Copyright by Bob Rogers.
Everybody has to deal with rejection. Even Jesus Christ was rejected by his hometown of Nazareth. They didn’t like it when He declared His Messianic mission would include Gentiles, so they tried to throw him off the local cliff (see Luke 4:23-29).
In one of the greatest face-to-face confrontations in history, Jesus faced their rejection and “passed right through the crowd and went on His way” (Luke 4:30). That’s how He handled it, how do we?
Let’s be clear about something. You and I are not Jesus, so we first need to examine our own actions and motives in the light of scripture, to make sure our rejection isn’t a deserved rebuke for ungodly behavior. Peter writes, that if we are ridiculed “for the name of Christ” we are blessed, yet cautions “let none of you sufer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler” (1 Peter 4:15-16). Most of us would be okay if he hadn’t added “meddler.” So before anything else, let’s take an honest look at why we are rejected.
If, after taking an honest look at ourselves, we know that our rejection is because we have lived for Christ, and done so with integrity, then what? Scripture tells us three ways that Christians can face rejection: rejoice, remember and rely.
- Rejoice (Matthew 5:10-12). Jesus concluded the “Beatitudes” by telling His followers that when we are rejected, we should rejoice: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you becaue of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” We naturally want to get angry, defensive, or feel hurt, but Jesus tells us we should rejoice, because it shows we are on the right side! The early apostles did exactly that! When the Jewish Sanhedrin ordered them not to preach about Jesus, they left, “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name” (Acts 5:41).
- Remember (John 15:19-21). Jesus reminded His disciples, “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, because I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” So whenever we are rejected, we don’t need to be surprised; we should remember that we were told to expect that it comes with the territory.
- Rely (2 Corinthians 1:8-11). The Apostle Paul is a great role model for handling persecution. He explained how it taught him to rely on God: “We don’t want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of our affliction that took place in Asia. We were completely overwhelmed– beyond our strength– so that we even despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and he will deliver us. We have put our hope in him that he will deliver us again.”
Tony Evans says that whenever somebody rejects him because of the color of his skin, he remembers who he is in Christ. God says he is a child of the king. Thus, if they reject him, they are refusing royal blood in their presence. What a good example for us when people reject us because of our faith. Remembering that, we can rely on God, and rejoice!
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
Sometimes it helps to put our troubles into perspective. Let me share a memory from many years ago. As a young pastor just beginning a family, I served several churches as pastor on a small salary. My wife Mary and I had some financial struggles, but we were happy, getting by living in a mobile home nicely furnished at one church, and later a larger pastorium, although we sometimes didn’t have the money to refill the butane heater. Our first child, Melissa, was born. Money was tight, but God provided. Eventually, I decided God was calling me to return to New Orleans Baptist Seminary and work on a doctoral degree.
Those days in seminary working on my doctorate were especially difficult times financially. I gave up my church position as pastor to dedicate myself to study, and I took a job on campus working for the grounds crew three days a week, so I could be in class and study the other days. I also worked as a grader for the professor, but that paid very little. My income was even less than when I worked for a church, even with Mary working. We stretched the money every way that we could.
One December day during this time, I got a call from the church there in New Orleans where we were members. They wanted me to pick up a Christmas gift for a needy seminary student family. I was so excited, because I thought that must be for my family. I arrived at the church, and they gave me the name and address of a student family in my apartment building. My heart dropped, but I dutifully took the gifts of food, gift cards and other presents, and went to the door of the family and knocked. When they opened the door, I was shocked– the family had an apartment full of kids, and had almost no possessions inside. They were so much worse off than me and Mary and Melissa. It put things in perspective, and I rarely felt sorry for myself again. I was thankful for what I had.
We all have a choice, to look down at our problems, or look up at our God, the Lord who provides (Genesis 22:14). As the apostle Paul wrote, “Set your minds on things above, not earthly things” (Colossians 3:1). A poet put it this way: “Two men looked out prison bars/ One saw mud, one saw stars.” It all depends on your perpsective, so let’s look up and be thankful for what we have.
Article copyright by Bob Rogers.
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28, CSB
Romans 8:28 is one of the most beloved promises in the Bible. Most people focus on the words, “for the good.” Perhaps we should reflect more on the phrase, “work together,” because the verse is teaching that God can mix bad things in the life of a believer, and bring about good results, like roses on the end of a thorny stem. Let me suggest three kinds of thorns God brings from our lives that work together to grow roses: troubles, temptations and trespasses.
1) The thorn of troubles. God will allow troubles in our lives, to teach us to trust Him. When we have troubles, we are faced with our weakness. Yet, they work together for the good lesson of teaching us to depend on God’s sufficiency. As 2 Corinthians 1:9 says, this teaches us to “not trust in ourselvs but in God who raises the dead.”
2) The thorn of temptations. God will allow temptation in our lives, to teach us obedience. An athlete develops muscles and endurance by the pressure, weight and strain of exercise. Likewise, God allows us to be tempted, so that it works together for the good spiritual muscles that we develop as we grow stronger in obedience. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
3) The thorn of trespasses. By trespasses, I mean sin. God does not want us to sin, but when we sin, we must humble ourselves, repent, and ask Jesus for forgiveness. Scripture tells us to forgive, even as the Lord has forgiven us (Colossians 3:13). Those who have truly experienced the grace of forgiveness tend to be better at forgiving others. So trespasses– whether they be our own or the sins of others– work together to grow beautiful flowers of forgiveness in our lives.
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
“We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,” repeats the beloved spiritual. “Every rung goes higher higher.” The last verses urge, “Keep on climbing, we will make it,” and finally asks, “Do you want your freedom?” I can just hear Southern slaves singing this as they pick cotton and dream of liberty from oppression. It must have seemed that God was not there, but they found hope in a vision of escaping one day.
Yet when we read the beloved story of Jacob’s ladder in Genesis 28, we find a reassurance not just for the future, but for right now. Jacob had left his father Isaac and mother Rebekah in Canaan, and was on a journey to see his relatives in Mesopotamia, and to find a wife.
Ancient pagans thought that a god only dwelled in the land where he was worshiped. If you left that territory, you also left that god. So what a surprise, when Jacob got a vision in a foreign land, of a stairway from the earth to heaven, and angels going up and down it. Then the Lord himself spoke, “I am the LORD (Yahweh), the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac” (Genesis 28:13). The God of Jacob’s father’s was not limited to a territory! The Lord continued “Look, I am with you…” (Genesis 28:15.
In amazement, Jacob named the place Bethel, meaning house of God, and said, “Surely, the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it” (Genesis 28:16).
What a reassurance to us when we feel that we are in a god-forsaken place, that there is no god-forsaken place, for God is omnipresent, always present, always here. He is not limited by time, place, or circumstances. Look around and see what God is doing right here, right now. Surely, the Lord is in the place where you are, but do you know it?
Copyright by Rodger Moore
(The following guest post was written by Rodger Moore, who serves as a hospital chaplain at the same facility where I work. He has graciously agreed to share his column with this blog. May his words of wisdom be help to all who deal with pain.)
Lately I have been thinking about the issue of pain– perhaps because of the pain I see and hear of as I visit patients in the hospital. As a matter of fact, it seems as though everyone inside and outside of the hospital is struggling with some pain issue. It’s unusual for pain in one form or another to not be a topic of conversation whenever I visit someone.
Naturally, there are the obvious issues with physical pain of the body, but it doesn’t stop there. There are also the issues of emotional and spiritual pain. Not to diminish physical pain, but more and more it seems that emotional and spiritual pain issues are more prevalent; and in many cases, they can transpose into a physical issue with the body. When you resolve the issues behind emotional and spiritual pain, the power of physical pain is often broken. The physical issue of the body may remain, but its power is shattered. In these instances, the pain can then be better managed and/or more tolerable.
Because of the human condition, pain has become a universal element of life. Think about it; everyone who has existed has struggled with pain in one form or another. Even Jesus experienced pain! (He wept over Jerusalem, went to the Garden of Gethsemane, and ultimately experienced the passion, culminating in the crucifixion.)
We have to learn how to deal with our pain; otherwise, it is only a matter of time until all the negative influences of that pain build chains of bondage– link by link– until we are powerless to manage or break what can become the driving influence of our existence. And then we begin to empty all of it on the people and world around us.
Yes, everyone has pain and it will change you. So, the question becomes, “What are you going to do with your pain?” Will you dump it on others or will you use it to benefit yourself and others? The Apostle Paul was confronted with just such a choice. In the Bible, we find that on three occasions he asked the Lord to remove his “thorn of flesh,” but it was never removed. Instead, God told Paul, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Paul’s response to this wasn’t bitterness or defeat. On the contrary, he decides to rejoice (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-9). What will be your response to the pain you are experiencing?
As I close, I find myself continually referring to the words of 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.” May the Lord bring the touch of His grace to our pain and may we receive the transforming power of His touch upon our pain. Amen.
Article copyright by Bob Rogers
A Colorado theater. A Connecticut elementary school. A Texas church. A concert in Las Vegas. A Florida high school. Such diverse places have this in common: they are locations of mass shootings.
When such horrific tragedies happen, we gasp, hug our children, lower our flags, pray, and ask, “Why?”
Soon a number of scapegoats will be brought forth to be sacrificed at the altar of our need to blame someone or something.
Some will blame a lack of gun control. They will say that if we had stricter gun control, the shooter could not have done this. Perhaps if assault rifles and machine guns were off the market, it could reduce the likelihood of such attacks. Those who defend Second Amendment rights disagree, saying criminals will always find illegal ways to get guns, and mass shootings have also happened in nations with strict gun laws.
Some will blame a lack of security. Perhaps improvements in security can be made, but the police and security guards cannot be everywhere.
Some will blame violence in the media, saying that it desensitizes the viewer and can lead to copy-cat actions. However, millions of other people watch TV and movies without having an urge to hurt anybody.
Others will blame the shooter’s upbringing and environment, as many of these shooters have a troubled past. Most people agree that more could be done to detect and treat mental illness, and report “red flags” such as violent threats on social media. But once again, we cannot know what is in the min and heart of every person.
In playing the “blame game,” we often fail to look at the greatest reason for the actions of each shooter and for each of us: the human heart.
Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV) says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jesus said that evil comes from within, out of the heart (Mark 7:21).
When the Gospel of John describes how Judas Iscariot got up from the Last Supper, left Jesus and the other disciples, and stepped outside to betray Christ, John adds this short sentence: “And it was night.” (John 13:30). John was speaking of the spiritual darkness of that moment, but it reminds me of the Colorado theater shooting in 2012 at the opening of the Batman movie, The Dark Knight. After that dark night of Jesus’s betrayal and death, a light arose, because this Jesus who died on the cross also arose from the dead to defeat evil and give us hope.
The greatest need that mankind has is not gun control, more police, controls over movies, or psychologists. Our greatest need is for a Savior who can change the heart. He alone can change our dark nights into bright mornings.
Article copyright by Bob Rogers.
A hurricane destroys a city. A young mother dies of cancer. A man succumbs to depression and takes his life. When tragedies like this happen, the inevitable question is, “Why?” Amazingly, Jesus Christ asked the same question as he was dying upon the cross, crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34) It is in that very question of Jesus that we can find helpful answers.
He absorbed our evil by His love. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they unleashed a Pandora’s Box of evil that impacts us to this day. But upon the cross, Jesus absorbed that evil, by lovingly sacrificing Himself. The apostle Paul put it this way: “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus Himself said, “Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for His friends” (John 15:13).
He empowered us to overcome evil by faith. Jesus’ sacrifice inspires us to identify with Christ by faith, and moves us to action ourselves. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Thus Paul says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
He heals the hurt of evil by giving hope. The greatest medicine for healing is not penicillin or aspirin– it’s hope. During World War II, psychologist Viktor Frankl studied the lives of people who survived Nazi concentration camps, and found the survivors were those who had hope. The Bible says, “For in hope we have been saved” (Romans 8:24); “This hope we have as an anchor for the soul” (Hebrews 6:19); “because of the hope laid up for you in heaven” (Colossians 1:5).
Louie Zamperini was an American aircraft gunman in World War II, whose plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean. He and his friends floated across the ocean for a month, losing half of their body weight and nearly going insane, only to be captured by the Japanese. Because Zamperini had been a famous Olympic runner, the Japanese treated him with particular cruelty, beating him mercilessly. His story was made famous in the 2014 movie, Unbroken. But Hollywood only hinted at the rest of the story. After his return from war, Louie Zamperini suffered so much post-traumatic stress that he fell into despair and addiction. Then a young preacher named Billy Graham held a revival in his home in Los Angeles. At the urging of his wife, Louie went. Graham stood and asked, “Why is God silent when good men suffer?” He reminded the audience that God sends us messages through creation and through Christ that He cares for us. Zamperini remembered seeing a swirl of light in the sky when he was floating across the Pacific, awed by God’s creation. He listened as Graham talked about the good news of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin, and that day, Zamperini found hope in Christ. For the rest of his life, Louie Zamperini followed Christ. He founded a ranch to offer hope to troubled boys, and he even traveled to Japan to forgive his prison captain.
Louie Zamperini found the answer to “Why” in the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So can you and I.
Article copyright by Bob Rogers.
The Bible is likely the most-quoted book in the world, but due to its popularity, it is often misquoted, as well. Sometimes the quotes are rooted in the Bible’s teachings, other times they are distortions of scripture, and others are simply popular religious sayings that have no relationship to scripture at all.
Here are my Top Ten Misquotes of the Bible, with thanks to the input of many friends on Facebook who responded with their nominations for this list:
MISQUOTES ROOTED IN THE BIBLE
- Spare the rod, spoil the child. – This is not a direct quote, but based on Proverbs 23:13.
- Hate the sin, love the sinner. – This is based on Jesus’ behavior, such as when he did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, but he also did not condone her sin. See John 8:1-11.
- What would Jesus do? – This comes from a famous novel, In His Steps, by Charles Sheldon, in which a preacher read 1 Peter 2:21, that as Jesus set our example with his life, we should “follow in His steps.” The preacher challenged people to ask, “What would Jesus do?” before every action, based on 1 Peter 2:21
- Following every storm is a beautiful rainbow. – This is a saying based on God’s promise of a rainbow as a sign to Noah that He would never flood the earth again. See Genesis 9:15-16.
MISQUOTES THAT DISTORT THE BIBLE
- God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. – This is a misquote of 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says that you will not be tempted beyond what you can bear. People have misquoted this as if it said you will not be tested beyond what you can bear, but that’s not what the verse says, at all!
- Money is the root of all evil. – This is a misquote because it leaves out an important word. First Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” It’s not money that is the root of evil, but the love of money.
MISQUOTES UNRELATED TO THE BIBLE
- Cleanliness is next to godliness. – The 18th century preacher, John Wesley, wrote in one of his sermons, apparently quoting a proverb already known; “Cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness.”
- God helps those who help themselves. – Benjamin Franklin made this saying popular in his Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1736, although Franklin was quoting an Englishman named Algernon Sidney.
- God works in mysterious ways. – The poet William Cowper wrote, “God moves in a mysterious way/ His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea/ And rides upon the storm.”
God don’t like ugly! – This saying is popular, especially something mothers have told their children in order to remind them to behave and stop “acting ugly.” The origin of the saying is uncertain; the only thing certain is that it is not found in the Bible.
“God…rewards those who seek Him.” – Hebrews 11:6b, HCSB
I like rewards.
I’m a member of the Holiday Inn Priority Club, and I like getting rewards for staying at the Holiday Inn. They give me a gift bag when I arrive. They let me check out late. I earn points and occasionally get to stay one night free.
But no rewards program can compare with God’s rewards program. Yes, we’re saved by grace, not by good deeds. The greatest reward is our salvation and eternal life in heaven. However, God also grants amazing rewards for serving Him. Here’s my top ten:
1. Reward for good deeds. First Corinthians 3:11-15 says that Jesus is the foundation of salvation, but if anybody builds on that foundation, “he will receive a reward” (v. 14).
2. Reward for giving up sin. Moses gave up “the fleeting pleasures of sin” for Christ, “for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26).
3. Reward for humility. Jesus repeatedly said that if we do our good deeds humbly and in secret, that “your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18).
4. Reward for generosity. Jesus said that if you invite the poor, crippled, lame and blind to dinner instead of your friends, family or rich neighbors, “you will be repaid at the resurrection” (Luke 14:12-14).
5. Reward for discipline. The apostle Paul said that athletes receive a temporary crown that fades away, but if we live a disciplined Christian life, we receive an “imperishable” crown (1 Corinthians 14:12-14).
6. Reward for service. Colossians 3:23-24 says that if you work heartily for the Lord, “you will receive the inheritance as your reward.”
7. Reward for enduring trials. The “crown of life” is mentioned twice in scripture (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10) for the one “who remains steadfast under trial.”
8. The prophet’s reward. The shepherd (pastor) of the flock of God is promised “the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:1-4). Jesus says this reward is also available to all, for “The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward” (Matthew 10:41).
9. Reward for looking forward to the Second Coming. “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord… will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
10. Reward for leaving a legacy. Abraham, the father of faith, was told, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” Think of Abraham’s legacy of faith as Father of the Hebrew nation, ancestor of Jesus, and role model of faith for all people. There can be no greater reward than a legacy of faith that leads others to faith. There can be no greater reward than seeing others in heaven because we shared our faith with them on earth.
How about you? Are you in God’s reward program?
Copyright 2016 by Bob Rogers
“Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” (Job 2:10, HCSB)
Last week, I met a man who wanted to give up on life. I asked him if he knew the story of Job, from the Bible. He said he had a Bible somewhere, but had never heard of Job. So I gave him the short version of the story: Job was a good man who worshiped God, but he lost everything. Bandits stole his property, a storm killed his children, and then his skin broke out in painful sores. His wife told him, “Curse God and die.” When I said this, my new friend raised his eyebrows, and wanted to know what happened next. I explained that Job refused to curse God. Then his three friends came to comfort him, but instead of comforting him, they tried to defend God. They said Job must have sinned, and that was why God was allowing him to suffer. Job objected, saying he didn’t deserve his suffering. In the end, God spoke to Job, and restored his fortunes.
The wrong question to ask of Job
Many people go to the book of Job looking for the answer to why people suffer. Unfortunately, the only answers they find are negative:
Job’s suffering was not because God was angry or punishing him. Bildad, one of Job’s friends, accused him of this. He implied that Job must have forgotten God, so God forgot him (Job 8:13). But Bildad was wrong! God specifically said in Job 1:8 and 2:3, “Have you considered My servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil.”
Job’s suffering was not because Job sinned. Bildad said that Job’s children died because of their sin (8:3), and Zophar, another one of Job’s friends, accused Job himself of being so sinful that “God has chosen to overlook some of your sins” (11:6). But they were wrong! Job 2:10 says, “Throughout all of this Job did not sin in what he said.”
Job’s suffering was not answered by God, either. After the long debates between Job and his friends, the Lord Himself answered Job from the whirlwind in chapters 38-41. But if you read those chapters to find an answer to suffering, you will be disappointed. It’s not there. Instead, God turns the questions on those who have been asking questions. “Where were you when I established the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding,” God asks (38:4). Then the Lord lists the amazing traits of His creation, and asks if Job can explain all of that. The point is blunt: We do not know all there is to know. Only God does. We cannot understand God. As the Lord proclaimed through the prophet Isaiah, “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
So what is the answer to suffering? The Book of Job doesn’t answer that question. In fact, it’s the wrong question to ask.
The right question to ask of Job
The question to ask is not, Why is there suffering? The question to ask is, What do suffering people need to do? The Book of Job has hope-filled answers to this question.
First, hold on to faith. Despite his losses and sorrow, Job fell to the ground and worshiped, saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of Yahweh” (1:21). Later, in the middle of his debates with his friends, Job says, “Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him.” This doesn’t fit with the so-called “prosperity gospel” that says if you just have faith, all will go well. No, this is a real-world faith, that holds on to God’s hand, even when it cannot see His plan.
Second, live in integrity. Satan, the old accuser before the Lord, said that Job would curse God if Job suffered. But Satan was wrong. This is one of the major points of the book. The word “integrity” is repeatedly used to describe Job. Notice the question Job’s wife asks: “Do you still retain your integrity? Curse God and die!” (2:9) But Job rejects her suggestion as foolish, saying, “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” (2:10) We read in James 2:2-4 to consider it joy when we face trials, because God uses it to produce maturity in us. It has been my observation as a hospital chaplain, that suffering generally reveals the attitude that is already in a person. I’ve seen people handle horrible physical problems with grace and peace, while others with lesser physical ailments complain and are bitter. We choose how we will respond. Job set a standard, choosing to live in integrity.
Third, hope in the Savior. One of the greatest cries of faith comes in the midst of the greatest pain, when Job says, “Even now my witness is in heaven, and my advocate is in the heights!… But I know my living Redeemer, and He will stand on the dust at last. Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh” (16:19; 19:25-26). Long before Jesus Christ came, Job caught a vision of the Redeemer, who would die on the cross for our sins, and be our advocate before God the Father (Romans 8:34; 1 Timothy 2:5).
There is an fable about a poor man who had a valuable horse. People told him that he should sell his horse, so he wouldn’t be poor, but he refused. Then the horse ran away, and the people asked, “Why didn’t you sell it when you could? The man said, “Don’t say that. All you can say is the horse ran away.” Later, the horse returned, with 20 wild horses, and the man suddenly became the owner of 21 valuable horses. This time they said, “We were wrong! Now we know why the horse ran away; it was to bring you riches later.” The man said, “Don’t say that. All you can say is the horse returned with more horses.” Then the man’s son broke his leg, trying to tame one of the wild horses. The people said, “Why did you keep the wild horses? Now your son has a broken leg.” The man said, “Don’t say that. All you can say is my son broke his leg.” Then their country went to war against a larger, more powerful nation, and the army came to their town, forcing all of the young men to join the army, except for the son of the man with the wild horses. The people said, “Now we know why his leg was broken, to spare him from dying in the war.” Once again, the man said, “Don’t say that. We don’t know why. All we can say is my son did not have to go to war.”
Thus the question we need to ask is not why? but what? Not, Why do people suffer? but What do suffering people need to do? Even if we knew the answer to why, it would not help us do anything different. But the answer to the second question gives us hope and purpose that we can put into action. Because our Redeemer lives, we even after our skin is destroyed, we shall see God!
Copyright 2016 by Bob Rogers
(NOTE: This is the third in a series of blog posts I am doing on some of the most commonly twisted and misinterpreted verses in the Bible.)
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13, NKJV
Philippians 4:13 is one of the most beloved verses in the Bible. Sports teams emblazon it on their uniforms to inspire them to win games, and business people quote it to inspire their sales force. So what is the problem with that? A closer look at the verse shows that such interpretations violate the cardinal rule of Bible interpretation: context. So let’s put the verse back into its context and unpack it.
The apostle Paul was in jail when he wrote the letter to the Philippians. He stated in the letter that he could die there for the gospel (Philippians 1:12-13, 20-21). In the last chapter of the letter, Paul talked about his suffering in prison, and said, “…for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content–whether well-fed or hungry whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13, HCSB). From the context, it is obvious that Paul was not talking about winning games or setting sales records. In fact, he didn’t even ask to change his circumstances, to break out of jail. Instead, he was talking about contentment in the midst of his circumstances.
Taken out of context, people often stress the phrase “I am able to do all things,” as if this is a guarantee that we can climb the highest mountain and swim the deepest sea. But taken in the context of Paul’s contentment, despite his imprisonment, the whole verse makes sense. The stress is not on being able to do anything, but on being able to do all things (including handling bad things) through Christ. That is, whatever I face in the physical world, I can face it with with the spiritual strength that Christ gives me.
Understanding the context does not mean Philippians 4:13 should no longer inspire you, or that it cannot be a theme for sports teams or business people. It can. It can inspire the team that has lost to get up and go again. It can inspire the business that has failed not to quit. Just remember that this verse is more about Christ than self, more about hope than hype, and more about rising from the bottom than about climbing to the top.
Copyright 2016 by Bob Rogers
(NOTE: This is the second in a series of blog posts I am doing on some of the most commonly twisted and misinterpreted verses in the Bible.)
As a hospital chaplain, I seek to guide patients to find the spiritual strength to handle their problems. After hearing their story, I sometimes ask, “How are you handling that?” Many people will reply, “Well, God doesn’t put on you more than you can handle.” Others will say, “The Bible says God doesn’t give us more than we can bear.” That sounds nice, but it’s not what the Bible says! People get this idea from a misreading of 1 Corinthians 10:13. Here is what the entire verse says [italics mine]:
“No temptation has overtake you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13, NKJV
Many people seem to think that this verse says that God will not allow you to be tested beyond what you can bear. But read the verse again. Is that what it says? No! It says God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able. Some people correctly argue that the Greek word can be translated “tested” or “tried,” instead of “tempted.” However, almost all translations prefer the word “tempted” in this verse. Why? Because of the context. A rule of thumb for Bible interpretation is to read the context. So when we read the whole chapter, we see that 1 Corinthians 10 is about temptation. The first part of the chapter gives a series of warnings against falling into disobedience through unbelief. Verse 12 warns, “So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall.” Fall into what? Temptation. And verse 14 says the solution to the temptation is to “flee.” So the context of 1 Corinthians 10:13 shows that it is about temptation.
But if 1 Corinthians 10:13 does not say God won’t put on us more than we can bear, do other verses teach this? Ironically, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:8 that “we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” In other words, God put more on him than he could handle! But he goes on to say in the next verse, “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” The scripture frequently says that when we cannot handle things, God can give us the strength we need (See 1 Samuel 30:6; Philippians 4:13). (Unfortunately, Philippians 4:13 is also misinterpreted, and we’ll discuss how in the next blog post.)
Here is the bottom line: God is not saying that we won’t face more than we can handle, but He is saying that He will give us the spiritual strength to handle whatever we face.
Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers
“Hear my prayer, O LORD, give ear to my pleas for mercy!” – Psalm 143:1, ESV
Your life is a mess, and you cry out to God for help. Have you ever stopped to consider why God should answer your prayer? In Psalm 143, David shows us how to pray for help for the right reasons. This is not a method to manipulate God; this is a supplication that submits to the Almighty.
In the psalm, David asks God to hear his cry. He talks about how his enemies are hot on his trail, and how he is so weary and worn out that he is ready to give up. Then he concludes his prayer with the right way to appeal to Yahweh.
First, notice the wrong reasons to ask God for help.
1) Not because I’m good. “No one living is righteous before You,” David says to the Lord (v. 2). God isn’t going to answer me because I’m good, because I’m not.
2) Not because I beg him. In verses 4-6, David sounds pitiful, saying his spirit faints and his spirit fails. Yet, as we shall see, all of this begging is not the reason that God answers.
3) Not because I need him. In verse 7, David says he’s afraid he’s going to end up at the bottom of the pit. Yes, God cares about our needs, yet even this is not the reason God comes to my aid, because, as we shall see, it’s not about me.
Second, notice the right reasons to ask God for help.
1) Because God is good. “Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!” (v. 10). The Hebrew word used here means “good, gracious, beautiful and pleasant.” God answers because God is good, not because we are good (no one is righteous– v. 2).
2) Because God glorifies His name. “For your name’s sake, LORD, preserve my life!” (v. 11). Whenever you see “LORD” in all capital letters, it translates the given name of God, Yahweh. God answers our prayer for help to glorify His holy name, that He might draw people to faith in Him.
3) Because God is faithful to His covenant love. “And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies…” (v. 12). The phrase “steadfast love” translates one word in Hebrew, chesed, the word for God’s love that He gives in His grace to His people, not because we deserve it, but because He promised to do it when He made a covenant with His people. David also uses this word in verse 8, saying, “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love.”
So if you are crying out to God to help you, ask for the right reasons. Don’t ask because you’re good, because you’re not. Ask because God is good. Don’t ask to help because you want it; ask because it will glorify God. Don’t ask for help because you need it; ask God to help because God has promised to be faithful to you and love you. Don’t tell God what a big problem you have, tell your problem what a big God you have, and stand back and watch Him work in ways you never dreamed.
David took Goliath’s life with a stony missile and a conquered sword. Those are the tools of the trade we associate with his victory. But his first step in winning the battle was winning the war of words. “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.” (1 Sam 17:45) And there were two more weapons with David that day. Those sticks didn’t escape Goliath’s attention, so they shouldn’t escape mine. David’s rod and staff? The same rod and staff of Psalm 23:4? Maybe David carried them to battle for comfort, a tangible reminder of the Good Shepherd who counts, rescues, and protects His own. Today they remind me that our battle with cancer is not fought on one plane with one weapon alone. In the same way a shepherd numbers his sheep as each passes beneath the rod, He numbers the very hairs on Maggie’s head and bids us not to fear (Luke 12:7). And with the staff, He searches and rescues me from the end of my own path. With such a Shepherd, my valley of darkest shadows becomes my place of deepest trust and sweetest victory.
Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers
Christian writer C.S. Lewis famously described his salvation experience as being “surprised by joy.” Joy is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22– and it is surprising how joy comes. Notice these three examples from the Bible:
*Joyful surprise of forgiveness from sin. When we are convicted of sin, we usually feel shame and may even experience depression. Yet confession of sin and God’s forgiveness brings the surprising result of joy. After David’s confession of the sin of adultery with Bathsheba, he cried out to God in Psalm 51:12, “Restore the joy of Your salvation to me.” God answered that prayer, for in Psalm 32 he exclaims, “How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven… How joyful is the man the LORD does not charge with sin…” (Psalm 32:1-2, HCSB).
*Joyful surprise during trials. When we suffer trials, we may experience stress, anxiety and worry. Yet James says that God uses trials to produce a godly endurance and maturity, which once again is a surprising reason for joy. “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (James 1:2-3, NLT).
*Joyful surprise of strength in the midst of grief. How can we experience joy in the midst of grief? Isn’t grief the opposite of joy? After the Jews returned to Jerusalem from exile, Ezra the scribe gathered all the people in the public square and read the law of Moses to the people and explained it to them. The people began to weep, grieved over their ignorant disobedience of God’s word. But the priests urged them to celebrate instead of weep. Why? They said, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10, NASB). It is natural to grieve when we experience loss in our lives, but when we take a look in faith at the big picture, we draw strength from the LORD, who is our Savior. As the apostle Paul says in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.”
So my brothers and sisters, has life got you down? Are you ashamed and grieving over your past, and anxious and hurting in the present? Then look in faith to the wonderful future you have in Christ. Surprise! The joy of the Lord is your strength.
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