3 REASONS TO BE LOYAL

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Loyalty is a glorious, godly quality which is rightly to be celebrated. That’s why I’m glad it has taken a more prominent place in the minds of Americans today. Misconceptions about its true nature abound, however. Loyalty that is coerced or required is not loyalty but servitude. I’d like to use this brief post to identify the three things upon which loyalty must be built.

Before I get to that, though, I want to point to three things that loyalty is not based upon. First, loyalty is not expressed in silent acquiescence. It’s bold enough to disagree with a leader and speak the truth when necessary. It’s not loyalty unless it’s willing to confront. Silent submission isn’t loyalty, it’s foolishness.

Secondly, it’s not romantic unrealism. It doesn’t have an unrealistic view of a leader’s greatness. Loyalty actually sees the weaknesses, quirks, and foibles in a leader, but is willing to stay because of a fundamental conviction about the leader’s integrity, proven effectiveness, and favor under God.

Thirdly, it’s not unqualified allegiance. It doesn’t say, “I’ll follow you no matter what you do.” Loyalty is conditional. Only dogs give unqualified allegiance.

Yes, loyalty is conditional. It has a very concrete, substantial basis which must not be violated. Why, then, would someone be loyal to a leader? For three reasons.

1. Humility. Humility earns our loyalty because it’s realistic and wise. When you see a leader walking in authentic humility before God, you’re safe to give your heart.

2. Truth. Loyalty devotes itself to a cause where truth is valued and preserved. When you find fierce adherence to the truth of God’s word, it’s safe to give your heart in loyalty.

3. Righteousness. When a leader is walking in blamelessness and purity in his or her personal life in moral areas such as sexuality and financial integrity, then join the team and give your heart to the cause.

Leaders who display these three qualities are following in the legacy provided by our Master, of whom it says, “In Your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness” (Ps 45:4).

If a leader becomes arrogant, or abandons truth, or compromises his or her righteousness, gather your stuff and move on. The only reason to stay is if that leader repents and returns to these three values.

Leaders, give us three reasons please to be loyal to you. Demonstrate an unbending commitment to truth, humility, and righteousness.

This post is adapted from Bob’s book, LOYALTY: The Reach of the Noble Heart. You can find it at https://oasishouse.com/collections/bobs-books/products/loyalty-the-reach-of-the-noble-heart

THREE REASONS TO TEACH ON THE FEAR OF THE LORD

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What is the fear of the Lord? Consider this definition: A trembling zeal to obey every word of His mouth. It’s a treasure He gives His favorites (Isa 33:6).

The fear of the Lord was a powerful component in the atmosphere of the early church in the book of Acts. It preserved the integrity of the church in an era of explosive growth. In contrast, we don’t hear much about it today.

Why do we tend to minimize or overlook teaching on the fear of the Lord? When we neglect it, it’s for all the wrong reasons. It’s time to dig up this doctrine, dust it off, and equip today’s believers and also our own children in this essential ingredient to a healthy Christian walk.

I’d like to suggest three reasons to teach the fear of the Lord to this generation.

  1. We don’t understand it as we should.

Some people have a skewed concept of God. For example, some think of Him as such a merciful and gracious heavenly Father that there is nothing in Him His children need fear. On the opposite extreme, others have been put off by the caricature of a God who is always in a foul mood and looking for ways to punish His enemies.

If the fear of the Lord causes you to back away from Him, you haven’t been taught in the true fear of the Lord. Taught properly, it draws us forward into His heart. Those who truly tremble before Him run into His arms, wrap themselves around Him, and in awe and reverence cling to Him for their very lives.

There is no contradiction between His fear and His goodness. They actually go together. Hosea showed us that when we understand His goodness, it sets our heart to trembling (Hos 3:5).

Somebody needs to say it to this generation, “Never fear the fear of the Lord!” Let’s show them how to run into it and wrap their arms around it. It’s the wisest thing they’ll ever do (Pro 9:10). It’s safe, clean, and it endures forever (Ps 19:9). We need to teach this stuff.

  1. Since Jesus taught it, so should we.

Jesus delighted in the fear of the Lord (Isa 11:3). In His teaching, He laid open the profound paradox that is found in Exodus 20:20. He began by charging us to fear God: “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:5). But then two verses later He said, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7). He said, “Fear Him! Do not fear therefore.” He taught that we are to fear—and not to fear—both at the same time.

Do I fear God? Of course not! He’s my Father! I run into His arms with brazen boldness because of the blood of Jesus. I can interrupt any conversation He’s having because I’m His son and have constant access to Him. But do I fear God? I’m terrified of Him! He’s a consuming fire, His name is Jealous, He chastens His children, and He holds me accountable for my attitudes and actions.

I fear Him, therefore, and I don’t fear Him. This is the fear of the Lord as Jesus taught it. And those who teach in their Master’s shadow will also proclaim this important truth.

  1. The benefits of the fear of the Lord are too marvelous to forfeit.

I like to listen to podcasts by Christian leaders, but I don’t remember hearing a podcast on this topic. Is it just that I haven’t found the right podcasts? Or are we generally quiet on topics that would awaken believers to the benefits of fearing the Lord?

For starters, here are some benefits:

  • God remembers forever those who fear Him (Ps 103:17).
  • He lavishes blessings (Ps 112:1), mercy (Ps 103:11), and sustenance (Ps 111:5) on those who fear Him.
  • He dwells with those who tremble at His word (Isa 66:2).
  • His fear enables us to become partakers of His holiness, and produces in our lives the fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:10-11).
  • The fear of the Lord releases grace to serve a God who is a consuming fire (Heb 12:28-29).
  • It empowers obedience (Pro 16:6).
  • He tells secrets to those who fear Him (Ps 25:14).

When you are teaching people in the fear of the Lord, you are engaged in one of the highest privileges available to God’s servants.

22 WAYS TO FIND JESUS IN THE BOOK OF JOB

Jesus in JobSome people struggle with the book of Job because, when they look at the life of Jesus, they can’t find anything in the ministry of Jesus that corresponds to Job’s story. They decide, therefore, that they can’t find Jesus in the book of Job. But I think they’ve stopped just short. They should have gone a bit further and looked at His cross. Because when you look at the cross, you find all kinds of similarities to Job’s experience.

If Job’s early success corresponds to Christ’s earthly ministry, his trial corresponds to Christ’s death, and his restoration corresponds to Christ’s resurrection.

I decided to start collecting similitudes between Job’s ordeal and the cross of Christ. My collection continues to grow, but here are some ways to see Jesus in the book of Job.

1. In the book of Job, the most upright man on earth (Job 1:8) suffers the most of anyone on earth. That definitely reminds me of Christ’s cross.

2. Trembling with pain, Job cried, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there” (Job 1:21). That statement describes Jesus perfectly, who died naked on a cross.

3. Job was so disfigured by his sufferings that his friends didn’t recognize him (Job 2:12). Similarly, Jesus’ “visage was marred more than any man” at His execution (Isa 52:14).

4. Eliphaz taunted Job to call out to God for help (Job 5:1). And they said of Christ at His death, “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him” (Matt 27:43).

5. Psalm 22 is a messianic psalm about Christ’s sufferings. Some of the things said by the Messiah in that psalm remind us of Job’s speeches. For example, consider this comparison.
“They gape at Me with their mouths, like a raging and roaring lion” (Ps 22:13).
“They gape at me with their mouth, they strike me reproachfully on the cheek, they gather together against me (Job 16:10).

6. Job cried out, “O earth, do not cover my blood” (Job 16:18). We are grateful today that the earth didn’t cover Jesus’ blood, but that it speaks before God on our behalf.

7. Job bemoaned, “Why do You hide Your face, and regard me as Your enemy?” (13:24). This reminds us of Jesus cry on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Both Job and Jesus asked the why question.

8. In the hour when Job needed his friends most, they failed him. Same for Jesus. At His arrest, His friends forsook Him.

9. When you look at the source of Job’s trial, you realize Job was attacked by people, by Satan, and by God. And when you look at the cross, you realize that Jesus was killed by the same trilogy. He was crucified by people (the Roman soldiers and Jewish leaders), by Satan (who entered Judas Iscariot, and who filled the Jewish leaders with envy), and by God (who gave His Son for us all).

10. Job’s best friend, Eliphaz, became so frustrated at Job that he leveled concocted charges at his friend (Job 22:6-9). Similarly, Jesus was falsely accused by false witnesses at His trial before the high priest.

11. Job was raised up from his sufferings when He interceded for his friends. (Job 42:7-10). And Jesus was raised up as our great Intercessor, Heb. 7:25.

12. When God accepted Job (42:9) He raised him up; when God accepted Christ’s sacrifice (Rom 4:25) He raised Him up.

13. In the bitterness of his soul, Job cried, “He destroys the blameless and the wicked” (Job 9:22). And when you look at the three crosses on Golgotha’s hill, you’re looking at the death of both the blameless and the wicked.

14. Job and Jesus are both cornerstones. As the first book of the Bible put on paper, the book of Job is the cornerstone of the edifice we call Holy Scripture. And Jesus was called the cornerstone of the church (Ps 118:22; Isa 28:16).

15. In placing the book on Job’s story as the cornerstone of Scripture, the Holy Spirit put in place a foundation stone that was pointing ahead to the cross of Christ. Job was the first signpost of Scripture to the cross.

16. Job had to endure horrific suffering in order to qualify as the cornerstone of Scripture; and Jesus had to endure an agonizing death in order to qualify as the High Priest of our confession and as the cornerstone of the church. Suffering qualified both of them for a greater rank.

17. God said this to Satan about Job: “You incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause” (Job 2:30). Job did nothing wrong to deserve his suffering. Nor did Christ. He was a blameless sacrifice.

18. Job spoke of his sufferings as labor, Job 9:29. And Christ was said to labor for our salvation on the cross, Isa. 53:11.

19. In order for men of all ages to gain consolation from Job’s example, Job had to suffer in every major area of life (family, relationships, finances, livelihood, and physical health). And in order to save sufferers of every generation, Christ had to suffer in every area of life.

20. Both Job and Jesus suffered in the will of God (1 Pet 4:19).

21. Job said, “He did not hide deep darkness from my face” (Job 23:17). And Scripture said of the Father that He “did not spare His own Son” (Rom 8:32).

22. Furthermore, I see Jesus in the book of Job when Job said, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You” (Job 42:5). Referring to the Father, John said that “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18; 1 Jo 4:12). Therefore, it seems evident that when Job saw God, he saw Christ. It was Jesus Christ Himself who interrogated and exonerated Job in Job 38-42. With the words of Jesus Himself quoted in the last five chapters of Job’s book, His presence in the book seems clear and undeniable.

Some have supposed that the cross rendered the book of Job obsolete and no longer relevant for our lives. To the contrary, the cross confirmed the glory of Job’s story and emphasized its relevance for New Covenant believers. Every time you read the book of Job, I hope you are now able to see more and more of Jesus in that marvelous book.

To go deeper in the book of Job, see Bob’s book on Job here, click here.

NEW FILM: SONS AND BASTARDS

This book this film is based on celebrates God’s goodness to chasten. It will help you make sense of inexplicable trials, strengthen your resolve to endure, and reveal how chastening can qualify us for a higher entrustment in the kingdom. By the time the story’s written, you’ll be healed and trained for greater service.

Bob’s book on this important topic is available here: http://tinyurl.com/hj2zhl5

Director, Editor, Sound Designer – Joel Sorge
Teaching – Bob Sorge
Original Music – Caleb Culver
Director of Photography – Chris Commons
Assistant Camera Operator – Lydia Anderson
Vocal Mixing – Zane Callister

THE RIGHTEOUS ARE LIKE A TREE

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The righteous are likened to trees in several Scriptures, and specifically to a palm tree in Psalm 92:12, “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.”

Palm trees grow in tropical climates, under conditions that would be deadly to some types of trees. But that which is deadly to another is life-giving to a palm.  In fact, the hotter it is the more the palm seems to flourish. The righteous flourish in heat—that is, in times of distress, trial, and persecution.

One of my favorite passages that likens believers to trees is Psalm 1. Look at verse one.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.”  The progression of walk, stand, sit points to the manner in which sin can progressively snare the soul.

We are not to walk “in the counsel of the ungodly”—which reflects ungodly values.  You talk about your marriage to somebody at work, and he says, “I wouldn’t put up with that, if I were you!”  The counsel of people in the world will always reflect their ungodly values.

We are not to stand “in the path of sinners”—which is a reference to ungodly morals.  It may be seem relatively harmless, on the surface, to join the men at work for a “guy’s night out,” but it’s dangerous to stand with others who are sinning, even if you are not sinning directly yourself.

And thirdly, we are not to sit “in the seat of the scornful”—this speaks of ungodly attitudes.  If we hang out with people of the world, we’ll begin to talk like them, and even think like them.

The psalmist proceeded to describe the godly man who avoids all that other stuff:  “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (verses 2-3).

The godly man, the verse says, is like a tree.  When I think of a tree, I think of the following qualities:

1. Fruitful in season.  

The man of God goes through seasons.  Just like in the created order, we experience spring, summer, harvest, and winter.  Not all of life is characterized by harvest.  There are also dry seasons, cold seasons, damp seasons.  But the godly man progresses normally through all the seasons of life, and has a consistent history of fruitfulness at the right times.

2. Strong in dry times.

The man of God doesn’t always look good.  In winter, he may lose his leaves.  But mark this:  in the drought of summer his leaves never wither.  Grass nearby is parched and yellow, but the godly man is green and verdant—because his roots go down into the riverbed.  He has tapped into the lifesource of the Holy Spirit, and when others are withering, he is refreshed from a hidden water source.

3. Stands out as a landmark.

Trees are often used as landmarks because they stand tall against their surroundings.  Similarly, the godly man rises in stature and stands tall above the others who surround him.  Among the employees, he is exemplary.  He is an example to his family.  His life is noticeable, compelling, and noteworthy.

4. Unmoved by storms.

Like a tree, the man of God is shaken at times by the winds of life.  Difficulty might leave him really rocking.  But he’s never uprooted and moved.  He has longevity because he’s deeply rooted in the grace of God. Long after others have been moved off by this or that, he continues to stand, strong and stable.  He’s a pillar in his community because he has not succumbed to the popular temptation to pick up and move to another state at the first whiff of adversity.

5. Provides shade for others.

Because of the qualities of Jesus that radiate from the godly, he or she is a source of refreshing and relief to others.  A tree doesn’t have to try to provide shade, it just happens.  In the same way, the godly refresh the hearts of others continually and effortlessly.

6. “Whatever he does shall prosper.”

That is both a promise for the tough times, and a reality that will inevitably manifest.  He is blessed because he has found a place of special affection in the heart of God.  And in the final analysis, that is the ultimate reward of the godly:  the smile of Jesus.

WHY DOESN’T THE BIBLE MENTION MASTURBATION?

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With this blog I’m stepping onto some very tender territory and tackling a gripping question that many have wondered about. We know that masturbation has been with the human race from the beginning, and that it has certainly been on God’s radar. Why, then, did He make no mention  of that word in the Bible? When God identified various kinds of sin in the Bible, why didn’t He include masturbation?

First of all, I don’t think it’s because the word embarrasses Him. When you read the Bible cover to cover, you realize that God isn’t embarrassed by explicit sexual language, nor is He reticent to tackle tough topics head-on.

Secondly, I don’t think it’s because He doesn’t consider it a sin. I agree with many who view it as a sinful behavior before God. The reason I think it’s a sin is because, while the Bible doesn’t name it specifically, it points to it in several places. Masturbation involves lust in the heart, which Jesus addressed in Matthew 5:27-30. The Bible also warns against uncleanness (Eph. 5:3 and youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2:22), which things include masturbation. (I explain this more fully on pages 47-51 in my book, A Covenant With My Eyes.)

So then, why isn’t masturbation mentioned in the Bible as a sin?

I’m going to give you my opinion on this question, and I want to emphasize that what follows is my opinion, not a dogmatic theological position.

To say it succinctly, I don’t think God wanted masturbation cited as a sin in the Bible because of how the devil would use such a verse as a tool for accusation and condemnation. Let me explain what I mean.

Masturbation is a sin that is often accompanied afterwards by feelings of shame and guilt. Something inside tells us it’s wrong, and when we succumb to the temptation, our conscience often accuses us. But it doesn’t stop there. The devil steps in and adds to the accusation. As a result, many believers who struggle with masturbation also struggle with much accusation.

If there was a verse in the Bible proscribing masturbation, the devil would leverage that verse to his advance and increase his accusations against God’s people.

Let me talk about how this sometimes works for us. When we go through puberty, we are curious about the changes in our bodies and emotions. In the process of trying to discover who we’re becoming, masturbation sometimes happens. Often our first experience with masturbation, at least for young men, is in our early teens.

Let’s talk about Jimmy, who is a hypothetical 15-year-old. Jimmy loves Jesus and wants to serve Him wholeheartedly. He has gone through puberty, and he is now experiencing strong urges to seek a sexual release. His conscience tells him that masturbation is wrong, but his urges to masturbate are powerful and distracting. Jimmy is still immature and he doesn’t know how to manage these new urges. Even though he loves Jesus dearly and sincerely wants to please Him, sometimes the urges overtake him and masturbation happens.

It’s followed, almost every time, by feelings of guilt and accusation. Jimmy beats up on himself for not resisting temptation, and then the accuser comes to make it even worse. Under the guilty feelings of both his own conscience and the accuser, Jimmy, who is still a young believer in Christ, feels almost like a failure as a Christian. And that’s exactly where Satan wants him to be—buried under a mountain of accusation that makes him feel unacceptable to God.

If Satan had a Bible verse, he’d whip Jimmy with it.

I think it’s young men like Jimmy that God had in His heart when He decided to keep that word out of the Bible. As a Father, His heart is yearning so much for Jimmy. He is Jimmy’s greatest Advocate. He wants Jimmy to overcome in his teen years and come through as a strong adult in the faith. It’s the Father’s zeal and tender care for every Jimmy in the body of Christ that prompted Him to keep that word out of the Bible. Lest His Jimmy’s be over-burdened with accusation and guilt.

When married men masturbate, I think God views that from a different angle. Married men have the opportunity for sexual release with their wife, and to take that into their own hands is viewed differently by God.

But for Jimmy who is still single at 15, with lots of hormones, I think He is tender rather than stern toward him. God wants to guide him in gentleness and without condemnation through his turbulent teen years to an overcoming life in Christ.

That’s my opinion.

How should a young person engage in the battle to resist and overcome the temptation to masturbate? I give my answer in A Covenant With My Eyes. Click here to check it out.

Also available as a quick and easy resource is a video of me preaching this message.  You can watch it by clicking here.

Thanks for listening.

APOLOGIZING FOR GOD

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The other day, as I was preparing to speak at a certain Christian event, I began to apologize to the Lord in a manner I had done several times before. I said things like, “I’m sorry, Lord, that I have so little to offer you. I have such a limited message. The bandwidth on what I carry and what I can offer is so narrow, and You really deserve better. I have so many limitations. You deserve to have a servant who provides You with a much broader scope of possibilities. I’m sorry that You have so few options when You’re working with me.”

The Lord’s response seemed to be something like this, “You don’t think of this as I do.”

Then I felt drawn toward these verses:

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness (Rom. 12:6-8).

The Lord seemed to be emphasizing that whatever gift for blessing others I might carry, it came to me as a gift of His grace. Since He gave it, who was I to apologize to Him for His gift?

So I’ve decided to stop apologizing to Him for the grace He has bestowed on me. I need concern myself only with being faithful.

BEEN BURNED BY SIN?

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One day when I was a young child, I was standing by an outdoor bonfire and noticed a potato sack that was burned in the fire. The way it burned, the ashes had maintained the shape of the sack, and the sack appeared still to be intact. Because of my childlike curiosity, I was fascinated that the sack appeared to be unaffected by the fire. Intrigued to learn, I reached out my hand and took hold of the sack in an attempt to understand why it wasn’t touched by the fire. What I didn’t realize was that it had been consumed in the fire and was blazing hot. I was burned instantly and fiercely in a way I have never forgotten.

That experience taught me something: I don’t ever again want to learn first-hand when something is hot. I want to discern the signs and believe what others say, so that I am never again burned like that. When you’re burned once, if you’re smart you’ll never want that to happen again.

I think the same thing is true regarding sin. Once you’ve been burned by sin, you learn from that experience and determine at all costs to avoid that happening again. So when God says, “That’s a sin, that will burn you,” you no longer have to experiment for yourself by touching it. You believe Him. And you leave it alone.

What’s my message in this article? We don’t have to touch sin in order to believe that God was right when He said it will burn us. His word on it is enough. We’ve wisened up, and now we stay away.

 

THE EYES OF THE LORD

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In this post I want to show how gloriously God responds to those who maintain their loyalty to Him. Here’s our text:

“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars” (2 Chron. 16:9).

The verse’s context is very important. Asa was king in Jerusalem, and early in his reign he was invaded by a million-man army from Ethiopia. Asa was young, inexperienced, and resource-barren. In desperation, he cried out to God for help and deliverance: “LORD, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O LORD our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!” (2 Chron. 14:11).

And God responded! The Ethiopians were completely overthrown, and Asa returned to Jerusalem with vast amounts of war bounty. God granted a mighty victory! Asa didn’t have another war until his thirty-sixth year as king. He wisely used the decades of peace to strengthen the nation spiritually, economically, and militarily.

Unfortunately, as the nation grew in strength, Asa’s sense of dependence upon God waned. He had become rich.

His heart was tested when war again came to his doorstep. This time, it was the northern kingdom of Israel that invaded. (At the time, Israel was divided into two kingdoms, and Asa was king of the southern kingdom based in Jerusalem.) Baasha, king of Israel, came against Asa with intimidating strength. What was Asa to do?

He decided to dip into his national treasury (which was substantial by now) and hire Ben-Hadad, king of Syria, to break his treaty with Baasha. Ben-Hadad accepted the money, attacked Israel with a mighty blow, and forced Baasha to abandon his military campaign against Asa.

On the surface, Asa’s strategy seemed amazingly successful. Baasha retreated and Jerusalem was relieved. Asa’s national popularity soared. Many in the land were doubtless applauding the king for his brilliant leadership. But God wasn’t.

Hanani the seer expressed to Asa how God felt about his tactics. Hanani rebuked him for relying on the king of Syria for deliverance. He reminded him of God’s previous deliverance. When the Ethiopians invaded, Asa had relied on God and conquered the enemy. Had he already forgotten? Even though he had a history of experiencing God’s delivering power, Asa had fallen (through prosperity) to self-sufficiency and unbelief.

And then Hanani spoke these arresting words:

“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars” (2 Chron. 16:9).

Because his heart was not fully loyal to God, Asa would now face ongoing wars during his reign.

The word “loyal” comes from a vivid Hebrew word that has various renderings by English translations: perfect, true, whole, completely His, fully committed, blameless. The meaning is that those who look to God alone for deliverance, in the hour of enemy invasion, are demonstrating a loyal, perfect, true heart toward Him.

God is actively looking for this kind of loyalty. When it says His eyes “run,” it means they are on an aggressive, high-speed search. God has seven eyes (Zech 3:9; Rev 5:6), and all seven scour the earth, looking for those whose gaze is lifted to Him for help. When God finds this kind of heart loyalty, He shows Himself strong on their behalf. He fights for them.

The context of our Scripture is all about deliverance from enemy invasion. When the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, God wants to answer by demonstrating His military strength and awesome delivering power. But He’s looking for singular focus.

The same assurance is repeated in Psalm 33:18-19:

“Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.”

It seems that Asa’s son, Jehoshaphat, learned from his father’s mistakes, because when Jehoshaphat was invaded by a formidable army from Edom and Moab during his own reign, he spoke up and said to the people of Jerusalem, “Believe in the LORD your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (2 Chron 20:20). You should read 2 Chronicles 20 again to see how mightily God delivered Jehoshaphat from the Edomites. It’s an amazing story!

Have you been invaded by a foreign force that is trying to steal, kill, and destroy in your life? Give your heart in perfect loyalty to God, wait on Him, and He will show Himself strong on your behalf—He will fight for you. His eyes are eagerly searching for this kind of devotion!

 

AND PAUL CAME TO EPHESUS – CONSIDERING THE IMPACT OF ONE’S LIFE AND DECISIONS

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Sylvia Evans is a personal friend and beloved teacher in the body of Christ. She serves on the faculty at Elim Bible Institute (Lima, NY), hence the reference to the Ephesians class she teaches there. You will enjoy this piece. -Bob Sorge

He couldn’t stay long.  He was just passing through on his way from Corinth.  He had to get to Jerusalem for the feast and get back to other places where he had already been.  It was a short-term mission.  But Paul “came to Ephesus.”  The significance of that little fact would manifest over the next few years…and decades…and down through time to our very day.

“And he came to Ephesus”!  The tip of the spear of the Gospel of Jesus Christ had pierced the pagan wall of the city of Ephesus. At that “point,” no one knew how penetrating it would be.

“And he came to Ephesus.”  Shortly thereafter, Luke says, Paul departed from Ephesus. He didn’t stay long.  He left, but he left something there. He left a deposit of the word of God and the truth of the Gospel, imparted in the synagogue.  He left a hunger in the hearts of those who had heard him and a desire on their part for him to stay.  He left a promise, “I will return again to you if God will.” Then Luke says, “And he sailed from Ephesus.”

But he left something else.  He left a personal deposit, an investment in the city — he left two people in whose lives he was making a personal investment.  He had brought Priscilla and Aquila there, just a humble, exiled couple whom he cared for in their major transition — Jewish tentmakers, chased out of Rome in one of those historical movements to annihilate Jews. They had left Rome and had come to Corinth.  Soon afterward, Tentmaker Paul “departed from Athens, and he came to Corinth” and met them there — “found” them, I should say, because Luke chose to say it that way — “found a certain Jew…with his wife,” and “he came to them.”  Personal connection.  He “found” a treasure of a couple with a love for God.  He may have found them on the street or at the market — or at a tanner’s shop — or maybe in the synagogue.  It may be their conversation had started over tent-making…or their common heritage as Jews…or the persecution and what was happening in Rome…and then Christians…and then Jesus.

Or maybe it had started with Jesus.  Did they already know Jesus? Were they already Christians?  We don’t know, and Luke doesn’t tell, but after finding commonality, giving hospitality, and making friendship with Paul, living and working with him, it is sure they knew Jesus! Now a love for Jesus was their common bond, and Paul didn’t want to leave them in Corinth.  He wanted them to go with him.  So he took them, and “he came to Ephesus,” bringing them with him, only to leave them there.

It was much like his meeting and apprehending Timothy, as Luke had recorded two chapters before — “him would Paul have go forth with him.” Paul came to Derbe and Lystra; Paul found Timothy; Paul wanted him to go with him.  And he did. Personal connection. Young Timothy’s life would never be the same.  It would take turns he never could have imagined, and he would take journeys he might never have hoped for, with a forward thrust into a future destiny he might never have dreamed of — all because Paul came to Galatia…and came to Derbe and Lystra.  Now Paul had come to Asia…and to Ephesus, with young Timothy at his side.  Thus Timothy came to Ephesus. One day Paul would leave him there — to pastor the church that was yet to be formed.

But before there was a church, the tentmakers were on the team with Timothy.  Personal connection.  They all “came to Ephesus” together with Paul.  Then he “left them there” — Priscilla and Aquila.  Destiny — not only theirs, but others’ — was in that leaving.

Then Apollos “came to Ephesus” to teach in the synagogue — an eloquent and educated teacher, who was “mighty in the Scriptures,” and to some degree he “was instructed in the way of the Lord.” Then he met Priscilla and Aquila.  Personal connection. His life and ministry were about to be changed.  I’m sure Apollos shared “perfectly” what he had learned, but “knowing only the baptism of John,” he needed to know “the way of the Lord more perfectly.”  That would be happening soon — because Priscilla and Aquila had come to Ephesus, because Paul had come to Ephesus, and now because Apollos had come to Ephesus.  It was the Gospel juncture in the will of God according to His purpose — for their lives and for Ephesus.

Modern English grammar rules say that the word “perfectly” can’t have degrees — once “perfect,” there’s no “more” or “most” to be added, but the old KJV translation says “more perfectly” in English, the proper Elizabethan-Shakespearean English. “More perfectly” suggests we can never get a complete and perfect knowledge of “the way of the Lord.” We always want and need to know more.  We may share perfectly what we know perfectly up to that measure we already have received of instruction, but there is more.  We are always learners. And the more of Jesus we have, the more of Jesus we want.  (I’ve often said, “The more of God you know, the more of God you have to go.”)  Infinite God!  Infinite knowledge is His, but mine is finite unless I open myself to learn more!  As I’ve often said, I want a “satisfied unsatisfaction” or maybe better said, an “unsatisfied satisfaction.”  Satisfied that I’ve found the right thing, but never satisfied that I’ve had enough.  I’m not “dissatisfied,” as though what I’ve found is not the right thing nor the thing that I need.  I’m just not “satisfied” that I have drunk enough from the infinite supply of Living Water.  I can’t drink it all all at once; but I can drink all that it is …once and again…and again…and again.  I know that Jesus is enough for all I need, but I never have enough of Him!  “More about Jesus would I know,” an old hymn says.

As a young high school teacher, I declared about myself, “I am a teach-learner.”  It seems that so was Apollos. He was hungry for more, and he was willing to learn. Now, because Paul had come to Ephesus…and had brought them…and had left them, the simple tentmakers were in place to make their impact. They, too, were in the synogogue in Ephesus.  They were learners, making themselves available to hear his eloquent exposition of the Scriptures, but they were also teachers…teachers of “the Way.”   When Apollos next came to Corinth, he had something more to give, because “he came to Ephesus” first!

Then Luke says again, “And Paul came to Ephesus.”  He was back — and this time to stay for a while.

That simple statement, “And Paul came to Ephesus,” has grabbed my heart.  I have looked back over the “comings and goings” in my own life to consider whether there was any impact for the Kingdom of God — any effect in the lives of others because I “came” to those places.  But at first I was not thinking only of myself.  As those words leaped off the page while I was teaching my opening class on “Ephesians and the Church at Ephesus,” they took on a prophetic unction as I saw before me the potential “Paul” and “Apollos” and “Timothy” and “Priscilla” and “Aquila” in this generation of Elimites.  I remembered that last year the Lord had instructed me not to look at my students for who and what they are now, but for who and what they will be — pastors and missionaries and apostles and prophets and teachers and…and…and….

So I stopped to challenge my students in the Ephesians class to consider the possible impact each of them can have just by coming to a city, a village, a country, a school, a business, a street corner.  How will the very place be changed — its atmosphere, its religion, its politics, its culture, and even its economy?  What will be the influence on that place just because this Elim student has come?    Whose life will be touched, changed, redirected, set on a path toward a divine destiny? Whom will this future leader choose to take with him?  What personal connections will she make?  Who will find a new sense of value and purpose just by being asked to “come along” with one of these leaders-in-the-making? Whom will he or she bring to that place and leave there, set in place for future impact?

Looking out on my class, I knew there was a “Priscilla” and/or an “Aquila” there who could one day instruct an “Apollos” in “the way of the Lord.”  There was a “Timothy” who would one day be set in and left by an “Apostle Paul” of our day to do what Timothy did in Ephesus.  He established a “called out” company of “holy ones” — “saints” — who would become the “church” of that city and that region of the world.  He would nurture a growing “body” and help every “member” to know its place and every “joint” to supply its part.  He would prepare a spotless “bride” for Christ, and set “living stones” into a “holy temple.”  He would bring a “household” together and see unity working in a “family” made up of “chosen ones” who were formerly estranged and “far off,” but who would now be “made nigh” by the blood of Christ and made “one” by “the spirit of adoption.” He would be the steward over God’s “inheritance,” His treasures, the “saints,” in that place. (These are all portraits Paul painted of the Church in his letter to the Ephesians.)

And many centuries later, even in our day, Paul’s personal letters to Timothy would give  structure for church leadership, spiritual principles and guidelines for church leaders, and character-coaching for leaders on all levels. They were all written to Timothy, young pastor in Ephesus.  Paul found him, Paul chose him, Paul fathered him, Paul taught him, and Paul trained him.  Paul brought him, Paul set him, and Paul left him.     And then when he was about to offer his life in Rome, Paul sent for him, to come (probably from Ephesus) so he could entrust to him the Gospel ministry. Timothy — the young man Paul had taken from his home place, the one he had often sent from place to place, the “son” who would go in his place, now the one he had chosen to set in this place — in Ephesus.

Paul had had his own season there, of course, teaching “the things of the Kingdom of God” in the school of Tyrannus for two years — during which time “the word of the Lord went throughout all Asia.”  That means both the message and the messengers spread out from the Ephesian hub into Asia Minor — and not just the message, but also the manifestations of the Gospel at work.    Miracles, deliverances, “demonstrations of the spirit and of power.”  Manifestations of the power of God as the antithesis and the antidote to manifestations of the power of Satan.  “And the word of the Lord prevailed”!

Individual men and women were being saved, healed, set free, and apprehended by the Gospel and for the Gospel.  It was a better “way” to live!  They became known as “people of the Way” — “the Way of the Lord.”   One by one and then in droves, people forsook witchcraft. They burned their expensive books and fetishes — burned and stopped buying.

Pagans left their idols.  Forsook them.  Destroyed them.  Forsook and stopped buying.  Problem!  Those idols were tied to the economy of the region by the purse-strings of the silversmiths.  Snap!  The Gospel was breaking the purse-strings.   Kingdom conflict at its peak.

The culture of the Kingdom of God was overtaking the culture of the kingdom of Satan.  The culture of the Kingdom of Light was penetrating the culture of the kingdom of darkness.  The culture of the worship of God was undoing the culture of the worship of Diana (Artemis).  The Prince of Life was being exalted and the principalities of darkness and death were raging with jealousy!  The conflict moved into the amphitheater of the community — the whole city in an uproar!  And Puny Little Paul was at fault, accused of “turning away much people” from the worship of Diana — not only in that city but in “almost all Asia.”  Puny Little Paul, with a powerful Gospel of a powerful God and a Prince of a Savior, had “persuaded” people to turn to Jesus, the Son of God.  The “persecutor” had become the “persuader” with a positive Gospel of a powerful Savior.

Demetrius accused him of “despising the temple of Diana,” but Paul was simply telling the Ephesians that they were becoming the Temple of God!   Becoming that Temple of God, they would no longer be coming to the temple of the goddess!

All this because of the little statement, “And Paul came to Ephesus.”

And with him, for most of the time, was Paul’s own “son in the Gospel,” Timothy, who “ministered unto him” and who ministered with him and who one day would minister after him.  Set in as pastor at Ephesus to establish the church, he would perpetuate the message and the ministry of the Gospel after Paul. As Paul had taught him, Timothy would find faithful men and teach them, and then they would “teach others also.”

“And Timothy came to Ephesus,” history would read — and time would tell the impact of his coming.