Category Archives: Spirituality

Embrace the Biblical Story Arc

Though God Doesn’t Change, the Way People Perceive Him Does

 Embrace the Bible’s story arc.I enjoy a good book, one with a satisfying story arc. The Bible has an arc, too, a biblical story arc.

Some people see the Old Testament as focusing on God’s rules and judgment, with the New Testament focusing on God’s love and freedom. Though there’s some truth to this, it’s simplistic. The Old Testament also has its share of God’s love and freedom, while the New Testament gives us some new rules (though not as many) and contains judgment (check out Revelation).

However, on a more nuanced level we see changes that occur throughout the Old Testament and even the New. But it’s not God doing the changing, it’s people. As the biblical story arc progresses, the way we interact with God changes.

Aspects of the Biblical Story Arc

Intimacy with God: In the beginning is Adam and Eve, basking in the Garden of Eden and hanging out with God each evening. How cool would that be?

Distant from God: Then Adam and Eve are kicked out of paradise. Their relationship with God changes. It’s their fault, not his. From then until the time of Noah, people aren’t close to God at all. He seems quite distant.

Rescued by God: Then God looks at humanity and how they messed up his creation. He considers Noah and makes a plan: a boat, a flood, and a rescue. God is at work. He makes a promise to Noah. Man seems to be back on track with God, but not for long.

Promises from God: The next notable biblical character is Abraham, Father Abraham, a man of faith. Abraham has a closer connection with God and a deeper faith. God makes a new covenant with Abraham and promises he’ll be the father of many nations.

Guidance from God: Then we witness another transition with Moses. Moses sees God face to face. They hang out. They talk. Moses glows. God gives guidelines on how to live, moving his people beyond the barbarism of the world around them. God promises to bless others through his people, but they don’t do their part. They fail to live up to their potential. They don’t do much to bless others.

Closeness with God: Then David comes on the scene. He has the heart of God. God promises that from David’s line will come the messiah, the savior, who we know as Jesus.

Patience from God: But things go downhill after David. Future kings make a mess of things. But from the prophets we see God’s love for his people (us), his despair over their (our) actions, and his patience toward them (us). A cycle occurs: human despair, godly rescue, embracing God, backsliding, and repeat. Over and over. It’s a dark time spiritually. But this is the people’s doing. God’s always present.

Supernatural Provision from God: As we transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament and consider the books of the Apocrypha, we see a new level of spiritual engagement emerge, with supernatural acts. It’s as if the people finally see and accept the Holy Spirit at work. This is a great primer for what happens next.

Saved by God: In the New Testament Jesus becomes the star, as God always intended. Need I say more?

Community with God: In reading the Gospels, we gain a fresh perspective of God’s plan for us. Yet this viewpoint shifts as we move through Acts and more in the epistles. The people live in community and connect with God like never before.

Restored to God: By the time we get to Revelation our perception morphs yet again. We witness a supernatural battle, victory and judgment, and a new heaven and a new earth. Intimacy with God is restored. Just as God intended for us all along. God doesn’t change, but how the people in the Bible perceive and approach him does. And it’s a beautiful thing. Click To Tweet

This is a most pleasing biblical story arc.

Yet from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, we see consistency in God and his desire to live with us. God doesn’t change, but how we perceive him and approach him does. And it’s a beautiful thing.

Why Read What Other People Say About the Bible When We Can Read It Ourselves?

To Better Understand the Bible, Use Scripture to Interpret Scripture

Why Read What Other People Say About the Bible When We Can Read It Ourselves?I shared part of my book, Women in the Bible, with some friends at a writers group. They liked what they heard and had questions about how I researched and wrote it. I explained that the Bible was the only resource I used. By design, I didn’t study what other people wrote about the Bible, I simply studied it myself.

That is, I went straight to the source and didn’t use any secondhand information.

When I write about the Bible, this is what I do. I use Scripture to interpret Scripture, instead of relying on someone else to do it for me. This is because I don’t want to filter what the Bible says through the eyes, minds, and theologies of others. I go straight to the Word of God because this is as close as I can get to the ultimate author of this amazing book.

This idea of using the Bible as the only resource confused one of my friends. I tried to explain how I use Scripture to interpret Scripture, but I’m not sure that helped.Here are some examples of how I use Scripture to interpret Scripture. Click To Tweet

Here are some examples of how I use Scripture to interpret Scripture.

Consider the Whole Passage

The Bible is divided into books, chapters, and verses. This makes it easy to share short passages and compare versions. However, this also encourages us to focus on one verse and miss its context. We should never consider a verse or part of a verse in isolation.

Study What Comes Before

Ignoring chapter divisions, paragraph breaks, and inserted subheadings allows us to examine what precedes the passage. Often this gives us the context and a more holistic understanding of how a passage or verse fits in.

Read What Comes After

Likewise, look at what follows the verse or passage. Sometimes the text that comes after it adds clarity, provides an example, or adds emphasis. Yet other times what follows a passage may seem paradoxical. At first a paradox is frustrating, but it’s really an invitation to dig deeper. And that’s when we get to a greater understanding of the passage.

Look at The Entire Book

As we mentioned, the Bible is subdivided into books. Unlike chapter and verse delineations, the books are mostly logical and make sense. We’re wise to examine the trajectory of the book and consider the author’s overall purpose or theme.

Examine Parallel Passages

The Bible contains some repetition. The four biographies of Jesus—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—often present different perspectives of the same event. We’re wising to consider them. Likewise, First and Second Chronicles has parallel texts with First and Second Samuel and First and Second Kings. Also, we can often read about the settings of the prophetic books in the Bible’s historical books, specifically Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. The same occurs with Psalms. In the New Testament, many of the letters (also called epistles) find their historical context in the book of Acts.

Build A Biography

Although a lot of people in the Bible are obscure characters, mentioned only once, many others pop up more than one time and surface in multiple books. By combining each mention of a person, we can build a biblical biography of them. This gives us a better understanding of these people and allows us to apply this perspective each time we see their name. I do this often in Women of the Bible.

Do Word Searches

It’s also worthwhile to do word searches in the Bible. This lets us to compare one mention with all the others. Some scholars place additional emphasis on the first time a word occurs. There’s merit to this, too. (But be careful. Consider the first mention of the word married in Genesis 4:19.)

Follow the Arc

The Bible has a narrative arc to it. In a sense, this is the story arc of God’s Word. We should keep this arc in mind as we study the Bible. (More on the biblical story arc in another post.)

By employing these various techniques, I can use Scripture to interpret Scripture. Yes, I occasionally delve into a commentary (I have four) or read a book on a specific biblical topic. Yet in doing so, I never lose sight of the Bible as the ultimate source of understanding. What others tell me about the Bible does have value, but what I learn directly from the Bible—unfiltered by others—has even more.

To get the most from reading the Bible, use Scripture to interpret Scripture.

Do We Need to Know Hebrew and Greek to Study the Bible?

Ministers who flaunt their knowledge of Hebrew and Greek often do more harm than good

As part of their training, many ministers must study Hebrew and Greek. Sometimes when they prepare a sermon, they go back to the Bible’s initial languages so they can study the words in its original tongue: Hebrew for the Old Testament and Greek for the New.Do We Need to Know Hebrew and Greek to Study the Bible?

Then they talk about these other languages when they give their sermon. Sometimes this helps but other times it seems they’re just trying to remind us of how smart they are—or at least how smart they think they are. This often turns me off.

Yet other times I wonder if I would understand the Bible better if I could engage its words using Hebrew or Greek. It’s not that I want to learn another language; I have enough struggles with English. Instead this impulse occurs as I grapple with the English version of a particular text. I consult various translations and sometimes find clarity, but other times, confusion persists.

The Limitations When Studying the Bible

After all, when I read the Bible in English, I’m reading it through the theological filter of its translators. There’s no way for them not the color their work through the perspective of their beliefs. Some may call this a bias. I get that.

Yes, most everyone who embarks on a project to translate the Bible from its original languages into English—or any other language—strives for accuracy. Yet even the most sincere and conscientious still introduce the slant of their worldview into their work.

If only I could cut out the middleman and read the Bible in Hebrew and Greek.

Yet to do so, to read the Bible in Hebrew or Greek, would mean relying on others for their explanation of each Hebrew or Greek word. Again, their definitions would suffer from the influence of their perspectives and what they learned from other scholars, who hold their own biases and influences.

The reality is that studying the Bible in its original languages wouldn’t really help resolve my dilemma. It would still require me relying on the viewpoint of others to comprehend the text.

The only way I could gain real value by studying Scripture in Hebrew and Greek would occur if I understood these languages in the day and the culture in which the writing took place. And that’s impossible.

The Key to Studying the Bible

Though my desire to study the Bible in Hebrew and Greek carries an admirable intent, the reality is that I would still face frustrations; I would continue to struggle to understand its nuances. Yet, I have more resources available to help me engage with this holy text then at any time in history. There are scores of translations for me to consider. And for that I’m most grateful. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can study the Bible for ourselves. Click To Tweet

We, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, can study the Bible for ourselves. We don’t need a Hebrew or Greek-speaking guru to guide us. All we need is the text, the mind God gave us, and the Holy Spirit. We can pray for supernatural insight and have faith God will direct the outcome.

Having religious experts tell us what the Bible says or what God means is an Old Testament mindset. Jesus changed this when he fulfilled the Old Testament. Through him, we become priests. And he sends us the Holy Spirit to guide us. That’s all we need to study the Bible. If you happen to know a little Hebrew and Greek, great! But if not, no worries.

We should all study the Bible using whatever resources we have and trust God to guide us in our journey.

The Bible is Four Dimensional

Don’t Read the Bible Like Any Other Book Because It Isn’t Like Other Books

The Bible is Four DimensionalWhen we read a book, it’s a linear process. We start at the beginning. Then reading one word at a time, we make our way to the end. Once we reach the last word, the final period, we’re finished. Usually we put the book down and move to another one. If it’s a really good book, we may read it again. Or we may loop back to investigate certain sections to look for something we might have missed or seek clarity from a confusing passage. This applies to both fiction and nonfiction, though in different ways.

Too many people read the Bible like every other book. Starting at the beginning and reading one word at a time, they make their way toward the end. But few ever arrive. They get mired down in how the Bible is put together, because it’s not like any other book.

From a reading experience, a book is one-dimensional. It’s a straight line, with only length, going from start to finish. There is no width or depth, just length.

To read the Bible rightly, we need to get beyond our linear mindset. We need to think of the Bible as also having width and depth. Let’s consider it as three-dimensional and not one-dimensional with only length, which results from stringing words together.

We Must Read the Bible with a Different Perspective

To move beyond one dimension requires we read the Bible differently. Yes, we can still look at one passage or story, read it linearly from start to finish, and enjoy the journey. But there’s more. We can loop back and jump forward. We can consider parallel passages—and the Bible has many. We can use one passage to better understand another.

When we consider the Bible as three-dimensional, we can do word studies, look for reoccurring themes, and use scripture to interpret scripture. When we do so we begin to mine the riches of the Bible, no longer as a one-dimensional, linear book, but as a multi-dimensional experience that takes us to an unlimited number of destinations.

But beyond the three dimensions of space, we need to consider time, which many refer to as the fourth dimension. How is the Bible four dimensional? Jesus was there at the beginning and took part in creation. And he’ll be there at the end. Click To Tweet

Let’s jump to the middle and consider the book of John. With dramatic poetic flair, John tells us that Jesus, the whole point of the Bible, didn’t just show up for the Gospels as a baby in a manger. He was there at the beginning. He took part in creation. And he is there at the end. As we migrate from our present reality to the next, Jesus is there to guide us. The book of Revelations hints at this and the last two chapters confirm it. And a careful reading of the Old Testament sees hints of Jesus sprinkled throughout. Jesus is everywhere, not limited by time or space.

Embrace the Bible as Four Dimensional

It’s hard to grasp the Bible as four dimensional, not being bound by time. However, God—who created us, reveals himself to us in the Bible, and serves as our reason for being—is not bound by time. He exists outside our time-space continuum. For when he created the three-dimensional reality in which we live, he also made time as a fourth dimension in which we move forward. But he is constricted by neither space or time. He lives outside it, while we live in it.

The Bible contains words and ideas and truth which have length and width and depth. The Bible also transcends time. It’s four dimensional. Though I will spend the rest of my life trying to grasp this concept, it’s a reality I except and embrace.

May we all begin to read the Bible in this new way.

How Many High Priests Are Named in the Bible?

The Bible talks about priests, chief priests, and high priest

What’s the difference between priest, chief priests, and high priest?

How Many High Priests Are Named in the Bible?

From Mark 14:53 we see there are several chief priests but only one high priest. This is also confirmed in Matthew 26:3. With this as our basis, let’s explore each of these three roles: priests, chief priests, and high priest.

Priest

Though many nations in the Bible have priests, for the Hebrew people, a priest is specifically a male descendent of Aaron from the tribe of Levi. This means there are a lot of priests. Using the NIV is a reference, the word priest occurs 864 times in the Bible.

(Sorry ladies. I don’t like it that only some guys can be priests in the Old Testament, but I’m just reporting how it was. Jesus changed all that, but that’s another discussion for another time.)

Chief Priests

In the Bible the phrase chief priests seems to imply a special selection of priests, namely the leading ones. Chief priests (plural) occurs sixty-six times. However, chief priest (singular) occurs seventy-five times. While this may seem contradictory, it could be that the chief priest (singular) is a key leader who rises above the other chief priests, who are above the other priests.

High Priest

High priest (always singular, except for two times) is mentioned seventy-eight times in the Bible. We see reoccurring mentions in the Gospels: Matthew (seven times), Mark (eight), Luke (three), and John (ten). High priest also occurs in Acts (eleven times). However, the book leading the way with mentions of high priest is Hebrews (seventeen).

The fact that high priest is singular lets us know there is only one high priest at a given time. If the chief priests are over the priests, then the high priest is likewise over the chief priests. In the Bible there is only one high priest at a time. How many do you know? Click To Tweet

The Bible mentions many men who serve as the high priest. How many do you know? Here are the names of high priests in the Bible:

In addition, there are several men who carry the title of chief priest:

The Ultimate High Priest

However, there is one more priest. He is the priest of all priests. What’s his name? His name is Jesus. The writer of the book of Hebrews talks at great length about Jesus being our high priest (Hebrews 2:17, 3:1, 4:14, 5:5, 6:20, 8:1). One way Jesus fulfills the Old Testament is by being our high priest. Ponder the implications.

The Old Testament talks about priests to prepare us to embrace the ultimate priest, the highest of priests, Jesus. Jesus who became our once-for-all sacrifice to make us right with God and restore us back into relationship with him.

Thank you, Jesus.

The Prayer Tower: Thoughts about Seeking God in High Places

A Personal Essay About Encountering God, Prayer, and Hiding in a Prayer Tower

The Prayer Tower: Thoughts about Seeking God in High PlacesThe afternoon assignment at a writers retreat is to take a walk and describe our observations. Leaving the rest of the group in search of some needed solitude, I come upon a sign that simply says, “Prayer Tower.” I can’t ignore the opportunity. Suddenly, my journey has added purpose.

I take a sharp left and begin my assent. A few steps, a landing, and then more stairs. Turn right, walk a bit, and climb some more, I wind my way up the hill. There’s another landing and then a U-turn, followed by more walking and more stairs: fifty steps and counting; soon seventy-five gives way to one hundred.

What will I find? Am I climbing a stairway to heaven? One hundred and sixteen steps later, I reach my destination: a platform, presumably for prayer. A prayer tower. Panting, I pause to catch my breath.

The vista is grand, with the panorama of Lake Michigan, my favorite of the Great Lakes. I look west, with water as far as I can see; the far shore hides behind the horizon’s dip. A few ships dot the distance before me. An occasional car announces its presence behind me. All around are tree-covered sand dunes, sprinkled with homes and a string of condominiums.

With winter giving way to spring, naked tree branches creak to a brisk breeze. The biting wind tightens the once warm skin of my face. Below me friends walk along the beach, next to the frigid waters with wind-swept waves. Others, having grown tired or cold, are already retreating, seeking to recapture the warmth of inside.

The sight and sounds of birds, varieties mostly unknown to me, abound, too many to count. Gulls prevail with their plaintive caw, while a diligent woodpecker tap-tap-taps, either searching for food, forming a home, or seeking to attract a mate. Gray skies, decorated with blustery clouds, complete the picture.

God’s nature surrounds me. His wind pushes against me. Only with commitment to my task do I stand firm against winter’s final onslaught. I stand in awe. I try to pray, but words allude me. Why do I need to climb a prayer tower to pray, anyway?

In the Bible Moses ascends Mount Sinai and God’s glory descends. There he encounters God’s power (Exodus 24:15-18).

Jacob dreams of a stairway connecting earth with heaven. Angels traverse it; God stands at the top. Jacob proclaims this awesome place as God’s house and the gate into heaven (Genesis 28:12-17).

Although encouraging, these verses, do not confirm that I need elevation to better connect with the Almighty.

In a less reassuring instance, Moses—denied entry into the Promised Land because of one act of disobedience—is told to climb mount Nebo. From there he sees in the distance what God is withholding from him. Then he dies (Deuteronomy 32:48-52 and Deuteronomy 34:1-6). His mountain vantage doesn’t symbolize connection with God as much as punishment for sin and a lost reward.

Other biblical accounts point to elevation as a place of temptation.

From Leviticus to Amos, the “high places” (mentioned 59 times in the NIV) are usually a site for idol worship and heathen practices, providing an ongoing snare to God’s people, repeatedly distracting them from him. Some kings remove the high places or at least try to diminish their use, only to have a future generation restore them.

The tower of Babel, intended as a monument that reaches up to the heavens isn’t an attempt to connect with God as much as an arrogant tribute to aggrandizement. God quickly ends their brash scheme (Genesis 11:3-9). I can pray anytime, anywhere, and God hears me just fine. Click To Tweet

Balaam has his issues with altitude, as well. Although God prevents him from cursing Israel when atop various mountain vistas and thereby keeping him from earning the rich rewards he desires (Numbers 22-24), things don’t go well for Balaam when a sword later ends his life, exacting God’s final punishment (Numbers 31:8). Jude labels this profit motive as the error of Balaam (Jude 1:11).

Jesus likewise encounters temptation in high places, with Satan twice attempting to use an elevated vantage to derail Jesus from his mission. Fortunately for us, Jesus prevails, and the enemy retreats (Luke 4:1-13).

Based on my quick review of what the Bible records about elevated places, it seems a prayer tower may not be the ideal place to connect with God. Yet here it is, and I stand atop it, seeking to do just that.

From my hilltop perspective, I don’t just see nature and friends. I also spot remnants of other activities. Bottles, mostly broken, suggest this place of prayer gives way to revelry in the nighttime hours. Other trash is more disparaging. I see that SB climbed a tree to carve his “forever” love to ND. I try to not consider the ramifications any further. Suddenly I don’t feel quite so close to God. This prayer tower, this high place is as much hideout as haven.

Although I encounter God in the prayer tower, I pray little. But that’s okay. I can pray anytime, anywhere, and God hears me just fine. After all, he’s always with me (Psalm 73:23).

What Does the Bible Mean When It Says, “All Scripture?”

All scripture can teach us about God and instruct us in his ways

What Does the Bible Mean When It Says, “All Scripture?”One verse I heard often at a particular church I attended was 2 Timothy 3:16. It says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” (KJV). This verse was cited to remind us of the holiness and practical applicability of the Bible to inform our daily lives. According to this preacher, “all scripture” referred to the KJV, the only version he accepted.

However, let’s consider the phrase all scripture. When Paul wrote these words to Timothy, the New Testament didn’t exist. So Paul couldn’t have been referring to that text. Yes, there were various portions of what later became the New Testament being circulated among the followers of Jesus, but they also shared other texts that didn’t make it into today’s Bible. Therefore, Paul couldn’t have meant for all scripture to encompass the New Testament.

From his perspective, when he said, “all scripture,” he envisioned the texts that were available to the Jewish people. That would certainly include the Old Testament) and may have included other supporting religious documents).

The version of the Bible in use in Paul’s time was the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Septuagint included the thirty-nine books we have in our Old Testament, but it also included more.

The Septuagint used during the lifetime of Jesus and Paul, also included the books we now call the Apocrypha. So these books of the Apocrypha would fall under Paul’s umbrella term of all scripture. (And for my preacher friend who insisted on reading the Bible in the KJV, I must point out that the original version of the KJV included the Apocrypha.)

That’s something to think about.

If the Apocrypha is part of what Paul meant when he said, “all scripture,” then the Apocrypha is also “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” When Paul writes that all scripture is profitable, I take him seriously. Click To Tweet

The books of the Apocrypha included in the Septuagint are:

See why Christians Should Consider the Entire Bible.

When Paul writes that all scripture is profitable, I take him seriously. And I encourage you to as well.

Use Technology to Study the Bible

We have many tools available to explore the Word of God

I love to study the Bible. I often talk about reading and exploring scripture. This may conjure up an image of me sitting in a chair with an open copy of the Word of God in my hands. While this is an apt understanding, I seldom read the Bible that way. I often tap technology to facilitate my reading and studying of scripture.

Study the Word of God.

Here are some ideas:

Bible Gateway: I use Bible Gateway most every day as I explore the Word of God. It allows me to read and study the Bible, offering over fifty versions to pick from. I can look things up by chapter and verse or do a search for keywords or phrases. It’s my go-to aid for Bible study.

One option I really like is the “add parallel” feature. This lets me look at a verse in up to five translations at the same time. It shows them in columns and allows me to quickly consider a verse in my five favorite versions of the Bible.

Another nice feature (though I don’t use it) is the ability to listen as a text is read. For some people this is a great way to learn, hearing a passage while reading it.

Bible Hub: Another popular online tool to study the Bible is Bible Hub. It also allows me to look up a verse. Then it displays that verse in twenty-five versions of the Bible. It’s a quick and easy way to compare the text in various translations.

Like Bible Gateway, Bible Hub also offers many other resources to aid in Bible study.

Google Search: Since I have read the Bible in many translations, I can paraphrase a lot of verses, but I can’t quote many with 100 percent accuracy. This is because my mind merges various translations together. Though both Bible Gateway and Bible Hub let me search for a specific phrase, it doesn’t help if I don’t know the exact wording.

Instead I go to the world’s most popular search engine and type in the word Bible followed by the phrase as I remember it. In almost all cases, Google provides me with the correct verse, usually with links to the passage in Bible Gateway and Bible Hub. Plus, there’s bound to be a long list of pages that teach about that passage.

YouVersion: When it comes to smart phones, there are many apps that allow us to read, study, and listen to the Bible. I use YouVersion and downloaded my preferred Bible translation. Now I carry the Bible with me everywhere I go. Many online tools and apps let us read and listen to the Bible. Click To Tweet

Other Options: Of course, there are many online tools and apps to consider. These allow us to read and listen to the Bible, study it, and dig into it using many valuable resources. Just do an online search and you’ll find more solutions than you can ever use.

There’s no ideal way to read and study the Bible. Explore these various options and discover what works best for you. It may be an app, a program, or a website. Or you might just go old school and read the Bible from a printed book.

When it comes to reading and studying the Bible, just do it.

What Is God’s Will for Our Life?

Many people struggle to ascertain God’s will for them, but the Bible already provides the answers

In our post about discovering the will of God, we noted three things he wants us to do: rejoice always, pray continuously, and give thanks in all situations. But that’s not all. The Bible also gives us other passages about God’s will for us.

Trust God with your future.

It’s God’s will for us to be pure: In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church, he tells them to be sanctified, that is set apart and pure. He specifically tells them to avoid sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

It’s God’s will for us to do good: Peter also clues us in to God’s will. In his first letter, he tells his audience that it’s God’s will for them that by doing good they will silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. That is, through their actions, people will have no grounds to criticize them (1 Peter 2:15). This, too, is the will of God.

It’s God’s will for us that if we suffer, it’s for doing good instead of evil: Though no one wants to suffer, it’s better to suffer for doing the right thing instead of doing the wrong thing. It’s not God’s will for us to suffer. But if we do, it should be for doing something good, not something bad (1 Peter 3:17).

It’s God’s will for us to rejoice always, pray continuously, and give thanks regardless: As we’ve already covered, God wants us to be filled with joy. He wants us to be in a continual attitude of prayer. And he wants us to be ever thankful, even when we don’t feel like it. We find this in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Paul trusts that God will work things out for what is best. Click To Tweet

It’s God’s will for us to trust him with our future: In the book of Acts we don’t see a command about God’s will but an example that demonstrates it. When Paul visits the city of Ephesus, they ask him to stay, but he turns them down. However, he does say that he’ll come back, “if it is God’s will” (Acts 18:21, NIV). This shows us that although Paul makes plans, he holds them loosely. He trusts God will work things out for what is best.

This idea of trusting God with our future is huge. Too often we struggle to ascertain God’s leading in certain key decisions, such as who to marry, career choices, where to live, business decisions, and so forth.

While it’s not inappropriate to seek God’s opinion in these things, we can see from Paul’s example that it’s perfectly acceptable to give our future over to God and trust him with it. This is also his will for us, and it frees us from much indecision and paralyzing inaction.

How Can Free Will and Predestination Coexist?

We have the right to choose, but God knows our decision

Some people insist that God gave us free will to make our own decisions, that we hold our future in our hands. Others claim our future has already been set, that God charts our course, with the outcome predestined.

Which is it?

Both.

God gives us free will, but he already knows what we will choose.

Let’s start at the beginning. Actually, let’s start before the beginning. Before God’s creation.

God is an eternal being without beginning or end. He exists outside our spacetime reality. When he created us and the space we live in, he created time, too. Consider the spacetime continuum. If he made space, he had to make time, because the two are inseparable.

To him there is no past or future. I suppose this means he sees everything as a present, existent reality.

However, our existence unfolds as we move through the time he created for us to live in. Because we are bound by time, we see our future as unknown, something yet to be determined. Therefore, the question of free will and predestination seems to us as an either/or proposition. But to God, it isn’t. God, who exists outside of time, doesn’t have the constraints we have. Click To Tweet

God, who exists outside of time, doesn’t have the constraints we have.

Though our minds are finite, and our reasoning has limits, here’s how I reconcile the two. God gives us free will to choose. But he already knows what those decisions are. Because of his awareness, one not bound by time, he knows our future as if it is the present.

What we see as an unknown future, he sees as a known reality. To God our future is foreknown. In essence, it’s predestined. It will happen for us in our future even though it’s in the present for him. It’s known in advance, predestined, because he sees the outcomes of the free will that he gave us.

Though God allows us to choose our future, he already knows what those choices are. Nothing we do surprises him. In this way, our future is predestined, even though we have the free will to choose it.

And since he already knows what will happen to us in our future reality, he works things out for our best (Romans 8:28-29).