Monday, January 19, 2015

Did Job struggle? Can he teach me anything?

"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.' (Job 1:20-22)

Who has not read this passage for the first time and thought, "Wow, Job is indeed a righteous man, I could never be like that..." or read it during a trial of some sort and thought "Wow, now there's an exception, there's an extraordinary man.....I just can't seem to get to that place Job was at...".
On the one hand we might be tempted to believe that Job was a different 'sort' of man, that he was unique and if that's the case then what's recorded concerning him has no application for us, God forbid we think that. On the other hand we might be tempted to assume that Job didn't have to wrestle against the flesh when he worshiped and praised the Lord.
Even in the short introduction of Job we see that Job was a man who feared God, a man who had a habit of turning to God, a man who was concerned even about inward sins, a man who resisted evil, thus Job was a man who's mind was renewed by truths concerning God.
A righteous man is not a perfect man, but a man who makes a habit of turning to God, a man who repents quickly and often. Job was such a man, a man like other men who had to resist temptation, who had to cast down thoughts, who had to cling to promises, and who had to IN ALL things come before the throne of God seeking grace in his time of need!
It would be no stretch or assault upon the passage to assume even in chapter 1, that Job was TEMPTED to think and believe LIES which he never uttered. 
Perhaps the thought that God was not good crossed his mind, the thought that God was not in control, the thought that God did not care, and perhaps that God was unjust in all of this. Can you not relate to such temptations? You might not only be able to relate to the temptations, but you can easily recall the death birthed from yielding to those temptations, the sorrow upon sorrow, the hopelessness, the fears, the doubts, the suffocating anxiety, the endless complaints, the bitter envy and anger that flows from yielding to the flesh at such times.
Furthermore it needs to be pointed out that Job's SORROW was not considered sin or lack of righteousness, THAT my friends is normal and good. Can you then, see his statement, his confession in the midst of these sufferings as a rebuke to those lying temptations, as a thrust of the Sword of Truth defending the unchanging character of God Almighty?! 
“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.”
Hence the NECESSITY of hiding the WORD of God in our hearts, that we may cling to WHO He is, that we may fight the lies of our mind with the truth revealed by God, that we may command our emotions to bow before the Word of our Lord!
The Lord our God is not only in control, but He is GOOD and working all things for the GOOD of His people, He is just and ultimately never gives His people what they deserve but has purchased grace for us through the death of His Son (which just happens to be how God 'demonstrated His love for us'), and that He cares! Can we not see this being proclaimed throughout scripture? We see God comforting His people over and over again by reminding them that He is WITH them and that He is working towards an end, namely our joyous eternity WITH Him. We see God encouraging/instructing/commanding us to seek Him in our 'time of trouble', to ask as a child to a father, to make 'our requests known', to 'cast our cares upon' Him ('because HE CARES for us'). Yes EVEN when it's a result of discipline for sin, we see a pattern of God using such to the same end; DRAWING us closer to Him, for our good and certainly for HIS GLORY!
Yield not to those lies that demand to be heard, rather make a habit of meditating upon the words of the Lord, especially upon His immutable attributes, and make a habit of crying out to Him for increased faith and strength especially in our times of trials BEFORE we let our thoughts and emotions have their way within us, then by God's grace we too might exclaim in worship WHO our God is, just like Job!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Be encouraged, you are not needed!

Dear brethren, look at these two verses,

Psalm 50:12 
“If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.

1 Corinthians 3:6,7
"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth."

These scriptures declare that our God is the source of all things, He is the one in control, He is the supplier of all things, we are the needy ones! God is self-sufficient and God is the author of life (physical and ETERNAL). We may labor, we may strain, we may do this and do that, but it is God alone who causes fruit to be born and to grow. This reality takes a necessary burden off of our shoulders, for it removes from us the anxiety of attempting to produce something, to create something which we are unable to do. In fact this is a humbling reality, for we'd like to be able to do something great, something by which we could at least take partial credit, of course we'd never come out and bluntly say we want to steal glory from God, but in our flesh that is exactly what we want.
The pressure is everywhere, for us to do something 'great', to accomplish 'great things'...'for the Lord' of course, oh yes, of course, (hmm) for the "the Lord'. So why is there so much bragging going on? Why such an emphasis on how big my ministry is, how many books you sold, how many followers he has, how many classes they lead, how much they volunteer, how much she can multi-task and so on, eh?
Pride, pride, pride, will lead us to selfish ambition, to seek the praise of men and it will indeed rob God of His glory and it will rob us of our joy as we seek to find pleasure (be content) in fulfilling some 'purpose' that is noticeable to others, that pleasure, that peace, that contentment which ONLY comes from Him who gives it, not from some thing we do. This sort of competitive living among God's people, will lead to the 'body' trying to be parts (of the body) which God never called them to be, namely the NOTICEABLE parts, and then those who are not noticed are not only overwhelmed but envious, bitter, and wallowing in self-pity. 
Only when we realize who God is, who is running His church, who is the HEAD of the body, then and then only can we begin to be at peace with His wise, good, just, and gracious gifts, callings, and positions. 
Can this not explain the lack of praying in churches today? That we don't really believe that such things are in the hands of the Lord, that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, yes even us 'SOVEREIGNTY' people? Wouldn't a fuller understanding of His sovereignty in all things, His workings in and among men, lead us to call upon Him all the more, to plead with Him for help, for power, for grace in all our endeavors? As opposed to just doing more, busy, busy, busy, just adding and adding more programs, more activities, more responsibilities, and consequently a whole lot less time doing those necessary and unnoticed things. 
In such a culture, it should not come as a surprise that there exists a great number of people doing 'small' things that will feel (trained to feel, by implication) quite insignificant and useless. For instance, the young mother who serves a handful of little ones and her husband in such a culture will either learn to find contentment and joy in doing all those things as unto the Lord, OR she will have to 'accept' her meaningless role until she can tell others of how bright or gifted her little ones compared to others OR she will overwhelm herself taking on additional duties (noticeable duties) that will indeed produce those temporal flesh-pleasing praises while she pulls from the most important duties spelled out to her by her Lord and Master in the scriptures, which in the LONG run will lead to much regret.
Now look at this familiar passage,

Luke 10:38-42
"Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Is this passage teaching us that doing work is 'unnecessary'? Uh, duh, of course not! That should be obvious, it's obvious that there are many things that must be done, things which we all must do, work is a GOOD thing! Yes it is good to be 'spent' for the Lord, to serve Him with all our heart, to serve the Lord with all our...'strength'. However the problem for us isn't missing the point about doing those things which are necessary, the problem is that we lack a fuller and biblical understanding of 'necessary'. In this passage we see Jesus rebuke Martha for her anxiety and frustration in her service (anxious while serving, hmm, sound familiar, much?) and commends Mary for sitting at His feet and listening to Him. Wait, Jesus says that was 'NECESSARY'? "But Mary, there are things to do, Mary there are needs to be fulfilled, Mary you're not accomplishing anything, Mary, everyone else is working." 
The point is that Jesus WAS working, that Mary was receiving the blessings which produce fruit, she herself NEEDED to spend time with Christ, she NEEDED to hear from Him, we all do! Our time with the Lord is vital, it is important work, it is necessary! Furthermore, it'll be alright if you stop and rest, it'll be ok if you have to turn down some 'opportunities', it'll be just fine if you can't do, lead or be know why right? Because YOU ARE NOT NEEDED, God is, you're not, be encouraged, He can handle it quite perfectly without you. 
Lastly let's look at this next passage,

Colossians 3:17-24
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

You see it right? Do you see how this passage is sandwiched? 'Do everything in the name of the Lord' for the are serving the Lord Christ." For Him, do it for Him, serve Him! Now consider the ordinary nature of these things, the unspectacular appearance of these things, they are certainly unglamorous, often unappreciated, acts of labor that we would consider anything but 'service' to the Lord. O yes we make mention of these verses and we talk about 'doing it for the glory of God' but do you get it, do you get how God is showing forth His divine sovereignty by placing us in such situations, in such roles, that others may despise, that the world may sneer at, but which God is ACTUALLY pleased by? If then we find ourselves in a limited capacity, or in a season of life where the 'need' is in the places where none see, then so be it, let our resolve be to do it for the one who 'sees in secret' and refuse to please that glory-seeking flesh with the appearance of 'being a servant'. Friend, you must then ask yourself, have you been neglecting the most necessary things in order to find fulfillment in something public? Of course it's always easier to maintain (for a while) the appearance of fruit in public, than it is to be fruitful in private. May none of us respond like Peter to our Lord, when Christ asked 'Do you love me' and proceeded to foretell how Peter would die and Peter responds  “Lord, what about this man?” then Christ tells him "...what is that to you? You follow me!”  Yes, that's it, He's the head of the church, He's gifted the church as He pleases, He plans our lives, He calls us to assume certain roles, He is in control and we the sheep need only to follow Him....not in some roles, not in the 'big' things, not in competition with our brethren, but day by day seeking to be faithful to Him according to His instructions!
Be free from burdens you were never meant to carry, be free from trying to keep up with everyone else, be free from competing, yes be free from worrying about everyone else, be free from trying to perform for the love which God freely offered and demonstrated in the giving of Jesus Christ, do this by repenting and setting your eyes once again on the prize, JESUS CHRIST. Be encouraged, He reigns supreme, the Lord gives, the Lord takes away, He does whatsoever He pleases, besides YOU ARE NOT NEEDED.......but you/we/I need HIM!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Jesus Christ the Humble King

In the letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul exhorts the church to be humble as Christ was humble in His coming as the God-man. Jesus Christ born of the virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit was fully God and fully man, the difficulty lies not in proving that the scriptures reveal this, rather the difficulty lies in our ability to grasp a glorious miracle in which we have nothing to compare it to.
With that said let us look at the passage and a few considerations of Christ's humility,

Philippians 2:5-11
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Instead of 'grasping' the divinity which was fully His, Jesus emptied Himself, took the form of a bond-servant, and was made in the likeness of men. His humility was seen in His obedience and ESPECIALLY His obedience unto death! WIthout detracting in any way shape or form from His glorious and primary submission to God the Father in His perfect obedience and joyful acceptance of His will, I want to give some attention to some other aspects. 
Consider with me just a few contexts displaying how magnificent His humility truly was:
*Humble in His taking on flesh: Jesus in His humanity actually had NEEDS (FYI, God doesn't have needs), Jesus not only needed rest, food, water as a man but Jesus as a child even needed to be carried, to be fed, to be changed, to be bathed etc.

*Humble in His submission to authority: Jesus not only submitted to Mary and Joseph, He even submitted to a foreign oppressive (raised up by the hand of God) ruler as He pays taxes!
*Humble in His patience with His disciples: Bearing with their weaknesses, questions and even employing them in tasks which He could do faster and better!
*Humble in His trial and abuse from men: as He took blows which He could have stopped, enduring the whips from puny men whom He had created, refusing to respond in vengeance towards His mockers! 
*Humble in His treatment of His betrayer:

  •   It's mind-blowing to think of how Jesus treated the man He KNEW was His betrayer, so gracious was His treatment of Judas that none of the disciples ever had even a hint of suspicion concerning this man that they traveled and lived with for years! Think of the many times Jesus feeds even Judas, how He sends out even Judas, how He shares precious truths even with Judas! Call to mind the objections Judas made concerning the ointment poured upon Jesus' head and what mighty power of restraint it took to hear his greed-dripping lies (while everyone else gets the impression Judas is such a compassionate person) and not blow up! If that was not astounding enough, call to mind how humble the act was when Jesus our Lord even washed the feet of Judas, right before his final act of betrayal! Then of all signals, Judas points out Christ with an intimate expression of love (a kiss), and for Christ to not cause the very ground to swallow Judas up at that very moment is quite amazing!
This is our Savior, this is our Lord who so humbled Himself, who wonderfully and willfully submitted to such treatment. The Lord who was determined to save men, not because they deserved such, not because they earned such, nor because of what they could then offer Him, but because of His great love, His DECISION to love us in spite of us, fueled by His desire to magnify the grace of God and display His glory! The Lord Jesus came determined to save sinners, wicked hell-deserving law breakers, although they gave Him, in fact WE gave Him every reason to NOT save us!
Oh but let none of us for a moment forget a terrifying reality, and that the Lamb who came not to condemn but to save, will return as the Lion who will exact vengeance on the adversaries of the Lord! He will return in power, not to take blows but to give them! Jesus Christ, not only warned of judgment, but we are told, contrary to popular opinion, that the guilt is now INCREASED because of His glory and grace being revealed through Jesus Christ:

Hebrews 10:29-31
29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Whether men choose to do so, through faith and repentance towards God, or whether they are slammed down, all, yes ALL will inevitably recognize and CONFESS that Jesus is Lord! May it not be on the way to eternal damnation, may you not reject the majesty of the King who became a child! Humble yourself before God almighty, give up your excuses, turn away from trusting in your own goodness/merit, and utterly reject the lie of your heart that perhaps God will prove to have been only bluffing and that the life, death and resurrection of Christ meant so little that He'll just welcome you no matter what! Seek Him NOW, while you may, while you are reading these words and sensing the truth of these matters, don't harden your heart with excuses so you can continue in your sinful ways, turn to God, He'll cleanse you from your sins, He'll transform your life by dwelling in you, and He'll ensure you dwell with Him in eternity! 

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