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

JESUS’ MOST COMMON TEACHING

JESUS MOST COMMON TEACHING

Recently, while doing a simple Bible search, I discovered something in the life of Jesus that brought me to a full stop. It stunned me, and I’m still trying to process it. Here’s the background to it:

There is very little from the life of Jesus that is recorded in all four Gospels. The reason for that is because John wrote his Gospel around 30 years after the others, and knowing what Matthew, Mark, and Luke had recorded, John wasn’t trying to be repetitive. He was writing to be complementary. For that reason, there is very little in John that is present in the other three Gospels.

Here’s what the Gospels have in common: All of them record four stories and three predictions. The four stories they all mention are the baptism of Christ, the feeding of the five thousand, the triumphal entry, and the passion of Christ (crucifixion/resurrection). All four Gospels record three predictions: Jesus predicted His betrayal, Peter’s denial, and His passion.

But there is no teaching of Christ contained in all four Gospels.

With one exception.

Only one verse of teaching is to be found in all four Gospels. As I continue, see if you can guess it.

Let me introduce the verse by asking a question. If you were directing the biblical writings, and wanted to emphasis one teaching of Jesus’ by placing it in all four Gospels, which teaching would you choose?

Clearly, if there’s only one teaching of Jesus’ to be found in all four Gospels, then it must be of paramount importance to Him.

Furthermore, this teaching is present in six places in the Gospels. Matthew records it twice, Mark once, Luke twice, and John once. When you study the context of these six mentions, you realize they are pointing to four distinct events:

•On His third tour of Galilee (Mat. 10:39)

•After his visit to Caesarea Philippi (Mat. 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24)

•On his final journey to Jerusalem (Luke 17:33)

•During his final week in Jerusalem (John 12:25)

 

So there are two unique characteristics about the teaching of Jesus to which we are pointing:

1. It is the only teaching of Christ mentioned in all four Gospels.

2. It is the only teaching of Christ that we know He gave on four different occasions.

 

Now, beyond any doubt, Jesus would have repeated His primary teachings throughout the 3.5 years of His ministry on earth. But in terms of the record we have in our hands, there is only one teaching of Jesus’ that we’re told He gave on four different occasions. It must have been His most common teaching.

Do I have your curiosity up? Want to know what the teaching was?

Find your life, you’ll lose it; lose your life, you’ll find it. John’s wording is slightly different, but it’s the same teaching: Love your life, you’ll lose; hate your life, you’ll keep it. (The references are listed above.)

Hear it! Lose your life. Hate your life. This was the foremost and most-repeated word of our Master.

When this teaching gets on your screen, you’ll start to see relevant applications everywhere. Little wonder that the context in which Jesus delivered this teaching was different in each of the four events listed above. That’s because it’s a message that relates to virtually every area of life.

If this was the most common teaching of Jesus, it leaves me with this question: To what degree is this word likewise upon my tongue?

 

 

A GIFT WITHOUT GIMMICKS

gift on a bus

Something happened to me on June 30, 2014 that I’ve got to tell you about.

Making my way homeward from a weekend trip, I was on the shuttle bus that transports passengers from the Kansas City airport to the long-term parking lot. I had earned some free parking passes to the lot and had two more free parking passes than I needed for my own parking tab. Since the coupons happened to expire the next day, I decided I would try to give the two free passes to another passenger on my bus. All the passengers on my bus were going to my long-term lot, and all would be paying $7.00 a day for parking their cars. My coupons for two free days of parking represented a $14.00 value.

I wanted to give the free passes to someone who would truly appreciate the savings, so I was trying to figure out how to go about it. For those of you who know me, you know I’m limited in my abilities to communicate because of a vocal injury. Whatever I might say to the other passengers would have to be communicated via my notepad. How could I convey to the other bus passengers that I was wanting to give away two days’ worth of free parking passes?

Here’s what I decided to write on my pad: “Would you like to save $14 in parking fees?”

At a loss to know who to offer the passes to on the bus, I decided to just go with the passenger closest to me. Sitting on my left was a woman, perhaps around age 50. By her comportment she could pass for a university professor or legal professional. I was more interested in giving the passes to someone in a lesser station of life, but hey, she was the closest one to me and so she had first dibs. I held my notepad up to her view. She read my message and shook her head, “No.” She didn’t want to save $14 in parking fees.

Next closest to me was an older couple sitting immediately across from me, facing me. I’m guessing they were around 60 years old. He had the appearance of someone who is well established in life, and once again, they didn’t represent the profile I had in mind but hey, they were the next closest to me so they had second dibs on the passes. I held my notepad up to them; the man read my message and shook his head, “No.” He didn’t want to save $14 in parking fees either.

The next closest passenger was a young man further to my left. He appeared to me to be roughly 30 years old. He was standing in the aisle because the bus was very full and overloaded with passengers. I reached past the woman on my left and held my notepad up for this young man to read. He read my message and shook his head, “No.” He didn’t want to save $14 in parking fees.

Just past him, and sitting on the other side of the couple facing me, was another young man who appeared to be in his upper 20s. I now had to reach my pad past the three parties who had just told me no, in order to get my message within the view of this other passenger. The young man read my message and shook his head, “No.” Neither did he want to save $14 in parking fees.

I thought to myself, “This isn’t working. I am not going to be able to give these free parking passes away.” I had one final option. There was another passenger that I could reach with my notepad, and if she said no, then I would give up. She was sitting on the other side of the woman on my left. So I reached my arm behind the woman on my left, and stretching my arm out so that this other woman could read my note, I held it up to her view. I would guess that she was in her mid 20s. She read my message, her eyes lit up, she gave me a nice smile and nodded, “Yes.” So I reached into my shirt pocket, pulled out my two free parking passes, and immediately handed them to her.

I realized, of course, that all these passengers in my circle of view were watching the entire proceedings. When I turned back, after giving her the two passes, and checked the faces of the other parties who had declined my overtures, you would have thought that I did not exist. Not one of them would give me eye contact. They all stared ahead stoically into space, as though our little drama had not even happened.

I would pay to know what they were thinking. “I just passed up two free parking coupons.” Of course, we can all imagine why they might say no to such an overture. For starters, it’s unusual for someone to be communicating on a notepad. Furthermore, we’ve all been taught that nothing in life is free. There are always strings attached. They didn’t know what strings might be attached to my question, so they summarily declined.

But as it turned out, there were no strings attached. It was simply a gift. A stranger was offering a gift to other strangers.

The young woman who got the two passes happened to get off the bus at my stop. As we parted she called out to me, “Thanks again! Have a great night!”

As I drove away it occurred to me that this is how the Father offers His Gospel to us. He asks, “Would you like eternal life?” It’s a gift to strangers, offered without any gimmicks.

When I thought about those who had declined my offer, I was reminded of this verse: “Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles’” (Acts 13:46).

I hope you are not unworthy of accepting the Father’s offer of eternal life. It’s simply a gift. No gimmicks.

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

paul came to ephesus

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.

 

GIVING ALMS TO FOOLISH SPENDERS

GIVING ALMS TO FOOLISH SPENDERS

I am writing this post because of an excellent question I received on my Facebook page today from Jon Wages. I had placed this meditation on my page:

“Give to everyone who asks of you” (Luke 6:30).  Even if you can’t give them what they request, give them something.

Jon sent this question in response:

“Do you feel the exception of people only trying to ‘pull a fast one’ is included in this? Is it ok to give even when you know they will use it on bad things? Asking because I have wondered about that every time I read that verse. Thanks for the thoughts!”

What a great question! Worded a different way, should a Christian give alms to people that will use those funds to purchase addictive substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs, or squander them on things like lottery tickets?

While many people are poor through misfortune or lack of opportunity, the fact is that some people are poor because of foolish steward practices and sinful lifestyles. When giving to poor people in that second category, your gifts to them are often used to support their sinful lifestyles.

And that is one reason Jesus and the Scriptures call upon the righteous to give to the poor. When you give to those who are likely to abuse the funds given to them, you discover whether you are truly giving from the heart to Jesus. As it says in Prov. 19:17, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will pay back what he has given.” When in almsgiving you give from the heart to Jesus, He always remembers.

Almsgiving is like a refining fire in the heart of the giver. This is why Jesus said, “But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you” (Luke 11:41). As a refining agent, almsgiving cleanses the soul. One of the first things it cleanses is the constant tendency in our hearts toward greed and materialism. Greed never stops trying to overgrow the heart. Almsgiving must be a constant practice in the life of the believer, continually hacking back the ever-encroaching tentacles of greed.

In terms of practical application, here’s how I practice almsgiving. When I am giving to someone that I expect will use my gift toward purchasing addictive substances, I give smaller amounts. When I believe that my gift will go to nobler purposes, I am more generous. The more confident I am in the channel (e.g. printing Bibles for people in poor or oppressed nations), the more generous I become.

Thank you, Jon, for your question!

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THE POWER OF STORY

The Power of Story

They sat spellbound in the darkness, hardly breathing. A few were occasionally nibbling popcorn while most just stared. The screen had transported them into a new reality. Left behind was the ho-hum, the mundane, the everyday; they were swept up into a world of excitement, adventure, intrigue, and romance.

They had entered the theater as individuals with impassive expressions. But now they were one, a group that swayed and played with the drama, faces open and eager. Anger, joy, love, hate, fear, excitement—a multitude of emotions were being shared together as the moviegoers became one with the screen. They laughed and cried as they went places never before traversed. Things were as they should be—wrongs were made right, evil was punished, justice was served, loyalty was rewarded, love was shared, the impossible was overcome.

They had come, not to escape from life but to experience it. Lifted above meaninglessness, they were now elevated into something higher, something for which their spirits yearned. Life was springing to new meaning in the safety of their seats.

Hollywood has captured the power of story.  Audiences identify with the movie, locate themselves in the story, and connect with its significance.  Those who write stories have the ability, through the power of their art, to shape the values and cultures of nations and generations.  I was reminded of this truth while applying recently for a tourist visa.  Invited to teach in a nation where Christians are often persecuted for their faith, I needed to apply for a visa in a manner that would not reveal the religious nature of my mission.  In the process of completing the application, I came to the line where I was supposed to list my occupation.  I knew instinctively that I should not indicate that I am a gospel preacher.  Author.  That seemed innocuous enough to me.  So that’s what I wrote down, and sent the application off to an American agency that helps with my visa applications.

A couple of days later, an agency rep called to say that if I put author on the application it would be declined automatically.  The government, they informed us, does not want authors or lawyers visiting their nation.

I thought author was a neutral occupation and was initially surprised to discover they perceived it as dangerous.  But upon reflection, it made sense.  Stories are catalytic, and can pose a threat to repressive governments that do not want people to think for themselves or to form politically incorrect beliefs.  Authors have the power, through story, to shape the ideologies and thinking of the land.

That exchange with the visa agency heightened my awareness of the power that resides in having a great story and sharing it with someone.

Long before Hollywood, Broadway and the New York Times Bestsellers List, Jesus understood the power of story.  We see this in the case where Jesus healed a demon-possessed man but then would not allow him  to follow Him in His travels.  Instead, Jesus told him to stay home and tell his friends what God had done for him (see Mark 5:1-20).  Even though the people of the region initially rejected Jesus, He knew their hearts would change through the power of this man’s story.

Jesus knew that this man’s story would bypass people’s defenses and win their hearts. In a similar way, God wants to use your story to win the hearts of others who might otherwise not be able to connect with their eternal destiny.

God rarely writes short stories. So don’t lose heart, even if the plot seems to grow long. God really knows how to write a good story—wait for it. When God’s purpose comes clear, you’ll have a story that will have the kind of power on it to move an entire generation. Even some whose first response was to reject Jesus will be gripped by the power of your story and be won to the wisdom of the righteous.

THE GOSPEL IS IN THE GOSPELS

The Gospel is in the Gospels

When did the Gospel era officially launch? Where should we draw the line between the Old and New Covenants?

The answer to this question is immensely important. There are voices in the body of Christ that place the line in the wrong place, producing teachings that are very harmful to the body of Christ. Hence, this post. I am writing to identify where this line needs to be drawn, and why this is so important.

The line is drawn usually in one of two places: Either at the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry, or at the Day of Pentecost. The second option is the wrong answer. When some suggest that the Gospel era was not launched until the Day of Pentecost, they assign the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus to the Old Covenant era. In so doing, the teachings of the Gospels get labelled as Old Covenant truths—truths which are not as compelling or binding upon believers as the truths in the epistles. Thus, the teachings of Christ are improperly assigned secondary weight or significance. This error is contributing to much false teaching in the body of Christ, both past and present.

There ought to be no question as to when the Gospel era began, for the Bible itself tells us clearly in two passages. First of all, Mark in his Gospel identifies “the beginning of the gospel” with the advent of John the Baptist’s ministry:

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.” (Mark 1:1-2)

The second witness is from the mouth of Jesus Himself, who drew the line between Malachi and John the Baptist:

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. (Mat. 11:12-13)

The Gospel era was launched with the ministry of John the Baptist. Get this clearly: The Gospel is in the Gospels.

Those who place the teachings of the Gospels in the Old Testament era do so because they want to be free of some of the constraints in Christ’s teachings. Jesus, who taught in the fullness of grace (Jn. 1:14), taught things that guard the gospel from excesses. When Jesus’ teachings are brushed aside, the stage is set for teachings that appear to produce freedom, but in the end lead to permissiveness, indulgence, imbalance, and even sin.

God came from heaven, became flesh, and walked among men to communicate to us the heart of the Father. There is no higher authority in all Scripture than the words of Christ. Any theological system that assigns secondary value to the teachings of Jesus Christ is to be avoided like cancer.

John G. Lake wrote, “I consider all the Word of God the common court of the Gospel, but the words of Jesus are the supreme court of the Gospel.” To this I lend my hearty amen.

When the words of Christ are relegated to second place, it makes a way for imbalanced teachings about the grace of God. The grace of God can be presented in a way that enables believers to turn liberty into license.

And when the words of Christ are relegated to second place, it makes a way for imbalanced teachings about money and prosperity. Jesus’ teachings about money become viewed as legalistic, and His example of a simplified lifestyle is jettisoned in favor of lavish lifestyles.

The topic of this post is personal for me because of a time when the Lord visited me and rebuked me. I had been influenced by some authors in a certain stream in the body of Christ, and had adopted some ideas about the power of Pentecost that had, by default, minimized all that preceded the cross, including the teachings of Christ. I did not realize how wrong that line of thinking was until the Lord came to me in a clear way, rebuked me, and re-aligned my understanding in something not unlike a chiropractic adjustment. He rebuked me for viewing the teachings of Christ too lightly. I saw it clearly: “The Gospel is in the Gospels.”

Someone might argue, “But didn’t Paul say that Christ was ‘born under the law?’” (Gal. 4:4). True enough. We were not fully liberated from the law until the resurrection of Christ. John the Baptist and Jesus ministered in a unique window of time during which the teachings of the Gospel were introducing a new era, while the full provision of this Gospel was not released until the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). He had to be born under the law in order to satisfy the law’s requirements. While satisfying the law, He announced a Gospel of repentance that was greater than the law.

John the Baptist was “more than a prophet” (Mat. 11:9) because his ministry wrestled the Gospel era into human history. He paved the way so that Jesus could give us the glorious teachings of the Gospel.