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I want to begin this Memorial Day post by honoring those who sacrificed their lives to keep this country free and thanking their families. May the Lord bless and comfort you.

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What does every person on earth possess that God does not?

A great many things. And a host of them are sinful. Premier among them, if that may be said, is pride.

But God? God is not proud at all.

Think with me for a moment. If any being had a right to boast about what he had accomplished, God would be that being. How is this for starters? He created everything that exists, including you. He gives life to all living things. He created a universe and world where everything works together in an orderly way. (Some quantum mechanics physicists may disagree!) He knows everything. There is nothing He cannot do. Finally, He, the Creator, sacrificed Himself for everyone’s sins and, if they believe, will save them from eternal death. Is He proud of what He has done? No. He is humble and lowly in heart.

In contrast, we, who are incomprehensibly weak in comparison to Him, have no problem whatsoever crowing about the relatively diminutive things we accomplish. This creates a rather large problem. The Lord hates pride.

Why does He hate it? He hates it because it is destructive to us. Pride is detrimental because it keeps Christians from living in the liberating, faith-thriving truth that God is the king, the ruler, and the one who controls everything—and we are not. Living as a Christian with God as king is a blessing for us. In His great love, He knows exactly what we need and when we need it. Pride, instead, leads us into the damaging error that we think we know what we need and when we need it, and thus will endeavor with all our strength to work our will to stay in control. We become frustrated. Angry. Even faithless. In truth, Christians are strengthened in faith and edified when they glorify the Lord. The Holy Spirit gives witness in our hearts that this is right and true. We find ourselves in agreement with God when we glorify Him.

In addition, pride is unlike God because it is unloving. It drives us to think we are superior to others, and we are happy to demonstrate it. We are intelligent and quite able, aren’t we? We’re probably smarter than most, aren’t we? “I can conquer this, and I will prove it to you. I can do this. I can make this happen.” Christians have mimicked the world in this, misusing scriptural truths. For example, we love to quote, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).1 But think about this. Can you really do all things through Jesus? No, you can’t. It is an empty, unscriptural boast. This verse is ripped out of context from a passage where Paul wrote that whether he was experiencing difficulty or abundance, he had learned to be content.

Another verse Christians shout is, “All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23b). This is direct quote from Jesus. But we need to ask, “Believes in what? Believes that something I want to happen will happen?” This is off target. We need to couple Mark 9:23 with Jesus’ statement, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). It is true that God can do anything. Is He able to heal your sickened body? Of course. All things are possible for Him. We should believe that truth. Will He heal your sickened body? Perhaps not. Just because you believe all things are possible for the Lord and that He can do anything doesn’t mean He will.

Another slogan we like to say is, “We can change the world.” This is direct rip-off from the American culture. It is a vague, mindless statement. Can you “change the world”? Well, you can go outside and prune a tree and “change the world.” But believer, you cannot change anything at all of eternal value in this world. Only God can do that.

We must understand these things because here is what is to come:

“The LORD of hosts has purposed it, to defile the pompous pride of all glory, to dishonor all the honored of the earth. (Isaiah 23:9).

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).

This is a judgment that we bring upon ourselves. At a certain time, which only He knows, He will say, “I have shown you the truth. Yet you continued to boast in yourself, your knowledge, and your deeds. I have opposed you. Yet you would not hear and obey. You will be humbled. You will be dishonored.”

Father, help us to humble ourselves before You. Rebuke and restrain us when we boast in ourselves. Teach us the way of humility.

 

1 All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

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I don’t know when it changed. Sometime, a few years ago, people, including Christians, began replacing exclamations like “Wow!,” “Oh my goodness!,” and other printable and unprintable expressions with “Oh my God!” This has not been a helpful change in American Christendom. It saddens and troubles me to hear it said, but it has pulled the drapes back on our religious superficiality. It exposes the reality that many Christians in the United States do not take the idea and the name of the Lord God Almighty seriously. So, to challenge us to deepen our thinking about the Creator and Savior, I am going to admonish Christians to stop using this expression and explain why.

This is the Lord’s third commandment to His people: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).1

Perhaps the way the New Century Version translates it will bring it a little closer to home: “You must not use the name of the LORD your God thoughtlessly; the LORD will punish anyone who misuses his name.”2

There’s a little more fear in that rendering, isn’t there?

Now, I know that some readers may balk at this. They will claim that we are not to be subject to fear. Respect God, yes. But fear Him? Not so much. However, it is difficult to ignore truths like these:

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:4–5).

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111:10).

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13).

Both love and fear are characteristics in the lives of those who desire to know God. It is up to believers to find the balance between loving God and fearing Him, but both attributes must be present in a vibrant and genuine Christian life.

Perhaps it appears that I am advocating behavioral legalism when I encourage the cessation of a behavior. Not so. I reject Christian perfectionism and legalism. But I do not reject God’s laws. No, I love God’s laws. They reveal His heart and character. However, His laws are obeyed from the inside out, not from the outside only. We obey because we love Him. This is critical. If love for our God is not our motivation, we become loveless, unmerciful, death-dealing legalists.

God, whose name we toss around so thoughtlessly, created everything that exists. He created the one who takes His name in vain. He is aware of such a person’s heartbeat, each thought, each breath. He knows that obedience to His laws brings life and that disobedience to them, sin, brings spiritual death in some manner or another. He commands us because He loves us. Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). He said this because we do not know how to be His friend. He must tell us.

This same God loves the one who carelessly blurts out His name. He offered Himself in sacrifice for the one who, unthinking, uses His name to express his or her happiness about a plate of nachos. To echo James, “My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:10).

Let us repent and ask for forgiveness. Let’s think about our Savior and Creator when we speak His name and ask for His help to do so. Let us do all things to please Him.

“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:9–10).

 

1Unless noted otherwise, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

2The Everyday Bible: New Century Version. (2005). (Ex 20:7). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

 

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I returned today from three-and-a-half days recovering from cervical surgery. I am grateful that the surgeon, Dr. Gruber, took me on as an urgent case in this time of forbidden elective surgeries. According to him and his team, I was one fall away from becoming a paraplegic. Although at first I struggled with the chronology of the events that led to the cascade of numbness in my hands, arms, feet, and legs, it became clear that Laurie and I would not have traveled to Bangladesh with me in such a condition. Rough roads in rough vehicles contributed to an already existing issue.

God knows all things.

All things according to His will.

Were a wheelchair to be His choice for me, I would have been sorely in need of the letter below, which a Church father, Cyprian, wrote to martyrs who had been sent to the mines for punishment during Roman persecution. Cyprian himself, after having been a Christian for only twelve years, was beheaded by the Romans around 218 A.D. Although the miners were not murdered, it is not difficult to speculate what they endured from breathing dust, smoke from torches and lamps, starvation diets, and unsafe work conditions.

I state the obvious when I write that both Christians and non-believers are suffering through a pandemic. However, suffering has always been the case for us. We are all constantly in need of an eternal perspective. We Christians in the West all too often steadfastly ignore the New Testament’s admonishments to suffer for Jesus’ sake, as in Philippians 1:29–30 and Acts 14:21–22, including, most importantly, Jesus’ requirement to be willing to die on a cross in order to be His disciple in Luke 14:25-35. We ignore such passages while mistakenly interpreting Jesus’ promise for an abundant life as “your best life now.”

We are to honor those who now and throughout Church history have been willing to offer themselves in a self-denying, sacrificial way.

I thank Dr. James White for reading Cyprian’s letter on his April 14, 2020, broadcast. As he said at the time, it is better to consider this truth now, when it is not yet upon us, than when it is. Below is only the second section of Cyprian’s letter. To read it in its entirety, including the miners’ response, follow the link to the footnote following.

“But that, being first severely beaten with clubs, and ill-used, you have begun by sufferings of that kind, the glorious firstlings of your confession, is not a matter to be execrated by us. For a Christian body is not very greatly terrified at clubs, seeing all its hope is in the Wood. The servant of Christ acknowledges the sacrament of his salvation: redeemed by wood to life eternal, he is advanced by wood to the crown. But what wonder if, as golden and silver vessels, you have been committed to the mine that is the home of gold and silver, except that now the nature of the mines is changed, and the places which previously had been accustomed to yield gold and silver have begun to receive them? Moreover, they have put fetters on your feet, and have bound your blessed limbs, and the temples of God with disgraceful chains, as if the spirit also could be bound with the body, or your gold could be stained by the contact of iron. To men who are dedicated to God, and attesting their faith with religious courage, such things are ornaments, not chains; nor do they bind the feet of the Christians for infamy but glorify them for a crown. Oh, feet blessedly bound, which are loosed, not by the smith but by the Lord! Oh, feet blessedly bound, which are guided to paradise in the way of salvation! Oh, feet bound for the present time in the world, that they may be always free with the Lord! Oh feet, lingering for a while among the fetters and cross-bars, but to run quickly to Christ on a glorious road! Let cruelty, either envious or malignant, hold you here in its bonds and chains as long as it will, from this earth and from these sufferings you shall speedily come to the kingdom of heaven. The body is not cherished in the mines with couch and cushions, but it is cherished with the refreshment and solace of Christ. The frame wearied with labors lies prostrate on the ground, but it is no penalty to lie down with Christ. Your limbs unbathed, are foul and disfigured with filth and dirt; but within they are spiritually cleansed, although without the flesh is defiled. There the bread is scarce; but man lives not by bread alone, but by the word of God. Shivering, you want clothing; but he who puts on Christ is both abundantly clothed and adorned. The hair of your half-shorn head seems repulsive; but since Christ is the head of the man, anything whatever must needs become that head which is illustrious on account of Christ’s name. All that deformity, detestable and foul to Gentiles, with what splendor shall it be recompensed! This temporal and brief suffering, how shall it be exchanged for the reward of a bright and eternal honor, when, according to the word of the blessed apostle, “the Lord shall change the body of our humiliation, that it may be fashioned like to the body of His brightness!”2

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

2https://crossencountersmin.com/featured-article/cyprian-letter-mineworkers/

Gif courtesy Bing images.

 

 

 

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“I’m going to do the taxes,” my wife, Laurie, said. Well, she didn’t actually say this. She just went ahead and did it. Reminds me of a woman we met when we served in Mexico. She was “a little bit of nothin’” as they say in Texas, which was where she was from. This woman had supervised the building of her house in Chapala, an expansive, beautiful casa easily worth a million dollars. This was no mean feat in a foreign country that experiences a good share of corruption. When we expressed our admiration, she proclaimed, “I’m a Texas gal. Watch—and hide.” One of the better lines I’ve heard in my life. Well, Laurie’s task was smaller by several degrees of magnitude, and although saying, “I’m a Washington State gal. Watch—and hide,” doesn’t have quite the same punch—the determined mind is identical. She jumped into the project, grabbed onto the root, and growled. Read the rest of this entry »

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“Job, when I took away everything you had, I was being compassionate and merciful.” Read the rest of this entry »

 

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We were minutes away from leaving to take my wife, Laurie, to work at 6:00 a.m. She said she had found something she wanted to read to me. I was half-awake and half-dead, unsure what even my own thoughts were, much less someone else’s. What can I tell you? The woman wakes up singing. However, I had learnt the wise and strategic lesson imprinted by years of marriage, to pause and listen. This is not only because this woman thinks of things in the natural world that would never cross my mind, but also because the Lord often opens truths up to her. As she spoke, I, in spite of my deplorable mental condition, was able by God’s grace to hear the beauty of the Lord’s truth. She was reading from a section of Barnes’ Notes on the first chapter of James. So, let’s give credit to the only one to whom credit is due: The Lord, since, by His grace, He was the one who inspired Mr. Barnes to write, Laurie to read, and, on that early, dark February morning, me to hear.

Barnes was dealing with this passage: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13).1 Barnes pointed out in his comments that the Lord has no evil desires that must be satisfied. If He tempted someone to do evil, He would need to have such longings.

Let’s think about this for a moment.

Unlike you and me, God has no evil wishes or cravings. Evil does not exist in the Lord. It doesn’t have a presence there, not even a foothold. He doesn’t have needs that require fulfilment, as if He lacked something. The Christian God lacks nothing. He is perfectly whole and good in and of Himself. The Lord is the eternal plumb line in the universe for all that is just, and good and loving.

Perfectly.

When Christians doubt that He is good (and thus evil at worst, uncaring or impotent at best), they are being tempted to unbelief. The Lord does not tempt, but He does test. And that test of faith concerns the very truth we are considering here. Is He good? Can we trust Him? The deep answer is that we must take an eternal view of life to find rest in such trials that try our faith.

Accompanying this reality of God’s testing is the acknowledgement that we humans just simply do not and cannot know the full reality of the difficult circumstances which face us. Why does God allow arduous trials? We will not know until we are with Him in eternity, when all things will become known. In the meantime, we believe the simple truth that God is good.

Was Israel thirsty in the wilderness? Yes. God caused that thirst. He was testing them. They failed. Were they hungry? Yes. God caused them to experience that hunger. He was testing them. Israel failed that test. Was King Saul in danger from the gathering Philistines? Yes. Their enemy had 30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen, and “troops like the sand on the seashore” (1 Samuel 13:5). From his faithless point of view, Saul could no longer wait for the prophet Samuel as he had been told to do. He had to act. He had to offer the sacrifice immediately. But that faithless deed doomed his reign. Did God know the Philistines were threatening as well as the number of their soldiers? Of course. But that number meant nothing to Him. Saul was being tested. He was tempted to take action in disobedient faithlessness. He failed.

In each of these cases cited, God had no “evil passion to be gratified,” as Barnes wrote. He was not seeking to rejoice in the failures of Israel and King Saul, the way we humans sometimes take joy in the disastrous failures of others. He has no selfish or malicious needs to be satiated. He expects this from us: to know, love, and trust Him. “Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD’” (Jeremiah 9:23–24).

Did you see that? The Lord delights in steadfast love, justice, and righteousness. It should not surprise us that He expects us to believe that. He will test us, in love, so we will understand and know Him. This is the highest aspiration of humankind.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

 

 

 

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In the movie John Wick 2, Gianna D’Antonio, a woman Mr. Wick found it necessary to murder because of a blood oath he had taken, asked him, “Do you fear damnation, John?”

“Yes,” was his simple reply.

But did John Wick really fear damnation?

No, not at all, at least in any significant sense. True, it seems he thought that condemning judgment from the Lord God Almighty was out there, lurking in the future, causing a degree of consternation in our hero, but not enough to result in a change of behavior. He just continued to kill people. Apparently, he thought that damnation/hell/judgment might actually be a reality and thus awaited him; but the satisfaction and rightness of his revenge far outweighed the fear of that eternal truth. Revenge was not the reason he killed Gianna D’Antonio, but it had put him on the path that led to her. Originally, he sought revenge because a group of young men had killed his dog. To John Wick, revenge here on earth–even for just an animal–was worth the price of suffering for a trillion years and on into eternity.

Revenge. It seems to make sense to us in film. The victim has no legal redress and must have justice. In Wick’s case, he was in a system adjudicated by what was called the High Table. The laws of the government of the United States held no sway there. William Wallace, in the movie, Braveheart, was a powerless man under the authority of an evil king. The case was the same for the character, Maximus, that Russell Crowe played in Gladiator. What is the victim to do in the light of such injustice?

According to Scripture, Christians have but one choice in these scenarios: Suffer. Revenge is never a behavior in which they should engage. In the Christian era, such justice is to be meted out only by governments and ruling authorities. Paul wrote, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:3–4).1

Does this mean that Christians cannot be involved in helping themselves and others who have suffered injustice? Of course not. However, ruling, governmental authorities are to be the “avengers” who carry out “God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” For the individual, however, who must await such earthly judgments, he or she is not to take on that role of avenger. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19–21).

Obedience to this truth requires that Christians take an eternal view of justice, something that is not popular today—perhaps it never was, knowing the nature of mankind. It requires faith in a just God. It requires hope in a just judgment to come.

But there is more going on here, I would think, than just obeying a command about vengeance. In his revenge, John Wick kills—I don’t know—a hundred people. He kills them as if they are not living individuals at all. In contrast, the reader is probably aware of the anguish of civilians and police officers who have had to take the tragic action of killing an intruder or violent criminal. We are also aware of the toll taken upon individuals who have seen the bodies of victims, especially children. They never forget these images. What has been seen can’t be unseen. However, John Wick violently kills people, seemingly, with no impact on his soul whatsoever. This is simply not reality for us. We may enjoy a fictional bloodlust on the screen because we know they are all actors and stuntmen, but when we see this kind of death first-hand, it messes with and damages us.

I don’t know what lasting effect revenge films have on us, if any. I sincerely hope that this society will never begin to think they have become so powerless and their government so corrupt that they must take justice into their own hands. Regardless, for Christians, vigilante justice is no option. This may be at least one reason why Paul wrote that we should pray for ruling authorities. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1–2).

Amen. That sounds good to me.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016).

Gif courtesy Bing images.

 

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Jesus spoke stunning, beautiful truths many times, but few rival His statements in John 8, where He told the doubting Jews that Abraham, who lived many centuries before, rejoiced to see His day. Immediately following, He claimed to be Yahweh, who spoke to Moses in the burning bush in the wilderness.

“‘Abraham your father rejoiced that he would see my day, and he saw it and was glad.’ So the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I am’” (John 8:56–58).1

Doesn’t this passage cause your mind to soar? Jesus is harkening back to two experiences He had with two men two thousand years or so before His listeners were born. The first was with Abraham, whom Jesus claimed had seen his “day.” This encounter will be our primary focus in this article. So, let’s ask the question, “What day had he seen?”

Let me begin by saying that I do not think that this “seeing” was only one incident but the culmination of promissory encounters and revelations from the Lord. Perhaps we should say, “revelations from Jesus.” Because it was Him, was it not, by the oaks of Mamre, who promised the son, Isaac? That promise brought the laughter of incredibility, and for Abram and Sarah, who had several months to see the promise come to pass, that doubting laughter was turned to true, believing joy. They named their son, Isaac—laughter. “And Sarah said, ‘God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me’” (Genesis 21:6).

In this same visitation at that meeting by the oaks, the Lord announced the destruction of Sodom. Despite Abraham’s intercession, God could not find ten righteous people in Sodom, and it was destroyed as He had said.

Abraham learned truths about God in these experiences. The Lord brings to pass what He announces. The child was born in old age. He had asked Abraham and Sarah after the laughter at His declaration: “Is anything too difficult for Yahweh?” (Genesis 18:14a). “No, nothing,” they would surely soon confess. Abraham and Sarah were becoming convinced of the reality of the sovereignty of God. The Lord possesses the ability both to bring fertility to an old couple as well as overwhelming destruction.

The Lord told Abraham previously (Genesis 13 and 15) that He would give his descendants the land and make his offspring as numerous as the dust and stars. We don’t know if Abraham always believed these promises throughout his life, but a test of faith in those oaths came when the Lord commanded him to sacrifice Isaac. Keep in mind this was the very son the Lord had promised, and this boy was the only true descendant through whom those numberless descendants would come. This test of faith, I think, is the apogee of Abraham’s seeing Jesus’ day and rejoicing in it. This is the wonderful thing he said to his servants before he trudged up the hill to obey the Lord’s command of sacrifice: “You stay here with the donkey, and I and the boy will go up there. We will worship, then we will return to you” (Genesis 22:5). And he said this to Isaac when he asked where the sacrificial animal was, seeing the wood and the fire but no lamb: “God will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:8a).

The day of Jesus that Abraham “saw” was the knowledge of a needed, sacrificial Son of God’s promise and His subsequent resurrection.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered Isaac, and the one who received the promises was ready to offer his one and only son, with reference to whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your descendants will be named,’ having reasoned that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which he received him back also as a symbol” (Hebrews 11:17–19).

Nothing on Earth or in the universe has the power to stop the Lord from fulfilling what He has proclaimed. Thus, with Abraham, we rejoice that Jesus came and, humbling Himself, became a servant unto death and offered Himself in sacrifice of which Isaac was the type. Jesus then rose from the dead, as He said He would, defeating sin, death, hell, and the grave.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, Immanuel, God Almighty in the flesh, for your merciful sacrifice, salvation, and resurrection. We rejoice with Abraham and all the saints to have seen Your day.

 

1Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer, J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Bible Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

 

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One of the things my poor, formerly evangelical mind has trouble wrapping itself around is that Jesus purposefully said things that were incomprehensible not only to those who opposed Him, but to His disciples, as well. The boldest example of this is when He told His listeners that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:53-58). I guess Jesus hadn’t attended any church growth seminars. Surely, this seems counterproductive.

But wait just one second. This is the Creator of the universe speaking. God in the flesh.

It would behoove us to listen.

But that passage in John is another topic for another time. The truth I’d like to look at in this article is the time He told His disciples that they should buy swords.

And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough” (Luke 22:35–38).1

I can say with certainty that any one of us who had been there with Jesus that night would have interpreted what He said in the same way as the disciples. Jesus never talked about swords in any of His teachings except in a literal sense. Why would He do this? Why would He purposefully tell His disciples to buy swords, knowing that is exactly what they would have heard Him to say? They didn’t buy any, by the way, but just showed Him the two they had. Jesus didn’t correct them when they produced these weapons which He surely could have done. He simply said, “It is enough.” We know Jesus didn’t really want them to buy swords to fight because when Peter slashed off the high priest’s servant’s ear in Gethsemane, Jesus told him, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11). Matthew recorded that Jesus said, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Jesus then healed the poor man (Luke 22:51).

I think I know at least part of the answer to explain Jesus’ words. We know He spoke in parables so that everyone but His disciples would “see but not perceive” and “hear but not understand” (Mark 4:10-12). But here is Jesus speaking, not in a parable, but in a—what shall we call it—a divine secrecy.2 It seems that in this case He expected the disciples to figure it out by seeking understanding from the Holy Spirit, even if that understanding didn’t appear for a while.

Proverbs 25:2 says. “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out” It is astounding, isn’t it, that God says He is glorified when He conceals things? But that isn’t the whole story. It’s also a glory for us kings and priests (Revelation 1:6 and 5:9-10) to search concealed things out. I don’t know why this searching is the “glory of kings,” but surely it’s a good thing.

Thus, God is glorified in our pursuit here and, somehow, it is good—glorifying—for us to discover, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, what in the world Jesus, our Savior, is talking about.

In the case before us, I think that we are to discover that Jesus was saying to His disciples, now that He would soon be absent physically from them, that they should sacrificially and purposefully do what they must, with great desire and diligence, to search out the truths in the Word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17), which pierces us even dividing one’s soul and spirit, discerning the thoughts and intents of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12). It is here that we learn the true Truth. It is here that we will find Jesus, who is the Word. God’s words are not just the opinion of irrelevant ancients. They are the thoughts of the one who created the universe—and you.

The hidden treasure and the pearl of great value are ours to find and make our own from the proceeds of the sale of lesser, temporal things (Matthew 13:44-46). This is the truth upon which our spiritual and eternal lives depend.

It is not a hobby.

Father, give the Church the desire to sacrificially seek out Your truth, no matter how opaque it may seem to us. Forgive us for taking Your words so lightly. Forgive us for our inattentiveness to Your words of life.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

2Ross, A. P. (1991). Proverbs. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Vol. 5, p. 1079). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

 

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Let’s take a moment to think about eternity. Right away, an obstacle lies in our path. Taking a “moment” and the immediacy of “right away” in a discussion about eternity inform us of the challenge. We are bound by time. We can’t comprehend eternity, and thoughts about it elusively descend into to a haze.

But why should we think about eternity at all?

Good question.

Difficult question.

To start with, some may say that we have enough to occupy our thoughts with the stuff going on right now. True enough. Sicknesses. Jobs. Families. They all require our careful attention.

At least let me throw out one thought, although it is a little disquieting: In seventy years or so, everyone reading this article will probably be dead. Almost no one will know or remember you even existed. Any money you saved will be in the possession of others. Any deeds you did, unless you’re famous, will be forgotten, remembered, perhaps, by your grandchildren. As for their children remembering—don’t kid yourself.

So, who will remember you?

The Lord God, your Creator. The one who loves you with—yes, I should state it—an eternal love.

He will always love you.

Can you imagine a trillion years? No, of course you can’t. But if you’re a Christian, you’ll be alive a trillion years from now.

Doing what?

Well, Scripture doesn’t offer a lot of details. We get a few hints, though. Before we look at those things, let’s be unambiguous. What we know of reality now is not what reality will be for us then. There’s a time coming when all that we know and see and understand about the present earth, solar system, and universe won’t exist anymore. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more” (Revelation 21:1).1 The Lord God Almighty is going to create everything new. “And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (Revelation 21:5). What will that be like? Will there be boars and bears and butterflies? No one knows but Him. But if you have ever been dazzled by this present creation—if you haven’t, you haven’t been thinking properly—then it isn’t hard to imagine that whatever is to come will be better. Better, because there will be no sin there and thorns will not “infest the ground,” as the Christmas song says.

Despite the lack of detail, however, we have a few scriptural truths about eternity that should cause us to pause and ponder.

Believers will judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:2–3). How long will this judging take? Well, there are probably tens of thousands of these fallen angels, but the notion of “how long” does not exist in the Lord’s heavenly kingdom. We don’t know how to answer this question.

Believers—meek ones, apparently—will inherit the earth—forever (Matthew 5:5).

Believers who overcome, who “conquer,” will rule over nations—forever (Revelation 2:26—27).

I should note here that we Christians will be judged, as well, by Jesus Himself. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others” (2 Corinthians 5:10–11a).

It should be noted that this judgment is final. So, that will last for eternity, as well.

So, it seems a fruitful thing, a worthy thing, doesn’t it, to take a time-bound moment or two and think about eternity in the light of these truths.

All glory to Him who sits upon the throne and unto the Lamb, forever and ever.

 

1All Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

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