These Moments are not our Last

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Jacob finds himself wandering in the wilderness, estranged from his family, alone and on the run. (Genesis 28)

Elijah flees to the mountains to escape the tyrant king and queen. He feels exiled as a wanted man. His faithfulness to God has put him in eminent danger. (1 Kings 19-20)

Daniel is cast into a pit of hungry lions, whose soul purpose is to rip criminals to shreds. But Daniel is no criminal. He is the unfortunate recipient of envy and hatred by other in the king’s court. (Daniel 6)

The Apostle Peter is imprisoned for doing what he believed was the call on his life to proclaim the gospel. (Acts 12)

You know what each of these stories have in common? They are examples of people in some of their lowest moments who got to experience the wonders of God. While Jacob was adrift in the wilderness, God showed up to renew His promise. While Elijah was trembling on the mountainside, God showed up in the wind to whisper His love once again. Surrounded by hungry lions, Daniel received a visit from the Angel of the Lord. The chains were loosed from Peter’s wrists and the prison gates flung open that night as God stepped in to rescue him.

These dark moments were not their last. Instead, they allowed each of these men to see and experience glorious things. Dear reader, I’m not sure where you are in your life. But if you’re desperate. If you feel like you’re drowning or suffering. There is always hope. God’s wonders may be right around the corner.  Keep praying. Keep praising. Keep hanging on. The Lord is with you where you are.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV

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He Is Alive

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“Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
Oh that with an iron pen and lead
they were engraved in the rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!

Job 19:23-27 ESV

Job makes one of the most profound statements in these few verses. He says, “For I know that my Redeemer lives and at last he will stand upon the Earth.” This is the foundation for every hope that Christians proclaim and all of humanity searches for. It was the lifeline that Job was so desperately clinging to. It’s a reality that can bring that glimmer of light into anyone’s dark world.

We’ve all felt the sting of sin. Some more than others. Whether self-inflicted or caused by another, it hurts…bad. Anyone who would try to argue that this world isn’t in need of redemption and renewal doesn’t have much of an argument to stand on. The evidence is all around us. The news blasts it, our hearts testify of it, and the pain experienced in every human’s existence rebukes any belief contrary to the notion that things are way off the mark. Just like Job, our hurt is far too real to deny the need for redemption. Our bodies, while absolutely amazing, are frail and prone to sickness. The world is decaying. Social structures, in every culture, are far from perfect. Violence and hate take up way more headlines than love and charity. The hope that this will not always be so, is what motivates many to face another day.

We’ve all tried to make up for the mistakes we’ve made. To set things right again. Most people want to see change and progress made. But no matter how much we try, all our efforts will come short of bringing a lasting change. That’s because we don’t last forever and there’s no guarantee that those after us will continue our efforts. This world needs a redemption far greater than we can accomplish because it owes a debt far greater than we can pay.  But that payment has already been made by another.

The Messiah goes by many names in the Bible. One of those is Redeemer. To redeem is make compensation for faults. Synonyms include to save, justify, rescue, or vindicate. Because of sin, everything and everyone in this world, past, present, and future, need to be redeemed. That’s why the message of the Messiah is a universal one.

Job proclaimed a few things. One, that there is a Redeemer. Two, He is alive. Three, that He will one day stand upon the Earth. And four, that he will one day see the Redeemer face to face. Most Biblical scholars agree that the life of Job came at least 400 years before Moses. That means that Job is at least 1700 years away from the day that Jesus walked the Earth. So how could he possibly see Jesus? And if the Messiah was alive in the days of Job, how could that be a reference to Jesus?

We know that Jesus walked the Earth. No one with any historical credibility would argue against that fact. But that’s only one of the criteria spelled out by Job for the Redeemer. There are a lot of passages that reinforce the idea that Jesus was not only alive during Job’s lifetime, but long before that and way afterward too. Revelation 22 calls Jesus the Alpha and the Omega. These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. It’s a way of saying that Jesus is both the beginning of all things and the end of all things. Check out Colossians chapter one and John chapter one for more evidence to strengthen that concept. If Jesus was in the beginning and will be forever, then 3700 years ago and 3700 years from now is nothing in the life of Jesus. Jesus didn’t come into existence in a manger in Bethlehem. He has always been, and will always be. Our Redeemer is alive and nothing can ever change that. No cross. No grave.

Just like Job, we all can have the same promise that we will see Him. Not as some celestial being with wings and a diaper like popular images like to portray. We will see Him in the flesh. Jesus is coming back. Our destination is not heaven. Earth is our home and for the follower of Christ, always will be. God is making all things new one day. The Earth, along with followers of His, will one day be redeemed and we will enjoy it forever.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my [Jesus] word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.  And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

John 5:24-29 ESV

The Bible ends with the greatest of all happy ending stories. Revelation chapter 22 paints an amazing picture of what is to come. It shows a world redeemed, nations of people healed, and a multitude drinking from the well of eternal life. And Jesus is there too. Forever, with those He created and chose Him.

I know that my Redeemer lives and that one day I will see Him face to face.

This is the final post in part one of the series showing how God revealed the Messiah throughout the Old Testament. We began in Genesis and are wrapping up here in Job. In all, part one has included 22 posts, covering nine different books, over the last seven months. If you’ve missed any of them you can go to the Messiah tab on my home screen or click here. My plans are to have three more phases to this series. Part two will cover Psalms and Proverbs. Part three will just focus on the book of Isaiah because it is arguably the greatest portion of scripture that prophecies about the Messiah. The final phase will span Jeremiah to the end of the Old Testament. I am planning a brief hiatus from this series so as to focus on some other topics I’ve been working on. Part two should launch this summer.  God bless you guys and thank you for coming along with me on this journey.

Pouring out our soul

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But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.

1 Samuel 1:15 ESV

Have you ever been distressed to the point where your body aches? Have you ever wept bitterly because of loss or injustice? Have you felt a pain that could be described as your spirit being broken to pieces? Hannah did. She had been left barren, ridiculed by her peers, rejected in society, provoked, and deeply grieved. And this went on for years. If you find yourself relating to Hannah, either now or in the future, may I encourage you to do as she did? Fall at the feet of Jesus and pour out your soul. Don’t be afraid to weep and fast and pray for days, or months, or even years. A breakthrough is around the corner. The Lord is listening and He will act. It may not play out how you predetermined. But God always has your best interest in mind. Please allow your struggles and distress to draw you to Jesus, not drive you away because He’s already near.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18 NIV

Peace brothers and sister. You are loved.

Craving the Slop

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Have you ever craved the slop? I know I have. My life story is full of it.

One of my favorite stories that Jesus told was about a family torn apart by greed and selfishness and later restored by love and grace. In most Bibles, it’s labeled as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It’s part of a series of stories that Jesus told relating to the idea of things that were lost but searched out and found by God. They are stories of discovery that bring hope to even the most wayward soul. They are also stories that most people can relate to. I definitely can.

In Luke 15, Jesus talks about a boy who decides to go out on his own. He’s done with his family and all he wants is to claim his cash inheritance and live a self-indulgent life. As with anyone who chooses this path, life was empty and unsatisfying. For many, that lifestyle usually runs people into the gutters of despair. The young man from Luke 15 hit rock bottom. In verse 16 it says that he was so desperate that he craved the slop that he was feeding to the pigs as a hired worker. He had wasted all his money and was employed in one of the lowliest possible professions. It was a filthy job feeding unclean animals. Not only that, but he couldn’t even afford to eat. He was so hungry that he wanted to devour the nasty food that the pigs ate. That’s desperation. I’ve been there.

I too have craved the slop. In my darkest year (2009) I was wallowing in the slop. For me, the slop was an addiction to pornography, caught in a cycle of alcoholism and self-loathing, divorced from an adulterous woman, and at an end to a hopeful career. Just like the young man in Jesus’ story, I was craving all the wrong things and it led me into a destructive lifestyle. The scene from Luke 15 takes me back to that year in my life. I too needed to come home. I too needed to right many wrongs. I too needed to crave the right things.

This world presents us with more slop than things that actually provide for our need. The slop is anything short of anything that draws us closer to the Lord. My slop was creating an image for myself, gaining approval, and enjoying the flesh. I had the same aim as the young man from the story in Luke 15. I wanted to set out on my own. I wanted to get mine. I wanted to live a self-centered life. That’s what leads us to the slop. That’s because the slop feeds self, not the soul. The fortunate ones are those who come to enlightenment and realize they need to go home. They realize that where their life has led them is nothing more than a pigsty. The unfortunate ones are those who are living in a pigsty and don’t even realize it.

Let me make it plain – anyone who runs from the Father will end up in the pigsty, craving unclean things, surrounded by unclean things. The father in this story is meant to depict our Father in Heaven. He will let us go. He will let us run from Him. He will let us choose the slop. But He will always be watching for us and wanting us to return home. He will always come running to those who choose Him. It doesn’t matter how dirty we are from wallowing in the mud. He will always come running to embrace the wayward child who turns to Him.

Just as 2009 was the darkest year of my life, it was also the year I returned home. It was the year I felt the Father run to me and embrace me. It was my year of enlightenment and deep repentance. I felt what it was like to be separated from the Father and to be held in His loving arms. If you have wandered from the Lord as I did, just know that He’s waiting and watching for you. All you have to do is take the first steps home and He’ll come running your way.

So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:20-24 NASB

The Flood of Salvation #3

One of the most hopeful themes of the flood story in the book of Genesis comes at the end. As the waters recede and dry ground appears, the earth washed clean from the stains of evil, new life begins to take shape. It’s the fresh start that the world needed. It’s the new beginnings story that everyone is drawn to.

People have a tendency to make mistakes, sometimes rather large ones, and in doing so we make a mess of things. We’ve all hurt others by our actions or words. We’ve all hurt ourselves by poor choices we’ve made at one time or another. Some of us have ruined careers or relationships, or both. Some of us have alienated children or have wandered deep into the path of addiction. Some of us have made choices in life that have led to battles with depression or anxiety. Whatever the person’s story is, God is the God of new beginnings. It applies to everyone’s world.

The flood brought salvation to Noah and his family, but also to the world that had been plagued by misuse and corruption. The flood was a clean slate. As the story goes from there, humanity makes a royal mess of things all over again. We’ve been spiraling into moral corruption ever since the flood. Which means, the slate will be wiped clean again, only this time it’ll be permanent.

In the book of revelation we can read about Jesus’ return. Throughout the book Christ’s return is proclaimed, prepared, and finally carried out. It’s a difficult read but very worth an in-depth study. The preparation for Christ’s return brings about a shockwave of catastrophic events meant to draw peoples hearts back to repentance. Instead, people get more bitter and push God away more than ever. These catastrophic evens serve to cleanse the Earth of the prevalent evil. That evil will finally be eliminated once Christ’s rule is established and Satan is destroyed forever.

It’s pretty obvious that the world we live in now is messed up and getting worse all the time. Truth has been distorted and evil runs rampant at every level of society, in every society. It was no different in Noah’s lifetime. God has always been in the process of reverting the world back to the form of its original creation. A form in which God and man can walk together in the cool of the day. A form in which all of creation lives in harmony and all sin is absent.

God is in the business of redemption and making things new. The flood story is an illustration of that. But as we’ve been looking at, it’s an illustration that points to a far greater event carried out by Yeshua the Messiah. Christ’s death on the cross and subsequent resurrection established the new life and new beginnings for anyone who pursues that in Him. The Spiritual cleansing has taken place and continues to because of Him. All of our bad choices can be erased. Our sins can be vanquished in the blink of an eye. Lives can be redirected. People’s hearts can be transformed. All because of Yeshua’s work on the cross. He rose to life so we too can be raised to a new life. As incredible as that is, it doesn’t end there. One day, there will be a physical cleansing of the Earth that Jesus will bring and it will be amazing!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Revelation‬ ‭21:1-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Tough Questions #2: Why would a loving God allow bad things to happen?

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“Pain removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.”

C.S. Lewis

 

Today we try to respond to yet another really hard question. I myself have had to wade through these waters during difficult moments of my own life. But I’ve come out the other side liberated, not from pain, but from the crushing blow of doubt. Few things in my life have contributed to my faith life the tragic experiences I’ve had to endure. That has helped my love for God extend to new heights.

…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…

1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)

Life is hard. There’s no way around it. Tragedy hits everyone. Some will experience more pain than others, but no one will escape it. That’s led many people to question the goodness of God…to wonder where He is in the sufferings of their life. I don’t ever want to take away from the pain inflicted on anyone. Everyone’s story is unique, but the answer to the question above is not and that answer can write the next chapter for anyone’s story.

Just like with my last post on why a loving God would allow people to go to hell, I want to keep the answer simple and biblical. Also, I will give you a three-fold response that you could share with anyone. From that, I hope a much deeper conversation would result.

  1. Humanity is broken. We all have a sinful nature from birth (Psalm 51:5). That’s because the very first humans, Adam and Eve, chose sin rather than obedience (Genesis 3). Every human since has suffered from the same ailment. And because of that nature, we often times choose sin over holiness. That choice results in pain inflicted on ourselves and others. No one’s sin ever just affects them. Our sin has domino effect that can disrupt and destroy lives. You add billions of people who suffer from the sin condition, that’s a lot of pain in the world. That’s a lot of greed, perversion, anger, violence, and pride. God provided the cure for our brokenness. He died for our sins and promised His Holy Spirit to anyone who calls on Him. The Holy Spirit is the only thing that can empower humanity to live beyond themselves, to live for eternity and not temporary, and to consider others better than themselves. But here again we see the factor of free will. Because God is so loving, He has allowed us to freely choose the course of our life, even if it’s not a good one.
  2. There are other forces at work in the world. God is sovereign. That’s indisputable. But there is a severe darkness that pervades the world and the hearts of a lot people. Satan is the dominate force behind that darkness. Not the little man in red with a pitchfork. The epitome of evil who tried to rebel and overthrow God. The one who has been leading people into lives of destruction. The one who’s soul mission is to destroy you and revel in that destruction. The one who has waged war on everyone’s soul. Ephesians chapter six says that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. So much of what we struggle with in life, we can’t even see the reality behind it. And I know, that is a hard concept to grasp.
  3. Our pain is never the end of our story. God is the master of bringing beauty out of our ashes (Romans 8:28). Just read through the life of Job in the Bible. He was a righteous man who Satan sought after to destroy. Job lost his kids, his home, and his health. The worst things in life happened to Job. But through it all, God met with Job and his faith and character went to an all new reality. And in the end, everything was restored to Job, more than he even had before. Job’s life is an ideal ‘beauty from ashes’ story. So is the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and then sent to prison on false claims. But neither of those things were the end of Joseph’s story. God raised him up to be second in command of the nation of Egypt and he went on to save the lives of thousands. Joseph would later proclaim to those responsible for pain in his life, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)

God is in the joy-giving, heart-healing, and life-giving business. Sometimes, that is done best in walking through our darkest days. Quite often pain and suffering can be the instrument that refines us into having more of a godly character and softens our rebellious hearts.  Instead of looking for a scapegoat for the hardships in the world, we ought better use our energies being a part of the solution and not adding to the problem. If everyone devoted themselves to the One who created them, the world would look vastly different. Until that day, when Jesus returns to set all things right, we can live each day to improve the lives of others. We can use lessons learned through our own trials to walk through the fire with others. And we can keep our eyes set on the day when the hurt will cease. That day is coming.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:4 (NIV)

Destiny in the Insignificant

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The story of Joseph in the bible is among the most compelling and encouraging. You have a man, who at a young age, is sold into slavery by his brothers, purely out of jealousy. So here is a man with less than favorable beginnings, who will one day become someone of great importance. It’s the ideal rags to riches story that inspires so many. Joseph’s life was the picture of God’s unfailing love and refusal to abandon us in even the most trying of times.

The story takes place between Genesis chapters 37 and 50. That means a quarter of the book of Genesis recounts his life. That’s the same book that covers well over a thousand years of human history, from creation to nearly 4000 years ago. The life of Joseph only accounted for 110 of those years. So this story must carry some incredible weight and importance for us today.

I want to pick up in Genesis 39, after Joseph has been sold into slavery and is currently serving in a royal Egyptian’s home. Long story short, the Egyptian’s wife tries to seduce Joseph, but because of his upstanding moral integrity, he refuses and she ends up framing him for a crime he never committed. Joseph is then thrown into prison where he quickly rises to a prominent position.

As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled. And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.

Genesis 39:19-23 (ESV)

What Joseph probably didn’t realize was that God was going to use his prison sentence to bring salvation to an entire people. Most people wouldn’t consider prison an opportunity. I certainly wouldn’t. But after learning about Joseph’s story, I can hopefully view my troubles in an entirely new light. Because this seemingly insignificant moment in Joseph’s life would unlock not only his destiny, but that of his family, nation, and the future of the world.

Throughout the next chapter of Genesis, Joseph is going to have a conversation with two men in the prison. A baker and cup-bearer, who were both imprisoned by the Pharaoh. The conversation is basically Joseph interpreting dreams that both men had. We don’t know the relationship that Joseph had with them, only that he was placed in charge of them by the captain of the guard. Relationship aside, the important thing to get is that the future of the world will unfold due to this one conversation between three men.

Later in the story, the two men get released from prison. The cup-bearer would be acquitted of his charges. Two years later, when Pharaoh is desperate to have his dreams interpreted, the cup-bearer tells him about Joseph, the man he had met in prison. This would lead to Joseph successfully interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams and being elevated to second in command in the most powerful empire in the world. From that position, Joseph would preserve the lives of thousands, including his own brothers who had sold him into slavery years earlier, from a worldwide famine. As the story came to an end, Joseph tells his brothers why things unfolded the way they did and how it is he was able to save his family and so many others.

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Genesis 50:20-21 (ESV)

This one conversation, in an Egyptian prison, altered human history. An insignificant event established the destiny of an empire, a nation of people, and for even us today. Jesus Christ was born into that nation of people and He was undoubtedly the most significant figure in world history. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus forever changed eternity for humankind. And it can all be traced back to that day in a prison nearly 2000 years before God arrived on earth in the person of Jesus.

Don’t ever allow moments in your life to seem insignificant. They may be the most significant thing to ever happen to you. No conversation, no relationship, no trial, and no opportunity is ever a waste of time. Any one of them may change things forever.

Be encouraged brothers and sisters, God is always at work in your life.