At the very end of Jesus’ life, we see His body ripped to shreds. He was absolutely mutilated. The Bible says He was not even recognizable as human at the end. The Romans were experts as torture and they had an uncanny ability to create horrifying pain. When Jesus was flogged before His crucifixion, the soldiers would have used a cat of nine tails. This was a special whip with nine strands of leather. In each strand, there were pieces of metal and bone that would deliver a blow, tearing and ripping the flesh. Pontius Pilate ordered that Jesus be flogged in the hopes that those wanting Him to be crucified would be satisfied if He were beaten thoroughly. However, when Jesus re-appeared before the crowd, the soldiers had put a robe and a crown of thorns on him stirring the anger of those who wanting Jesus to die for claiming to be the Messiah.
His body would have been so weak, but then He was made to carry His own cross. This was a very heavy beam. Many people died from the flogging that Jesus took. And not everyone was both flogged and then crucified. What Jesus endured was excessive brutality. Yet we read in the Scripture that the flogging did not kill Jesus and neither did the crucifixion kill Jesus. He was not killed. He gave up His spirit. He decided when the time would be that He would surrender His spirit and his body die. Just before He gave up His spirit, He said, “It is finished.” He finished the work the Lord had given Him to do. He could not allow the flogging, nor the crucifixion kill Him so that He could finish His work.
And we are the body of Christ and the Lord has prepare for each one of us, good works prepared for us since the beginning of time. And we too, face spiritual, mental, and emotional death all day long. Some Christians also face physical death all day long. Yet, like Christ, we can not allow ourselves to be destroyed. The flogging of persecution that can destroy our faith, kill our joy, and end our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is a very real truth, but we must not let it kill us. We have much to do, things God has prepared for you and me, specific to our life, that we must complete. Therefore, we must not ever allow ourselves to be destroyed, but we continue on in the strength of the Spirit fighting the good fight of faith doing those things that God has called us to do.
There are things that God has prepared for you to accomplish in this life. These things are specific to your life and others are dependent upon you to finish the work the Lord has given to us. We must finish the race. We cannot quit. We cannot allow the nails and the wood of this world kill us. We fight past it, continuing to do the works of the Lord until we finish the work He has given us. Is there anything in your life that is keeping you from doing what God has called you to do? Have you been distracted by pain or pleasure and stopped doing the work the Lord has given to you? It is time to fix our eyes upon the author and perfecter of our faith, hold on through the floggings and crosses of this world and finish the work He has given us.
Isaiah 52:13 - 53:6
See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
Just as there were many who were appalled at him--
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness --
so he will sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.
Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (NIV)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, if I am honest, the pain of this world can be unbearable. Remind me that I am part of the church, the body of Christ, exposed to the floggings, beatings, piercings, the hammer and nails of this world. Yet, I have this power deep within me and if I endure, the power that is You will manifest. If I let the things of this world destroy me, you will not be seen in me. Help me Lord to know where You want to use me and how You want to use me and give me strength to endure the hardships and keep serving You. Help me to finish the work You have given me to do as a man, a Father, a Husband, a Friend, and as a Servant of the Most High God. -Amen!
Long life. Riches. Honor. Pleasant ways. Peaceful paths. Does any of this sound good? Isn’t this what the whole world is searching for? I know the American dream is about success and making something out of your life, but it tends to mean to do well financially, but doesn’t God want more for us than money? I know that I included riches in the list and then acted as if this is not about money. The word for ‘riches’ means increase. It doesn’t mean that it is God’s intention that everyone become a billionaire, but it does mean that everyone can live a life of increase where their financial situation increases throughout their life. God wants long life, riches, honor, and peace for every soul. For the wealthiest businessman on Wall Street, the crack babies born in the worst situations, and the slave sold for a price. God wants and provides a way for everyone in every position and lot in life to have peace, pleasantness, honor, and riches.
How does the Lord intend for us to receive these into our life? We can’t say that it is work because a slave can work very hard yet at the end of their life, they have nothing to show for it. We can’t say that these come from having a good job or a good wife or good children. There are many people with good jobs one day and gone the next. There are plenty who have a wonderful family, but never experience riches, honor, peace, and long life. How about going to church? Surely if you go to church all your life, God will give these to you? But again I have to answer ‘no.’ Going to church every time the doors are open, praying every day-twice a day, worshiping, singing your heart out in full submission to the Holy Spirit. I have known so many church folk that fit this description, but they still did not receive these things that God has made available. Alright, I have made you wait long enough. Let’s look at how God wants to deliver these things into your life:
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who gets understanding,
for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
and her profit better than gold.
She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called blessed. (ESV)
There you go. It’s wisdom. Ok, I know that some of you are thinking already that this excludes you because you are not very wise. If that’s you, let me direct you to that very first line. It says blessed is the one who F-I-N-D-S wisdom, and the one who G-E-T-S understanding. No where does it say that the wisdom of God is a spiritual gift given only to some, but not others. It has been hidden the Bible says, but unlike the Amazing Race, the prize does not go to the first one to find it. There is a abundance of God’s wisdom for all who find it.
This is different from intellect. This has nothing to do with your IQ score. You don’t qualify with high SAT scores. There is no AZVAB for wisdom. I remember when I was playing football, my college coach yelled at me once, “YOUNG, YOU ARE AS DUMB AS A SACK OF ROCKS” He was probably right, but even I, a dumb sack of rocks, can find the wisdom gifted by the Creator of the Universe. We only have to go out looking and find it. Ok, you ready to start looking. It’s like a giant hide-n-seek game or marco polo in the pool (by the way, did you see that marco polo commercial for Geico-hilarious!). So gather up your equipment and whatever you need for this journey. Ready. Set. Go.
Hey, didn’t you read the first post in this series. I already told you where God has hidden His wisdom. It is hidden in Christ. In the second post, we went a little bit deeper. The wisdom of God is found in Christ because He is the love of God manifest and He is the Truth. Wisdom without love and without truth is the love of man and man is dumb, D-U-M-B, dumb! The more we know the person of Jesus, the more wisdom we will find, the more understanding we will get.
For a beautiful life, full of peace and increase, I don’t have to be super-smart. I don’t have to be politically connected. I don’t have to know the right people or go to the right university. I don’t need to be smart and I don’t have to be talented even (though I know all of you are super-talented). You need only to draw near to God and the Holy Spirit will fill you with the mind of Christ. You will have the wisdom of Jesus Christ, who is God forever and ever. I don’t have to have the perfect past or be from a perfect family. Maybe you are divorced or come from a divorced family. Maybe your past reads like the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted. It doesn’t matter any of that. Starting today, the more you get to know Jesus, and let the Holy Spirit fill you with the love of God and the mind of Christ, you will get wisdom and experience long life, riches, honor, peace, and blessings. Well, what are you waiting for? Get goin’
He said, “Tomorrow!” Can you believe he said tomorrow? That is hilarious. Maybe he just loves frogs. I don’t know but he said, “Tomorrow.” One of the craziest things in Scripture that will never be used as an example of wisdom happened in Egypt during the tug-o-war between the Pharoah and Moses. You remember that the people of Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for centuries and then the Lord sent Moses to deliver them out of that place. Moses was given power by God to perform miraculous signs to convince Pharaoh. But each time Pharaoh would refuse to let the people go. And when he refused, the Lord rained down curses. One such curse was that of frogs. All of the sudden after Pharaoh had again refused to let God’s people go, the Lord brought frogs from out of the Nile river. Now, the Egyptians worshipped frogs. It was against their belief system to kill the frogs or even accidentally step on the frogs. The Lord brought in a tsunami of frogs. They were everywhere. They were in their sheets, in their cereal, all over the floor, everywhere. I am sure they rolled over in bed and found themselves smooching a big, green frog. Pharaoh knew that God would listen to Moses so he called Moses and asked him to get rid of the frogs and Moses said, ‘I’ll even do one better than that. I will get rid of them, but I will let you decide when the frogs will be gone.”
Now, I don’t know what time of the day this conversation took place. The Scripture doesn’t really say, but I am thinking it might have been in the morning. When else will you be most ready to get rid of frogs but after being unable to sleep because they were jumping all over you all night. Anyway, the point is why didn’t Pharaoh say, “Right now. I want them gone right now.” Foolishness!
These are the kinds of decisions that we make all the time and afterwards, we think to ourselves, “What was I thinking?” These kinds of decisions can make our life very difficult. In the moment, we decide to do something stupid with our money, something stupid relationally, something stupid that changes everything. The good news today is that the wisdom of God is available for all of us right now. He has made it available. He has revealed it in His Son, Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can receive God’s wisdom into our life for long life, peace, prosperity, honor, and riches.
The Bible talks about two different kinds of wisdom. There is the wisdom of man that is compartmentalized as we spoke about yesterday. Then, we have the wisdom of God that is all-encompassing bringing success to your overall life not just certain aspects of it. We need to the know the difference between the two before we can start catching our brain before it make another big, dumb, stupid mistake.
In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (That’s a very long name for a tree 😊). But that ancient serpent came into the garden and began to speak to Eve. He said, “Did God really say not to eat of this tree? He just knows that this is going to make you like Him knowing good and evil.” Eve fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. She took a bite, then gave some to Adam who took a bite. Then they were kicked out of the garden. But why? Wasn’t Eve simply trying to obtain the very things that God wanted her to have?
Didn’t she want wisdom? Isn’t that a good thing? After all, God praised Solomon for asking for wisdom instead of riches or fame. The devil told her that eating the fruit would make her like God. Isn’t that a good thing to want to be like God? Ok, here’s the deal. She was going after good things, but by disobeying the commandment of the Lord, she was going after these good things without God. She was not loving anyone. Instead she was being selfish. She was believing the lie of the Devil. She was going after good things in a bad way. She was doing it without God, without love, and without truth. And there it is: the wisdom of man.
The wisdom of man works to make decisions with the goal of obtaining good things, but obtaining them without God, without love, and without Truth.
Relationships trying to find love, but foolishly they ignore the Truth and they disobey the Word of God. They may have worldly love just as much as they have the wisdom of man, but worldly love is not more real love than the wisdom of man being true wisdom. Real love is patient, kind, forbearing, keeping no record of past mistakes, always trusting, always hoping. But if a couple treats one another harshly when each one really needs to love the other by being patient, and kind, ready to forgive, not bringing up the past, then they are not really loving each other in that moment. They are trying to do it without God. When there is sex before marriage, it is foolish. The vulnerability of intimacy is rewarded only when accompanied by an unconditional love proven by a commitment to stay til death do us part.
Anytime I make a decision without loving others first or make a decision that ignores the truth of God’s word, that decision will most often end up bad, foolish. And let’s face it, we have enough foolishness in the world already for us to add some of our own. Get wisdom!
I have done some stupid things in my life. I am not proud of it but I will be honest about my own stupidity. I remember once when I was a child, 8 or 9 years old, I was riding in the back of a car. It was kind of a fancy car and it has a cigarette lighter in the back seat. I know….you just realized how old I am. Focus man! It was one of those lighters that had a button and when you wanted to use it, you would press down the button and it would heat up the lighting pad. When it was ready, the button would pop up and you could then use it to light your cigarette. No, I was not smoking at that age. I wanted to see if it worked. I am not sure what would have made me think that it didn’t, nevertheless the testing began. I pressed the button. I waited. The button popped up. I lifted the lighter and looked inside. To my surprise the lighting pad which was made up of concentric circles of metal was not even red. I thought to myself that it must not be working since the metal has not heated to a red-hot temperature. So, I did what many boys would do (I won’t say girls). I tested it by sticking my finger onto the lighting pad as if it were my very own cigarette. Concentric red circles burned into my fingertip and smoke rose up from the lighter. Ok, not so smart, but at least I knew it worked after that.
The Bible says that we should get wisdom even if it costs us all that we have. Wisdom is the ability to look at a situation, a dilemma, and know how to respond, what to say, what to do that will bring success. Since we are constantly throughout every day making one decision after another, it makes sense that wisdom is so important. But before we can take hold of wisdom, we must understand there is not one single type of wisdom.
The wisdom of God and the wisdom of man co-exist I the crux of every quandary we may find ourselves in. And to be certain, they are not the same. The wisdom of man is one-dimensional. The wisdom of man, when used as a reference for decision-making will lead to compartmentalized success. For example the wisdom of man allows a man to make billions and billions of dollars, but through five marriages and divorces while making all that money. This is what creates confusion for most of us. The wisdom of man is not impotent. It does bring success, but the success is limited to a small area of our life to the detriment of many others.
The wisdom of God on the other hand is comprehensive. It is not wisdom specific to specific modalities of life. It is a wisdom that is applicable to every of life. This is the first lesson of understanding the difference between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of man. When you see yourself making decisions that are leading to success in one area and a slow erosion in other areas, the wisdom of God has been overlooked.
It is also hidden. The Bible speaks of the wisdom of God a mystery to be revealed. In Proverbs, the promises of wisdom are long life, riches, honor, a pleasant abundant in peace and joy. But we must find this wisdom. The Lord has revealed it already to those who will seek it, but it is nothing like the wisdom of man. If the wisdom of man is the club of a fire ant, the wisdom of God is the planet Jupiter multiplied infinitely. The Bible says that God has revealed the wisdom of man to be utter foolishness so don’t think that the wisdom of God is anything like the wisdom of man.
The wisdom of man is a trap of the devil set out in the open with a big, fat, piece of cheese on it waiting to snap down on our necks. The wisdom of God is beneath and covered needing to be revealed. It is not that we don’t know where to find it or how to find it. The location has been revealed. Like a treasure map with “X” marks the spot, we know exactly where it is. But it is a journey. It is a trek and some of the terrain is not easy. So, you are only going to find it if you are willing to go an the adventure seeking, searching, following and studying the map. So, with this first post of the week, let me just ask you, are you willing to do the work to go and find it, get it, wisdom? Do you really want long life, riches, honor, pleasant and peace-filled life, prosperity? Do you really want it? I can’t tell from that look on your face. Well, assuming you really mean it, let me take you deeper. Scripture teaches us that the wisdom of God is Jesus Christ. God has put all of the elements of this wonderful wisdom into the person, the mind, the heart, and the emotions of Jesus Christ. So are you willing to do the work to seek Him out, to get to know Him, to know how His mind works, His emotions run, and His decisions fall? You will never find all those things promised by the wisdom of God unless you seek out the heart of Jesus Christ. Dig deep and uncover His humanity and His deity all wrapped together and there wisdom abides.
Everyone suffers. We do not suffer the same. I was having a rough day today. The trash men refused to pick up my trash and it was overflowing. I had to leave work to stuff some trash into the trunk of my car and bring it to the dumpster in the church just so that I would have some room to put more trash until the trash man comes again next week. As I was leaving, I ran out of gas. Now, before you start thinking that this was all my fault, let me splain. Recently, our car was reported to have a recall on it. After taking it to the dealership, they put a brand-spanking-new engine in it. It was crazy. The car already had over 100,000 miles on it, but they fixed me up with a new engine. It’s like I have a new car. The one thing though is that something is amiss with the gas tank. My gas gauge today showed me to have just barely under a quarter of a tank of gas. The pointer was still touching the quarter-full line, but I ran out of gas. This is the second time I have run out of gas without the gas light even coming on and this time it was worse. I had to wait in traffic giving hand signals to oncoming traffic to get them to move around me as I waited for my son to bring me the gas can from the garage. He called, “The gas can is empty Dad.” Are you serious???!!! We left my car right in the middle of the street while we went to get gas. Finally, I get it going and I am finally heading to work. The phone rings. “Dad, I locked myself out of the house.” I have to turn around and go back to the house. And this was just the beginning. If I had any hair, I would have pulled it out this morning.
When I got to the office, I asked, “Is anyone else having a bad day?” I wanted to co-miserate. Somehow, it makes us feel better when we know that we are not alone in our suffering. My wife though pointing out a man walking outside in the cold said, “At least you aren’t having to walk everywhere in this freezing cold.” Well, that’s true.
The Scripture says to endure hardship as discipline. When we go through difficult times of suffering, we have a choice of how we will process the suffering. We have a choice of how to assign meaning to that suffering. We can use suffering to justify anger, sin, hatred. We can use suffering to garner attention with a big ole’ pity party. We can use suffering to convince us that God doesn’t care, doesn’t love, or doesn’t like us. Suffering can mean to us that we are cursed and hated by God and people.
Processing suffering may be one of the most significant things in the life of a Christian. God calls us to process suffering as disciplines from our Heavenly Father. He is using the suffering to reveal to us that which is in us that is not right with Him. “How does the Lord want to use this to purify my heart, cleanse my unrighteousness, mature me to the next level?” This should be our first question when things go wrong. My first question was, “Am I alone in this suffering?” I obviously have never thought that I alone suffer while others don’t and I certainly have never thought that my suffering was worse than others. I got a pretty good life going. Nevertheless, a simple thing like running out of gas should be received as a means of revealing something in me that is not right. A lack of patience, an abundance of pride, these were brought into the light. I acted as if I had to get all of these things done and if I didn’t get them done, the sky was going to fall. How foolish I know, yet this was in my reaction. Will the church not continue on if I don’t get to the office on time? Will the whole of Christianity be utterly destroyed if I don’t send out a devotion? Silly, I know. But I must be honest about myself even if I am petty. (Hope you still love me 😊)
Not only must I process it as discipline, I must endure it. I must stand up under it. Suffering produces opportunities for me to choose God instead of my flesh. Isn’t this the match and rematch of all suffering, the righteousness of God and the sinfulness of my flesh? As believers, we must crucify our flesh. We must kill it with choosing faithfulness to God and rejecting the passions and desires of the flesh. My flesh may want to lash out at someone in an attempt to relieve the pain they have caused, but I kill the flesh when I choose to forgive, to overlook an offense. My flesh craves a night of drunkenness to help me forget, if just for a little while, the pain of this life. I kill the flesh when I choose to seek the Lord in my pain and praise Him through it. This is endurance.
Resisting the discipline manifests in the indulgence of the flesh in whatever form that takes in the moment. My Heavenly Father is attempting to direct me in the right direction. Call it a time-out, a whoopin, a spankin, a grounding, a restriction, a lecture. Call it whatever you want, if I reject it, in that moment, I am also rejecting the Lord as my Father. Like a rebellious teenager, “You can’t tell me what to do! I am going to do what I want!” The prodigal son stomps out again to play in the mud with pigs.
I remember once when I was about to spank my son. He was squirming all around trying to escape the long arm of the law if you know what I mean. I was holding on to his arm so he wasn’t getting away, but his butt was dancing around from right to left like he was going to be on Dancing with the Stars. In my wisdom, I simply said, “If you don’t let this happen and keep trying to avoid it, I am going to miss.” Haha! You know what I am talking about. The Lord has created us with a special place for whoopings. That wonderfully padded place cushioning the blow of Dad’s hand. The pain increases significantly if Dad misses.
The same is true with our spiritual discipline that comes through suffering. Process it as anything but an opportunity to grow, it’s like Dad missing your rump. Pain will intensify and last longer if we squirm.
What suffering are you experiencing right now? For some of you, the loss of a loved one, or a terminal diagnosis. Others are just hangry. All suffering can be useful in the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit helping us to kill the flesh and live by the Spirit. How are you responding? Are you angry, impatient, throwing a pity party with hats and a cake? Or are you letting the Lord form you with integrity, character, love, and holiness. My advice: Stop squirming!
Looking back is easy. At least, it’s easier to see what God was doing when we look back in time than it is to guess what He will do in the future. There have been so many times in my life when what I was doing at the moment did not make sense. I would ask the Lord what He was doing. I would ask what He was trying to teach me. Many times I would say to the Lord, “If you will just tell me what the lesson is, I will gladly learn it and accept it, and then we can move on.”
But too often, I did not even know what I was supposed to learn. All I knew was that God was at work. I knew this mainly because it was what I had heard from so many pastors and evangelists in my life. I knew God was working on me somehow, but I was confused. I was dazed. I was frustrated and ready to give up, because I just could not understand what was happening.
After some time passed, things were much clearer. Sometimes, it would be the next day. Other times, years went by before I could look back and understand what God was trying to teach me or do in me or for me. Looking back is much easier than looking a dilemma in the face and wondering what in the world God is doing. Even worse is wondering, What should I do?
As a pastor, I hear this question often. People will come into my office and spill their guts, telling me everything that is going on in their lives. They give me every detail of every situation, and then, after a long time, they finally take a breath and say, “What should I do?” These conversations revolve around everything under the sun. Should I leave my husband? Should I take this job or stay where I am? Is God calling me into ministry? It goes on and on. Tomorrow seems like such a mystery. And trying to figure out what we should do_whether in certain situations or for the direction of our lives_can be frustrating.
What is tomorrow? What should it be? What should it look like? What does God say about tomorrow? The questions of relationships, career, family, and church can be so difficult. What is God’s plan for your tomorrow, and for all the tomorrows of your life? Let’s consider what the Lord says to us about tomorrow:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (James 4:13–17 NIV)
When we first read this Scripture, it is teaching us that we should not worry about tomorrow. It is even teaching that we should not make any plans. However, the Scripture also teaches us that the “noble man makes noble plans” (Isaiah 32:8). So, Isaiah is teaching us that if we are going to be noble, with a desire to live our lives producing fruit, we should make plans. We should consider tomorrow and make plans. How do we reconcile these two different thoughts that seem to contradict one another?
The point of the Scripture in James is that we should not take tomorrow for granted. We don’t know if we are going to be here tomorrow. Haven’t we been shocked and surprised when someone suddenly passes away by sickness or tragedy? Yet in spite of our surprise, the truth is that this is life. There is no guarantee for tomorrow. James was teaching us that tomorrow is not a given, and we should not assume that we will be able to do this or that tomorrow. Instead, we should be making noble plans. We should live each day, making the most of our lives. We should plan lives filled with noble things, compassionate things, excellent things_things that will last even when we have expired.
Young, Lee. Prepare For Greater Things: Understanding God's Plan for Your Life (pp. 4-6). The Journey Publishing. Kindle Edition.
When I think of the jaws of distress, I see that scene from the 1970’s classic movie: Jaws. The boat is broken and Chief Brody is at his wit’s end and has no idea what is about to happen. Suddenly, out of the water comes that monstrous shark with huge jaws and bloody teeth. I will tell you that it scared me to death when I was a kid. I did not want to get anywhere near an ocean for a long time.
The jaws of distress in my mind would be a horrible place that I would never want to be and would not wish upon anyone. But this is the place where Job found himself. He was in the jaws of distress. When we first think about Job’s plight, it would be easy to see the jaws of distress as the sudden and catastrophic events in Job’s life where he first lost all of his wealth and then his own children died. This was followed by a horrifying disease where boils covered his body. His wife scorned him on top of all of this. And if this is what is being described as the jaws of distress, then I can easily agree with that description.
But digging deeper, we see that this description comes from Job’s friend, Elihu. The purpose of Elihu’s discourse here is to bring understanding to what has happened to Job. His other three friends had told Job repeatedly that this suffering was the result of his rebellion against God in some way that he now needed to confess. Job maintained that he had not sinned and in his perceived innocence, he questioned the justice of God. Neither were right and Elihu was now setting the record straight and he explains the purpose of the suffering that God has allowed is for the purpose of ‘wooing’ Job out of the jaws of distress. Whoa! Don’t read too quickly, you’ll miss it. The suffering was not the jaws of distress, the suffering was God’s way of ‘wooing’ Job out of the life he had before the suffering began.
OMG!(I never use that, but just thought I would throw it in:) What did Elihu just say!?! Elihu is describing Job’s highly blessed life as the jaws of distress. The King James Version of the Bible translates the jaws of distress as the ‘strait.’ Elihu is telling Job that the life he had before the suffering began was considered by God to be a strait. Well, what’s a strait? A strait is a narrow path. It is like walking through a cut in the Earth between two mountains, one on each side of you. It is restrictive. It is narrow. Elihu goes on to say that God is wanting to bring Job out of the strait into a spacious, broad place. Through Elihu, God is trying to help Job understand that the life he had before his suffering began was like a strait compared to what God wanted to do in his life.
We see at the end of the story the broad, spacious place that God brought Job into. He was blessed even greater than before.
Elihu points out that though Job did not have a spirit of rebellion and that he had not committed sin, he was not perfect. Within his spirit, there was some self-righteousness. It was true that he was blameless as God had called him, but he was so blameless that he began to trust his own righteousness to a certain degree rather than trusting in the righteousness of God given to him. He acted as if he was righteous instead of a recipient of the righteousness of God. This outlook was limiting what God could do in His life. As wonderful as his life was before, it was restricted by the self-righteousness within and the Lord was ‘wooing’ him out of that jaw of distress.
What does God want to do in your life? His word says that it is beyond what we can imagine (1 Corinthians 9:2). This is a wonderful thought. No matter where you stand today, the possibilities with God are endless. When suffering comes into your life, keep your faith, learn the lessons being taught. Find the plan that God has for you. It is an ever-increasing plan that will render us speechless over and over again to the glory of God. He is a good Father wanting to give you more than you can imagine.
Even Jesus needed some help. Twice we see where the Lord sent angels to Jesus to help Him during a difficult time. At the beginning of His ministry and at the end of His ministry. Before Jesus really entered into His public ministry, the Spirit led Him out into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He had been fasting for forty days. I can only imagine how tired He was physically, but He resisted the devil in every way. Afterwards the Scripture says that angels attended Him. Also, as Christ was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was struggling mentally, emotionally, but also physically. He was sweating drops of blood. This was not a spiritual condition. It was physical. The weight of His situation and the burden He was carrying in prayer for the entire human race was too much for His body and His blood vessels burst allowing blood to escape through the sweat glands. And angels came and attended Him.
As Christians, sometimes we put such a great emphasis on our spiritual walk, but we don’t always consider how our physical body effects our spirit. When we speak of disciplines, we tend to focus on spiritual disciplines – reading the Bible, praying, meditation on the Word, worship, both private and corporate. But the Scripture reminds us that not only do our souls need to be sanctified holy, so do our bodies (1 Thessalonians 5:23). But sanctification is a spiritual act and process. How can our physical bodies go through a spiritual process?
The fact that we might not fully embrace the need for our physical bodies to be sanctified is a good indication why temptations win too many battles. Our bodies desire the things of the flesh. Our body is the vehicle for pleasures of the flesh. At the same time, our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). It is just a fact that our physical body has an impact on our spiritual walk. It must then be sanctified.
There are days when I come into the office and begin to work, wanting and needing to study in preparation of speaking and teaching and my spirit is willing, but my body is weak. I am just tired. I didn’t get enough sleep the night before. Usually, the night before, like most nights, I am up too late. I am usually studying at night also and again, my spirit is willing, buts my body is weak. I can’t keep my eyes open. I begin to read and I doze off. I have an unbelievable God-given gift to continue typing even when I am asleep. I will wake myself up suddenly, usually from the sound of my own snoring and I will read what I have typed. I went to the store and got my horse a drink from the fountain. My hair burned on the stove with the macaroni. I usually have great grammar. Capital letters are in place, subject, verb, and object. IT JUST DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE! I have turned in some papers for my master’s classes in Christian counseling that I am sure have caused the professors to wonder if I needed some counseling. Not too long ago, I just got a note from a professor about a paper that said, “unintelligible here.” That says it all. Fatigue in my body affects my mind, my attention, my focus, and thus…my spiritual walk.
There are many things that we can do better to help our fatigue. We can go to sleep instead of staying up watching re-runs on Hulu. We can eat right. There are many foods that cause fatigue. There are many foods that can be addictive. The lack of exercise can cause fatigue. Getting sick can cause it. All of these are things that we can do something about. I know this blog is not a super-spiritual giant of a statement, but nevertheless, it is important. I am not promoting any kind of exercise program and this is not an endorsement of any kind of diet. Sometimes, fatigue is not because of anything we are doing badly, it is the result of life and ministry. Just go and ask the mother of a 6-week-old baby how tired she is ministering to her little miracle. There are many things we do for the Lord that are going to wipe us out even if we are eating right, getting enough sleep, and taking time to exercise. But even in these times, there is help.
Angels attended to Jesus. Also, angels brought Elijah hot meals to help him find the energy for his journey (1 Kings 19:5). So, let’s do all we can to get enough sleep, to eat right, and get some exercise. But here is something else that we can do. When we are tired, we can ask the Lord for help. We can ask for energy to get things done. We can ask the Lord to send some angels to give us strength to get out of bed when we are tired and depressed. We can ask for strength to go and exercise. It may seem a little silly, but the Lord who gives strength to our spirit will also give strength to our bodies when we are just flat worn out.
Jesus had no agenda but that of His Father’s. What He wanted was to fulfill His Father’s desire and vision, and to bring honor to the Father. The Father in Heaven has now poured out honor upon the Son, Jesus by lifting Him to the highest place, the name above every name, the name by which every knee will bow (Philippians 2). Jesus also poured out honor upon the Holy Spirit. He told the disciples that it was good for Him to return to Heaven so that the Holy Spirit could come to them and to us. He spoke as if the Holy Spirit were a better gift than He. And the Holy Spirit teaches us the Truth. The Truth is Jesus. The Truth brings glory and honor to the Father and the Son. This is the Trinity.
All week, we have been discussing the Trinity. I simply cannot express the importance of understanding the nature of our God, His Trinitarian nature, One God in three persons. We see that in His very nature that He loves. The plurality of His being allows Him to be the very source of love as the Father loves the Son who loves the Spirit who loves the Father and the Son. The mutual love within the Trinity is the source of love. It is also our example of what love is.
Within the Trinity, there is mutual submission. Each submits to the other. He is one being but each has their own will. We see in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Son declaring that He will yield His will to the will of the Father (Luke 22:42). The unity of the Trinity is based on love manifested through mutual submission.
I want to finish this week by adding to mutual love and mutual submission, but mutual glorification. The nature of each person of the Trinity is to bring glory to the other. There is no superlative to describe the radiance of the very nature of our God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Everything good comes from Him and He is the only Light in the darkness of existence. Without Him, there is no love and no power. Without Him, we are helpless against the power of sin and death, but glory be to God, Light has dawned in our life and in the world.
What will you do with this? How will you respond to this glorious God who knows your name? The Father who has loved. The Son who has given His very life. And the Holy Spirit who lives within you even as you read these words. He is with you and He is calling you to unity with Himself. Unity with God fills us with Him that we might love, the we might submit one to another, that we might live to bring glory to one another never seeking our own. How life would be different if we embraced unity with God allowing His power to run through our veins in everyday life!
This next week, as you get up for another day, embrace unity with God. Declared yourself filled to capacity with the Lord as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have been baptized not into the name of Jehovah, nor the name of Christ or the Holy Spirit. No, we have been baptized into all three persons of the One True God (Matthew 28:19).
Your employees may call HR on you thinking that you are mental if you began to live for their glory and honor rather than your own. I don’t mean that you stop being the boss, but you be a servant boss just as Jesus was a servant Messiah. You help them accomplish what is good for them. Your boss may have a heart attack if you walk into their office tomorrow saying, “Boss-man or lady, just tell me how I can help you accomplish your goals. I want to make sure that your vision is accomplished.” Maybe you should have 9-1-1 set on your phone in case they do have a cardiac failure. Oh…man, imagine parents how your kids would respond to them if you began to live for their glory. What if you were to live your life as if their needs and their success was your number one priority. Who knows…they might actually take out the trash for you. Ok wives, I waited as long as I could to talk about you, but imagine if you were to live each day just trying to honor your husband even if he does not do the same thing. You will create in him a desire to be near you and to be for you. And as long as we are talking about marriage, Husbands, what if you lived your life, every moment, to glorify your wife, to honor her, to work toward her goals and desires. How would she respond? She might wonder if you are some kind of secret agent wearing one of those high-tech facial reproductive masks and pull really hard on your beard for a while. But once she realizes it is you, there might be a big kiss in it for you.
The point is that the world would be different if we simply embraced unity with God, understanding His nature, living in accordance with Him. We might actually become His Light into a dark world. Let’s be the Light.
I knew they would not be happy to see me, but he didn’t have a ride. When I was asked to give an elderly man in our church a ride to a funeral, I hesitated because of whose funeral it was. The lady who had passed away used to attend my church along with her whole family. I made some decisions regarding their family and the positions they held in the church that they simply did not appreciate. And they made it known to me that they were unhappy. One family member sent me emails calling me the devil and a snake. Another family member would follow me into the restroom before service to chew me out. Let’s just say they were not fans of mine. I had not seen the family for a few years.
The man who asked for a ride had been friends with their family for a long time, long before I arrived at the church. He loved the woman who had passed and though her and I had disagreements, she was a fine lady. I wanted him to be able to go and he did not have anyone else to take him.
When we arrived, I almost stayed in the car because I knew that seeing me might stir up feelings of anger in them and I did not want to do that especially at a funeral. But my friend used a walked and he needed help to get up the steps. We moved toward the door. I was slowly helping him up the steps and the door opened. It was the family member who had sent such nasty emails to me. To his credit, he was polite and said hello to me and my friend. At that point, it would have been very awkward and seemingly rude for me to not go into the service. We sat down in a very small funeral chapel and the service began.
Because the lady had been part of our church, there were many of my friends there who were also part of our church. After the service, we just stood around talking and visiting. I turned and there was the daughter of the lady who had passed. Of all the family, during the issues at the church, she had handled herself well. This is why it surprised me when she said to me, “I am just now getting to the place where I don’t hope for bad things to happen to you.” My flesh jumped to the top of my throat ready to release a flood of emotions out of the hurt inflicted on my family and I by the way the family had reacted to my decisions. My emotions were hot with anger and hurt. Then the ears of my heart heard the sweetness of the Holy Spirit saying to me, “Love her. She is my child.” It was just a split second, but I had an entire conversation with the Lord in my spirit. I said to Him, “She doesn’t love me.” To which He responded, “Do you need her to love you with all the love I have poured out into your life?”
I have to be honest. I didn’t like His question. He was obviously right. I didn’t need her to love me. And the vengeance my flesh wanted to release was utterly sinful and I knew it. I had a choice. I smiled at her. I reached out and gave her a hug. Oh…don’t start thinking good thoughts about me that I responded this way. Because I wanted to unleash Hell in that moment. I wanted to let her have it. It was the Holy Spirit alive in me who hugged her. All I did was choose to let the Holy Spirit rule instead of my own spirit. My sinfulness was fully revealed, and the purity of God’s love was also revealed. To God be the glory for I am a sinful man.
Jesus prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one. The unity of the Trinity is magnificent, and He desires for us to be united to Him just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united. What a wonderful thing! When we look at the unity of the Trinity, we have to remember that though one God, He is made up of three separate entities. They each have their own thoughts and emotions, even in their unity. And within the Trinity we see unity through submission. God the Father, set forth the plans. Jesus, the Son submits to the will of the Father. He says, “Not my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42). And the Holy Spirit remains quiet speaking on what He hears from Jesus, the Son. The Bible says God, the Holy Spirit will not speak on His own, but only what He hears from the Son (John 16:13). We cannot expect to be in complete unity with one another and with the Lord unless we seek the same spirit of submission we see in the Trinity.
Wives are called to submit to their husbands. Children are to submit to their parents. Fathers are to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet the Bible also says that we are to submit one to another (Ephesians 5:21). The purpose of submission is to maintain peace and unity. The Holy Spirit is able to work when there is unity (Ephesians 4:3). Don’t get me wrong. The Lord is big on us submitting to our authorities, but in times when we are the authority and someone bucks that authority be it an employee, a church member, a spouse, a child, we are to respond in the spirit of submission. This does not mean that we let those under our authority run all over us. We still maintain the standards, rules, policies, etc. However the word ‘submit’ means ‘to withdraw.’ If I am doing to respond to someone under my authority who is expressing rebellion against me, I need to do it with a spirit of withdraw not escalation. When we respond by escalating negative emotions as I so wanted to do at this funeral home, we break unity in the body and we break our unity with the Lord.
God is love. He is Trinitarian. Within Himself, He sets the example of love. He is the source of love as we have been discussing all this week. But we also see that this love that produces unity is maintained in part through mutual submission. We must submit to our authorities. And when those under our authority refuse to submit, we must respond with a gentle answer and resist the temptation to escalate the situation. This is so hard to do, so hard. But the Lord has given us His Holy Spirit to help us.
Let us strive to honor the Lord, keeping unity with Him, but submitting one to another. This is what the Trinity of God teaches us to do and strengthens us to accomplish. Let us love one another.
That the world may know that God loves them and sent Jesus as a sacrifice for their sins, this is why the Lord has called us into unity with Him. Jesus prayed that we would be one with Him as He is one with the Father (John 17:20-23). His purpose for this was not that we would experience the source of pure, unconditional, life-changing love. That we would experience such glory is simply a result of His plan of saving the world from their sins. He wants none to perish but all to come to salvation (2 Peter 3:9). But what can draw us out of our sin? As believers, we understand sin to be something horrible and ruinous. But the Lord says that He is attempting to ‘woo’ us away from sin (Job 36:16). Woo us? Seriously?!? I have to be wooed away from these things that are destroying me? Well…frankly, yes. I must be wooed.
Sin is wrapped up in the pleasures of the flesh. Anytime we act upon making ourselves feel better in a way that goes against the Scripture, we are loving the flesh and loving sin. We may be Christians and claim to be married to Christ, but we have a mistress and her name is sin and she is found in the flesh. Anytime I can satisfy my flesh, my spirit becomes weak and lazy. Jesus asked the disciples to pray, but they sought the pleasure of the flesh and they fell asleep (Matthew 26:40). Oh…I realize it was in the middle of the night, but they could have chose to pray standing up, walking around to keep their body from sleeping. Instead, they allowed their bodies into a comfortable position facilitating their fatigue taking over their bodies. They satisfied the flesh. Whether it is sleep, drugs, sex, food, fame, success, pity-parties, attention, when we seek these over the work of the Lord, we have engaged in a salacious affair with our mistress. Our heart belongs to our flesh and the Lord pursues us as a passionate spouse wooing us away from our adulterous ways back to His arms. He must ‘woo’ us. He loves us. He is kind to us. It is this love and kindness that draw us out of our sin and into a faithful relationship with Him (1 John 4:19, Romans 2:4).
For those who know Christ intimately, it is difficult to understand why the world cannot see the love of God for them, but they cannot. They see God as restrictive because they are in love with the flesh. God calls them to deny their fleshly passions and desires and seek a higher love with Him. It seems to the world as if God wants to keep them from enjoying life but just the opposite is true. It is a dark cloud, a darkened understanding of who He is that keeps them from seeing the love He has for them. But God has a plan.
He, being the source of Love as a Trinitarian God, calls us to complete unity with Him, with one another, and with the world. As we become One with Him and in Him, His love becomes our love. This unity with the Triune God allows pure love to flow through us as we interact with everyone around us. We are the plan. We carry the love of God piercing the darkness that steals the world’s understanding of His goodness. We are the hands, feet, embrace, words, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, hope, and love of God face to face with the world that they might know that God loves them and has sent Jesus as proof of this love. The unity of believers with the Triune God, who is the source of pure love, is God’s plan for saving the world.
As we continue to study the Trinity, it is important that we don’t miss the point of yesterday’s post. God is love. His very nature is love. As a single being who exists in the plurality of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the interaction between these three entities reveals love. It is the source of love. The Father is not the Son, but loves the Son. The Spirit is not the Son, but loves the Son. The Son is not the Father, but loves the Father. The Spirit lives to help Christ accomplish the goal of the Father. He does this willingly because He loves the Father and shares the same goal. In Isaiah 61, which Jesus later quotes about Himself saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” Then He says, “because the Lord has anointed me.” The Father anointed the Son with the Spirit, but the Spirit was already on Him because they have one singular cause, completely united in goal and method. They each serve one another. Jesus served the Father, but the Father directed angels to attend to His Son and finally exalted His Son to the throne of Heaven. Each caring about the other, working together, united, submissive one to another for each to bring glory to the other. This is love.
A study of the relational movements between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit reveal pure, unadulterated, divine love. And there is no other place, person, thing, idol, relationship anywhere that reveals what true love is. There is no other god like our God!! There is no love outside of the presence of our God. One might could say that other gods love, or that people love, and I suppose from a philosophical standpoint, I can agree with this, but none can say that the source of love is anywhere but with our God.
Why is this so important for us to know? The Scripture says that without love, we are nothing. Love is the most powerful force (1 Corinthians 13:13). It is not sacrilege to say that love is the most powerful force because GOD IS LOVE. Love changes us. Love changes others. It changes the world and it changes eternity. Love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).
Love is the opposite of selfishness which could be said is the root of sin. In pride, we seek after those things we want. When we are more focused on what we want than giving to others what they need, sin is the result. The sting of death is sin. Love overwhelms selfishness. It destroys the spirit of vengeance, anger, lust, jealousy, selfish ambition. Love conquers all sin. And the fact that our God is THE SOURCE of this love and power renders everything and anything else in existence powerless without Him. All authority and all power and all love comes from our God.
This is why, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays that we would be united with the Trinity of God. He prays for us that we as a church may be one just as He and the Father are one. Understanding the significance of the unity found in our Triune God, this is an unbelievable prayer. He is asking the Father to help us to be united in this same power, the same love, with Him. And through the Holy Spirit, the Lord has given us the strength to be united with Him in this love.
We are not pure. We are infected with sin. Moving into this love and remaining there is a battle for us. For the Triune God, there is no struggle to remain in this love. It is His nature. He is love. But for us, we must be grafted into this love. We must actively put forth effort to press into Him that we might become One with Him. It is a lofty goal to be united with God in this way and to love like Him, but it is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. We must lean on the Holy Spirit as our helper to resist temptations to satisfy our sinful nature and press tightly into the presence of God.
So, with that being said, my question is simply, “How well do you love?” Are you actively putting forth effort to press into our Triune God that you might be united with Him, loving like Him? Do the temptations to satisfy selfish desires overshadow the love of God in you? Selfish desires lead us into emotional, mental, and spiritual bondage, but God, Love, sets us free. There is no greater freedom than unity with one another and with God in perfect love. It is a fight to remain united to Him, but I, for one, will tell you…the blessing that comes from unity with God and one another far outweigh the struggle to resist our own selfishness. We must fight the good fight, seeking daily perfect unity with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We have been called to participate in the Divine Nature of God. Stop and think for just a moment about this. The Lord, and His nature, being Divine is something that we can share in. We are called to be joined together not simply with God, but in His nature. As He is, we are called to be. And the Lord would not call us to this if He were not able to make it happen within us. We must present ourselves before the Throne to receive His touch, but He is the transformer. He is the change agent. He births us again in the Spirit and He cleanses us of everything that is not Divine, that is not of Him. This is our goal. This is where we seek to move, to be in the Divine Nature of God. We immerse ourselves in Him that His nature might become our nature.
In this life, the sinful nature will not be eradicated. For the sinful nature to be eradicated, it must be crucified in Christ and this daily. Even the Apostle Paul found himself struggling with the sinful nature doing those things he despised and did not want to do. Yet, we are called to move more and more into the Diving nature of God seeing with His eyes, understanding with His mind, operating as He operates. It is not a switch that we simply turn on and remain in that state forever. On the contrary, it is a fight where we must pull together all of our strength to hold tightly to Him as all the forces of Hell work to pull us away. But how can I fight to hold on to Him and His nature if I don’t understand it? And how can I understand the nature of God until I understand His nature, the way He is made up. We must understand the doctrine of the Trinity.
Yesterday, we spoke of the three persons of God. He is the Father. He is the Son. And He is the Holy Spirit. He is all three in His one existence. But let’s go deeper. It is not simply that our singular God is plural in nature. The nature of God is found also in how each of these essences interact with one another.
God, the Father, who calls Himself, Elohim, the plural form of the word ‘deity’ in Hebrew, declared in the Garden of Eden, the plan of salvation. He spoke to the Ancient Serpent, the Devil, saying “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers. You will strike His heel, but He will crush your head.” The Father designed the plan. We know from John 3:16 and many others that God sent the Son. “For God so loved the world that He sent…” Jesus, the Son went. He was sent by the Father, but when the Son knelt in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed to the Father, “not my will, but thine be done.” Jesus is God. We established this yesterday. And the Father is God. This too was established in yesterday’s post. Though they are equal, the Father is above the Son in position. The Son lives in submission to the Father. This might be difficult, but there are many authorities in our life that have a higher position than us, but that does not mean that person is somehow more valuable than I am or anyone else. We are all equal before the Lord. This is why the Scripture says that God shows no favoritism. He doesn’t value anyone more than anyone else. We are equal. You are equal with your boss before the Lord, but your boss holds a position that is higher than your position on Earth. Jesus was submissive to the Son.
When we think of submission, we tend to think of it in a human sense. A wife may not agree with her husband, but she will submit to Him. She might not be happy about it. She may not rejoice, but she will choose to submit to her husband as the God-ordained head of the household. The relationship between the Father and the Son is different because there is never a disagreement between them. God sent the Son and the Son submitted to the Father, but the Son desired to be sent as much as the Father wanted to send Him. There is no disagreement between them because they are one essence. Jesus was submissive, willingly submissive. God, the Father sent Him, but there was no argument.
I remember when my parents wanted me to invite this one kid over for Christmas because his parents worked. I thought to myself, “I do not want to invite him over. He’s hyper. He will break me toys.” Yet, I submitted to my parents. And yes, he broke my toys. When I say toys, I mean the only one I cared about that day. It was a six-million-dollar man action figure. Yeah…yeah! I know many of you want to call it a doll. A doll is female, but an action figure is boys. BOOM! THAT’S WHAT I’M TAKING ABOUT. But I digress. The point is that I submitted. Are my parents worth more to Him than I am? Absolutely not! But the Lord put them in a position above me and they put me beneath their authority, so I submitted.
But with Jesus, though the Father is above Him, they want the very same things because they are one in the same. And just as the Son is submissive to the Father, so the Holy Spirit is submissive to the Son. The Holy Spirit speaks only what is given Him by the Son (John 16:13). The Spirit is also submissive to the Father. The Father also sent the Spirit (John 14:16). The Father sent the Spirit because the Son asked Him to do this (John 14:16). The Spirit is submissive to the Son and the Father. The Son submits to the Father.
They also each glorify one another. Jesus called upon the Father to glorify Him as the Son so that He, in turn, could glorify the Father (John 17:1). The Father is bringing glory to the Son and the Son to the Father. The Son also gives glory to the Spirit. He tells His followers that it is good that he is leaving them to go back to Heaven, because then they will receive the gift of God, the Holy Spirit. Then He builds up the Spirit saying the Spirit will lead them into all Truth. There is submission between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Though they are one God, each submits to the other with respect to their position. And each is working to bring glory to the other. Jesus wanted to glorify the Father by serving Him and obeying Him and directing people to Him. But then the Lord, the Father, after the Son glorified Him, lifted Him up to the highest place and set His name above every name so that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.
This is the nature of God.
He is mutually submissive. He mutually glorifying. He is mutually edifying. This is how the Lord can claim to be love (John 14:6). It is not that God loves though He does. It is that God is love by His Divine Nature. Within Himself, if there were no other life-forms, God is love. Each person of the Trinity loves perfect the others within the Trinity. There is no other god of any religion that can claim this nature.
Other religions have a singular God, unlike our plural God. The thing about a singular life-form is that within themselves, they are not love nor can they love without an object to love. They are incomplete. They can love when they have an object to love, but without this object, they cannot love. God, our God, needs nothing outside of Himself in order to be able to love. By His very nature, His Divine Nature is love, pure and unconditional love. There is no other god like our God (1 Samuel 2:2). There is no Rock like our God 1 Samuel 2:2). There is none like you Lord (1 Chronicles 17:20).
I once heard someone say, “It doesn’t matter what you call him as long as you believe in God.” It is the Divine Nature of our God that separates him from every other imagination of humanity. He is who He is and there is none like Him. He is above all.
Many religions use the Bible. But not every religion who uses the Bible believe in the same God. For example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses use the Bible, though it is a specific translation for them, they do not believe in the same God. It would seem that they believe in the Jehovah that we read about in the Old Testament, but they don’t. This is made possible by a few strategic changes in the translation of the Bible, but it is not the same God. Also, the Mormon Church calls itself The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It appears since they use the King James Version of the Bible in their worship that they are worshipping the same Jesus that Christians worship, but this is not true. Their Jesus is not our Jesus.
For both religions and others like them, the name is the same, but the nature of God or Jesus is different from what Scripture teaches. The difference is found in the doctrine we refer to as the Trinity. Most people have heard this term and they know that we believe in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but few Christians actually understand the nature of God and why it is important to know and understand. They don’t understand how it changes our life. I am going to be focusing on the doctrine of the Trinity this week. I hope you will share these with others. This is such an important understanding that every believer needs to have.
The word ‘trinity’ is not in Scripture anywhere. This term did not develop until much after the death and resurrection of Christ. It came about as a result of groups such as the Gnostics who began to teach that Jesus was not God. Today, there are mainline religions who run closely parallel to Christianity, but they deny this doctrine. The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is the Son of God and they believe in God, the Father. However, they do not believe that Jesus, the Son and God, the Father are unified in any way. And they believe the Holy Spirit to be a force, but not a life-form of any kind. The Mormons or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints also believe in Jesus, but they believe that Jesus was conceived by a celestial father and mother. In addition to this, they believe that any of us can become gods and then, in the afterlife, if we were married at the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, we can have children who will populate a planet of which we can be a god. The Trinity is a doctrine that is unique from every other religion.
The early Christians, including the writers of Scripture, were so in tune with the doctrine of the Trinity that there was no need to develop an apologetic stance to critics. It was simply the way it was explained to them by Christ and the Holy Spirit and it was how they explained it. Consider this passage from the letters of Paul to the church in Corinth:
2 Corinthians 13:14
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (NIV)
Here we see Paul speaking a blessing upon the church in a way that specifically lays out the three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who are unique, yet together make up the One True God. He speaks of the grace of the Son, the love of the Father, and the fellowship with the Spirit. Other religions would call Christianity polytheistic claiming that we believe in three gods and not One God. But the doctrine of the Trinity is One God, made up of three separate persons or essences-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Our belief in one God is clear. Over and over again, we are told to love God. We are never commanded to love our God, but to love God. And throughout the Scripture, the writers reinforce this belief in one God. Christianity has but one God.
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that —and shudder. (NIV)
Yet, when the writers spoke of this God, they interchangeably speak of God as the Father, God as the Son, and God, as the Holy Spirit-three in one. Three unique entities who together make up one God. Look at the following passages where each entity is referred to as God:
Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” (NIV, emphasis added)
Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. (NIV, emphasis added)
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” (NIV, emphasis added)
From the very beginning, the Lord established the plurality of His singleness. Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning was God…” The word for “God” here comes from the Hebrew word Elohim which is plural for Eloha. Eloha means deity or God. But as the Holy Spirit inspired the written Word, He chose Elohim, plural for a deity, to describe a God who was singular. This is a difficult concept for our finite minds, but the One God in which we believe as Christians is trinitarian. He is God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Our God is not their god. Our Jesus is not their Jesus.
Every. It’s all in the word. All. Complete. When the Bible says that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of Lights, there is that word ‘every.’ Like a good father, the Lord both disciplines and blesses. Like a kind stranger, He brings gifts to those He wants a relationship with. Whether a believer or an atheist, every…every….every good and perfect gift in this life comes from the Lord. Life, beauty, love, success, wisdom, ice cream…every good and perfect gift fall from the fingers of God into our life.
Many people simply will not understand this nor will they accept it. But what about you? Do you believe this? Well…do you?
In Matthew, Jesus said that if we will seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, the Lord will add good and perfect gifts to our life. When we seek the gift itself, we deny the one who provides. Sure, because He is kind, He still gives us good gifts even when we seek the gift first, but inevitably, we forfeit other gifts because we seek the gifts instead of the Giver.
The essence of God’s provision is shalom. Most of us understand shalom to mean peace, but it is a comprehensive peace. It is a peace that comes from blessings in every direction. Not that we don’t have struggles. These are just part of life. But a lack of shalom allows for blessings in some directions, but to the detriment of others. We find blessings at work, but our home life begins to fall apart. We find blessings financially, but emotionally we suffer. But when we seek first the Kingdom of God, He provides so that, despite the struggles, oaverall we prosper this way and that, every direction. This is simply God’s promise and we know that He keeps His promises. His principles are true. But do you believe it?
I want to say that I believe it in my heart. I can say without a doubt that I know it to be true. I have absolutely no doubt, but my flesh betrays me. So often, I take my eyes off the Giver and focus on the gift and the next thing you know, I am seeking the gift. Of course, it is my fault when I take my eyes off the Lord. Not only am I sure that God is the Giver of all good things, I am also quite sure of my own sinfulness. I struggle. But this is why the Lord has given me the Holy Spirit, to help me stay on the right path, to keep my eyes on the Giver, to discipline my focus each day. It is not as if I don’t have everything I need to keep my eyes on the Lord, the author and perfecter of my faith, because I do. I have everything I need to overcome sin and death, my hangups, weaknesses, temptations, everything. He has cleared the way for me. He has done the work. He did just what He said. He has provided for all who seek Him first an abundant life.
I think this is my New Year’s resolution. When I am thinking about it, it is my everyday resolution. But this year, I am resolved to be more disciplined with the help of the Holy Spirit to keep my eyes on the Giver, to seek Him first, to push away temptations. The more successful I am at this, the Lord will take care of the rest.
What about you? Will you resolve to focus more, be more stringent in staying focused, put forth greater effort to push away temptations to focus on the good things in life instead of the Good God in Heaven? C’mon, let’s push forward into the Kingdom of Heaven and the abundant life Jesus literally died for. It’s a new year and a new opportunity to enjoy the abundant life God wants for His children. Shalom!
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. (NIV)
Heavenly Father, I want to thank You for preparing the way for me to find You. Truly, you are the Way. And thank you for being so kind and generous to me with all you have done. And I am amazed that You desire more for me than I can even imagine. Help me keep my eyes on You and let no vile thing steal away my attention. -Amen.
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