By His Stripes

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

Have you ever heard this truism: The person with an experience is never at the mercy of the person with an argument? 

There are, sadly, many who deny the reality of God’s divine healing for today. They may say God healed in the past, but that age has passed, or they may simply deny all supernatural activity. I have the best reply to these skeptics or deniers—and you may have this same reply: God does heal today; I know this is true because He has healed me! 

Our truth statement about this says: “Divine healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers.” Let me break this down into three parts. 

(1) “Divine healing is an integral part of the gospel.” After that word “integral” I’d like to insert the word “indisputable.” When God does the miraculous, it is an undeniable proof of His love and power. A great story to prove this point is when Jesus healed a paralytic after He forgave him of his sins (Luke 5:17-26). 

Notice how the people responded: Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. This glory to God has always been the reason God performs miracles (see Mark 6:7-13; Acts 2:43; Acts 3:9-12). 

(2) “Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement.” I like to remember that the word atonement means “at-onement” and stands opposed to disease which I like to say as “dis-ease.” Sin is our ultimate dis-ease—the ultimate separator—so Jesus took care of both our spiritual dis-ease and our physical dis-ease when He died on the Cross for us, just as Isaiah prophesied. That’s why the New Testament also shows us salvation and healing frequently being linked together (Acts 10:38; 8:4-8). 

(3) “And is the privilege of all believers.” ALL believers, not just a select few and not just those who lived at the time of the first apostles. 

Divine healing has been—and always will be—an integral and indisputable part of the gospel precisely because it exalts God as THE Healer. 

Many people today still believe what the disciples of Jesus believed: Disease is a consequence of personal sin. In addressing this misunderstanding, Jesus said that disease was “so that the work of God might be displayed” in the life of the one about to be healed. He said something similar while at the graveside of Lazarus, before he raised that dead man back to life (John 9:1-38; 11:4-45). 

Sometimes God heals us now, but ALWAYS He heals us in our glorified bodies (2 Corinthians 12:9-10; 5:1-9; Revelation 21:4). Our patience and hope in our future, ultimate healing glorifies God in the present. 

By faith in Jesus we can claim that “by His stripes we have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). The verb tense Peter uses means we have been healed, we are being healed now, and we will be ultimately healed in Christ’s eternal presence. Whether we are healed here or not, we can live knowing that His healing power always brings Him glory and always draws people to Him, so don’t hesitate to keep on asking Him for His healing touch on your body and soul. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series exploring our foundational beliefs, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Basis Of Our Hope

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 Basis Of Our Hope

     If there is no resurrection, apostolic preaching fails. ‘If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty’ [1 Corinthians 15:12-22]. … If Christ was not raised, the apostles were false witnesses. When a man bears false witness, he usually has a motive for doing so. What motive had these men? What did they gain by bearing false witness to Christ’s resurrection? It was all loss and no profit to them if He had not risen. They declared in Jerusalem that He had risen from the dead, and straightway men began to haul them to prison and to put them to death! Those of them who survived bore the same testimony. They were so full of the conviction of it that they went into distant countries to tell the story of Jesus and His resurrection from the dead. … They were brought before Roman emperors again and again, and before the proconsuls, and threatened with the most painful of deaths, but not one of them ever withdrew his testimony concerning Christ’s resurrection! …  

     If Christ is not raised, your faith is in vain. If it is in vain, give it up! Do not hold on to a thing that is not true! I would sooner plunge into the water and swim or wade through the river than I would trust myself to a rotten bridge that would break down in the middle. If Christ did not rise, do not trust Him, for such faith is in vain! But if you believe that He did die for you and did rise again for you, then believe in Him, joyfully confident that such a fact as this affords a solid basis for your belief! …  

     If [Jesus] died for you and rose again for you, that is the groundwork of your confidence, and I pray you keep to it. … Go your way and sing, ‘The Lord is risen indeed,’ and be happy as all the birds in the air, till you are, by and by, as happy as the angels in heaven through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From If There Is No Resurrection 

I shared a series of messages that said, “I know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of…” and each of the letters of ALIVE reminded us of a convincing proof of His resurrection. I would especially direct your attention to two of those letters. 

The “L” stands for lives changed. When someone has a complete about-face life change because of their interaction with Jesus, that is pretty strong proof that their encounter was with a living Savior. 

And the “E” stands for the engagement of Christ’s followers. It’s astounding to see how much of our world’s history has been positively impacted because of the influence of Christians. Their lives had become so radically different because of the life of Jesus in them that they could not help but change the culture around them. 

As I said last in the last Thursdays with Spurgeon installment, always remember that the one with a personal experience is never at the mercy of the one with an argument. If your life has been changed by personal and ongoing interactions with Jesus Christ, don’t keep that good news to yourself. Let that assurance you have be a bright and winsome witness to all who are around you.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Stop Arguing

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.

Stop Arguing

     Our religion is not based upon opinions, but upon facts. We hear persons sometimes saying, ‘Those are your views, and these are ours.’ Whatever your views may be is a small matter; what are the facts of the case? We must, after all, if we want a firm foundation, come down to matters of fact. … 

     Beloved friends, let us never tamper with the truth of God. I find it is as much as I can do to enjoy the comfort of the truth and to learn the spiritual lessons of God’s Word without setting up to be a critic upon it. And I find it immeasurably more profitable to my own soul to believingly adore than unbelievingly to invent objections, or even industriously to try to meet them. The meeting of objections is an endless work. When you have killed one regiment of them, there is another regiment coming on, and when you have put to the sword whole legions of doubts, doubters still swarm upon you like the frogs of Egypt! It is a poor business. It answers no practical end. It is far better to firmly believe what you profess to believe and to follow out to all the blessed consequences all of the truths of God that, in your own heart and soul, you have received of the Lord. 

From If There Is No Resurrection 

I have presented evidence numerous times that makes it reasonable to believe that the Bible is God’s inspired Word (check out my posts here, here, here, and here). And yet there are still people who stubbornly want to argue that the Bible is made-up stories, or that there was no such person as Jesus, or that if there were a Jesus, He was just a good man but not God Himself who was raised from the dead. These arguments are nothing new. Paul had to address them just a few years after Jesus had ascended back to heaven, so what would make us think that we would escape those doubters? 

As Spurgeon says, there is so much more joy when we simply “believingly adore” the God who is revealed to us on the pages of Scripture than it is to address such flimsy arguments. So that is what I typically do. Trying to debate with someone who won’t even accept basic facts is typically an unprofitable use of my efforts because they usually aren’t open to listening to what I have to say. 

Instead, I simply remember this: The one with a personal experience of a life-changing encounter with a risen Savior is never at the mercy of the critic with only a handful of arguments! So you can simply say to that argumentative critic, “I know how different my life is because Jesus is in me and I am in Him.” 

Stop arguing with close-minded critics and start adoring the God who loves you!

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Our Daily Doctrine Of Experience

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.

Our Daily Doctrine Of Experience 

[God] alone is my rock and my salvation (Psalm 62:2).

     Doctrine is nothing unless it is proved in our experience. Most of God’s doctrines are only to be learned by practice—by taking them out into the world and letting them bear the wear and tear of life. …  

     Think how many enemies you have. How many rivers you have to cross, how many mountains to climb, how many dragons to fight, how many lions’ teeth to escape, how many fires to pass through, how many floods to wade. … Can your salvation be of anything except God? … 

     I beseech you, remember this. I hope you know it by experience in the past, but try to remember it in the future—wherever you go, ‘Salvation is of the Lord.’ Do not get to looking at your heart; do not get to examining to see whether you have anything to recommend you; just remember, salvation is of the Lord. ‘He alone is my rock and my salvation.’ … 

     I say, Christian, your highest and noblest experience is not to be groaning about your corruption, is not to be crying about your wanderings, but is to say, ‘With all my sin and care and woe, His Spirit will not let me go.’ ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24). …  

     Now we must have the great duty. The great duty is this: If God only is our rock and we know it, are we not bound to put all our trust in God, to give all our love to God, to set all our hope upon God, to spend all our life for God, and to devote our whole being to God? … Trace your mercies to God and say perpetually, ‘He alone is my rock and my salvation.’

From God Alone The Salvation Of His People

If you will look through the pages of the Bible, you will see that people struggled when they forgot what God had done for them and therefore they began to take matters into their own hands. In the Old Testament, the prophets called this idolatry and adultery; in the New Testament, Jesus called this a lack of faith. 

An old hymn reminds us:

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, Oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above (Robert Robinson, Come Thou Fount)

I think this is the reason why Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” We need to be perpetually reliant on God’s grace—a perpetual debtor. This posture reminds us, “He alone is my rock and my salvation,” and guards us against the spirit of self-reliance that would lead us astray. 

Let our doctrine be proven in our daily experience of coming to God as our one and only Source again and again and again.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Do I Have Faith?

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.

Do I Have Faith? 

     Man cannot please God without bringing to himself a great amount of happiness…. It is because [God] gives him the blessings of adoption, pours upon him the bounties of His grace, makes him a blessed man in this life, and ensures him a crown of everlasting life, which he will wear and which will shine with unfading luster when the wreaths of earth’s glory have all been melted away. … If, then, we are right in saying that to please God is to be happy, the one important question is, how can I please God? … 

     Without faith it is impossible to please [God]’ (Hebrews 11:6). That is to say, do what you may, strive as earnestly as you can, live as excellently as you please, make what sacrifices you choose, be as eminent as you can for everything that is lovely and of good repute—yet none of these things can be pleasing to God unless they are mixed with faith. …  

     Have you faith? Shall I help you to answer that question? I will give you three tests, as briefly as ever I can, not to weary you….

    1. He who has faith has renounced his own righteousness. 
    2. Then true faith may be known by this: It begets a great esteem for the person of Christ. Do you love Christ? Could you die for Him? Do you seek to serve Him? Do you love His people? 
    3. He who has true faith will have true obedience. If a man says he has faith and has no works, he lies. If any man declares that he believes in Christ and yet does not lead a holy life, he lies.

From Faith

Both my parents and my grandparents on both sides of my family tree were Christians. They had faith in the God of the Bible. In my younger years, I thought just believing what they believed was good enough. But I had to come to a point where I could say, “I don’t have faith in God because my parents and grandparents do, but because I really believe it is true.” In other words, not just Jesus is the Savior, but Jesus is MY Savior. 

Does having faith mean I have no doubts? No, there are still things I don’t fully understand. Faith means believing God for the things I do understand and still trusting Him with the things I don’t understand yet. 

That’s pretty much the resume of every person in the great faith chapter of the Bible (Hebrews 11). For instance, Noah didn’t understand what a worldwide flood was, but he built an ark in faith; Abraham didn’t know how God would make him the father of many nations, but he moved from his homeland by faith; Joseph didn’t know how God would deliver the Israelites from Egypt, but he gave instructions by faith; and on and on the list goes. 

I commented on Hebrews 11:4 on YouVersion, “I want to live my life so in step with God that people can say of me as the writer of Hebrews said of Abel: ‘Although Craig is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.’ Don’t you want that for your life too?” 

The Bible itself tells us that faith comes into our heart by hearing the Word of God. If your faith is struggling, I would encourage you to open your Bible, ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Word to you, and begin reading with an open heart and mind. That’s exactly what I did, and I came to the conclusion that I believed the God of the Bible not because my parents did, but because He showed Himself to me to be Real. 

If you are struggling with your faith in God, I’d love to talk with you. Please get in touch with me and let’s begin a dialogue.

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)

Learning Empathy

I’m an up-and-at-em, carpe diem kinda guy. Nothing gets me down for very long—I’m resilient and self-motivated. So I used to have a hard time relating to people who weren’t wired the same way. That is until I went through a time in my life where getting up-and-at-em was one of the hardest things I had to do each day.  

In the midst of this dark night, I would ask God, “Why is this happening to me? What did I do wrong?” But I heard the Holy Spirit gently but unmistakably remind me, “This isn’t about you!” 

The dictionary says that empathy is nearly a transliterated word from the Greek word empatheia. It means to be in suffering, but the emphasis is more on imaginative empathy. Something like, “If I was them and I was in that situation, I bet it might feel like this.” 

In the New Testament, a different Greek word is translated sympathy, which is also a transliterated word from the Greek sympatheō. This word means to enter into another’s suffering, but the emphasis is on experiential empathy. In other words, I don’t have to imagine how you might feel, but I know how you feel because I’ve gone through the same thing myself. 

Just as the Holy Spirit taught me this lesson, let me say the same thing to you: the dark night you are going through isn’t about you. It’s about learning empathy SO THAT you can help others persevere all the way to the end! 

Think about the dark night Jesus went through just before His crucifixion. He might have asked His Father, “Why is this happening to Me? What did I do wrong?” But He knew why He was going through this night: it was to prepare Him to be the perfect empathetic High Priest for all of us (check out these verses in Hebrews).  

When we invite Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, we become a part of His Body (1 Corinthians 12:13, 26). 

Dr. Paul Brand was a renowned hand surgeon and missionary who worked with leprosy patients in India for years. He learned that leprosy doesn’t mangle a person’s foot or hand, but their lack of ability to feel pain does. He wrote, “A body only possesses unity to the degree that it possess pain…. We must develop a lower threshold of pain by listening, truly listening, to those who suffer. … The body protects poorly what it does not feel.” 

Sometimes we have to go through the painful, dark nights so that we can learn to feel others’ pain so that we can learn empathy. 

Through those nights we can learn to hear what others aren’t saying, and feel what others aren’t expressing. We don’t have to ask, “Can I help?” but rather, “I’m here to help because I know what you’re going through.” 

You cannot truly empathize until you go through your own dark night. I can be thankful IN the night because God is growing my empathy so that I can help others! 

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

Learning Contentment

A mark of a maturING saint is one who when he realizes he is in a trough begins to praise God in anticipation of the blessings which are coming! Even the most mature Christian you know hasn’t “arrived”; we are all a work-in-progress. Going through the dark nights is one way God helps mature our understanding of contentment. 

You know the differences between a need and a want: a need is something vital, something I require to survive; a want is something that would be nice to have. 

In good times I can convince myself that my wants are really the same as my needs. In the bright, sunny times a lot of wants mistakenly get called needs. But in the dark nights, this confusion is quickly clarified! 

In Philippians 4, Paul explains what he has learned about needs as he went through some very challenging, dark times. When he says he knows what a need is, he isn’t exaggerating a bit (see 2 Corinthians 11:24-28). And yet the Amplified Bible has Paul saying, “Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want.” 

That’s because Paul was learnING contentment. The verb tense here means I have learned, I am learning, and I will keep on learning. It was an ongoing process that helped him clarify needs from wants. The word Paul uses for content is unique in all the New Testament and it means independent of external circumstances, or as the Amplified Bible says, “satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted in whatever state I am. 

Paul uses another unique word in verse 12 when he says “I have learned.” This is a different Greek word from the previous verse. This time it means disciplined by experience to know how to respond. In other words, Paul disciplined himself to reflect on the lessons he learned in the night. The cliche “Experience is the best teacher” isn’t necessarily true. Lots of people go through experiences and never learn a single thing. Instead, we should say, “Evaluated experience is the best teacher.” That’s exactly what Paul is saying here: “I have learned lessons in my time of meditation after going through a dark night.” 

The English dictionary defines contentment in two important phrases: 

  1. Satisfied with what I have. In Psalm 16, David learned that he had everything he needed in God, and Jesus reminded us that “your Father knows what you NEED before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8).
  2. Satisfied with who I am. Paul knew that “God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by His grace, was pleased” (Galatians 1:15). God made Paul on purpose and for a purpose, and Paul was satisfied with who he was in Christ. God made you on purpose too! 

Our relationship with Jesus is a maturING one. It’s only IN Christ that I can be satisfied with what I have, and satisfied with who I am. It’s only IN the night that my wants get separated from my needs, by learnING contentment.

I can be thankful in the night because I am learning contentment. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in this series called Thankful In The Night, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

8 Quotes From “Words To Winners Of Souls”

I don’t say this very often, but Words To Winners Of Souls by Horatius Bonar is a must-read for those in pastoral ministry. You can check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“The question, therefore, which each of us has to answer to his own conscience is, ‘Has it been the end of my ministry, has it been the desire of my heart to save the lost and guide the saved? Is this my aim in every sermon I preach, in every visit I pay? Is it under the influence of this feeling that I continually live and walk and speak? Is it for this I pray and toil and fast and weep? Is it for this I spend and am spent, counting it, next to the salvation of my own soul, my chiefest joy to be the instrument of saving others? Is it for this that I exist?’” 

“It is not opinions that man needs: it is truth. It is not theology: it is God. It is not religion: it is Christ. It is not literature and science; but the knowledge of the free love of God in the gift of His only-begotten Son.” 

“Our power in drawing men to Christ springs chiefly from the fullness of our personal joy in Him, and the nearness of our personal communion with Him.” 

“Why so many meetings with our fellow men, yet so few meetings with God?” 

“Our life has not been a lying-in-wait for the voice of God. ‘Speak, Lord; for Thy servant heareth,’ has not been the attitude of our souls, the guiding principle of our lives. Nearness to God, fellowship with God, waiting upon God, resting in God, have been too little the characteristic either of our private or our ministerial walk. Hence our example has been so powerless, our labors so unsuccessful, our sermons so meager, our whole ministry so fruitless and feeble.” 

“It is easier to speak or write about revival than to set about it. There is so much rubbish to be swept out, so many self-raised hindrances to be dealt with, so many old habits to be overcome, so much sloth and easy-mindedness to be contended with, so much of ministerial routine to be broken through, and so much crucifixion, both of self and of the world, to be undergone. As Christ said of the unclean spirit which the disciples could not cast out, so we may say of these: ‘This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.’” 

“These must be days of strenuous, ceaseless, persevering, and, if God bless us, successful toil. We shall labor till we are worn out and laid to rest.” 

“It is unbelief that makes ministers handle eternal realities with such irreverence. It is unbelief that makes them ascend with so light a step ‘that awful place the pulpit,’ to deal with immortal beings about heaven and hell.” 

Thursdays With Oswald—Swine And Testimonies

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

Swine And Testimonies

     Jesus Christ is inculcating the need to examine carefully what we present in the way of God’s truth to others [Matthew 7:6]. … 

     Over and over again men water down the Word of God to suit those who are not spiritual, and consequently the Word of God is trampled under the feet of “swine.” Ask yourself, “Am I in any way flinging God’s truth to unspiritual swine?” “Be careful,” Jesus says, “not to give God‘s holy things to ‘dogs.’” …  

     Our Lord never tells us to confess anything but Himself, ‘Whosoever…shall confess ME before men…’ (Matthew 10:32). Testimonies to the world on the subjective line are always wrong, they are for saints, for those who are spiritual and who understand; but our testimony to the world is our Lord Himself, confess Him, “He saved me, He sanctified me, He put me right with God.” … 

     If we are only true to a doctrine of Christianity instead of to Jesus Christ, we drive our ideas home with sledge-hammer blows, and the people who listen to us say, “Well, that may be true”; but they resent the way it is presented. When we follow Jesus Christ the domineering attitude and the dictatorial attitude go and concentration Jesus comes in. 

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

The apostle Paul also talked about wanting to make sure that Jesus was seen above all else. More harm than good is done when we talk about our personal experiences with God, which have now become our personal doctrines about God. 

Let God be as unique with others as He is with you. Don’t make other people fall in line with what you believe. Just point them to Jesus. As Chambers says, our testimony should be nothing but “He saved me, He sanctified me, He put me right with God.” Anything else, and we run the risk of casting pearl before swine. 

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