Shine In The Darkness

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I’ve noticed that when people want to sound super-spiritual that they like to use King James Version phrases. Sometimes I hear people speaking in normal, everyday English until they begin praying and then I hear, “Thy servant … Thou O Most High … we beseech Thee … Thou knowest Thine children….” 

Statement #6 in our series “Is that in the Bible” also sounds more powerful when people quote it in King James English—Shun the very appearance of evil or sometimes Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord. Are those in the Bible? Yes, they are! 

We don’t use the word “shun” very often today, but in what was probably the first written book of the Bible we read that not only did Job shun evil, but God commended him for shunning evil too. And wise King Solomon advocated for his readers to shun evil (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3; Proverbs 3:7, 14:16). 

Yes, those phrases that I quoted earlier come right from the King James Version of the Bible in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 and 2 Corinthians 6:17, but does this mean that we are to stay away from anything that is “unChristian”? Does it mean that we are to shun sinners? 

There is a story that is told in the synoptic Gospels, but I especially like it in Matthew’s Gospel for one specific reason (which I’ll share with you in a moment). Jesus has just called Matthew to be His disciple, and several of Matthew’s coworkers appear to be having a going-away dinner for him which Jesus attended. 

Then comes the “911” call from the Pharisees (this statement is in Matthew 9:11): “Gasp! Jesus is eating with sinners! He’s not shunning them! Call in the sin police!” The New Living Translation is even more harsh, with the Pharisees asking, “Why does your Teacher eat with such scum?” (v. 13 NLT). 

In Luke’s Gospel we read another story where Jesus eating with “such scum” turned another tax collector’s life around. In Luke 19:1-10, we read of Zaccheus experiencing a complete life change because of His encounter with Jesus. 

Listen to Christ’s words in both Matthew and Luke: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. … I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. … The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Matthew 9:12-13; Luke 19:10). 

This doesn’t sound like Jesus shunned sinners.

Likewise, Jesus called us to be His salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-14). No matter how beneficial the salt of my life is, it doesn’t help anyone if it stays in the saltshaker, shunning the food. No matter how bright the lantern of my life is, it doesn’t help anyone in a closed closet, shunning the darkness. 

Notice what Jesus didn’t do. He didn’t go to Matthew’s house or Zaccheus’ house for a good time, or for a good meal, or for a time of entertainment. He was on mission. So too for Christians: We go into dark places not for our pleasure or entertainment, but because we’re on a rescue mission! 

In both the Old Testament Hebrew and the New Testament Greek, the words for “shun” point at our own hearts. The words mean: You walk away from things that will pull you down, or you hold yourself back from the places and things that will lead you to sin. 

So look at the phrase “Shun the very appearance of evil” in its context: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject [or shun] every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22). 

Paul is calling us to shun the things that drown out the voice of the Holy Spirit. Listen to two of those verses in another translation: “But test and prove all things until you can recognize what is good; to that hold fast. Abstain from evil” (vv. 21-22 AMP). 

In 2 Corinthians 6 the phrase “Be ye separate” is in the context about being “unequally yoked” with unbelievers. This is what happened to King Solomon when he married women who were idolaters, and they pulled his heart away from God. 

Shun” means to keep away from those things that would pull you down. How do I know if a certain environment or activity or person is pulling me down? I need to check my thoughts, attitudes, and actions. If I find they are becoming un-Christlike, then that is an indication of a place or person that I need to limit my exposure. 

As long as my thoughts, attitudes, and actions remain Christlike, I should keep on seasoning and shining in dark places so that I can draw others to Jesus. “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (Philippians 2:14-15 NLT). 

Don’t shun people that Jesus dearly loves, but don’t put yourself in a position where your devotion to God is compromised either. Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit giving you the wisdom you need to be both on-mission for Jesus and shining a bright, innocent light! 

If you’ve missed any of the other lessons in this series, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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Name-It-Claim-It?

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

This is part 4 in our series “Is that in the Bible?” 

Statement #4—Name it and claim it. Is that in the Bible? No! 

But in fairness, even the proponents of this belief don’t usually say it this way. Instead they quote words from Jesus like: “I will do whatever you ask in My name” (John 14:13) or “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7). 

They really want this to be true, I think, because in their minds happy, prosperous Christians make God look good. On the other hand, struggling Christians make God look bad. There is a whole branch of theology called theodicy which literally means: “a defense of God’s goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil.” 

This is nothing new. Religious people have always tried to have pat answers. In the oldest book of the Bible, Job’s friends were convinced that suffering results from sin and blessing results from righteousness. And yet according to God, Job was a righteous man (Job 1:1, 8, 20-21). 

At the advent of Jesus, the chief priests and scribes want the Messiah to be heroic so they modified a prophecy to make Bethlehem sound more impressive (compare Micah 5:2 with Matthew 2:6). 

So it follows that this name-it-claim-it group wants God to look good because His people look good, dress well, drive nice cars, live in big homes, fly private jets, and never get sick.

But Jesus Himself told His followers to, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Luke 12:33). And He said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me” (Matthew 5:11). And Jesus also said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). 

This is not to say that God opposes wealth: He gave wealth to His leaders, Job was doubly-wealthy after his trial, and wealthy people funded the ministry of Jesus and the early church. But this isn’t the same as pursuing—or even demanding—wealth, or of making the erroneous connection that poor people are somehow out of favor with God. 

How do we avoid these errors? Here are three thoughts: 

(1) Study the whole counsel of God’s Word.  

Don’t just read your favorite passages, or the ones that make you feel good, but read all of the Bible. Jesus frequently had to correct the religious leaders’ beliefs by sending them back to the Scripture (Matthew 21:15-16; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 6:3). Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Spirit of truth (John 16:12-15). The Holy Spirit that inspired the Bible is the same Holy Spirit in a Christian that can illuminate the Bible as you read it.  

(2) Remember that context is king.  

The word “eisegesis” means to read something into the Word. But that is like creating your own beliefs and then going to the Bible to find phrases that support what you already believe. On the other hand “exegesis” is to read the Bible and have it speak to us by the Holy Spirit. 

Two of the phrases from Jesus that the name-it-and-claim-it folks use (John 14:13 and John 15:7) turn out to mean something entirely different than, “God will give me all of the things I demand from Him” when they are read within the context of the things Jesus was teaching at that time (see John 14:9-14 and 15:1-8). 

(3) Understand your terms.

If something is biblical, that is something the Bible says yes to. Unbiblical things the Bible says no to. But non-biblical are those the Bible doesn’t explicitly address. We have to be very careful of trying to make non-biblical things sound biblical or it may lead to some unbiblical attitudes and actions. 

This is exactly what the Pharisees did by giving their non-biblical traditions the weight of biblical statements, and then looking down on others in a very unbiblical way. 

God is sovereign. We do not tell Him what to do. We do not demand Him to respond to our needs. We trust Him and and we abide in Him. Then in the abiding, asking and understanding and fruitfulness are as natural as a flower sprouting from a branch that is attached to the vine. We don’t name things and claim things for our personal comfort, but we desire solely for God’s glory to be seen—whether in wealth or poverty, health or sickness, peaceful times or tribulation. 

Evaluating all biblical sounding statements by those three items—studying the whole counsel of God’s Word, understanding the context, and knowing our terms—will guide us from going astray. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Is That In The Bible?, you can get a list of all of the messages by clicking here.

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The Human Jesus

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

We saw that our beautiful Jesus became grotesque—taking our ugly sin on Himself so that He could clothe us with His perfectly righteous robe. In so doing, He became even more resplendent. His friend John saw Him in such radiant beauty that he crumbled to his knees at the sight of His majesty (Revelation 1:12-16)! 

Just like John and others in the Bible, when we see ourselves in contrast to His awesome beauty, we often feel shabby and unworthy to be in His presence. Job expressed his desire to somehow get away from this Perfection (Job 7:11-21). Ultimately, in his desperation, Job utters something prophetic—

God is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer Him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that His terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of Him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot. (Job 9:32-35) 

When we are confronted with the perfection of God, we all want “someone to arbitrate”—someone who will fairly represent both sides. We need someone both God and man. Since man cannot become God, only God can become man. Isaiah prophesied it this way, “God saw that there was no one, He was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so His own arm achieved salvation for Him” (Isaiah 59:16). 

This Arbitrator or Mediator is Jesus the Christ! 

Jesus means “help from Jehovah.” This is His human name given to Him at His birth (Luke 1:31; Matthew 1:21, 25; Luke 2:21). 

Christ or Messiah means “anointed by God” and is His divine title. Often His title is used with the definite article “the” to signify that Jesus is the One and Only Messiah (Luke 2:26-27; John 1:41; Matthew 16:16; Acts 10:38). 

William Barclay commented on this: “Peter states [that Jesus was a human descendent of David] in the first recorded sermon of the Christian Church (Acts 2:29-36). Paul speaks of Jesus Christ descended from David according to the flesh (Romans 1:3). The writer of the Pastoral Epistles urges men to remember that Jesus Christ, descended from David, was raised from the dead (2 Timothy 2:8). The writer of the Revelation hears the Risen Christ say: ‘I am the root and the offspring of David’ (Revelation 22:16).” 

Many times this human name and divine title are linked together. In Hebrews, the name Jesus is used more times than any other title (19x), and Christ is the second-most used title (15x).

(For my Patreon supporters, I’ve shared a list of all of the titles for Jesus used in the book of Hebrews.)

Hebrews makes it perfectly clear how important it is that Jesus was made fully human just like us. We read phrases like

  • “made a little lower than the angels,” which was David’s way of talking about humans (see Psalm 8:4-6) 
  • “made perfect through suffering”—only humans can suffer 
  • “flesh and blood” 
  • “made like His brothers in every way” 
  • “His life on earth”

Remember that I said the most-used titles in Hebrews were Jesus and Christ. The third-most used title in Hebrews is high priest (14x). Only the Human Jesus and the Divine Jesus could be the perfect High Priest and Mediator that Job longed for, and that you and I have to have!

This post is a part of a bigger series on prayer with the subtitle: “Learning to pray in the awesome name of Jesus.” So what does it mean that we can pray in the human name of Jesus? 

It means we don’t have to pray majestic prayers in order for God to take notice. We can pray very human prayers, we can groan with real human pain, we can growl with real human anger. Our totally human Jesus understands us, and the totally divine Christ runs to help us! 

Don’t try to sanitize your prayers to make them sound acceptable. Jesus didn’t! How awesome it is to have a High Priest who is both fully human and fully divine! 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in this series on prayer, you can find a link to all of them by clicking here. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Beautiful Homegoing

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Beautiful Homegoing

You shall come to the grave at full age, as a sheaf of grain ripens in its season. (Job 5:26) 

     The Christian’s death is always timely. ‘You shall come to the grave at full age. 

     ‘Ah,’ says one, ‘that is not true. Good people do not live longer than others. The most pious man may die in the prime of his youth.’ But look at my text. It does not say you will come to your grave in old age, but in a ‘full age.’ … All fruits do not get ripe and mellow at the same season. So it is with Christians. They are at a ‘full age’ when God chooses to take them home. … 

     There are two mercies to a Christian. The first is that he will never die too soon. And the second is that he will never die too late. … 

     ‘But,’ say some, ‘how useful might they have been had they lived.’ Ah, but how damaging they might have been! And were it not better to die than to do something afterward that would disgrace them and bring disgrace to the Christian character? Were it not better for them to sleep while their work was going on than to break it down afterward? … 

     Again, the Christian never dies too late. … God is too good a Husbandman to leave His wheat in the field too long and let it shale out. …  

     Now the last thing is that a Christian will die with honor. … I think there are two funerals for every Christian: one is the funeral of the body, and the other of the soul. Funeral, did I say, of the soul? No, I meant not so. I meant not so. It is a marriage of the soul. For as soon as it leaves the body, the angel reapers stand ready to carry it away. They may not bring a fiery chariot as they had for Elijah. But they have their broad spreading wings. I rejoice to believe that angels will come as convoys to the soul across the ethereal plains. … I think the most honorable and glorious thing we will ever behold, next to Christ’s entrance into heaven and His glory there, is the entrance of one of God’s people into heaven.

From The Death Of The Christian

As I mentioned last week, this sermon was so providential in its timing for me because my precious mother went Home to be with Jesus just days before I opened to this sermon from Charles Spurgeon. 

We are comforted by the promises Rev. Spurgeon shares because they are based on the truth in God’s Word. “Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die” (Isaiah 57:1-2). 

At my Mom’s graveside committal service I shared this—

One of my favorite authors C.S. Lewis made a comment, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” 

This part that we called Claudia Owens was just the body that carried around who she really was. What a beautiful soul that we got to experience for 78 years. What shined through was so sweet and graceful and wonderful. What a glimpse we got! But a joy to know that it was only a glimpse. That the part of my Mom that was so beautiful that we got to see, was only a fraction of her full beauty! The part that was really her, that is at Home with her Savior Jesus now is shining in all its brilliance. … 

We will all miss her and we will grieve our loss. But as the apostle Paul reminded us, we don’t grieve as those who have no hope. We know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. We know that this body is sown perishable ravaged by the disease of cancer, but that my Mom is now in a place with no more tears or disease. We know that the same Savior that prepared a place for Claudia has prepared a place for us.

And we concluded with this prayer that can be offered up for every Christian who has died at their “full age”: 

Heavenly Father, 

We commit this body to the ground with the full assurance that her soul is in your everlasting presence. Holy Spirit, help us in our grief to be reminded of the hope of eternal life that we all share. Thank You, Jesus, for purchasing this hope on which we stand.

As I mentioned last week, if you don’t have this blessed assurance of the marriage of your soul when you take your last breath here on earth, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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Unburdened

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

Let’s get on the same page with a few facts: 

  • Nearly 1-of-5 adults in the United States age 18 and older battle some form of anxiety disorder. 
  • Being anxious is not a sin but we can grieve God’s heart if we don’t train ourselves to turn to Him as our First Source. Notice that David said, “When [not “if”] I am afraid, I put my trust in You” (Psalm 56:3). 

We’ve been looking at both the dictionary definitions and biblical definitions of anxiety. One definition is being disquieted, but we saw that coming close to Jesus Xs out the “dis-” and takes us to a place of quiet. A second definition is being insecure because we are so full of cares. Clinging to Jesus Xs out the “in-” and makes us secure when His strong arms are around us. 

A third definition of anxiety is found here: “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22). This word for cares or anxieties is the only time this Hebrew word is used in the Bible. The idea is a heavy burden, which the Amplified Bible captures like this: “Cast your burden on the Lord—releasing the weight of it—and He will sustain you….”

We can be burdened because we pick up and carry things on our own. But the word for cares or burdens in Psalm 55:22 can mean not only things we pick up, but things given to us by God or allowed by God. You might ask, “Why would God give me a burden?” 

  • Sometimes it’s allowed—God allowed satan to afflict Job within limits, and He allowed Joseph’s brothers to ambush him (Job 1:8-12; 2:3-7; Genesis 50:20).  
  • Sometimes it’s given—God gave Jesus a bitter cup to drink, and He gave Paul a “thorn in the flesh” (Matthew 26:39-42; 2 Corinthians 12:7). 
  • In every instance, the limits are perfectly measured to accomplish what God wants to do. The way we respond glorifies Him and keeps us dependent on Him (Job 1:20; 2:10; Genesis 50:20; 2 Corinthians 12:8-10; Hebrews 10:10). 

(Check out all of the above biblical passages by clicking here.)

Still in the middle of this, the burdens can seem overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. That’s why God tells us what to do with these burdens: Cast them off! 

In Psalm 55:22, David gives us the word “cast” in the imperative mood, which means it’s a command. Literally, the word means to throw away or shed the burden. 

How often do we do this? David said he prayed “evening, morning, and noon” for God’s help (Psalm 55:16-17). 

What does God do when we cast off these burdens? He sustains and supports us—“He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.” 

The apostle Peter quotes the opening words of this verse when he writes, “Cast all your anxiety on Him,” and then he tells us why we can do this: “Because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Just like David said he prayed for his burdens to be released “evening, morning, and noon,” the verb tense Peter uses implies the same thing. We don’t just release our burdens once, but we continue to do it again and again and again! 

The word Peter uses for “cast” is only used twice in all the New Testament. The word means not just to drop our burdens at our feet—where we may trip over them or be tempted to pick them up again—but to throw our burdens on someone else. The only other place this word is used is when on the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem the disciples “threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it” (Luke 19:35). 

Peter tells us that this casting off of our burdens requires us to humble ourselves before God. Pride makes us think we can handle it on our own, and that same pride robs God of the glory He would receive when He provides relief from our heavy load. We cast these burdens onto Jesus so that we can be alert to the enemy’s sneaky tactics, and help others who are also being attacked. And just as David said God supported and sustained him, Peter said the same thing (1 Peter 5:6-10). I especially like the wording from the King James Version—

But the God of all grace, Who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (1 Peter 5:10 KJV) 

Jesus can X-out the instability that comes with carrying heavy burdens and make us stablished, strengthened, and settled in Him. 

Don’t try to carry these anxiety-inducing burdens on your own, but cast them on Jesus every evening, morning, and noon. Let Him carry those burdens so you can live in a way that glorifies Him every single day. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series X-ing Out Anxiety, you can find all of the messages by clicking here. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Assurance Of God’s Love

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

The Assurance Of God’s Love

Tell me, O you whom I love, where you feed your flock, where you make it rest at noon. For why should I be as one who veils herself by the flocks of your companions? (Song of Solomon 1:7)

     It is well to be able to call the Lord Jesus Christ by this name without an ‘if’ or a ‘but.’ A very large proportion of Christian people can only say of Christ that they hope they love Him. They trust they love Him, but this is a very poor and shallow experience to be content to stay here. It seems to me that no one ought to give any rest to his spirit till he feels quite sure about a matter of such a vital importance. We are not content to have a hope of the love of our parents, or of our spouse, or of our children! We feel we must be certain there. And we are not to be satisfied with a hope that Christ loves us and with a bare trust that we love Him. … 

     ‘I know whom I have believed,’ says Paul (2 Timothy 1:12). ‘I know that my Redeemer lives,’ says Job (Job 19:25). ‘You whom I love,’ says Solomon in the Song as we have it here. Learn, dear friends, to get that positive knowledge of your love to Jesus, and be not satisfied till you can talk about your interest in Him as a reality that you have made infallibly sure by having received the witness of the Holy Spirit and His seal upon your soul by faith that you are born of God and belong to Christ. …  

     Why do we love Jesus? We have the best of answers: because He first loved us! … Why do we love Him? Because before this round earth was fashioned between the palms of the great Creator, before He had painted the rainbow or hung out the lights of the sun and moon, Christ’s delights were with us. He foresaw us through the glass of His prescience. He knew what we should be….

From The Church’s Love To Her Loving Lord

God wants you to know how much He loves you. He went first because we didn’t have any way to approach Him. But Jesus made it possible for us to come close to God through His substitutionary death on the Cross for our sins. And now the Holy Spirit is speaking clearly to your heart to trust that this is absolutely, irrevocably true: GOD LOVES YOU! 

As Spurgeon said, don’t be content with merely thinking this is true, but ask the Holy Spirit to help you know this is true! 

Listen to these words—This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. … This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. … We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:9, 13-14, 19)

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“Father, Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit”

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

I have some sobering news for you: You are going to die. 

Death is the great equalizer. It comes for the rich and poor, the scholar and the illiterate, all races, all ages, the healthy as well as the sick. Unless you’re still alive when Jesus comes back again, your odds of dying are 1-in-1. 

What happens “on the other side”? What happens after this life is over? Since it seems dark and mysterious to most people, they tend to ignore it until it’s thrust upon them. That’s why I find the dying words of people interesting. Like P.T. Barnum asking, “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?” or W.C. Fields reading a Bible on his deathbed and telling a friend, “I’m looking for a loophole.” 

Or the very last words of Jesus: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” 

Jesus is steeped in Scripture, so nearly everything He says in His final four declarations come directly from the Psalms, including His final phrase which comes from Psalm 31:5. 

When Jesus broke a three-hour silence with His cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me,” both Matthew and Mark use the Greek words megas phoné to describe how loudly Jesus spoke. And now with His final words, Luke uses the same megas phoné description. 

Notice in the first megaphone cry Jesus calls on God the All-Powerful Creator. And with His last megaphone declaration, He calls on His Father who is All-Loving. How comforting it is to know that God is both All-Powerful and All-Loving! Not only can He answer our cries, but He delights to answer them! 

The word Jesus uses for “commit” is in the future tense and it means “to entrust as a deposit.” Jesus believed that God was going to do more than just give Him life again, but that He would give life to all who would believe in Him. 

Unlike atheist Bertrand Russell who said, “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong,” Jesus DID die for His beliefs, and by rising from the dead proved He was right in trusting God. 

Job saw an inescapable death for all mankind, but he also foresaw the forgiveness of God (Job 14:5, 16-17). Jesus died once for all mankind and was then resurrected, bringing about the death of death by making forgiveness accessible to anyone (Hebrews 9:27-28; 1 Corinthians 15:19-22). 

We can now have the peace that comes from trusting the only One to Whom we can safely entrust our souls. Because Jesus brought death to death, we can have the same peace when we die that Jesus had when He died. 

With faith in Jesus, you can…

…live today knowing you’re invincible until God calls you home 

…live today full of joy because your home in heaven is secure

…live your very last day in peace because you know to Whom your soul is entrusted 

Because Jesus died at peace with God, we can face death triumphantly! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series on the dying declarations of Jesus, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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Don’t Give In To Pseudo-Wisdom

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Dr. Craig Bartholomew wrote, “Wisdom is deeply experiential.” In other words, we can’t just have head knowledge and call it “wisdom,” but we have to have an experience in which we have learned a lesson in order for it to truly be called wisdom. 

In the three wisdom books of the Bible—Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes—the wisdom that is shared is hard-won by people who personally experienced what they shared with us. Even if we consider the wisdom in the poetic books of Psalms and the Song of Solomon, we are still reading first-person, firsthand experiences. True wisdom can never be dispensed by someone who hasn’t “been there, done that” and learned a valuable lesson from that experience. 

In Job, we meet three of his friends who claim to have wisdom but don’t meet the criteria of personal experience. This pseudo-wisdom always comes in the form of, “I’ve heard that…,” or “It’s obvious from my observations…,” or “Everyone knows that….” 

That means that satan’s tactics fall into this pseudo-wisdom category too: he has no personal, first-hand experience of human situations that result in hard-won wisdom! The best he can offer is secondhand observations. 

Jesus, on the other hand, fully entered into the human experience. Jesus IS Wisdom. As a human He had first-hand experiences, and as God He doesn’t just see fragments of lessons, but He sees the whole, eternal picture into which all lessons fit. 

This is why Solomon wrote, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” This holy respect and willingness to heed the words of Wisdom Himself is the starting point and the conclusion of wisdom. This is also why the writer of Hebrews wrote that Jesus knows every situation that we are going through. He knows how to help us because He has personal, first-hand, experiential wisdom.

satan’s temptations are only suppositions. He can never say, “I know from personal experience.” Look at his temptations of Adam and Eve, Job, Jesus, and the apostle Paul:

  • Did God really say?
  • Does this suffering even make sense?
  • Doesn’t the Scripture tell us…?
  • I don’t think you deserve the thorn in the flesh. 

Don’t give in to the pseudo-wisdom that satan pushes!

Jesus was tempted in every human way possible. He learned wisdom by this personal experience. Jesus alone is qualified to be the only source of Wisdom that you and I need to successfully handle trials and temptations. 

Because He Himself in His humanity has suffered in being tempted, tested and tried, Jesus is able immediately to run to the cry of—to assist and relieve—those who are being tempted and tested and tried…. (Hebrews 2:18 AMP)

Godly Anger

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…his anger was aroused… (Job 32:5).

Throughout the story of Job, there is very little insight from the story’s narrator. Other than the first two chapters which set up the story, and the epilogue in the last chapter, the narrator barely utters a word.

That is until a fourth man, who has been on the scene the whole time Job and his friends have been debating, finally cannot help but speak out. His name is Elihu. 

Elihu has been present the whole time Job has been speaking with his other friends, but because Elihu is the youngest, he has held his tongue, awaiting an opportunity to speak. Now the narrator tells us that Elihu “became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him. … When he saw that the three men had nothing more to say, his anger was aroused. 

The phrase “anger was aroused” is used 31 times in the Bible. Every single instance refers to God’s anger except here. In fact, God uses the same phrase in chapter 42 that Elihu uses here. 

Two things seem to arouse the anger of both God and Elihu (whose name, but the way, means “He is my God”): 

  1. Job justifying himself rather than God 
  2. Job’s friends condemning Job without evidence; in other words, they put themselves in the place of God the Judge  

Here’s what Elihu knew—

To not get angry at the things that anger God is itself a sin.

I need to pay attention to my anger, and I need to express my anger in a respectful, appropriate way. It is wrong to ignore or suppress godly anger, but it is equally wrong to sin in the way that I express godly anger. Remember that the apostle Paul doesn’t say, “Don’t get angry,” but he says, “When you get angry, do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). 

When God finally speaks in this story, He expresses His anger at the same things Elihu addressed. Interestingly, God says to the oldest friend Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends,” but God doesn’t call out Elihu for any of his words.  

God gets angry, perhaps more than anyone else in the Bible does, but He never sins in the expression of His anger. We need to make sure that what makes us angry is also what makes God angry. And we need to make sure that our anger is never expressed sinfully. 

Do I Have Standing?

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If it is true that I have gone astray, my error remains my concern alone (Job 19:4).

Why do we find it necessary to stick our noses in where they are not wanted? Why do we feel like the other person needs to hear our opinion? 

The law dictionary defines “standing” as the right to file a lawsuit or file a petition under the circumstances. In legal terms, Job’s three friends had no standing to bring charges against him. Job himself even said he didn’t want to hear their opinions. Instead, all Job asked for was, “Have pity on me, my friends, have pity.” He goes on to ask, “Why do you pursue me as God does? Will you never get enough of my flesh?” 

And then Job gives this warning: “If you say, ‘How we will hound him, since the root of trouble lies in him,’ you should fear the sword yourselves.” Despite this warning, Zophar still begins his argument by stating, “I hear a rebuke that dishonors me so I have to speak up.” 

There are indeed times when our friends may be going astray and the loving thing we can do for them is speak a word of truth, but that is something entirely different than feeling compelled to share an opinion or sticking our noses in where they don’t belong. A good question to ask ourselves before speaking: Do I have standing here?

Far better for us to apply the Golden Rule this way: Treat others in their condition the way I would want to be treated in the same condition. And if I do feel as though I have standing, and need to speak a loving word, I need to examine myself first.

Job tells his friends, “You are miserable comforters, all of you!” (16:2). One of the best things they did for him was to simply sit silently in mourning alongside him. It was when they felt compelled to argue that they not only disappointed Job, but they dishonored God too. 

My checklist before speaking:

  1. Do I have standing? 
  2. Have I examined myself? 
  3. Can I speak truth in love (and not just air my opinion)? 
  4. Have I considered the Golden Rule? 

If I can answer “Yes” to all four questions, then speak; otherwise, it’s far more loving to remain silent. 

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