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Is God Safe?

By Michael Gallup

Every Sunday night I meet with a bunch of losers and rejects and it is beautiful. Each week I hear stories of alcoholic fathers, failed marriages, premature family deaths, depression, suicide, abandonment, and so on. Each of us has deep wounds and have grown tired of easy answers to our tough questions. But in our woundedness we have found a safe place to land, to crash together and in this safety a desire to let others find safety amongst us has taken seed. So we wonder together what it means to be a “safe” place.

At the heart of this question lies a hunger inside everyone of us for safety and security. Yet this hunger is often malnourished by the fast food of safety. We run from our problems, insulating ourselves from the world’s brokenness and especially our own. We take control into our own hands and believe ourselves capable of protecting ourselves. We move to the suburbs, get life insurance, and create a systemized theology that tames our God and puts him into a nice, neat box that we can control. Yet even when we have mastered our lives, we still deep-down lack a true feeling of safety.

But what does it really mean to be safe? If we are to be safe, mustn’t we be safe like God is safe? The bible speaks of God as our fortress, our shepherd. Jesus promised his follows peace and joy, telling them his burden was light. But the scriptures also teach us that the fear of God is the first step in wisdom, that we should be terrified at the thought of falling into his hands. Jesus teaches his followers that if they want to be his disciples they must pick up their cross, in other words, they will die if they follow him. And God tells Moses, his friend, that no one can see Him and live. Can we truly find refuge, safety in the presence of a God who will kill us? I think so.

The safety of God is something all together different from what our American Dream teach us. If we truly seek refuge in him, than we will find safety from our greatest foe: ourselves. It is only in the death of ourselves that we can truly be safe and truly live. It is only when God defeats us that we can have any victory. Safety is not the avoidance of trouble, pain, and death but the facing of it. Safety is the facing of it with the God who is scarier than all our fears. It is in the dying that we come to life. In C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, the kids are asking about Aslan, the Christ-like lion who rules the land of Narnia. Rightfully so, they are a bit worried about fraternizing with a lion and ask if he is safe. To which Mr. Beaver replies, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

And so we find ourselves seeking safety in a very unsafe God. If we fall into his hands, we will surely die but by God, that’s the very thing we need. Following God, truly embracing His Kingdom call to walk in his resurrection life, means that success, happiness, and confidence will no longer nurse our infantile understandings of life. It is only in God’s defeat of us that we realize that blessing is not something we can grasp or win by talent, force or will but is only available through a gift. It is only in helplessness, when we let go of control, that we will find ourselves in the secure arms of the Father and know that they are good. He is the King, I tell you.


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Is God Senile? Does God Simply Forget Our Wrongs and Mistakes?

One nippy, fall Colorado morning my mother climbed into her car and headed to church. Backing out of her parking space mom noticed her neighbor’s car idling innocently, apparently warming up against the cool morning air.

Good. Gertrude* must be going to church this morning too, thought my mother. A couple of hours later (preachers never know when enough is enough, do they?), my mother was surprised to find Gertrude’s car still sputtering away in the same spot.

It must be warmed up by now, my mother mused (Actually I don’t know what my mother thought but I wouldn’t put any sarcastic remark past her). My mother carefully pulled into her spot, shut off her car, and crept over to Gertrude’s car–worried she might find her elderly friend dead and slumped on the front seat.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Ezekiel 35:1-36:38

James 1:1-18

Psalm 116:1-19

Proverbs 27:23-27


Ezekiel 35:1-36:38: The Old Testament is often gritty and harsh. So much so some have said the two halves of the Bible represent different gods or a God who has changed. Ezekiel often reads with this harshness: prophecies of destruction, promises of wrath.

Yet, here, and similarly elsewhere, God says “I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor.” These overlooked expressions of God’s love wrapped in oracles of wrath show his discipline and justice are motivated by love. God has not multiple personalities. He is One and the same forever and always. Maybe, just as we do in daily life, we simply hear the negative far easier than the positive. Whatever the reason, there is hope even in books such as Ezekiel.

James 1:1-18: The amazing scholar and reformer Martin Luther wanted to keep James‘ letter out of the canonized version of the Bible. Thank God he failed.

Luther found James legalistic and thought it contradicted Paul’s emphasis on salvation through grace alone.

What he, and many others, fail to see is how Jewish and Hebraic James is. You see James, being steeped in a Jewish culture that could not imagine separating belief and action, faith and works, understood that what anyone of us believes–truly knows and accepts–lives according to those beliefs. What we believe should change us or we don’t really believe it.

James knew salvation was based on faith and grace. He understood further that our lives between here and heaven must reflect that faith.

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“I didn’t want to look,” mom told me later, “Gertrude’s scary under normal conditions. She’s an older lady, you know. I kept imagining her dead on the seat. But somebody had to check on her. When I found her car empty,” mom continued, “I was thankful but worried. I ran [this is a figure of speech only] up to my apartment and called Gertrude. No one answered, so I left a message on her machine.”

Fretting to distraction my mom went and asked neighbors if anyone had seen Gertrude. No one had seen her. Yet, there sat the running car locked up tighter than a lost memory. Finally, mom sat disconsolate in her apartment imagining the worst. Her only consolation being that she couldn’t imagine anyone kidnapping Gertrude. Suddenly the phone rang.

“Fern,”** the crackly voice said over the line. “You called?”

“Gertrude,” my mom stammered. “You’re okay. Thank God! Your car’s been sitting in the lot for hours locked up and idling.”

“Oh, my,” Gertrude gasped. Long pause. “That’s where my keys got off to. Oh my–I went out and started my car for church this morning, forgetting a friend was picking me up. I’ve been looking all over for those keys. I forgot about starting my car.”

If not for my mother, Gertrude may have never remembered starting her car, though she may have wondered who left her keys in her car after they drove it out of gas. Gertrude couldn’t remember going near her car.

Is that kind of forgetfulness we mean when we combine the terms forgive and forget? When we are wronged and attempt to forgive do we really need to forget?

How can that be? If so, then senility becomes a spiritual gift and forgiveness becomes meaningless. No, forgiveness is more than forgetfulness. Forgiveness is choosing not throw a wrong in the face of the culprit, including yourself, each time that wrong comes to mind.  And come to mind it will!

God has not forgotten the time I purposefully pulled a chair away from a girl in my third grade class and let her fall on the hard tile floor nearly breaking her tail bone. I know I haven’t! I also know, though, through Jesus’ death on the cross, I’ve been forgiven that and worse.

John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

The psalmist who wrote Psalm 116 knew this too. “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.” God will hear our cry. God then does not forget our sins that forced his Son to die. God looks through the cross and beyond our sins to a time when our sins will be no more, including the pain they caused others. On Sunday mornings, before the prayer of confession, I often tell my congregation that, though God wants us to take many things home with us today, our sins are not among them.

God is not a Gertrude. He knows and remembers us through and through–good and bad, and loves us anyway. He has not forgotten and left us locked up and idling in the parking lot. The nail scars Thomas placed his fingers in on the hands of Jesus are still there (John 20:24-28). Now, however, the pain Jesus felt has been replaced with merciful forgiveness.

“When a deep injury is done us, we will never recover until we forgive,” Mary Karen Read wrote in a strangely prophetic journal entry in February before she was killed that horrible day at Virginia Tech. Jesus reminds us that we cannot forgive, as Mary Karen did, until we too are forgiven.
You and I are forgiven not forgotten. Today take a page from God’s book. When that wrong sears your heart and mind, don’t try to forget it. And don’t excuse it. Set it aside and smile the smile of forgiveness. Choose to look beyond it into the eyes of Christ.

Be forgiven and see what Jesus sees–a scar he can turn into a mark of velvet mercy.

*Not her real name. Of course most people named Gertrude make the same claim.

**Her real name.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

  1. Which passage spoke most to you?
  2. What did the four have in common?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com


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Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door or Many an Un-truth is Spoken in Jest

Mother Teresa died and was greeted at the Pearly Gates by Saint Peter . . . so the typical heaven’s door joke opens. We’ve all heard a thousand different versions featuring everyone from golfers to geriatrics and pastors to prostitutes. Most of them also have Peter asking the poor soul standing at the gate, “Why should I let you in?” The answer is usually the punch-line.

These punch-lines produce more than a chuckle; they also reveal what many popularly believe about life and death and heaven and the God who is supposed to be living there. These jokes show us that many an un-truth is spoken in jest.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Isaiah 41:17-43:13

Ephesians 2:1-22

Psalm 67:1-7

Proverbs 23:29-35


Isaiah 41:17-43:13: Because the arts, such as poetry, are often difficult to interpret, many are therefore very uncomfortable seeing the arts as valid ways to communicate truth. God seems to have no such misgivings. This chapter continues the beautiful poem describing God’s power, wrath, love, grace, and concern for Israel and his creation. By using artistic words and poetic concepts, God is able to deliver to us some hard truths we may shy away from if stated in mere propositional language.

Ephesians 2:1-22: “We are God’s workmanship,” Paul writes in verse 10. The word we translate “workmanship” is literally and better translated “poetry” or “artwork.” Would that the Bible translators were more comfortable with metaphorical translations. If we are “workmanship,” we can only be one of many: identical fenceposts standing in a row or silver automobiles rolling off an assembly line. But if we are poetry or art, we are unique, painstakingly written or drawn not just designed with a purpose but carrying a message and an image of the Artist himself. As I wrote yesterday, you and I are works of art!

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.


Have you ever noticed how the punch-lines of these gone-to-heaven jokes usually boil down to what the person knocking on heaven’s door did or didn’t do in life? According to these jokes, entrance into heaven depends on how good each of us are during our lives down here.

One such joke features Mother Teresa and God eating very simple meals together in heaven. Eventually she asks about the sparse menu. God answers, “Let’s be honest Teresa, for just two people, it doesn’t pay to cook.”

I don’t find that idea funny. If Mother Teresa is the standard my good works have to measure up to, I might as well not even knock on the door. Further, if anyone of us, even Mother Teresa, could earn heaven, why did Jesus let himself be tortured and nailed to a cross to give us eternal life freely? Instead why didn’t Jesus just write out a check-list of attittudes and actions that we could fill out and present to Peter at the gate?

Because, as Paul writes, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” By definition you can’t earn a gift.

This is the beautiful theological truth behind birthday presents. How ludicrus it would be for anyone upon opening her birthday gifts to say, “Thank you for recognizing how hard I worked to get here. These gifts will remind me each day of the effort I put into my conception and birth.”

Just as there is no way anyone earned his or her birth and the gift of life, so too none of us can earn being born again and the gift of eternal life. All we have to do is receive God’s gift of grace and forgiveness and open it.

Another un-truth spoken in these jests is that Peter usually stands as heaven’s gatekeeper. In reality Jesus gave Peter keys to the kingdom. But since Jesus flung the doors wide open, I’m not sure what Peter’s keys are for. Jesus is the way. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus, even Peter.

Finally notice how these jokes place heaven “up there.” Yet, Scripture speaks of heaven as a kingdom that contains earth. In the end, the earth will be reborn just as we have been. But until then it is an imperfect piece of heaven here and now. We will not walk for eternity on clouds. Paul says we “have been saved” and are “seated in the heavenly realms.” This is all written in the past or present tense. Heaven begins when we are “in Christ” not after death. Heaven is here and now. Yet there is a piece of it to come. Fuller Seminary Professor George Eldon Ladd called this the “already/not yet” truth of the gospel. Our theology lived out and conveyed in these jokes expresses only the “not yet” part of what Jesus gave us from the cross. Paul desperately wants us to live in the “already.” Mother Teresa didn’t care for the sick and dying and castoff of Calcutta to get from earth to heaven. She poured her life out to them to bring heaven to earth.

Please don’t think I can’t take a joke, I love a good comedy routine and punch-line. Still there are many truths and un-truths spoken in jest. We can laugh at both, but eternity may hang in knowing the difference.

  1. Which passage spoke most to you?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com


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God Is Not Silent, Even On September 11

Editor’s note: In a desire to remember and honor those murdered on 9/11, I am departing from our format slightly today. I wrote this in the days following the 9/11 attack. It was first published in the Vail Daily. I have made only minor grammatical changes. Eugene

Daily the sound of children chattering, laughing, whooping and shouting wafts, soothing and constant like waves breaking on the beach, through my open windows. There is a grade school directly behind my house and each fall weekday, at about 8:45a.m., the delightful laughing and squealing and playing commences. Occasionally I’ll take breaks from my study to watch the children from the deck. Looking down into the playground these disembodied voices suddenly connect with children on swings, or playing soccer, or chase, or simply sitting against the wall talking. Their sporadic movements and spontaneous smiles dance in the fall air like sunlight on choppy water. Back in my study again, each wave of laughter reminds me life is as it should be and that I’m not alone.

Today however, all is not as it should be and it sounds as if I am very much alone. Today is Tuesday, September 11, 2001 and the waves of innocent noise from the playground have stopped rolling because several thousand miles away an unthinkable evil has struck our nation. Behind my house stunned silence reigns. On this day the children are being kept inside for very good reasons: fear, respect, confusion, safety. I too wallow in stunned silence unable to concentrate on my work.

I sit and wonder, is God silent too? Why does it seem God is so quiet when evil speaks? For the next couple of hours these questions pound me along with the horrific images from the television. God, why are you so silent?

Thankfully the phone rings and calls me away to help with emergency prayer services in one of the chapels I serve. The chapel fills with people of all denominations and faiths twice that day. We weep and pray together quietly. Slowly through our prayers and tears, I hear a profound sound.  God too is quietly weeping. I realize the silence of the children in the school behind my house was deeper than a silence of safety or fear. It was a silence of mourning. I am reminded of Jesus response to the death of his friend Lazarus: “Jesus wept.”

Why did I, do we, assume that God condones evil simply because God allows it to continue for a time? Does God’s silence really imply He is sitting in heaven nodding and muttering, “It’s about time those sinful humans suffered. It’s just what they deserve”? God forbid! Yes, we all have sinned. But God doesn’t silently and angrily throw airplanes into tall towers full of His children to punish them anymore than loving parents sneak up behind their children and beat their bottoms with no warning or explanation. No, God does not laugh at or ignore our pain. He mourns.

I know this because God was silent at another horrific time in history. The world went dark for three hours while Jesus hung on the cross (Luke 23:44-46). God mourned as He turned away from the sins of the world–including those of September 11–tainting the heart of Jesus Christ.

On September 11 God was not silent or inactive after all. If we look and listen, this becomes obvious. Since September 11 courage, kindness, love and mercy poured from the hearts of people in the United States and around the world. For example, some of the passengers on the Pennsylvania plane forced it to crash so as to save those in its intended target. And our little Interfaith Chapels raised $20,000 for disaster relief. A Girl Scout troop in Denver made red, white and blue ribbons and a local radio station gave them away for donations, raising several hundred thousand dollars. A friend of mine told me she broke down in tears in the parking lot of the post office. A stranger on crutches hobbled over and comforted her with a long hug.

For me the final piece of evidence that God was not silent came when I stopped in at the hospital to visit a woman from our congregation who had, on September 13, given birth to a son. I trembled at what I might say to her. How would she feel bringing a son into such a world? Would she be depressed? And how could I comfort her? She beamed as I walked in, the first true smile I had seen since Monday.

“Isn’t he beautiful?” she said pointing to her son.

“Yes. He is!” I beamed back.

Looking at that dark-haired miracle, I thought, Oh, how could I be so ignorant? Evil and hate can temporarily take life. But only God and love can create life. God is not silent! The quiet mourning of God is not a powerless shrug of the shoulders. He was not silent on September 11 nor was he silent when Christ died on the cross. In both cases God quietly takes death and turns it to eternal life.

“It is finished,” Jesus said from the cross. What is finished? The ability of evil to prevail. Win some major and devastating battles? Yes. But God’s love will prevail because only God can turn death and devastation to love and life. God is not silent. Jesus Christ shouted mercy, power, forgiveness and victory from the empty tomb. And he still shouts it today. No. God is not silent or inactive. If we listen, we can still hear Jesus whisper from the cross “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”  And if we allow it, He will speak and act through our love and kindness to one another.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Isaiah 19:1-21:17

Galatians 2:1-16

Psalm 59:1-17

Proverbs 23:13-14

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO. If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.


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What Paul and Jesus Would Say To Friedrich Nietzsche, Superman and Every Self-Made Person

In the late 18th century the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche suggested that the time had come for man to evolve into Superman, the self-determined individual who wills, who trusts only in himself, who needs no one else. A man who creates his own good and evil.

Nietzsche’s goal? To become better, stronger, faster, smarter, more self-sufficient. To extract all the enjoyment we can from this life and rely on no one.

In Nietzsche’s opinion, Jesus was too meek and too weak. How could we worship a man who died on a cross?

But what would Paul and Jesus say to Nietzsche?

Please join us as we engage in our daily Bible conversation.


Isaiah 3:1-5:30
2 Corinthians 11:1-15
Psalm 53:1-6
Proverbs 22:28-29


Isaiah 3:1-5:30. Yesterday we began reading through the prophets. Some people really identify with them, but for most of my life, I haven’t. However, I’ve learned that when I read them as if they were written for my generation, they begin speaking to my heart. The key is to realize that the idols of old still exist, but with new names and practices. We’ll help you identify this along the way. I’ve also noticed that I pick up momentum as my brain begins to adjust and understand the figurative language.

For those of you who already enjoy the prophets: never mind!

Isaiah is sometimes referred to as the “prince of the prophets” because Israel considered him their greatest prophet. A contemporary of Amos, Hosea, and Micah, his name means “the Lord Saves.” He began his ministry in 740 B.C., about 20 years before the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel.

So what are we to understand about today’s reading? Through Isaiah, God promised destruction for Jerusalem and Judah. He is confronting them for their self-absorbed lifestyles. They care more about living extravagantly for themselves than God. Ouch! So, he promises to bring it to an end.

Yet, in the middle of impending judgment, we’re given a ray of hope: a promise of restoration and forgiveness. The judgment promised isn’t punitive, but restorative. God loves us so much that he allows us to suffer the consequences of our sin, but he also sends a deliverer (the Branch of the Lord in Isaiah 4:2).

The theme of chapter 5 is striking. God will judge his beloved vineyard (a word picture for Judah) because their actions have failed to reflect their holy God.

The hell and brimstone preaching about God in the past has dulled our senses to the fact that God is indeed holy.

Psalm 53:1-6. This psalm seems to echo the message of Isaiah. “Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (verse 3).

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.


Don’t you hate cleaning up someone else’s mess? While getting the church of Ephesus off the ground, Paul was forced into some emergency clean-up work. Unfortunately, his only recourse was to write an epistle—which we know as 2 Corinthians.

After departing from the church of Corinth, some men showed up promising to continue where Paul left off. Instead, they undermined Paul’s integrity and message. Most disturbing of all, the Corinthians believed these false teachers.

Paul defended his credibility because he didn’t want the Corinthians to stray from his message. Then he writes this…

But I am afraid that…your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.  2 Corinthians 11:3-4

Paul lamented that the false teachers had proclaimed a different Jesus, a different gospel, and a different spirit.

So what was this message the false teachers proclaimed?

Reading between the lines, it appears that the false teachers criticized Paul for presenting Jesus as nice, tame, weak, and permissive. “We don’t need to carry the cross,” they claimed. “Live for yourself and follow your passions and compulsions.”

D. A. Carson comments that “Paul’s opponents prized highly evidences of power and authority, so it may be that they had induced the Corinthians to accept a Jesus, a spirit and a gospel in which there was no place for weakness, humiliation, suffering and death.”

Sounds like (post)modern times!!

And Nietzsche’s view of Jesus.

Here’s what I think Jesus and Paul would say in response to Nietzsche and the false teachers:

Your view of freedom and strength are completely backwards. Contrary to popular belief, living without restraints doesn’t bring freedom, it brings bondage. The “anything goes” philosophy only leads to destruction. “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it, but small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

The gospel of Jesus is anything but weak. Anyone can follow their basest human inclinations and compulsions. Only the strong willingly carry the cross of Christ. And only the strongest willingly die on the cross for someone else. Jesus’ power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Although Friedrich Nietzsche aspired to become Superman, he couldn’t live up to his own beliefs. As he grew older,  he became increasingly irrational and ended up in an insane asylum. He spent the last twelve years of his life being cared for by his mother—a woman who loved Jesus.

Despite his attempts at being self-sufficient and self-determined, he became dependent, unable to make decisions on his own, and powerless.

On the other hand, weakness and reliance result in power and strength.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What would you say to Nietzsche?
  3. In what ways do you willingly or unwillingly follow Nietzsche’s philosophy?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.


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The Bruce Almighty Syndrome. It’s a Pandemic!

Human beings have come a long way. Some of our advancements are downright miraculous. Heart transplants, splitting the atom, instantaneous world-wide communication, space travel, genetic mapping, antibiotics, Facebook (just kidding), and a whole host of cures and advancements testify to human brilliance and potential. If we were to present our modern abilities to people from the past, they might think us gods.

Ironically, some of us think we are god-like today too.

It’s like the old joke where a group of brilliant scientists challenge God to a contest to create life just like God did in the beginning. The scientists believe they are up to the task. One bends down for a fist full of soil but God stops him saying, “Sorry, you have to get your own dirt.”

Silly joke or harsh truth?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Job 40:1-42:17

2 Corinthians 5:11-21

Psalm 45:1-17

Proverbs 22:14


2 Corinthians 5:11-21: Do we know what it is to “fear the Lord” as Paul said the Corinthians did? Fear in this passage does not refer to a “Friday the Thirteenth” terror. But rather to respect. Terror rises from a lack of knowledge, not knowing what waits in the dark. The fear of God, however, flows from knowledge. Paul believes we can know God and ourselves well enough to look on God with respect and ourselves with honesty. Terror dreads the unknown; fear respects reality as we know it.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.


“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” The Creator demands of the creature, Job.

To his credit Job says, “I have no answer.”

Many of us experiencing Job’s pain, would feel justified in shouting back, “Who do you think you are, God?” We believe our autonomy and accomplishments entitle us to equal footing with God.

“If I were God, I would not make people worship me,” I once quipped to a friend. I’ve heard others say, “If I were God, I would cure cancer or end war or poverty or . . . .”

It’s as if the entire planet is infected with the Bruce Almighty Syndrome. In the movie “Bruce Almighty” Jim Carey plays a frustrated, angry TV reporter named Bruce Nolan. Bruce demands God answer his questions but is not prepared for God to do so.

Suddenly endowed with God’s almighty power, Bruce works tiny, meaningless, even mean, self-centered miracles. One of the most telling miracles is when he selfishly enlarges his girlfriend’s breasts. Silly joke; harsh truth.

The truth is, like Bruce, most of us wouldn’t use God’s power to end poverty or cure cancer–not at first anyway. And even with as far as we have come and as intelligent as we are, we would have no clue what to do with the immense power God wields. Still we insist on going toe to toe with God, thinking we will badger or bash an answer out of him.

Hear though, I am not advocating blind belief and dumb doubt. Job questioned God. He asked why. But in so doing, Job did not consider himself equal to God, or as we often feel, above God. Our struggle is that we often not only command God answer our questions, we demand he prove his existence–if we don’t believe–and prove his love–if we do. Yet if God did answer, the explanation would not take away the emotional pain that prompted the query. And these demands of God almost always bleed out of our pain and loss.

“God, why?” Job cries.

“Job, I let all your children be murdered and your wealth and health disappear so that every generation who reads your story will be encouraged,” God might say.

“I am glad others will learn from my pain,” Job might answer. “But, Lord, I still miss my children. Even in these beautiful new children you have given me, I sometimes see the faces and hear the laughter of the lost ones. I am thankful, but my heart still is broken.”

“I know,” God nods.

I believe God may not receive our commands and demands as an affront to his power, holiness, and mysterious ways–though they surely are–but rather as an exercise in futility. Like the explanation of gravity given to a four-year-old, God’s answers make little sense to us. God’s questions of Job, “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place?” are not God putting Job in his place but rather showing Job his place. We are not God and cannot know life and pain and mystery as God knows it. That is not a putdown, but a reality.

Is there a remedy for Bruce Almighty Syndrome? Drop the almighty attitude. Simply become Bruce Nolan or Jim Carey or Eugene Scott, whoever God created you to be. Let go the demands, the pretensions. Job says, “I am unworthy” and puts his hand over his mouth. Saying thus opens us then to God’s touch, if not God’s answer, and is an act of faith, humility and–ultimately–an act of strength.         

  1. What do these for passages share in common?
  2. How do you see yourself in Job?
  3. What passage spoke most to you?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com


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Does God Have Anything to do With Politics?

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in 2008 candidate Barack Obama spent approximately $730 million dollars in winning the U.S. presidency. John McCain spent close to $334 million in losing. That’s over 1 billion dollars for two candidates in one race. That is a huge and troubling number for several reasons. Mostly because of what it says about how many of us view political leaders.

Does it matter who the U.S. president is? Can one person, even the one holding the most powerful office in the world, change the world economy, the global power structure, and our individual lives that much? By the amount of money spent one would assume it not only matters, but it is down right crucial. Is it?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Ezra 8:21-9:15

1 Corinthians 5:1-13

Psalm 31:1-8

Proverbs 21:1-2


Ezra 8:21-9:15: Once again Ezra shows his faith. His first response to danger and trouble is fasting, prayer, and worship. Rather than contradict how he has expressed his faith in God to the king, Ezra sets out back to Jerusalem not under the protection of the king and an army but under the hand of God. Ezra is not naming and claiming God’s protection, however. He has made a statement of faith and is going to live or die by it. Ezra leaves life and God’s reputation is in God’s hands.

1 Corinthians 5:1-13: Biblical honesty about human sin is not relegated to the Old Testament. A church member having sex with his father’s wife? And the people who know find a way to justify it? Again we see God’s Word is not sanitized. Why not paint a prettier picture of the brand new church?

Because there is enough in this book that is hard to believe. We would never believe a fairy tale. If God is real, then his story of how he relates to us must be real as well.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.


Ideas, especially political ideas, matter. Big government, small government, low taxes, high taxes, liberal, conservative, pragmatism, idealism, freedom, control: these ideas, and the people or person who wields them, affect the way we live.

On the extreme end of the spectrum, Karl Marx’ idea of communism spread and unintentionally brought untold suffering to millions. On the other end, the first ever televised debate between curmudgeonly Richard M. Nixon and handsome John F. Kennedy unintentionally changed how U.S. political candidates needed to look and present themselves.

One person, especially one with political power, can make big a difference.

This truth haunts me, particularly when the candidate I voted for, with the ideas I shared, looses. I suspect others feel the same.

Yet a greater truth overrules. God is sovereign. “The king’s [or president’s or prime minister’s or dictator’s] heart is in the hand of the Lord,” claims the author of proverbs.

This does not mean, cannot, that individual choice and responsibility are a sham. Humans are not puppets to God’s puppeteer. God is sovereign over the end result.

“[God] directs [the king’s] heart like a water course wherever he pleases,” the writer continues. Like a river inside its banks the heart of a leader knows the right way to go, yet may overrun the banks, dry up, get polluted.

In the end history flows, taking some incredibly twisted turns no doubt, into the sea, its intended destination. God can and does work all things–good and bad leaders and ideas–to accomplish his will. Money, even a billion dollars,  and power are no match.

Yes, it matters who leads us. But the thing that matters most is relinquishing our fear and hopes to the One who leads the leaders. I may not have voted for any particular leader. And even the ones I do will make mistakes and lead poorly.

But God is at the heart of what will come. I can trust in that.

  1. What do these for passages share in common?
  2. Do you believe God is sovereign?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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Evidence Of Real Power

“Power is when we have every justification to kill, and we don’t,” Oskar Schindler described to Amon Goeth in the movie Schindler’s List.

“You think that’s power?” the hardened Jewish labor camp commandante asked.
“That’s what the Emperor said,” Schindler answered back. “A man steals something, he’s brought in before the Emperor, he throws himself down on the ground. He begs for his life, he knows he’s going to die. And the Emperor…pardons him. This worthless man, he lets him go.”

“I think you are drunk.”

“That’s power, Amon. That is power.”

Join me today as we take a closer look at real power.


1 Chronicles 19:1-21:30
Romans 2:25-3:8
Psalm 11:1-7
Proverbs 19:10-12


1 Chronicles 19:1-21:30. Chapter 19 parallels 2 Samuel 10, chapter 20 parallels 2 Samuel 11, 12:15-22, and chapter 21 parallels 2 Samuel 24.

During this period of David’s life, the Chronicler retells the stories of David’s successes, but overlooks David’s shortcomings. At this point in David’s reign, he committed adultery with Bathsheba and strategized Uriah’s death. However, this sordid story is ignored.

How should we respond to this? We must remember that the Chronicles were written as a commentary on causes behind Israel’s successes and failures. Because David owned up to his sin and repented, it didn’t directly cause the kingdom to fall. It faltered, but it didn’t fall.

However, when it comes to the census, the Chronicler does reveal David’s poor judgment—and it definitely affected the kingdom of Israel. Scholars believe the reason this story is also included is because it explains the background of the location of the temple.

So why was it wrong for David to take a census? Scholars aren’t sure, but the New Bible Commentary speculates:

Perhaps as this one was a military list, David’s motives were wrong. Chronicles often makes the point that Israel’s real security lay in trust in its God, not in the size of its army (e.g. 2 Chronicles 14:11; 16:8).

Scholars also explain that Araunah, whose land is used for the site of the tabernacle, wasn’t even an Israelite. He was a Jebusite who lived in Jerusalem. Although likely a pagan, he recognized God’s hand on David and Israel, as well as the presence of the death angel. Consider this: the temple of Yahweh was located on land previously owned by a pagan gentile as the result of King David’s sin.

What does this mean?

I’d be curious to read your responses, but this fact tells me the foundation of God’s work in the world was (and still is) to reach the whole world, not just insiders. Also, it tells me that God is in the business of redeeming our sin.

Romans 2:25-3:8. Continuing his assault on the sensibilities of every good, religious person, Paul now sets his sights on circumcision. Circumcision singled out every good Jew from the run-of-the-mill Gentile. Paul then says in Romans 2:29, “A man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.”

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.


If you haven’t joined the conversation, it isn’t too late to start. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had some great conversations  about our daily readings. If you’re interested, either contribute to today’s conversation or check out the last ten days’ postings—or both!


As I mentioned last weekend, every year my wife and I spend a week on a houseboat on Lake Powell with another couple and members of their family. One night on the boat last week, the husband and I reflected on a common experience that had been equally painful to both of us.

Suddenly, I felt some unexpected energy rise up within me. Wow—I’m still angry about the offense, I reflected to myself.

So, reading through Proverbs 19:11 today sent me deeper into reflection:

A man’s wisdom gives him patience;

it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

It is to my glory to overlook an offense!

Interestingly enough, throughout Scripture we read that God deserves (and requires) all our glory. But if we want to look like God—if we want a taste of his glory—we’ll overlook an offense.

So how do we do this? The keyword in that last phrase is “overlook.” When I overlook something, I act as if I’d never seen it. In the context of forgiveness, it means treating the offending party as if they’d never committed a trespass.

But deeper still, overlooking an offense must mean more than just glossing over an offense. It means living as if the offense had never occurred. It even goes so far as treating the offending party the same way as before.

This is why overlooking an offense is our glory: God overlooks our offenses in the same way. He loves us after our offense against him the same as before. He treats us the same as before. He accepts us the same way as before. When we yield our lives to God through his son Jesus and confess our need for his all-forgiving pardon, he pardons us.

Do you want a share in God’s glory? Then overlook your offenses.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What significance do you find in knowing that the temple was constructed on land previously owned by a pagan Gentile and resulting from King David’s sin?
  3. What offenses are hard for you to overlook? Why?
  4. What offenses have you committed that you’re thankful God has chosen to overlook?
  5. What does this tell you about God?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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