Treasuring Time

In the Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, Uncle Screwtape, a senior ranking devil writes letters of advice to his nephew, Wormwood, a junior tempter. In one letter he directs the attention of his young nephew to the following point, “…you will have noticed that nothing throws (a person) into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him. […] (This perceived loss angers) him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen.” Screwtape goes on to encourage the young temper to, “Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of this property which he has to make over to his employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties.”

The Screwtape Letters theatrical adaptation @ http://screwtapeonstage.com/

C.S. Lewis concludes, “…man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and moon as his (personal possessions).” In the end, man has no ownership over time, and the idea of ownership of time is a foolish notion, being that our time is clearly God given, and God’s to cease giving.

Our time is a gift.

My realization in reading this piece is that, while I desire to give all of myself to Christ, the thing I most selfishly cling to and begrudgingly relinquish is the last of my free time. I place a higher value on time than on possessions or money, and where the cliché will say, “time is money,” I literally treasure my time. I’m not talking about moments in time or memories, but literally, the time itself – the free time to do what I want to do, even if it is doing nothing. Christ says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” and where many will link this verse to monetary wealth, I have been forced to make an examination of how I spend my time, and called to make a better effort to steward my time in ways that better please and glorify God.

This text further disturbed me as I truly want to believe I endeavor to have a servant’s heart. I am by no means fully self-sacrificing, but I believe I desire to be. I believe this begins with the recognition that we are not our own, but were bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19). The cost of our souls was the life of our God in the flesh. He cashed His life in, purchasing ours, and covering our debt. Christ gave his life, not just in death, but also in living sinlessly (in traveling, teaching, preaching, and healing – always doing the work and will of God even when it conflicted with his own self-preservation). Christ did this all to pay the cost to reconcile us sinners to the Father. Hence we should recognize we are not our own.

If I acknowledge that I am not my own, and I willingly give my life to Christ, then certainly, in fullness, this must include the forfeiture of my time, which clearly I have idolatrized and continue to place far too high a value on. Our lives (not our existences, but our lives as we perceive them here on earth) are truly just the days our souls spend encapsulated in these present vessels – our earthly bodies. God, however, promises that our souls exist independently of this earth (where time constrains), and are eternal. Somehow the idolatrizing of time must absolutely be indicative of a lack of faith in the eternality of our souls. Who would be so concerned with every minute, if we believed we had forever?

Psalm 90:12 says, teach us to number our days. This demonstrates that our days in this body are limited, come at a high premium, and should not be wasted. This, however, does not mean that we should be selfishly and fearfully hoarding our time for the purposes of self-worship – making ourselves our highest priority, and seeking endeavors that ultimately come to nothing more than our own vanity. We are offered such a limited time to come to know Christ, to introduce others to Him, and to get to the business to which He has called us. With this in mind I feel a very real need to let go of my grasp on time and invest it in ways that better satisfy Him. In doing so I believe I will also be better satisfied in Him. After all, it would seem that neither legacies nor memories are ever built in the moments when we are hoarding time, but always in the moments when we are spending it.

What I Believe & My Favorite Sermons

I have added 2 new pages to the site (links are located in the menu bar):

What I Believe – This is a run down of my doctrinal views and beliefs, based upon my interpretation of scripture as it has been revealed to me.  I have gathered my theology in one location for your easy reference.  Should you wonder where I stand on a topic and don’t care to read my entire blog to piece my beliefs together, this link is for you.  I find I most appreciate teachers who are forthcoming with their doctrine, so I have provided mine.  If there are any questions you have about anything not posted here, please leave a comment or reach out to me on facebook.  It would be my joy to converse with you about Jesus Christ or His Word.

My Favorite Sermons – This is a video collection of the sermons that have most profoundly impacted my walk with Christ and most stir my affections for Him.  I could write all day about the glory of God and all of the amazing things He has revealed to me, but I would not be able to say it better than these men have already said it here.  If you have the time I whole-heartedly encourage you to listen to some of the exemplary teachings of these anointed men.

 

The Worldy Church – One Man’s View

Here is a fantastic, and very funny, discussion by 2 pastors far more versed than I on the benefits and consequences of bringing pop culture into the church, and tailoring the church to appeal to the world.

Here, Pastor Perry Noble offers his explanation for having his church band play AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” during NewSpring Church’s Easter Service:

The entire discussion can be viewed here: http://vimeo.com/59137575

Here is my view…which I should preface is just that…one person’s view and nothing more. It should first be noted that my calling, as I perceive my calling, is to support, hold to account, rebuke, strengthen, and deepen the faith and Bible knowledge of my Christian brothers and sisters (as I depend on them to do the same for me) so we can become healthy and secure followers of Christ who will then be well equipped to positively represent Christ in the world and communicate the Gospel to the lost.  Everything I write is written with the intent that it will be beneficial to Christians first, with the idea in mind that it may also be read by the lost.  Based on the Acts of the Apostles, I believe the developing of disciples is the primary purpose of the gathering of believers to the physical church.  Another man’s calling and gift set may lend itself more specifically to targetting and converting the lost.  This is a different and equally valuable gift.  I believe all Christians are called to evangelize, however this is not the primary function to which I am called nor the skillset for which I am most gifted.  I believe reaching the lost is primarily the function of Evangelism and Mission which has traditionally been done in the world, outside the walls of the Church.  In the last 20 years there has been an enormous movement to bring the lost into the church, to become mission minded on Sundays, to engineer sermons to target non-believers, and to introduce elements of pop-culture – some God-honoring and some not – into the Sunday service.  This has had a massive impact on the dynamic of churches and their congregations.

NewSpring Church Band Performs AC/DC “Highway to Hell” on Easter Sunday:

I have clearly defined views on this issue and this was one of the first things that was made clear to me after I was saved. I believe Christians and the church have to be aware of pop culture, but I don’t think sermons should be about pop culture. The Gospel saves…regardless of the presentation or sales tactic…it has done so on its own merits for 2,000 years. It is by God’s call that we come to Christ (Romans 8:30)…not by man’s shiny packaging or his slick sales pitch. I think anything a Christian does inside or outside of the church needs to be first and foremost evaluated on the merits of whether or not it glorifies God. Most worldly things fall short of glorifying God.

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world…

Pastor Rod Parsley makes zipline entry into church

Here is how I arrived at a clear position on separating culture from church: When I was saved, which was not all that long ago, I was attending a church that is on the corner a quarter mile from my house. I was there because it was convenient and entertaining. The pastor was funny and a few times even preached while seated atop a motorcycle, revving the engine. Something about the rebelliousness of riding motorcycles inside the church seemed exciting. At Christmas the church substituted the standard Christmas Concert and the children’s Nativity play for a 50 foot Christmas Tree, Santa Claus, and 50,000 pounds of man-made snow in the parking lot. This was an epic event, and it is important to note the size and grandeur of the celebration as it was very important to this church that every event be an attention garnering spectacle.  What the Christmas celebration did not have however was a focus on Jesus. Nor did the December sermon series which was about sex trafficking. This seemed wrong even to the old me. I remember specifically thinking that there are many places I can go to see fake snow or Santa Claus, but I come to church to worship Christ – especially at Christmas. This is the one time of year when I most want to hear the old story.  What I came to understand later was that the event and sermon series weren’t engineered for followers of Christ, they were intended to appeal to non-believers.

At that time I was just another stick burning in the fire (Amos 4:11), going through the motions, resting on a false arrogance…living in an absurd amount of unrepentant sin…so much so that I’m lucky to still have anything…my wife, kids, and job.  I’m telling you I was horrible. I wouldn’t have been able to blame anyone had they cut me loose at that time. I was lost.  I had been going to this church off and on for 2 years assuming that because I was a church goer I was a Christian.  I was going to small group, and even serving in the Children’s ministry.  But, the other 165 hours of the week I was going out into the world and being a complete embarrassment – to myself and to God. Then my wife, who was also not yet saved, decided we needed to read the Bible.  She started reading it to me every day in the car.  When we started getting into the Bible I started to hear things I had never heard in church.  I began to understand I was depraved, and that I was not a good person like I thought I was.  I started to understand that following Christ required a full submission of my life…and actual sacrifice…not just an acknowledgement of Him.  Ultimately I began to hear the salvation call…God reached out and snatched me from the fire (Zechariah 3:2).  One Sunday the church had an alter call where they baptized several hundred people. I felt the LORD wanted me to go, so I stood in line and was baptized. I was told to fast, so I fasted. Then my wife and I went on to read straight through the New Testament over the next few months.  It was in the Bible that I was found and came to be saved by the LORD.

Very quickly it became clear to me that I was not going to be able to stay in this church. I started to realize that Jesus wasn’t the focus there. The pastor was the star. He would braggingly say things like, “I saved 500 people last year.”  Meaning he had gotten 500 people to pray the prayer to invite Christ into their lives.  (But I had read in Ephesians 2:9, it is not by any act of man that any person is saved, but salvation comes from the call and grace of God alone “so no man may boast.”  Additionally, I learned that the prayer to invite Christ into your heart is nowhere found in the Bible. It’s one of the largest fallacies in Evanglism.  Salvation is not as simple as praying a single prayer. It is the commitment made in that prayer…a lifelong commitment to faith and repentance…the dependence on God’s grace, and Christ’s sacrifice…not the prayer itself, that saves. (Acts 16:31 says, we must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, Luke 13:3 says that without a life of repentance we will all likewise perish, and Romans 12:1 says we are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to Christ.)  The pastor would say, “God told me that I am to build a 25,000 member church on this corner.”  More and more it was seeming to me that this pastor was first concerned with his glory, and less with God’s.  Rather than creating fishers of men, he was collecting his own fan base.

The church continued to weekly espouse that their purpose was to drive attendance, and to draw crowds.  They said every decision they made was made by asking the question “Will this draw a crowd?” Thus, the Sunday Sermons had to be delivered with the intentionality that the majority of the congregation had next to zero prior exposure to the Bible. The result was that no one around me was able truly communicate the gospel, what salvation is or why it is truly necessary.  And because the intent of the church was for new non-believers to arrive each week, the message never got any deeper, and the plan stayed the same.  My peers and I really didn’t even know why we were in small group…other than just knowing it was something we should do…or it was a good way to make friends. (It is necessary to say here that I deeply love my brothers and sisters from these small groups. My wife and I stuck with our group even after leaving this church, and I have seen several of these friends grow in their relationship with Christ as a result of their own personal pursuit of His Word.)

Jude12 These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm — shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead.

2 Peter 2:17 These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity for people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”

My issue with this church was not that the teaching was lacking doctrinal depth, which it was. The issue was that the church members were not being effectively taught the very most fundamental aspects of Christianity.  Everyone felt like they were doing well.  They were doing what they were instructed by the pastors.  Their conscience was clear, but they were not being exposed to the full Word of God.  Not everything in the Bible is chocolate milk.  Some of it is hard to swallow, and it’s in those parts where we learn just how small we are, and how big our God is.  There was not only no discussion of doctrine, but discussion of doctrine was feared. My wife and I went to membership class and we were told that doctrine would not be discussed in the church because it was divisive. We were also told that terms like “being washed in the blood of the lamb” would not be used because they are off putting to non-believers. They went on to mock believers who want to “hear about the blood of the lamb.” And they said, “If that’s you’re thing, you can go somewhere else.” Sadly, the Bible is repeatedly clear that it is only by the blood of the lamb that we attain salvation. Hebrews 9:14 says There is no salvation that comes without being washed in the blood of Jesus Christ.

That was one of the last times we stepped foot in that church.

Yes I was saved during the time I was attending this church…God uses everything good and evil to work for His purpose (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28). But the fact that He uses something does not validate it as good. God’s elect were chosen from before the foundation of the world (Romans 8:30, Revelation 13:8), and God uses any number of tools to carry out His plan and bring His chosen to salvation. As I heard Matt Chandler say…”I know a guy who found Christ because his mother was in a car wreck. That doesn’t mean I want to start (a car wreck) ministry.”  The car wreck leading the man to Christ does not make car wrecks good, and truly, my shattered life was the car wreck that led me to Christ.  It was the desperation for God and His healing…not the church.

The issue I found with a church with baby milk teaching is that these churches give an incomplete view of God.  They give people a false idea of submission to Christ, and potentially a very real false assurance of salvation.  There are countless lukewarm ‘Christians’ right now living in unrepentant sin, living lives that don’t honor Christ and actually do more harm to the work of evangelism than good. These are the seed in the parable of the sower that lands on shallow soil (Matthew 13:5). They get excited and sprout quickly, but they also quickly fall away when things get tough. If we should ever enter tribulation, There are millions of ‘Christians’ that will bail on day one. Being a disciple of Christ actually means giving your life to Christ…as in…losing your life, possibly even physically.  I never would have heard that message in that church.

My wife and I have since found a church that puts Jesus Christ and His full Gospel at the center of every initiative to which the church endeavors. Not everything about the church is the coolest, hippest, or hottest.  I have learned that neither is following Jesus Christ. The world will never think Jesus is cool. He said as much himself.  What I found is that following Jesus Christ is infinitely better.  While following Jesus Christ is not the coolest, hippest, or hottest, it is the most genuine, loving, redeeming, and wholely fulfilling call a person can receive.

Based on my experience I probably have an over sensitivity to churches that try to use “cool” worldly things to attract non-believers, but my point is, the gospel saved me.  Jesus saved me.  Not the church, or the church’s sales pitch. Not the preacher, or his cool motorcycle. Christ is sufficient.  I found life in Jesus Christ when He carried me out of the world and into His Word.

Chasing After Wind

A synopsys of The Book of Ecclessiastes:

(1:2) Vanity of vanities…All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? (7:29) …God made man upright, but (men) have sought out many schemes.  (2:11) …I considered all that my hands had done…and behold, all was meaningless and a striving after wind…(2:26) …to the sinner (God) has given the business of gathering and collecting…This also is meaningless and a striving after wind. (1:13) search(ing) out by wisdom all that is done under heaven…is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is meaningless and a striving after wind.  (12:13) The end of the matter…Fear God and keep his commandments…this is the whole duty of man. (2:26) For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy…

Fearing the Lord?

Question:  I’m not sure exactly what “Fearing the Lord” means.  On your blog you speak a little on fearing the Lord but not in depth. What are your thoughts?

Many people in our generation believe that fear of the Lord simply means respect.  The liberal, feel good theology of the last 50 years has been heavily focused on grace and mercy, and has widely espoused the “God is love” slogan.  It is absolutely true that it is by God’s grace alone that we are saved, and it is also absolutely true that God is love.  However, an over emphasis of the “God is love” maxim fails to acknowledge that God has many characteristics of which loving, merciful, and graceful are just a few.  God is also, equally just – meaning He absolutely cannot allow sin to go unpunished, jealous – meaning He is angered by any desire of man to put other things ahead of Him, and is also wrathful (Nahum 1:2).  The combination of all of God’s traits is what makes God what He ultimately is:  above all, and in all things, God is Holy, Holy, Holy (Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8).  In the Hebrew language, a word repeated 3 times is the equivalent of 3 exclamation points in English.  Read: God is HOLY!!!  The Bible never says God is love, love, love…or merciful, merciful, merciful.

God IS love.  I want to preface that this is absolutely true, and God’s love is by no means being debated.  God is actually the creator of love and the origin of true agape (Greek for unconditional covenant love).   Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8).  Just remember, God is not only love.  God also has other characteristics that should be respected, and feared, in the literal sense of the word fear.

The word fear appears in the Bible 216 times from Genesis to Revelation.  Many times the word fear appears alongside the word trembling.  The first time fear and trembling appear is in Exodus, and the last time is in Philippians.

Phillipians 2:12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

If you believe fear means respect…I suppose if your respect takes you to the point of physical trembling…then that is the appropriate respect owed to God by the command of the verse above.  But, trembling – defined as involuntary shaking as a result of anxiety and frailty – indicates to me that proper knowledge of the LORD provokes literal fear.

Isaiah’s guilt is forgiven by the seraphim.

Look at the experience of any Biblical character who comes into the presence of God.  Every one of them, upon first realization, falls straight down on their face and/or cries out that they are sinful and unworthy.  Take for instance Isaiah, the holiest man in lsrael: (Isaiah 6:5) Isaiah said: “Woe is me! For I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!.”  He breaks down and comes completely unglued in the presence of God simply because he has a dirty mouth.  Then in the New Testament when Christ asks Simon Peter to follow Him, Peter falls down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord (Luke 5:8).”  Then, in revelation when the Spirit raises John (the one whom Jesus loved) to see the risen Christ, John says, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead (Revelation 1:17).  These are just a few examples…there are dozens more.   The holiest of men fall to pieces at the feet of the LORD.

I once started working on a fire and brimstone sermon by Jesus.  That may sound like an oxymoron to some, and may perhaps even offend others.  I went about the task of compiling Christ’s every reference to judgment, hell, and condemnation.  My intent was to offer a demonstration that Jesus Christ did indeed preach fire and brimstone.  I am acquainted with many people who have a strong aversion to hell, fire, and brimstone preaching, however I find it to be very important (in limited application), and believe there is a necessary balance between teaching grace, wrath, and every other personality trait of God.  After spending several hours compiling many pages of condemning Jesus quotes I decided that what I was doing was a dangerous thing.  After praying on it, and seeing how condemning the collection of verses was, I came to the conclusion that perhaps pulling Jesus’ verses out of their original context could misrepresent Him.  That’s not a risk I want to take.  The point of the matter is however, that Jesus did preach extensively on judgment and wrath.  When you cut out the narrative and the softening analogies of the parables, and you merely examine the references and allusions to hell, death, and condemnation, it is exceedingly clear that, with absolute certainty, there will be harsh judgment (Matthew 25:41), the majority of people will burn in hell (Matthew 7:14), and there will be tremendous sorrow (weeping and gnashing of teeth – appears 7 times).  We must present the LORD, unvarnished, for all the things His Word declares He is…not just the traits that work for us, that make us feel good, that make us like Him more, or that don’t scare us.  It is terrible folly to attempt to fit God within parameters that we dictate.  Excluding wrath from our doctrine does not eliminate the wrath of God (“wrath” appears 215 times in the Bible) – rather it merely eliminates it from our consciousness.  Prayerfully ponder the implications and consequences of that.

Christ said, “Fear not man who has the ability to kill the body.  I shall tell you whom you should fear.  Fear Him who after the body has been killed has the authority to cast you into hell (Luke 12:5).”  The context of fear being expressed here is fear in the sense of suffering a violent death at the hands of another man.  I don’t know what earthly fear could be any more fearsome than the fear of a violent death (think of being stoned to death for preaching the gospel as Steven the martyr was – Acts 7:54).  Jesus instructs here that the only fear greater than being brutally killed should be the fear of hell.  This doesn’t sound like Jesus is talking about respect.  I don’t think He’s saying we respect death so we should respect Him.  I think our natural instinct is to be terrified of death, and Jesus is saying here:  Fear Me more!  I can cast you into a violent, torturous Hell, the likes of which you cannot even fathom.

It is also important that we not fall into depending solely on the New Testament to define who the LORD is.  Jesus Christ and the Father God are united in one essence, and Christ himself says that He is subservient to the will of the Father (John 6:38).  Christ did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world (John 3:17).  However, Christ does clearly exhort that all must follow His teaching, or condemnation is coming for those who do not submit their lives to His service. If you read the Old Testament, where the Father God is the main character, you witness dozens of instances where the immutable, unchanging, LORD, annihilates all who would rebel and put anything ahead of Him.  We must remember Jesus Christ and God the Father are one and the same God in the Holy Trinity.  God does not change.  He was perfect from the beginning, and it is not possible to change or improve upon perfection.  He is not a God who is growing, learning, becoming more progressive, inclusive, or open minded.  He has not improved upon His perfection since His Old Testament days.  No.  God is unchanged.  Therefore, we must understand God is still the same sovereign God who punishes treason and administers wrath to rebels.  Non-believers, those not secure in salvation, unrepentant sinners, and those lukewarm in their subservience to Christ have much to fear.

Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Even believers would be wise to understand the Bible has drastic promises for those who believe in Christ, but fail to repent and turn to God, to ask forgiveness, and to strive to conquer sin within our lives…

Hebrews 10:27 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. 28Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.”And again, “The LORD will judge His People.”

31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

We cannot varnish the truth of God’s character.  A focus solely citing portions of the Bible that portray the Lord as “gentle Jesus meek and mild,” does not eliminate the mass of scripture that promises coming judgment and wrath for the non-believer, the self-righteous, and the unrepentant sinner.   I implore everyone, get to know Jesus Christ as the lamb.  He came to the world as a lamb to serve and suffer the punishment of His followers’ sin – offering forgiveness in His kindness and compassion.  When we give the LORD control He is quick to forgive.  When we reject the LORD we bring His wrath upon ourselves.

Now is the time to get right with the Lord.  He has extended the invitations.  A day will come when that invitation will no longer stand.  Christ has promised that when He returns He is not coming back as a lamb, but he is coming as a lion (Revelation 5:5).  When He returns He will not come to serve or suffer.  He will come to judge the quick and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1).

Psalm 2:11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son,  lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.  Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

 

Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, urban missionary, community group leader, Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Community Life Intern at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.

Chad W. Hussey

The Peace that Surpasses all Understanding Pt. 4

Part 4 of 4: Peace Comes from true FAITH

Habakkuk 3:18 When all is lost, and all is hopeless, I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the LORD, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places.

The deer hops with a graceful ease along the mountaintops, with elegance, high above the toils and struggles of the earth below.  So too shall we rise above the endless turmoil, navigating rocky times with graceful elegance, when we place our trust in the LORD, and rest on the hope assured by faith in Christ Jesus.

Hope comes from true faith in the promises of the LORD.  Peace comes from the confidence spawned in eternal hope.  If you’re reading this blog you probably already have some measure of belief in God.  The question we should be asking ourselves is:  when we are truly honest, do we have the kind of faith that can bring peace to our souls – the kind of peace that comes from believing beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a God in Heaven who has us in the palm of His hand?  Each post in this four part series hinges on the genuine belief that God is the real, sovereign, all powerful Heavenly keeper of the promises of the Bible.  In the moments when we doubt that God is any of those things, our peace can quickly become unhinged.

 “Temptation is a false promise–a promise that doesn’t deliver.   The sin to be ultimately expelled is our lack of trust, our unbelief.” – Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor and grandson of Billy Graham

The biggest temptation we face in this world is the temptation to doubt the LORD.  Sadly, our lack of peace is the direct biproduct of this very doubt.  Our salvation and protection lies with the LORD, and hope begins to wain when we start questioning wether the LORD truly directs our steps and has His hand on our lives. (Psalm 37:23).  When we have doubts in the LORD, in His existence, in His promises, or in His abilities, the foundation of our reassuarance is fractured.  When our trust in God is diminished, our peace also quickly fades.  This is where the devil slips his foot in the door.  Every person has moments of doubt, and every person has questions.  The Bible does not shy away from questions, but rather invites and  encourages the inquiring mind.  The Bible beckons us to vigorously seek answers within its pages.  “Seek and you shall find” (Matthew 7:7).  The more questions we ask and the more answers we seek, the more answers we will find and the less we will doubt.

Jeremaiah 29:13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

We must take an honest assessment of ourselves.  Do we trust God with every ounce of our being?  Are we truly searching for God with all our hearts?  When we trust that God will be our defender and deliverer we find He is the rock under which we are sheltered when the storms of life come.

Matthew 8:26 And (Jesus) said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

Four times in the gospel of Matthew Jesus says, “O ye of little faith!”  In each reference He goes on to assure us that a strong faith is the remedy for all things.  Jesus tells us that with a proper amount of faith we need not worry about whether we will be provided for and clothed (Matthew 6:30), we need not be fearful of our circumstances (Matthew 8:26), we need not doubt (Matthew 14:31), and we need not worry about whether we will eat (Matthew 16:8).  In Matthew 17:20 Jesus tells His disciples that it is by lack of faith that they fail, but with faith as small as a mustard seed, “nothing will be impossible for you.”  By faith we come to truly trust God’s plan, we align ourselves with God’s will, and we understand how God uses the circumstances of our lives for His glory.  True faith is not just belief but trust.  True faith brings about the peace that surpasses all understanding.

” A little faith will bring your soul to heaven,  a great faith will bring heaven to your soul” – C.H. Spurgeon

The Peace that Surpasses all Understanding Pt. 3

Part 3 of 4:  Peace Comes From Understanding How Your Circumstances Glorify God

John 9:1 As he passed by, (Jesus) saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. (Then), he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.”  So he went and washed and came back seeing.

What Christ tells His disciples here is that this man was not born blind as punishment for his parent’s sin, he was not born blind because God foreknew his sins, and he was not born blind by chance, by a great cosmic fluke, or for no reason.  The man was born blind for just this certain occasion – this time when he would seek Jesus’ healing, and Christ would have the opportunity to perfom this miracle.  Then the man would run and profess Christ’s name to all, and the Lord would be glorified in this man’s testimony.

Why is it that when we suffer hardship we are so quick to question God or become angry with Him?  How do we suppose that God would be able demonstrate the greatness of His power and love if there were never any obstacles in our lives where we should need His assistance or His healing?  We must realize that we are a terribly jaded people.  It is only a small amount of time before we take anything for granted.  Stop and think…how much time do we spend appreciating the simple things like running water and electricity?  How long can we go without them before we realize just how fortunate we truly are?  How long does it take when things are going well before we start to forget how much we truly need the LORD?  Conversely, how long does it take when we fall into hardship for us to drop to our knees in prayer?  When things get hard it’s not long before we are asking our entire network for their prayers.  Even non-believers ask believers to pray for them.  Clearly there must be something to that.  At some point does it not seem that we can be too blessed – that we can have too much, or become too confident in our prosperity and begin to believe we have no need for the LORD (Proverbs 30:8)?  But…when life becomes overwhelming, we are often quick to cry out for help.

Man was given a perfect existence when Adam and Eve were created in the Garden.  Rather than embrace God, they rebelled.  They took their perfect existence for granted. They took God for granted.  In that perfect existence, Adam and Eve had no ability to comprehend life seperate from God.  Without an understanding of life separate from God, they had no appreciation of the value of life with God.

Just as God heals the sick and delivers the oppressed for His glory, he also uses our response to suffering as testimony to His glory.  The Apostle Paul understood this as well as anyone as he rejoiced in writing 2/3 of the New Testament.  The majority of his writing took place all while being ship wrecked, snake bitten, beaten continuously…nearly to death, and locked in prison multiple times.  It would seem many of us would surely get discouraged in all of this.  Paul never once did.  When you and I see a dreadful situation, like being beaten and imprisoned, ship wrecked, or ill we might see it as catastrophic. We might see it as God punishing us, or turning His back on us.  We might see it as God not listening to our prayers.  Paul saw it as an opportunity.  He saw it as a moment in which God was using Him.  He rejoiced in being chosen worthy by God to be used for His purpose.  It was an opportunity for him to overcome obstacles, preach the gospel through them, for God to deliver him from them, and for his handling of these situations to be a testimony to the glory of Jesus Christ.  Paul lived above the circumstances that surrounded him.  By keeping His eyes on God, he transcended all earthly difficulties in his heart and mind.  Nothing phased Paul.  Paul said, “For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain (Philippians 1:21), meaing that in either event, life or death, in Christ there is always victory.  His heart was so connected to God, his anchor so securely set in the clouds, the events transpiring around him did not toss him back and forth like a ship upon the waves, or blow him here and there like every gust of wind (Ephesians 4:14).  Paul rejoiced in doing God’s will and was thus a fully contented Christian super hero – fearless, unafraid, and eternally joyful.

Paul is an amazing testimony to the power of Jesus Christ.  I find it hard to believe that God could have been more glorified, or Christians more inspired, had Paul written his letters while lounging in a rocker or picnicking under a shady tree.  The truth is, the idea of anyone making it through this life without turmoil and suffering is not realistic.  It takes next to nothing of this earth to serve Christ.  Even people facing the most difficult of circumstances can seek God with all their heart, and serve God’s purpose for their lives.  It takes very little, just our daily bread and a heart for Christ, to find contentment in relationship with Him.  Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven (Luke 6:20).  The poor in spirit do not live a life wrought with distractions, and a simple life more often yields the realization of the need for God – the realization that we have needs that we are not able to fulfill on our own.  Many people believe they could become happier by having more of what we already have.  If we just had the next promotion, a little more money, a little bigger house, a little more free time, etc, etc.  Then we try like mad to acquire those things…they come…and yet there is still not contentment.  The things of this world are not sufficient to provide the contentment our souls desire.  Our souls desire relationship with our creator.

The gift of faith is not a perfect life free from struggle.  The gift of faith is not earthly prosperity.  The gift of faith is the peace that is found in relationship with Jesus Christ!  That is the reward.  This relationship is more valuable than anything this universe can afford.  You will never find perfect peace or contentment in anything else the world could offer.  It is better to have nothing, and know God, than to have everything and not know Him.  If we are missing that, we are missing the entirity of our existence.

All of these earthly things we desire are merely distractions from the one true thing that will bring about contentment and healing in our lives.  Sometimes it takes a little struggle for us to realize that.  When things get hard it becomes very clear what is truly important. God sometimes uses suffering to pry our grip from the things we have sinfully made too important.  His intent is to break our hold of these idols and to redirect our focus to what will truly bring peace to our lives – relationship with Him. Understanding why the LORD has placed us in our circumstances, and understanding the result that God desires to bring out of these circumstances is essential to finding the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Joni Eareckson Tada is an amazing testimony in rejoicing in all circumstances and suffering well.  It’s hard to say it much better than this:

Read Part 4 Here

The Peace that Surpasses all Understanding Pt. 2

Part 2 of 4:  Peace Comes When We Align Ourselves With God’s Will

All things come by God’s will, in God’s time, for God’s purpose.  Seek His will for your life, and you will receive what you seek 100% of the time.

So how do we know what God’s will is?

Romans 12:2  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

God is diametrically opposed to the sinful nature of man.  Many of our world leaders, the politicians, media outlets, scientists, doctors, and so-called experts constantly advise us as to what they believe is proper.   Being that God is holy, sinless, and perfect His will remains counter-intuitive to the instruction of people who have their sight set on the things of this world.  We must understand that as Christians we are not to conform to these ideas but to be transformed by the Word of God.  The renewing of our minds comes from replacing the fallible knowledge of man with the truth of God. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. (Psalm 111:10).  We know what is the will of God by holding all things against His Word.

Word

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

To know the Word is to know God.  To know God is to know His will.  The biggest problem we have as Christians today is that we don’t know the Word.  We don’t read our Bibles.  We are expected to be able to recall the truths contained within scripture in all circumstances, but we can’t possibly do this if we don’t even know what is in the Bible.  If God is the Word, and we don’t read the Word, how then do we know God?  Perhaps we don’t.  Six times in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus asks,“Have you not read?”  The expectation expressed here is that we should read the scripture. The expectation is not that we will depend on preachers to teach us, or that we will depend on the teaching of our worldly society.  The Word of God is the measure by which we determine all that is right and good.  This is how we test our actions and the actions of others.  This is even how we test good preaching and good teaching.  We are to hold on to preaching that is good, and discard what is not biblically sound (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  The Bible says many false teachers will attempt to lead Christians astray.  Do you have the peace of knowing that the teaching you’re listening to is biblically sound? Do you have the peace of knowing the God of the Word?

So what does Christ say is His will for our lives?  In John 14:15 (Jesus says), “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  As believers in Christ we would be well advised to know what those commandments are.  Jesus’ commandments are not the 10 Commandments that God gave to Moses…Jesus fulfilled that covenant in living a sinless life, and that covenant is finished and paid in full by the blood of the cross.  The 10 commandments remain as a general principle for our behavior, but Christ, in His preaching, gave new, more pointed commands. In Matthew 22 Jesus simplifies the entire law in 2 commands:

Matthew 22:37 (Jesus said), “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law…”

Jesus uses the phrase “If you love me…” a very small number of times in the gospels.  These “if…then” statements are specifically indicative of whether or not we actually love Christ, and we should take them seriously.  Here are the things He said we will do if we love Him.  “If you love me you will obey my teaching (John 14:23), you will keep my commandments (John 14:15), and you will feed my lambs, tend my sheep, and feed my sheep (John 21:15-17).”  In other words, if you love Jesus you will know His commands, you will live by those commands in order that your life will honor Him, and you will share His word with others.  Jesus is the great shepherd and the bread of life.  His sheep (children) must be fed (taught).  When you hold yourself against the Word of God can you say that you love Jesus Christ, and that you have submitted your life to Him?  If not, then prayerfully get into the Word of God and get the Word of God in you!

Many of us fill our lives with desires that have very little to do with God’s will for our lives as outlined above.  Where do these desires come from?  It would seem they come from a desire to be like the world.  The best way to know whether or not what you are desiring is of God is to ask yourself the question, “Does this glorify God?  Does what I desire bring glory to His name and further the advancement of His Kingdom?”  If what you are desiring or praying for doesn’t honor God, then it probably isn’t God’s will for your life.  God’s desire is that we would serve Him and praise Him.  These desires that are not of God become dangerous for our lives because they eventually overtake us, drive us far from what is good, and lead us to final destruction.  God is a loving God, and being the good Father that He is, He may use hardship as discipline to teach us as His children. (Hebrews 12:7) All good fathers discipline their children, and no good parent will allow an unruly, spoiled, or lost child to go unchecked. Some children do not grow up the way a parent would prefer, but many times it is not for lack of the parent’s disciplining and guiding them.  Let us make the effort to be good children of the LORD, to follow His commands, to be good stewards of our resources, and to make the concerted effort to live by His will.  Why invite opportunities for His discipline?  This will only become hardship in our lives.  At some point most of us have felt the LORD’s discipline, and all strong Christians, while we recognize we are infinitely better for it, would prefer to avoid discipline.  To use the cliché, the circumstances of our lives good and bad “have made us who we are today.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 God’s discipline, while it seems severe, is designed to intensify our joy in that it destroys the origins of our worst sorrows.

1 Peter 1:7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

When we place ourselves in alignment with God’s will for our lives, and we understand that struggles we face are a means by which God purifies us, refines us, and strengthens us…and we trust that…we can find contentment in any situation.  Everything we endure is for our good, and for our growth.  God is sanctifying His believers.  God desires that you will seek Him. He desires that you will honor and glorify Him by seeking His will.  When he turns you from your wicked ways back towards Him, though it may be painful, he is truly saving you from destruction.  We should let all circumstances of our lives point us toward the cross.  When we seek God’s will for our lives, we will receive what we seek 100% of the time.  In being in right step with the LORD and submitting to His will there is found peace that surpasses all understanding.

Read Part 3 Here

The Unrelenting Love of God – The Hosea Story

If you’ve ever questioned the depth of God’s love or the measure of His patience, you truly need to watch this video. This short film, produced by the teaching team at Irving Bible Church (led by E. Andrew McQuitty and including Dallas Seminary professor Barry Jones) is a deeply emotional, beautifully directed, contemporary portrait of the book of Hosea. Hosea tells the story of a prophet’s deep love and unfailing commitment to his unfaithful wife. This is the allegorical depiction of the unfailing covenant love of God for His people.

CLICK “PLAY ALL”

Here is a brief selection of verses from Hosea chapters 1-3 which tell the story of Hosea’s unfailing commitment to his wife.

1:2 When the Lord first began speaking to Israel through Hosea, he said to him, “Go and marry a prostitute, so that some of her children will be conceived in prostitution. This will illustrate how (God’s people have) acted (adulterously) by turning against the Lord (making other pursuits their priority, idolizing temporal earthly gain, and) worshipping other gods.”

2:2 (Hosea tells his children) “Plead with your mother, plead…that she put away her whoring…and her adultery…3 (otherwise I will) strip her naked and make her as in the day she was born (publicly exposed and helpless)…5…she…has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, (and sell myself to them to attain all I need)’ 7 She shall pursue her lovers…but shall not find (happiness, nor her needs met by) them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’ 13 And I will punish her for…she…adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me…”

14 “(Then), behold, (I will forgive her) I will allure her, (I will show her mercy) and speak tenderly to her (and win her back). 15 And there I will give her…a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth…16 “And…will call me ‘My Husband,’…18 And I will make…a covenant (promise) on that day…and I will…(enable her) to lie down (unafraid in peace and) in safety 19 …(with me) forever…in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will be faithful to (her) and…(she will be) mine…

3:1 And the Lord said to (Hosea), “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, (this is how) the Lord loves (His) children…

Hopefully this helps you understand the depth of the love and commitment that God has for His children, and how our sinful behavior and our rejection of God truly appears from a third person perspective. I find it difficult to watch this video without feeling a strong need to repent and run to God. Despite our continuing to ignore Him, and our refusal to obey Him, He continues to pursue us to the ends of the Earth. He has not given up on you and is waiting with open arms for your return to Him. Ask for His forgiveness…He will forgive you. God is love.

hosea

Render Unto God What is God’s!

No this post is not about tithing!  Fear not!  And for those of you who know this passage, I’m not going to talk about paying taxes either!   Sweet relief, right?   This is an examination of Christ’s response to the questioning by the Pharisees who attempt to trap him in Matthew 22.  They asked Him:

“Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

It’s important to understand that both Roman soldiers and Jews were present, and the Roman Tax on the Jews was a highly controversial issue at this time.  The Romans were taxing the Jews as much as 80% of their household income.  People were being arrested, impoverished, and dying as a result of this tax.  If Jesus were to instruct that the Jews should not pay taxes, the Roman Soldiers would have had cause to arrest Him.  At the same time, the Jews were highly vexed by this situation, and these taxes were being used to fund the army that was enforcing the oppressive rule of Rome over them.  If Christ simply instructed the Jews to pay the Roman tax, they would have turned on Him.

 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius.[c]

20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…”

It has been discussed ad nauseum that Christ says here that we should pay our taxes.  Given.  What I would like to draw your attention to is the coin.  Specifically the image on the coin and its implication.  The coin was created by Caesar, and his image is what gave the coin its value.  By the image and inscription on the coin it was not simply a piece of metal, but was made and marked specifically in such a way that all would see that this coin had a specific purpose, a designated value, and belonged to the man whose image it beared.  Christ was not terribly concerned with the money, or with Caesar’s desire to take the money back from the Jews.  (Christ of course knows that The Father provides what is necessary for His children.)  But…what is more important is what Christ said next.

 “…render unto God the things that are God’s.”

What is he talking about here?  What are the “things that are God’s?”  Brothers and sisters, you and I were created in the image of God.  We bear His image.  He has placed his inscription on us.  “Imago Dei” – in Latin, translated – “Image of God.”

God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).

If the image of Caesar on a denarius gives it such value, how much more value then does the bearing of God’s image place upon His children?  This is what Christ is communicating here.  The tax, and money in general, are not important.  What is important is that you are God’s.  You were created by Him, and you are valuable to Him.  He expects you to return to Him.  “Render unto God what is God’s.”

You’re Just Like Samson?

There are strong allegorical similarities between Samson, the nation of Israel, and Christians today. You may be surprised to find that we are all quite a bit more like the temperamental, wildly violent, Old Testament anti-hero than we realize…or would like to admit.

Samson rips a lion in half with his bare hands

The story of Samson is found in Judges 13-16, and takes place during a time when God was punishing the Israelites – giving them into the hand of their enemy, the Philistines. While pregnant, Samson’s mother was told by an angel that her child was going to be set apart for God’s purpose. Samson’s parents, being faithful and God-fearing, honored the LORD’s instruction and raised Samson as a Nazirite, a Jew especially dedicated to the LORD. God gave Samson amazing strength, by his hair, and he was to be the beginning of Israel’s deliverance from the oppression of the Philistines.

However, when Samson became an adult he went astray. He operated completely independent of God, hardly acknowledging God’s existence. He became arrogant, overly confident in his own ability and his physical prominence over men.

Samson slays a Philistine with the jawbone of a donkey

Now, the Jews had long been instructed that they should be a people set apart – consecrated to God. They were expressly forbidden to intermingle with their pagan neighbors or engage in their sinful practices. However, Samson, showing no regard for God’s demands fell deeply in love multiple times with Philistine women.

This infatuation of Samson with the Philistine women is a literal manifestation of the attraction we all have to the beautiful monster that is sin. Sin demonstrates in Samson’s story that it is beautiful, sexy, sweet, and alluring. Sin also demonstrates in Samson’s story that it is powerful and dangerous – easily capable of overcoming even the strongest of men. Over and over Samson is fooled by the wicked Philistine women, and over and over the desires of his heart lead him into peril.

What is represented in Samson’s love for these women is that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremaiah 17:9). It is sick and can not be understood or trusted. The heart of every person is deceiving and these deceits choke out the Word of God, and cause us to stray from the faith. The Bible instructs that we are to lean not on our own understanding, but to submit our lives to the Lord, and put our dependence in Him.

Delilah shaves Samson’s head as he sleeps

Ultimately Samson’s chasing his desires leads Him far from God and to his ruin. His Philistine lover, Delilah, pressures him into sharing the secret of his strength and then cuts off his hair leaving him weak and betrayed. He is then turned over as captive to the Philistines who gouge out his eyes and put him in shackles. In all of this, Samson becomes literally blind, weak, betrayed, alone, and enslaved.

The story of Samson is an allegory for the Old Testament nation of Israel and is incredibly similar to the plight of Christ’s Church, and the struggle of many Christians today. The nation of Israel in the Old Testament, and the Christian body today, are strong, independent, and long set apart for God. However, Israel was, and Christians now are, constantly backsliding, proudly following the sinful desires of the human heart, seeking to delight in revelry with unrighteous pagan neighbors, and consistently disregarding God’s instruction. This has consistently led people away from God and into adulterous and idolatrous pursuits, which, as in Samson’s story, end in spiritual blinding, weakness, loneliness, enslavement to the enemy (sin), and ultimately death.

But there is redemption in this story. Samson, blind and imprisoned is broken by the LORDs discipline made manifest in his life. By this, Samson’s self-righteous spirit is broken and Samson develops a repentant heart. Samson then puts his dependence on God. Samson’s hair begins to grow back, and as his hair was symbolic of the strength of God in him, so too was his hair growing back symbolic of the growth of his relationship with the LORD. At the final feast when Samson is brought out to perform for the Philistines celebrating his capture, Samson finally clearly “sees” God as the source of his strength and deliverance.  The LORD grants Samson’s final prayer, giving him the strength to glorify God in destroying the temple and killing his Philistine persecutors.

Samson destroys the temple of Dagon

The final portion of this story is symbolic of how The LORD breaks the spirit of the proud and self-righteous.  He makes the blind see (Exodus 4:11).  He delights in the repentant and contrite sinner.   He heals the broken hearted.  He strengthens those who place their faith in Him.  He releases those bound from imprisonment, and the LORD has His day of vengeance over the wicked (Isaiah 61).

So, maybe we are all a little more like Samson than we realize. Where are you at in your Samson story?

If you enjoyed this discussion from the book of Judges, you might also enjoy my other post about the The Levite and His Concubine – Judges 19.

Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, urban missionary, community group leader, Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Community Life Intern at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.

Chad W. Hussey

Fallin’

As a means to demonstrate the riches of His love and mercy to me, the LORD recently permitted the devil to extend his hand to tempt me.  I found myself confronted with an old familiar foe.  As Jesus, starving in the desert, demonstrated by rejecting the devil’s temptation of a loaf of bread, sin on its surface does not always appear a bad thing.  Sometimes on the surface the devil, in his powers of deceit, makes sin appear not only enticing, but healthy, as if it is something for our good.  However, when anything comes with the devil’s temptation, or leads to a dark place, it becomes deadly.  By the intercession of the Holy Spirit we receive the discernment of good and evil, and I recognized the devil at work deep in the chambers of my mind.  Fearing my flesh is weak, and knowing my thoughts were betraying me, I turned faithfully to the LORD and cried out in prayer.  I pleaded He deliver me from this temptation and that He keep me far from the evil one.  

This experience is so well represented by Trip Lee in one of my favorite songs, “Fallin'”

In a demonstration of His awesomeness, later the very same day, the LORD brought about events that caused this temptation to turn and flee from me. This was not by any work of my own, as I failed in mustering the strength to make war with this sin.  This was His answer to my prayer.  It was amazing to watch the hand of the LORD at work in my life as the Spirit delivered me from the old familiar snare…just as the Word tells us He will.  It was something spectacularly touching for my heart to witness, and I pray you will experience and recognize the same loving acts of the LORD in your own walk.  

Being reborn, does not mean we are now perfect.  All Christians still struggle with sin, but we no longer have to face temptation alone.  We must recognize our fallen nature and our inability to live righteously apart from the Lord.  It is by vain conceit we are deceived in thinking we can overcome sin and wickedness on our own.  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).  The Lord loves when we raise our struggles in prayer.  He longs for us to come to Him with a broken spirit and place our dependence on Him.  When we do this, He will deliver us from evil, for He is a God of tremendous love and great mercy!  And, when we do fail, if we turn to Him in true repentance, acknowledging our need for his guidance over our life, He is quick to forgive.  May the Lord bless you, and keep, you and hold you in the palm of His hand…far from the temptations of the evil one.

Phillipians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His namesake.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No Temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Who Needs the Old Testament?

The short answer…YOU.  Probably more than you realize.

Just like man cannot live on bread alone, Christians seeking to know the LORD cannot live on the New Testament alone.  “Man does not live on bread alone, but by EVERY WORD that comes from the mouth of God.”   And how convenient is it then that, to my point, Jesus, here in Matthew 4:4, actually quotes the Old Testament scripture Deuteronomy 8:3.  Living under New Covenant Grace, the promise of salvation through faith in Christ, something that is often overlooked by Christians is that Christ’s Church does not stand without the building blocks of the Old Testament.  Together, we believers are His house, built on the foundation interlocking the apostles (New Testament), and the prophets (Old Testament). And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. (Ephesians 2:20)

Not convinced yet?  The New Testament contains 352 direct quotations, 613 allusions, and 4,105 passages reminiscent of Old Testament scripture.  More than 10% of the New Testament is made up of Old Testament Scripture. (bible-researcher.com)  This is all the more impressive when one considers that copies of the Old Testament were scarce at this time, and the majority of the New Testament teachings, those predominantly quoting the Old Testament, come from a walking rabbi, a man writing letters from prison, and a man exiled to live alone in an island cave.  Of course we know all Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16) so it should make sense that it is cohesive.

For what it’s worth, I will add there are 0 New Testament references to the Inter-testament Apocrypha which claims itself not to be the inspired Word of God, but remains in the Catholic Bible.

So why can’t we just stick to the New Testament if it already contains the important parts of the Old Testament?  Let’s be straight…the New Testament references the Old Testament, it does not tell the story, nor capture the message of the Old Testament on its own.  I’d go so far as to say that the New Testament references the Old Testament so frequently that it is not possible to fully interpret or capture the real depth of what is being said in the New Testament without knowing the citations being referenced.  Not knowing the context surrounding these quotations removes a great deal of the vitality from the points being made in the New Testament scripture.  Further, by not reading the Old Testament we cannot truly grasp the bigger picture at work in the Bible…the upper story…God’s plan for man playing out from Genesis to Revelation.  When we understand the relationship rightly between the Old and New Testaments we see that God is unchanging. He is a God of love, working a master-plan through a contiguous series of covenants each building on the previous…executing a flawless and cohesive blueprint to develop a remnant of glorified people with which to share eternity….all for His pleasure and His glory.

The general principles at the heart of each of the covenants apply to all God’s elect, those living both before and after Christ, and Christ is the focal point of the plan that is God’s redemption story.  The ancient Israelites, and all Old Testament scripture, point forward in time alluding directly to Jesus Christ.  Examples:  Moses is symbolically tied to Jesus in such a wealth of ways it requires another post (see Moses points to Jesus post below).  The Passover lamb is an allusion to Jesus as both were sacrificed during Passover (Easter) for atonement for sin. The Israelites applied the blood of the Passover lamb to the door frames of their homes, and in so doing received protection against the angel of death. 40 years later, Rahab the prostitute, a gentile from Jericho who expressed faith in the God of Israel and aided the Jews in the planning of their conquest of her city, was symbolically given a scarlet cord to hang from the window frame of her home so that her family would be passed over as the Jews slayed every man, woman, and child of Jericho.  This was symbolic of the lambs blood at Passover, and both Rahab’s chord and the blood of the pass over lamb allude to the blood of the sacrificed Christ that God uses to paint the door frames of each believer’s heart to protect us from eternal death.

Another wonderful allegory of the Old Testament is the story of David and Goliath.  In this story we are not, as many wrongly fantasize, David standing up to our fears and oppressors defeating Goliath…No, in this story, David is not you or I, but he is Jesus, the meek and humble shepherd.  Goliath is Satan.  And you and I?  We are the nation of Israel, scared, frightened, facing imminent death at the hands of our enemy.  No match for Goliath, no match for the devil, but then, saved by our unassuming King.  The Old Testament is full of these allegorical allusions.  Just read the story of Abraham, who at the LORD’s instruction, goes to sacrifice his son, believing the LORD has the power to raise his son from death. (Hebrews 11:19) Upon his acting in faith, an angel stops Abraham, at which point Abraham does, in a way, receive his son back from death.   The many parallel events and prophecies of the Old Testament specifically demonstrate the hand of God at work in every event, and indicate there is a savior coming.

So, I’ve established the Old Testament’s tie to Christ.  Now also see that conversely, New Covenant Age Christians point back to the old covenants.  The LORD, the God of Abraham, has brought us into the Abrahamic Covenant, into His spiritual family.  We are now the spiritual children of Abraham.  The people God promised would be as many as sands of the sea who would worship Him.  Despite the old covenants being made specifically with the Israelites, the Gentiles have been grafted into the church of God’s elect…the spiritual nation of Israel, which contains both the pre-Christ Jews and the Christians after Christ (Romans 11).

In the Old Testament, Moses was given the Mosaic Covenant…The Law.  He was also given very specific instruction for building a Tabernacle where sacrifices would be made and where God would reside amongst His people.  Hebrews 8:5 tells us specifically that the instructions for the Tabernacle and the furniture within it are a shadow of the things of heaven.  Also, in the same way the LORD gave Moses The Law and appointed High Priests to offer gifts and sacrifices to atone for the peoples’ sin.  This too was a shadow of the heavenly law, and the way sin is handled by God.  In the New Testament, when Jesus came, His ministry professed the true Heavenly Law, and Jesus became God’s heavenly sacrifice on the altar.  In sacrificing His son, God created a New Covenant, the New Testament, in which He now impresses the knowledge of Himself and His laws onto the hearts and minds of His chosen people (by way of the Holy Spirit).  In Romans chapters 9 and 10 the Apostle Paul tells us that just as God elected his chosen people in the Old Testament, in order that His purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls, God calls his elect to follow Christ.   And by the sacrifice of Christ, His heavenly lamb, all sins past, present, and future are forgiven.   By impressing His laws on our hearts and minds, the regenerated Christian’s heart bears the fruits of The Spirit.  And while we are still sinful and repentant people, undergoing a progressive process of sanctification, the intent of our hearts is always to keep Christ’s Commands, and Christ’s Commands adhere to, and further go beyond, the principle intent of the Mosaic Law and the 10 Commandments given to the Israelites.

Hopefully this has helped you see that both the Old and New Testaments depend heavily on each other to make one complete faith…a work of many parts that all point directly to Christ.  When we follow the common thread woven through the Old and New Testament we see God’s word sewn together in one cohesive plan, unfolding exactly as it was developed from the creation of the world.  God has always chosen and granted salvation to His elect, and has always punished the wicked.  The names of God’s chosen were always written in the book of life, and the lamb was slain from the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8) because God knew the end from the beginning.  We see God is every bit the omnipotent, all sovereign, powerful and eternal God that His Word says he is.  It becomes undeniably clear He knew each event from the start.  He devised a perfect and complete plan, and then breathed the entire plan through the pens of many hands.  Thus He has given us a masterfully developed book by which anyone who  inquires with all their heart will receive the answers they seek (Jeremiah 29:13).  So don’t neglect the Old Testament…we can never fully know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve come from.

By:  Chad W. Hussey By:  Chad W. Hussey

Moses Points to Jesus

Moses was the most important person in the Jewish faith until the arrival of Christ.  Below I will lay out a good portion of the similarities of Moses and Christ, and why the parallels are important to see.

Moses points to Jesus
Hebrews 3:5 “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,”[a] bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. 6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

Moses frees the Israelites.

Moses born an Israelite = Jesus born an Israelite
Moses spends his childhood in Egypt = Jesus spends His childhood in Egypt
Moses fled from the king who wanted to kill him as a baby = Jesus fled King Herod to Egypt as a baby
Moses born under foreign dominion by Egypt = Jesus born under foreign dominion by Rome
Moses was adopted = Jesus was adopted
Moses stepped down from royalty to be an Israelite = Jesus was lowered from heaven to an Israelite

Moses spends 40 days on Mount Sinai preparing to deliver The Law = Jesus Spends 40 days in the desert preparing to deliver the Heavenly Law

Moses spends 40 years in the desert = Jesus spends 40 days in the desert
Moses was a shepherd = John ch 10 Jesus calls himself the great shepherd
Moses called to free Israelites from Bondage = Jesus frees us from bondage of sin
Moses performs Miracles = Jesus Performs Miracles
Moses first miracle shows dominion over the snake (his staff) = Jesus first miracle he shows dominion over the devil (snake), not succumbing to temptation
Moses heals his leprous hand = Jesus heals leprosy
Moses’ plagues = Jesus plagues of Revelation
water to blood = Revelation 16:3, frogs=Rev 16:13, boils= Rev 16:2, hail=Rev 16:21, locusts= Rev 9:1, darkness = Rev 16:10, angel of death = Rev 6:7
Jesus chose the passover meal for the Last Supper
Passover blood of lamb saves Israelites = Blood of the lamb christ saves God’s believers
Blood on the door frame seals protection = Christ blood is painted on the door frame of believers hearts for our protection
Red Sea parts and people access God’s holy land = Temple curtain torn and people given access to the Holy of Holy’s
People get to the other side of the red sea and sing the song of Moses = Revelation 15:2 a sea of fire by which all the people of God stand by victorious and sing the song of Moses
Moses gives the people clean water = Jesus is the living water
Moses gives them Manna, bread from heaven = Jesus is the bread from Heaven, the true Manna
Moses goes to the mountain to the get the law = Jesus gives a new law in the sermon on the Mount
People try to stone Moses in Exodus 17 = People try to stone Jesus in John 8
Moses picks 12 men to go search the Holy land = Jesus picks 12 Apostles
Moses picks 70 leaders = Jesus sends out the 70
Israelites can’t go to the promise land until Moses dies = Christians couldn’t go to our promised land without the death of Christ
Moses left Joshua to lead the people = Jesus left the Holy Spirit to lead His people
Moses people were sealed = Jesus’ people will be sealed…Exodus 13:16  And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.” = Revelation 7:3  “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”

Jesus frees sinners.

Now that we have established a parallel of the two men  We can parallel the Exodus stories.  As the bible is one big story of little stories that repeat over and over, The Exodus story is the prime example of what the new Exodus (the end times/Revelation) will look like.  Jesus is our Moses who will bring plagues upon the world (in Revelation 16), free us from the bondage of sin, lead us wandering in the desert of life so that we can learn the necessary sanctifying lessons of glorification, and take us through the great sea that looks like sure doom (tribulation) and into our Promised Land in eternity.

You see…Moses was the Jews deliver, and Jesus is ours.

 

Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, urban missionary, community group leader, Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Community Life Intern at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.

Chad W. Hussey

Jesus Said Love, but God Hates…Contradiction?

I was recently asked the following…”I would like to know your thoughts on something. Jesus and God are of the same nature, but Jesus said love everyone, but the Bible says God hates. Jesus says love your enemy. God says Jacob I loved but Esau I hated.  Is this a contradiction? This is not a trick question. I have always thought because of Jesus quote I was not to hate.”

Fantastic Question!

A few things….I will try to present these thoughts in such a way that will make a coherent, cohesive explanation.  First I think we need to be mindful of how we interpret the word hate.  It is always wise to find the word in question as it is used in other places in scripture to study the context and get a clearer definition.  Jesus actually uses the word hate here…

Luke 14:26 (NIV) 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.

I think we can pretty clearly deduce here that if we are to love our neighbors, that we are also to love our blood relatives.  But we must “deny” (hate) them, and ourselves, the type of love we share with Christ.  Hence, the juxtaposition…Jacob I loved and Esau I hated (this hate “denied” Esau the love that God shares with His saved children).

This love God and believers share is “covenant love,” and this is the love that saves.
And of course, whether we believe in free will or in faith by grace, we can all agree that God will “deny” those lacking faith in Christ, His covenant love.

So we see there are different types of love and hate…clearly in our following Christ he doesn’t want us to hate our parents, wife, or children in a damning way (as God hated Esau)…or to begrudge them, as we might define hate. We also can not save our neighbors by offering them “covenant love.”  That kind of love is something only God can offer, and hopefully we all agree it is not the preacher who saves the man, but God.  A good preacher knows he is merely the tool that God uses to gather souls to Him, and no man can save themselves or another man by their own works (Ephesians 2:8).  Further, when we see “God hates the wicked.”  It may not necessarily mean hate in the sense that you and I imagine it in common vernacular (angry, raging, begrudging, or murderous), but rather hate is the antonym to covenant love.  It is the absence of covenant love, the hate we see here damns the lost.

Of course, I could have just said, to love or to hate…to save, or to condemn is all God’s sovereign choice, and the created is not to question the decisions of the creator (Romans 9:21), but we also need to understand that Jesus never said not to hate.  As we see above…he did tell us to hate…we just have to understand His meaning.

I hope that’s helpful.

By:  Chad W. Hussey By:  Chad W. Hussey

Pursuing Knowledge…and Wisdom from Fear

Jesus said love. He also said, “Do you love me? Then feed my sheep. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

I was recently in a Bible study where the pursuit of knowledge (in God’s Word) was called into question as if it was an unjust, or misguided pursuit. It was painted in some way negative or less than paramount.
The basis, being that Jesus commanded us to love, and our loving others, by our actions, should take precedent over the pursuit of His Word, or the teaching of the actual meaning of His Word.

While Love is of the highest importance, before we can actually share Christian Love, we must understand what Christian Love is. We must also recognize that the transformation of the heart comes not by our own efforts but by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. A work that occurs in us by our engagement in scripture. The Holy Spirit blesses each of us in different ways and at this time I feel it appropriate to defend what the Apostle Paul calls the Holy Spirit’s Gift of Knowledge (1 Corinthians 12).

Below are some…not all…examples of why we should fear the Lord, and why it should drive our unquenchable thirst for knowledge of the Word. Some, believe the word “fear” in the Bible is meant to be interpreted as respect. Let me preface, that I will agree with you if your respect is so emotionally stirring that it causes trembling (Phillipians 2:12, 1 Corinthians 7:15), and you are cognizant of the words of Christ, “Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell.” (Luke 12:5) Personally, for me, that evokes fear in the literal sense.

So, why should we be obsessed with correct understanding of the Word, and why should we uphold the Word’s proper interpretation relentlessly.

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Job 28:28 And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”

Luke 12:4 Christ said: I tell you my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more, but I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who after your body has been killed, has the authority to throw you into hell.

Leviticus 19:17 “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.

Proverbs 28:23 Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue.

Luke 12:8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.

Leviticus 5:1 “‘If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible.

Proverbs 15:14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

Proverbs 30:5 “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.6 Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

1 Corinthians 12:4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Matthew 4:4 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[a]”

In the beginning was The Word and the word was God. The word of God is our life blood. It is how the Lord communicates to us. If knowledge of the Word is not my gift of the spirit, then it is unquestionably my passion. It burns inside me beyond my control. I would never deny this precious gift, for any man for any reason, nor would i ever attempt to control it lest I deny the work God has laid before me to walk in. The Bible is the Word of God. Every word of it.  It is not to be added to, or we will be proven liars. It is not to be tampered with or distorted. This is why we must know it and understand it rightly, and lean not on our own understanding…for there is no knowledge or wisdom that comes from man. Wisdom and knowledge begin with God. We do not love, but hate anyone we don’t share The Word with. This is why we must preach, why we must teach, and why we must correct incorrect doctrine. The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray. The bible says that no action of our own and no convincing of man’s own will lead anyone to Christ, but we are to preach the Truth and it will be received by those hearts the Lord has prepared for its receiving, by his grace, by his sovereign will. Salvation is by no works of man so no man may boast. All glory in the saving of souls is God’s. We are just the vessels He is filling to be used as the vehicle for the delivery of His word by His will. If we love people it can not be by tolerance, by which we actually betray them, but by presentation of the one who IS love to them, Christ. To do this, we must rightly know Him, and listen to Him…He is the Word. Further, we have learned about Him, and it is a sin not to testify to what we know. There are many charges the world makes against Him…some charge Him a blasphemer, atheists charge Him a liar. It is not a good enough excuse to be scared. It is not a good enough excuse to be politically correct, or lovingly accepting of everyone. If you love someone with Christian love, you will present the gospel to them in hopes they will receive it and be saved from eternity in hell…you would not support them in their march toward damnation. Christ said man is not the one to be feared, but God…just go, just preach. And when you do, do so correctly. Timothy, Titus, James, and Peter all teach that any teaching that is not sound in doctrine would be better left not done at all. To teach properly we must know the Word. Incorrect doctrine confuses faith. Jesus commands we teach His Word…and those who teach will be judged more strictly. By fear of the Lord we should find the pursuit of knowledge of God’s Word to not only be just, but paramount to our walk in faith and to the application of our love as Christians.

By:  Chad W. Hussey By:  Chad W. Hussey

PREACH the Gospel!!!

A clip from my favorite TV show, Todd Friel’s Wretched on the NRB.

Romans 10 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

 

How are your feet looking?

God Appoints Political Leaders

There is a raging debate of late over whether or not it is right to pay taxes or submit to political powers that do not support Christian ideologies.  The Bible does fairly well to address this topic directly.

At the time Christ was on earth, Rome ruled the known world from England to India, and the nation of Israel was captive to Rome.  To financially support  the standing army necessary to control the Jews, taxes were 70 to 80% of the annual income of the average Jewish household.  The Jews and Romans definitely did not share the same beliefs or virtues.

The Jews expected their Messiah to be a powerful king who would militarily throw off the oppressive rule of Rome and free the nation of Israel.  But, when asked whether or not his followers should submit to Roman authority and pay taxes to this unjust government, Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.”

Why does Jesus say this?  Christians are a people not of this world.  We are people of the kingdom of God.  God’s call is a call for the submission of our hearts to Him, and the denial of the importance of the things of this world.  Christ has tasked us, as His followers, to fight a spiritual battle, through discipleship.  Our faith is not a call to rebel and fight, but a call to unite and spread His Word.  Very little is necessary for us to achieve God’s purpose for our lives (relationship with Him and spreading of His Word).  God is a God of justice and saving grace, and he is our deliverer.  He is working on a grand plan, all of which is laid out in detail from the beginning to the end in the Bible.  We can see His plan coming to fruition as prophecy is continuously fulfilled.  When we are obedient and put our dependence on God, in His time, according to His purpose, He always delivers.  Christ did not lead a Jewish rebellion against Rome, rather, He submitted to their authority and allowed them to crucify Him.  After the crucifixion of Christ, the Jewish temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews were driven out from Israel across the world.  But, because of his crucifixion, the sins of God’s elect became atoned.  And because of the wonder of the resurrection, and the dedication (to death) of Christ’s followers, the Christian faith exploded.  Today, the Roman Empire is long gone, but the Kingdom of Christ spans the globe.  Christ’s teaching is incredibly counter-intuitive to our human instincts, but is proven righteous, and God has a plan for our redemption.

Here is what the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 13:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

The power ordained to all rulers of the world is by God, and is vital for His purpose in His story (the redemption of man from sin and the gathering of His children back to Him, as laid out from Genesis to Revelation).  We must have Faith in God’s plan.

If you enjoyed this post you might also appreciate my article To Christian Exiles in Babylon on the application of Jeremiah’s ‘Letter to the Exiles’ to Christian living and approaching culture today.

Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, urban missionary, community group leader, and theology student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.

Chad W. Hussey

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