Living as Dual Citizens

Sharing today from Tabletalk Magazine.

Living as Dual Citizens

By Justin Taylor

It was not easy to trap Jesus in ethical or theological dilemmas. But that did not stop the Jewish leaders from trying. Jesus made it clear that His kingdom is not “of this world” (John 18:36). His kingdom, which properly belongs to the age to come, was breaking into this world and this present age. So how, the Jews wondered, did His kingdom relate to the institutions of our time, such as the family and the state?

In Luke 20, the Sadducees pushed the family question on Him, constructing a thought experiment about the nature of marriage in the resurrection for a widower who remarries. Jesus responded, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage” (vv. 34–35). Family is an enduring creation ordinance, but the kingdom of the age to come operates in a different way.

When the Jewish scribes and elders asked Jesus whether it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar, Jesus asked them to show Him a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription was on it? When they responded, “Caesar’s,” Jesus drew His conclusion: “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (vv. 22–25). In a subversive way, Jesus radically limited the authority of Caesar and showed the unlimited authority of God. The likeness on the denarius meant they owed tribute to Caesar, but the image of God, stamped onto our human nature, means we owe our very lives to the maker of heaven and earth. Government is an enduring creation ordinance, but the kingdom of the age to come operates in a different way.

Read the rest here.

Songs from God

Today I’m sharing from Truth for Life. Every night when I start to fall asleep, the song “I Love You Lord” starts running through my mind. The Lord reminded me of this song a few years ago when I really needed it. And since then every time I awaken during the night, that same song is still with me. I love that because it means my heart and mind are praising Him all night long. 

Songs from God

God, my Maker, who gives songs in the night. 
Job 35:10

Any man can sing during the day. When the cup is full, man draws inspiration from it. When money is in plentiful supply, any man can praise the God who provides an abundant harvest or sends home a loaded ship. It is easy enough for a tuneful harp to whisper music when the winds blow; the difficulty is for music to carry when no wind is stirring. It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but it takes a skillful singer whose song springs forth when there is not a ray of light to read by. No man can make a song in the night by himself; he may attempt it, but he will find that a song in the night must be divinely inspired.

Let everything go well, then I can weave songs, fashioning them from the flowers that grow upon my path; but put me in a desert, where no green thing grows, and with what shall I frame a hymn of praise to God? 

Read the rest here.

Patience

Patience

By Pat Knight

The Bible book of Job opens with a snapshot of its namesake: In the land of Uz, there lived a man named Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). Job was also “the greatest man among all the people of the East” (Job 1:3), a respected elder in his community, admired for his civic leadership and justice.

God granted Satan permission to test His servant Job, to prove Job’s righteousness and faithfulness. Within a day Job lost his enormous wealth in livestock, his house, and his servants. Worst of all, his ten children were killed in an accident. Soon Job contracted a disease, with “sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head” (Job 2:7).

Job’s entire body was wracked with gnawing pain day and night (Job 30:17). The infection caused festering sores (v. 7:5), scabs that peeled and turned black (vv. 30:28, 30), disfigurement with a repulsive appearance (vv. 2:12; 19:19), nightmares (v. 7:14), bad breath with loss of teeth (vv. 19:17, 20), physical emaciation (vv. 17:7; 19:20), and fever (v. 30:30), which may have caused delirium and hallucinations   (v. 7:14).

Job’s wife helplessly observed her husband deteriorating before her eyes, scraping his sores with broken pottery glass. Job struggled with thoughts of shame, insignificance, and injustice. He cried out to God, but heard only silence. Suspecting Job would soon die, and aware of the law stipulating death for blaspheming the Name of the Lord (Leviticus 24:15), Mrs. Job suggested a way to hasten her husband’s death: “‘Curse God and die’” (Job 2:9b). Job refused, saying, “‘Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’ In all of this, Job did not sin in what he said” (Job 2:10).Though stretched to the limits of human endurance, Job refused to give up. He clung to God with all his might.

Three friends traveled to comfort Job. Ideally, they should have provided Job with encouragement, an oasis in the desert of his suffering. But they offered only a mirage, another disappointment for Job to reconcile. He received callous arguments from his friends, who branded him a hypocrite. Job desired friendship, dependable counsel, and spiritual guidance, costing his friends nothing, but which would have proved most valuable to a wretched man. Job responded, “‘One should be kind to a fainting friend but you accuse me without any fear of the Almighty’” (Job 6:14, NLT).

“The patience of Job” is a phrase commonly but inaccurately used. The book of Job omits such a characterization. Job claimed the right to bellow and complain that he was wounded and forgotten by God. He rued the day he was born (v. 3:11). He accused God of excessive criticism (v. 7:20). Job was adamant that he had done nothing wrong to invoke God’s discipline or punishment. The more he argued, the more arrogance he acquired. He came perilously close to implicating God of wrongdoing. Job complained of God’s apparent injustice and insensitivity, accusing God of abusing His power, attacking him, and disregarding his pleas for mercy. “‘You have become cruel toward me. You use your power to persecute me’” (Job 30:21, NLT).

The believer’s spiritual gift of patience (Galatians 5:22) includes more than just waiting. It implies the calm bearing of trials without complaining. Inherent in patience is submissive relaxation in the comforting, assuring arms of Jesus. Serenity and praise are implicit factors, trusting the plans of God without necessarily knowing His purposes. At its core, patience requires humility and submission to the will of God. “If we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:25).

“When we let circumstances come between us and God, God is shut out, and as a result of that we lose the sense of His presence. We get to the place where there is worry and distress instead of peace in our souls, and we do not feel His fatherly hand upon us. We become fretful and impatient and irritable and fault-finding. We get far away from God and out of communication with Him. We do not see the hand of God in all circumstances. All the while He wants to bring us back to Himself in brokenness of heart and humbleness of mind” (J. Vernon McGee).

If we intend to exhibit the fine art of patience during adversity, Job is not the model to emulate. Jesus Christ is our divine example. During His thirty-three years on earth, Christ encountered the gamut of human experiences. Both in His purpose and in His performance, Jesus patiently carried out the plan established for Him in the heavenly realms. He showed patience toward the Pharisees and Jewish religious leaders whose design it was to taunt and entrap Him. Jesus never sinned. He never lost His temper unjustly. He never dishonored His Father in heaven or people on earth. Jesus was humble and patient with men and submissive to His heavenly Father. “And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved” (2 Peter 3:15, NLT).

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Tempter offered Jesus the crown without the cross. Jesus patiently and obediently committed Himself to God, praying, “‘Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ And in anguish, He prayed more earnestly and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:42-44).

Jesus is the perfect, patient Son of God, the only Person qualified to suffer in our place. The ideal model of patience in weakness is the cross of Christ! Now He strengthens us by the power of His resurrection.

Though there is no mention of Job’s patience in the Old Testament, later Job is remembered. “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord faithfully brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:11). Job was not patient, but he exhibited steadfast trust. Job persevered because he had already established a devout personal relationship with God prior to his losses. Satan was sure Job would capitulate in defeat under the heavy weight of loss and suffering, but he didn’t count on his victim’s enduring faith. Job’s belief of a future reward in heaven sustained him during the long months of tribulations. “‘Then I would still have this consolation—my joy in unrelenting pain—that I had not denied the words of the Holy One’” (Job 6:10).

Our responsibility is to “Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying” (Romans 12:12b). It pleases Jesus’ to know that His followers inherit His divine attributes. Like Job, we must learn patience, the ability to respond with quiet, uncompromising endurance under stress.

Let us implement the gift of patience that characterizes Christ,
leaning hard on the Rock, resting in His divine help and power.
Then God will be glorified by your patient, adoring acts of faith.

When You Want to Trust but Life Won’t Let You

Today I’m sharing a great article from the Bible Gateway blog. I think this is something we can all relate to.

When You Want to Trust
but Life Won’t Let You

By Craig Groeschel

“I want to believe God cares about me; I really do,” she told me, wiping tears from under her darkened, bloodshot eyes. Under the harsh fluorescent lights of the hospital corridor, Marci barely resembled the vibrant girl I remembered, that kid I’d watched grow up in our youth group at church. When she was a teenager, Marci was outgoing, fun-loving, and full of life, even as she was growing more and more serious about her faith, coming early to youth group and staying late. No one loved to worship and talk about God more than Marci.

Then, in her early 20s, Marci met Mark, a great Christian guy with a charismatic personality. They fell in love practically overnight, marrying almost a year to the day after they met. Mark’s dynamic personality served him well, helping him land a great sales job. Before long, he was making more money than most other professionals his age. They bought their dream home, and as Mark and Marci served God together at our church, they just knew life couldn’t get any better.

But then it did.

After just two months of trying, they learned they were pregnant with their first child. When beautiful little Chloe was born, my wife, Amy, and I joined Mark and Marci at the hospital to thank God for his blessings. Celebrating with them was amazing, all of us thanking God for this wonderful family that he was growing in his presence.

Back then, none of us could see even a hint of cracks around the foundation of their lives. But as the years ticked by, Mark’s job had him working longer and longer hours and required ever more frequent travel. Even so, when he came home one day and informed Marci that he was leaving her—for one of her closest friends—she never saw it coming. Devastated, Marci found herself battling on two fronts, coping on the one hand with Mark’s betrayal and struggling on the other as a single mom trying to build a new life for herself and Chloe. She took small comfort in thinking that at least things couldn’t get any worse.

Until they did.

Read the rest here.

If Today Was Your Last Day

Sharing today from Unlocking the Bible.

If Today Was Your Last Day

By Benjamin Vrbicek

We’ve all heard some version of the question, “If today was your last day on earth, what would you do?” The question is designed to get us thinking about what truly matters and what doesn’t.

There is a helpfulness to this question, I suppose. I certainly don’t want to spend my last day before seeing Jesus perfecting my yo-yo technique or binge-watching Dora the Explorer.

But to be frank, I find the “last day” question paralyzing. It’s overwhelming to consider all the things that could possibly be done. How does one decide what’s the most effective, impactful, God-honoring thing to do when your toes are on the precipice of eternity? How could I know if it’s better to sneak into North Korea—should it even be possible—and preach the gospel, or to track down all my unsaved friends and family so I can preach the gospel to them? Maybe I should also drain my life savings so I can give it away—but who should I give it to?

I have no idea how to answer these questions. Besides, thinking about the most effective thing to do on your last day seems to me like the silly meme that gets shared online: “Jesus is coming; look busy.”

Does being prepared for the second coming of Christ merely involve some extraordinary acts of obedience moments before he returns?

According to Jesus, it doesn’t.

What Does It Mean to Be Ready for Jesus’ Return?

In the Gospels, Jesus frequently charges his followers to stay ready for his return. One such place is Luke 12:35-48. Through a couple short parables about different kinds of servants, Jesus illustrates for his disciples what it means to be ready.

Stay Dressed for Action

In this passage—contra the logic of the “last day” question—being prepared for Jesus’ return means doing the kinds of things appropriate for your context, however ordinary and mundane they might seem. If you’re a teacher, be found grading midterms to the glory of God. If you’re a Christian who works in a factory, be found working until the whistle blows.

Jesus commands, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning” (v. 35). The literal rendering of the phrase “stay dressed for action” is, “let your loins stay girded.” Back in the day, to have your loins girded meant that a man was ready to work because he had pulled his long, flowing robe around to the front and tied it tight so that it wouldn’t interfere with action.

Read the rest here.

Counting on Mercy in Suffering

Sharing today from from UnlockingTheBible.org.

Counting on Mercy in Suffering

By Lianna Davis

From the pits of grief and suffering, the human heart and soul can yearn to know the cause of earthly pain. Did a particular sin bring this suffering upon me, or did I need discipline?

Tender answers might pour into the soul from Scripture—Job was a noble man who suffered and grieved (Job 1:8). And the man born blind in John’s gospel was not provided by Jesus with a personal sin corresponding to his pain (John 9:2-3). We cannot always draw straight lines between cause and effect for our individual suffering (Isaiah 55:9). In How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil, D. A. Carson writes,

It is the uncertainty of reading what is going on that sometimes breeds pain. Is the particular blow I am facing God’s way of telling me to change something? Or is it a form of discipline designed to toughen me or soften me to make me more useful? Or is it part of the heritage of all sons and daughters of Adam who live this side of the parousia, unrelated to discipline but part of God’s mysterious providence in a fallen world? But must we always decide? If a little self-examination shows us how to improve, we ought to improve. But there are times when all that the Christian can responsibly do is to trust his heavenly Father in the midst of the darkness and pain. (Carson 66)

“Must we always decide?” We can heed Carson to welcome needed growth in obedience that “a little self-examination” uncovers. Yet, he also warns that our inability to understand the full purposes of God behind our suffering can cause us sorrow on top of sorrow.

Draw Near to the Merciful Savior

While we sit in the mysteries of God’s providence, there is a promise we can be certain of. It’s a theme Carson repeats throughout his book: “From the biblical perspective, it is because of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed” (Carson 44).

As I grow to have a higher and higher view of God being God—creating and owning me, being pure and dwelling in unapproachable light, and deserving of my unwavering devotion and holy fear, I am increasingly unable to view any of my sins as insignificant or any of my fleshly contributions as meaningful. This principle Carson writes of has been crucial for me, especially in the seat of suffering.

Read the rest here.

For Now We Rejoice in Part

Sharing today from Desiring God.

For Now We Rejoice in Part

By Scott Swain

God has promised his people supreme, unending, unshakeable happiness. Contrary to the claims of popular prosperity preachers, however, the supreme happiness God promises his people will not be realized in this life. Ours is a life characterized by sorrow in many ways. For now, we rejoice only in part.

There are two reasons for this. First, though the Father’s will to make us happy does not change, and though the Son’s work of securing our happiness is complete, the Spirit’s work of showing and bestowing happiness to us and upon us has only begun. By God’s triune mercy, we have been reconciled to the order of beatitude, what Augustine calls “the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God, and of one another in God.”1 However, as Augustine goes on to tell us, ours is a happiness “we enjoy now with God by faith, and shall hereafter enjoy eternally with him by sight.”2

Second, having been reconciled to God’s order of beatitude, we have been brought into a state of conflict with the order of sin and misery, which wars against the happy God and the people who find their happiness in him. As William Perkins observes, “True happiness with God is ever joined, yea covered many times, with the cross in this world.”3 Our happiness has not yet fully arrived. Our happiness is not yet without opposition. For these two reasons, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10) characterizes the happiness of the people whose God is the Lord as they make their pilgrimage to the happy land of the Trinity.4

Happy Now and Not Yet

In his Sermon on the Mount, our Lord Jesus Christ instructs pilgrims on the path to God’s eternal kingdom regarding the way of happiness.5 In contrast to “the error of all philosophers,” who locate happiness in “pleasure,” “wealth,” and “civil virtue,” God’s Wisdom incarnate sets out the “the nature and estate of true felicity.”6

Read the rest here.