Charles Stanley – Indulging Weaknesses

Judges 13:24-25

at the moment of salvation, a person becomes a brand-new creation and is set apart for God’s purposes (2 Cor. 5:17). The heavenly Father has a specific plan for the life of every believer (Eph. 2:10), and He provides each of His children with whatever is needed to accomplish that plan (2 Pet. 1:3).

Consider the life of Samson. At the time of his birth, Israel was under Philistine rule. In that wicked culture, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25). God ordained that Samson be set apart for His service—he was the one who would “begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines” (Judg. 13:5). To prepare Samson for this important mission, the Lord gave him godly parents, an upbringing uncontaminated by the culture, and incredible human strength. Samson was greatly blessed as he matured, and he became judge over Israel, with the authority to carry out the Lord’s will.

Samson was equipped with everything he needed to fulfill the Lord’s purpose. However, he had a weakness—lust—which he chose to indulge, and it eventually led to his downfall. As a result, he ended up a prisoner and was no longer in a position to fulfill his God-given purpose.

Our spiritual equipping includes the ability to resist giving in to our weaknesses. But we must be willing to turn away from temptation and follow the Lord. Samson had enormous potential to do good on behalf of God, and so do we. But he chose sin and suffered the consequences. Which will you choose today—turning to God for help or indulging your weakness?

Bible in a Year: Job 35-38

Our Daily Bread – What Really Matters

Read: Philippians 2:1–11 | Bible in a Year: 2 Chronicles 32–33; John 18:19–40

In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3–4

Two men sat down to review their business trip and its results. One said he thought the trip had been worthwhile because some meaningful new relationships had begun through their business contacts. The other said, “Relationships are fine, but selling is what matters most.” Obviously they had very different agendas.

It is all too easy—whether in business, family, or church—to view others from the perspective of how they can benefit us. We value them for what we can get from them, rather than focusing on how we can serve them in Jesus’s name. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil. 2:3–4).

Joy comes from putting another’s needs ahead of our own.

People are not to be used for our own benefit. Because they are loved by God and we are loved by Him, we love one another. His love is the greatest love of all.

Teach me, Lord, to see people as You do—bearing Your image, being worthy of Your love, and needing Your care. May Your great love find in my heart a vessel through which that love can be displayed.

Continue reading Our Daily Bread – What Really Matters

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Echoes of Forgiveness

The Apostle Peter must have felt a touch saintly when he approached Jesus asking, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Equally likely, given the manner in which he framed the question, Peter was anticipating a characteristically outlandish response from the Lord. But Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

This dominical injunction—to forgive seventy times seven—is usually taken to be a hyperbolic response, in effect meaning, as often as the offender repents, forgive without limit. Such interpretations are not incorrect. But when one traces the ‘echoes’ of Jesus’s words in the rest of Scripture, one finds that the command means more—much more.

The depth of these particular words by the Lord can be determined through, at least, three scriptural soundings. New Testament scholars have long since perceived that Jesus understood himself to be proclaiming the Jubilee Year, notably in the so-called “Nazareth Manifesto.”(2) The Jubilee was the “seven-times-seventh year” when the guilty, the debtors, the trapped, and the handicapped were set free. The Greek word for “deliverance,” “release,” or “liberty” is also the same word for “forgiveness.”(3)

The language that Jesus uses, both in the Manifesto and in his response to Peter’s question, to forgive “seventy times seven,” reveals how he understood forgiveness to be the central operative principle and practice of the Jubilee. Jesus is in effect saying that, with him, the Jubilee has come, and that his followers are to be a Jubilee-celebrating people, both receiving and giving the gracious and gratuitous gift of the Jubilee: namely, forgiveness.

The reach of the echo, however, goes further back to the primeval history of humankind. In Genesis chapter 4, Lamech, a descendant of Cain’s, is found reciting (perhaps, even singing) to his wives a rather unromantic poem: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”(4) After Cain murdered his brother Abel, God put a mark on Cain in order to prevent the avenging of Abel’s slaying, warning that anyone who killed Cain would be avenged sevenfold. God is here not so much prescribing as God is predicting this sevenfold “law of revenge.” Lamech’s poem reveals that, within a few generations after Cain, violence and counter-violence has compounded and escalated frighteningly—seventy-sevenfold.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Echoes of Forgiveness

John MacArthur – Strength for Today – Integrity Reflects Godly Wisdom

“As for [Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego], God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams” (Daniel 1:17).

Godly wisdom guards against the influences of a godless society.

From the beginning of human history Satan has tried to confuse and confound God’s purposes by corrupting man’s thinking. In the Garden of Eden he succeeded by calling God’s character into question and convincing Eve that her disobedience would have no consequences. To this day he continues to deceive entire civilizations by blinding “the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4).

Daniel and his friends were captives of a pagan king who wanted to dilute their allegiance to God by reprogramming their thinking. However, unlike Eve, they were determined not to be overcome by the evil influences around them. God honored their integrity and taught them everything they needed to know to be productive in Babylonian society and to influence it for righteousness.

Babylon was the center of learning in its day, boasting of advanced sciences, sophisticated libraries, and great scholars. God gave these young men the ability to learn and retain that level of knowledge, and the wisdom to apply it to their lives. Furthermore, He gave Daniel the ability to interpret dreams and receive visions—gifts that would prove crucial later in his life as God elevated him to a position of prominence in Babylon and revealed the plan of history to him (see chapters 7—12).

Surely Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego didn’t understand all that God had in store for them or why He would allow them to be tested so severely at such a young age. But when they chose to love and trust Him despite their circumstances, they demonstrated the kind of wisdom that protects God’s children from the influences of a godless society. As we do the same, God uses us in significant ways. Also, we find that God never calls us to a challenge that He won’t equip us to handle.

Suggestions for Prayer

King David prayed, “Teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). Make that your prayer as well.

For Further Study

Read Colossians 1:9-12. What are the results of being filled with “spiritual wisdom and understanding”?

Wisdom Hunters – Do’s and Don’ts of Faith 

Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin. James 4:17

As a parent of young children, I find myself often breaking up disputes and arguments. “Don’t cut your brother’s hair,” “Don’t sit on your sister’s head,” and “Don’t hit each other with the soccer ball” are all things that have come out of my mouth in the past month!

When I reflect on these moments, I realize that from a very early age we learn to associate sin with the breaking of rules and direct disobedience. And in part, this is certainly true. But I wonder if this is the full picture of what Scripture means when it says to “put on the new self,” (Eph. 4:24) and to live “in holiness and righteousness before him all our days?” (Lk. 1:75)

Sin isn’t just our active disobedience but it is also our willingness to withhold love. I’ve often heard it said that sin is a “failure to love.” At times, this failure results in explicit actions of anger, pride, and selfishness. Yet we can also fail to love without saying a word or doing a single thing!

One of my favorite prayers is a prayer of confession to God which acknowledges that we have sinned by “what we have done, and by what we have left undone.” I think it’s easy for us to identify and repent of the things we’ve done that we shouldn’t have done. This is how we as parents often speak to our kids: “Don’t!” Yet do we have the wisdom and grace to also see the things we’ve left undone that we ought to have done? This is the “Do!” of the Christian faith.

“Those who withhold kindness from a friend forsake the fear of the Almighty”(Job 6:14).

Continue reading Wisdom Hunters – Do’s and Don’ts of Faith 

Today’s Turning Point with David Jeremiah – Cover Up

He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.

Proverbs 28:13

Recommended Reading

Isaiah 1:18-20

There are two ways of covering sin. The first is by our own effort, which, in our society, is called a cover-up. Every political junkie knows that politicians get into more trouble covering up their crimes than by committing them to begin with, and the same is true for us. If you have a secret habit, a guilty conscience, or a moral failure, Proverbs 28:13 is a warning. Do not try to cover it up or explain it away.

There’s another way of covering our sin, and that’s by confessing it. Psalm 32 says, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Isaiah said, “The iniquity of Jacob will be covered. For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 27:9; 61:10).

Hidden sin yields the crop of guilt, but confession brings release and peace. Is there something in your life that needs to be covered? Don’t try to hide it. Confess it, and let the blood of Jesus Christ cover your guilt with its crimson flow.

Jesus’ blood covers all of your sins—past, present, and future…. He wants you to tell Him straightforwardly what you’ve done so that you can experience the power of His forgiveness.

Charles Stanley


Psalms 22 – 27

Joyce Meyer – Make Mercy a Way of Life

It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness.—Lamentations 3:22-23 AMPC

Aren’t you thankful for God’s abundant mercy? it is new every morning. Surely we would all live miserable, defeated lives if it were not for His compassion and willingness to forgive us.

When we meditate on God’s mercy and truly realize how much He willingly forgives us, we can much more easily show mercy to others. Good relationships are impossible unless we are generous with mercy and forgiveness. Being merciful simply means forgiving others even though their actions would warrant our anger.

Jesus said that we are to forgive our enemies and be kind. In this way we show ourselves to be like our Father in heaven, for He is merciful and kind.

God’s mercy is new every morning, and I am glad—because I am sure I use my allotted portion every day. I am grateful for a new, fresh start each day. When we make mistakes, He does not want us to try to sacrifice to make up for them. When others hurt or offend us, He wants us to extend mercy to them.

Learn to give and receive mercy regularly; and let mercy become a way of life for you.

Love Others Today: God’s mercies are new for you right now! Receive the mercy He has for you and extend mercy to everyone around you.

From the book Love Out Loud by Joyce Meyer.

Girlfriends in God – Action Breeds Confidence

“Have I not commanded you be strong and courageous,” God encouraged Joshua. “Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged. For I the Lord am with you wherever you may go.”

Josh. 1:9

Friend to Friend

How do you react to fear of the unknown when it comes to stepping out in faith or living bold? Everyone has his or her own unique way.

Some respond to fear by retreating to the safety of cul-de-sac Christianity, which is actually one of the most dangerous places of all. Dale Carnegie once said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

You will not become be more courageous and learn to live bold by avoiding your fears. Courage based on the faithfulness and love of God is strengthened with every step of faith, no matter how small. Write the letter. Start the conversation. Sign up to volunteer. Create the blog. Make the donation. Mend a relationship. Each step of obedience creates momentum that breaks through the stronghold of fear.

The woman who lives life to the fullest is generally the one who is willing to do and to dare. Allow God to infuse you with an enthusiasm and gusto that gives fear the boot right out the door, with you following close behind.

As you consider what might happen if you step out in faith, you must also consider what will happen if you play if safe and don’t. When we live bold, we experience God’s blessings. When we don’t, we won’t.

Continue reading Girlfriends in God – Action Breeds Confidence

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – You Cannot Outgive God

“For if you give, you will get! Your gift will return to you in full and overflowing measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use to give – large or small – will be used to measure what is given back to you” (Luke 6:38).

R.G. Le Tourneau was one of God’s great businessmen. He wrote a book, entitledGod Runs My Business. Though he had little formal training, he became one of America’s leading industrialists, developing and securing patents for many major improvements in earth-moving equipment. He gave away millions of dollars, and he founded a wonderful Christian college which bears his name. I had known and admired him for many years, but one of my most memorable experiences with him was at his plant in Longview, Texas. As we chatted, I was captivated by this exuberant, joyful layman who was overflowing with the love of God, still creative in his later years, and always proclaiming the truth that you cannot outgive God – the more you give away the more you receive. He had discovered a law of the universe.

The giving of the tithe (ten percent of our increase) is an Old Testament principle. The New Testament principle of giving is expressed in this passage: “The more you give, the more you will receive.” I personally do not believe that that involves indiscriminate giving, but rather that we should prayerfully evaluate all the various opportunities that are available to further the cause of Christ and His kingdom.

New Testament concept makes clear that everything belongs to God. We are custodians, stewards, of that which is entrusted to us for only a brief moment of time. Three-score and ten years (or possibly a little more), and then all that we possess will pass on to another. We are not to hoard, nor are we to pass on large estates to our heirs. That which is entrusted to God’s children is given to them to be used while they are still alive. We are to care for our own, and make provision for their needs, but all that is entrusted to us beyond that amount should be spent while we are still alive, while we can guarantee proper stewardship.

Bible Reading: II Corinthians 8:1-6

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Mindful of this spiritual principle, that everything belongs to God and He has entrusted me with the privilege and responsibility of being a good steward, I will seek every opportunity to invest all the time, talent and treasure available to me while I am still alive, for the enhancement of the kingdom of God.

Ray Stedman – Unrecognized Temptation

Read: Luke 11:2-4

And lead us not into temptation. Luke 11:4b

This part of the Lord’s prayer deals with the realm of the spirit. In the unseen war of the spirit, the greatest needs of our life are deliverance and protection. But an immediate problem arises here, for Scripture reveals that temptation is necessary to us, a very real part of our life in this fallen, flawed world. No one escapes it in the Christian life. Furthermore, though God himself never tempts us to sin, yet he does test us in these difficult and discouraging circumstances, and these things become the instruments of God to strengthen us, to build us up and thus to give us victory. When we read this prayer, then we are confronted with this question: Are we really expected to pray that God will not do what he must do to accomplish his work within us? After all, even Jesus, we are told, was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. What then does he mean?

I confess I have puzzled and prayed and read about this, and I am convinced that what he means here is that this is a prayer to be kept from unrecognized temptation. When temptation is recognized as such, it can be resisted, and when we resist, it is always a source of strength and growth in our life. If I am filling out my income tax and I find that some income has come to me through other than ordinary channels and there is no way of anyone checking it, I am confronted with a temptation to omit it, but I know it is wrong. No one has to tell me; I know it is wrong. When I resist that, I find I am stronger the next time when a larger amount is involved. You see, when we recognize lust as lust and hate as hate and cowardice as a temptation to be a coward, this is one thing. It is a rather simple matter to resist obvious evil, if we really mean to walk with God. But temptation is not always so simple. There are times when I think I am right, and with utmost sincerity and integrity of heart I do what I believe is the right thing, and, later, look back upon it and see that I was tragically wrong.

Continue reading Ray Stedman – Unrecognized Temptation

Words of Hope – Daily Devotional – We Belong to the Lord

Read: Romans 14:7-9

If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. (v. 8)

When trying to comfort the grieving, it can be all too easy to resort to platitudes. Ask any bereaved person what kinds of comments they found more hurtful than helpful after their loved one died. Although people are trying to be supportive, their rather trite phrases like “She’s in a better place” or “God needed him more than we did” don’t always have the intended effect. Even when we do believe, for instance, that a person has been mercifully freed of bodily pain through the release of death, comments like these oversimplify the situation and can leave grievers to feel like they “shouldn’t” be sad.

This verse from Romans risks sounding like a platitude, as though death isn’t that big of a deal. But its truth runs far deeper, and its intent is to grant comfort. It doesn’t mean that death doesn’t matter, but that death does not have the power to take us out of Christ’s hold on us. As the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism reminds us, our only comfort both in life and in death is that we belong to our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. This doesn’t trivialize death, but instead it extols the power of Christ, who died and lives again. Neither his death, nor ours, can take us outside the realm of God’s care. With both anguish and hope, we can entrust our loved ones into God’s hands.


We belong to you in life and in death; grant us courage and comfort.

Jessica Bratt Carle

Greg Laurie – The Fringe Benefit of Holiness

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

—Matthew 5:6

Have a nice day. We throw that expression around a lot in our culture. When you make a purchase, the cashier might say, “Thank you. Have a nice day.” Or, maybe you want to return something, and you’re told, “No, we cannot take that back again. Have a nice day.” It’s really their way of saying, “You can go now.”

But what does it really mean to have a nice day? I suppose it would be a day free of sickness, conflict, and hardship—a day that is, well, nice.

That is how God is sometimes perceived. We might imagine Him thundering from Mount Sinai, “Have a nice day!” We like to think of Him as perpetually smiling, wanting us all to be happy, healthy, and wealthy.

I’m not suggesting that God cannot or will not bless us with health or even wealth. Nor am I suggesting that God doesn’t want us to be happy. But that is not God’s primary objective for us. God doesn’t sit around in Heaven and wonder how He can make us happier. What God is really interested in is how He can make us more holy. He wants us to be holy more than He wants us to be happy.

The remarkable thing is that if you really are a holy person, then you will, in turn, be a happy person. Happiness is the fringe benefit of holiness. What does it mean to be holy? Maybe if we respelled holy as wholly, as in wholly committed, we would get a better understanding of the word. You can be wholly committed to surfing or wholly committed to golfing or wholly committed to money. That is a commitment.

If you want to be holy, be wholly committed to God. You will be happy as a result.

Kids 4 Truth International – Jesus Wants You To Be a Light for Him

“Ye are the light of the world….Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”(Matthew 5:14a, 16)

Have you ever been in an airplane at night? When you look down over a city as you are flying in an airplane, you cannot make out anything because it is so dark. All you can see are the lights. The lights may be of different sizes and different colors. Some are brighter than others. But they are all beautiful to look at.

If you look around yourself right now, you will see darkness all around you. You may not see it on the outside. The darkness I am talking about is the darkness inside the hearts of men. Many people do not believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son. Some of them don’t believe that God exists at all! Their hearts are dark because they do not have the light of the true Savior.

Because you know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you must show others that you are different because of Him. This is what Jesus meant when He told believers to be the light of the world. When you let your light shine, others will see it, and will want to glorify God and know that Jesus Christ can save them, too.

Maybe you are asking, how can I let my light shine? Whether you are at home, at school, or at play, you must try to please God in everything you do. Even if everyone else is doing something wrong, you must not do it if you know that it does not please God. For example, if your friends ask you to help them play a mean trick on someone, you must ask yourself if that will please God. When you are at home, you can please God by being obedient to your parents. Some people may make fun of you for being polite and kind, but because you are pleasing God, your light will shine before them.

God has commanded us to let our light shine before men. Your unsaved friends and family should be able to see that you are a child of God because you try to please Him in everything that you do.

Jesus wants me to be a light in this world so that others will come to know Him.

My Response:

» Am I trying to please God in all that I do?

» Where do I need to let my light shine?

The Navigators – Jerry Bridges – Holiness Day by Day Devotional – Any Room for Grace?

Today’s Scripture: 2 Peter 3:18

“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

As we practice the disciplines necessary to develop Bible-based convictions—diligent but dependent Bible study, Scripture memorization, continual meditation, and applying Scripture to real-life situations—is there any room for grace? What happens if I stumble in Scripture memorization, for example?

First of all, God does not love us any less. His love for us is based solely on the fact that we’re in union with his Son. Christ’s righteousness has become our righteousness. Our sins were laid upon him, and the penalty for them was fully paid by him on the cross. Daily his blood cleanses us from all sin. God’s grace, his unmerited favor, is never conditioned on our performance but always on the unchanging merit of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our progress in the pursuit of holiness, however, is conditioned on our practice of the disciplines God has given us. It’s true that we’re transformed increasingly into the likeness of Christ by the Spirit. It’s also true that one of the chief means—in fact, probably the chief means—he uses is the renewing of our minds. And Paul was quite emphatic in Romans 12:2 about submitting ourselves to the transforming influence of God’s Word by which our minds are renewed.

Therefore, we may say that our acceptance by God the Father is based solely on his grace to us through Christ. His favor is never earned by what we do nor forfeited by what we don’t do. But we may say with equal emphasis that our progress in pursuing holiness is significantly conditioned on our use of God-appointed disciplines. And they have been appointed by God and initiated by God.

The Navigators – Leroy Eims – Daily Discipleship Devotional – The Ministry of Angels

Today’s Scripture: Hebrews 1-2

“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.” – Exodus 23:20

I know a young man who lives in the city of Monrovia in Liberia, West Africa. A few years ago, he was involved in a terrible accident. He fell off a truck going at high speed down a crowded road. When he hit the ground, he was struck in the head by another vehicle, and his scalp was peeled back by the force of the blow.

The emergency team at the hospital was convinced he would die in a matter of minutes. Nevertheless, they sewed his scalp back, cleaned him up as best they could, and placed him in a bed in a crowded room.

In the middle of the night, the young man regained consciousness. His relatives were sitting near his bed asleep. And in the corner stood two men in white. They glowed with a shining white brightness. They came over to his bed, and without waking his family, told him they were angels who had been given charge over him to guard him and to minister to his needs. They then left, but not before assuring him they would always be near–that he could count on their help.

To the astonishment of the hospital staff, the young man made a complete recovery and regained his full strength. Today he suffers no effects from the accident, and of course his faith in God has been greatly strengthened.

Before you conclude this young man was hallucinating, look up the word angel in a Bible concordance and do a short study on these beings. You might start with Hebrews 1:14: “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” By the way, have you considered that angels are watching over you right now?


Lord, thank You for Your Word that says the angels protect us and minister to our needs. Amen.

To Ponder

Do you believe angels really exist?

BreakPoint –  Why Christianity is Not Dead

In his classic tale, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” Mark Twain tells of Tom and Huckleberry Finn’s brief career as pirates. When the boys get bored with life on the Mississippi and hang up their hooks and return home, they find the whole town has gathered for a funeral—their funeral. Concealed at the back of the church, Tom and Huck are so moved by the minister’s eulogy they join in weeping. That is, until someone catches sight of the drowned boys, miraculously back from the dead.

Well, that feeling of attending your own funeral is one that Christians are getting pretty familiar with these days. But to borrow a phrase from Twain himself, “Reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated.” And that’s not only true of Christianity, but of religion in general, which prognosticators from the secular press and academics continually warn have one foot in the grave.

But they are late to the party. Experts have been prophesying the demise of religion for at least 150 years. Karl Marx, way back in the 1860’s, predicted that religion would vanish once the working class no longer needed the “opiate” of the life to come. Sigmund Freud wrote in 1927, “in the future science will go beyond religion, and reason will replace faith in God.”

In the 21st century, the predictions of religion’s extinction continue, despite the stubborn existence of believers. In 2013, biopsychologist Nigel Barber wrote a book predicting that within thirty years, religion would effectively disappear in 137 countries. And an article last month in the U.K.’s Independent reported on yet another team of scientists who expect faith to die out worldwide.

Dr. Nicholas Baumard, who works in the infamously imaginative field of evolutionary psychology, recently co-authored a study claiming to explain the origins of religion, and why we can expect it to vanish as the world develops economically.

Continue reading BreakPoint –  Why Christianity is Not Dead

Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – TWO SONS AND ONE PROMISE

Read Genesis 21:8-21

Abraham’s family life seems strange to most modern readers. In part, this strangeness is due to cultural differences and different customs— few of us are nomadic or live in vast, extended family tribes. But in addition, the strangeness of Abraham’s family is that God was using them as a kind of living parable, providing lessons in following God for future generations.

Ishmael was the firstborn son of Abraham—but he was not the son God had promised. Perhaps he felt insecure as the son of Sarah’s servant, or he may have discerned that Abraham felt differently toward Isaac than he did toward Ishmael. Ishmael was likely aware that Isaac had a special place in God’s plan. For whatever reason— perhaps even just plain brotherly teasing—he mocked Isaac, and Sarah saw it and demanded that Abraham banish both Ishmael and Hagar from the household.

Despite Abraham’s reluctance to cast out his son, God confirmed Sarah’s harsh sentence but also promised Abraham that He would care for Ishmael. God dealt compassionately with Hagar and Ishmael by providing for their needs and making Ishmael into a great nation. But it was Isaac who was the child of promise.

In Galatians 4:28–30 Paul reveals the spiritual lesson in these events. The only way to become a child of God is by way of promise, not through human effort. We cannot become God’s children by trying to obey His commands or solve the problem of sin on our own terms. Righteousness only comes to us as a gift through faith. Like Abraham and Sarah, God must do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Those who try to obtain righteousness by keeping the law are slaves to the law and to sin. The law cannot free us from sin.


This story of Abraham and Ishmael is not a manual for how to treat your children! It is a story to teach us something about grace. Many religious systems teach that we must work our way into God’s favor. But the way of law and the way of grace are incompatible with one another. We must accept righteousness as a gift or we will not have it at all.


Last Thursday, a former Stanford student was sentenced to six months in prison for sexual assault. A week later, the public is still outraged.

It’s not just the facts of the case. (For more, see Nick Pitts’s The Need for and Loss of Sacredness.) Brock Turner was found guilty on three felony counts, but this story is, tragically, not unique on America’s campuses. Nearly 100 colleges and universities had at least ten reports of rape on their main campuses in 2014; at Stanford alone, there were twenty-six reports of rape that year.

The case is generating headlines for a number of reasons.

In part, it’s because the crime was so horrific, a fact made clear by the victim’s extremely moving letter, which she read aloud to her attacker at his sentencing. Her letter describes what happened in graphic detail, giving voice to her horrible trauma and ongoing suffering.

In part, it’s because the perpetrator was a member of the Stanford swimming team and has been viewed as a child of privilege. His father’s claim that his son should not have to go to prison for “twenty minutes of action” was especially reprehensible to many.

But I think the continuing outrage over this crime has to do especially with the sentence imposed. Judge Aaron Persky of the Santa Clara County Superior Court sentenced Turner to six months in jail and three years probation. Turner should have received between eight and twenty years in prison for his crime, according to recommendations from the United States Sentencing Commission. The judge cited mitigating factors and determined that a longer jail sentence would not suit Turner’s rehabilitation as a sex offender.