God loves to use weak people to accomplish big things. Weak, timid, desperate people make perfect receptacles for the Holy Spirit’s power when they turn to him and depend upon him. God’s kingdom does not advance by human strength but by supernatural power, and his supernatural power is best displayed – not through strong, smart, capable people, but through weak, humble, dependent people.(more…)
The story of 1 Samuel begins with a barren woman, a woman named Hannah. She has no children, and she is miserable. But she prays to God, pleading with him for a child, only to rejoice when God answers her prayer. Hannah conceives Samuel, and when Samuel is born, Hannah prays again. Her prayer is a great prayer of reversal, one that actually anticipates the themes of all of 1-2 Samuel. Hannah prays: The LORD kills and brings to life…The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts (1 Sam 2:6a, 7). And then she adds: He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail (1 Sam 2:9).(more…)
God’s Word is a precious gift, one that he is not obligated to give. No external force or obligation compelled God to reveal himself, his purposes, or his ways to people like us. Yet God did just that, clearly, sufficiently, and truthfully, through his Word. If you were lost in a trackless jungle, without map, guide, or GPS, and someone came to you and showed you the way home, you would recognize their guidance as a blessing, as a gift. That is what God’s Word is like. We were lost, apart from it, yet through it God has graciously shown us the way home. God’s Word is an expression of his grace for people like us.
Yet so often we view reading Scripture as a chore. We approach it as if God’s Word is boring, or reading it an obligation we must fulfill. Why does the reality that Scripture is a precious gift so often fail to shape our habits and attitudes about the Bible?(more…)
The presence of pain and trial in our lives is a matter of when not if. James tells us: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2). Pain and trial are not mere possibilities on the landscape of the Christian life. They are certainties.
Given the certainty with which we should expect pain in our lives, what truths should we set our minds and hearts upon before and as we endure trial? I can think of at least five things we should remember as we consider how the Lord uses pain in our lives.(more…)
In a mysterious and beautiful way, if you are a Christian, you and Christ are one as a result of God’s saving work in your life. You are spiritually identified with him, and he with you. Of all the blessings that Christ brings into the lives of his people, this is surely the greatest. For it means that what is true for Christ is true for you, as well.
I think it is helpful to consider the past, present, and future implications of this.(more…)
The teaching of Jesus in Mark 7 is simple, though challenging: What makes one unclean or corrupt is the uncleanness and corruption that is natural to the human heart because of sin. Putting “unclean” things into your body won’t make your heart more unclean than it naturally is. Furthermore, washing the outside of your body (ceremonially) won’t make your heart more clean than it naturally is. The locus of our corruption is on the inside, not the outside. Sin doesn’t come from what we consume, or what we fail to consume, but from our hearts.(more…)
Martin Luther called justification by faith the “chief article” of the Christian faith, the doctrine upon which “the church stands or falls.” That the holy, righteous God of all justifies freely according to his grace those who trust him in faith is sublimely good news.
Yet, because of sin, we are always leaning away from justification by faith and toward some form of self-justification. Our hearts are so corrupt that we drift away from the justification offered in the gospel and toward many expressions of justification by works. How?(more…)