Who Then Is This Jesus Christ?

Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This is the primary message relayed throughout the Gospel of Mark: Jesus is one with the Father, God in the flesh, full of power and authority over nature, demons, disease, and even death.

For many believers who have put their faith in Christ, Jesus’ power and authority is now made visible to us. Our eyes have been opened to him. We pour over the pages of Scripture, read about Jesus healing Jarius’ daughter and casting out Legion, and we worship along with the centurion, who said at the foot of the cross, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)

But it’s important for believers to realize that we, too, were once in spiritual darkness, unable to see the glory of Jesus Christ. We used to respond differently to Jesus. Before God kindly and graciously opened our eyes, the Bible tells us that we were blind to the truth. More than that, we were suppressors of the truth. We did not want to see the truth because the truth, we thought, would only condemn us (Romans 1:18).

So what a breath of fresh air when God allowed us to see the light of the knowledge of himself in the face of his Son: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). Christ came and died and rose to be our Advocate, to cover us in his righteousness, if only we would trust his ability to do so by faith.

Many today are still blind and unable to see the glory of Jesus as the Son of God. And this is nothing new; many people in Jesus’ day were also blind to his person and work, his power and authority, his self-revealing holiness and goodness and divinity. In fact, in the middle chapters of Mark alone (3-7), we see various responses to Jesus from five different groups of people. It is important that we be familiar with these responses as we both search our own hearts and walk beside people of every context and background in our day to day lives.

The Religious

Perhaps the clearest portrait of this group is found in Mark chapter 7, where we read about a confrontation between the Pharisees and the disciples. The disciples had eaten without washing their hands, so the Pharisees decided to use their filth as an opportunity to make Jesus look bad in front of the crowds.

They asked Jesus, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” (7:5) Jesus, in return, calls them hypocrites and says this:

This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (6,7)

Rather than seeing Jesus as the Son of God, “The Religious” saw a threat to their own pride and power. See, if your pride is in your own morality, like theirs was, then anyone who crushes your attempt at being moral is going to be one of two things: your enemy…or your Savior. For this person will either threaten your own idea of what is right and wrong, as he claims to be the moral standard, or this person will be a refuge for you as you fall into his perfection and cry out for his help! As for the Pharisees, they were threatened by Jesus – so threatened that they plotted with the scribes to try and convict him of breaking the Law of Moses (3:6).

Who do you know who might fall into this category of response to Christ? The person who has a general belief in God but who believes that good works are sufficient for salvation. The person who holds a high standard of living in their day to day and judges anyone who doesn’t follow it to-a-tee…including themselves. The person who gleans more anxiety from spiritual disciplines rather than joy and freedom.

Maybe this is someone you know, or maybe it’s you. Jesus’ message for all of us is this: It is possible to honor Jesus with our lips and have it mean absolutely nothing. He calls it vain worship; we might call it “faking it” or “going through the motions.” Either way, it’s false worship because it’s misdirected worship. It’s about worshiping our own goodness and abilities, rather than God’s goodness. It’s about making ourselves feel better and boosting our own self-confidence through doing the “right things.”

Jesus, the Son of God, doesn’t want our empty, outward actions that are more devoted to ourselves than to him. He wants our hearts, our affections, that are cast upon his own goodness first, being transformed into outward worship as a result.

The Demons

The next “group” to respond to Jesus includes the demons and the “unclean spirits.” Mark tells us that “whenever the unclean spirits saw [Jesus], they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” And he strictly ordered them not to make him known” (3:11-12).

It’s fascinating that those overtly opposed to Christ’s glory, holiness, and work proclaim him rightly: “You are the Son of God.” This teaches us, again, that it is possible to honor Jesus with our lips and have it mean absolutely nothing.

In teaching about true, regenerative faith, James writes this:

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? (James 2:18-20)

In other words, just because someone titles Jesus correctly as the Son of God does not mean that they have faith; in fact, it could mean the exact opposite, that they attack his deity and perfection out of a hardened, evil heart.

Some of the smartest people I’ve met have known truths about Jesus but bore no fruit of holiness because their knowledge was not rooted in faith. It is only by faith in the Son of God, a belief in his ability to save needy, desperate sinners, that a person bears the fruit of the Spirit. Is your testimony of Jesus, or that of someone you know, an empty label, your heart hardened to his glory?

The Resistant

The next group we meet is extremely common nowadays, and we see its prevalence even in Jesus’ time. “The Resistant” are those people who get a taste of Jesus…but who are offended by him, rather than humbly broken by his love and grace.

The best example of resistance to Jesus is found in Mark chapter 6, when Jesus ministers in his hometown, Nazareth:

On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. (Mark 6:2-6)

This passage makes extremely clear that the teaching of the gospel is the fragrance from death to death for some who hear it (2 Corinthians 2:16). People are resistant firstly because, by nature, their hearts are hardened and rebellious and secondly, because the gospel demands the giving up of their very lives to the Lordship of Jesus. This is deeply offensive to people who insist on believing that truth is relative and that their lives are accountable to no one but themselves.

Notice that Jesus “could do no mighty work there” because of “their unbelief.” A person resistant to Jesus, questioning his truth and denying his power and authority, is rocky ground where the seed of God’s Word cannot take root and grow (Mark 4:4). If this is you today, don’t resist Jesus any longer! He has demonstrated his power and authority by rising from the grave, and he reigns over creation, including your own life. Submit to him by faith, knowing that he desires not to condemn you but to give you life in his name.

The Perplexed

Often, the disciples of Jesus cannot seem to understand his identity, even though he is walking right alongside them in the flesh. Mark’s Gospel confirms how perplexed the disciples often were by Christ. But don’t we see ourselves in these men?

When the twelve men get caught in a storm at sea, they are terrified to find Jesus taking a peaceful nap on a cushion in the boat. When they wake him, he rebukes the wind and the sea, saying to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40). We are then told the men “were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”’ (41).

Jesus, the one who called the disciples to himself, for whom they left everything to follow, who had healed a paralytic, a man with leprosy, and one with an evil spirit, is still utterly perplexing to the men! Their questioning reveals to us that it is possible to know Jesus but not to trust him fully.

Even King Herod knew of Jesus and his miraculous powers as demonstrated through John the Baptist (6:14), but Mark tells us that he was perplexed all the same (20).

Faith in this life can be a complicated thing because “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). The disciples did walk by sight, yet even they struggled to trust Jesus with their whole hearts when fearful circumstances arose. How easy it is to take our eyes off Jesus and fix them on what’s happening around us. But Jesus gives us more grace, continuing to reveal his own glory to us, so that we will gaze increasingly upon him and not upon our storms.

The Believing

Finally, we see a response to Christ in Mark 5 that should deeply encourage us and spur on our own faith. Jarius, a ruler of the synagogue, has a daughter who is dying, and he believes that Jesus can simply lay hands on her and make her well (5:23). While Jesus is enroute to Jarius’ home, some men report that his daughter has died, and they encourage Jarius not to trouble Jesus any longer (35).

But Jarius, by faith, believes in Jesus’ power to heal his daughter after Jesus says directly to him, “Do not fear, only believe” (36). What is stunning about this command is its directness: Jarius is only able to follow Christ by faith because Jesus has first commanded it within him. Lo and behold, Jesus raises Jarius’ daughter to life by a two authoritative words from his lips: “Talitha cumi” (41), which means “little girl, I say to you, arise,” and everyone was “immediately overcome with amazement.”

This account beautifully teaches that faith is a gift from God, imparted to us through the Word of Life, Jesus Christ. It is through our seeking him in the Scriptures, as Jarius sought Jesus, that we come face to face with his power and authority and are changed.

What are you afraid of today? What obstacle seems too cumbersome for you? With whom will you share Jesus? Where do you need to believe Jesus and exercise your faith in him?

Hear him say to you with all power and authority on heaven and earth, “Do not fear, only believe!” Follow him trustingly, no matter the outcome, knowing, understanding, believing he is who he says he is: the Son of God!

[Post Credit: Unlocking the Bible]

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Five Reasons We Can Trust God in the Detours of Our Lives

As I drove to work the other morning, I couldn’t help but get frustrated at the road work happening in our neighborhood. Big, orange “Detour” signs regaled the road, signaling to drivers that they would need to take an alternative route. I turned right, onto a suburban street I did not recognize, hoping the detour would not make me late for work. My traveling, time-table, and safety was now in the hands of the construction workers who had mapped out the orange detour route, and I hoped that they had done their job successfully!

My initial frustration, however, soon turned to curiosity, as I found my car weaving its way through streets I had not known existed. When did that school get there? I questioned, as my car approached an elementary building bustling with parents dropping off their kids. This was the not the first time I had been re-routed very near to our home, being forced to discover the suburban treasures (nature included) hidden amongst the tree-lined streets.

It so happened that the construction workers did perform their jobs with excellence because I successfully made my way out of the detour and to work on time.

This is one very literal example of a life detour, but what about others we experience?

The unexpected loss of a child. Health that has made a turn for the worst. The sudden dismantling of a friendship. The unfortunate destruction of personal property after a violent storm. The crumbling of a particular set of plans that seemed so sure, so guaranteed.

Detours come in many different shapes and sizes, but all of them share one thing in common: We didn’t see them coming. They catch us off-guard, leaving us frustrated, confused, curious, even heart-broken. We question why things had to happen this way, at this time. The ultimate temptation is to become discouraged, even angry at God, as we experience our faith being rocked.

As I read in Exodus this morning, it became clear that the Israelites went through a similar experience during the time when God called them out from slavery in Egypt. I’m going to skip from verse to verse so you can grasp the full picture of the story:

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea… (Exodus 13:17-18)

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night… (13:21)

“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so… (14:4)

When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly… (14:10)

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent…” (14:13-14)

And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea… (14:22-23)

Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses… (14:30-31)

“You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode…” (15:13)

God took the Israelites on a detour of their own, as is made clear by the first passage: “God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near.” I wonder if the people were thinking, Where is God leading us? This route seems kind of roundabout…wouldn’t it be easier to go through Philistia? If they reacted in any way like I did on my drive to work, they were probably frustrated, confused, and even discouraged because the way did not seem clear.

From this account, we can glean five particular reasons to trust God in the detours of our lives:

1. The way God leads us may not make sense to us, but he has his reasons for each and every detour.

I absolutely love how the Bible records God’s thoughts about the detour he provided for the Israelites: “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” His people most certainly did not perceive his reasons, just as we often do not hear the mind of God as we move throughout our days (Isaiah 55:9). But rest assured, God, in his divine sovereignty and wisdom, has a reason for the detours he instates upon our lives. And because we know that God is good, we can therefore trust that his every reason for these detours is equally good.

2. Detours purpose to showcase God’s glory, both to our enemies and for the sake of our own faith.

When shifts in our plans occur, how quickly do we complain and grumble? For me, quickly. It doesn’t take long before I am confounded and unsure about the purpose of changed plans or unexpected suffering. But God makes it absolutely clear that he purposes to reveal his great power and glory through these detours. This illustration might seem a stretch, but consider the construction worker who strategically placed the orange “Detour” signs beside the roads: When I got back on my normal route, he was glorified in my mind as I thought, He did his job well!

How much more will we (and our Enemy) know our mighty God’s power when he is ultimately victorious at the coming of Christ? At the Day, we will proclaim, “Every detour was worth it!” and we will glorify our God in the ultimate sense when we worship him for eternity. For now, we can choose to extol his name in the midst of the detours of life because we know that his glory will be revealed, and we can also bear witness to a world without hope by trusting his ways and praising his wisdom.

3. When a detour feels threatening or confusing, we can trust that God is indeed safeguarding us.

Exodus 14 mentions twice that God erected walls of water around the Israelites, as they made their way through the Red Sea on dry ground. And when God repeats himself, we should pay attention because he is trying to tell us something of great importance! What do these walls of water mean, for them and for us?

They indicate that God’s presence and protection go with us, even while enduring seasons of detours. How can we know this to be true, especially when we feel left alone to fend for ourselves and God seems distant?

Answer: the cross of Christ. Jesus, the sinless Son of God, bore our sins upon himself at Calvary and, as a result, was justly rejected by the holy God, who turned his face away from his Son’s suffering. And all of this so that we would never know God’s rejection or abandonment; for when we trust Jesus’ work on the cross for our righteousness, we are identifying with him, and God clothes us in his perfection. When he looks at us, he sees Christ!

Because Jesus was rejected, we will never be. More than that, in this life we are promised the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit and the protection of Christ as our soul’s everlasting Advocate. God is indeed safeguarding his children, giving them his peace that surpasses understanding, nourishment of truth from his Word, and freedom from fear and doubt through the gospel.

4. Detours cause us to see God’s character more clearly.

Just as I discovered many previously unknown treasures on my driving detour — the school, trees, neighborhoods, and all — so God uses the detours of our lives to teach us about himself. How would we know that God is our Eternal Comfort, unless he places us in an uncomfortable position? How would we proclaim with praises that Christ is our Tender Shepherd unless he exposes us to threatening dangers and suffering? How would we extol our Righteous Judge unless he unveils through our exposing circumstances what the cross accomplished for our sake? Detours foster intimacy with Christ, making them all worth it.

5. God uses detours to make firm our hope and, ultimately, to plant us in the heavenly places with Christ.

The bright orange signs that led me on my detour were not in vain; they actually helped me to know the way through the construction. Through your present detour — be it sickness or pain or changed plans — God is molding you as clay in his intentional, compassionate hands to look more like his Son. Indeed, detours exercise our faith and test our hope.

For those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ, we will emerge from life’s detours as gold refined by fire. We will finally be home: “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.”

And in the ultimate sense, as believers are glorified with Christ in eternity, we will realize that life on earth was one big detour: a purposed adventure written by the Great Storyteller, for the intent of calling us to salvation and preparing us for paradise with the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus, and the great God of our every detour and our forever eternity.

Christian blog

Is It Right for Christians to be Ambitious?

Can Christians be ambitious in a way that is pleasing to God? Or is all ambition purely selfish?

Allow me to lay down some context for the above questions by simply saying this: The pursuit of glory is a never-ending battle between the Spirit and the flesh, and it is a part of the human experience.

For example, in one minute I’ll have a burning desire to use the gifts God has given me in a way that is honoring to him, and it is utterly clear to me that my desires are solely for the spread of his fame. But in the next minute, my thoughts will have turned 180 degrees to my own self-glory: If I use this gift, what will people think? Will I get recognized if I work hard? Will the outcome of this effort be in my favor?

In Paul’s very appropriate (and true) words,

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (Romans 7:21-23)

Captivity? Yes. A war being waged? Absolutely. My guess is that you know this glory-battle well. In fact, I would not believe you if you claimed you had never struggled with it! The fall of mankind into sin (Genesis 3) was a result of this very battle between the flesh and the Spirit, between “the law of God” and the “law of sin,” so it only makes sense that we would continue to struggle with it to this day.

Now that we’ve pinpointed the problem, what do we do about it? What does the Bible say about Christians being ambitious?

Let’s learn from the story of Paul and Barnabas at Lystra (Acts 14). We are told that the apostle Paul has just healed a lame man, crippled from birth, with the Spirit-empowered words, “Stand upright on your feet.” Imagine that you are a bystander in the crowd and, before your very eyes, a lame beggar immediately becomes well. Amazing! Astonishing! You would hardly believe what you were seeing, and you would immediately assume that Paul had spiritual forces working on his behalf.

This is exactly what is happening in Acts 14. Seeing this miraculous episode, the crowds begin to worship Paul and Barnabas as Greek gods, calling them Zeus and Hermes (v12).

But notice the response of the apostles:

“Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them. (Acts 14:15-18)

This account teaches a life-transforming truth about how believers are to examine their pursuits: When the mercy and grace of Christ as revealed in the gospel is our primary focus, then his glory, not our own, will be our ambition.

So when the glory-battle arises within our flesh, we can use these three questions, formed from Acts 14, to redirect our focus to the grace and mercy of Christ… READ MORE

[Post Credit: Crosswalk]

Three Reasons to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Grab a pen and paper.

Write down ten of your favorite things in the world.

Go ahead – list ten things.

What did you write?

My guess is that your list is mainly comprised of activities, people, events or possessions that bring you some sense of comfort, some sense of feeling “at home” in yourself, or very much at ease.

By nature, we gravitate towards ease and we like comfort. Now, in and of themselves, ease and comfort are not bad; moments and seasons of comfort are God’s gift to us. By his common grace, our nation is abundantly blessed: we have food in our bellies, roofs over our heads, people with whom we commune, and a bed upon which we lay our tired heads at night.

Yet, lately I’ve been confronted with the back-side of comfort’s allure: the fact that it can promote stagnation in the Christian life because of its tendency towards self-protection and self-interest.

Comfort can so easily become about control.

Consider the last time you shrunk back from talking to an acquaintance about Jesus because the conversation felt awkward. Or the time when you were asked to exercise your gifts in a public setting but felt embarrassed and ill-equipped. Or what about that time at work when being honest about a mistake you made meant some serious consequences would come your way?

Attempting to take control in order to protect ourselves from discomfort simply does not work; actually, it has the opposite effect:

Then Jesus told the disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?” (Matthew 16:25-26)

Deny ourselves? Take up our crosses? Follow Jesus? Let’s be honest; all three of these are much easier said than done. When the rubber hits the road and we are presented with an opportunity to step outside our comfort zone, what is our response?

Rather than discomfort having a bad connotation, we need to reimagine its purpose in light of eternity: Discomfort is actually a tool that Christ uses to mold us into his image and to bring himself ultimate glory.

Our fleshly reaction is to self-protect and stay safely within the confines of what we are familiar with. But Christ teaches his disciples that there is another way. Giving up control and leaning into discomfort are the means by which our lives become most fruitful and most glorifying to God!

Here are three reasons to step outside our comfort zone:

Discomfort will expose our weaknesses, and we desperately need this exposure. When we are made to feel uncomfortable, suddenly we are confronted with all the ways we have yet to grow, as well as the limits of our own abilities. Think about a person starting to work out with a personal trainer at the gym; after day one, their muscles are sore and tired because they are weak in certain areas. Knowing what specific muscle groups are weak will help them to prevent injury in the future, as they seek to strengthen those areas.

Since the fall of man in the garden, we have hidden our faults and weaknesses. We have shied away from exposing them, in fear that God and others would reject us. But Christ explains to us that the only way to save our lives is, in fact, to lose them! We need to step outside our comfort zone in order to see our weaknesses clearly, as well as the way we react to our weaknesses in pride, self-interest, and self-protection.

Discomfort refines us by exposing our sin.

The exposure of our weaknesses compels us to lean on the Lord for help and strength. Once we come to terms with our weaknesses and confess our sinful nature, there is a decision to make. Will we rely on our own strength to sustain us? Will we run away? Or will we ask for God’s help and obey him, no matter what the cost?

Consider Abraham, who was instructed by God to sacrifice his only beloved son, Isaac, as an offering. Abraham was ushered into one of history’s most uncomfortable situations by the Lord, himself! How did he respond? “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:8). Instead of fleeing the scene or attempting to hide from God, Abraham embraced the uncomfortable command and trusted the Lord for help, almost performing the deed – until God, himself, stopped his hand and commended him for his great faith (22:12).

It is only in our weakness that we can clearly see the strength of God and his ability to come through on our behalf.

Leaning on the Lord teaches us that nothing is too hard for him. Just as God provided the offering of a ram for Abraham that day, so he provided his very own beloved Son for us. The offering of Jesus Christ for our sake, who bore our sins in his body on the cross, is proof that God will never leave or forsake those who trust him. If God would send his very Son into the world as a sacrifice for sin, how much more will he sustain and help and grow us in our moments or seasons of discomfort? How much more will he use these times to fulfill his promise to conform us to his Son, bringing glory to his own name?

Before Isaac’s birth, which came unexpectedly in the very old age of his parents, God says to Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14).

He asks us to remember the same truth: Nothing, nothing, nothing is too difficult to him – especially the molding of his children’s’ hearts, minds, and will unto his own.

This is what Christ wants when he asks us to trust him in discomfort by denying our own desires and control, taking up his will and purposes, and following him. Step outside your comfort zone because you never venture into the uncomfortable alone!

What Do You Know of God In Suffering?

How we respond to God during moments or prolonged seasons of suffering says a lot about what we believe is true of him.

Not what is true of God. But what we believe is true of God. I confess that I’ve responded to suffering in a multitude of ways, many of which have revealed wrong thinking about who God is.

Self-pity and anger demonstrate that I believe God exists to serve me.

Fear demonstrates that I believe God has taken an absence from lavishing his love on me.

Doubt demonstrates that I believe God is not actually able to rule all events in perfect wisdom.

Do any of those resonate with you?

In beginning the book of Job the other day, I was struck by the way this “blameless and upright” man (Job 1:1) responded to the afflictions that so rapidly advanced upon his seemingly secure and ideal life.

First, God permitted Satan to strike dead his thousands upon thousands of livestock (his livelihood). Satan was also permitted to kill Job’s daughters and sons (his family honor and beloved ones for whom he prayed and sacrificed). All ten of them. Dead from “a great wind [that] came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house” (1:19).

Second, God permitted Satan to strike Job with “loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (1:7). Disease from head to toe.

How in the world would you have responded to such sudden tragedies?

Remember that how we respond to suffering says a lot about what we believe is true of God. So how did Job respond to his unfortunate – no, horrendous –  circumstances? Let us learn from Job’s words. First, this, when Job lost his livelihood and his children:

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.  (1:20-22)

Next, this, when Job was afflicted with sores:

And [Job] took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (2:8-10)

So what does Job believe is true about God to prompt him to respond in these ways? Three things:

Job knows the God is to be feared (1:1,8). He knows with all of his heart and mind that God is holy and powerful and righteous – and that he (Job) is none of these things on his own. Job knows that he is more like the broken pottery with which he scraped his own sores.

Job knows that God is providential and holds all authority (1:21). Job trusts that God is good in all of his decisions to sovereignly rule creation, including Job’s very life. He knows that God is the one who gives and takes away in his authoritative care. Even the permission God extended to Satan to afflict Job was not without his ultimate approval and absolute control (1:12).

Job knows that God is sovereign and is to be submitted to (1:20). Despite his deep pain and grief, Job worships God and declares who God is (2:10). The holiness and wisdom of God humbles Job to his rightful place as a created being who gives nothing of his own, but who receives all things – both good and evil – from the hand of the Lord.

Job responded in a way that what is true of God was what he believed was actually true. What faith! What trust! Seeing God as he truly is humbles us to recognize our place as dependent beings on the grace and mercy of our Lord. This understanding of God shapes how we will respond to all the circumstances of our lives – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And how much more have we seen God as he truly is in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ? “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3).  This Jesus is the one who came, lived, died, resurrected, and ascended to demonstrate the very power and glory of our God.

Take some time today to open the Word and meditate on what is true of God, seen in the person and work of his Son, Jesus. Ask him to set his truth in your heart and sanctify you by it (John 17:17) so that you may trust him at all times and know what is absolutely true of him.

Four Gifts God Gives | No. 3

Productivity is equally a blessing and a curse.

A blessing because our efforts and effectiveness can glorify the Lord, help other people, and steward our gifts and time well.

A curse because its values (effectiveness, efficiency, work) tend to bleed into the realm of approaching the throne of grace.

Numerous times this past week, I’ve found myself repeating the following lines from the hymn “Rock of Ages”: Nothing on my own to bring / Simply to the cross I cling. How many of us think, even without realizing it, that we bring something of value to the table, when it comes to meeting with the Lord or participating in his wise plans for the world?

We bring our own plans with no attitude of submission to what God might see fit to do in his plan.

We bring our good works, hoping that God’s favor and delight will shine on us for being honorable children.

We bring our resources, whether money or time or gifts, somehow believing that all these have sprung up from our own ability to create, glean, or earn them.

Acts 17:25-25 corrects all of these suppositions by reminding us of one very important — in fact, essential — truth:

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

He himself gives. Those three little words express the heart of the gospel message — that God gave his only Son to redeem lost sinners from death by the shedding of his own blood and his resurrection from the grave. And those three little words overturn all of our productive efforts to give back to God, approaching him with any sense of personal pride.

We learn from other points in the surrounding verses four particular gifts that God gives to all mankind:

God gives life and innate value to all of his creatures. “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth…” The creation is not greater than the Creator, nor is the servant greater than his Master. Every human being has been given life; not one of us breathed breath into our own lungs! Every day you wake up is a miracle because God is sustaining your existence. You are not in heaven yet because he still has purpose for you. Have you considered this?

God gives perfect timing for our lives and gives history its course. “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…” While it can be difficult to understand the sovereignty of God, it is ultimately he who charts our paths, rolls out every event, and sets all of history into motion towards the great coming of Jesus Christ. Certainly he uses human exertion and choices; but he is the one who weaves such marvelous, intricate details in a whole, as well as the power to see them through to completion.

God gives his presence. “…having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us…” God has indeed made himself known. Whether in the details of creation, or in the person of Jesus Christ, God has given us his presence so that all men are without excuse (Romans 1). If you’ve never considered this, ask God to open your eyes to see his activity; ask him to reveal his mighty power. Feel your way toward him, seek him, and you will find him! 

God gives his Son. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” The one raised from death, the one who will judge the world for sin, is Jesus Christ. Here is where God’s giving gets astoundingly beautiful: God knew that we could bring nothing to atone for sin, no good works or gifts or resources. Despite our inability, despite our wretched state apart from him, God gave by making a way for us to be made right with him. And that “way” is the only way and truth and life: Jesus Christ, the righteous Son of God.

I love what our pastor said in church last week: “Christ comes, not to demand the rent, but to pay the bill.” Have you seen Jesus as one coming to demand, or one coming to give? Rest assured, he comes to pay the ransom for sinners. He knows we all come empty-handed, and that is precisely why he came and gave his own life for our salvation.

What do you have that you did not receive from God? Consider the generosity of your giving Father in the beauty of His Son this Christmas.

How to Put Your Fear to Good Use

I’ll never forget the phone call.

“Really? You’re absolutely sure?”

I questioned the nurse because I could not believe my ears.

The diagnosis was Lyme disease.

After five years of battling chronic pain; after numerous visits to various doctors and mysteriously normal blood test results; after diet changes and lifestyle changes and exercise changes, I was finally given my answer. The illusive malady was Lyme, and it was a diagnosis I never saw coming.

Perhaps you understand this feeling, but my emotions were torn. A part of me rejoiced with relief. Finally, a diagnosis! No more meandering from doctor to doctor, and no more guessing. But the other part of me was immediately weighed down with troublesome thoughts of the road ahead of me. Would my body respond to treatment well? What will my husband’s reaction be? How will this affect us financially? What if this never goes away?

Can you relate?

The troubles of our lives are usually unexpected obstacles to be faced, and typically they produce in the human mind our unwelcome friend, Fear. I am no stranger to it. Fear has reared its ugly head many a time before now. Fear can be crippling. It can be paralyzing. It can seem altogether negative.

But fear can also be put to good use…  READ MORE

[Post / Photo Credit: iBelieve]