Our Eyes Are Upon You

Our Eyes Are Upon You

For we have no power against this great multitude
that is coming against us;
nor do we know what to do,
but
our eyes are upon You.
─2 Chronicles 20:12

Have you ever been so bewildered, frustrated, and afraid about a situation that you forgot all that God has done for you in other areas of your life? Years ago I experienced a disappointment so utterly shocking that it just about knocked me down. I cried out to my Lord, “I can’t do this anymore! I don’t have the strength to go on!”

I admit that I was feeling somewhat disgruntled with God because I felt He had let me down. After I had calmed down a bit, though, my prayers became, “OK, Lord, You know how disappointed and afraid I am right now but I know and trust that You have some kind of plan in all this mess. Please show me how to proceed next.”

Jehoshaphat has everything going against him in this section of Scripture and he shows a normal human reaction: he is afraid. But instead of wondering how they will get through such a tough situation, he rests on the promises of God and what He has done for them in the past. Jehoshaphat then commits the entire situation to God because he knows only God can save the nation; he acknowledges God’s sovereign power over this situation; he praises God’s glory and takes comfort in His promises; and he professes complete dependence upon God ─ not himself ─ for deliverance in this situation.

Wow! What great faith and trust Jehoshaphat shows here! He throws himself completely into God’s loving care because he has the assurance that as God has been there for him in the past, He is also right there beside him now. And God does assure Jehoshaphat that the battle is His and He will fight it!

I find myself ─ and I’m sure you do also ─ in situations from which I cannot extricate myself. God says, “Turn it over to Me. I’ll take care of it.” Oh, that you and I might learn to turn it over to Him as Jehoshaphat did!  ─J. Vernon McGee

In my own situation, God not only answered my prayers as to how next to proceed, but He showed me in three different ways:

  1. He gave a close friend the above verses in 2 Chronicles as she was praying about my problem, and then she obediently shared them with me.
  2. Next, the sermon the following Sunday was based on Luke 7:46-49, which compares building your house on rock versus building it on sand. My house (my relationship with the Lord) is definitely built on rock ─ The Rock ─ so no matter what the enemy does to try and shake me up, his storms cannot blow my house apart. And the Lord, my Rock, will enable me to withstand any storm that will come my way.
  3. God showed me during a Bible study that He had indeed used my praying friend to speak His will to me.

I freely admitted to God that I am weary of the fight, but I had His assurance that He would fight the battle for me. I also realized that the outcome doesn’t matter as much as my faith and trust that God would work everything out for my best interests while I simply waited and watched for what would happen next.

Beloved, are you currently in the midst of a frightening or bewildering situation? Are you wondering what to do or how to cope? Claim God’s promises and acknowledge that He only wants the best for you, right where you are now, and then trust that He will work everything out for your good and His glory.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please forgive us for our selective memories. We know that you are always working in our lives, yet there are so many times when we forget that You are totally in control. We praise You for always being with us and taking care of us so well, and we ask that You help us recall Jehoshaphat’s words during the difficult times: “For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” Oh, Lord, we praise and thank You for who You are, our All in All!

Why Did Jesus Need to Be Baptized?

Sharing today from The Gospel Coalition.

Why Did Jesus Need to Be Baptized?

By 

If we were to compile a catalog of practices that are essential to the Christian faith, what would be included? Among other essentials, baptism would certainly need to be high on the list. Baptism is one of the means by which Jesus commissions his followers to make disciples (Matt. 28:18–20). It’s also central to the preaching of the gospel at the inception of the church at Pentecost (Acts 2:38). In short, the idea that Christians should be baptized—regardless of when or how—is central to the Christian faith. This should come as no surprise.

What may come as a surprise, however, is that Jesus himself was baptized. Baptism wasn’t just something Jesus commanded his followers to do, but an experience he also underwent. As familiar as we may be with the Gospel accounts, the fact that Jesus submitted himself to baptism may still strike us as odd.

The plot thickens even more when we consider that the baptism Jesus submitted himself to was John’s baptism, which is described as (1) accompanying “repentance” (Matt. 3:2); (2) in conjunction with people “confessing their sins” (Matt. 3:6); and (3) as the means by which to “flee from the coming wrath” (Matt. 3:7).

It doesn’t take much pondering to realize that this doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of what the New Testament says about Jesus—that he was God’s virgin-born (Matt. 1:19–25), sinless (2 Cor. 5:21Heb. 4:15), perfectly obedient Son (Heb. 5:8–9John 17:4), fully pleasing to the Father (Matt. 3:17), who pre-existed as divine but laid aside his glory to take on flesh (Phil. 2:5–8). Nonetheless, Jesus says it is fitting and appropriate that he be baptized (Matt. 3:15).

All this leads to an important question: Why did Jesus need to be baptized?

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

Both Mark and Luke record this story but don’t raise the question (Mark 1:9–11Luke 3:21–22). John’s Gospel doesn’t give us the events of Jesus’s baptism but emphasizes the same effect as the other Gospels—that the Spirit of God descended on Jesus, anointing him as the Son of God (John 1:32–34). Only Matthew raises the issue by including a piece of the story that the other Gospel writers don’t—John himself was hesitant to baptize Jesus. John, aware that Jesus wasn’t just another person coming to repent and confess his sins, protests: “I need to be baptized by you, but you are coming to me?” (Matt. 3:14).

Jesus’s answer to John’s reluctance is instructive, both in answering our question and also in revealing an important aspect of Matthew’s theology. Jesus said, “Let it be so, for it is fitting in this way for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). This is a weighty answer, containing two words—“fulfill” and “righteousness”—that are central ideas in Matthew’s Gospel. Something important is going on here.

Nonetheless, Jesus’s response to John remains a bit esoteric for most readers today. So allow me to offer the following paraphrase: Jesus is fulfilling his role as the obedient Son of God by practicing the required righteousness of submitting to God’s will to repent (i.e., to live in the world wholeheartedly devoted to God).

Read the rest here.

Anyway

The poem below was reportedly written on the wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta. 

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;

forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;

be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;

succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;

be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, some could destroy overnight;

build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;

be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;

do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;

give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;

it was never between you and them anyway.

—Mother Teresa

What is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?

Sharing today from Got Questions?

Question:
“What is the Second Coming
of Jesus Christ?”

Answer: The second coming of Jesus Christ is the hope of believers that God is in control of all things, and is faithful to the promises and prophecies in His Word. In His first coming, Jesus Christ came to earth as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem, just as prophesied. Jesus fulfilled many of the prophecies of the Messiah during His birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection. However, there are some prophecies regarding the Messiah that Jesus has not yet fulfilled. The second coming of Christ will be the return of Christ to fulfill these remaining prophecies. In His first coming, Jesus was the suffering Servant. In His second coming, Jesus will be the conquering King. In His first coming, Jesus arrived in the most humble of circumstances. In His second coming, Jesus will arrive with the armies of heaven at His side.

The Old Testament prophets did not make clearly this distinction between the two comings. This can be seen in Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7 and Zechariah 14:4. As a result of the prophecies seeming to speak of two individuals, many Jewish scholars believed there would be both a suffering Messiah and a conquering Messiah. What they failed to understand is that there is only one Messiah and He would fulfill both roles. Jesus fulfilled the role of the suffering servant (Isaiah chapter 53) in His first coming. Jesus will fulfill the role of Israel’s deliverer and King in His second coming. Zechariah 12:10 and Revelation 1:7, describing the second coming, look back to Jesus being pierced. Israel, and the whole world, will mourn for not having accepted the Messiah the first time He came.

Read the rest here.

Luck, or Not

Luck, or Not

 By Pat Knight

It is surprising the wealth of information that can be gleaned from the random assortment of magazines in a professional waiting room. The article that caught my attention was a first-person account that espoused a philosophy of life that was foreign to me. Struck by the magnitude of his own mortality, the author expounded on the merits of luck. I was intrigued by his medical history: a stroke in his late twenties with the subsequent discovery of a hole in his heart. He made the difficult decision to proceed with cardiac surgery to repair the congenital defect.

Through the trials and turmoil, he healed well physically. Emotionally, he made the decision to marry his best friend who had stood by him for many years. The only explanation he gave for disease, love, and happiness was pure luck. For him, luck was on his side and was the only explanation for the positive aspects in his life. 

Lady Luck: how flirtatious and seductive; how very deceptive and empty. Depending on luck as the answer for all occasions in life is a perilous way to live. The story was true. The author was substituting luck for God. “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 53:1). What a shallow lifestyle, completely void of the rich love God offers.

Luck is a powerful force in our society. It represents Satan who would have us believe that God is not responsible for marvelous life changes and miracles. Any thought that entices us away from God pleases Satan, the author of all matters in sharp contrast to God, and he is proud of it!

The Bible classifies Satan as a “liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44b). How could an intelligent, critical thinker ascribe all happiness to luck and happenstance? There is no substance to it.

Luck is fickle; luck is empty; luck is false.

Luck might better be defined as chance or fortune. Good luck or good fortune denote favorable events that result from factors beyond our control. Satan is aware that humanity usually takes the route of least resistance. Luck, an easy explanation, doesn’t require commitment. Using it to explain all occurrences professes a dangerous philosophy of life. “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than Christ” (Colossians 2:8). 

Satan is the great deceiver. He tricks people into accepting luck because he is in the business of contradicting God. Jesus taught, “‘Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ferocious wolves’” (Matthew 7:15). What has Satan done for us that we should even listen to his lies? Pretending to be one of God’s good angels, Satan is a master deceiver, imposter, hypocrite, and a liar. He changes his costumes each time he acquires another character role. “Satan masquerades as an angel of light. It is no surprise, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Satan is in control of luck since it describes anything that happens by chance. Luck is not a word or a concept used in scripture. The Word of God constantly reassures us of God’s love and sovereignty. Satan describes luck as synonymous with happiness. He is thrilled to persuade another person of a shallow life apart from God. Luck is obscure, ambiguous, and uncertain. “If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and arguments that result in envy, quarreling, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is means to financial gain” (1 Timothy 6:3-5). 

The big prize! Many people desire instant wealth, security, or immunity from illness. There are no panaceas in this life, no guarantees apart from God. If we carefully think of the real source of our goodness and gifts, we are motivated to worship God who created us for fellowship with Him, and who lavishes us with love and grace. Truth is reliable and consistent with the character and revelation of God.  “Jesus said,If you hold to my teaching, you are my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free’(John 8:31-32).

Luck, which is controlled by chance, is shallow and empty. Do you want more than luck to explain your life? “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2). God has proved Himself in His Word. “Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind” (Psalm 66:5). All things that happen in this world, occur for a reason. When God sponsors a particular plan for our lives, we can be assured He has our welfare in mind. God wants the best for His children. “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). 

Jesus told His disciple, Peter, that he could expect to be tested and tempted by Satan. Christ specifically prayed for Peter, just as He does now for every believer, centuries later. God does not make empty promises. God is truth; it is not within His character to mislead anyone. “‘I am the way, the truth and the life’” (John 14:6). God promises to care for us. He mends broken hearts and give us a new purpose in life. He lavishes grace, mercy, and love every day to each of His own. “My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth, who does not change like shifting shadows” (Psalm 121:2). He is the one, true God, creator of the universe, who rules with authority, power, and knowledge.

How do we react when we hear earth-shattering news? “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights” (James 1:17). Do we attribute our circumstances to blind luck, or to the Father of Lights? The author of the article I read likened love and life to throwing dice with no control of the outcome. Think about it: how could two little pieces of dotted wood possibly have any input into future events? Satan’s premise is flimsy at best.

Let us be reassured that God is in control with preparedness, truth, and wisdom. “In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Our words and our lives encourage and lead by example. 

God is truth!  No Satan-sponsored luck will ever suffice.

3 Common Arguments Against Trusting the Bible

Today I’m sharing from The NIV Bible blog.

3 Common Arguments Against Trusting the Bible

For various reasons, many people argue that the Bible is untrustworthy. As a Christian, when we find ourselves in conversation with these kinds of people, it can feel like we’re in over our head. They’ve had time to establish their position and reinforce their arguments, and we can feel like we’ve been caught off guard—and possibly make us doubt Scripture ourselves.

Here are three common arguments against trusting the Bible and reasons why they’re mistaken.

1. We Can’t Trust the Gospels

While the argument often boils down to the fact that we can’t believe any books of the Bible, people often focus on the Gospels. Why? Because if someone can discount the validity of the Gospels, the whole Christian story falls apart. Generally, these people argue that the Gospels do not include eyewitness accounts. They’re not written as first-person narratives, and nothing suggests that they were composed by people who were personally present to witness the gospel events.

Why this isn’t true:

The whole New Testament started coming together while there were still plenty of people who could deny or corroborate the gospel story. It’s those people that Luke interviewed when he was assembling his Gospel:

“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” —Luke 1:1–4

When Luke goes on to write the book of Acts to document the birth of the church, he often slips into the first person point of view in his narrative. It’s obvious that Luke believes the eyewitness accounts he shares in his Gospel enough to make personal sacrifices for the growth of the church.

In Peter’s second epistle, he not only affirms that he was an eyewitness of the gospel story, but he also highlights Jesus’ transfiguration as an example (Matthew 17:5Mark 9:7Luke 9:35):
“For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ ” —2 Peter 1:16–17

The author of John’s Gospel also claims to be an eyewitness:
“This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”John 21:24–25

Furthermore, we read in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that the disciples weren’t the only eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. Hundreds of people saw the risen Christ:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. — 1 Corinthians 15:3-6

Read the rest here.

Is God Ever Unjust?

Today I’m sharing from John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog.

Is God Ever Unjust?

by John MacArthur

Have you ever considered the stark contrast between Judas Iscariot and the thief on the cross? One was a close disciple of Jesus Christ and gave three years of his life to the best, most intensive religious instruction available anywhere. But he lost his soul forever. The other was a hardened, lifelong criminal who was still mocking everything holy while being put to death for his crimes. But he went straight to paradise forever.

The difference in the two men could hardly be more pronounced—nor could the endings to their respective life stories be more surprising. Judas was a disciple in Christ’s closest circle of twelve. He preached, evangelized, ministered, and was even given power “over all the demons and to heal diseases” (Luke 9:1). He seemed like a model disciple. When Jesus predicted that one of the twelve would betray Him, no one pointed the finger of suspicion at Judas. He was so thoroughly trusted by the other disciples that they had made him their treasurer (John 13:29). They evidently saw nothing in his character or attitude that seemed questionable, much less diabolical. But he betrayed Christ, ended his own miserable life by suicide, and entered into eternal damnation laden with horrific guilt. Christ’s words about him in Mark 14:21 are chilling: “Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

The thief on the cross, on the other hand, was a career criminal—a serious enough villain that he had been sentenced to die by the slowest, most painful form of capital punishment known to man. He’s called a robber in Matthew 27:38—the Greek word there speaks of a brigand or a highwayman. He was crucified with a partner—both had been slated to be executed along with Barabbas, an insurrectionist and killer (Luke 23:18–19). All of that indicates that the thief on the cross was part of a gang of cutthroat ruffians who stole by violence and lived by no law but their own passions. He was clearly vicious, mean-spirited, and aggressive because in the early hours of the crucifixion, both he and his cohort in crime were taunting and reviling Jesus along with the mocking crowd (Matthew 27:44).

But as that thief watched Jesus die silently—“oppressed . . . afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7)—the hardened criminal had a remarkable last-minute change of heart. Literally in the dying moments of his wretched earthly life, he confessed his sin (Luke 23:41), uttered a simple prayer: “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42)—and was ushered that very day into paradise (Luke 23:43), clothed in perfect righteousness, all his guilt borne and paid for in full by Christ.

Apparent Injustice

Those who think heaven is a reward for doing good might protest that this was throwing justice out the window. The thief had done nothing whatsoever to merit heaven. If it’s possible to forgive such a man so completely in the dying moments of a wretched life filled with gross sin, wouldn’t it also be proper for Judas’s one act of treachery to be canceled (or mitigated) on the basis of whatever good works he had done while following Christ for three years? People do occasionally raise questions like that. The Internet is dotted with comments and articles suggesting Judas was dealt with unfairly or judged too harshly.

Judas himself seemed to be the type of person who kept score on such matters. He protested, for example, when Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with a costly fragrance. He knew the precise value of the ointment (equal to a year’s wages), and he complained, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” (John 12:5). He no doubt would have thought that the grace Jesus showed the thief was inappropriately extravagant as well.

People who have devoted their lives to religion do sometimes seem to resent it when God reaches out and graciously redeems someone whom they deem unworthy of divine favor.

Justice vs. Grace?

What we have to bear in mind is that all people are totally unworthy. No one deserves God’s favor. We are all guilty sinners who deserve nothing less than damnation. No one who has sinned has any rightful claim on the kindness of God.

Read the rest here.