His Life for Ours
Manuscript will be available tomorrow, with questions for reflection and discussions.
Three Anchors of Hope
There are times in our lives when our most deeply held values and beliefs are tested with fire. This is God’s refining (or pruning) process. With it comes genuine pain, heartache, and difficulty. Yet, ideally, the person who comes out the other side is closer to God and the likeness of Christ. It is during times like these we discover if we really believe what we say we believe.
Over the last twenty-something years, I’ve been greatly influenced by Scripture and godly authors who have deepened my understanding and conviction regarding three great anchors of hope for tough times. I have come to a place in my life in which I embrace these key truths as the only way in which I am able to trust God, regardless of the circumstances. They are,
1. God is good and loves me very much. Because this is true, I know God has my best interest at heart. He is for me and not against me.
2. God is all-wise. Therefore, not only does God know what my best interest is, but he also knows the best way to bring my best interest about.
3. God is sovereign. God is in control of his universe. Therefore, not only does he have my best interest at heart, but he can bring it about.
Trust in the Lord
I believe those three affirmations with all my heart. My belief is no mere intellectual acknowledgement. These three truths are in my bloodstream. Thus, because I so deeply believe these things are true, I know I can always trust God. The God described in those three statements is the awesome God of Holy Scripture, the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Surely that is the God King Solomon had in mind when he wrote these words,
Proverbs 3:5 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
Solomon goes on to say we are not to be wise in our eyes. But that’s exactly what we do when we suppose, even for a second, that we know better than God. It’s laughable to think we know what our best interest is in any situation, no matter how trivial. Among our many deficiencies, we have not been given an omniscient mind that knows all possible scenarios and outcomes of those scenarios. Such knowledge is essential in knowing how to discern what the very best plan for our life would be.
It really is arrogant to lean on our own understanding. Think about the words “lean” or “depend.” They carry with them the notion of putting one’s weight on or against something that will help provide stability. Would you really prefer to put all your weight against something weak, fragile, and incapable of bracing you? Instead, wouldn’t you rather put your weight against an immovable, utterly dependable, trustworthy Rock? That’s the God of Holy Scripture.
Yet, how often do we turn to our own wisdom and understanding?
Enter, King Asa
I had something of a roller-coaster ride of emotions when I first read about good King Asa in 2 Chronicles. Because good kings are so few and far between in the Old Testament, I celebrated his faithfulness to God. Notice what we read about him in the following verses.
2 Chronicles 14:2 – Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God.
2 Chronicles 14:5 – He removed the high places and incense altars in every town in Judah, and the kingdom was at peace under him.
2 Chronicles 15:1-2 – The Spirit of God came upon Azariah son of Oded.  He went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.
2 Chronicles 15:8 – When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded the prophet, he took courage. He removed the detestable idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns he had captured in the hills of Ephraim. He repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the portico of the Lord’s temple.
2 Chronicles 15:16-17 – King Asa also deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive Asherah pole. Asa cut the pole down, broke it up and burned it in the Kidron Valley.  Although he did not remove the high places from Israel, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life.
Verse 17b sums it up all so nicely. I couldn’t help but cheer as I read those verses, asking God to make my heart just as fully committed to him as King Asa’s. But then…
If you don’t already know the story, then you experience the rug getting suddenly yanked out from underneath you. For in 2 Chronicles 16:1-6, we learn King Asa, who had placed his trust in the Lord, now put his trust in his own wisdom and ingenuity. To make matters worse, his plan seemed to work. He must have thought all was well. Yet we learn of the consequences of his plan in 2 Chronicles 16:7-9,
At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him: “Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand.  Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand.  For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”
What Could Have Been
These words of Hanani could have served as an impetus for repentance. The opportunity was there for Asa to see the foolishness of his ways and get back on track with God. He could have admitted his rebellion and returned to God. Asa would have been no different than any of us who have wandered off the right path from time to time as we sought our own way, according to our own wisdom. Our loving and merciful God is always there at the ready to offer pardon and renewal. I’m astounded at how patient God is with me in my own life.
But Asa went a different way. He chose to respond in anger to the reprimand. He “shot the messenger” rather than taking heed to the message (v. 10). Thus, we read these sad words in verses 12-13,
In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians.  Then in the forty-first year of his reign Asa died and rested with his fathers.
Sad indeed… even tragic.
I have a great desire to run the race of faith to its completion and finish well. Don’t you? But that journey is a lifetime pursuit. We must persevere. No matter how much God has blessed us we must never presume upon his grace. We must not assume God owes us any good thing. We must beware of taking our lives into our own hands and depending on our own wisdom to see our way through, even when (especially when) things seem to be going so well.
It’s during those exceedingly tough times in life you discover who or what you’ve really been placing your trust in all along.
Instead, a lifetime of humility before God is called for. Hosea reminds us in 14:9,
Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.
Zephaniah too, calls us to seek humility.
Zephaniah 2:3 – Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.
I want to finish well. Whether my last day on earth is today or 50 years from now, I want to finish well. I want to hear those words every follower of Jesus Christ desires to hear,
Matthew 25:21 – “…’Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
Therefore, between today and “that day” I must trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. In all my ways I must acknowledge him and he will make my paths straight.
· What are some obstacles in your life that make it difficult to trust God during the good times?
· During the tough times?
· What are some spiritual practices you can begin today to help you grow in your ability to trust God?
· Set a meeting with a godly friend and share your ideas and ask for prayer.
Gracious God and Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I praise you for your goodness, sovereignty, and wisdom. Not only do you want what is best for me, you know what is best for me, and the best way to bring it about. Moreover, because you are sovereign, you are able to bring it about. Thank you! I pray, O Lord, that you will help my children to love you more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. Help them to always know what is best and to continually grow in purity and blamelessness. May their lives ever bring you glory and praise. In Christ I pray. Amen.
The men's groups at my church are working their way through Pat Morley's book, The Christian Man (make sure to check out that link). It's an excellent book and has generated some great discussions, offered helpful encouragement and creative ideas, and even provided a little correction in our mindsets here and there.
Besides the book, there are also videos that go with each week's chapter. Below is the video from this week's lesson on "work." Let me encourage you to read the book, watch the videos, and pursue some meaningful discussions with the men in your spheres of influence.
And while you're here, check out the Theology of Work Project's website. They have two new articles that came out this week on "Women Workers" in the Old and New Testaments.
Character Then Influence
In his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, John Stott reminds his readers that if Matthew 5:3-12 (the Beatitudes) is about a Christian’s character, then Matthew 5:13-16 is about a Christian’s influence in this world. I have always loved the words of Matthew 5:13-16, which describe Christian influence as salt and light. These words of Jesus point us toward the right balance of inward piety and outward action.
It’s important to note Jesus doesn’t tell us to go out and be salt and light. He declares we already are salt and light. As men and women who have experienced new birth we are now new creatures in Christ whose character is increasingly reflected in the Beatitudes. To paraphrase the Apostle Peter, we are holy so we should go and be holy. We are to “go be who we already are,” Jesus and Peter teach us.
I love this text because it strikes an important connection and balance between inward piety and outward action. The inward and private pursuit of the devotional life, of spiritual introspection and reflection is vital, but if it never moves one forward to “live” the life of Christ in the world then it can become an empty and useless form of asceticism. A person can become quickly self-absorbed in their own stuff if their piety never leaves the prayer closet or Bible study. I hasten to add that this is not the greatest threat to the church today. Would that more people spent greater time in the prayer closet and Bible study. That leads me to the other side of the coin.
As important as outward action (good works) is, if godly character is not undergirding and directing it, then it can become nothing more than the cause de jour. It can morph into a judgmental and self-centered way to build yourself up. Not only that, without the knowledge of Christ and the godly character that comes from that relationship, such action can quickly lead to burnout and disillusionment because, to paraphrase Jesus in John 15, the branch was attempting to do all the work without being connected to the vine. Thus, the branch lacked sustenance, power, and direction.
The Role of the Church
To live as salt and light means disciples of Jesus Christ must exercise the godly influence of the Kingdom of God in the midst of the decay and darkness of the Kingdom of this world. A ministry of discipleship should include educating, equipping, and encouraging followers of Jesus Christ to take up his call to extend his Kingdom into every sphere of their lives as salt and light.
Whether it’s teaching disciples how to build up their own faith and character so they can faithfully live as salt and light, or equipping and encouraging them to live out that faithfulness at home with their family and friends, at school, work, church, in their neighborhood, community, city or town, or even in the broader culture or world, a discipleship ministry should focus on both inward piety and outward action. This is how the church can faithfully minister as salt and light in today’s world.
The Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day 8
24. Question: How are these articles divided?
Answer: Into three parts: the first is about God the Father and our creation; the second about God the Son and our redemption; the third about God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.
25. Question: Since there is only one God, why do you speak of three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
Answer: Because God has so revealed Himself in His Word that these three distinct persons are the one, true, eternal God.
 Deut. 6:4; Is. 44:6; 45:5; I Cor. 8:4, 6.  Gen. 1:2, 3; Is. 61:1; 63:8-10; Matt. 3:16, 17; 28:18, 19; Luke 4:18; John 14:26; 15:26; II Cor. 13:14; Gal. 4:6; Tit. 3:5, 6.
“Be not afraid to pray; to pray is right; Pray if thou canst with hope, but ever pray, Though hope be weak or sick with long delay; Pray in the darkness if there be no light.” (E.M. Bounds)
This Week’s Scripture
137 Righteous are you, O Lord,
and right are your rules.
138 You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness
and in all faithfulness.
How Great Thou Art (verse 1)
O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
consider all thy worlds thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my souls, my Savior God to thee;
how great thou art, how great thou art!
Take time now to offer God your praise and worship.
And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:5-10)
“I confess that thou hast not been in all my thoughts, that the knowledge of thyself as the end of my being has been strangely overlooked, that I have never seriously considered my heart-need. …Let me not delay to come to thee; Break the fatal enchantment that binds my evil affections, and bring me to a happy mind that rests in thee, for thou hast made me and canst not forget me. Let thy Spirit teach me the vital lessons of Christ, for I am slow to learn; And hear thou my broken cries. Amen.” (The Valley of Vision)
As David did in Psalm 139, ask the Lord to search you and know you through and through. Confess the sins God brings to mind, knowing you are forgiven and that He will cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Gracious Lord and God of peace, I give thanks to you for all Christians everywhere who are growing in their faith. I offer you praise that where these Christians are assembled as local churches, so too is their love increasing. The Lord Jesus taught us that the world will know we are his disciples as we love one another as he loves us. Make that truth an increasing reality in our lives O Lord. I thank you for the faithfulness of the churches around the world who are afflicted by persecution. Please increase their faith more and more, that your glory will shine, even in the midst of their hardship and suffering. I ask this in the name of the One who suffered on our behalf, Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. (based on 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4)
Ask the Spirit to search your heart and mind and then spend some time thanking God for who he is and the many ways he has poured out his goodness and grace in your life.
Supplication (Petition – prayers for yourself)
Supplication (Intercession – prayers for others)
Matthew 28:18 - And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Compartmentalized Living Won't Do
I remember when I first started using the phrase, “faith for every sphere of life.” It began as I started studying the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It just made sense that if Jesus Christ is the Lord of heaven and earth, then he is Lord of everything. And if he is the Lord of all there is, then I must submit to him in every sphere of my life, or else I should stop calling him Lord. Jesus said as much in Luke 6:46,
Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? (NRSV)
This notion is in marked contrast to the way many people think and live, including myself in the early days of my faith. I, like plenty of other folks, had long been an adherent of a compartmentalized faith. Men, you know the drill: the Christian faith is fine for Sunday mornings, but it has nothing to do with the rest of your life. It’s embarrassing to admit, but that’s where I was.
Personal, Not Private
Instead, the Christian faith should be understood as a comprehensive view of life. The secular world around us, however, still prefers the church to remain silent about anything not having to do with personal prayers and worship on Sunday mornings. Faith, they say, is private. Sure, you can practice it at home, or even with other Christians on Sunday mornings, but don’t you dare bring it into the public square. Jesus, however, doesn't give us that option. The Christian faith certainly ought to be personal, but it should never be private. To paraphrase the Dutch theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper, "there is not a square inch in all the universe about which the Lord Jesus Christ does not declare his own.”
As a United Methodist, I have rejoiced that John Wesley took just such a view of the Christian faith. He called it Scriptural Holiness and said it was his purpose in life to spread such Scriptural Holiness over the land. For Wesley, holiness was inward but also outward. It was personal and it was social. There was no picking and choosing. Faith must permeate every aspect of a Christian’s life – prayer, personal devotions, worship, marriage, parenting, work, economics, politics, education, the arts, personal morality, relationships, civic duty, and serving the community, just to name a few spheres of life.
This Includes Your Life
I encourage you to prayerfully ask yourself what it would mean for you to understand there is not even the smallest corner of your life about which Jesus Christ, as Lord, is unconcerned. How would acknowledging and submitting to that truth change your life? How would it bless your relationship with your family and friends? What consequences would it have for you in your workplace? Can you imagine the possibilities? Brothers, Christ is calling you to follow him in every sphere of your lives. Do you hear his voice? Will you follow him?
Lord of heaven and earth, remind me this day that there is not a square inch in all the universe about which you are unconcerned. While I rejoice that I have seen changes in my life through the gracious work of your Spirit, please show me those areas I am attempting to keep from you. Convict me of my sin and rebellion in those areas and turn my hard heart to flesh and joyful obedience. Please let my life faithfully bear witness to you as I serve as your ambassador to other men who are struggling with handing you the reigns in their lives. Together, may we extend your glorious Kingdom into every sphere of life here on earth, as it already is in heaven. In the name of the King of kings and Lord of lords I pray. Amen.
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