Women in the Bible: Elizabeth

Childless, Elizabeth and husband Zechariah are getting old; their chance for kids is slim. Still they pray for the improbable. Despite not receiving what they yearn for, their faith remains strong. They are a righteous couple who honor God.Women in the Bible: Elizabeth

One day at work, an angel shows up and tells Zechariah that he and his barren wife will finally have a son—not just any son, but a special one. He is to be set apart for service to God, the Holy Spirit will empower him, and he will spark a nationwide revival. They are to name him John.

Elizabeth does indeed get pregnant. In her sixth month, Mary—who will later give birth to Jesus—comes for a visit. Inside Elizabeth, John jumps for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice. Then the Holy Spirit comes upon Elizabeth and she prophesizes, blessing Mary and her unborn baby.

When John is born, Elizabeth and Zechariah’s friends and family celebrate with them. They praise God and share in her joy for finally having a baby.

Elizabeth and Zechariah prayed for a child even when it no longer made sense; God answered their prayers by giving them a son named John, John the Baptist.

Are we willing to pray for the impossible? Will we patiently wait for God’s answer?

[Luke 1:5-60]

Read about more amazing biblical women in Women of the Bible.

Isaiah Issues a Call to Pursue Justice

Pursue Justice for the Oppressed, Widows, and Orphans

A short passage in the book of Isaiah warns against those who make unjust laws to deprive the marginalized of their rights. Isaiah targets the lawmakers. In doing so, he seeks to protect the oppressed, widows, and orphans. He calls us to pursue justice.

But this isn’t just a warning for legislators, it’s a passage for all of us.

Isaiah Issues a Call to Pursue Justice

Don’t Make Unjust Laws

At a first read, these two verses seem to only apply to those who make laws. This pertains to the politicians who enact laws and the bureaucracy that provides the details. This is a great place to start, but it doesn’t end there. This passage also has lessons for all of us.

Don’t Use Unjust Laws

Merely because there is a law, doesn’t mean it’s a good one. In fact, many laws are unfair; they’re unjust, favoring one group over another. Just because a law allows us to do something, doesn’t mean we should. Sometimes to pursue justice means to not avail ourselves to a law that treats some people unfairly. Even though we may have a right to do something, the moral response is to not do it—even though the law says we can. If we discover an unjust law, we should do what we can to overturn that law and replace it with a fair one. Click To Tweet

Pursue Justice by Opposing Unjust Laws

A final implication of this passage applies to all people. If we discover an unjust law, we should do what we can to overturn that law and replace it with a fair one. Or perhaps the best response is simply to seek to overturn that law.

Most people don’t fit into the group of lawmakers or the groups marginalized by unjust laws. Most of us don’t make the laws or suffer from them. If this is you, your job is to work to turn unjust laws into just ones. We must all pursue justice.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Isaiah 9-10, and today’s post is on Isaiah 10:1-2.]

The Bible Uncovers the Spiritual Realm for Us

We Get a Glimpse into the Spiritual Realm Through Scripture

The Bible Uncovers the Spiritual Realm for UsIn wrapping up our series of why I love the Bible, here’s reason number thirteen. Though it’s last, that doesn’t mean it’s the least important. In fact, it might be more important. It’s about the spiritual realm.

We live in a physical realm. In our physical world, we experience it with our senses. We see things, touch things, and hear, taste, and smell things. Through our senses, we experience our physical reality.

However, there’s also a spiritual aspect of our existence, which embraces the spiritual realm. Though we can’t tangibly experience this spiritual reality with our senses, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Through the Bible we get a peek into the spiritual realm and can get an awareness of what that implies.

Here are some aspects of the spiritual realm that the Bible reveals to us:

Three Characteristics of God

Through the Bible we can discover three critical characteristics of God. First, he is omnipotent, which means he’s all powerful, Almighty. Next, we see that God is omnipresent. This means God is present in all places at the same time. He is everywhere, all the time. Third, we see God as omniscient, which means all-knowing. God knows all things. everything.

These words all start with omni. Omni means all. God is all powerful, all present, and all knowing. I like to say that he’s omni God, that is, he is all, all we need. He is everything.

Three in One God

From the Bible we get the concept of God as a Trinity. In the Trinity we have God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Yet they are one.

He is three entities, yet one entity. He’s three and one at the same time. Confusing, right? The Bible reveals this to us, and we addressed this characteristic of God in prior reasons of why I love the Bible: reason #2, #3 and #4.

Holy Spirit Power

Let’s focus for a moment on the Holy Spirit. As we’ve already covered, the Bible reveals the Holy Spirit to us. More than that, the Bible also reveals the Holy Spirit’s power. Though we see the Holy Spirit at work throughout the Bible, he takes center stage in the book of Acts, with close to one hundred mentions. The Holy Spirit also takes part in creation, as covered in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible. And the Holy Spirit is there as the Bible concludes, taking a central role in the last chapter of the last book.

The Holy Spirit is powerful and the Holy Spirit lives in us. We need to listen to the Holy Spirit and then obey what he says.

Miracles and More

Throughout the Bible we read about miracles, of supernatural events that transcend physical realities. Some people make ineffective attempts to explain away miracles through logic, science, or reason. All attempts fall short. Through faith, we accept the miracles we read about in the Bible as the manifestation of the reality of the spiritual realm.

Angels

The Bible reveals angels and other supernatural beings to us. These aren’t harp-playing cherubs, floating on clouds, with child-like innocence plastered on their face. These are powerful spiritual beings, created by God, who do his bidding and even battle on our behalf.

Evil

The Bible also reveals another element of the spiritual realm to us. It is Satan, the devil, he exists in the spiritual realm, yet we see evidence of his work in the physical realm. Many people imagine Satan as God’s counterpart, doing battle against each other is equal, opposing forces.

Yet the Bible reveals that Satan is an angel created by God. He later rebels against his maker. God, as creator, is more powerful than his creation. That means God is more powerful then Satan. Though the devil enjoys a time of authority to cause havoc in our world today, in the end God will win. And he will conquer his enemy, Satan. The Bible reveals that we’ll experience a new life, a spiritual life that continues after physical death. Click To Tweet

Life After Death

Last, the most important element of the spiritual realm that the Bible reveals to us is that we will experience a new life. This is a spiritual life that continues after physical death. Though no one is sure what our life-after-death existence will be like, the Bible reveals to us that it is real. As followers of Jesus, we can expect to spend eternity with God in the spiritual realm. And then it will all become clear (1 Corinthians 13:12).

We are more than corporeal, so much more. We are more than just a body. Let’s not even consider our physical being first. Instead let’s begin with our spiritual being and build upon it: we are a spirit, we have a soul, and we live in a body (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

The Bible reveals the spiritual realm to us. Though it’s hard to comprehend from our present, physical reality, the Bible gives us glimpses into it and what it means. We must grasp this and accept it, for it is our future. And when we get there, I suspect it will be more real than the reality we currently experience in the physical realm.

Women in the Bible: The Virgin Mary

Mary Receives Shocking News

An angel visits Mary, a teenage girl engaged to be married. The angel celebrates her as one highly favored by God. Perplexed, she wonders about the angel’s shocking greeting. Then he further stuns her by saying she will become pregnant, and her child will save her people.Women in the Bible: The Virgin Mary

“How,” Mary asks? “I’m a virgin.”

The angel explains that the Holy Spirit will supernaturally impregnate her.

Mary trusts God in this and accepts it without arguing.

When Joseph, her fiancé, finds out about her condition, he’s going to dump her, but an angel visits him and tells him not to. Though they eventually marry, they remain celibate until after Mary’s miracle baby is born.

The Birth of Jesus

However, before that happens, Mary and Joseph must travel to Bethlehem for a mandatory census. Unable to find a room to stay in, they hunker down in a barn. There, among the filth of livestock, Jesus is born.

This is no ordinary birth: angels celebrate, shepherds bow down, and royalty offer expensive gifts. Then at Jesus’ consecration, people give astounding prophecies and thanks for him. Twelve years later, Jesus amazes his parents, especially his mom, when they find him at the temple in deep discussion with the religious leaders.

At age thirty he starts his ministry. Three years later, during his execution, Jesus asks his close disciple John to care for Mary. The last we hear of her is at a gathering of Jesus’ followers after he rises from the dead and returns to heaven.

Though we praise Mary for her pious acceptance of God’s assignment, the townspeople did not likely celebrate her situation. They probably dismissed her claim that God did it, and she forever carried the stigma as the girl who got pregnant before being married.

Sometimes there is a price for following God. Would we be willing to suffer a lifetime of humiliation to conform to his plan for us?

[Matthew 1:18-2:11, Luke 1:26-38, Luke 2:1-51, Acts 1:14]

Read about more amazing biblical women in Women of the Bible.

If God Cares for Every Bird, How Much More Will He Care for Us?

God Cares for the Lesser Things of His Creation and We Are So Much MoreIf God Cares for Every Bird, How Much More Will He Care for Us?

In one of Asaph’s Psalms he exalts God for his power, beauty, and perfection. In doing so Asaph envisions what God might say to his people, talking about what is important and what isn’t. God has no need for our animals (possessions), for every creature (everything) is his. In fact God says that he knows every bird, and that even the insects are his.

God Cares for Birds

Does this idea that God knows every bird sound familiar? Consider what Jesus says in his teaching in what we commonly call “The Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 6:25-27). He tells us not to worry, that God will take care of us.

Then he reminds us of the birds. Even though birds don’t prepare for the future by planting crops, gathering the harvest, or storing for the future, God feeds them. He takes care of them.

In the non-winter months in Michigan, anytime I look out my window I see all kinds of birds, often more than I can count. Though I know some species, I can’t identify most of them. While I have trouble identifying various types of birds, God not only knows each species, he also knows each bird within each specie.

Aside from my enjoyment of watching birds, in the overall scope of life, I give little thought to birds. Yet God cares for them. Thank you, Father God for taking care of us. Click To Tweet

God Cares for Us

Jesus goes on to say that if his Father will feed the birds how much more will he care for us. As people, we’re the highpoint of his creation. We matter much more to him than birds. God cares for us even more than he cares for the birds.

Thank you, Father God for taking care of us.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Psalms 49-52, and today’s post is on Psalms 50:11.]

Retail Religion Takes Us Down the Wrong Path

Too Many People Are Spiritual Consumers Who Pursue a Retail Religion

Retail Religion Takes Us Down the Wrong PathMany in our first world culture seek to be served rather than to serve. Unfortunately, we apply this when it comes to church, too. Most people expect church to serve them, while few seek to serve the church.

This idea of receiving services influences our church selection process. Seldom do people look for a church that gives them the opportunity to serve. Instead they look for a church for the benefits it provides: the music, the message, and the ministries. They’re church shoppers, pursuing church selection with a consumer mindset.

Retail Religion

The result is a retail religion. These folks shop for a church the same way they buy a car or look for a gym.

They make a list—either literally or figuratively—of the things their new car, gym, or church must have. Then they make their wish list of what they hope their new car, gym, or church could have. And then they make a final list of deal breakers, detailing the things their new car, gym, or church can’t have.

Then they go shopping.

They tick off items on their list. With intention they test drive cars, check out gyms, or visit churches. In each case, they immediately reject some and consider others as possibilities. Eventually they grow tired of shopping and make their selection from the top contenders, seeking a solution that provides them with the most value.

Instead Pursue Service and Community

A better, and more God-honoring approach, is to seek a church community that provides opportunities for us to serve. We need to stop thinking of church for the things it will provide for us and instead consider the things we can do for it, that is, for the people who go there and the community surrounding it.

We should look for a church that provides opportunities for us to serve, according to how God has wired us, ways that make us come alive. This includes service within the church and to those outside the church. Church service and community matter more than church programs and benefits. Click To Tweet

Service is not an isolated activity. As we serve, we do so in community. Church service and community matter more than church programs and benefits.

Retail religion is out, and church community and service are in.

What Does Christian Mean?

I don’t like the label “Christian,” even though I am one. The Christian label is a loaded term. It means many things to different people.The Christian label: What does Christian mean?

To some, Christian implies narrow-minded.

To others, Christian means hateful.

Still others think Christian refers to a political party or secular movement.

And what about mean, militant, murdering, manipulative, and money mongering?

Do you see why I don’t like the Christian label?

And let’s not forget the inquisition, the crusades, slavery, segregation, and fighting abortion (I’m referring to blowing up clinics and killing doctors, in case you’ve forgotten).

Consider the Christian label in How Big Is Your Tent?But most Christians aren’t like that, you plead.

You’re right. We’re not, but I still don’t like the Christian label.

I prefer “Jesus follower” instead.

Read more in Peter DeHaan’s book How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love. Get your free copy today and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus.

 

Deuteronomy Hints at the Horror of Jesus’s Sacrifice

We Discover Parallels Between Deuteronomy and Jesus’s DeathDeuteronomy Hints at the Horror of Jesus’s Sacrifice

The book of Deuteronomy, which most people skip and the rest of us skim, does contain interesting passages for us to consider. In one short section, God addresses capital punishment. Though the idea of executing people for their offenses may offend our sensibilities, don’t dismiss this passage.

Learn from its words. It gives insight into Jesus’s gift of the ultimate sacrifice.

This passage in Deuteronomy talks about executing criminals on a pole. It commands people not to leave the body hang overnight but to bury it the same day. Further it goes on to state that anyone hung on a pole is under God’s curse.

Let’s relate this to Jesus:

Jesus Died on a Pole

We don’t know the exact configuration of the cross Jesus died on, but we can understand that in simple terms, it was a pole. Jesus died on a pole, and his body hung exposed on a pole, exactly aligned with this passage in Deuteronomy. There he suffered and served as our sacrifice.

Jesus Was Buried the Same Day

When Joseph of Arimathea requested Jesus’s body for burial, he likely had this Deuteronomy passage in mind: that God instructed his people not to leave an executed body hang on a pole overnight. Joseph, a righteous man, made sure that Jesus’s body didn’t suffer this final indignity. Jesus died under God’s curse to free us from the curse. Click To Tweet

Jesus Was Under God’s Curse

It’s hard for us to think of Jesus being under God’s curse, yet as he died on the cross, suffering the consequences for what we’ve done wrong, he was under God’s curse. He suffered God’s punishment for our wrongdoing. Paul confirms this in his letter to the Galatian church. He tells them, and reminds us, that when Jesus became our curse, he freed us from the curse that we deserve (Galatians 3:13).

Jesus died under God’s curse to free us from the curse.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Deuteronomy 21-22, and today’s post is on Deuteronomy 21:22-23.]

We Must Be Faithful and Fruitful

God Calls Us to a Faith That Produces Fruit

Two reoccurring themes in the Bible are the ideas of being faithful and being fruitful. We are to be faithful and fruitful.We Must Be Faithful and Fruitful

The word faithful occurs over two hundred times in the Bible and shows up in most of its books (41). The word fruitful occurs thirty-one times in eleven books, spanning both the old and new Testaments. (The word fruit—which can mean something to eat or the results of our actions—is as common in the Bible as the word faithful.)

Furthermore, the command to “be faithful” appears in eight verses, as does the command to “be fruitful.” It seems that God wants us to be both faithful and fruitful.

Be Faithful

Jesus talks about being faithful and his parables support this. Don’t we all want to hear him say, “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23)? In the New Testament, the word faithful occurs most in the book of Revelation, both in some of the letters to the seven churches and in John’s vision where he commends God’s faithful witnesses.

In the Old Testament, the book of Psalms tops all others with seventy-one mentions of the word faithful. Though some verses address God’s faithfulness to us, others talk about our faithfulness to him: a faithful servant, faithful people, faithful ones, and faithful to him and his covenant (that is, his commands, Psalm 78:36-37).

Be Fruitful

We should note that the instruction to be fruitful in the Bible always relates to biological reproduction and the growth of a population. However, it isn’t a stretch to apply this metaphorically to other actions that produce spiritual growth, that is, spiritual fruit.

Consider the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Paul implicitly tells us to pursue these characteristics. God doesn’t want us merely to be faithful, he wants us to produce fruit in the process. Click To Tweet

Be Faithful and Fruitful

Too often I’ve heard people who—after working hard to serve God but achieving little—shrug and say, “Well, at least I was faithful.” Yes, they were faithful, but they also failed. God doesn’t want us merely to be faithful, he wants us to produce fruit in the process.

He wants us to be faithful and fruitful. Working hard and failing, is simply failing. Working hard and producing fruit is what God desires.

James writes that faith without deeds (which we can call fruit) is dead (James 2:26). As we pursue God and seek to serve him, we must be fruitful and faithful. God expects nothing less.

Discover What Jesus Didn’t Say

There are many things Jesus didn’t tell us to do to inherit eternal life or become saved. He didn’t say:Discover what Jesus didn't say about becoming a Christian

  • pray a prayer,
  • be confirmed,
  • go to church,
  • come forward,
  • do good things,
  • raise your hand,
  • fill out a pledge card, or
  • jump through any hoops

How Big Is Your Tent?He didn’t give Four Spiritual Laws, share The Roman’s Road, or recite the ABC’s of Salvation.

His answer was easy. His most basic instruction was “follow me.”

Read more in Peter DeHaan’s book How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love. Get your free copy today and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus.

 


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