps she thought they were misinterpreting God’s intentions. Surely, a good God wouldn’t want to withhold something so pleasing to the eye, so able to impart wisdom.

From the moment Eve ate, men and women have been dealing with this question: did God really say …

Did God really say Abraham would be the father of nations? Did God really say David was to be King? Did God really say the people of Israel should not worship idols? Did God really say Jesus is His Son?

On and on the questions go. Today they present as a challenge to the Bible. Has God really inspired the Bible? Surly the Old Testament is little more than a collection of myths and was never meant to be a presentation of historical fact or supernatural revelation. After all, would a loving God really command genocide?

The pattern is the same as the one Satan used with Eve: We know God is X, so we can conclude that He would never do Y, no matter what He said (or you thought He said), no matter what the prophets said, no matter what the Bible said.

There is, of course, the Adamic answer to Satan’s question: Yes, God said so, but I don’t care.

King Saul responded that way: Yes, David is ordained by God to take the throne, but I don’t care. I’m still going to try to kill him.

Saul was pitting himself against God, not David. He wasn’t confused about what Samuel had said when he delivered the message that God had rejected Saul and would replace him with a king after His own heart. He quickly spotted David as the one God blessed at every turn. Instead of repenting or even stepping down, Saul fought to the bitter end to retain his throne, no matter what God said.

People today respond in the same way. Yes, I understand that God has said Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, but I choose to find my own way, my own truth, and to rule my own life.

Deceived like Eve or rebellious like Adam, our response depends on what we do with the question, Has God said … ? Of course we could simply trust God to be true, believe what He says, and do as He asks. Now there’s a novel idea. 😉

Published in: on January 9, 2013 at 5:55 pm  Comments (2)  
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Jacob Was No Abraham


Abraham wasn’t perfect, but he was pretty amazing. Leave your home, God said. Where to? Abraham asked. Just go until I tell you to stop. So off he went “as the Lord had spoken to him.”

When it was clear that his and his nephew Lot’s animals couldn’t pasture together any longer, he unselfishly gave Lot the pick of the land.

Later he pleaded with God to be merciful to Sodom on behalf of Lot and his family. Six times he interceded for them.

When God told him to circumcise every male in his household, he took care of it the very same day.

When Sarah wanted to send Hagar and Ishmael away, Abraham objected, but God told him to listen to Sarah. So “Abraham rose early in the morning,” packed them up, gave them provisions, and sent them on their way.

One boy gone, but then God tells him to sacrifice the son of promise. “So Abraham rose early in the morning,” took wood, fire, and his son and set off. Three days later they came to the place where God told him to go. (Good thing Abraham listened since that’s where the ram was that would become the substitute sacrifice).

Compare this to Jacob. He swindled his brother out of his birthright, lied to his dad and fooled him into thinking he was his twin in order to obtain his brother’s blessing, manipulated his uncle’s animals to procure the best for himself, and sneaked away without saying goodbye.

On top of that, as he’s returning home, he gets word that his brother–who, rumors said, planned to kill him–is on his way to meet him, with four hundred men. So Jacob, brave man that he is, sends a gift, divides his people and property in two, with the hopes that at least half of them could get away, and puts it all in front of him.

Interesting, though. He had an encounter with God and the next morning he changed things up–putting himself ahead of his family and falling on his face before Esau.

He’s learning.

But he made more mistakes, most notably favoring Joseph, Rachel’s firstborn. To be fair, he learned about favoritism from his parents. His mother Rebekah favored him–which is why she came up with the idea for him to steal his brother’s blessing–and his father Isaac favored Esau. So Jacob is carrying on the family tradition. It’s just that it didn’t sit well with the ten older brothers. They eventually kidnap Joseph, sell him, and report to Jacob that they found his bloody coat.

Believing Joseph to be dead, Jacob shifts his protection and possibly his favor to his youngest, Benjamin. Fast forward years later, and famine forces Jacob to send his sons to Egypt to buy food–all except Benjamin. Unbeknown to the brothers, Joseph is the man they buy from, and he tells them not to return unless their youngest brother is with them.

Time passes, food dwindles, the famine continues, and Jacob won’t sent Benjamin. Ruben tries to give his father assurances, to no avail. Judah tries and is turned down, but finally things grow desperate, and Jacob relents. Here’s the big turning point of his life, I believe. He went from saying

“My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow” (Gen 42:38)

to saying

“may God Almighty grant you compassion in the sight of the man, so that he will release to you your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved” (Gen 43:14)

It took him a long time to get there. In the meantime, God gave him the same promise He had given Abraham and Isaac–one not connected with the blessing he stole. He also protected him from his uncle and from his brother, appeared to him more than once in visions and dreams and perhaps even as the pre-incarnate Christ. And at last, he stopped grabbing and grasping and holding on. He opened his hand and relinquished his son. Only then did he receive Joseph back, alive and well.

Two patriarchs–one quick to obey, the other oh, so slow. One willing to give up his sons, the other holding on as if he could care for them better than God. In the end, God used them both, but I can’t help but think Abraham took the better road.

Published in: on August 31, 2012 at 6:36 pm  Comments Off on Jacob Was No Abraham  
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