“Like them, we shall ever be in God’s presence. Like them, we shall ever delight to do His will. Like them, we shall give all glory to the Lamb. These are deep things. But they are all true.
Are we ready for this life? Should we enjoy it, if admitted to take part in it? Is the company of God, and the service of God pleasant to us now? Is the occupation of angels one in which we should delight? These are solemn questions.”
— J. C. Ryle in Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Volume One, Matthew – Mark
Chuck Flesher is a retired pastor (Greencastle Bible Church) and chaplain (US Army colonel). He was one of my favorite speakers in high school chapels and the one who spoke at my high school graduation. He currently serves as the National Field Representative for the Associated Gospel Churches, a chaplaincy endorser for the US military and various other service organizations. The following article is posted with his permission.
In Genesis 18, the Lord and two angels in the form of three men appear to Abraham as he sits at his tent’s door during his afternoon rest. He runs to meet them, and some very fascinating dialogue takes place as the Lord, the angelic messengers and Abraham spend time together. During the course of their visit three very important questions are raised. In vs. 14, Yahweh, replying to Sarah, asks, “Is there anything too hard for the Lord?” In vs.17, the Lord asks Himself, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I’m going to do?” In vs. 25, Abraham asks the Lord “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
These three important questions have to do with God’s Ability, God’s Strategy and God’s Integrity. Believers who want to deepen their relationship with the Lord need to be asking these three questions and coming up with some solid answers.
First, is there anything too hard for the Lord?
Yahweh had revealed to two elderly people that they were going to have the promised son. Both of them laughed at this news. Abraham, however, laughed out of joyful faith (17:17), but Sarah’s laughter was born of unbelief, even though she tried to deny it (18:12, 13). Humanly speaking, she saw the news as an impossibility. She was clearly questioning God’s veracity and His ability.
If we’re honest we must admit we have questioned God’s ability, and in circumstances which required far less faith than Sarah needed. Does God keep His promises, and does He have the power to do what He says He will do? Will He supply all our needs? Will He direct our paths? Will He give the wisdom needed to help us in a seemingly impossible situation?
If God has called us to do something and has given us the promise of His Word, we can say with Jeremiah: “Ah Lord GOD! Behold, thou hast made heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee.”
Second, shall I hide from Abraham what I’m going to do?
After a meal with the three visitors, Abraham (following the Eastern custom), walks with his guests a little way. As they look across the Southern ridge of the Jordan Valley far below sea level, they spy the fertile Southern cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Then the Lord asks this question. “In light of my special relationship with Abraham, shall I tell him what my plans are?”
And what is the Lord planning to do? Judge Sodom! He heard and saw (vs. 20, 21) the perversion and violence in Sodom and He is determined to do something about it. So, because of the Lord’s special relationship with Abraham as a friend (see James 2:23), He tells Abraham what He will do. God can’t hide from the Patriarch who He really is. God is not only merciful and gracious, but He is a God of pure righteousness and total justice. So, Abraham must tell his children what was behind the devastation of these wicked cities (vs. 19). This is a stewardship for the “friend of God.”
Believers today have a stewardship to reach the lost and dying. In the New Testament, Paul calls Christians “ambassadors for Christ” The Christian has a stewardship to beseech the lost to “be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). When we come to know Christ, each of us has committed to Him “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).
Third, shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
Abraham, the friend of God, becomes an intercessor for the wicked sinners of the five cities of the plain, and especially for backslidden Lot. Lot is a picture of a worldly, carnal believer. Peter (2 Peter 2:6-9) calls him “just Lot” although his words and attitudes are inconsistent with a believer. Vss. 24-32 indicate these are friends talking. The Hebrew word for “draw near” has the idea of coming to court to argue a case. The Patriarch’s appeal is to the Justice of God. “Lord, Lot is there. It is incumbent on you to do the right thing. Your Justice will not allow you to destroy the righteous with the wicked.”
Can we always trust God to do right? Yes, our very concept of what is right comes from Him. What is right? This incident shows us that God is committed to judging the wicked. That’s right! And He is totally committed to delivering His own. God is totally committed to delivering His own—first through Christ, and then through His righteous dealings with them (Phil 1:6).
If only Lot had won his family, five cities would have been spared God’s Judgment. We can never underestimate what just a small number of Believers can do for city, a state, or a nation.
It seems that our country has come to a place where few people can agree on any given subject. The government is shut down because of a disagreement about immigration and the proposed border wall. Should it be built or not? Certain states have legalized marijuana in the past few years. Will this turn out to be a good idea? Some people are having surgeries to change their biological gender. Is this a good idea? Politicians are arguing about whether government should provide universal healthcare. Is this feasible? There are many other questions that may come to mind as you watch the news. But there is seldom any agreement as to the answers for each situation.
Have you ever considered what God’s perspective is on any of these subjects? Think about it this way. According to the Bible, God created everything. He also designed everything that was created. Now think about that for a moment. The God who created everything in the universe and who designed it to work together a certain way probably has answers for all of the current problems we face today. But how do we know what God thinks about each issue? Does he specifically address immigration, drug use, sexuality, or healthcare in the Bible?
The Bible is God’s revelation to humanity. In it, you will find real life accounts of human failures and victories. There are true stories about people who made important life choices and then experienced the results from what they did. There are also accounts of how God interacted with people throughout various times in history. His interaction with people often showed his desire for their situations. The more you read the Bible, the more you will notice God’s perspective about a variety of issues. You will quickly notice that his thinking is different than what is commonly accepted today. However, you may notice something else. As God interacted with various people, he had their best interest in mind. He made laws for the good of the people. He often stepped in to warn them of poor decisions and the results that would come from them.
Maybe it would be good for you to read the Bible again and see what God says about current events. It may take a while and you may not find the answers right away. But as you read, you will see that God is wise and compassionate toward people. But he has also setup things to work a certain way. When people reject his principles, things don’t normally go very well. So, take a look at the Bible and see if you can find the answers you are seeking. Others have been amazed at how wise God is.
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” –Romans 11:33
“The best words that men can speak are ineffectual till explained
and applied by the Spirit of God. He alone can open the heart.”
This quotation was taken from, Out of the Depths, the autobiography of John Newton. You may remember him as the author of the hymn Amazing Grace. He wrote these words referring to the time when he was slowly being drawn to Christ. Although he heard various preachers speak and had been reading the Bible himself, he did not understand his need of repentance and faith in Jesus until God’s Spirit opened his eyes. His experience is replicated both in Jesus’ teaching and the Book of Acts.
John 6:44-45 – “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who [i]has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.”
John 16:8-11 – “And when He [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
Acts 16:14 – “Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.”
For some, the quotation may seem negative. It makes them feel as if their evangelistic efforts are of no use unless God chooses to work. But for me, I find these truths to be encouraging. While I must take the time to prepare, the outcome is ultimately not my responsibility; it is God’s. And, thankfully, He is willing and able to work in the hearts of people today as he did so many years ago. I look forward to this happening again and again.
What do an Old Testament prophet and an NBA star have in common? Both men suffered from depression.
In a recent interview, DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors opened up about his bouts with depression. He was recently chosen to be an All-Star and his team currently holds the best record in the Eastern Conference. Despite his success, he still battles with depression.
The prophet Elijah had just experienced a miracle on Mount Carmel. God had answered his prayer by sending fire from heaven in front of a wide-eyed crowd (1 Kings 18:20-40). But the next day, a message from an enemy triggered his depression and he was ready to give up. Read the next chapter to see how God helped Elijah.
- How did depression affect Elijah?
- How did God respond to Elijah?
- How should we treat depression?
a. It came after an emotional high (19:1).
b. It was triggered by a threat (19:2).
c. It made him want to quit (19:4).
d. It caused him to think he was alone (19:10,14).
a. He met his physical needs (19:5-7).
b. He asked him a question (19:9,13).
c. He gave him something to do (19:15-17).
d. He revealed his wrong thinking (19:18).
a. Consider the person’s physical condition.
b. Carefully ask questions and then listen.
c. At the right time, expose wrong thinking.
God has not blessed every Christian with medical, psychological, or counseling expertise, but each of us has the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the wisdom given to us by Christ himself. As we interact with people who are depressed, let us follow God’s example and lovingly work with them with the hope that God will help. And let us continue to pray for God’s wisdom as we seek to know what is best to say and do in each situation.
If you were not already aware, Valentine’s Day was celebrated this week. There is something special about knowing and appreciating that someone special. Perhaps you took time this week to think of what makes that person special to you. The more you understand the person you love, the more you will appreciate what he or she brings to the relationship.
I had a similar thought while studying the Epistle to Philemon. In verse 6, Paul tells Philemon that he prayed specifically, “that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.” While that may seem like a jumble of words, what Paul was saying is that “the more a believer comes to comprehend all he has in Christ the more eager he is to share Him with others” (Bible Knowledge Commentary).
This is why it is good to take time to meditate on what God the Father has given us in Jesus. Being a Christian does not end with forgiveness and eternal life, there is much more. And the more we understand what we have, the easier it will be to voluntarily share that with others. If you are a Christian today, consider all that you have in Jesus. It will affect your future conversations.
During prayer meeting tonight, we will be looking at Mark 4:35-41. There we read about Jesus commanding the raging wind and sea to be still during a fierce storm at sea. When the winds and waves responded to his commands, his astonished disciples learned something about Jesus. Their question, “What manner of man is this?,” is answered well by one of the Bible commentators:
“Much that is wrong on earth can be corrected. There are mothers who dry tears, repairmen who fix machines, surgeons who remove diseased tissues, counselors who solve family problems, etc. As to correcting the weather? People talk about it, to be sure. But it takes deity to change the weather. It is Jesus who commands the elements of the weather, with the result that even the wind obeys him, and so does the sea.”
William Hendriksen, Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004, pp. 180-81.
Jesus is God who became man. Although he experienced the same humanity that we do, he did not cease to be God. He still was omnipotent and this is clearly seen in Mark’s account of what happened. No human can control the weather. Only God can. So, who is this man. Jesus is God.
While reading Daniel 4, I couldn’t help but notice the compassionate response Daniel had toward King Nebuchadnezzar (4:19). If you recall, the king had a dream which foretold his coming judgment because of his pride. The king (who apparently wrote this chapter) had the perception that Daniel did not want him to suffer under God’s judgment. He even offered advice on how to possibly escape from the judgment. This is a good example of compassion toward the lost.
My first response was to note the good attitude toward a leader and to call all Christians toward a loving, compassionate attitude toward all people and especially toward our government leaders. If Daniel could treat Nebuchadnezzar with respect (the man who probably orchestrated the death of his parents), then Christians should have this attitude toward all political leaders despite their policies, evil choices, or pretty much anything bad they might do or stand for.
But it’s just not that easy. You see, it depends on the person. If you were to continue reading the Book of Daniel, you would see that Daniel didn’t have quite the same attitude toward King Belshazzar (Dan. 5:18 ff.). Belshazzar had a great party for his wives, concubines, and officials. No doubt it was a shameful occasion that reeked of wicked behavior. And to make matters worse, the king chose to party with gold and silver cups which had been part of the temple service in Jerusalem. This definitely would not have endeared the king to Daniel.
So, why the difference in attitude? Both kings were unbelievers who were not known for their godly behavior. But Daniel reacted with compassion toward one and disgust toward the other. I guess it really depends on the circumstances. Just as it is fitting to ignore (Prov. 26:4) or confront a fool (Prov. 26:5) when necessary, so it is fitting to be compassionate toward some and to show disgust for others (Jude 22-23).
I think that this may seem difficult for some to take. It seems proper to always show compassion to those who are lost and drowning in their sin. But is this truly what God wants us to do? I don’t think so. In general, it is a good idea to show compassion toward sinful humanity. But when someone shows their disdain for God and his ways, it is appropriate to show displeasure toward such a person’s actions and attitudes. Remember Elijah and Ahab. It was not your typical “Love the lost” relationship, was it? There comes a time when ungodly people need to know the seriousness of their sin against God. And that is probably why Daniel responded the way he did toward one and not the other. It just depends.
Have you ever read something that affected you with equally opposite emotions? This was my response to Ezekiel 16. In this passage, God describes to Jerusalem His great love for her people and their subsequent turning away into spiritual adultery. The description of the first is beautiful while the second is hideous.
God describes Jerusalem as a new born baby who was left in a pool of blood and about whom nobody cared. He loved that child and rescued her from death. But even after His many gifts and expressions’ of love toward her, Jerusalem chose to seek “love” from others. The description is hideous and not one I care to describe right now.
At the very end of the chapter, after sending judgment on the people of Jerusalem, God takes a remarkable action. Despite their unfaithfulness to Him, He announces His choice to keep His covenant with them and forgive them by atoning for their sin. This relationship between God and the Jewish people is amazing. But so is His relationship with Christians. Despite the sins which we are ashamed of, God has loved us and atoned for our sins through the gift of his Son Jesus. It brings up the age old question. After all we have done, why does He still love us?
While I am driving, I hear radio advertisers talking about the value of investing in silver. No matter what day it is, it is the best time to invest because “silver may double in value this year!” There is no doubt that pure silver has value once it has been refined. But what if the impurities could not be removed from the metal? It would be rejected as unusable.
Jeremiah 6:29 (NKJV)
The bellows blow fiercely,
The lead is consumed by the fire;
The smelter refines in vain,
For the wicked are not drawn off.
People will call them rejected silver,
Because the LORD has rejected them.”
During Jeremiah’s ministry, the Jewish people who lived in Jerusalem were known for their impure lives. God described Jerusalem as a place of oppression (6), a well full of wickedness (7), people who could not heed or delight in God’s words (10), covetous (13), unable to blush (15), unwilling to listen (17), and stubborn rebels (28).
Despite God’s great patience and warnings from prophets, the people of Jerusalem would not turn from their sins and obey the God who loved them. Because of their habitual sin-filled lifestyle, they got to a place where they were too wicked to change their ways. Every attempt to refine them was unsuccessful because they were not interested.
There comes a time when even God gives up on certain people. Just as a metal worker rejects impure silver after multiple attempts, so God rejected the wicked people of Jerusalem. It is a sober warning that God’s warnings must be taken seriously because his mercy will last for only so long. Judgment came to Jerusalem in the form of a violent defeat by another nation. For those who reject God’s ways today the final judgment will be even worse (Rev. 20:11-15). Take heed to God’s warnings and turn to Him before it is too late.