How can Jesus’ resurrection make a difference in our daily lives? Part 1

“Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” John 20:1

The apostle John wrote the gospel of John to non-Christians so they “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:31). In chapters 1-12, John records seven miraculous signs of Jesus to persuade non-Christians to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God so they may have eternal life in His name. Then in John 20 he records the eighth and greatest miraculous sign – the resurrection of Jesus! The entire book of John has been leading up to this exciting event! What makes it even more exciting is that John was there to watch it all happen as an eyewitness.

Some people think Jesus was in His resurrected body for a short time on earth and was seen by only a few people. But the truth is He was in His resurrected body on earth for over a month and He was seen by over 500 people (Acts 1:1-3; I Corinthians 15:3-8). This is an incredible event and for the next few days we are going to see how Jesus’ resurrection can make a difference in our daily lives.

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to a lot of different people at different times. Today we are going to see that He first appeared to Mary Magdalene. The resurrected Jesus is alive. He makes Himself known in peoples’ lives. The exciting thing about each of these appearances is the difference it made in people’s lives when they saw Him alive after His death and burial.

As we take a look at how the empty tomb challenged the life of Mary Magdalene, we are going to see how He can make a difference in our daily lives. The first way the risen Lord Jesus can make a difference is to DISPEL THE DARKNESS IN OUR LIVES WITH THE LIGHT OF HIS RESURRECTION (John 20:1). The apostle John writes, “Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb” (John 20:1). Let’s look at some important details in this one verse.

The first detail is that it was “on the first day of the week.” What is the first day of the week? Sunday. Interestingly, “for the Jews, Sunday (the day after the first Sabbath following Passover cf. Leviticus 23:11) would be the Feast of First Fruits. On this day the Jews would present the first sheaf of the barley harvest to the Lord in the Temple. This offering was both an expression of gratitude and an expression of faith that a full harvest was about to follow. It is significant that Jesus rose from the grave on the Feast of First Fruits. And so Paul presents Christ as the ‘first fruits’ of the resurrection (I Corinthians 15:20-23).“ 1

In the Old Testament, believers worshiped God on the Sabbath which was Saturday. But in the New Testament believers got together on Sunday because that was the day of Jesus’ resurrection (cf. Acts 20:7). This is why believers around the world worship the Lord together on Sunday. It is resurrection day! Some believers insist that you must worship the Lord on Saturday to be a true believer. But the Bible tells us in Romans 14:5-6a that it doesn’t matter what day or night of the week you worship because we are no longer under the regulations of the Old Testament Law anymore (cf. Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:24; 4:5). So you could worship the Lord together on a Wednesday night if you wanted to. What matters is that your observance shows your commitment “to the Lord” (Romans 14:6).

The second detail is the word “early.” The Greek word [prōi, πρωί] refers to “the watch that is between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.” 2  It is very early in the morning while it is still dark. The reason Mary and other women [note plural “we” in verse 2, cf. Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1,10) got up early to go to the tomb was because it was a tradition of the Jews to go to the tomb for at least three days after the person was buried to take care of the body and make sure all the spices were in the right places. They couldn’t go on the Sabbath day, so they had to wait until Sunday. I also believe Mary was eager to go to the tomb so early because of her love and devotion for Jesus, living and dead, which was based on her gratitude for His delivering her from bondage to Satan (cf. Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). She had been an observer at the cross and now was the first person at the grave. 3

So as early as she could get up on Sunday while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went down to the tomb. She, being a agile young woman, ran ahead of the other women and came to the tomb first, and discovered that the tomb had already been opened. 4

The third detail to observe is that “it was still dark.” This reference to it being “dark” may refer to both the physical darkness of the morning and the emotional and spiritual darkness that Mary was probably experiencing.Mary no doubt was stricken with grief by Jesus’ sufferings and death. After all, this was the Messiah-God who had healed her from demon possession (cf. Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). He wasn’t supposed to die like this! Mary had no idea what had already happened that Sunday morning. So this was a very dark morning for her emotionally and spiritually.

What about you? Is this a dark day for you? Is your life filled with doubt and uncertainty in light of the coronavirus? Are you struggling with negative attitudes this week? You may not admit it to anyone else, but you may be thinking, “I wouldn’t be around me this week if I were honest about it.” Some of you may be struggling with your faith. You think, “I hear other people talk about faith and how great faith can be and how it makes a difference in their lives but if I was really being honest, I’d have a lot of question marks about it. I’m not a very trusting person.”  

The fourth detail to notice is that John says, “the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” The word for “taken away” [ērmenon, ἠρμένον] means “to lift up and carry away.” It conveys the idea of being “tossed aside.” It was not slowly rolled away. It was thrown aside by the angel of God when he arrived (cf. Matthew 28:2). The power of God tossed this stone aside! This is probably why Matthew tells us the Roman guards shook with fear and became like dead men (cf. Matthew 28:4). I would have done the same!

When the stone was thrown aside, it was not so Jesus could come out of the tomb. Jesus in His resurrected body went through the grave clothes that surrounded Him. Jesus in His resurrected body had the power to go through doors and into rooms without the doors being opened. So I’m suggesting that Jesus had already come out of the tomb before the stone was thrown aside. The stone was removed so the disciples could come into the tomb and see that it was empty. This is what makes Christianity distinct from all other religions. The founders of all other religions are still dead in their graves, but Christians worship a Jesus Christ that left an empty tomb behind Him! We worship a Jesus Christ who rose from the dead and remains alive today! Hallelujah!

If you are struggling in the dark with bad attitudes, doubts, or your faith, the resurrection power of Jesus Christ can change all of that. The same power that brought Jesus back to life can also resurrect a joyful attitude in you and replace your doubts with an unwavering confidence in Jesus and His promises. His resurrection power can revitalize your faith so that all fear is gone and His joy can overflow in your life.

If part of your struggle in the dark is with sin and shame, please know that Jesus’ resurrection power guarantees unlimited forgiveness in Christ to all who believe in Him. You may think your sin is too great for God to forgive. You may believe shame-based lies that say no one could accept or love you as you are. This is not true. Listen to God’s voice of truth: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God loved you so much He sent His Son to die in your place when you were still an ungodly sinner. God loved you at your worst. He did not wait for you to clean up your life. He loved you just as you are. God loves you regardless of what you have done or what others say or think of you.

The risen Lord Jesus now invites you to come to Him just as you are to receive His forgiveness. The Bible says, “Everyone who puts his trust in Christ will have his sins forgiven through His name” (Acts 10:43). The word “everyone” includes the worst and the best of people. It includes people of all faiths. It does not matter if you are a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Protestant, Catholic, Jew, or Universalist, Jesus invites you to believe or trust in Him alone to receive His unlimited forgiveness.

The Bible says the moment we believed in Jesus alone, “He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). No one can successfully condemn you now because Christ was condemned to death for your sins, removing your guilt ( Romans 8:34b). Jesus was raised to life, satisfying God’s demand to punish your sins (Romans 8:34c). Jesus is now at the right hand of God the Father defending you against all accusations (Romans 8:34d). And Jesus intercedes for you that your faith won’t fail, you won’t give up, so that you can encourage others (Romans 8:34e; cf. Luke 22:32).

Hallelujah! Jesus is alive, and we who believe in Him are forgiven of all our sins – past, present, and future! The darkness is gone because the Son is risen! Oh let us worship our risen Savior together!!!

Prayer: My risen Lord Jesus, I worship You this day because You have conquered sin, death, and the devil through Your death and resurrection. The darkness is gone because the Son is risen! You alone are my risen Savior, Lord Jesus! There is none like You. Even when I have dark days filled with doubt, fear, and shame, You are still alive and You are with me and love me more than I could ask or imagine. Thank You for dispelling the darkness on that first Sunday after Your death and burial. And thank You for continuing to dispel the darkness in this world through Your gospel of grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


1.  J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 358.

2. Walter Bauer,A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 892.

3. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 695-696.

4. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 496 cites J. W. Shepard, The Christ of the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1946), pp. 611-612; cf. Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 358.

5. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition, pg. 28.

What do you seek in life?

38 Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, ‘What do you seek?’ They said to Him, ‘Rabbi’ (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), where are You staying?’ 39 He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour).” John 1:38-39

There is a transfer of focus now in Chapter 1 of John from John the Baptist to Jesus. In the preceding verses (John 1:24-34), John the Baptist was the first witness of who Jesus is. John pointed others to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; the Pre-existent One; the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit; and as the Son of God. John identified himself as a voice to prepare the way for Jesus.

John the Baptist humbly points “two of his disciples” to Jesus, “the Lamb of God” (John 1:35-36). So John’s two disciples “followed Jesus” or go along with Him (John 1:37). This means nothing more than they are accompanying the Lord. “Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, ‘What do you seek?’ ” (John 1:38a).

Jesus may be asking us right now, “What do you seek” in life? Attention…fulfillment…love… recognition… safety… security… soothing… relationships… money… a job… fame… healing? What is it you are seeking at this time? Are you seeking Jesus? Only Jesus can meet our deepest needs. Only Jesus can give us the acceptance… attention… fulfillment… love… safety… security… soothing… healing… and forgiveness that we crave.

Jesus was who John’s disciples were seeking. 38 They said to Him, ‘Rabbi’ (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), ‘where are You staying?’ 39 He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour)” (John 1:38b-39). Christ invited these seekers to “Come and see.” And He does the same with us.

The words “staying” and “remained” come from the Greek word menō, which John uses forty times in his gospel to describe close fellowship with Christ. It means “to stay, remain, abide” or literally “to make one’s home at.” We need to constantly make our home in Jesus’ presence. Where we make our home is where we spend our time. We must make the effort to reside in the truth of the Bible about Jesus and His love for us.   

How at home with Jesus are we? Are there certain areas of our lives where Jesus is not welcome? Or are we cultivating a closer relationship with Him by spending time with Him in prayer, the study of His Word, and hanging out with other Christians? Are we inviting Jesus into the secret areas of our hearts where no one else is allowed? Areas of darkness and wounds? Areas of fear and shame? Jesus is gracious and merciful. He wants to bring healing and hope to these forbidden compartments in our lives.  

COVID-19 has greatly simplified our lifestyles. Perhaps now is the time to carve out an hour or two to be alone with the Lord. When we spend time with Jesus, our lives will never be the same. He can cleanse us of the shameful secrets that we have hidden for decades. He can restore hope to our lives as He brings healing to the areas of our brokenness and wounds.

When we grow closer to Jesus, His heart for the lost will become ours. We will begin to see those who need to hear the gospel the same way that Jesus does – as someone worth dying for.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are my greatest need. I seek You, Lord, in the midst of these changing times. You are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. What would You say to me now? I am listening. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Are you investing in what lasts?

“John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” John 1:15

After explaining that the Word, Jesus Christ, is the Creator God and only source of eternal life Who became a human being (John 1:1-14), the apostle John records the testimony of John the Baptist (John 1:15-36). He begins with, “John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me’ ” (John 1:15).

We are told that John the Baptist “bore witness.” What does it mean to be a witness? Is witnessing something one is or something one does? Sometimes we think that to be a witness for Christ means “I just have to live a godly life and that is enough. I don’t ever have to tell anyone how to be saved. They will eventually come to Christ on their own.” But listen. The Greek word translated “bore witness” (martureō) is used in a courtroom setting. And it means “to testify, give evidence, or speak the truth.” What would happen if you took the witness stand in a court of law and never said anything? The judge would hold you in contempt of the court.

Living the holiest life does not tell people how they can obtain eternal life. No amount of watching your godly life tells me how I can know Christ personally. If you live a holy life, it tells me something has happened to you, but it doesn’t tell me how I can have the same experience or what causes you to live that way. Maybe you are a person of high morals. Perhaps your parents disciplined you as a child. Words are more than just helpful for me to know Christ: they are essential. Sooner or later, someone has to talk to me about Jesus in order for me to know Him personally.

If we live a holy life but never tell people about Jesus, then the world will give us all the credit instead of glorifying the Lord. Silent believers are like beautiful road signs with no words or directions printed on them. They are nice to look at, but they don’t tell you how to get where you need to go. We need a balance. Yes, we need to live a godly life, but we also need to use our lips to tell people how to have eternal life through believing in Jesus alone (John 3:16).

When John the Baptist testifies about Jesus, he is not speaking softly. The Bible says he “cried out.” The Greek word translated “cried out” is krazō. This word is imitative of a raven’s piercing cry. It expresses an urgent scream or shout from someone who has deep emotions about their message. John was extremely passionate regarding what he was about to say. Why? Because he understood Who Jesus is and he also understood his purpose. John the Baptist was “sent from God… to bear witness of the Light,” Jesus Christ (John 1:6-7; 8:12). He understood his identity as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’” (John 1:23; cf. Isaiah 40:3). John’s purpose was to prepare the people of Israel “that all through him might believe” in their coming Messiah-God for His gift of everlasting life (John 1:7b; 3:36; cf. Acts 19:4). John’s voice was temporary, but his message was eternal.

John the Baptist’s message centered around an eternal Person. He cried out, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me’ ” (John 1:15b). The word translated “preferred” (emprosthen) denotes having greater dignity or rank than another (cf. Genesis 48:20; John 1:30).

In Bible times, chronological priority meant superiority (those who were born first were considered superior). John is saying that Jesus is superior to him because Christ came before him. John the Baptist recognized the pre-existence of the Word, Jesus Christ, as God (John 1:1-2). Even though John the Baptist was born six months prior to Jesus (Luke 1:26, 36), John says “He was before me.” How could John the Baptist say this? He could say this because Jesus was always before John in His Pre-existent state as God.

In the Old Testament, the Lord God of the universe said, “This is what the Lord says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: ‘I am the first and I am the last; apart from Me there is no God’ ” (Isaiah 44:6; cf. 41:4; 48:12). The God of the universe has no beginning and no end because He is eternal. This is what makes Him uniquely God.

In the last book of the Bible, the exalted Lord Jesus Christ said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). The apostle John shares Jesus’ testimony, When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. Then He placed His right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last’ ” (Revelation 1:17; cf. 1:13).  At the end of the Book of Revelation the exalted Lord Jesus Christ said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13). Make no mistake, the Lord God of the Old Testament is the same as the Lord Jesus Christ in the New Testament. This is John the Baptist’s message. He is acknowledging Jesus’ superiority as the eternal God with no beginning and no end when He says, “He was before me” (John 1:15b).

With the Coronavirus in the news a lot, all of us are confronted with the frailty of humanity. None of us are promised life on earth tomorrow. God is using COVID-19 to persuade people to think about what is eternal.

Since Jesus has no beginning and no end, we are to invest our lives in what lasts. What two things on this planet last for eternity? It is not your bank account… cell phone… video games… house… car… job… or your achievements. I have done a lot of funerals, and I have never seen anyone pull a U-Haul behind a hearse. What lasts forever on earth is people (Matthew 25:46) and the Word of God (I Peter 1:23-24). We have an incredible opportunity to invest in both by preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the unsaved (Mark 16:15) and then training those who believe in Christ through the discipleship process (Matthew 28:19-20).

Whom are you sharing the gospel with and training in discipleship? If we are not evangelizing and then discipling those who believe the gospel, we are failing to invest our lives in what is lasting. But this need not continue. Today, you can decide to invest your life in what lasts forever.

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, I bow my heart before You in worship. You are so amazing! You could have remained in heaven for eternity receiving glory from all of Your angels. But instead, out of love for me and all people, You humbled Yourself and became a human being on earth without ceasing to be God. And You were obedient to death on a cross to pay the penalty for all of our sins! Therefore God the Father has exalted You to the highest place and given You the name that is above every name, that at Your name, Jesus, every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that You are Jesus Christ the Lord, to the glory of God the Father! Forgive me my Lord for focusing so much on what is temporary. Thank You for reminding me to focus on what is eternal. Use my voice, Lord Jesus, to proclaim that You are the eternal God who offers eternal life to those who believe in You. Please use me to multiply followers of Yours while there is still time on earth. I pray this for Your glory and honor, Lord Jesus. In Your name. Amen.

How are we to respond when God does not make sense to us?

There are tragic things that happen in life that cause us to ask a familiar question. This question may fall from the lips… of a young mother whose twins are joined at the head… of emergency response crew at the scene of a fatal bus accident…  of flood victims in Manila… of a rescue worker pulling dead bodies from the rubble left by an earthquake… of soldiers whose comrades were ambushed… of COVID-19 frontliners … from our own lips when suffering impacts our lives. “Why?” we ask: “Why me? Why this? IF God is a loving and caring God, why does he allow suffering in my life and in the lives of those I care about and love?” 

The fact of the matter is that sometimes God just doesn’t make sense to us. We may have different backgrounds, goals and motivations. But there is one thing we all have in common: We all know what it means to hurt. Tears are the same for Jews, Muslims, or Christians; for white, black or brown; for children, adults or the elderly. How are we to respond when God doesn’t make sense to us?

Consider Job in the Bible – imagine how he felt when he heard these words… “You’ve lost your livestock, they’ve been stolen. Your sheep were destroyed. Your employees were murdered. Your children were crushed in a freak windstorm – they are dead – all ten of them.” This is how the book of Job begins (Job 1:1-19). One calamity after another strikes this godly father and business man. “Godly?” you may ask. The Bible says, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). Job was not perfect, but honest before God. Job’s calamities were connected to a contest between God and Satan. Satan is saying that Job is motivated by self-interest, not love for God. Satan says. “Take away Job’s blessings and he will curse You, God” (Job 1:8-11).

So God gives Satan permission to attack Job’s property. After Job loses his wealth… servants, and children, we read: “Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:20-22).  

How many of us would respond the way Job did? When God Doesn’t Make Sense… 1. SURRENDER TO HIS CONTROL (Job 1:1-2:13). How do we do this? First, we grieve. “Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head” (Job 1:20a). These are all expressions of grief. Tears are God’s way of washing away the pain. Second, we worship God. “And he fell to the ground and worshiped” (Job 1:20b). 

When bad things happen, will we grow bitter or will we bow before Almighty God? Focusing on God keeps pain from swallowing our soul and it also brings us to the point of acceptance: “And he said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Job accepted the fact that all his wealth, his employees, even his own children belonged to God – so he surrendered them all to the Lord. He let go. “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22). A person who surrenders to God doesn’t accuse God of wrongdoing. Have you surrendered all that you have to the Lord? 

Satan comes back to God and says, “Sure Job didn’t curse You because You didn’t let me touch his body. Let me afflict his body and he will surely curse You to Your face” (Job 2:1-6)! For example, when I am in good health, I’m a happy man. But when my body is hurting, I’m a grump. Can you identify? 

Now Job is covered with boils from head to toe (Job 2:7). Job’s wife asks Job to do exactly what Satan wants him to do (although she doesn’t realize it) (Job 2:9). Job responds to his wife, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity” (Job 2:10)? This is an incredible response to calamities which were not the result of Job’s personal behavior, but the result of a contest between God and Satan. Job continues to surrender to the Lord  and accepts the good and the bad in his life as part of God’s plan.

Most sermons on Job end right there. If Job had just kept quiet, we would not have the rest of the book. But Job doesn’t remain silent. Job’s three friends come to him and they sit quietly with him “for they saw that his grief was very great” (Job 2:13).

Job doesn’t remain silent, however: “After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth” (Job 3:1). When we are hurting physically, we become more vulnerable to despair and depression. After all of his suffering, Job is wishing he had never been born. He is down in the dumps. When Job opens his mouth, it starts a long avalanche of words between Job and his three friends. This time Job is not blameless with his lips. For the next thirty chapters there is a long exchange between Job and his friends. From this exchange we learn a second principle.

When God doesn’t make sense… 2. DON’T TRY TO EXPLAIN EVERYTHING (Job 3:1-31:40). Explanations never heal a broken heart. If his friends had listened to Job, accepted his feelings, and not argued with him, they would have helped him greatly; but they chose to be prosecuting attorneys instead of witnesses.

For example, the first friend, Eliphaz, essentially says to Job, “If you sin, you suffer.” “Is not your wickedness great, and your iniquity without end” (Job 22:5)? Eliphaz is saying, “Job, the reason people suffer is because of personal sin in their lives.” It is easy for Eliphaz to say this when he is not the one with boils all over his body.  

Job’s second friend, Bildad, basically says, “You must be sinning.” “So why don’t you turn to Him and start living right? Then He will decide to rescue and restore you to your place of honor” (Job 8:5-6 –  NLT). Bildad is saying, “If you were living right, Job, God would heal you and prosper you. But He hasn’t, so you must be sinning.” 

Job’s third friend, Zophar, basically says, “You are sinning.” “Get rid of your sins, and leave all iniquity behind you. Then your face will brighten with innocence. You will be strong and free of fear” (Job 11:14-15 – NLT).  All three of Job’s friends reasoned, “Job, the reason you’re suffering is because you have sinned.”

But Job insists that he is innocent: “My soul loathes my life; I will give free course to my complaint, I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me; show me why You contend with me. Does it seem good to You that You should oppress, that You should despise the work of Your hands, and smile on the counsel of the wicked?… Although You know that I am not wicked, and there is no one who can deliver from Your hand” (Job 10:1-3, 7). Job is saying, “God, I’m bitter about my suffering because You oppress me even though You know I am innocent.” Job wants his friends to know that God has wronged him: “Know then that God has wronged me, and has surrounded me with His net” (Job 19:6). Job goes so far as to say if he could get God to appear in court with him, Job could prove that God was wrong to afflict him (Job 23:3-7). Essentially, Job is saying, “I am righteous. God is wrong.”

What has happened to Job? He has gone from “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord to the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, I am bitter.”  He has gone from blessing to bitterness. 

Has this ever happened to you? You experience a painful divorce… devastation of bankruptcy… betrayal of a trusted friend… slow painful death of a loved one… your own health issues… an unhappy marriage… social distancing… loss of a job? At first, you surrender to God’s control – grieving and then worshiping God. But the suffering has lasted so long that your grief has turned into constant complaining. Instead of focusing on the truth of who God is in worship, you are now accusing God of wrongdoing. Instead of walking through your pain, your pain is walking all over you? 

How do we get back to that place of blessing God instead of blasting Him? This leads to a third response when God doesn’t make sense. Since God alone can adequately deal with life’s problems, 3. TRUST GOD, DON’T ARGUE WITH HIM (Job 32:1-41:34). Let’s look at the process Job goes through. At the end of chapter 31, Job is silent. Then a new figure arises named, Elihu.

Elihu tells Job that he won’t be as harsh as Job’s three friends and God were (Job 33:6-7). Elihu says, “God is leading you away from danger, Job, to a place free from distress. He is setting your table with the best food. But you are obsessed with whether the godless will be judged. Don’t worry, judgment and justice will be upheld” (Job 36:16-17 – NLT). Elihu is saying,“God would have already ended your troubles, Job, if you had remained silent.” In essence, to sum up Elihu’s message to Job, “Humble yourself and submit to God,” then your troubles will come to an end.

Elihu has finished lecturing Job. Strangely, Job has no response. He remains silent. God then comes right up behind Elihu to speak to Job. The last four chapters are God’s words. “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: ‘Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me’ ” (Job 38:1-3). God is saying, “Job you don’t know what you are talking about when you accuse Me of being unfair… You have said I’ve been hiding from you and unwilling to debate with you. Well, let me see your qualifications, Job. I’m going to give you an exam consisting of over seventy questions. They are quite simple actually. If you can answer these ABC questions, then I will address the questions you have in your heart.” 

Job is questioned like a first grade student. He is asked about the basic laws of nature, physics, astronomy, mathematics, ecology, zoology. After the first exam, we read, “Moreover, the Lord answered Job, and said: Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it’ ” (Job 40:1-2). God is saying, “Job, if you cannot understand My ways in the realm of nature, how can you understand My ways in dealing with people?” All of us should be slow to claim that we know God’s will about the affairs of a person’s life, whether it be our own or someone else’s. We still don’t know all the facts as to why God is allowing what takes place. 

“Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; Yes, twice, but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:3-5). Earlier in the book, Job was hesitant to confront God (Job 9:14). Gradually he became more confident and demanded an audience with God (Job 13:22a). Later he even spoke like he was God’s equal bragging that he would approach God as a prince (Job 31:37). But now, God had humbled Job. Job had nothing more to say. But Job was not yet repentant. He had not confessed any sin. 

So God gives Job another exam focusing on two animals: Behemoth– probably an Apatosaurus (Job 40:15-19), and  Leviathan, a dragon-like dinosaur which primarily lived in the water (Job 41:1, 14-15, 21, 31). God was challenging Job to subdue these mighty creatures – something Job could never do. But God could. God not only controlled these dinosaurs. He also controlled the entire universe. 

God is telling Job and us in these final chapters, “Job, if I can manage this whole Universe, from the basic cell up to monsters and mega-galaxies without your understanding, I can take care of you… If I can manage the universe, I can take care of YOU. Therefore trust Me, don’t argue with Me.”

There’s a fourth way to respond when God doesn’t make sense. 4. WE WILL STOP ASKING “WHY?” WHEN WE SEE THE “WHO” BEHIND LIFE’S HEARTACHES (Job 42:1-17). Job acknowledges God’s sovereign ability to govern the universe. “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’ ” (Job 42:1-2). Only God has the right to use people for whatever He desires. Not all suffering is because of personal sin, but because it accomplishes God’s sovereign purposes.

But many of God’s purposes are beyond our ability to understand. Job said, “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” (Job 42:3). Job is saying, “I tried to talk about things I didn’t understand. I flunked Your exams. I was way in over my head.”

Job continues, “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 42:4-6). At the end of chapter two, Job had not sinned with his lips. But forty chapters later he has to admit, “I’ve sinned with my lips and I therefore repent.” 

“And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has…And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:7, 10). Isn’t this a fascinating story? Job’s repentance brought an end to God’s discipline of him. When Job repents, his troubles stop and God restores Job’s prosperity. God never gave Job a reason or an explanation for his suffering – He offered Job Himself.  

As God revealed Himself to Job, Job stopped asking “Why?” Job stopped asking WHY when he saw the WHO behind his troubles. Christian author and speaker, Chuck Swindoll states, “No single truth removes the need to ask ‘Why?’ like this one… God is too kind to do anything cruel… too wise to make a mistake… too deep to explain Himself.” Like Job, we will stop asking ‘WHY?’ when we see the WHO behind life’s heartachesGod offers you Himself as you read this article – not reasons for your hurts, but Himself. 

Do you know the WHO behind life’s heartaches? Do you know Jesus Christ? You may be wondering how can a loving and caring God allow so much suffering in the world or in your own life? Just because God doesn’t intervene in world events or stop the pain in your own life, does not mean He does not care. Any injustice or hardship grieves Him more than it does anyone else. If you tried to see suffering in the world today through God’s eyes, your view would be so different. Even if God tried to explain things to you, you wouldn’t understand. His mind is so beyond anything ours is capable of comprehending. If it weren’t, He wouldn’t be God. 

Today, I want to encourage you to look at the good side of God. When thinking about how loving God is, please start with the cross. “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

Think about the suicide bomber who recently killed over one hundred people at an election rally in Pakistan. If the bomber had not died, would you die as his substitute if he had been sentenced to die for his crime? Like me, you’d probably say, “No way!” Yet that is exactly what God’s Son Jesus Christ did. He died for sinners – people who should have died for their sins like you and me. Why? So that when He had paid for our sins and rose the third day, He could forgive us for all of the wrongs we have done and give us His absolutely free gift of eternal life if we would believe or trust in Him alone for His free gift (John 3:16). Since God allowed His Son to take the place of all sinners on a cross so they could live with Him forever, doesn’t that remove all doubt about His character?  

You may say, “What about the tyrant who slaughters thousands of innocent people?” God is not standing unaware. If that tyrant doesn’t come to faith in Christ, his punishment awaits him (John 3:36b). The Bible says, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). In an eternal hell, that tyrant will want to die but won’t be able to.

We live in a fallen world. Every day people drift farther away from God. So until Christ returns to earth, the situation will get worse, not better. God could step in and stop it right now, and one day He is going to do that. But understand He is a Savior, not a Dictator. He has given everyone a choice. They can choose to come to Him in faith just as they are and receive forgiveness for all their sins and live with Him in eternity.

You may say, “What about the victims of catastrophes like COVID-19 or violence?” God grieves for these victims more than you or I ever could. Yet these are the results of living in a fallen world. But this is also why God begs people to come to Christ now. You’re not promised tomorrow. Until God establishes a new world, there will always be violence and suffering.

Please remember that God has not rebelled against people; people have rebelled against God. According to the Bible a day is coming when the earth will know no more violence, suffering, shootings, hijackings, viruses, catastrophes, pain or hardship of any kind (cf. Revelation 21-22). All who trust in Jesus as their Savior will be with Him in a perfect, problem-free place. When they see things from His perspective, they will realize how just and righteous God has been and is. God really wants you in His family. 

Will you trust Christ to give you the free gift of eternal life? Jesus guarantees, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Come to Him just as you are in faith and receive His forgiveness and everlasting life, and then you can share this good news with others before it is too late for them. 

Prayer: Almighty God, I am so broken over all the confusion and pain that is in the world today. I often find myself asking “Why?” instead of “Who?” I dislike the feeling of being out of control. Please forgive me, Lord, for arguing with You and complaining against You when I feel out of control. Thank You for reminding me in the book of Job that You are in control no matter what I face. Since You can manage this whole universe, from the basic cell up to dinosaurs and mega-galaxies without my understanding, I can trust You to take care of me even when it does not make sense to me. Please help me to focus on You during these difficult times so I can be the opposite of Job’s friends who acted more like prosecuting attorneys towards Job and his sufferings. Use me to listen to those who are hurting and to accept their feelings. I pray Your Holy Spirit will draw people to Jesus during this time so they may discover how great His love is for them and receive His free gift of everlasting life by believing in Him. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Christ’s resurrection provides answers for our hearts

“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ ” John 20:15a

If we are going to believe in a resurrected Lord and the difference He can make in our daily lives, we need some answers for our hearts. Christ’s interaction with Mary Magdalene provides this for us. John may have been the first to believe Jesus’ resurrection (John 20:8), but Mary was the first to see the resurrected Lord (John 20:10-15a). Many students of the Bible refer to this as the greatest recognition scene in all of literature – Mary seeing Jesus unexpectedly. The incredible thing about this scene is Mary does not recognize Jesus at first.

“Then the disciples went away again to their own homes. But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb” (John 20:10-11). After Peter and John returned to their homes, Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb. She was weeping outside the tomb, stricken with grief over the death of Jesus and the confusion about His missing body. As she wept, she looked into the tomb.

“And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain” (John 20:12). Even though angels had announced to Mary on a previous visit that Jesus had risen (cf. Luke 24:5-6), Mary still did not understand because grief had overtaken her. “Then they said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him’ ” (John 20:13). These angels do not announce the resurrection of Jesus, instead they express amazement at her sorrow. “Woman, why are you weeping?” Christ’s resurrection was the least appropriate time for tears. But Mary did not understand that Jesus was alive!If she had believed the previous announcement of the angels that Jesus had risen, she would not be weeping. But overcome with grief, Mary wants to know where Jesus’ body has been taken. She had come to the tomb to complete the burial of Jesus, but even that had been taken away from her.

Look at what happens next. “Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus” (John 20:14). Why didn’t Mary recognize Jesus? Two reasons why Mary could not see the risen Jesus:

Her TEARS. She couldn’t see Jesus through her tears. When the Bible says she was “weeping” [klaíō, κλαίω] (20:11, 13), it is not talking about a little tear making its way slowly down her cheek. It is a word for wailing or “weeping vehemently.” The tears were streaming down her face and had blurred her vision. We see in Mary someone with a broken heart after all she had been through. Because of those tears she couldn’t see Jesus. The second reason she did not recognized Jesus was…

Her FOCUS. It all has to do with her sight. She couldn’t see Jesus because she was focused more on the empty tomb that was in front of her than the resurrected Lord who was right behind her. She’s peering into this empty tomb trying to find the resurrected Lord when He’s standing right there ready to give her hope.

Some erroneously conclude that Mary did not recognize the risen Lord Jesus because it was a different person than Jesus. There is nothing in the biblical text to substantiate this. The same Jesus who died is the same Jesus who rose from the dead (see I Corinthians 15:1-8). Over five hundred eyewitnesses attest to this fact.

The empty tomb is a great thing, but it is the resurrected Lord we really worship. We don’t worship a tomb. We don’t worship a place. We worship the living Lord Jesus. Anytime we allow ourselves to focus more on some tradition, some place, some ritual and we get our eyes off the resurrected Lord, we start to lose hope. So Mary did not see the risen Lord at first because of her tears and her focus.

What happened to Mary can also happen to us. There are times in our lives when the resurrected Lord Jesus is right there in front of us and He wants to give us hope, but we don’t see Him because our emotions have blinded us or we have lost focus. It is easy today to loose focus on the Person of our risen Lord Jesus because of the impact the coronavirus is having on our lives. Nearly half of humanity is confined within their homes and apartments, hoping they won’t be added to the statistics that are tracking the deadly wake of COVID-19. As I’m writing this, there have been over 1.8 million confirmed cases worldwide and nearly 115,000 people have died so far. There will undoubtedly be tens of thousands of additional deaths before it is all over.

Mary is asked two questions by Jesus to help her find the answers her heart needed. The first question is “Why are you weeping? (John 20:15a). Mary’s heart is broken after all she has been through. She sees the cross and Jesus taken to the cross. She sees Him taken to the tomb and buried. Now three days later, she comes back to the tomb and thinks His body has been stolen. Because of this, she is deeply hurt. She is crying.

Some of us may feel like Mary did. Your dreams are at a dead end like Mary’s were. Or maybe our expectations take a total U-turn from what we thought was going to happen. Or the support that we have been depending on in our lives crumbles from beneath us. We know exactly the kind of feelings Mary felt at the tomb. Jesus is asking us, “What is making you hurt?” That is what Jesus was asking Mary and now He is asking us. “What is it that is making you hurt?”

Mary is so much like us. She reminds us so much of what we need when we hurt so deeply – to listen and realize that Jesus cares about the fact that we hurt, that He cares about the struggles we have been going through in our lives. For Mary, her hurt was keeping her from seeing God’s hand at work in her life. That can happen to me and to you. God does not want our hurt to keep us from seeing that He is at work in our lives. Jesus Christ is alive.

Martin Luther who started the Lutheran Church and pioneered the reformation, was obviously not a perfect person any more than the rest of us. But he had quite a wife. One day he was in a deep depression over something that had gone wrong. On the third day of his depression, his wife came downstairs dressed in mourning clothes. He asked her “Who’s dead?” Luther’s wife said, “God is dead.” He said, “What do you mean God’s dead? God can’t die!” His wife says to him, “I just thought He had died considering the way you’ve been acting the last three days.” 

We can sometimes act like Martin Luther. Sometimes we act like Jesus isn’t alive. Yes, our world has drastically changed because of COVID-19. We are restricted to our homes most of the time. But what is more important? That, or the fact that Jesus is alive and guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to those who believe in Him (John 11:25-26)? Maybe some person offended you at work. What’s more real? That or the fact that Jesus is alive? Maybe you did not get something that you wanted to get. What’s more real? The fact you didn’t get something you wanted to get or that Jesus has a life for me in eternity? 

But Mary is just like us. The little things hurt us not to mention the big things. Those little things grow into bigger things. For Mary this was the biggest hurt she had ever faced. Jesus came to her and said, “Why are you weeping?” He asks us that question too. He wants to know because the resurrected Jesus Christ has an answer for our hurt. He has a hope. That’s what the resurrection is all about.

Then He asks her a second question: “Whom are you seeking?”  (John 20:15b). These questions had to do with her tears and her focus. Whom are you seeking? What are you looking for? As I read the Bible, I have noticed that God has the habit of asking great questions. The first question that God asks in the Bible, back in the book of Genesis, Adam has sinned. He’s hiding behind the bushes in the Garden of Eden and God comes into the garden and asks, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). That’s a great question. God knew that Adam was behind the bushes. That wasn’t what the question was all about. “Where are you, Adam, in relation to Me? How come you are not fellowshipping with Me? How come you’re not close to Me?”

God asks great questions. Jesus Christ was in the habit of asking great questions. At the feeding of the four thousand He looked at the disciples and asked, “How many loaves do you have?” (Matthew 15:34). He says, “Just give Me what you have, and I will take care of the rest.” He asked His disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” (Luke 9:18). Then He asked the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” (Luke 9:20a). One of the greatest questions Jesus ever asked and He asked this one several times, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Matthew 20:32).

Sometimes we need to stop asking God questions and let Him ask us questions. Take time to be quiet and listen to the risen Lord Jesus. Maybe He wants to ask, “Why are you hurting? Whom are you seeking? Where are you in relation to Me? What can you give to Me? What do you want Me to do for you?” Mary listened to these questions and her life started to turn around. Will you listen to God?

Some of you reading this article are restless and seeking answers for your fearful and hopeless heart. You may be seeking the Lord Jesus and not even know it. Jesus is inviting you to come to Him just as you are. Listen to His voice: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). When you come to Jesus just as you are, He will give you spiritual rest. The rest Jesus offers here refers to a state of mind that exists when a non-Christian realizes he or she does not have to earn or work for their salvation (cf. Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). This refers to the positional rest of eternal life that is based on trusting in Christ’s finished work on the cross alone (John 3:14-15; 19:30). Christ can give you everlasting life as a free gift because He paid for it through His death and resurrection (Romans 6:23b; I Corinthians 15:1-8).

If you came to Christ in faith just now, Jesus gave you everlasting life which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). God became your Father and you became His child forever (John 1:12). Jesus now lives inside of you through His Holy Spirit who will comfort, guide, and teach you so your life will magnify Jesus (John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:13-14). Jesus wants to be your best Friend. You can get to know Him better by spending time with Him, talking to Him through prayer anywhere, anytime about anything (John 15:7; Philippians 4:6-7). Learn to listen to His voice as you read and study the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17). I recommend you begin with the fourth book of the New Testament, the gospel of John, because it is all about Jesus and how you can have everlasting life in His name. It will also reveal to you God’s plan and purpose for your life.

Prayer: My risen Savior and Lord, please forgive me for losing focus on You and Your resurrection. I have allowed so many things to distract me from what is really important. Thank You for coming to me with questions just like You did with Mary Magdalene that first Sunday after Your death and burial. Your questions show me that You really do care about me. You care especially about my heart. You care about my disappointments, my hurts, my needs, and my worries. Your presence in my life calms my troubled heart and assures me that there is hope for today and tomorrow, and all the tomorrows You graciously give to me. Thank You for helping me refocus on what is eternal. As I quiet my soul in Your presence, what would You say to me right now Lord Jesus? I am listening. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

When the Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want for security

“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6b

What is a Christian? A person who goes to a particular church? A person who is very religious? Someone who lives a moral life? A person who has some lofty goals? A person who believes certain facts? Someone who practices a bunch of dos and don’ts?

The Bible teaches that a Christian is someone who believes in Jesus Christ alone for everlasting life, and therefore knows the only true God and His Son, Jesus Christ personally. After all Jesus said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). You may ask, “What is eternal life?” Jesus explains, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). The word “know” refers to an intimate knowledge of God, not just an awareness of certain facts.Notice that the primary focus is on one’s relationship with God(“life”), not the duration (“eternal”), although both are true.This is not just a future promise, it is a present reality for all believers in Jesus. Eternal life is knowing the only true God personally in one’s experience forever.Eternal life is not static or unchanging. It can be experienced at deeper and deeper levels as we grow closer to the Father and His Son.

In Psalm 23, King David is talking about his personal relationship with God. When we read “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” most of us probably think of heaven. But David is not thinking so much about where he will be after death, but with Whom he will be. In Psalm 27:4, David writes, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” David longed to be in the Lord’s house because then he would be in the Lord’s presence. Heaven is primarily a place where we will be with Jesus Christ.

Jesus refers to heaven as His Father’s house. “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). According to Jesus, heaven is a real place where there will be “many mansions.” Jesus is referring to literal homes or dwellings that will be in the New Jerusalem which will descend from heaven to the new earth after the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth (Revelation 21-22). The New Jerusalem will be fifteen hundred miles high, long, and wide (Revelation 21:16). God promises that in our future home “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). What a great source of comfort this provides for those who are deeply troubled by the death of believers today.

Christ does not have any doubts about the existence of our future home in heaven when He says, “If it were not so, I would have told you” (14:2b). In the Greek language, the phrase “If it were not so” expresses that the condition is unfulfilled. In other words, if heaven were otherwise, and it is not, Jesus would have told them. Christ took for granted that there would be plenty of rooms for all the saved people in heaven.

In anticipation of their reunion with Him, Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (14:2c). Yes, Jesus was leaving His disciples, but He would not forget them. He would occupy Himself preparing a real place where He and they would dwell together forever. He was going to make ready the place where He would welcome them permanently. Certainly, Jesus would not go to prepare rooms in heaven for His disciples if He did not expect that they would finally arrive there. He was sure they would make it to heaven. He would see to it.

Then Jesus said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself” (John 14:3a). Just as the first century bridegroom in Palestine would send for his bride when all was ready, so Christ would do the same when He had completed His work of preparing a place in His Father’s house for His bride, the church (cf. Ephesians 5:22-24; Revelation 19:7-9; 21:1-3).

Think about this! God created the universe in six days (Genesis 1), but Jesus has been preparing our place in heaven for almost two thousand years! Remember, Jesus was the Son of a carpenter (Mark 6:3) and no doubt He was a perfect Learner growing up. He would know how to build some incredible mansions in heaven. So heaven is going to be a fantastic place – a real place! We will live in mansions made of gold and walk on streets of gold (Revelation 21:18, 21). It will be an incredible place of splendor. The glory of Jesus will shine and light everything, not even a shadow exists there (Revelation 21:22-23). Jesus is the center of heaven and all praises will ring to Him. The joy shall never end there. Heaven is a place of inhabitants. It is not empty. It is filled with people, people who have believed in Jesus Christ for eternal life (John 3:5, 15-16; Revelation 21:27).

When Jesus said, “I will come again and receive you to Myself” (14:3b), He is not referring  to the Resurrection or the death of a believer, but to the Rapture or removal of the church from earth which could happen at any moment (cf. I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). At any time, Jesus Christ could come back for His church with believers who already died to meet living believers in the clouds. This truth is intended to comfort and encourage believers whose loved ones have died in the Lord.

Jesus said, “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3c). In Jesus’ mind, what would make heaven so special is that they would be with Him and He with them. Yes, Jesus is preparing a wonderful place for us in heaven. But all the beauty of that place will not match the beauty of His presence.

This is exactly what David is saying in Psalm 23:6b. And you know what else? David was absolutely certain he would dwell in the house of the Lord forever. He said, “I will dwell…”, not “I might…” or “I hope to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” When the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want for security that lasts forever.

No other religions offer this kind of security. All other religions can only offer an “I hope so…” or “I think so…” type of assurance that is filled with doubt and uncertainty. Why? Because all other religions are based on the performance of broken sinful people. All other religions are based on founders who are still dead in their graves.

But Christianity offers absolute assurance and security because going to heaven is based on the finished work of Jesus Christ (John 19:30) Who died on the cross for all the sins of the world and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:1-8), proving that He is God (Romans 1:3-4). Christianity’s Founder conquered death when He rose from the dead and He is alive today to give everlasting life freely to those who believe in Him (John 11:25-26).

Psalm 23 begins and ends with the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ! Do you know Jesus personally? I am not asking whether you know about Him. Millions of people have been brought up in Sunday School and know about Jesus Christ. People from other religions around the world are familiar with the name of Jesus Christ. They may know some of the facts, but they do not know Jesus personally. I am not saying you do not know Psalm 23. Scores of people can quote this Psalm who do not know the Shepherd. Do you know Jesus Christ as the only One who can give you everlasting life? Do you know for certain you will go to heaven when you die?

Because of the Coronavirus, we are living in very uncertain and insecure times. You can have security that lasts forever if you will believe in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life. Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Jesus is not asking if you are religious because He never said he who is religious has everlasting life. He is not asking if you believe God exists because He never said he who believes God exists has everlasting life. He is not asking if you pray every day or read a holy book every day because He never said he who prays every day or reads a holy book every day has everlasting life. Jesus is asking you, “Do you believe in Me?” because he said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.”

The word “believe” in the Bible means to trust or depend upon. Trusting in Jesus is a lot like riding on an airplane. When you ride as a passenger on an airplane, do you need to push the airplane to get it off the ground? No, of course not. Do you need to flap your arms to keep the plane in the air? No. All you must do is trust a Person, your pilot, to take you to your destination.In the same way, Jesus does not need us to help Him give us everlasting life and a home in heaven. No amount of our good works can save us from the Lake of Fire because they are all stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8-9). All Jesus asks is that we believe or trust in Him alone to give us everlasting life and a home in heaven (John 6:47). Only Jesus can take away our sins because He paid the penalty of our sins in full (John 19:30) and rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:1-8), proving that He is God (Romans 1:3-4).

Believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life, and you can say with David, “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Why?Because theBible says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (I John 5:13). The Bible does not say you may “think” or “hope” that you have eternal life when you believe in the name of the Son of God. It says you can “know” with absolute certainty that eternal life is yours.

Pastor G. Campbell Morgan tells of an incident that took place in London years ago. A young girl from his church was dying. She had just given birth and it appeared it would cost her her life. Pastor Morgan looked on as the doctor did his best to take care of her. She was delirious and kept saying, “Doctor, I don’t want to go on alone. Doctor, please, I want to take my baby with me.”

The doctor tried to help her and said, “My dear, your baby will have loving care. You need not be afraid. You cannot take the baby with you. The gate through which you go is only wide enough for one.” Pastor Morgan then stepped in and touched the physician’s shoulder and said, “Doctor, don’t tell her that. Tell her the gate through which she is about to pass is wide enough for two – for herself and for her Shepherd. He who brought her to this place will not desert her now, but He will see her safely to the other side.”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my Good Shepherd, thank You for the security You give me during these uncertain times. Thank You that I can say with David that “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” because You are faithful to Your promise of everlasting life to all who believe in You. I praise You not only for Your past and present faithfulness, but also for Your future faithfulness which guarantees You will safely deliver me to my home in heaven where I can enjoy Your presence forever! Please precious Lord, lead me to those who are ready to receive this message of everlasting hope and security in You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

When the Lord is my Shepherd I have no want for courage

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me.” Psalm 23:4a

As we have seen the last few days, the greatest king the nation of Israel ever knew, David, pictured his relationship with God as that of a sheep to a shepherd. David placed himself in the position of a dependent, defenseless, and dumb sheep when he wrote in verse 1, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” When David trusted the Lord as his Shepherd, he had no want for:

– Rest because his Shepherd made him lie down in green pastures.

– Refreshment because his Shepherd led him beside still waters.

– Restoration because his Shepherd restored his soul when he wandered away from Him.ui

– Righteous living because his Shepherd guided him in the right paths.

Probably the most familiar verse in this Psalm is verse 4. When David wrote the words of this verse, he was probably thinking of an actual place in Palestine called the valley of the shadows or “the valley of the deep darkness.” This was a deep and dark ravine with steep sides and a narrow floor.

Notice how the beginning of verse 4 is related to the end of verse 3. David wrote in verse 3b, “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” But then he goes on to say in verse 4a that one of the paths of righteousness that the Lord leads him in is “the valley of the shadow of death.” Early in the year in Palestine, the flocks graze in the lowlands. But as the summer comes and the hot sun melts the snows on the mountainsides, the shepherd leads his flock to better grazing on the mountains high above. To take the flock to this better land on which to graze, he must lead them through some dangerous and dark ravines.

On one side of the ravine, huge trees reach up to block out the sun, making noontime as dark as twilight. On the other side, a deep precipice leads down to a riverbed where the water foams and roars, torn by jagged rocks. Hidden in the shadows of the dark pathway are dangers such as poisonous snakes coiled to strikeand wolves or mountain lions ready to pounce upon a sheep to destroy it.

Yet the sheep go through this dangerous ravine of darkness because the shepherd has led them there. It took courage for a sheep to follow the shepherd through this dangerous ravine and the sheep gained courage by relying upon their shepherd. The sheep’s only safety lay in keeping close to the shepherd’s side and in obeying his commands.

What David is saying is that he had courage to go through the fearful experiences of life because he had a Good Shepherd Who led him into those experiences and Who would defend him from their dangers. Most of us may be afraid of tomorrow because of the coronavirus. Afraid that we may lose our jobs or keep them. We may be fearful of losing our health or loved ones. Afraid that government officials may make poor decisions. Afraid that our children may turn out wrong or if they grow up, that they may be blown up in a war. Afraid of disapproval or rejection. Afraid to live and afraid to die.

Where do you get your courage? Where do you get the stamina to stand up to life? For David, courage does not come from whistling in the dark or from believing that we can defend ourselves. As sheep, we are helpless to fight our enemies. The most courageous sheep in the world would be an easy meal for the smallest wolf or mountain lion.

As sheep, we need courage to trust our Good Shepherd. When a mountain lion comes to attack the flock or a wolf lurks close by, the sheep needs only to look up to be sure that the shepherd is near. Then it can go back to grazing. And that takes courage! We must learn that we cannot fight our spiritual battles by ourselves. We are just helpless sheep, and unless the Shepherd defeats our enemies, we will be found some place out in the desert of life, torn and bleeding. When we encounter the frightening events of life, we must learn to trust our Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. We must turn the struggle over to Him and go back to feeding again. That takes courage; but it also gives courage.

As I read through this Psalm, I noticed the change of pronouns in the middle of these verses. In verses 1-3, David has been talking ABOUT the Shepherd. But suddenly in verse 4, David begins to talk TO the Shepherd. The Psalmist has changed his song from praise to prayer. When David felt the clammy hand of terror squeezing his heart, he wrote, “I will fear no evil; For You are with me.” When David thought about the rest, refreshment, and sunny green pastures, he talked ABOUT his Shepherd. But when he thought about the dark ravines in his life through which he had passed and through which he was sure to go, he spoke directly TO the Lord.

Are we any different? It is nice to talk about the Lord as long as things are in the sunshine. But when the darkness comes we no longer talk ABOUT the Lord, we talk TO Him. What are you going through today? What shadows seem to lie across your tomorrows? The Shepherd knows them all, and you can have courage as He leads you through the dark valley – if you trust Him. Talk to Him about your fears so that His presence can give you courage.

Death is the darkest valley that lies before us. We are fearful when our loved one goes through it and more fearful when we face it ourselves. Of all our enemies, death is not only the last, but the worst. We show fear by not facing up to death. We spend a lot of time thinking we won’t go through death. As our age climbs, we fight to push it back by going to hairdressers and health clubs, and by applying lotions and dyes. We try to disguise death at funerals with flowers and soft music.

In Revelation 1:17b-18, the risen and exalted Lord Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd said, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am He Who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” The exalted Lord Jesus “laid His right hand on” the apostle John and commanded him, “Do not be afraid” because He is the eternal God (“the First and the Last”), the resurrected One (“I am He who lives, and was dead, and … I am alive forevermore”), and the One with authority over death and the dwelling of the dead (“I have the keys of Hades and of Death”). This same Jesus wants to give us courage to live triumphantly through His presence in our lives, both here and in the hereafter. Will you let Him?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, it gives me great confidence to know that as my Good Shepherd, one of the paths of righteousness that You lead me in goes through dark and dangerous ravines. I realize now that You do not abandon me in those dark places of life. You are there with me to give me courage and strength. My greatest safety and security is staying close to Your side. Right now I invite You into the places of my soul where fear has frozen my feelings and hardened my heart. Your loving presence casts out my fear. Thank You gentle and loving Shepherd for not leaving me or rejecting me when I am afraid. Please help me focus on Your powerful and loving presence today. You are in control of all that happens. My trust is in You my loving Shepherd to lead me triumphantly through the valley of the shadow of death. The battles I face today belong to You. My hope is in You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.  

When the Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want for Rest

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” Psalm 23:2a

Sheep can be rather stupid animals. Often times like sheep, we do not always know when to rest. For example, when a flock of sheep should be resting in preparation for a difficult journey, something will excite them – the growl of a mountain lion, the bark of a dog, or the cry of a child. This will bother the sheep and cause them to run back and forth across the pasture. The wise shepherd knows the sheep have a need to rest so he moves into the midst of the flock, catches a sheep and gently forces it to lie down and feed quietly on the cool, green grass. He makes his sheep “to lie down in green pastures.”

The last couple of weeks I have been awakened in the middle of the night with my thoughts racing from one worry to the next. Can any of you relate to this? We live in a hectic, hurried, and harassed world in which headache medicine has become the national beverage. Indeed, we have difficulty resting. We take a day off and feel guilty.

When our Good Shepherd steps into this situation, He often forces us to rest. Our “green pastures” may be the coronavirus which is causing us to simplify our lifestyles right now. We have more time at home. More time to spend with our Good Shepherd. More time to listen to His voice as we read His Word and talk to Him in prayer. More time to spend with our loved ones.

God not only provides physical rest, but spiritual rest, too. But because of our unbelief, we may not realize we are in green pastures. We may focus on the dirt instead  of the green grass.

An example of someone who recognized by faith that God was making him to lie down in green pastures during a difficult time, was the apostle Peter. King Herod was harassing some from the church (Acts 12:1). He had just “killed James the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12:2). When Herod saw that this “pleased the Jews,” he arrested Peter and put him in prison with four squads of Roman soldiers to guard him (Acts 12:3-4). So it looked like Peter would be executed next! But instead of worry keeping Peter awake that night, he slept because he knew his Good Shepherd had led him to green pastures to rest (Acts 12:6).

When we trust the Lord as our Shepherd we will have no want for rest. As you read this article, you may have no rest about where you will be after death. Jesus invites you, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Notice that Jesus did not say, “Come to Me and I will give you more stress…more guilt… more burdens and more worries.”

Many churches or religions can add to our stress rather than relieve it with their legalistic demands. They tell us that we must perform all of these man-made rules and rituals in order to gain peace with God. But Jesus says that when we come to Him just as we are He will give us spiritual rest. The rest Jesus offers here refers to a state of mind that exists when a non-Christian realizes he or she does not have to earn their salvation. This refers to the positional rest of eternal life that is based on trusting in Christ’s finished work on the cross (John 19:30).

After we come to faith in Christ for His gift of everlasting life, we can begin to experience His rest as we yoke together with Him to go His direction at His pace (Matthew 11:29-30). And as we learn to trust our Good Shepherd, we will have no want for rest.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for knowing what is best for me. Often times, I do not know when to rest. I allow my fears to quicken my pace instead of turning them over to You. Like a Good Shepherd, You move into my situation to make me lie down in green pastures where I can rest in Your tender loving care. Please help me to recognize by faith the green pastures where You want me to rest. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Can the coronavirus separate me from God’s love?

38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

The Coronavirus is causing people to be separated or isolated from others, including loved ones. When we go through difficult times such as this, we may wonder if we are separated from God’s love. “After all, if God loves me during the Coronavirus, why do I feel so unloved?” Throughout church history, Christians have asked, “How can a loving God allow so much pain and suffering in the world?” Some believers have turned away from God because they could not reconcile the thought of a God of love permitting so much heartache in the world.

When we are discouraged or feeling hopeless, we may ask, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (8:35a). Please understand that the question is not, “Who shall separate us from our love for Christ?” If you are like me, my love for Christ can fluctuate between hot and cold. My salvation is not dependent upon my love for Christ. Thankfully, my salvation is dependent upon Christ’s love for me. Again, Paul is asking, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (8:35a). He answers this question in verses 35b-39.

He begins with, “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (8:35b).  Hardships like “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword” tempt us to think that since God allows these things, He must not love us. But there is no contradiction between God’s love for us and our suffering. Because God loves us, He allows difficulties, like the Coronavirus, in our lives to make us more like Jesus. God uses the good and the bad so we can “be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:28-29). We can either allow the Coronavirus to push us closer to the Lord and His love, or we can let it push us farther away from Him.

For example, even though we cannot get together with as many people right now due to social distancing, we can still draw near to the Lord. God is giving us a great opportunity to get to know Him better at this time by simplifying our lives. If you have a family, this is also a great time to lead your family in the worship of God and the study and application of His Word together.

Paul then writes, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (8:37). In the midst of all these hardships, we are “more than conquerors” in the eyes of God through Jesus “who loved us.” Jesus’ love enables us to rise above the pain, the problems, and the perplexities so we can live a life that magnifies Him. In Christ, you are God’s superhero! Take a moment and look in the mirror and say to yourself, “I am God’s superhero.” How does it feel to hear this? Do you believe it!?! It is true whether you believe it or not.  

If you are still not convinced that God loves you during this difficult time, Paul drives his point home in the last two verses. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:38-39).

First of all, Paul says “I am persuaded.” The word “persuaded” (pepeismai) means to be convinced, and is in the perfect tense. The Greek perfect tense refers to a completed action in the past which has continuing results to the present. Paul is saying he was convinced of God’s love in the past and he continues to be just as convinced of His love in the present. Can this be said of us? Or have we let circumstances or feelings diminish God’s love for us? Let’s break these two verses down now to see how impossible it is for a believer in Jesus Christ to be separated from God’s love.  

“Neither death nor life” can separate us from God’s love. The two things people fear the most right now – living or dying – cannot separate a Christian from God’s love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Life and death are no threat to our eternal life. Whether we live or die, Jesus will never let go of us (John 10:28-29). His grip on us is far greater than the Coronavirus. We have security in Christ Jesus that is a matter of life and death.

Nor angels nor principalities nor powers” are able to separate us from God’s love in Christ. Supernatural beings like God’s angels and Satan’s demons are far stronger than us, but even they cannot separate us from God’s love.

– “Nor things present nor things to come” in the future are able to remove God’s love from us. Nothing in our present experience, including the coronavirus and social distancing, can separate us from God’s love in Christ. Nor can anything in our future (no matter how frequent, intense, or painful) remove us from being the recipients of God’s love. Wow! He accepts me like I am and will never abandon me. He loves me and will never stop loving me.

Nor height nor depth” are capable of separating us from God’s love in Jesus. If we were to travel to the “highest” or “lowest” points in the universe, or anywhere in between, we would never arrive at a place where we could escape Christ’s love for us. No matter how “high” or “low” we may go, we cannot stop being loved by God through Jesus. Just as we can never cease being the children of our earthly parents once we are born, so we cannot cease being children of God once we are born into His family. The moment we believe in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life, at that very moment, we become members of God‘s family forever (John 1:12; 3:16; 6:37).

– “Nor any other created thing” shall be able to stop God from loving us. Are you a created being? Yes, of course you are! So am I. There is nothing we can do to separate ourselves from God’s love in Christ. No amount of our sin, shame, or pride can keep God’s love away from us. He loves us in the deepest and darkest places of our hearts and He loves us in the highest and closest moments of our relationship with Him. Nothing that we or others might say, think, or do, can separate us from God’s love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Paul answers comprehensively and emphatically, “NO ONE AND NOTHING!!!” You may ask, “Why then, do I feel so alone and unloved?” While it is true that God is for us and always loves us, we don’t feel close to Him when we don’t pursue Him. When we listen to our feelings instead of God’s truth, we get into trouble.

Over the years, the Lord has taught me an important truth about overcoming discouragement: “the truth is just a choice away.” We feel what we focus upon. If I focus on depressing thoughts, I feel depressed. If I focus on unloving thoughts, I feel unloved. Take time today to reflect on these incredible truths about God’s love for you. Read these verses out loud. Draw or find a picture that represents these truths so you can download them into the limbic system of your brain. Replace the lies that say God could never love you with the truth that says no one and nothing can separate you from God’s love in Christ.

Prayer: Lord God, thank You for revealing just how much you love me! No one and nothing, including the Coronavirus and social distancing, can separate me from Your love for me which is in Christ Jesus my Lord. Help me to stop trying to earn love from You or others. Please calm and quiet my soul in Your loving presence. Use me as a channel of Your love to those who are feeling alone and unloved. And for anyone who does not know for sure that they have everlasting life and a home in heaven, please persuade them right now that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life Who guarantees a future resurrection and never ending life to all who believe in Him (John 11:25-26). In Jesus’ name. Amen.