God Ask Some Questions

In Job 30 – 41 God asked some pertinent questions. Most people consider the questions to be directed to Job, and they may have been, but it is more likely they were not. Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu each spoke without accurate knowledge just prior to when God begins His question asking, “Who are you…, and it appears the questions are asked of them.

In posing questions no human could answer His questions made sense of what seemed to make no sense. Prior to these questions by God, questions had been asked of God. Now God questions them, and indirectly us.

Regardless of who was being questioned, it was Job who was comforted by the questions. They showed God was real, attentive, and they revealed Him to be a God who loved Job, and us. That was enough for Job even if God offered no direct insight into the probing of Him.

Consider these questions in Job 38: 4 – 7 as though directed to you. “”Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.

“Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Kind of makes us humans look small, doesn’t it?

These things obviously happened and there were no human beings present to deny God did not do them.

There are mysteries into which our cloudy eyes cannot, and will never be able to see. There will always be conundrums which no one can definitively answer.  This only proves, “Great is the mystery of godliness.”

God made the earth with a specific length and breadth, and no more, and no one knows why. It’s a God thing.

Angels are here called morning stars and sons of God. They in reality did witness the creation of the earth, and they rejoiced at the glory, power, and wisdom of God in the creation.

All the sons of God shouted for joy. That implies Lucifer fell from his exalted position as the anointed cherub before God created the earth in that he surely would not have rejoiced over such a defining act by the Creator.

Further questions define the nature of earth to which enquiring minds to this day have no answer. 

It is as though God is showing off His superior knowledge to that of humans by stacking one unknown question upon another. In doing so He is shouting, “Trust me.” Search for answers, knowing there are some questions to which man will never have an answer, but God will always be knowledgeable and loving. It is His nature. He is all knowing, all wise, all powerful, and as a bonus, all loving.

“All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen,”

Ralph Waldo Emerson. It might be added, all that I know of God teaches me to trust Him with all I don’t know.

How Will You Be Remembered?

I Thessalonians 1: 2, 3

Paul had only spent three weeks with the Thessalonian believers, but they made a lasting impression on him. You are also making an impression. He spoke of three memorable traits regarding them.

Their work of faith. Every person has faith. The issue is “in what?” We either have positive or negative faith. That is, we either have faith in possibilities or impossibilities, in ideas that make us victims rather than masters.

Far from lacking faith, modern persons have a surplus of it. The former dictator of Italy, Mussolini said, “The capacity of modern man to believe is unbelievable.” A person can no more run away from the faith factor than he can run away from his own legs. Persons either have faith in anarchy or democracy, astrology or rabbit’s feet, in materialism or God. Faith is the most potent drug on the market. If a person says he will have no faith then the policy of no faith is what he has faith in. It is expedient to exhort persons to have faith. Everyone has faith. The issue is in what to place it.

Authentic faith results in an absorption with Jesus Christ. Such radical faith transforms our character to be like that of Jesus. Our ambitions, aspirations, and allegiance are completely reoriented according to our faith.

A friend once wrote to the Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev: “It seems to me that to put oneself in second place is the whole significance of life.” His reply, “It seems to me to discover what to put before oneself, in the first place, is the whole problem of life.”

Will James, considered by many to be the originator of modern psychology noted, “Every sort of energy and endurance or courage and capacity for handling life’s evils, is set free in those who have religious faith.”

Carl Jung, one of the most important figures in the history of psychology, observed: “Side by side with the decline of religious life, neuroses form noticeably more frequently.”

Their labor of love was remembered.  A sure sign that Christ has come into a heart is that the mind is no longer imprisoned with negative notions, pessimistic precepts, and censorious criticism. Love incites labor. There is a difference between “work” and “labor.” Work may be pleasant and stimulating. The word labor translates “kopos,”stresses fatigue, exertion, and great cost. Where there is no love, there is no labor.

Their patience of hope was remembered.  Christianity produces an indomitable hope. A Christian’s hope is intimately related to Christ’s resurrection. His resurrection shows us God can take the very worst and give His very best.

The famous American cardiologist, Dr. R. McNair Wilson, wrote in “Doctor’s Progress,” “Hope is the medicine I use more than any other…Hope can cure nearly anything.”  Hope is desire plus expectation. Such hope instigates patience. It is aggressive persistence. It isn’t quiet resignation, but rather heroic endurance. Hope lasts. It is made of enduring fiber.

They were remembered because of their work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope. By what do you aspire to be remembered?  Daily you are formulating your lasting impression. Elevate your aspiration.

“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13  

“Faith rests on the past; love works in the present, hope looks to the future. 
Faith looks back to the crucified Christ.
Love looks up to the crowned Christ.
Hope looks on to the coming Christ.”

Caleb: What It Means to Whole-Heartedly Follow the Lord 6/7/98

Joshua 14:1-15

JESUS CHRIST said, “If any man desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt 16:24).

Following the Lord isn’t always easy, but it is always right. The Bible is filled with stories of
courageous people who were willing to do God’s will against all odds. Are you?

One such man emerged on the pages of Hebrew history at a crisis time. He stood as a minority in a moment when the mentality was “Thus saith the majority.” Would anyone dare to speak out and declare, “Thus saith the Lord?”

It was a hot day in the wilderness of Paran as the people awaited an important report. We know it was a hot day because all days in Paran are hot. Moses had sent twelve spies into the prospective Promised Land. The fact they returned was good, but the news they brought was bad. Hear their report:
“We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there … (Resume reading verses 31 – 33)” [Numbers 13: 27,28 & 31 – 33].

The land’s bounty is described by the terms “milk and honey.” “Milk” means there were many domesticated farm animals in the land. “Honey” translates the word “dibbs.” It actually is a dehydrated paste made from grape juice. The term meant there were many vineyards in the land.

Notice the response of the people Numbers 14: 1.

Caleb and his friend Joshua were the two among the twelve spies that dared to venture according to the promise of God. He was not deterred and responded — Numbers 14: 6 – 9.

Surely such courage will be applauded. Not so, notes Numbers 14: 10a, “…stone them with stones.”

Surely Caleb did not read the mood of the crowd. He knew such a bold declaration would be met with disdain. No, he didn’t misread the crowd. Neither did he misunderstand the will of the Father. The reason for him confronting the crowd in order to comply with the Lord is found in one description given him on six different occasions: Numbers 14:24; 32:11,12; Deut. 1:36; Josh. 14:8,9 & 14. In each of these verses it is said Caleb “wholly” followed the Lord. He was committed to the Lord with his whole heart.

There are many believers who are truly Christ’s who are not wholly His. Christ is undeniably their Savior, but not undisputedly their Sovereign. He is present in their lives but not President of their lives.

He was like the missionary of a more modern era who died a youthful death serving among the American Indians. The following entry was found in David Brainard’s diary the day of his untimely death: “No reserve, no retreat, no regret.”

God said, “Possess the land.” Caleb said, “Forward hooooo.”
His response was based on:
-Confidence in God’s character and capacity.
-Commitment from a servant’s heart.

These two principles are summed up in God’s description of Caleb, “My servant Caleb…has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully” (Numbers 14: 24).

His exhortation did not prevail. The people protested and complained. God therefore declared that none of these people, including Moses, would enter the Promised Land. Only Joshua and Caleb among all the people would be allowed to enter the land (Numbers 14: 24). Caleb was 40 years old at the time he received this promise of the Lord.

Israel as a nation was pardoned and remained the people of God, but that “wilderness generation,” by their sin of rebellion forfeited their primary blessing. That generation was destined for “second-best.” By their sins they had placed limitations on themselves. They still saw many blessings of God in the wilderness but never entered the land of promise.

Forty-five years lapsed before the promise to Caleb was fulfilled. God always keeps His word and his time is always right.

Caleb’s spirit and servant temperament was revealed in the land of promise. Othniel had aided Caleb in defeating the giants in the land. Caleb gave him his daughter, Achsah, in marriage. As an inheritance they received the dry lands of the Negeb. Achsah asked her father for a source of water (Joshua 15: 13 – 19). This was the most valuable commodity in the land. In a loving manner like that which God had shown him, Caleb gave them the upper and lower springs to make their barren land productive. He is a role model for those of us who know we should always give our best.

Scripture passages related to Caleb reveal – – –

There were three witnesses of the fact Caleb followed the Lord. Our faithfulness has three similar witnesses.

A. Caleb himself. “I wholly followed the Lord my God” (Joshua 14: 8). This was no idle boast, it was a sincere testimony. He knew he had been faithful and he knew God knew he had been faithful. Can you give such a testimony?
B. Others testified of his faithfulness. Moses said, ‘Surely the land where you foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord” (Joshua 14:9).
C. The Lord was the third witness. God Himself said, “My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it” (Numbers 14: 24).

Caleb lived with a standard of appraisal worthy of all of us. It is summed up in his expression: “If the Lord delight in us” (Numbers 14:8). He wanted to please God at all times.

There are three testimonies indicating what motivates a whole-hearted follower to be obedient.

A. Glorification. Only a life wholly committed to Christ glorifies Him. Peter was God’s New Testament agent of exhortation when he wrote: “He who called you is holy, you also be holy in your conduct, because as it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy'” (I Peter 1: 15, 16).
B. Edification. A whole-hearted Christian is a positive witness for our Lord. A half- hearted follower is a negative witness. Such lifestyles have retarded the gospel.
C. Sanctification. Sanctification means set aside and designated for a specific use. True sanctification is evidenced by wholly following the Lord.

Caleb manifested characteristics becoming of a child of God.

No Anakim distresses the person who has a sense of God’s presence and the associated discernment.

Three traits characterize a person who wholly follows the Lord.
A. Concentration. To follow Him whole-heartedly means to concentrate all you have to Him. This calls for total allegiance.
B. Completeness. This calls for regularity and an uncompromising will to serve Him.
C. Constancy. Many persons run hot and cold. This confuses the non-believer and bewilders the faithful believer. It means to have a non-compromising mind set and heartfelt commitment.

Caleb was able to “wholly” follow the Lord because he had “another Spirit in him” (Numbers 14: 24). In John 14: 16,17 Jesus said He was sending us “another Comforter,” the Holy Spirit. He indwells and infills us as He did Caleb.

Hebron was promised to Caleb because of his faithfulness. It was 45 years before it was actually his. There are “Hebrons” promised those who follow the Lord. These spiritual blessings are actually ours under covenant promises of God. However, they truly become ours only when we demonstrate consistently in serving Him whole- heartedly. Let us like Caleb work diligently while waiting patiently for our Hebron. Such a wait is as much of a blessing as the possession when it too is a gift of God.

We like to assert our right to “whatsoever you shall ask,” while failing to realize it is entirely conditioned on God’s “whatsoever I command you.”

Are you willing to do “whatsoever” He commands you wholeheartedly?

In Search of the Historical Christ: Part Three

Skeptics question the very existence of the historical Jesus. Secular proof beyond the New Testament is demanded. 

Regarding the credibility of the New Testament as history, scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed. Historian Michael Grant asserts that if conventional standards of historical textual criticism are applied to the New Testament, “we can no more reject Jesus’ existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned.”

There is overwhelming evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ, both in secular and biblical history. Perhaps the greatest evidence that Jesus did exist is the fact that literally thousands of Christians in the first century AD, including the twelve apostles, were willing to give their lives as martyrs for Jesus Christ. People will die for what they believe to be true, but no one will die for what they know to be a lie.

The early church couldn’t have thrived in Jerusalem—as it did—if the gospels had been exaggerated: everyone would have known the disciples were lying. 

It is also important to recognize that in A.D. 70, the Romans invaded and destroyed Jerusalem and most of Israel, slaughtering its inhabitants. Entire cities were literally burned to the ground. We should not be surprised, then, if much evidence of Jesus’ existence was destroyed. Many of the eyewitnesses of Jesus would have been killed. These facts likely limited the amount of surviving eyewitness testimony of Jesus.

Pliny the Younger, in Letters 10:96, recorded early Christian worship practices including the fact that Christians worshiped Jesus as God.

Lucian of Samosata was a second-century Greek writer who admits that Jesus was worshiped by Christians, introduced new teachings, and was crucified for them.

The first-century Roman Tacitus, who is considered one of the more accurate historians of the ancient world, wrote that there was a man named Chrestus (or Christ) who lived during the first century (Annals 15.44).

Mara Bar-Serapion confirms that Jesus was thought to be a wise and virtuous man, was considered by many to be the king of Israel, was put to death by the Jews, and lived on in the teachings of His followers.

Julius Africanus quotes the historian Thallus in a discussion of the darkness that followed the crucifixion of Christ (Extant Writings, 18).

The Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 43a) confirms Jesus’ crucifixion on the eve of Passover and the accusations against Christ.

In fact, we can almost reconstruct the gospel just from early non-Christian sources. Lee Stroble set aside to disprove the historical Jesus and ended saying, the gospels bear all the markings of trustworthy eyewitness accounts. This is proof that Jesus was a real person. Is He real to you as Savior?

In Search of the Historical Christ: Part Two

I Timothy 3: 16

It is essential to have a personal Christology, that is, a confident belief in who Jesus Christ was. I Timothy 3: 16 offers these six insights.

HIS VIRGIN BIRTH. He was “manifested in the flesh.”

Anybody with an elemental knowledge of conception and childbirth knows it is impossible for a virgin to have a baby. It is contrary to the laws of nature. True, but it isn’t contrary to the laws of God. To accept the virgin birth is to take a step affirming the entrance of the supernatural into the realm of the natural. 

Every person is born with an old sin nature. Jesus being born of a virgin had no old sin nature. Thus, when He died on the cross He died for our old sin nature. We are not accountable for our personal sins until we are old enough to be responsible for them. Upon reaching the age of accountability we must receive Christ as Savior to have our personal sins forgiven. Question, “How about the eternal condition of the infant which dies before reaching this age of accountability, but who has an old sin nature?” Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, had no old sin nature so when He died on the cross He died for the old sin nature of every one. Therefore, an infant that dies goes directly to heaven.

HIS VIRTUOUS LIFE.   He was “preached…believed on in the world.”

His life reveals the mind, heart, will of God the Father in a form that can be comprehended. In Jesus Christ is seen life as God intends you to live it. He knows your world.  “He has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2: 18)

At His trial Pilate concluded, “I find no fault in Him at all.” (John 8:38)

On the cross the Roman executioner said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God.” (Mark 15: 39) He did what no other has ever done, He lived a sinless life.

HIS VICARIOUS DEATH.  He was “seen of angels.”

To have prevented His death He could have called 72,000 angels. They witnessed and waited to rescue Him. 

“But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8) “…Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust….”  (I Peter 3:18)

HIS VINDICATING RESURRECTION. He was “justified in the Spirit.”

Jesus Christ was “…declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1: 4)

The purpose of His death and resurrection are tied together in Romans 4:25. Therein Jesus Christ is described as the One “who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.”

HIS VALEDICTORY ASCENSION. He was “received up into glory.”

“He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.”  (Mark 16:19)

HIS VICTORIOUS RETURN. In the presence of 500 persons Christ ascended into heaven. An angel then spoke: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1: 11)