Sin and Lying to Ourselves

Even though David was a man after God’s own heart, the narrative of his life is dominated, more than any other single event, by his sin with Bathsheba.  One of the great heroes of Scripture is led by lust to commit adultery and murder.  This was disastrous for David, and it should be sobering for us.  If he fell so spectacularly, can any of us imagine that we are above falling? Continue reading

Why do the Righteous Suffer?

On September 19th, 2008, my daughter Macy was stillborn.  Her death was completely unexpected.  Right up till the day she was born, every indication was that she was doing fine.

Lauren and I have never learned why she died.  I do know this, though:  in the aftermath of her death, we suffered terribly.  Even now, ten years later, every time I see her picture hanging on our bedroom wall, it sends a jolt of pain right through my heart.

Our experience is hardly unique.  Even in a country like ours, at some point in their lives, nearly everyone encounters great suffering.  This is true for unbelievers, but it’s true for the most faithful Christians too.

Here, some locate the greatest challenge to our faith.  They ask, “If God is both good and powerful, then why does He allow the innocent and undeserving to suffer?”

This is hardly a new question.  It goes back at least to the book of Job, if not before.  However, it is an important one, with great relevance to all of us.  Thankfully, it’s also a topic that the Bible explores in considerable depth.  Let’s turn to the Scriptures, then, to answer the question, “Why do the righteous suffer?” Continue reading

The Memorial Stone of the Gospels

If the Bible were not well written, I probably would not be a Christian.  It seems to me that any book that claims to be the inspired word of God ought to have at least some literary merit (sorry, Book of Mormon!).  I shouldn’t be a better writer than the Almighty.

Of course, I’m not.  The Bible is a magnificent literary work, a wordsmith’s delight.  When I’m studying with Shawn, it’s often the case that I’ll pause over a particular phrase and exclaim, “Oooh, that’s so pretty!”

I love it all, but perhaps more than any other part of the Bible, I love the gospels.  The writing of the gospel authors is terse and understated, but like a master sketch artist, they can capture a likeness in half a dozen strokes.  Consider the description of the lawyer in Luke 10:29 or Pilate’s rejoinder to Jesus in John 18:38.  I learn more about those men in a phrase of Scripture than a volume written by an ordinary author could tell me. Continue reading

Jacob and Anger

It’s hard to understand others without understanding ourselves first.  Conversely, the better we understand them, the more light they shed on us.

Fostering is particularly illuminating in this regard.  At least, it has proven so for me.  I’m living with a boy who comes from a background completely alien to me, who has behaviors that are completely alien to me.  However, the longer I spend with them, the more I realize that they aren’t alien at all. Continue reading

God Doesn’t Need Our Help

David was a man after God’s own heart, but even a heart that sincerely desires to serve can lead us astray.  We see David betrayed by his good intentions in 1 Samuel 7.  There, he decides that, now that he has constructed his own palace, he ought to build a permanent temple for God.

To human wisdom, this sounds like a great idea.  It’s only fair to give God a dwelling place equal to David’s, right?  Even the prophet Nathan endorses it.

However, God disagrees.  He points out to David that never did He instruct His people to build him a house of cedar (note that the implication of silence here is, “Don’t do it.”).  In fact, David has it backwards.  David isn’t going to build God a house.  God is going to build David a house, an enduring line of kingly descendants.  This promise culminates in the Christ being born of the lineage of David. Continue reading

What Is Covetousness?

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A few weeks ago, I ran a blog post on gambling in which I argued that the true problem with gambling is that it provokes covetousness.  In the next day or two, I found myself talking about it with Landon.  He observed that he agreed with the point, but he felt that most of us could benefit from a more specific understanding of covetousness.

I think this is a great point.  “Covetousness” and its variants are used a couple of dozen times in the ESV.  We know it’s a sin.  However, we often don’t know exactly what the specific sin is.  The dictionary defines covetous as, “Inordinately or wrongly desirous of wealth or possessions; greedy.”  So, basically, the dictionary is telling us that it’s a sin when we want things in a bad way.  Thanks, dictionary!  That’s really helpful!

However, even though the dictionary doesn’t offer much guidance here, God’s word does.  There are many passages that highlight the problems that covetousness creates.  When we piece them all together, we can come up with a useful answer to the question, “What is covetousness?” Continue reading

The Gospel or the Government?

 

In this week’s episode of the political soap opera, the star seems to be Anthony Kennedy.  The famously middle-of-the-road Supreme Court justice announced his retirement, provoking giddy speculation among evangelical Republicans that his Trump-appointed replacement would be the deciding vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.  My ears also detect an undertone of, “See???  This is why we’re putting up with the guy!”  Democrats, on the other hand, are rallying the troops to do whatever they can to keep the court from going conservative.

Last week, the momentum was flip-flopped, with progressives using the spectacle of parents separated from children to argue for immigration reform.  The week before that, another political crisis seized the imagination of the nation.  Next week, it will be something else still. Continue reading

Smart Women and the Church

In the immortal words of Tammy Wynette, sometimes it’s hard to be a woman.  In fact, sometimes it’s particularly hard to be a woman associated with the churches of Christ.  Other than a few congregations on the liberal fringe, churches of Christ tend to be aggressively complementarian:  no women in leadership positions, no exceptions.

This is particularly difficult for intelligent, capable women who in nearly any other situation probably would be leaders.  Through the years, I’ve had my share of conversations with women in this category who express frustration at the teaching and leadership of men whom they judge to be less capable than they are. Continue reading

Whatever Happened to Shiloh?

The other day, I got in a conversation with a sister about Jeremiah 7.  This was not coincidence; my co-worker and I are currently studying our way through Jeremiah, and I’m always eager to talk about the things I’ve learned in my study.  This sister, though, wanted to know what I thought of Jeremiah 7:11-14.  The text reads:

“Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD.  Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel.  And now, because you have done all these things, declares the LORD, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh.” Continue reading

Strengthening Ourselves in God

The fame of David will probably continue for as long as the world does, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to swap lives with him.  Of the various highs and lows of the life of David, perhaps the lowest point comes in 1 Samuel 30:1-6.  By this point, Saul’s paranoia has driven David out of Israel entirely, even though he has done nothing wrong.  In the previous chapter, David’s new overlord, Achish king of Gath, shows that he doesn’t trust David either, even though David once again has done nothing wrong.  This does not bode well for David’s future with Achish! Continue reading