Throughout much of church history there has been great confusion, and even tragic error, regarding the interpretation and use of the Song of Solomon. While some Jewish leaders have been on record discouraging it from being read by any man under the age of 30, Christian leaders have been almost as obvious in their discomfort with the book. One Christian forefather Origen even suggested that it should not be read by anyone who has not first completely crucified all his carnal, fleshly desires.
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1) Genesis 16:16 concluded by specifically stating that Abram was 86 years old when Hagar bore Abram’s child Ishmael. Now the very next verse, in Genesis 17:1, frankly dates the next narrative as being when Abram was 99 years old — a period of 13 years! Did Abram go 13 years without even hearing from God? It certainly seems possible. Abram had to live by faith during a painful time of waiting and probably
Now the Lord said to Abraham, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) How does Abraham go from idolatry to being a believer in the one true God? God speaks to him! This in a nutshell differentiates Abraham’s story from that of his father Tera who was a Babylonian idolater (Joshua 24:2). God is the one who initiates salvation, God is the one who calls Abraham out of pagan darkness into the light of His truth. God’s redemptive work, like the Creation itself, begins with God
Give thanks to the Lord of lords … to him who alone does great wonders (Psalm 136:3-4). The authors of Scripture are unanimously in awe of the God about whom they are writing. And here the psalmist explains why: God alone does great wonders. “To him who by understanding made the heavens … to him who spread out the earth … the sun to rule over the day … the moon and stars to rule over the night” (Psalm 136:5-9). God is the God of creation.
…I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits (1 Corinthians 16:7). Even the best of desires may not be brought to fruition here on earth. Even our best kingdom visions may never be fulfilled. And even our best plans may never come to pass. Here even the apostle Paul himself admits that his plans are fallible and must therefore be flexible. “I have made my very best plans,” Paul says, “and am operating according to them to the best of my ability—but all the while in the recognition that my plans may not be God’s plans.”
It is important to know that every sin leads to Hell — even a sin as seemingly “small” as eating one bite of a forbidden fruit. There is no sin which, in the eyes of God, is “forgivable” in the sense of being too small or petty for God to care about.
I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting (1 Corinthians 9:15). What is the ground for Paul’s boasting? It is the “gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12). The gospel of Christ is centered on Jesus Himself—His perfect humanity, His full deity, the salvation that He perfectly fashioned on the cross. When Paul glories in the gospel, he is glorying in the good news of Jesus Christ, not just of “salvation” as though separate from Christ.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20) When we open the door of communication with Jesus, Jesus himself describes this event as being like dinner with a dear friend. Do you come to your dinner table with a to-do list of things to cover in conversation? Are you nervous or hurried when you sit down to have dinner in your home with a dear friend?
Why should I be concerned with doctrinal nuances? Isn’t that stuff just for preachers? This is a common question, or at least a common attitude, with which I have come into contact as a pastor. The richly diverse and meticulous language of Scripture, and a careful theology of Scripture, is often seen more as professional jargon for clerics than every day food for the souls of every day people. But nothing could be further from the truth.
You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15). Paul is intent on telling Christians something the Spirit of God does do, and something the Spirit emphatically does not do. Paul insists the Spirit of God does not bring a slavish fear but rather an affectionate crying out to God as our Father.
In several places in Scripture Paul gives us a list of the kinds of sins that characterize the unsaved, along with the admonition not to tolerate these sins in our own lives as professing believers (1 Corinthians 10:7-12; Ephesians 5:3-7; Colossians 3:5-9). It should be incredibly sobering to us if we are regularly participating in the exact same sins that have brought others under the wrath and judgment of God!
…it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:6-7). Put simply, there are two wisdoms, Paul says: human wisdom, and divine wisdom. They are not the same. They are not even similar. They are not coming to the same conclusions about God, life, priorities, joy, fulfillment, or meaning.
At a recent men’s meeting, I shared the following devotion. I share a brief outline from it with you in hopes that all husbands everywhere might be stirred up to, or renewed in, their determination to love their wives with Christ-reflecting purity and power. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy (Matthew 5:7). Implicit in Jesus’ promise is this reality: the merciful recognize their own need for mercy. Otherwise, how could Jesus’ promise hold any weight? If I don’t need mercy, then what good is there in promising me mercy? But if I see my own need of mercy, then I will want to emulate any description of those who obtain mercy. The merciful recognize their own need for mercy.
I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). Here we see one of several little windows from the New Testament into Paul’s very human struggles with his past. While he was completely resting in Christ’s work on the cross, dying for