The Truth about Pulp Fiction and Ezekiel 25:17

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Of the 50+ postings I’ve made on TruthByGrace.org, the runaway most-read post remains the “Top 5 Most Misquoted, Misused, and Misunderstood Bible Verses.”
Given the preoccupation with misused Bible verses, I want share what I find to be, by far, one of the most intriguing, and perhaps unrealized, modern misquotations of the Bible. In a 2004 poll, Samuel L. Jackson’s misquotation of Ezekiel 25:17, in Pulp Fiction, was voted the fourth best movie speech of all time.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the scene. Jackson says,

“Do you read the Bible, Brett? Well there’s this passage I’ve got memorized – sort of fits this occasion. Ezekiel 25:17.”

Then Jackson goes on to deliver what appears to be a tremendously dramatic Bible exhortation:

“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”

*The following video contains violent content not suitable for all viewers.

The thing is, the quotation above is not at all a proper rendering of Ezekiel 25:17. The actual verse reads as follows:

Ezekiel 25:17 And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.

Sure Jackson’s quote finishes along the same lines as the Bible verse, but the preceding lines in Pulp Fiction’s rendition appear nowhere in the Bible, and certainly not in Ezekiel chapter 25. Additionally, there are a couple of theological inconsistencies present in the Pulp Fiction monologue. Admittedly, Quentin Tarantino, the writer and director of Pulp Fiction, dreamed up this quotation as a re-imagining of several Biblical themes, and reworked them as a monologue that he believed best expressed the drama intended for the movie scene.

Pretty much all of the themes Jackson’s passage incorporates are found in different places in the Bible, but they are all re-workings, not true to the original text. The portion of the monologue about the tyranny of evil men is inspired by Ezekiel 34. The portion about the valley of darkness refers to King David’s words in Psalm 23, and the portion about being one’s brother’s keeper refers to the first human death, occurring in Genesis 4, in which Cain, after murdering his brother, asks the LORD, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

It should be noted that this post is neither an endorsement of Tarantino’s re-rendering the Bible, nor of the movie Pulp Fiction as a theological guide. I would hope that much would be obvious. But, what I do find most interesting, and want to point out, is that often over-looked in this incredibly popular film is the salvation story of Samuel L. Jackson’s character Jules Winnfield. Toward the end of the movie the savage bounty hunter experiences what clearly seems to resemble the effectual calling of the LORD.

Winnfield, who seemed to have always had a passing fascination with the way the words of the Bible sounded (rather than what they actually meant), comes to confess that in the context of (his rendition of) Ezekiel 25:17, he has always been “the tyranny of evil men.” But by divine revelation (or as he called it, “a moment of clarity”) he has come to the realization that he must denounce his wicked ways and strive to ”be the shepherd.” Jules Winnfield has experienced what Ezekiel 36:26-27 tell us is a regeneration of the heart.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

*The following video contains language not suitable for all viewers.

As the end of the movie nears, this enlightened Jules Winnfield, rather than kill a man that he previously would have, says this about (his rendering of) Ezekiel 25:17:

“Now… I been sayin’ that *** for years. And if you ever heard it, that meant your ***. You’d be dead right now. I never gave much thought to what it meant. I just thought it was a cold-blooded thing to say to a ***** before I popped a cap in his ***. But I saw some **** this mornin’ made me think twice. […] See, now I’m thinking it could mean you’re the righteous man and I’m the shepherd and it’s the world that’s evil and selfish. And I’d like that. But that **** ain’t the truth. The truth is you’re the weak. And I’m the tyranny of evil men. But I’m tryin’, Ringo. I’m tryin’ real hard to be the shepherd.”

And for that reason, rather than kill Ringo, Jules shares this brief testimony and gives Ringo his wallet (which Ringo was trying to steal). In doing so he begins the process of repentance, turning from his prior way of life.

Lost in the melee of the artistic brilliance and grunge that Pulp Fiction truly is, lies a beautiful, realistic, and moving depiction of God’s sovereign grace in the redemption of lost men. See, God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Nothing we have done on our own qualifies us more than another for the saving grace of God. It is of no advantage to a person who feels they have lived more righteously than another if they are without faith in Christ. The Bible is explicit in telling us that separate from being reborn in Christ there is no one who does good, not even one (Romans 3:12). But the good news is that God wishes to show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us through Jesus Christ, and by grace God saves the wicked through their faith. This faith is not anyone’s own doing; but it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:7-8.) This is the gift Jules Winnfield, in Pulp Fiction, is experiencing. You see, in sending Christ to die on the cross, God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God. This is how wicked people, incapable of consistently doing the right thing, incapable of controlling our thoughts, incapable of controlling our mouths, and incapable of always acting rightly (guys like Jules Winnfield…guys like myself, and each and everyone of us)…this is how Christ brings us to reconciliation with God the Father. Jules Winnfield had his “come to Jesus moment.” By his faith he was made new. Maybe you’ve never picked up on that part of this movie before…maybe you have. But by your faith in the Lord, you can be forgiven. God will put in you a new heart, and give you a fresh start to live in right standing with Him. You need only repent and believe in Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

**I would like to add that this post is not an endorsement of the graphic content or unrighteous themes of the movie, Pulp Fiction, nor is it an endorsement of the movie as a theological guide. Rather, this post is an attempt to shine the light of Biblical Truth amongst movie fans that might otherwise not hear the gospel and choose to remain in darkness, continuing to view this movie quote as nothing more than (as Jackson’s character would say), “a cold-blooded thing to say to a ***** before I pop a cap in his ***.”

***Download Full PDF Version (The PDF version is a more thorough, technical, reworking and elaboration on the contents of the original post further incorporating feedback and input from the comments section below.  I chose to include this PDF as a separate document rather than editing the original post for fear of tampering with the effectiveness of the original post or damaging the integrity of the ongoing dialogue in the comments section.  If you enjoy this post I do hope you will appreciate the PDF as it has additional content.) ***

If you enjoyed this film analysis, you may also enjoy my other film analyses of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road or Richard Linklater’s Bernie starring Jack Black.

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

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Deep Calls to Deep

Psalm 42:5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation 6 and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember You…7 Deep calls to deep at the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your waves have gone over me.

This is a sermon that was inspired by this blog post, and was preached in the Alumni Chapel at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY as part of a preaching practicum.

These are powerful words from King David, a man after God’s own heart. A man who experienced both times of unmatchable joy, and times of extreme, terrible anguish. In all things, high and low, David found complete fullness in His relationship with the LORD. Here David delivered a paramount analogy of our souls’ longing for the comforting, healing, and filling Spirit that can only be had in relationship with our Father.  David says “Deep calls to deep.”

“In the grandeur of Nature there are awful harmonies. When the storm agitates the ocean below, the heavens above hear the tumult and answer to the clamor. Down comes a deluge of sonorous hail or swift-descending rain, attended with peals of thunder and flashes of flame. Frequently the waterspout, of which David speaks…evidences the sympathy of the two great waters above and beneath the firmament—the great deep above stretches out its hands to the great deep below and in voice of thunder their old relationship is recognized. It is almost as if the twin seas remembered how once they lay together in the same cradle of confusion till the decree of the Eternal appointed each his bounds and place. ‘Deep calls unto deep’—one splendor of creation holds fellowship with another.”
-Charles Spurgeon, Sermon No. 865

When life’s storms rage, and perils come in succession, the waves crash over us, a dark cloud settles above us, and the storm rages down upon us.  We find ourselves stranded in the deep, waves crashing…they continue again and again – billowing over us, unrelenting, unyielding…mercilessly commanding surrender…leaving us desperately crying out for a rescuing hand of salvation.

As the plummeting power of the waters of the sky call out a tumultuous response from the waters of the sea, so too is reflected the powerful call of God – the call sent forth from the deepest chambers of His being to the most inward parts of our hearts.  As the wind and the rain stir the waves of the deep, so too does God’s immeasurably deep call intend to stir an echo with us. In the Bible the LORD’s voice is described as the roar of rushing waters (Ezekiel 43:2,Revelation 14:2). The cry of God’s voice, roaring like the waterfalls, paints the picture of God’s yearning command that you cry back to Him from the deepest, most longing places in your heart.

In life’s storms, the strongest of us are made helpless, the highest of us are brought low, the high, mighty, and proud spirits are humbled, and only what is of crucial importance becomes the sole pursuit of our hearts.  In a time of drowning, what will we cling to?  Will a drowning man cling to his treasure?  Will he cling to his pride, being content to sink to death, holding on to possessions which can not save him?  Or, will the drowning man let go of all that is not able to save and extend his hand to its fullest reach, and with all his might stretch out for the hand of his savior?  Will we reach out for life?

A person diagnosed with cancer quickly finds the priorities of their life changed.  No longer do they find themselves concerned with a promotion at work, or the latest Iphone.  A person who is losing a loved one can not find adequate joy in a new car, or living vicariously through the lives of reality TV personalities.  There comes a time when we all will have lived long enough to know we bleed.  There comes a time when life happens.  There comes a time when we will all experience a hurt so deep that there will be no adequate solace found on this earth.  There will come a deep hurt that can only be mended by a healing more soothing than any medicine this world can provide.  In that time, there is the realization that there can be no clinging to our treasure or clinging to our pride. There is no consolation in temporal earthly things. We come to realize our possessions can not save, nor even distract our attentions, from the sinking of our souls.  It’s in this time we are brought to the realization that we must let go, we must stop looking around us, and start looking above us.  The call is coming like the roar of a waterfall from the depths of Heaven.  It’s in this time we must echo the call, cry out in response, and reach out for life.  A deep sea of affliction requires a deeper sea of grace.   A deep despair calls for the deliverance of a God of infinitely deeper mercy.

Deep calls to deep.

The Hebrew word for deep, “tehom,” refers to an immeasurable chasm, an abyss.

Christ of the Abyss statue

Everyone recognizes there is a deep emptiness within us.  There is an undeniable longing for something more.  Many, many people believe this void can be filled by attaining more of what we already have. If what we already have isn’t satisfying then more of it must be the answer.  More success, more power, more money, more friends, more square footage, more toys, more clothes, more vacations, more freedom, more stability, more excitement, more danger, more drugs, more alcohol, more sex.  MORE! We believe that if we pile enough of these things into the empty chasm in our souls that we will be able to fill them. The media says more, the advertisers say more, the celebrities say more, and even the American Dream itself tells us to aspire and we can achieve and attain more.  But true spiritual contentment never comes from more of what we already have.  Even when we think we are happy, this happiness is fleeting.  We never find lasting contentment by building our foundations on the temporal things that do not last.  In a single moment our lives come crashing down.  Then, when we are weighed on the scales…ultimately we are only found wanting. Unfulfilled with nothing solid to lean on….wanting something we still do not have, and lacking that which is required.

This has happened because man was created full and whole.  At creation, man was made in complete harmony with God, heaven, and all the earth.  There was perfect relationship with God, and peace in the souls of man. Then When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, sin entered the world, and a deep rift was driven between man and God.  This separation manifests in the immeasurable chasm between man and God that exists inside our very souls.  Our souls long to return to the fullness and wholeness we were created to have, but on its own, the soul can not mend.  This emptiness is not a void that can be filled with power, money, success, drugs, or even more grandchildren. This chasm is simply too deep. Too genuine.  Our souls cry out to all creation, and there is only one thing that can fill the immeasurable emptiness within us.  This deep emptiness cries out for a deeper love, a deeper provision, and a filling of the Spirit – The only One deep enough to repair this void.

Deep calls to deep.

Over the course of our lives we have all buried ourselves so deep, under such a wretched heap of sin, that those of us willing to humbly examine ourselves can only come to own that there is a terrible amount of hurt we’ve caused our LORD, others, and ultimately ourselves. Beneath this heap of sin and hurt we realize that we lie practically paralyzed – enslaved in the bondage of our iniquity. We become reserved to the idea that we are idolaters, liars, slanderers, gossips, manipulators, cheats, and addicts, and become convinces that that’s just simply who we are. We are wallowing, dead, in a pit of filth and transgression so deep that only a God of greater grace, deeper forgiveness, and a love as deep as the oceans could wash over us and cleanse us, plant us back on our feet, give us new life.

Deep calls to deep.

Many who have received Christ as their savior, and believe, still do not feel the deep peace that comes from being filled with the Holy Spirit.  They believe that Christ alone will not bring all fulfillment, but cling to their old ways, believing that their sinful desires will be more satisfying than Christ alone. This is the unfortunate result of a continued seeking for carnal, worldly pleasures, and a lack of dependence and trust in the ways and provision of the LORD.  Sadly, this straddling between two masters leads to people being unfulfilled in both the world, and in the Church. The LORD demands to know, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions (1 Kings 18:21)?” How long will you straddle between the sinful ways of the world, and the righteous ways of God? Until you are willing to stop straddling between two branches, and go out on the limb with Him, you will never make it to the fruit. You will never truly have faith that peace is found in letting Him support you. Believers who do not feel the fullness and contentment of life in Christ should seek to go further with the LORD. Christ plus nothing equals everything. Where you go deeper, the Spirit has the depth to fill you.  You will not outpace Him.  He can provide a contentment not found in carnal pleasures or worldly temporal gain.  All you need do is measure the expanse of the earth, or number the visible stars of the sky and realize you are only one tiny person in one small corner of God’s great creation.  We have an infinitely bigger Father who longs to take us infinitely deeper.  He is ready and waiting to take you there.  He desires to take you into His everlasting embrace and shower you with His grace.  Trust He is the source of deep contentment and peace and is the only One capable of bringing fullness to your life.

Deep calls to deep.

And between you and I, brothers and sisters…children of the living God…Only a call from the depths of our hearts can provoke a response in the depths of another.  A shallow sales pitch will never stir the depths of others. Nor should these shallow, forced presentations of the gospel even be necessary. When you know the love of God, your contagious enthusiasm for the Lord will spill out uncontrollably. His light will reflect in you. Like Moses off the mountaintop, those who come in contact with the LORD glow.  Only the deep reaches the deep.  Likewise, only those who are willing to dig deep into their hearts, examine themselves, and be honest with their deepest feelings will respond to the deep call.  We know this because we know what it is to connect with someone on a deeper level.  We know what it is to feel something pierce beyond the superficial and resonate within us.  We know when someone is genuine, when someone is in love, and we know when something stirs deep within someone’s heart…to the point it actually touches ours.

So, I cry out from the depths of my heart to the depths of yours.  I was lost and hurting, empty and wanting.  I was seeking in every place, in every way, and desperately lost, finding no fulfillment.  I struggled with a terrible depression, a hopeless emptiness, an endless seeking, and a desperate belief that that was simply what life was.  I became bitter.  I became selfish.  I blamed others.  I hurt others.  Badly. A lot of people, a lot of times.  I was blind to the realization that I was this way.  I thought I was a good person.  I tried to tell myself I was happy.  I tried to convince others I was happy.  But I knew I wasn’t fulfilled, and my actions were the result of that.  I put my every focus on myself – my search for my “happiness.”

Then God brought the rain roaring down on me, and He brought His waves crashing over my head.  I tried to hold my life, as I knew it, together.  But it unraveled. I was undone…exposed…a fraud.  Then I collapsed.  All that was left for me was surrender….to stop resisting and to give God what He had always been after…my heart…to accept that all He ever really wanted to do was save me from myself.  Like a father watches a son continuously walk into peril, God said to me, “Enough!!!”  And He reached down and snatched me up and saved me. He put me back on my feet and changed me.  That was the beginning of my walk – my fall, and my rebirth.  The greatest thing that ever happened to me.  Many people would tell you that the greatest day of their lives was the day they were married…or the day their children were born.  I would tell you that those days do not come close to the day the Heavenly Father came for me.  That was the beginning of a joy that has been a complete explosion in the depths of me.  I was baptized on August 12, 2013, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and since that moment I have walked in a freedom and fullness that I have never known.  I want so desperately for everyone to know this love.  This love of the God who is who He says He is.  I urge you from the bottom of my heart, to seek comfort in the only One who can meet you in your deepest need.  The one who knows you, fills you, and heals you in the deepest parts of who you are.  If you are already a believer, I urge you…go deeper! Let go of your baggage that is only weighing you down.  You will not find the ends of His love, and you will not seek him in vain.  Seek and you shall find. No matter how deep you go, He will go there with you.  The more you give up, the more you find. I know because I am experiencing it…more and more each day.  I love you and I want you to know these things. I don’t tell you these things because I read somewhere that it was what I was supposed to do, or because I feel like I need to prove something to you. I am dedicating my life to telling you these things because in Christ I found fullness and joy. Someone once told me…”If you knew Him like I know Him, you wouldn’t be able to shut up about Him either.” Truth. With all my heart I want you to have His love and His peace. From the deepest depths of my heart.

Deep calls to deep.

Bird York – In The Deep

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

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. 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

National Day of Prayer…A Call to Action

This Thursday, May 2, is National Day of Prayer.  The purpose is to mobilize prayer in America and to encourage personal repentance and righteousness in the culture.  A nation coming together in prayer is powerful, biblical, and is one of the ways we can come together as the body of Christ to honor the LORD.  Many times in the Bible when a nation was in judgment, The LORD relented when the nation came together in repentance and sought Him.  Our nation is facing pivotal challenges in the battle for Christian morality, the battle against atheism and Christian apathy, and the growing oppression of religious free speech.  Let us come together in prayer to ask that God would continue to bless our country. 

The Lord desires we seek Him… 
 
Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools…24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the created rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
 
We can see the evidence of this in our nation today.  One way God punishes people’s disobedience is by turning away and leaving us to pursue our own sinful desires, letting us reap the consequences of our actions.

Romans 1 cont. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.  28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

The above mentioned iniquities have been increasingly afflicting our nation in recent years.  Note the last line, in the name of tolerance and acceptance we are increasingly supportive of what the Bible outlines as sinful acts.  In some cases our political leaders, and some in the church are even fighting for them.  Additionally the media continues to offer more and more support to terrorists and public shooters by offering them the fame they desire in the national news.  We further fuel this with our viewership. 

God desires we come together in prayer and repentance…

Here is what Christ says in Luke 11…
29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.  32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
 

The sign of Jonah, Jonah chapter 3…
 
3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city,[a] three days’ journey in breadth.[b] 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.

 

Nineveh

6 The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, 8 but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”

The King of Nineveh repents

10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

This generation, the age of the Christians, has received the sign of Jonah…we have been told how we are to serve the LORD.  For our government to know and believe, we the people must first demonstrate that we believe…as the Ninevites did.

Thursday night The Merrell Center in Katy will be hosting a prayer event. http://www.ndpwesthouston.org/.  I strongly encourage all to attend, or to find an event in your area!  This is a pivotal time in the future of our nation!  I love you all and hope to be praying alongside you this Thursday!

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.

Sabbath Day for Christians

The Fourth Commandment says “Honor the Sabbath.”  Does this apply to you and I?

The Jewish Sabbath was Saturday, but the day of worship for Christians is Sunday.  Christians moved the day of worship to Sunday because Christ rose on Sunday, and the day of Pentecost, was a Sunday.  This was the first day the Holy Spirit came upon the Lord’s believers. Additionally, Christianity was somewhat a sect of Judaism in the years immediately following Christ, and Christians would gather at the Jewish Temple.  The Temple was in use by the traditional Jews on Saturday.  So the Christians would gather there on Sunday.

So should we Honor the Sabbath?

The first point to realize about the Sabbath is that the Sabbath IS important – God was abundantly clear in hammering the point repeatedly and in making it the 4th of the 10 commandments.  God rested on the 7th day.  God did not do this because He NEEDs rest.  Per Psalm 121:4 God does not even sleep…ever.  But, he rested on the 7th day to make a point of the importance that we should take a day of each week to rest and enjoy our relationship with Him.

Second, Sabbath is an old covenant law.  Today, we live under the New Testament covenant of grace, in that Christ fulfilled the requirements of the Old Covenant for us, and the condition of the New Covenant is our faith in Christ’s work.  James 2:17 says If our faith in Christ is genuine, it will produce obedience and good deeds…meaning, our obedience to the intent of God’s law will be the desire of our heart, and Christ said in John 14:15-19 (NKJV):

15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper (The Holy Spirit)

Further, obedience to Christ is necessary evidence that we are truly believers and members of the New Covenant (1 John 2:4). Christ clearly demanded that we uphold the INTENT of the Mosaic law…Not the word for word letter of the law, but the intent at the heart of the law.  It is expected then that we will set aside a day of our week to honor the Lord and rest.  For most Christians this day is Sunday.  The founding documents of Reformed Faith, The Westminster Confession and Heidelberg Catechism identify Sunday as the Lord’s Day, and do instruct that no work be done on the Lord’s Day.  Christ was however clear that it is okay to do good works on the Sabbath day.  It would be wrong to not render aid to someone in need if it required work on the Sabbath, and good works, the deeds of the spirit, honor God.  Christ did not hesitate to heal on the Sabbath.

Clearly there are some occupations that must work on the Lord’s day for the purpose of doing good.  These jobs would obviously include roles like police officers, doctors, and hospital staff.  Still, it should be expected that people in these roles would still set aside one day each week, not necessarily Sunday, to uphold the intent of the Sabbath day.

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