Spiritual Heritage; November 25, 2022

Matthew 13:52 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

I like the way the Japanese puts this verse: “every scholar who has become a disciple of the Kingdom of Heaven.” We don’t often think of discipleship and academics as going together, but it’s actually very important that theologians in particular, seen as “experts” by those not so involved in study, be disciples. Many aberrations in the Church, past and present, have come from academics who forgot they were supposed to be disciples. Bible study is good, but it must be on the basis of a heart that is committed to Christ as Lord. Failure in that area leads to the worst kinds of hubris. Perhaps the best Biblical example of someone who got it right is Apollos. As it records in Acts 18:24-28, he started with a firm foundation in the Old Testament, learned about and believed in Jesus, and then learned about the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In other words, he kept growing both in knowledge and spiritually. If we do no more than pile up know­ledge in our heads, we are no more than noisy gongs and clanging cymbals, to use Paul’s turn of phrase. (1 Corinthians 13:1) For that matter, Paul himself was an Old Testament scholar before he encountered Christ, and as a result ended up writing half the New Testament. We are to value Biblical knowledge, but failing to apply it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is just deceiving ourselves, as James said. (James 1:22) Every believer should be adding daily to their store of the Word in their heart, as well as their head, and it must be with the desire and expectation of applying it as the Lord directs.

I know someone, a Christian, who says that they don’t need the Old Testament, because “The New Testament has supplanted it.” What a sad misunderstanding! He hasn’t thought that through properly. After all, the Old Testament was all the first believers had, and they thrived on it. We certainly aren’t better than they were! Isaiah is sometimes referred to as “The Gospel According to Isaiah,” just like the first four books of the New Testament. The Old Testament holds great riches, and indeed is essential for a full understanding of the New Testament. I am notorious for using many Scriptures in my messages, keeping my hearers busy turning from passage to passage. I am grateful for parents who instilled in me a love for the whole Bible, to the point that I read through it first by the time I was 10. Now, I can hardly read one passage without another popping into my head, and I am grateful. On a personal note, my grandfather W. O. Carver’s memoir, not completed at the time of his death, was published with the title, Out of His Treasure, from this verse. I have a magnificent heritage indeed, and I seek to pass it on to my physical and spiritual children.

Father, thank You for this reminder. My father before me loved Psalm 16:6, most often quoted from the King James: “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” I too have an incredible heritage, built on the one my father received. May I make the use of it that You intend, knowing that using it doesn’t diminish it, but rather strengthens and expands it, for the blessing of many. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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Applying the Word; November 24, 2022

Matthew 13:12 “Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”

Many people down through the centuries have thought, “That’s not fair!” However, it just hit me that this is an excellent example of the difference between Capitalism and Socialism. God gives equality of opportunity, but that does not guarantee equality of outcome. At issue in this teaching of Jesus is the individual response to hearing the Word of the Lord. That’s why Jesus said, in verse 9, “He who has ears, let him hear.” I know people who are physically deaf but who have excellent spiritual hearing! We need receptive hearts above all. We are very adept at fooling ourselves. As James famously said, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22) Acting on what we hear is the way to give it roots and allow it to bear fruit. The devil does all he can to (preferably from his standpoint) snatch the Word out of our heart, or failing that, either keep it from growing roots or choke it out with distractions of all sorts. If we want to be among those who receive to the point of abundance, we need to apply what we have already received. This fits in perfectly with the equally famous parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. The application of the Word takes two major forms: allowing it to change us, and sharing it with those who don’t yet have it. It has long been recognized that one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it. The more we intentionally share God’s truth with those around us, the deeper it will be rooted in our own heart. We are to be hungry for the Word but not stingy with it. Sharing it with others certainly doesn’t diminish our own supply, but rather multiplies it. However, we aren’t to insist others do what we aren’t willing to do ourselves. When we apply the Word as God intends, everyone benefits.

This naturally applies to me. As someone with Teacher gifting I tend to think that just presenting people with truth is sufficient, but my younger daughter, having seen my sermon notes for this next Sunday, reminded me that I need to be specific in my suggestions for application of the truth I’m sharing. That again is in line with the teaching I’ve been getting on Coaching, which is distinct from either teaching or counseling. There is certainly overlap and blending, but the distinction is that a good coach comes alongside and helps the individual recognize on their own the truths the coach wants to communicate. Both teaching and counseling tend to be quite top-down, and that can be very ineffective in the long run. Even in my teaching Medical English, it really clicks for my students only when they have occasion to use what they’ve heard in class, and then it becomes part of them. That is certainly true for the Biblical truth I seek to communicate from the pulpit.

Father, thank You for this clear reminder, and for the words of wisdom Ann spoke to me last night. Help me indeed not deceive myself, but do all that You say to me as You intend, for the blessing of those around me and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Persecution; November 23, 2022

Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The Sermon on the Mount is perhaps Jesus’ most famous section of teaching, but it is often considered unrealistic idealism. It’s true that we can’t live in full harmony with it in our own strength, but as Paul said, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) And actually, this is precisely the sort of thing Paul was talking about, not exercising spiritual gifts or working flashy miracles. Persecution has been a part of life for genuine believers ever since Pentecost, as Jesus warned repeatedly in the Upper Room Discourse just before His arrest. (John 14-16) American believers have been getting just a light taste of that in recent years, and it has come as quite a shock to many. It is particularly shocking when those doing the persecuting have been in the organizational church! That has been very much the case many times throughout Church history, which is further evidence that human organization doesn’t exactly equal the Body of Christ. That said, it’s always distressing to be stabbed in the back by a “brother” or “sister.” Jesus didn’t promise human harmony; in fact quite the opposite. We aren’t to be surprised by persecution, but we are to be comforted, as Jesus says here. Christian faith isn’t all “pie in the sky by and by,” but as Paul said, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Corinthians 15:19) Far too many Christians, even, define blessing, happiness, and even salvation strictly in terms of physical life and material things. That is incredibly shortsighted. Jesus speaks here about our “reward in heaven,” and as Paul said, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) Jesus is telling us that if we’re persecuted we should get happy, because it means that our “balance sheet” is getting top heavy on the heaven side!

I feel a little strange writing this, because I don’t know that I’ve ever been persecuted for my faith. I have been put down and ridiculed a few times, but that’s hardly a big deal. I am aware of horrific persecution that is going on even as I write, and if I were to dwell on that it would be difficult to enjoy my own life at all. There were more martyrs for Christ in the 20th Century than in the previous 19 combined, and the pace has even picked up in the 21st Century. Since I am more aware of that than many, I’m very aware that I have nothing to complain about, ever. I am blessed far beyond even my own awareness, and I’m aware of a lot! I do send regular support to an organization that directly supports persecuted believers, but it’s not very much. Even more important is prayer support, because nothing is impossible for God. I am to be grateful for the blessings I enjoy, but make the use of them that God intends so that others may be blessed as well.

Father, thank You for Your overflowing grace. I feel at times like I’m “collecting on the account” of my faithful ancestors. Not many have the sort of family line I do, but I certainly didn’t choose it. Help me be faithful in turn, both for my spiritual descendants and my physical ones, and especially for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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The Creator; November 22, 2022

Zechariah 10:1 Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime;
it is the Lord who makes the storm clouds.
He gives showers of rain to men,
and plants of the field to everyone.

There are various points in the Bible that we miss because we only read it in translation. The NIV translators rendered the covenant name of God, YHWH, as LORD, but Japanese doesn’t have case in the lettering, so those translators couldn’t do that. The latest edition of the Japanese translation I use renders it as [Lord], with somewhat more distinctive brackets, but in either case those reading have to know what’s going on to understand the distinction. Why that’s important here is that in the nations surrounding Israel and Judah, Baal was seen as “the storm god,” and by extension, the god of agriculture. Many times in the Old Testament, as here, it specifies that it is Yahweh who sends the rain, and everything else. We don’t have much active, formalized idolatry today, but many people put “Science” into that position in their thinking. The irony is that genuine science is a system of inquiry, so people who insist that “the science is settled” are dealing with total illogic. Properly understood, science is an investigation of what God has done, and sometimes how He has done it. There have been scientists who have recognized that over the years, and have indeed been people of great faith. We currently know the mechanisms involved in weather and storms, so nobody worships a “storm god,” but we still try to find substitutes for the actual Creator of everything. The only reason I can come up with for that is that we try to avoid accountability, and that is an inescapable factor when we acknowledge a Creator. The Bible is a record of that Creator’s revelation of Himself to mankind, and we do well to pay attention.

I will never forget the time that a doctor who was attending an English Bible class I taught came in and said he wanted to be baptized. I was very pleased, but I asked him why. His response was one I have quoted many times since: “This Bible was not written just by people, and if that’s the case, I’d better believe it.” Wow. What magnificent insight! Since then he has indeed governed his life by the Bible, and has actively shared the Gospel with his doctor friends (though I am not aware of any having become Christians). He gathered all the idolatrous things in his house (related to Shinto and Buddhism) and made a pile of them in his parking lot and struck a match to them. That was a glorious moment for me, as I assisted and prayed over the proceedings. It was entirely his idea, and he requested my presence. I think few America Christians have such clear-cut experiences of rejecting idolatry to cling to Christ alone, and as a result the devil has an easier time of insinuating all sorts of lies and compromises into their lives. It is widely recognized that America needs a genuine revival of faith, but that requires an equal purification of the faith of individual believers. That applies to me, too! Even as I pray and work for revival in both Japan and America, I’ve got to allow the Holy Spirit to shine His light into all the dark corners of my soul, so that I may be the clean vessel my Creator intends.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for yesterday and everything it held. Thank You that we have a concrete release date for my wife from the hospital. I pray that You would continue to work Your healing in her body, and that everything would flow on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Hope; November 21, 2022

Zechariah 9:12 Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope;
even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

It seems like I write on this verse every time we hit this chapter in reading. However, there’s plenty to meditate on in this verse! Verse 9 is more famous, since it was directly referenced as being fulfilled by Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, (Matthew 21:4) but no part of the Bible is meaningless, and God can use it to speak to us. I have liked this verse for two reasons, the first of which being the reference to hope. English translations like “prisoners of hope,” which is a striking image, but the Japanese says, “prisoners who have hope.” I think the point is that regardless of our circumstances and however much we feel trapped by them, we aren’t to lose hope. Of all the things the devil tries to steal, kill, or destroy, hope is one of his favorites. Hope is actually essential to human life. It has been demonstrated in several studies that hope has a massive influence on medical outcomes. A lack of hope destroys motivation in virtually every situation. As it says in Proverbs, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12) The second thing I like in this verse is of course the promise of double restoration. If you’ve never lost anything of importance to you this might not have much impact, but I think very few people are in that boat. Actually, Jesus upped the ante by a wide margin in talking to His disciples. “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29) Of course the key there is “for my sake.” Simply losing something doesn’t guarantee we’ll get it back, much less get it back multiplied. The point is our priorities. If things “go by the wayside” because we’re clinging to and being obedient to Jesus, then the rewards are essentially limitless. They may not come in this life, but they are certain!

Since I teach budding medical professionals, I am very careful to talk about how they are to talk around patients. They aren’t to lie, but they are to be careful not to destroy hope. As a pastor I do a lot of hospital visitation, and in both the US and Japan I have seen and heard medical staff say horrible things around patients that made me want to take them out and smack them! As I’ve already said, hope is of great importance in good medical outcomes, and such outcomes are supposed to be their job! As a son of missionaries and a missionary myself I know about “giving up houses and lands,” but I have complete assurance that my parents have been more than rewarded, and that I will be as well. My mother said that her only real sacrifice in coming to Japan was distance from her family, but even there, we can gain so many “family” members as brothers and sisters in Christ. I have sons and siblings that are certainly not “blood kin!” Just last night there was a joyful reunion between my two genetic daughters and a brother and sister they hadn’t seen in many years. Such things are a reminder that my reward is sure, and I don’t have to be anxious about anything.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You also for how well everything went yesterday. You did work magnificently. Help me learn better how to rest, relax, and rejoice in you, just as my younger daughter was urging me to do yesterday – several times! Thank You for Your plans for today, and for the days and weeks ahead. May I not miss anything You have planned for me by a lack of either hope or gratitude, so that You may be glorified. Thank You. Praise God!

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Pleasing God; November 20, 2022

Zecharian 8:16-17 These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord.

This seems like really basic stuff, but if you think about it, lots of politicians and “civil servants,” to say the least, are in violation of it. We need wisdom and anointing just to discern what is true of all the “information” that is constantly thrown our way. Lots of people seem to “love to swear falsely!” However, God will guide and protect us, if we will cling first to Him. We are to work for an honest and just judicial system. The fact that needs to be said is tragic on the face of it! In several places the Bible tells us not just to not convict the innocent, but also not to let the guilty go free, and right now there is an epidemic of exactly that in the US. Accountability is a concept that a lot of people seem to want to put behind them! Truth needs to be the foundation of all discourse, and these days far too many people seem to think it’s OK for each person to have “their truth.” That’s a trap of the devil! People started by denying the foundational truths of the Bible, and now they are denying objective fact, all the way down to basic biology! America needs to wake up and realize that indeed, God hates all that, and they are in grave danger for their rebellion against Him. America was never intended to be a theocracy, and should not be one, but Biblical principles are at the foundation of the Constitution, and for most of its history, at the foundation of public life. Not everyone was righteous, certainly, but we knew when we were violating the standards. These days, the standards themselves are constantly under attack. As more and more devout people are saying, America certainly needs a third Great Awakening!

Even as I pray for a first nation-wide revival in Japan, I am praying for revival in America. It would be hard to overstate America’s influence on the rest of the world, in every area of life. Currently there is a lot of filth, an aggressive unrighteousness, in that influence. Changing politicians isn’t going to change that. As Andrew Breitbart famously said, politics is downstream of culture, and the devil has been working overtime to pollute American culture, and that polluted culture has washed over the rest of the world. I am not only to pray for revival around me, I need to pray for revival within me, that I may be purified from the filth I wade through and be the person God wants me to be. I am not to be condemnatory of others, but I am to set a Godly example and speak the truth in love always, forgiving but not excusing, so that I may indeed be doing God’s will for His glory.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Today is a genuinely packed schedule, and I need to be very careful not to hurt others by my words or actions, however much I feel out of my comfort zone. May Your will be done in every detail, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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By God’s Spirit; November 19, 2022

Zechariah 4:6 So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.

This is one verse where the Japanese is much clearer than the English, despite the English being greatly loved. That’s because the terms for “might” and “power” are far more specific, as I feel sure they are in the Hebrew. In English they are essentially synonyms, but the Japanese says “political power/authority” and “ability.” That makes this an exceedingly appropriate Word for this point in world history, and indeed for the whole course of human history. Right now the US is making a big deal of who has political power, and of course Vladimir Putin has made disastrous use of his political power over the past year. We tend to make a big deal of political power! On the personal level we tend to look at ability, our own and that of others. We are awed by those who show exceptional ability, and tend to be either conceited about or feel inferior about our own ability. God is saying that those things fade to complete insignificance before Him, and His Spirit who works in, through, and sometimes in spite of, people. I heard this verse quoted a lot in the early days of the Charismatic Movement, and not unreasonably so. However, we still tended to fixate on individuals. That has been risky in any age! God cares for us as individuals and He uses us as individuals, but He is far greater than any of that, and all of it put together. As much as we give it lip service, we still have great difficulty grasping that God is GOD, the Creator of the universe, and He is in no way dependent on any part of His creation. Rather, we and everything else are totally dependent on Him.

This is something I need to be reminded of all too often. Not only have I been tripped up by pride and conceit, I have seen barriers as insurmountable and have at times pinned my hopes on political leaders. God is here pointing out the utter foolishness of all of that. Political leaders can be important, and we are accountable for our stewardship of the abilities God has given us, but I’ve got to remember that none of that can begin to compare with the greatness of God. On a personal level I am currently faced with several challenges, starting with my wife’s health. The devil is lying to her, as usual, and is trying to destroy her hope of returning to normal life. I’m to stand against that, both in prayer and in my speaking to her. Likewise, the schedule is packed for the rest of the year, and at this point in my life I don’t find that exciting. God has told me clearly to rest, relax, and rejoice, and I need to be obedient! I will be used in various ways, but it doesn’t depend on me. I need to keep myself available to the Lord, not drawing back but allowing Him to strengthen me spiritually, emotionally, and physically, so that His plans may be fulfilled on His schedule for His glory.

Father, the schedule for the next week or two makes me want to crawl in a hole and cover myself up. Help me remember that Your Spirit will indeed carry me through, enabling me to rest, relax, and rejoice, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Evangelism; November 18, 2022

Zephaniah 3:9 “Then will I purify the lips of the peoples,
that all of them may call on the name of the Lord
and serve him shoulder to shoulder.

Once again we have God stating that He cares about the people of every nation, every ethnicity, on earth. The Japanese says, “They will pray in the name of the Lord and serve Him as one (in complete unity).” That’s a pretty awesome image! Reading this, however, many Christians fail to realize that this refers to them, because they are not genetic descendants of Abraham. However, it actually foreshadows Jesus prayer for the unity of believers, expressed so movingly in John 17. It’s interesting how everyone tends to gravitate to a feeling of entitlement when it comes to God’s care and love. We forget that God created everything, that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. It is entirely true that Jesus would have died for a single individual, but that is true for every individual. The question is never God’s love, but our response to Him. However, as Paul so clearly stated in Romans 10:14, we can’t respond rightly to Him if we don’t know about Him. As again Paul said clearly in Romans 1:20, God has left plenty of hints about Himself throughout His creation to guide people in turning to Him, but the details of the atoning work of Christ on the cross are beyond human imagination, so we have to be told about them. That is the purpose and privilege of evangelism. We get to be “midwives” for the birth of more brothers and sisters in Christ, people who are equal with us as recipients of the grace of God, so that they may serve Him alongside us for His glory.

This is something I have had to grow into on a personal level. Growing up as a Caucasian in Japan, I never had any problems with God making no distinctions of value among races and nations, but I tended to think I was in a special class personally. How stupidly conceited! I hadn’t grasped the truth of the rather ironic statement, “You are special and unique, just like everyone else on earth.” Everyone is a person for whom Jesus died, but somehow I felt like I was “a cut above” other people. That led to a lot of problems! God in His grace called me down on it, and only after that did I start to share the Gospel on a personal level. The phrase in the NIV, “shoulder to shoulder,” doesn’t have quite the same nuance as the “as one” of the Japanese, but it does bring out the element of equality, and that is vital. I am not to neglect or denigrate the gifts that God has placed in me, but I am never to think they make me more valuable in God’s eyes than my neighbor. Everyone who knows Jesus Christ as Lord is my equal in every way that is important, and it is my privilege to bring more and more people into that status – as that privilege becomes theirs, when they come to that relationship with Him.

Father, thank You for this reminder, and for the incredible privilege of sharing Your Gospel. Thank You that my daughters arrived safely from the US last night. I pray that their time here would fulfill all of Your purposes for it, not only in our family but in drawing others closer to You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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The Choice to Rejoice; November 17, 2022

Habakkuk 3:18-19 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.

This is perhaps the greatest statement of faith in the Old Testament, and it is right up there with the statement by the Centurion whom Jesus praised for his faith. (Matthew 8:8-10) This is indeed the choice to rejoice. Logically, most people would say that a person with this kind of faith had flipped out, that they had lost all connection with reality. Actually, Habakkuk had a grasp of a far deeper, greater reality than the physical circumstances around him. Such a grasp is available to us as well, if we will accept it. Jesus famously referenced it to His disciples just before His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) This is indeed a “superhuman” response to circumstances, but Paul scolded the believers in Corinth for acting like “mere men.” (1 Corinthians 3:3-4) We aren’t limited to just “being natural.” This isn’t at all to say that we are to be hypocrites, putting up a front. The Japanese have in a sense institutionalized hypocrisy, speaking of tatemae and honne, your “public face” and your true feelings. As I told an online group just recently, that is a symptom of spiritual disease in Japanese society. Rather than hypocrisy, this is raw faith. This is letting go of circumstances, of what we can see and feel, and clinging to the God who created us, who is far greater than the whole physical universe put together, because He spoke it into being. When you have that kind of faith you can indeed make it safely through anything, just like a deer in the mountains, to use Habakkuk’s image.

This certainly applies to me, and I’m getting training in it even as I write. My wife being hospitalized during the church Thanksgiving celebrations is emotionally very difficult to deal with. For that matter, her having been in the hospital now for seven weeks has been and continues to be difficult to deal with. The choice to rejoice is a major challenge! However, the Lord really anointed and spoke through me yesterday in the interdenominational prayer meeting, saying that we need to recognize the abundance of the blessings that have been poured out on us and be grateful. We won’t make the choice to rejoice without gratitude. I have been blessed with a superlative wife for 53 and a half years, and current circumstances don’t change that. The challenge is especially acute for Cathy, because she’s the one in the hospital with the physical issues that keep her from participating in what she loves. Even so, such faith is something God wants us to have, and He’s offering it to us right now.

Father, this is easier to write than it is to do, by far. Thank You that our daughters arrive tonight, and that we’ll be going to the hospital tomorrow. Thank You for the continued improvement in Cathy’s condition. Thank You that You will guide the girls as they cook all the things Cathy would like to be cooking, and that You will guide in the church Christmas decorations, which I always dread supervising. This year I will be “the authority,” and I don’t enjoy that. Help me, help us, indeed rest, relax, and rejoice in You, whatever is going on around us, for the blessing of everyone around us and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

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Suffering; November 16, 2022

Joel 2:32 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance,
as the Lord has said,
among the survivors whom the Lord calls.

This chapter is quoted multiple times in the New Testament. Peter famously quoted it on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:17-21, and Paul quoted this verse in Romans 10:13. However, we tend to overlook the fact that this is talking about what will happen after events that we would call disaster. This verse explicitly talks about “survivors,” implying that many will be killed. We don’t like to think about it that way. Recently the Lord has given me a phrase that I think is very accurate and descriptive: the world is a mess because we are a mess. We indeed live in a fallen world, and disasters should not surprise us. Jesus said clearly that “In this world you will have trouble,” (John 16:33) but in that very verse He said that He wants us to have peace, and that we should be encouraged by His victory – which was achieved through horrible scourging, crucifixion, and death. We want the victory without the suffering! Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way, as has been demonstrated countless times throughout history. Christians have been put down for “Pie in the sky by and by” theology, but the fact of human suffering remains. As Paul put it, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Corinthians 15:19) He later wrote to the same group of believers, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) Paul certainly didn’t live an easy life, but he had full assurance that it was all worth it, because “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12) We are to follow His example and trust God through whatever He allows us to experience, not demanding or expecting “easy street” but rejoicing in Christ whatever our circumstances, for His glory.

This feels very close to home. My personal suffering has been largely secondary, as my wife has gone through assorted medical problems and is closing on her second month in the hospital at this point. Frankly, the separation is a real trial for me as well, and I don’t have the physical pain to distract me from it. We had hoped that she would be released this Friday on her birthday, but that looks pretty unlikely. This morning I’m speaking at an interdenominational prayer meeting, and my message is on gratitude. It would be very easy to preach if everything were rosy, but I think it will be far more powerful precisely because at the moment it’s not. I am to encourage my hearers with God’s words, so that we may yield nothing to the devil but walk in the peace and joy that God intends for us, for His glory.

Father, thank You for this clear Word at precisely this point. I pray that I would be able to communicate it clearly, as well as walk in it myself. There are things to be done today, and then from tomorrow it will be very busy. Help me rest, relax, and rejoice in You whatever is going on around me, for the blessing of those around me and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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