Guest Article: Three Important Questions! by Chuck Flesher

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.

Hymn: On Zion’s Glorious Summit

I grew up in a church that had a good music program. On Sunday evenings, Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell played the piano and organ to accompany our hymn singing. I learned to sing bass by listening to the organ’s low notes and to this day can pick out the bass part with little trouble. (Sadly, what I can sing and what can be heard are two separate entities.)

This beautiful hymn was written many years ago by an English shipwright by the name of John Kent (1766-1843). Hymnary.org says that, “as a working shipwright his opportunities for acquiring the education and polish necessary for the production of refined verse were naturally limited. His hymns are strongly worded, very earnest and simple, and intensely Calvinistic.” Despite his limited education, he published more than 200 hymns during his lifetime.

When you read the words to this song, replace the word Zion with heaven and it will make the song come alive for you. For those who know the Lord, this song expresses the emotions stirred up by Scripture passages such as Revelation 5:11-12 and 7:9-10. What a great reunion that will be when Christians from different times, cultures, and languages join together to sing the praises of Jesus!

On Zion’s glorious summit stood
A numerous host redeemed by blood
They hymned their King in strains divine
I heard the song and strove to join
I heard the song and strove to join

Here all who suffered sword or flame
For truth, or Jesus’ lovely name
Shout victory now and hail the Lamb
And bow before the great I AM
And bow before the great I AM

O what a sweet exalted song
When every tribe and every tongue
Redeemed by blood with Christ appear
And join in one full chorus there
And join in one full chorus there

(after last verse)

Holy, holy, holy Lord
God of hosts, on high adored
Who like me Thy praise should sing
O Almighty King

Holy, holy, holy Lord
God of hosts, on high adored
Holy, holy, holy

Is Esther a godly example for believers?

One of the difficulties for a Christian when studying the Book of Esther is figuring out why the book seems to condone the moral choices made by the main character. An honest look at the book reveals that Esther was chosen to be part of the king’s harem, spent a night in his bedroom, and later became his queen. (To be fair, she didn’t have much of a choice in the matter.) But coupled with the lack of any mention of God, prayer, or obedience to the Mosaic Law, we are left scratching our heads. How does this fit with 2 Timothy 3:16-17?

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

While this verse is true, we have to remember that “everything found in the Bible is not to be emulated. Sometimes the biblical narratives show us how we should not act. ‘In all things God works for the good of those who love him’ (Rom. 8;28), but that does not mean that all things that happen are in themselves good (e.g., a small child killed by a drunken driver). The disturbing ethical practices of Esther and Mordecai resulted in the deliverance of the Jewish people from a terrible pogrom, but their success does not prove that the means used were good or pleasing to God” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein).

Perhaps the best way to look at Esther (as with other imperfect Bible characters) is that she was used by God, despite her moral failings, to accomplish the deliverance of God’s people. We do not look to her as an example of purity or as a godly believer. Instead, we focus on what God did despite the moral issues in her history.

What shall we have?

One of the struggles a Christian faces is the loss of relationships, position, and possessions because of following Christ. Every true Christian knows something of this—some more than others. The first disciples left everything to follow Jesus. It was a tough life including poverty, lack of housing, and ridicule by the religious elites of their time. This, among other things, led Peter to ask Jesus what the disciples would receive because of their self-sacrifice on account of him.

Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us? And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. ”

—Matthew 19:27-29

We are tempted to questions his motives, but deep inside we have the same question but are too afraid to ask. Thankfully, Jesus answered his question graciously. The Lord understands the difficulty and self-sacrifice involved with following him and has promised to reward those who do so with much more and better than they lost in the process. I especially like how J. C. Ryle explains this:

“We may rest assured that no man shall ever be a real loser for Christ. The believer may seem to suffer loss for a time, when he first begins the life of a decided Christian. He may be much cast down by the afflictions that are brought upon him on account of his religion. But let him rest assured that he will never find himself a loser in the long run. Christ can raise up friends for us who shall more than compensate for those we lose. Christ can open hearts and homes to us, far more warm and hospitable than those that are closed against us. Above all, Christ can give us peace of conscience, inward joy, bright hopes, and happy feelings, which shall far outweigh every pleasant earthly thing that we have cast away for His sake. He has pledged His royal word that it shall be so. None ever found that word fail. Let us trust it, and not be afraid.”


—Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels Matthew – Mark

Current Events: Where are the answers?

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.

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“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

Quote of the Day – 1/5/2019

“The best words that men can speak are ineffectual till explained
and applied by the Spirit of God. He alone can open the heart.”

—John Newton

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.

QOTD: The Possibility of the Virgin Birth

After reading the wonderful account of Gabriel’s announcement to Mary in Luke 1:26-38, you might wonder the same thing that she did. “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” This is a good question. How could Mary conceive a child without the aid of a man? What Gabriel promised was impossible. Naturally, this would never happen. But Gabriel was not talking about something that would take place naturally. It was something that the God of the impossible would make possible.

“If one is open to the possibility of God entering into history and being able to transcend the ‘laws of nature,’ it is not difficult to believe that the God who raised his Son from the dead and empowered him to do many mighty miracles could have sent him into the world by the miracle of the virgin birth.”

Robert H. Stein, Luke, Nashville: Broadman, 1992, 82.

Embrace your brokenness?

Have you heard someone use the phrase “embrace your brokenness?” I was not familiar with it until an acquaintance mentioned it recently. The individual mentioned that a pastor had taught him to embrace his brokenness as a means of learning and changing. This mention of the phrase caught my attention and led me to ask others where the Bible teaches this. The few people who responded to my question did not have an answer that satisfied my curiosity. What follows is the result of my studies on the subject.

What people have said about this

The people listed below are used as examples simply because their comments were readily available on the internet. I do not know much about any of them. So, take these quotations as individual samples of their teaching.

Alan Nelson

“He loves me, He loves me not. When you encounter a painful event in your life-divorce, death of a family member, financial setback-you might wonder if God really loves you: ‘If He cares so much about me, why does He put me through times of suffering and brokenness?’ Actually God doesn’t use tough times to punish you – He uses them to help you reach a level of spiritual maturity that cannot otherwise be reached. What feels uncomfortable now only makes you stronger and more beautiful down the road. In fact, God uses the breaking process out of love, hoping you’ll respond to it in a way that brings you closer to Him. In Embracing Brokenness, Pastor Alan Nelson offers an encouraging look at the hopeful side of brokenness. Understanding the process of brokenness won’t necessarily stop the hurting, but it will make the pain much more bearable. And you won’t have to play the game of ‘He loves me, He loves me not,’ because you’ll clearly know the depth of God’s love for you.”

Summary: This author believes that God takes you through personal tragedies to make you a better person. Embracing what God is doing in your life makes you able to handle hard times easier.

Question: Would you tell Job to embrace his brokenness (the bad things he had gone through?

Opinion: It seems that it would be better to say, Embrace God’s perfecting work in your life (Rom. 8:28). We are not told to embrace the bad things that happen to us, but to trust God through them.

Joni Eareckson Tada

“Every day I lean heavily on a cross-shaped crutch because I am weak; I am needy, and I’m so broken. And there are so many things about me that require fixing. And I am not ashamed to admit it, because that is my access to the power of God. God never pours out His power on the proud and resourceful. No, rather, He only gives grace at our points of brokenness. So, if there is something the matter with your life that needs changing, identify what is wrong, name it, and own it. Recognize that it has, in the past, defined you. Be like a recovering alcoholic. Admit your weakness and boast in your need of a Savior.”

Summary: This author sees brokenness as personal faults. She believes that when you admit your sins and turn to Christ for help, you are embracing your brokenness.

Question: Does repentance include an embrace of sins?

Opinion: Perhaps a better way to say it is, Admit your brokenness. Embrace your sinfulness makes it seem like you are loving what your should hate.

Seth Barnes

“One of the great struggles we all face is to come to the place where we can recognize our brokenness and be OK with it. … Yet it’s so hard to embrace your own brokenness. To admit it and even talk openly about it. … The truth is, we’re all broken and we need to embrace our brokenness instead of locking it away.”

Summary: This author says embracing your brokenness is admitting your sin instead of hiding it from others. He cites one of his heroes who finally admitted to lying about his addiction to alcohol. Once he admitted it, he felt free.

Question: Should you embrace your sinfulness?

Opinion: This gives the idea that you should embrace the fact that you are a sinner. Recognizing your sinfulness and dealing with it are good things, but should not include a loving embrace.

Cody Mitchell

“During these six months, I learned a very valuable lesson. I learned that I was beautiful even though I considered myself internally broken. I even began a morning mantra as I stepped out of my car. I would tell myself ‘you are beautiful, life is beautiful, and embrace everything who you are in this moment, even the broken aspects.’ … The only way to begin this process is to simply embrace who you are in this present moment. From there give thanks to anything that has ever happened in your life that has made you feel broken. … So in conclusion, embrace your brokenness because without it you could not be this beautiful person now.”

Summary: This author does not claim to be a Christian. He says that yoga has helped him to handle the difficult things in his life including having to live out of his car for six months. His view of the phrase has nothing to do with God.

Question: Are Christians borrowing catchy phrases from the world?

Opinion: While some people struggle with their self-worth after experiencing abuse, a broken family, or bad situations, the answer is not repeating catchy phrases. The answer is viewing yourself through the lens of what God thinks about you in the Bible.

What the Bible says about brokenness

Here is where we find the real help that we need. What others have said may be inspirational, but it is of little help if it is not grounded in the Scriptures. So, what does the Bible say about it?

Many believers have experienced a broken spirit.

1. The Experience of Job

   a. Why was he broken?

Job 17:1 – “My spirit is broken, my days are extinguished, the grave is ready for me.”

Job was broken by terrible events in his life. He lost all of his children, his wealth, and then his health. During that time, he said things that he should not have. But then the Lord confronted him.

   b. How did he respond to his brokenness?

Job 42:1-6 – “Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job recognized who he was in God’s sight and repented of his wrong thinking about God during his trials. From that day on, he recognized his need to submit to whatever God brought into his life.

2. The Experience of David

   a. Why was he broken?

Psalm 31:10-12 – “For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away. I am a reproach among all my enemies, but especially among my neighbors, and am repulsive to my acquaintances; those who see me outside flee from me. I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel.” 
Psalm 38:4, 8 – “For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. … I am feeble and severely broken; I groan because of the turmoil of my heart.”

He was broken by his sin and its results.

   b. How did he respond to his brokenness?

Psalm 69:5, 20 – “O God, You know my foolishness; and my sins are not hidden from You. … Reproach has broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness; I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.”

Note what David did in each of these psalms. He confessed his sins to God and then asked for help with his broken situation.

3. The Experience of Jeremiah

   a. Why was he broken?

Jeremiah 23:9-10 – “My heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake. I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine has overcome, because of the Lord, and because of His holy words. For the land is full of adulterers; for because of a curse the land mourns. The pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up. Their course of life is evil, and their might is not right.”

He was broken-hearted because of the sinfulness of others and the results of their sin.

   b. How did he respond to his brokenness?

Jeremiah mourned because of the sins of others and the results of their sin. He warned sinners of the result of their sin by writing his prophetic letters.

Many believers have become broken about their sin.

1. Why were they broken?

Psalm 34:18 – “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” 

Psalm 51:17 – “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart — These, O God, You will not despise.” 

Matthew 21:44 – “And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”

They submitted to God’s view of their sin and repented of it.

2. What was the result?

God saves this person from his sins (34:18), accepts this person (51:17), and changes them to a proper relationship with God (Mt. 21:44). Look further in the Scriptures and you will find that God desires to heal the broken-hearted.

Psalm 147:3 – “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” 

Isaiah 61:1 – “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”

With these verses in mind, we must turn from (note embrace) our broken situations to God for our hearts to be healed. This healing is found only in Him.

Conclusion

We began by talking about the phrase “embrace your brokenness.” After looking at the Scriptures, I think this is not a good way to look at our lives or to handle tragedy or sinfulness. Instead of embracing what we once were or what we are currently experiencing, we need to look to Jesus for the help we need: (1) forgiveness and salvation through Christ, (2) continued help and forgiveness through Jesus, and (3) hope for the future when we will be free from sin and its effects. Don’t embrace your brokenness. Embrace the One who delivered and will deliver you from your brokenness and daily gives you what you need.
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.