Trials

How we respond to trials makes all the difference. 

Like it or not, hardship is part of life. Becoming a Christian doesn’t change that fact (John 16:33). What shifts is our understanding of God’s sovereignty—nothing touches our life unless He permits it. Consider David, for example: God allowed a murderous king to pursue him for years (1 Samuel 23:15; 1 Samuel 23:25), but David responded to adversity with faith and called God his stronghold and refuge (Psalm 59:16).

If we let them, challenges can grow our faith, change our perspective, or deepen our compassion. But no matter what, the Lord is available to help us in our affliction (Psalm 46:1). Either we can turn toward Him for comfort, guidance, and support, or we can get angry and resentful that we’re not being rescued from our valley. 

When affliction strips away every crutch, one has only the Lord to depend upon. Though some people are destroyed by that kind of situation, others are built into undaunted believers.

What if

Like it or not, people are making evaluations about God according to the way we live as followers of Christ. Being a disciple is walking with Jesus in such a way that you get to say to someone else, “Follow my example.”

I know that we mess up sometimes. But that doesn’t excuse us from being examples. The apostle Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” 1 Corinthians 11:1

What if the church were filled with people just like you? What if everyone else in the church were exactly like you? What if everyone in the church read the Bible as faithfully as you do? Would we be a Bible studying church?

What if everyone in the church worshipped God just like you do? Would we be a worshipping church?

What if everyone in the church gave of their finances as faithfully as you do? Would we have a supported church?

What if everyone in the church shared the gospel as often as you do? What would the church be like? What if other believers were just like you?

As believers, we should be living godly lives in such a way that we could say, as the apostle Paul did, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”

I know things change. People change, those things are out of our control. One thing never will change is God. He is the same as He was yesterday and today. His love for his people will never change.

Indictment

In a legal arraignment, the document detailing the specific charges against the accused is called the indictment. In a civil court, there is always the possibility that the charges could be dropped if the accused can prove his innocence or cast enough doubt on the charges brought against him.

But sinners are never afforded that luxury in God’s courtroom. The charges against us are irrefutable and inescapable before our omniscient Judge. In that realm, the indictment could hardly be more grim or more imposing. It is a detailed accusation drawn entirely from an infallible source—Scripture. There are thirteen counts in Romans 3:10–17 brought against every person who has ever lived. Every one of them is a direct quotation or paraphrase from the Old Testament:

1. There is none righteous, not even one.

2. There is none who understands.

3. There is none who seeks for God.

4. All have turned aside.

5. Together they have become useless.

6. There is none who does good, there is not even one.

7. Their throat is an open grave.

8. With their tongues they keep deceiving.

9. The poison of asps is under their lips.

10. Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.

11. Their feet are swift to shed blood.

12. Destruction and misery are in their paths.

13. And the path of peace they have not known.

Verse 18 then summarizes the indictment with one final Old Testament quotation: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

It is a universal indictment of all humanity. Four times in this passage the word none is used. Twice that expression is underscored with the words not even one. The word all is used in verses 9, 12, 19, 22, and 23—five times total in this discussion of the universality of sin. So this is a comprehensive statement. No one escapes the indictment.

The practice of stringing together verses and phrases drawn from diverse biblical sources was very common in rabbinic teaching. This is a didactic device known as charaz (literally, “string of pearls”). Paul draws, from multiple Old Testament sources, several parallel phrases about the universality of sin. And he strings them together like pearls—except that the result is not pretty. The full necklace is a choking indictment against every member of the human race.

This is no mere opinion of Paul’s, nor is it dry theoretical doctrine. He purposely starts with the phrase “As it is written,” in order to highlight the divine authority behind this indictment. He is employing a phrase commonly used in rabbinical discourse to introduce biblical citations. It’s an expression employed many times throughout the New Testament—often by Christ Himself.

Our Lord used it when He was being tempted by Satan. The devil assaulted Jesus with three sinister dares. All three times Christ answered with direct quotations from the Old Testament, saying “It is written . . . It is written again . . . Away with you, Satan! For it is written . . .” (Matthew 4:4710, NKJV, emphasis added). The phrase “it is written” is used more than sixty times in the New Testament. (It is used more than a dozen times in the Old Testament as well.) It is a formal appeal to the highest of all authorities, an implicit recognition that when Scripture speaks, God has spoken.

The Greek expression is a perfect passive indicative—meaning it describes a definitive action with abiding significance. The idea it conveys is, “This stands written as an eternal truth.” The perfect tense is always significant in koine Greek (the language of the New Testament). In this expression, that tense serves to underscore the finality and continuing authority of Scripture as the unchanging and eternal Word of God. What stands written is settled forever in heaven (Psalm 119:89). In Jesus’s words, “Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18).

So this is God’s definitive, authoritative Word on the hopeless depravity of fallen humanity.

Paul’s indictment comes in three parts. The first deals with character, the second with conversation, and the third with conduct. In other words, the corruption of sin affects our very nature, it is revealed in what we say, and it is manifest in the way we act. And we’ll consider all three of those aspects in the days ahead

Encourage

As we encourage our children to achieve, we must be balanced and affirm who they are, apart from their performance. When we do, they’ll know we appreciate them and that God values them, too. 

Of course, the desire of all Christian parents is for their children to acknowledge dependence on God and to receive Christ as Savior. At the end of the day, our own acceptance and appreciation will help them embrace God’s unconditional love and know that He’s both forgiven their sins and erased all condemnation

Do you forget

I have noticed that as I get older, and I am certainly getting older, more and more I am forgetting things. There have been times I have been looking for my reading glasses and I find they are on my head. That is kind of embarrassing. There are times I am looking for something that I have misplaced, and then forget what I am looking for while I am still looking for that thing.


Then there are other times when I forget where I’ve parked my car. I go into the parking structure and I can’t remember what level I parked on. So I walk around with my little remote control, pressing the button, hoping the alarm will go off. And the sad thing is I see other people doing the same thing. So I guess I am not alone out there. The truth is, I need reminders. Sometimes I will jot little notes to myself. I will even tell someone, “Remind me that I need to do thus and so.” Reminders are helpful.
We also have spiritual reminders. In church, we have Communion, where we are instructed to receive the elements—the bread and the cup—that remind us of the sacrifice of Jesus, as He said in Luke 22:19, Do this in remembrance of me.


Why do I need to be reminded? Because I forget things. And the Bible is a book that is filled with reminders. Not only that, it is a book that is filled with repetition. It tells us the same things over and over again. Why is that? Because we forget things.

We must honor God as a nation or we are doomed

Because government is instituted by God as His “minister … for good” (Rom. 13:3-4), it functions best when leaders honor and obey Him. Throughout Israel’s history, God commended kings who followed His laws and worshipped only Him. The course of the nation was influenced by each king’s beliefs and behavior. Since this principle is still applicable today, righteous leaders have tremendous potential to affect their nation in a positive way. The Lord will guide and support God-fearing leaders who seek His wisdom and direction for their decisions.

As important as rulers are in determining a nation’s future, its citizens also play a vital role, especially in democracies where leaders arise from within the populace. Christians who share their faith and raise children in God’s ways can influence their nation’s values and choice of rulers. When both leaders and citizens align their views with God’s, the helpless are protected, the guilty are punished, and the innocent are vindicated.

Looking at our nation today, you might feel discouraged. But you can make a difference in your circle of influence by living compassionately and sharing the good news of Christ. The more the love and freedom of Jesus is understood, the more our nation can be blessed by its citizens.

Excuses

All excuses are displeasing to the Lord. A willful refusal to obey His Word has a hardening effect on the heart and, over time, can make us less receptive to the stinging conviction of the Holy Spirit. This may seem to make life more pleasant in the short term, since we don’t feel as guilty. But the end results are painful.

The next time you’re tempted to ignore a divine commandment, remember the cost of Israel’s hard-hearted disobedience. Instead of trusting God, they refused to enter the Promised Land. As a result, they missed settling in their own homeland and instead wandered in the desert for 40 years until that generation died. Let’s learn from the Israelites’ mistakes and pray for softened hearts that are open to the Lord’s voice. 

worship

God doesn’t care so much about the length of your prayers. He doesn’t care about the eloquence of your prayers. But He does care about the heart of your prayers.

That is true of worship as well. God is not so interested in your posture, your volume, or even your pitch (though it’s nice to have great pitch). More than anything else, He looks on the heart.

Jesus said, “For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8 ).

You might say, “Well, if that’s the case, then why pray?”

Here’s the answer: Prayer is not informing God; prayer is inviting God. When I call out to the Lord in prayer and offer my petition, I’m not informing God of something He doesn’t already know. I’m inviting God into my situation, into my challenges, and into my problems.

Right now we need to bring God into our prayers and ask for healing of our nation.

Persecution

Persecution shows itself in many ways. It can be physical, obviously. It’s very dangerous for Christians in some countries today. In fact, Christians are the world’s most persecuted group.

Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ live at risk the moment they declare their faith in Jesus Christ. They’re tortured and put to death. Or, their families ostracize them and declare them dead.

Even in the United States, persecution against followers of Jesus Christ seems to be on the rise. If you decide to be a Christian, you can lose friends, jobs, and other things. People may ridicule, marginalize, mock, or even threaten you.

But if no one ever persecutes you, harasses you, mocks you, or challenges you, then maybe you’re not living as a child of God. However, if you’re living your life as you ought to and you’re getting pushback, it’s confirmation that you belong to Him.

Be careful

Today people speak of their hearts as their emotional centers. They might say, “My mind tells me one thing, and my heart tells me another” or “I’m just listening to my heart.”

But be careful, because the Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 ).

When we talk about the heart as believers, we’re talking not only about the emotional center but about the intellectual center as well.

So, to be “pure in heart” means that we’re pure in our inner core. It means being people of purity.

But is it even possible to be pure today? Just like we easily dismiss the word holy, we also could dismiss the word pure. But “pure in heart” can be translated “single in heart.” It means having a single focus in life. It means that you’re a focused person, focused on your relationship with God.

We’re a people in constant conflict.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9 NKJV).

This is something that most everyone would applaud. “Yes, blessed are the peacemakers,” we say. “Let’s work for peace. Let’s march for peace.”

However, Jesus wasn’t really talking about world peace here, though we all want world peace.

In context this verse primarily means, “Blessed are those who have seen themselves as they really are: Sinners without a Savior, humble and meek, hungering and thirsting after righteousness. Blessed are those who have a single focus on God and want others to come into the same relationship with Him because they’re bringing the message of the Prince of Peace.”

The Bible says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15 NKJV).

Yet know this: peacemakers are often troublemakers. For example, maybe you’re the only Christian in your family. But then one day you became a Christian and wrecked it all. You ruined everything. Your family was in a dark place, you just turned on the light, and everyone noticed it.

Just hang in there and keep following the Lord. Pretty soon another family member will come to Christ and then another. And before you know it, you’ll be a Christian family because Christ intervened.

A happy or blessed person will be a peacemaker.

Are you spiritually healthy


A lot of people look forward to church on Sunday to worship the Lord and hear the Word of God. And some people just attend church on Sunday because that’s what you do on Sunday. Someone expects it of them.

But when people get involved in Bible study or prayer during the week, it tells me something about them. It tells me they’re hungry for God. They have jobs or are in school, yet they’ve carved out time to hear the Word of God and worship the Lord.

To me that says they are spiritually healthy people.

At the same time, we can do things that can spoil our spiritual appetites, like maybe sitting in front of the television for three hours. There are certain people who, when we hang around them, don’t build us up spiritually. Rather, they tear us down.

We need to recognize there is always more to learn as Christians. There is always a lot that needs to still change in our lives. No matter how much you pray, you can always pray more. No matter how much you love, you can always love more.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” God wants to fill you up to overflowing.

Your Condition

If you want to be a happy person, it starts with knowing that about yourself. Blessed are those who see themselves as they really are, which is spiritually bankrupt.

Everybody wants to be a somebody, or so it seems. So many people want to be a star, to be out in front, and they think that will make them happy.

Here’s another way to translate this: “Happy, or blessed, is the person who sees his or her real spiritual condition.”

And what is your real spiritual condition? You are spiritually destitute. You are spiritually impoverished. You are desperately in need of God.

Jesus also said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4 NKJV). Here the idea of mourning is being sorry for our sin. It’s mourning over our sin.

We see our condition before God as sinners, but it isn’t a hopeless situation. There is a Savior who died on the cross for me and shed His blood for every sin I’ve ever committed. He’s ready to pardon and forgive us.

The Bible says that “godly sorrow produces repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NKJV). So, we must say, “Lord, I’m a sinner. I’m sorry for my sin.”

If you’re really sorry for something, you’ll change. The sorrow the Bible talks about is being sorry enough to change your behavior. You see God, His holiness, and the life that He wants you to live. And you see how far you have to go.

Blessed or happy, are those who mourn over that condition.

2nd Coming


John 14:3

Let’s say, for the sake of a point, that we knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow at 4:00 pm. Of course, we know this couldn’t be the case because Jesus said no one knows the day or the hour of His return. But, for the sake of a point, let’s say that’s when we knew Jesus was coming for us.

What do you think we’d be doing at 2:45 pm? I think we’d have multiple Bibles opened in front of us. We’d be praying, singing worship songs, and sharing the gospel all at the same time.

Well, we don’t know when Christ will return, but we should live every day as though it were our last day because one day it will be. We should live every day as though it were the day that Christ could come back because one day He will.

The Bible is very clear in pointing out that Jesus Christ is returning, and He’s coming for His people. So, what are we supposed to do in light of this fact?

In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul addressed these words to believers living in the last days (and I believe that’s us): “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

We all get tempted. We all face trials, especially these days. This passage reminds us that we’re not alone in our struggles. Sometimes suffering and hardship can seem random and pointless, but it never is. God has His purposes for allowing these things to happen in our lives

Practice what you preach

I do believe that in order to be a good leader, you must be brave. It can be difficult to go against the grain or to insist on change. If as a leader you are stressing the importance of being on time, it is important that you show up to meetings on time. If you as a leader are stressing the importance of teamwork, it is important that you are modeling a team approach. If you as a leader are trying to hold people accountable for their actions, then it is important that you are also holding yourself accountable. If as a leader you are stressing the importance of loving one another, then you as a leader must exemplify love through words and actions. Jesus was a wonderful example of what it means to be a good leader and he spent his last few years on Earth providing example after example of how we should act if we want to follow him.

Perhaps some of you might be saying, “I am not a leader. No one is following me.” But I would argue that regardless of what our individual situations are at work or home, as followers of Jesus Christ, we have the opportunity to lead by example. By practicing what we believe, we are providing examples of good behavior to anyone who is paying attention. While we do not read about the “Do, Be, Say” approach in the Gospel, I believe throughout his lifetime, Jesus practiced it and I would encourage us as his followers to do the same. Let’s be brave.

Take my yoke upon you

Dee Keith

Matthew 11:29

As a very young boy, I can still remember watching my grandpa work his fields behind his mule and listening to him command “Dolly” to do different things. Rarely was “Dolly” stubborn or attempt to resist the commands of my grandpa. She didn’t fight the reins and harness. She never seemed to indicate that they were a burden or something to throw off. Rather, she was obedient and yielded to her master and to the harness and reins he had slipped over her head. 

The Lord Jesus was the Master Teacher. Jesus was given the popular title of Rabbi, or Teacher, and Mary Magdalene called Him “Rabboni,” which means “my Master” John 20-16. He was indeed Master and Teacher. He was Immanuel, God in the flesh. He could look at something as simple as a fig tree, a sower sowing seed in the field, water, fish or bread and draw truths so divine, so sublime and so simple, that those who heard His analogies were left shaking their heads in amazement and sometimes in confusion by their simplicity. The picture of the yoke was one of those lessons where the Lord Jesus reached into Israel’s everyday culture and elevated a scene so ordinary to a level so spiritual that its meaning was unmistakable to the hearers. 

Perhaps we ought to remind ourselves at this time, that Jesus’ message fell upon ears that were open to every little thing that He said, while other ears were obtuse, or dull, not quick to understand. In the earlier part of the chapter, disciples sent from the imprisoned John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked on the Baptist’s behalf, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (3). The Lord patiently and prudently answered their question in verses 4-19 but rebuked the self-pious Jews that followed. Jesus then rebuked the three Galilean cities because of their disbelief and failure to repent in spite of all they had been privileged to witness.

The prayer of the Lord in verses 25-26 was offered up especially for John the Baptist’s disciples but spoken audibly for all to hear. Jesus then spoke one of the most practical and pertinent messages of His three-year ministry: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” What did Jesus’ thought “Take my yoke upon you” mean to them and what does it mean to us? The scene of a team of oxen coupled together working under the reins of their master was not unfamiliar to these Jewish listeners. It was one they could see daily.

Undoubtedly more than a few had left their cattle and oxen and fields for a few hours so they could come and hear the Rabbi this morning. To their surprise, He spoke on the subject of the yoke and their thoughts would have immediately gone to the subject of service. Cattle are yoked for service. Thus, the Master’s lesson was a call to service with Him. D. L. Moody, the great evangelist and pastor, noted on this passage that “The Eastern yoke is made for two necks. If Christ is with us, we are blessed. There is no room for a third neck (2 Co. 6:14)”.

Very soon after His baptism and forty-days temptation in the wilderness, Jesus walked along the shore of Galilee and saw one team of two brothers, Andrew and Simon called Peter, and said unto them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt. 4:19). Just a short distance from them was another team of two more brothers, James and John, “and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him” (Mt. 4:21-22). The message to all believers would become “follow me.” We are to yoke ourselves to the Lord Jesus because it is our reasonable service (Ro. 12:1).

Jesus’ audience understood the simplicity of the thought that being yoked also implied a call to submission. The yoke was one of the most easily understood figures of speech of that time because it illustrated the yoke of submission to an occupation or obligation. The Pharisees and others who were educated enough in their Old Testament history would remember that Jeremiah the prophet wore an ox yoke as a symbol of the nation’s submission to the king of Babylonia. The meaning of submit is to ‘yield, to obey, to bring oneself under the authority of another.’ So, Jesus’ message was “Submit yourself to me,” or “Be obedient to me,” or “Accept the task that I give you.”

Submission isn’t a popular topic because it is a difficult act for most of us. We were born in a sinful, stubborn world where our fallen Adamic natures pushes back in resistance against others and authority. Human will doesn’t want to be under the reins of another. This has become especially vivid in our current time as we watch the anger and violent protests taking place across our nation in every section of our country against all levels of authority. One of the things that is happening (not the only one, just one) is that humanity is attempting to unleash itself from the yoke of governmental authority and racial inferiority.

And even the church has found that it is not immune from such rebellious spirits. However, the Lord Jesus has called on His people to “take my yoke upon you, and learn of me” just as He submitted Himself to the Father. Paul captured this point saying, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Php. 2:6-8).

When we accept the yoke of service and submission, Jesus said, “I will give you rest”. It is a call to serenity. The call is to those who are weary from sin to “come unto me, and I will give you rest.” Isaiah said of them, “There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked” (Is. 48:22). But David, on the other hand, said, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him” (Ps. 37:7). Those who are weary from struggles are to come unto the Lord for rest. “Come unto me,” Jesus to those wearied from toil, “and I will give you rest.” Rest is what the body, soul, and spirit are in search of. When the believer willingly yokes themselves to the Lord Jesus, the outcome of their relationship will be an inner rest and serenity.

The words of the Apostle Paul are appropriate here as they relate to the rest that the Lord Jesus was offering to Israel and us. Paul said, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” The only way to find this serenity and rest is to yoke ourselves to the Lord Jesus in submission and service.

Being Watched

This may come as a surprise to you, but Christians are being watched. We’re being watched very carefully all the time, especially by nonbelievers.

And they’re not exactly rooting for us. They kind of like it when we mess up because then they can say, “You see? That’s why I’m not a Christian.”

Yet when a believer goes through difficulty and gives glory to God, it’s a powerful witness to a watching world.

Not only do nonbelievers watch Christians, but younger Christians watch older Christians. They’re wondering, “How does an older believer deal with the onslaught of age or illness or the loss of a spouse? How does an older believer deal with uncertainty and unrest in our culture?”

They look to older believers for inspiration and an example. As they should.

One day those younger believers will be the older believers, and they’ll model the same thing for the next generation.

Do you think Job knew that one day we would study his life? I think he just experienced it all in real time and was honest in the way he reacted, yet here we are still talking about him today.

Therefore, would it you give you a measure of comfort to know that by the way you face your hardships, challenges, and trials, you’re giving hope to others? God uses these things in our lives for His purposes.

Freedom

We call it the Declaration of Independence. Among other things it says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The framers acknowledged that all people, from all backgrounds, have dignity before their Creator.

Our forefathers believed there is a God who guides the affairs of mankind. And they clearly founded our nation on the teachings of one book. That book is the Bible.

Thomas Jefferson said, “The Bible is the cornerstone of liberty.”

And Abraham Lincoln said of the Bible in 1864, “All the good the Saviour [sic] gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.”

However, in our pursuit of freedom I think we’ve lost sight of the Creator who gave us clear parameters to live by. We need to turn back to God.

Although we have forgotten Him, He has not forgotten us.

Consequences

Much like what happens with individuals, a country that ignores or rejects God suffers the consequences of that choice.

If a nation has drifted from the Lord, then even when leaders consider themselves advanced and intellectual, their thinking nevertheless becomes darkened. Soon sin is commonplace and considered acceptable among the people. As occurred among the Israelites, man’s baser nature emerges in the form of immorality, greed, and violence. Injustice reaches its peak when laws permit the oppression of those who are helpless and innocent.

The church must awaken to its responsibility: Believers are to be salt and light in this world. Each generation is called to be alert and active during its appointed time on this earth. Though nations fall away from God, today’s reading assures us that He is our ultimate hope.

After all, the passage begins with “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. God is our coming King, who will reign on earth with righteousness and justice.

Government

As important as rulers are in determining a nation’s future, its citizens also play a vital role, especially in democracies where leaders arise from within the populace. Christians who share their faith and raise children in God’s ways can influence their nation’s values and choice of rulers. When both leaders and citizens align their views with God’s, the helpless are protected, the guilty are punished, and the innocent are vindicated. 

Looking at our nation today, you might feel discouraged. But you can make a difference in your circle of influence by living compassionately and sharing the good news of Christ. The more the love and freedom of Jesus is understood, the more our nation can be blessed by its citizens.

Screwtape Letters” by C. S. Lewis (1942)!

The Screwtape Letters” by C. S. Lewis (1942)!

“And how did you manage to bring so many souls to hell at that time? -Because of fear. -Ah, yes. Excellent strategy; old and always current. But what were they afraid of? Fear of being tortured? Fear of war? Fear of hunger? -No. -Fear of getting sick. -But then, no one else got sick at that time? -No. -Yes, they were sick. -I’m sorry. -Nobody else was dying? -Yes, they died. -But there was no cure for the disease? -There was. -Then I don’t understand. – Since no one else believed and taught about eternal life and eternal death, they thought they had only that life, and they clung to it with all their strength, even if it cost them their affection (they did not hug or greet each other, they had no human contact for days and days); their money (they lost their jobs, spent all their savings, and still thought themselves lucky to be prevented from earning their bread); their intelligence (one day the press said one thing and the next day it contradicted itself, and still they believed it all); their freedom (they did not leave their house, did not walk, did not visit their relatives. …it was a big concentration camp for voluntary prisoners! They accepted everything, everything, as long as they could overcome their miserable lives one more day. They no longer had the slightest idea that He, and only He, is the one who gives life and ends it. It was like that, as easy as it had ever been.”

Promises

Though I have walked with God for several decades, I must confess I still find much about Him incomprehensible and mysterious. But this much I know: He delights in surprising us. He dots our pilgrimage from earth to heaven with amazing serendipities.

Isaiah’s words make me smile every time I read them because I have seen their truth come to pass time and again. God still stands behind this promise:

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isa. 43:19 NIV)

Your situation may be as hot and barren as a desert or as forlorn and meaningless as a wasteland. You may be tempted to think, “There’s no way!” when someone suggests things could change. All I ask is that you read that verse one more time and be on the lookout. God may very well be planning a serendipity in your life.

God has been doing “a new thing” in drab deserts and wintry wastelands for centuries.

Creation

It’s no surprise that the creation account has always been in the crosshairs of the enemy. Since the Garden of Eden, God’s Word has suffered and withstood many aggressive attacks, all driven by one scandalous purpose—to cast doubt upon God and the integrity of His Word.

Genesis in particular, has been a favorite target. Many are saying . . . Adam was not a real person, Eden was not a real place, and the talking serpent was not a real tempter. In fact, they start with the word, “day” in Genesis 1. According to the “framework hypothesis,” day doesn’t mean a real 24-hour period of time. John MacArthur goes on to explain . . .

One popular view of creation held by many old-earth advocates is known as the “framework hypothesis.” This is the belief that the “days” of creation are not even distinct eras, but overlapping stages of a long evolutionary process. According to this view, the six days described in Genesis 1 do not set forth a chronology of any kind, but rather a metaphorical “framework” by which the creative process is described for our finite human minds.

This view was apparently first set forth by liberal German theologians in the nineteenth century, and was later adopted and propagated by some leading evangelicals, most notably the late Dr. Meredith G. Kline, an Old Testament scholar who taught at Westminster theological seminary.

The framework hypothesis starts with the view that the “days” of creation in Genesis 1 are symbolic expressions that have nothing to do with time. Framework advocates note the obvious parallelism between days one and four (the creation of light and the placing of lights in the firmament), days two and five (the separation of air and water and the creation of fish and birds to inhabit air and water), and days three and six (the emergence of the dry land and the creation of land animals)—and they suggest that such parallelism is a clue that the structure of the chapter is merely poetic. Thus, according to this theory, the sequence of creation may essentially be disregarded, as if some literary form in the passage nullified its literal meaning.

Naturally, advocates of this view accept the modern scientific theory that the formation of the earth required several billion years. They claim the biblical account is nothing more than a metaphorical framework that should overlay our scientific understanding of creation. The language and details of Genesis 1 are unimportant, they say; the only truth this passage aims to teach us is that the hand of divine Providence guided the evolutionary process. The Genesis creation account is thus reduced to a literary device—an extended metaphor that is not to be accepted at face value.

But if the Lord wanted to teach us that creation took place in six literal days, how could He have stated it more plainly than Genesis does? The length of the days is defined by periods of day and night that are governed after day four by the sun and moon. The week itself defines the pattern of human labor and rest. The days are marked by the passage of morning and evening. How could these not signify the chronological progression of God’s creative work?

The problem with the framework hypothesis is that it employs a destructive method of interpretation. If the plain meaning of Genesis 1 may be written off and the language treated as nothing more than a literary device, why not do the same with Genesis 3? Indeed, most theological liberals do insist that the talking serpent in chapter 3 signals a fable or a metaphor, and therefore they reject that passage as a literal and historical record of how humanity fell into sin. Where does metaphor ultimately end and history begin? After the flood? After the tower of Babel? And why there? Why not regard all the biblical miracles as literary devices? Why could not the resurrection itself be dismissed as a mere allegory? In the words of E. J. Young, “If the ‘framework’ hypothesis were applied to the narratives of the virgin birth or the resurrection or Romans 5:12, it could as effectively serve to minimize the importance of the content of those passages as it now does the content of the first chapter of Genesis.”

In his book, Studies in Genesis One, Young points out the fallacy of the “framework” hypothesis:

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The question must be raised, “If a nonchronological view of the days be admitted, what is the purpose of mentioning six days?” For, once we reject the chronological sequence which Genesis gives, we are brought to the point where we can really say very little about the content of Genesis one. It is impossible to hold that there are two trios of days, each paralleling the other. Day four . . . speaks of God’s placing the light-bearers in the firmament. The firmament, however, had been made on the second day. If the fourth and the first days are two aspects of the same thing, then the second day also (which speaks of the firmament) must precede days one and four. If this procedure be allowed, with its wholesale disregard of grammar, why may we not be consistent and equate all four of these days with the first verse of Genesis? There is no defense against such a procedure, once we abandon the clear language of the text. In all seriousness it must be asked, Can we believe that the first chapter of Genesis intends to teach that day two preceded days one and four? To ask that question is to answer it.

The simple, rather obvious, fact is that no one would ever think the time-frame for creation was anything other than a normal week of seven days from reading the Bible and allowing it to interpret itself. The Fourth Commandment makes no sense whatsoever apart from an understanding that the days of God’s creative work parallel a normal human work week.

The framework hypothesis is the direct result of making modern scientific theory a hermeneutical guideline by which to interpret Scripture. The basic presupposition behind the framework hypothesis is the notion that science speaks with more authority about origins and the age of the earth than Scripture does. Those who embrace such a view have in effect made science an authority over Scripture. They are permitting scientific hypotheses—mere human opinions that have no divine authority whatsoever—to be the hermeneutical rule by which Scripture is interpreted.

There is no warrant for that. Modern scientific opinion is not a valid hermeneutic for interpreting Genesis (or any other portion of Scripture, for that matter). Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 2:16)—inspired truth from God. “[Scripture] never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Jesus summed the point up perfectly when He said, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17, KJV). The Bible is supreme truth, and therefore it is the standard by which scientific theory should be evaluated, not vice versa.

As John MacArthur wrote, proponents of the “framework hypothesis” argue the language and details of Genesis 1 are unimportant; they are only meant to show that divine Providence guided the evolutionary process.

But, if that’s really what God intended for us to take away from the first few chapters of Genesis—Providence guided evolution—then why did God provide such exact details with precise language?

The Crisis In Our Lives

Hi Kim,

A crisis hits fast, it hits hard, and it takes no prisoners. It can alter the course of your life dramatically. Pain knocks on your front door, moves in without your permission, and refuses to leave. In fact, you wouldn’t even wish it on your worst enemy, yet it’s happening to people everyday.

I do not know of many Christians who have not at some time had a crisis point in their walk with God. How we respond to such a crisis in many ways determines our future maturity as a Christ follower. The reality is there are some who once knew Jesus and walked away from their relationship with Him. This can be directly related to not properly responding to a crisis of their faith in God. If all those who have walked away were to come back to the Lord there may not be an empty seat in our churches.

This issue of responding properly to a crisis of faith becomes a paramount one for the Church. There are many outside the Church today because of it and there are many within the Church who has stunted their personal growth with God over of it. They have lost the kind of joy and zeal they once had for serving God and cannot seem to pinpoint when that happened. For many it can be traced back to a crisis time in their walk with God. When they reached a place of desperation and felt God was not there or did not provide, so they hold that against Him – even unknowingly.

What constitutes a crisis of faith? It is when we come to a pivotal point in our Christian life where events cause us to believe that we cannot go on serving God. The surface causes for such a crisis are as varied as individual experience; it could be the loss of a loved one, a financial disaster, a relationship break-up, or a job loss. But the root issues comprise several main causes. This is important to identify for it helps us to realize that we are not different from other Christians. It also helps us to weed through the particulars of our situation and see the underlying issues that have brought us to such a crisis point.

The Church

Some people don’t know how to pay compliments to others. They’re always critical, always critiquing this or that. And when they do pay a compliment, it’s more of the backhanded variety. For instance, they’ll say, “Hey! You’re on time!” or “You look great for your age!” or “You’re so pretty. Why are you still single?

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”While there is no spiritual gift of criticism, there is the spiritual gift of exhortation, or encouraging others. The Bible says, “If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging” (Romans 12:8 NLT).
The word exhort relating to the spiritual gift of exhortation means to motivate, to stimulate, to excite, and when necessary, too correct. It’s urging someone on.Someone with the gift of teaching will tell you how to do something, but someone with the gift of exhortation motivates you to want to do it.Some people are great with the details of Greek and Hebrew, historical background, and so forth. It’s fantastic. Then others give messages that make you want to go and change the world.

The church needs both gifts today. I think Jesus gives us the model of how to properly exhort in His message to the seven churches of Revelation, and specifically to the church of Ephesus. Loosely paraphrased, here’s what Jesus said to the Ephesian church in Revelation 2: I know you guys work hard, and I know you’re discerning. I know all that you do for me, and I appreciate that. But I have this issue with you. You have left your first love. So, remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the first works quickly.img_0159

Jesus started with compliments and affirmation, followed by a word of criticism, and then the solution.The church needs teachers, but we also need people with the gift of exhortation.

If you agree please let me know. I find I need to follow in this area a whole lot better than I do.img_0165

Christian's Commentary

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