Life does have its ups, downs, and turns, doesn’t it? Rick and I have once again seen that happen as our life has taken a sudden turn to the ultra-busy. We are in the midst of lots of doctor visits to address some serious health issues that Rick has been going through, so I feel the need to take a blog break for a few weeks. As I’m sure you all know, trekking to this doctor and that specialist—not to mention the inevitable lab work—takes a lot of time, and it is often hard to decompress afterward. I am finding that I need more rest and nap time, which helps me recoup the necessary energy to really be there for Rick.
I’m not sure when I’ll be back to my blog because that depends on so many things right now, but I will be back!
There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all stories are telling one Big Story. It is the Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle—the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture. – Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible
The Bible is not a book about God; it is God speaking to us. – David Jackman
1. Open the Bible. D.L. Moody prayed for faith and waited anxiously to receive it. He thought it may come one day and hit him like lightning. “But faith did not seem to come, “he said. “One day I read in the tenth chapter of Romans, ‘Now faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.’ I had closed my Bible, and prayed for faith. I now opened my Bible and began to study, and faith has been growing ever since.”
God spoke the world into existence and He uses words still to engage human hearts. Today, God speaks. I used to pray, “God make Your Word come alive in me!” Instead, God awoke my dead heart to His living breath. The problem is not with the Bible or our study techniques. The problem is with our dead hearts. The Bible is already alive.
Will you pray that God will show you the power of his living Word? Will you commit to simply open the Word of God daily?
2. Pray. King David pleaded with God in prayer to help him love God’s precepts. His humble request reflects his dependency on God’s work in his heart towards the Bible. No Christian comes to faith on their own. Nor do they grow in Christ’s likeness by their own efforts. Why, then, would we expect to study and love the Bible in our own power? We need God’s work in our hearts to do just that. David prayed, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). Commenting on this, John Piper adds, “If God does not ‘give,’ we do not find.”
So, will you ask God to help you see inside his Word? Will you ask Him to give you the desire to study the Bible and the love to tether your heart to His words.
3. Read the Bible. An esteemed theologian was asked by one of his students how he finds what he finds in the biblical text. His answer: “Well, first I read it. And then I read it again. And then I read it again…”
Jesus seemed always to classify people in two categories. He taught that there are two roads of life—the broad road and the narrow road. He said there are two destinies in life. He did not give a third alternative. He did not give any middle road. He said it’s either one or the other.
He said: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
You cannot be neutral about eternal life, but a lot of people try to be. They try to ride the middle road—but there is no middle road. Jesus said it’s one or the other. He said if you’re not on the narrow road that leads to eternal life, then you must be on the broad road that leads to destruction. Every person is on one or the other.
Which road are you on? The broad road or the narrow road? One leads to destruction and hell; the other leads to a full life here and now and eventually life to come in Heaven. Which is it? It’s one or the other.
And I want to tell you, if I did not know which road I was on, I would make sure, no matter what it cost.
Notice that the broad road is a wide road. In other words, you can enter the wide gate and carry with you all your sins. You can carry your selfishness, your prejudice, your hate, your lust, your intolerance, your bigotry. There are no restrictions, no inhibitions, no rules.
The extremes of humanity are on this broad road. There are the immoral, the dictators, the murderers. But there are also some moral people and even church people on this road. The Bible says, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me’” (Matthew 7:22-23). They were on the broad road all along.
….. And all those people who tried to keep one foot in the world and one foot in Heaven, those who tried to ride both roads—all of those people are on the broad road, in the sight of Christ.
This broad road is also a crowded road. Jesus said there are many who go in by it. I think one of the greatest sins is conformity. We always hear, “Everybody else is doing it.” No other reason except everybody else is doing it. Conformity. Nobody has the moral courage anymore to stand alone.
If everybody in your room at school cheats, dare to stand alone and get a C if necessary. If everybody in your office lies, and if all the other salesmen tell lies in order to sell a product, or they cheat on their income tax, or they pad their expense account, dare to stand alone. If all the other employers are getting by paying as little as they can pay to their workers, dare to stand alone and be above board with those who work for you. If everybody in your community has racial prejudice, dare to stand alone and look through the eyes of Christ.
God doesn’t judge us by what others are doing. If you give your life to Jesus Christ, you may be the only one in your fraternity, in your sorority; you may be the only one in your place of business; you may be the only one in your room at school trying to live for Jesus Christ. But if you will take your stand for Christ, God will honor you and bless you, and He will open doors for you that you never dreamed.
This broad road—not only is it crowded and wide, but it’s deceptive. The Bible says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 16:25).
Captain Jack Sparrow is not only a surprisingly clever pirate; he’s also a surprising judge of character. He tells young William Turner that he’s on his way to being a pirate because he, among other things, is “completely obsessed with treasure.” Will balks at this, only to have Jack wisely respond, “Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.”
The truth is we’re all completely obsessed with treasure. We’re actually wired that way. God designed us to be active worshipers, and treasure is simply shorthand for the object of our worship. Since our hearts are always actively worshiping something, they’re not neutral; nor do they accidentally stumble into worship. They choose it. And, as Captain Jack points out, treasure is far more than just material wealth. For this reason, the Sage of Proverbs warns, “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it springs the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23) Likewise, Jesus warns that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). The question I want you to think about today is, Where is your treasure? To answer, carefully ponder three questions and invite the Holy Spirit to examine your heart.
1. What makes you happy?
Think about the times when you are the happiest. Or, perhaps, what you look forward to the most. When are you the most content and peaceful? What automatically brings a smile to your face? What events or occasions are non-negotiable in your life? What is your favorite part of your day? Don’t feel guilty if every single answer wasn’t Jesus. James tells us that “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.” God, the Giver of the gifts you enjoy, gives them to us for our delight. However, because our hearts have been perverted by sin, we often take the good gifts from our loving Father and make them objects of our worship rather than reasons to worship the Giver. To assess whether these good gifts have become your treasure, we’re going to need a couple more questions.
The psalms represent a priceless treasure trove of resources for relating to God in all circumstances. They instruct us in how to live, and they teach us great truths about God the great King, his sovereign rule over all things, and his plan for reconciling the world to himself through his Son Jesus, the Christ. With all their beauty and spiritually uplifting messages, here are 8 key takeaways from the Psalms.
1. The book of Psalms engages almost all of the great themes of the Bible.
Beginning with Psalms 1 – 2, the Psalter lays out the theme of — • The righteous versus the wicked and the importance of relying on God and his Word. • God’s sovereignty and rule over all people and nations. • The interplay between divine and human kingship. • God as a place of refuge for all.
2. As human words to and about God, the Psalms instruct us in myriad ways about how to worship God.
They teach us how to sing, dance, rejoice, give thanks, confess sin, grieve, express anger, make requests of God, proclaim God’s name far and wide, and more.
3. The Psalms teach us that God has sovereign rule as the great King over all things.
God rules over creation itself and over all nations and people groups — down to each individual person. As the sovereign King, God asserts his control over the most powerful forces in nature. He proclaims his authority over all the false gods of the nations, gods that were such a temptation for his own people time and time again.
4. The Psalms celebrate that God is a good God.
God is holy, loving, merciful, protective of his people, faithful, a keeper of promises, a giver of good gifts. He protects the vulnerable in society — the widow, the fatherless, the outsider, and the poor — and expects his representatives on earth to carry out this mission.
5. The Psalms praise God for being a just God.
The Lord vindicates his people, punishes evil, and cares for the marginalized. He opposes the wicked, whether individuals (e.g.,Psalms 1:4 – 6) or nations (e.g.,Psalm 2), and will mete out justice for their wickedness.
As long as we have unsolved problems,
unfilled desires, and a mustard seed of faith,
we have all we need for a vibrant prayer life. —John Ortberg
Mustard seed faith is sometimes a difficult concept but one that is very important to understand. The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds found in the Middle East, but that smallest of seeds grows into one of the largest plants. Jesus therefore used this illustration several times to show us that even the tiniest grain of truefaithcan do very great things.
14 When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus,
falling on his knees before Him and saying,
15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill;
for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.
16 I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.”
17 And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation,
how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?
Bring him here to Me.”
18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him,
and the boy was cured at once.
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said,
“Why could we not drive it out?”
20 And He said to them,
“Because of the littleness of your faith;
for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move;
and nothing will be impossible to you.”
—Matthew 17:14-20, NASB—
We see here the central need of faith, without which nothing can happen. When Jesus spoke about removing mountains he was using a phrase which the Jews knew well. A great teacher, who could really expound and interpret scripture and who could explain and resolve difficulties, was regularly known as an uprooter, or even a pulverizer, of mountains. To tear up, to uproot, to pulverize mountains were all regular phrases for removing difficulties. Jesus never meant this to be taken physically and literally. After all, the ordinary man seldom finds any necessity to remove a physical mountain. What he meant was: “If you have faith enough, all difficulties can be solved, and even the hardest task can be accomplished.” Faith in God is the instrument which enables men to remove the hills of difficulty which block their path. —William Barclay
Beloved, I think we can all agree that COVID-19 is affecting us a great deal in so many ways. We have been feeling as if things are totally out of control. Life as we knew it will never be the same. Our emotions may be wavering while we seek to hold onto our faith during these difficult times.
Having and holding onto true faith is difficult in hard circumstances, but it is possible. In our own physical strength we cannot move mountains. We can’t make something from nothing. We cannot by ourselves change someone’s heart and mind about something. We cannot pretend that the Coronavirus never happened or doesn’t exist. All of these things and more are under God’s care and control.
What we can do is rely on the fact that God knows what is best for us and rest assured that His ways and means are perfect. And if we believe—have true faith—in that fact, we will be able to pray with a faith that will steadily grow.
Just like that tiny mustard seed.
We may then understand that what we regard as unanswered prayers are actually part of God’s grand design to mold us into becoming who He wants us to be. And we will become content, completely and absolutely trusting that His ways are best.
In 1993, my wife and I were involved in an historic train wreck. The crash of the Sunset Limited into an inlet from Mobile Bay killed more passengers than any Amtrak accident in history. We survived that eerie accident but not without ongoing trauma. The wreck left my wife with an ongoing anxiety about being able to sleep on a train at night. The wreck left me with a back injury that took fifteen years of treatment and therapy to overcome. Nevertheless, with these scars from the trauma we both learned a profound lesson about the providence of God. Clearly, God’s providence in this case for us was one of benign benevolence. It also illustrated to us an unforgettable sense of the tender mercies of God. In as much as we are convinced that God’s providence is an expression of His absolute sovereignty over all things, I would think that a logical conclusion from such a conviction would be the end of all anxiety.
However, that is not always the case. Of course, our Lord Himself gave the instruction to be anxious for nothing to His disciples and, by extension, to the church. His awareness of human frailties expressed in our fears was manifested by His most common greeting to His friends: “Fear not.” Still, we are creatures who, in spite of our faith, are given to anxiety and at times even to melancholy.
As a young student and young Christian, I struggled with melancholy and sought the counsel of one of my mentors. As I related my struggles, he said, “You are experiencing the heavy hand of the Lord on your shoulder right now.” I had never considered God’s hand being one that gave downward pressure on my shoulder or that would cause me to struggle in this way. I was driven to prayer that the Lord would remove His heavy hand from my shoulder. In time, He did that and delivered me from melancholy and a large degree of anxiety.
On another occasion I was in a discussion with a friend, and I related to him some of the fears that were plaguing me. He said, “I thought you believed in the sovereignty of God.” “I do,” I said, “and that’s my problem.” He was puzzled by the answer, and I explained that I know enough about what the Bible teaches of God’s providence and of His sovereignty to know that sometimes God’s sovereign providence involves suffering and affliction for His people. That we are in the care of a sovereign God whose providence is benevolent does not exclude the possibility that He may send us into periods of trials and tribulations that can be excruciatingly painful. Though I trust God’s Word that in the midst of such experiences He will give to me the comfort of His presence and the certainty of my final deliverance into glory, in the meantime I know that the way of affliction and pain may be difficult to bear.
Why does the doctrine of the Trinity matter to us today? And why have so many great Christians throughout church history fought so tenaciously in defending it? The answer is fundamentally rooted in one critical question: Do we know God?
Jesus said that knowing God is synonymous with having eternal life (John 17:3). And if we define Him on any terms other than how He has defined Himself in Scripture, we are nothing more than idolaters. That is why sects like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are regarded as cults. To inherit eternal life, we need to know God as He truly is. And the biblical testimony is clear: There is one God. He eternally exists in three persons. And all three persons are each fully God.
To put it another way, God is three distinct persons in one indivisible substance. In the words of the Athanasian Creed,
The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three Gods but one God. 
And in this Trinity none is before or after another; but the whole three persons are co-eternal together and co-equal. So that in all things, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. 
The simplest way to comprehend the Trinity is to read the Bible from the beginning to the end. The word for God in Genesis 1 is “Elohim.” It is plural. The im ending on a noun in Hebrew is like s in English. The opening words of Genesis could be translated, “In the beginning, Gods.” The word-form of the noun is plural, and yet the reference is to a singular being. The description of God throughout the Old Testament is clearly to a singular being. The verb that goes with Elohim inGenesis 1:1is likewise singular.
The benediction God gave Moses for the priests to use seems to allude to the Trinity. Three times they were to invoke the blessing of the Lord.Numbers 6:24–26records it: “The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.” The threefold appeal to “the Lord” suggests the Trinity. The seraphim Isaiah saw and described in Isaiah 6 cried to one another with this threefold exclamation: “Holy, Holy, Holy” (Isaiah 6:3). Again, it seems to be an allusion to the Trinitarian nature of God.
One of the clearest Old Testament references to the Trinity isIsaiah 48:16, a prophetic verse spoken by Jesus Christ. It puts all three members of the Godhead together in one verse: “And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.”
Repeatedly the New Testament refers to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together in the same passage, on the same level. In Matthew 3 we are told that as Jesus was being baptized, the Holy Spirit descended as a dove, and the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well–pleased” (Matthew 3:17). In John 14:16–17, Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper . . . that is the Spirit of truth.” Jesus told His disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In 1 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul says, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God” (1 Corinthians 12:4–6). The final verse of 2 Corinthians says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).First Peter 1:2says that believers are chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood.”
Every form of unbelief is just another version of idolatry. Even atheists refute themselves by voicing hatred for the God they deny. Creation is proof of a Creator, but those who do not acknowledge the God of the Bible often imagine it was the work of some nebulous, distant, and uncaring superpower. Like the Deists who picture God as a great clockmaker, who wound up His creation and then left it to itself, unbelievers—some of whom are professing Christians—go through life hoping this impersonal cosmic force will ultimately work in their favor.
But the true and living God isn’t distant, uncaring, or impersonal. Our attributes of emotion, intellect, and will did not just happen—God made us in His image. He has revealed Himself in the Bible to be a person. The Bible uses personal titles to describe Him. He is called Father. He is pictured as a shepherd. He is called a brother, a friend, a counselor. Scripture uses personal pronouns to refer to Him.
We know God is a person because He thinks, acts, feels, speaks, and communicates. All the evidence of creation, all the evidence of the Scriptures, indicates that He is a person.
Yet He is also a spirit. He does not exist in a body that can be touched and seen like our bodies. Jesus said, “A spirit does not have flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39). He also pointed out that an understanding of these basic realities is essential to acceptable worship: “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
The spirituality of God means He cannot be reduced either to a physical image or a theological abstract. He is a personal spirit, and He must be worshiped in the fullness of the infinity of His eternal being.Isaiah 40:18–26explains the concept:
To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him? As for the idol, a craftsman casts it, a goldsmith plates it with gold, and a silversmith fashions chains of silver. He who is too impoverished for such an offering selects a tree that does not rot; he seeks out for himself a skillful craftsman to prepare an idol that will not totter.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. Scarcely have they been planted, scarcely have they been sown, scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth, but He merely blows on them, and they wither, and the storm carries them away like stubble. “To whom then will you liken Me, that I should be his equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.
In other words, if you try to reduce God to something other than a spirit, something that can be seen and touched, what are you going to make to represent Him?
There is only one true God, and He demands exclusive worship. That is the essence of the first commandment God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai. It is also the unshakable and unchanging truth about God from eternity past to eternity future.
Deuteronomy 6:4–5points to the oneness and exclusivity of God as the essence of His law: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” The truth that there is one God was fundamental to the Hebrew identity and distinctive of the Israelite nation. The Israelites, living in the midst of dozens of polytheistic cultures, were saying, “There is only one God.” Although they had initially become a nation while living among the Egyptians (whose proliferation of false gods was carried to preposterous extremes) they had held to their faith in Yahweh as the one true God. God had revealed Himself to them as one God, and any Israelite who dared to worship another god was put to death.
Jesus affirmed the importance of God’s singularity. In Mark 12, a scribe asked Him what was the greatest of the commandments and Christ, without hesitation, echoed Deuteronomy 6:4–5, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength’” (Mark 12:29–30). Without denying His own deity, and yet at the same time acknowledging that there is only one God, Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is to give total allegiance with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength to the one true God.
The Father and the Son Are One
InJohn 10:30, Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” That is a claim of absolute equality with God; yet at the same time it is a reaffirmation that there is but one God.
Paul emphasized the unity and equality of the Father and the Son in his first epistle to the Corinthians. The Corinthians were living in a typically pagan polytheistic society. Idols were everywhere in the city, and those who worshiped them would bring offerings of food. The priests of the idols’ temples operated food markets, where they sold the uneaten food that had been offered to the idols. Some believers were buying that food, perhaps because they could get it for a much better price than the food at commercial markets.
Christians who had been saved out of pagan worship were troubled over those who were eating food that had been offered to idols. They would go over for dinner and then refuse to eat if they found out the food had come from idol offerings. It was causing serious problems in their fellowship, and Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 8 to resolve the issue. Verse 4 sums up his teaching: “Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4) An idol isn’t anything. If food offered to idols is the best bargain in town, get it. Eat it. It isn’t going to make a bit of difference, spiritually. An idol is nothing. And there is no other God but one.