He Doesn’t Control Some Things

  
That’s right.  He controls all things.  

Is a trumpet blown in a city,and the people are not afraid?  Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it? 

Amos 3:6

Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?  Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?  Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? 

Lamentations 3:37-39

For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Acts 4:27-28

And this is very, very Good News.  

The greatest comfort I can give a child of God, and I can only give it to a child of God (meaning someone who has been adopted by God through faith in Jesus Christ), is that God is in total, absolute control of your pain.   And the reason why that’s comforting for the Christian is that God promises to work all things together for the good of His elect.  

This is a God whose hand predestined the worst sin in history for His people’s rescue.  

He does no evil, but neither is He perplexed or surprised by any evil.  And He will work all things together for His good purposes.  

From the other side of Christ’s return, there will not be one moment of history, from Eden’s tree to Calvary’s Cross to Hitler’s Holocaust to Hell’s shut doors, where Satan will be able to say, “Well, at least He didn’t get to work that one out for His purposes.”  When all is said and done, God’s glory and beauty and His people’s good will be pulled from every page of history, even the bloody and awful and scary ones.  And the greatest proof of that is Christ’s bloody and awful Cross.  

Some of you who are born again and in chaos or agony need to internalize this.  

What is frustrating to the unbelieving heart is peace to believing one:  There is no sovereign but God.  

I am telling you to pray to the God who will roll up the sky like a blanket, who set the Milky Way spinning as though it were a top, who fashioned all our souls from His own creative heart.  This is not a God who will win at the last second on a Hail Mary.  I am here to tell you there is a King in the Heavens.  A King.  God is not a powerful figure with good intentions who can only do so much.  This is the King of all creation, and He is taking audiences with all who will call upon Him in faith.  

There is nothing that befalls us that is not ordained by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

Keep all your gods, America.  I have met the only One who can save a man like me.  

This God is in control.

Please Stop Gossiping, Christian

  
Gossip is verbal homicide.  

It slays people, relationships, and reputations.  

Its destructiveness, like a nuclear disaster, can’t really be measured for years. 

 It tears down individuals, marriages, churches, and families. 

The Apostle James tells believers in James 3, “Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. And the tongue is a fire.”

We who have believed in Jesus are called to suffer with a smile, to be silent before our persecutors as our Savior was, and to pray for even the wicked as He did.  Not to maim and destroy with our words.  

I used to love gossip. I ate it up. It made me feel good and big and “in” and better. In other words, it was a deceitful little drug that impersonated the love of Christ.  Like all idols, gossip was a stand-in for what my soul really thirsted for:  fellowship with my Creator.  So I would only gossip to the degree that I was not treasuring and enjoying the love of my Christ.

And Christians, to gossip about an unbeliever is horrible, crushing, and mean. But to gossip about a Christian?   A blood-bought believer who is part of Jesus’spotless bride?   Satan applauds!   Because at that point we are doing his job for him. “Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies” (Romans 8:33).  Unless we’re talking about church discipline or counseling or some other rare instance, it is helping Satan’s cause to say negative things about someone to anyone other than that person.

In all my past gossiping, I was absolutely sinful.  And so I exhort anyone who is doing this now, in the Name (and for the cause) of Jesus Christ, to stop.

All of us who have been saved by the blood of Christ must preach and speak the grace and patience Jesus Christ showed us, and let Satan, quite literally, be damned.

45 Seconds On Satan

  
Satan seeks to devour souls.  He is an enemy of God, and so he is an enemy of salvation.  

Implications?

Certainly.  

Satan would have you lean on your own understanding, rely on your own intelligence and thinking for stability.  He hates belief in the wisdom of God, which men call folly but which the faithful know is life and true light. 

He would have you hope in possessions and money and riches.  He despises those who sell everything and buy garments and treasure that last forever. 

He would have you drown in despair over your sins and be paralyzed by fears.  He loathes the ones who cast their anxieties on Jesus, and look to Him to cleanse and restore them. 

He would have you clothe yourself in self-righteousness and smug religious (or irreligious) pride.  He has no use for the people of humility and heart-level repentance and personal graciousness.   

In short, Satan would have your eyes and your heart be dominated by anything other than the person of Jesus Christ, God and God’s Son.  

He hates God, he hates you, and so he hates the Gospel.  

So be watchful.  

And let your eyes rest on the God of the Good News.  

And looking upon Evangelist very carefully, [he] said, ‘Whither must I fly?’ Then said Evangelist, pointing with his finger over a very wide field, ‘Do you see yonder wicket gate?’ [Christian] said, ‘No.’ Then said the other, ‘Do you see yonder shining light?’ He said, ‘I think I do.’

Then said Evangelist, ‘Keep that light in your eye.’

From Pilgrim’s Progress

The Filthy We Were (Zechariah 3)

  

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?’ Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’ And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by. And the angel of the Lord solemnly assured Joshua, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.’

Zechariah 3

I preached Zechariah 3 last week.  I thought I’d share some points from within this fourth vision God gave to the prophet Zechariah and from the wider scope of the Bible story.  

  • There isn’t a single person on Earth for whom the question is, “Am I morally filthy?”  The question always is, “Will I confess my filthiness and trust in the only One who can cleanse me?”
  • Man-centered answers to Satan’s accusations, to the problem of our guilt before God, always say either, “You’re not that bad,” or “You are that bad and so there’s no hope.”  Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ says, “You are that bad, and so I’ll clothe you in my righteousness.”
  • If you think the most important piece of your salvation was something you did, thought, felt, or decided, you’re misunderstanding the Gospel.  We don’t hear a word from Joshua in this vision.  The hero in this salvation story is the hero in every salvation story:  God.
  • Those of who have trusted in Jesus worship a God who was willing to crush His Son rather than lose His rebels.  
  • No worldly philosophy can rebuke Satan, because the curse he invokes is real.  The best liars are usually telling a little of the truth.  Our sins are real and the curse of death sin brought is real.  And Satan knows it. 
  • If the best answer you have before God is that you are a good person, you won’t be able to stand before Him any more than Satan can.  
  • If your answer before God is that you are a filthy sinner and that you trust only in the mercy of Jesus, you’ll find that God is the most forgiving personal being in existence. 
  • God’s answer to your worst fears about yourself might not be that you’re exaggerating them.  The Gospel’s answer to our flaws and treacheries is that God is willing to snatch us from the fire that we deserve to be cast into.  And that, by the way, is written by a former drunk. 
  • Satan has no answer to God’s rebuke in this vision; the Gospel shuts up Satan and sinners, because the Gospel is the Good News that Jesus became a curse for His people and clothed them with His perfect righteousness. 
  • It took Jesus 24 hours to unspin a curse Satan spent eons invoking. 
  • People always follow what they trust.  God’s command to walk in His ways is a command to trust Him more than whatever or whoever you could follow instead.  

This vision God gave Zechariah breathed a lot of joy and confidence into my soul over the past few weeks.  I know I can stand right along with Joshua the high priest, knowing I deserved the fire, and say to Satan and the world:

Keep your self-help and political saviors and pyramid schemes.  I need to be rescued!  And you can’t do it.  We’re calling to the only One with hands strong enough to snatch us.  And we’ll shout over all your sales pitches.

God has rebuked Satan on my behalf because of the perfection and holiness of Jesus of Nazareth.  And now I can trust Him and follow Him forever.  It calms the heart.   

We worship an unspeakably wonderful God.  

What the World Needs

  
The world needs unbridled, unfiltered Christianity.  The ancient, remarkable, simple, beautiful Gospel of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.  It’s what’s been sparking revival in sub-Saharan Africa, southeast Asia, and Latin America.  It’s what brings the world to life and makes the darkness tremble.  This planet needs the sting and salve of the message of repentance from evil deeds and full-bodied trust in Jesus Christ, not merely a winning smile and a pleasant-sounding insinuation that everything’s going to be just fine.  

Packaged, focus-group-tested, man-centered, worldly Christianity, Christianity where we try to be so much like the world that they won’t be bothered or offended, makes Satan laugh and lulls unbelievers faster to sleep as they careen towards God’s eternal judgment.  

The world needs us to be willing to be hated.  Not to seek it out, mind you, but simply to be ready to accept when it comes, and then to respond with mercy and forgiveness and more pleading for them to repent and believe.  We are tragically misguided if we thing that if we as Christians were more like Jesus, everyone would love us.  The truth is that if we were far more like Jesus, many people would love us deeply, but many others would be standing right behind them, shouting for Barabbas to be released so they could get on with their crucifixion.  And Satan might be right there with them, snickering at our blood.

But then it wouldn’t be the first time he was shortsighted.  

  

60 Seconds On Refusing to Love the Right Thing

  

 

They refused to love the truth and so be saved.

It’s a description of the people who perish, deceived by the “lawless one” who precedes Jesus’ return for His people, from Paul’s second letter to the church at Thessalonika.  It’s succinct.  And it has a weight, a density, that I’m not really able to grasp at 9:15 on a Tuesday after putting my kids to bed.  

They die and suffer eternal punishment because they refuse to love the One who offers them rescue.  

There are, have been, and will be, all the way up to Jesus’ return, people who refuse to love their Maker.  They prefer deception.  They prefer delusion.  

And this truth given in 2 Thessalonians is not meant to feed my arrogance.  The letter is written to people suffering and afflicted at the hands of people loving the lie.  So it’s written to give the persecuted hope, not pride.  

But man is it serious.  

“They refuse to love the truth and so be saved.”

Would you do something with me?  Join me tonight in praying for one person you know who hasn’t put their trust in Jesus.  Pray for his or her love to change.

This isn’t merely a war of ideas we’re in.  People love the wrong things.  They love what’ll kill them.  So let’s pray to our God for one of them each.  Let’s pray for His Spirit to make a person we know turn from obstinacy to Him.  

Because the only one who can make you love God is God.  

The One Where the Smoke Clears

  
I think like a fool sometimes.  

I think, and then of course act, as though my fiercest enemy is someone or something out there.  I fret about a problem or a person just on the other side of the hill, something or someone I know is ready to make trouble for me tomorrow. I sweat and stress and stew about it or him or her.  

And so I’m often preparing for the wrong battle.  

Every Christian will have to wrestle the world and struggle against Satan, but the pivotal war of my life is being waged inside my own skin.  My biggest enemy, and the thing causing my most glaring vulnerability, is my own sin.  

Have you ever felt really wronged by somebody?  You know how it eats away at you?  Or apprehension about something coming down the pike?  You know that palm-sweating, can’t-sleep sort of worry?  

I can be so absorbed in that sort of thing, with what or who might assault my comfort, my peace, or my loved ones, that I neglect the thing most poisonous to any of those:  my sin. I bloody my knuckles on a punching bag preparing for the wrong enemy.  I’m so obsessed with financial problems or job worries or car troubles that I miss the fact that my rage or doubt or idolatry or deceit are right at the door, threatening to blow it off the hinges and kill everyone inside.  

The most important battle you’re ever going to load your musket for is the one against your own flesh.  Your sin is a far more deadly foe than a layoff or a leak in the roof or a bitter relative you can’t please.  Your anger, gossiping, lust, and idolatry are far better armed, and far closer to the front lines.  This is Gettysburg.  This is Normandy.  I’m warning you and I’m warning me:  Don’t get too distracted by life’s little skirmishes with less toxic dilemmas.  The one that can cost us most dearly is right behind our own breastbone.  

The devil and my flesh would love for me to spend six hours wondering how to pay a bill and no time praying for victory over my anger.  So this is a written redirect, as well as an attempted clarion to fellow Christians:  this is the battlefield where most eternal blood is spilled.  This is the war our Savior died to win, and rose to prove He can’t lose.  This is the one where the smoke clears and the faithful are left standing, swords of Spirit in hand, ready for a peace that never ends.  

This is the one that counts more.  

Be brave, and be focused.  

I’ll let Scripture shut the door for me:

For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me… For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’