Where are you today? Is someone quarreling with you? Are you experiencing someone’s hatred? As hard as it is to hear, you are being given opportunities for faithfulness. Don’t shrink back from them. Don’t wish them away. Don’t curl up in the fetal position and engage in self-pity. See these moments as opportunities to be faithful knowing that the Lord who is faithful is with you.
I was recently struck anew by reading Genesis 26. It’s the story of Isaac dwelling in Gerar. The story is familiar. We might read it in “like father, like son” fashion. As Abraham told Abimelech that Sarah was his sister, Isaac did the same. Yes, we sometimes learn from our parents. Even the patriarchs passed on what was not good. But that’s not what struck me.
There was a famine in the land and the Lord told Isaac not to go down to Egypt but to dwell in the land of Canaan. There is direction and wisdom here. In other words, Egypt was forbidden by divine precept, but the land of Promise remained open before Abaraham’s heir. So, he thought it wise to go to Gerar. While there he prospered but also encountered conflict. The Philistines were quarreling with him and displacing him. They chased him from water, which was needed in the best of times but especially during famine. But eventually we read in Genesis 26:22,
And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, saying, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”
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By William Boekestein — 2 years ago
One of the most basic truths controlling Christian apologetics is this: argument alone cannot produce belief. None of the “many solid arguments for the authority of Scripture … are of much use if someone doesn’t want to be convinced.”Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still. So the Bible is not a book to be judged, but the gift of divine truth to be gladly received. We learn from its teaching, agree with its reproofs, obey its correction, and submit to its training. Being supernatural we expect it to make us “complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17) in Christ. And we should introduce it to others in that same way.
One of Billy Graham’s early crises of faith was over whether he could totally trust the Bible. After much struggle he prayed to God, “I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word.” Graham’s conclusion sets a good example for us.
While the Bible is fully defensible, like God himself it need not answer all our questions and doubts. And we have no right to judge Scripture. “In controversies of religion or matters of faith, we can not admit any other judge than God Himself, pronouncing by the Holy Scriptures what is true, what is false, what is to be followed, or what is to be avoided.” Like the aural words of the prophets the Bible is simply and truly the Gods word written. The prophets didn’t invite hearers to deliberate over whether their words were true. They were proclaimers, declarers of what God had spoken to them. This is how we should receive every Word of God.
Why does this matter? Too often in apologetics Scripture is set aside until it is proven to be reliable. But the reliability of Scripture is not the goal of our argument; it is the foundation. Christian apologetics “is to be more than a meaningless discussion about the that of God’s existence and is to consider what kind of God exists”— and to do that, we need to listen to the Bible. Even the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus must be interpreted by Scripture “before they can avail as redemptive facts to us.” Scripture “stands before us as that light in terms of which all the facts of the created universe must be interpreted.”
Still, “The Bible is both the foundation upon which our defense must be built and one of our beliefs which must be defended.” Let’s think about how this is so.
How Can We Trust the Bible?
There are at least four categories of evidence by which Scripture reveals itself to be God’s word.
First, consider the internal evidence. The Bible reads like no other book. “The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God, by their majesty and purity, by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God.” It shouldn’t surprise us that the Bible’s longest chapter by far is a poem praising God’s word, as the delight of all who know it (Ps. 119:24).
Second, consider the historical evidence. True prophets were known by their words coming true (Deut. 18:21–22). When John the Baptist asked if Jesus was “the one” he responded by describing how in him the works promised by God were being done. The Bible is filled with amazingly specific prophecies that have come true. As promised, Cyrus sent God’s people back to Jerusalem to build the temple (Is. 44:28; 45:1), Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), and those who executed Messiah cast lots for his clothes (Ps. 22:18). “Even the blind themselves are able to see that the things predicted in [the Scriptures] do happen.”
Third, consider the experiential evidence. “The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God … by their light and power to convince and convert sinners” and “to comfort and build up believers unto salvation.”
By Jeffrey Stivason — 2 years ago
Luther believed that the Lord’s Prayer was an excellent model for prayer. In fact, said Luther, had the Lord known a better prayer he would have taught us that one as well! That being the case, it’s not surprising to find that Luther’s method is grounded in the Lord’s Prayer. In other words, Luther would take each part of the Lord’s Prayer and pray through it.
You are a pastor in a small city. You’ve known your barber for almost twenty years. One day while he trims he asks for help in prayer. He, like many others, struggles in that area. So, you decide to go home and write a brief thirty-four page guide for him. You even incorporate your friend in the work. Encouraging attentiveness in prayer you write, “So, a good and attentive barber keeps his thoughts, attention, and eyes on the razor and hair and does not forget how far he has gotten with his shaving or cutting.” Once finished you decide to publish the work and it’s ready for popular consumption by the early part of the year. Now, your friend and others have help.
What you just read is fact and not fiction. Peter Beskendorf, Martin Luther’s barber asked this very question. In response, Luther wrote a brief book titled A Simple Way to Pray. It’s a little gem. And it is exactly what you would expect from the pen of Luther, nothing more and nothing less. For example, in Luther’s pithy way he warns us not to become lax and lazy with regard to prayer because “the devil who besets us is not lazy or careless.”
Luther also gives the sort of advice that you don’t hear very often today. For instance, he says, “Finally, mark this, that you must always speak the Amen firmly.” He goes on to explain exactly what he means. As firmly as his amen, Luther says, “Do not leave your prayer without having said or thought, ‘Very well, God has heard my prayer; this I know as a certainty and a truth.’ This is what Amen means.” I wonder how many of us need that simple but profound instruction.
But Luther does more than give encouragements and terse sound bites. His simple way is nothing less than a way to pray. So, let me simply walk you through his method.
By Brett Fredenberg — 1 year ago
In the midst of your chronic suffering, remember that God has no aimless thorns. Each thorn perfectly meets its mark exactly as He intends for the duration He determines. Each one will accomplish all He desires. Learn to seek God in the struggle with the thorn. See how He might be using it to conform you to the image of Christ and prepare you for eternity with Him.
“You have dysentery.” My common fate on the old Oregon Trail computer game became reality three years ago in Madagascar when my doctor spoke these words to me. As much as I wanted to laugh at how ironic it was to struggle with such an old disease as dysentery, I was in pain.
Little did I know then that this illness would set me on a trajectory of doctors’ visits, medical diagnoses, and hospital stays for the next three years, leading up to this very day where I sit once again in isolation at St. Luke’s East Hospital, missing my family and wondering why they can’t design hospital beds to be more comfortable.
I’m a firm believer in the sovereignty of God’s grace. I believe everything that happens to the believer is for good. After receiving an autoimmune diagnosis and seeing the subsequent bills roll in, though, this conviction has been put to the test.
Amidst temptations to doubt, God continues to reveal His good purposes for me in my affliction. As I sit in my hospital bed today, three lessons stand out among the rest as reminders of the sovereignty of God’s grace and His goodness in my life.
1. Your present trajectory does not determine your eternal reality.
Beginning in the fall of 2020, my life seemed to be on a negative trajectory. A house fire displacing our family for six months, the loss of my job and financial stability, and an autoimmune diagnosis hit us all in the span of a few months. Health, home, career, and finances- all taken away before we knew what hit us.
Any onlooker to the situation would quickly- and rightly- surmise that we were in a tough spot, in all senses of the phrase- emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
And in that season, Psalm 73 became my refrain.
“My feet had almost stumbled… For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked…For they have no pangs until death…They are not in trouble as others are…Behold, these are the wicked; always as ease.”
Why do the wicked prosper? So often, prosperity seems to attend the wicked while the Christian seems to go from bad to worse. I often wonder, “How can this be?” Anticipating my question, God answers…
“But when I thought how to understand this; it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end… Truly you set them in slippery places.”
For the Christian, God saves us not only from our sin, but He also saves us from all other saviors. During this season, I began to see that I found more comfort, identity, and satisfaction in my home, health, and finances than I had previously realized.