Delving deeper into faith

What is faith? This probably sounds like a silly question – but only if we have given it no thought because we assume we fully understand it. Consider one small sampling of the evidence.

In the second and third centuries before Christ, Jewish scholars translated their Hebrew Bible into Greek. We call their work the Septuagint. Interesting questions might be: When they used the Greek word pistis (faith), what Hebrew words and ideas were they trying to convey? Was their understanding of faith broader, the same or narrower than ours? Take a look.

Continue reading “Delving deeper into faith”

Indeed, who is an Israelite?

Behold an Israelite indeed…” (John 1:47).

Jesus said this about Nathanael (aka, Bartholomew).

The word “indeed” implies a different understanding of the word Israelite than the one commonly held. What was the common understanding of the word Israelite in the days of Jesus?

Most Jews (since the days when Jacob’s name was changed to Israel) were known as, and identified themselves as Israelites. But this name always had more than mere tribal or geographical connotations to God. Continue reading “Indeed, who is an Israelite?”

Character can be destiny

“Character is destiny.” This quote, attributed to the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, has been on my mind these last months. Seemingly a response to those who claim that fate controls one’s life regardless of one’s life-choices, “character is destiny” places the path and end of one’s life into one’s own hands.

Certainly, there is much truth in this statement, both from a secular and religious viewpoint. It does not mean to suggest that a person of poor character cannot be successful from a worldly standpoint. Only that the result of their life will reflect the choices which they made, and the character which informed those choices.

We might be dismayed to see wicked people, liars, cheaters, and the like, rise to prominence and power in our world. We might be saddened to see the world seemingly support such people. But we, like the Psalmist, have a more informed perspective. Continue reading “Character can be destiny”

Yet not with a whole heart

Why do you serve God? Perhaps you serve God because that is what your parents did. Perhaps you serve God because that is what your spouse desires. Perhaps you serve God for the sake of your children. Perhaps your reasons are less noble.

The Chronicles are often neglected books. But we do ourselves a disservice to neglect any of the sacred writings. There are a number of extraordinarily deep statements in the Chronicles. One that bears upon our thoughts today is a statement made in 2 Chronicles 25:2. In a description of king Amaziah, the inspired text reads, “he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart” (ESV). Continue reading “Yet not with a whole heart”

Serious thoughts on the Faith

Concern for the direction of some churches in some places calls for a stronger feeling of gratitude for those in many locations who hold fast to the true gospel.

Even rational people in religion think it normal to speak of denominations and fail to see themselves in the Bible’s condemnation of divisiveness. They’ve been led to a total disconnect between spiritual truth and their practice.

The one hope of Ephesians 4.4 is summed up by Paul in Romans 5.2: “we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory.” For mankind who distanced himself from his glory, Romans 3.23, this is wonderful news. Continue reading “Serious thoughts on the Faith”

The prayer of faith: It’s a done deal

In the Old Testament, when God promised a thing, he would put the promise in the past tense. If he said it, it was a done deal. If he promised, you could count on it being done.

On the banks of the Jordan River, Moses recounted to Israel the work of God among them. When King Og of Bashan came out with his whole army against the nation, the Lord said to Moses:

“Don’t be afraid of him because I have already given him, his whole army, and his land to you” Deuteronomy 3.2a. Continue reading “The prayer of faith: It’s a done deal”

When a blessing doesn’t look like a blessing

“Don’t be deceived,” James warns, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father … who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:16-17).

Some are indeed deceived. They mistake the temporary gratification of sin for a blessing “from above.”

After all, the pleasures of adultery are undeniable. Revenge can bring quick and cheap gratification. Crushing someone else by gossip or hurtful words can bring a kind of pleasure. Continue reading “When a blessing doesn’t look like a blessing”

A shining example of faithfulness

The short book of Ruth introduces us to a family from Bethlehem who moved to Moab due to a famine in Israel.

“During the time of the judges, there was a famine in the land. A man left Bethlehem in Judah with his wife and two sons to stay in the territory of Moab for a while. The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife’s name was Naomi. The names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They entered the fields of Moab and settled there. Naomi’s husband Elimelech died, and she was left with her two sons. Her sons took Moabite women as their wives: one was named Orpah and the second was named Ruth. After they lived in Moab about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two children and without her husband” (Ruth 1:1-5 CSB). Continue reading “A shining example of faithfulness”

Where is your faith?

Jesus decided to sail across the Sea of Galilee sometime around sunset.

Suddenly, a storm rose with a fury well known by fishermen who sailed the sea. With winds that brought cold air down from the mountains mixing with air heated during the day, the lake’s storms often spelled disaster for those caught on the water.

As they sailed, Jesus fell asleep in the boat. As the winds increased, the waves became higher and higher. Soon, the storm was in full force. Rain began filling the boat along with the waves that were breaking into the craft (Luke 8:23). Continue reading “Where is your faith?”