UNEXPLAINED BUT NOT UNLOVED!

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The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. (Job 42:12)

If I asked you, “Was Job loved by God?” . . . How would you respond? The opening of the book of Job tells us that he was both blessed and blameless; the Lord God Almighty referred to Job as “my servant” and said “There is no one on earth like him” (Job 1:8). If we stopped right there, no doubt we would unhesitatingly answer, “Yes! Of course Job was loved by God!”

Yet the biblical account tells us that God allowed Satan to take away Job’s health, his wealth, and all of his children. Job was left utterly destitute, to the point where his own wife suggested that he “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). And in a book that spans 42 chapters, God did not begin to dialogue with Job until the 38th chapter, and even then God never explained why He put Job though one of the most unimaginable storms that any of us could imagine.

As children of God, we must learn to understand His silences, no matter how difficult or painful the circumstances we are facing in life. Our God is God; He owes us no explanation for anything.

Much of life is unexplained, but Christian, I make this emphatic statement to you: Never equate the unexplained with being unloved. Hold close these comforting words that our Lord spoke in the Upper Room when He began to wash His disciples’ feet: “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:7). Some events in this life come with a clear understanding of what God is doing in our lives . . . others do not. But we must never think that a life experience left unexplained means we are left unloved.

The natural man who walks by sight demands to know everything about everything that goes on in life. In his blindness and sinful pride, he thinks his reason can raise him to that level of understanding, but that is just not possible, for “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Without knowledge of the things of God, the natural man is like a child stumbling around in a room without light.

The spiritual man who walks by faith knows that some things in this life go unexplained because God has the right to be silent, regardless of the circumstances we encounter. The landowner in the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (who clearly represents God the Father) gently rebukes the disgruntled workers by asking rhetorically, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” (Matthew 20:15 ESV).

Think back over your life for just a moment. Do you not recall that many of your life experiences could not be understood until after you went through them . . . sometimes long after? And perhaps, like Job, you find some that some are still left unexplained.

Regardless of where this message finds you today and no matter what it is you have experienced or are currently enduring, please remember that unexplained does not equal unloved. Heaven may be silent and the storm winds may be howling, but look to Jesus and you will know beyond a shadow of any doubt that you are not unloved . . . it is just not possible that you are unloved!

As our Lord hung on Calvary’s cruel cross in unimaginable agony, enduring fresh stabs of pain as He struggled to take each tortured breath, the people passing by mocked Him, calling out, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:40).

And do you know what? He could have done just that! He could have come down from that cross in the blink of an eye and called on twelve legions of angels to come and slaughter everything that drew breath atop that rocky hill. But He didn’t do that; instead He stayed there and endured the full measure of God’s righteous fury against your sins and mine so that we might have eternal life and so that we need never experience the terror of God’s wrath because God’s Son experienced it in our place. And at the end, Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” a cry of victory so majestic that the earth shook and the rocks split apart (Matthew 27:51).

Christian, Jesus wasn’t held to that cross by nails, not for an instant! He was held there by His eternal love for you. And in the midst of your deepest trial and sorrow He says to you, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

As we close, may these words from Job comfort you this day:

“He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”
(Job 23:10)

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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SCARLET CORD CHRISTIAN

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She tied the scarlet cord in the window.  (Joshua 2:21)

Do you remember the story of the two spies Joshua sent to scout the land of Jericho? The prostitute Rahab took them in and protected them when the king of Jericho commanded her, “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.” Rahab told those who were hunting for the spies that the men had already left the city, but actually she had hidden them on the roof of her home.

Why would this pagan woman, an immoral woman who did not belong to the covenant community of Israel, do such a thing? She had heard of the God of Israel and the amazing things He did in freeing His people from Egypt . . . and she believed!

Before the spies left, Rahab asked them to remember the kindness she had shown them and that she and her family would be protected from the Israelite army that was coming to conquer the city. They agreed, with one simple stipulation:

The men said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window.” (Joshua 2:17-18)     

The spies promised preservation was rooted in a simple, yet firm, act of faith. The scarlet cord in the window would be the sign of her personal protection. A trivial act to be sure, but an act that was absolutely necessary if Rahab and her family were to survive the invasion of the Israelite army into her city. The angel of death was on his way to Jericho, but he passed over Rahab’s home when he saw the scarlet cord hanging in the window.  

There are many lessons in this story, but one we must not miss is this: the spies represented God to this pagan woman and Rahab trusted in their promise and was obedient to their plan. You may recall that Rahab—this lady of the night, whom some might consider a “lowlife,” is enshrined in the Hebrews 11 “Hall of Fame of Faith” —

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” (Hebrews 11:31)

Do you and I have that same kind of unwavering faith as Rahab? Do we trust in the promises of God and remain obedient to His plan . . . even in the seemingly insignificant details of the Christian life? Do we render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s? Do we forgive as we have been forgiven? Do we do unto others what we would have others do unto us? Do we walk by faith and not by sight? Do we trust in God even when we cannot trace Him?

Remember, Rahab’s house was on the wall in Jericho and the walls came tumbling down. But she and her family were preserved because she believed in the promise of God and demonstrated it by tying the scarlet cord in the window.

May that be the confession of our lives as well. May we live as “Scarlet Cord Christians,” with our faith showing forth as boldly and conspicuously as a bright red banner for the glory of the One who has promised to preserve us all the way into glory.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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No Slumbering Savior

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The day is yours, and yours also the night.  (Psalm 74:16)

These words from the psalmist should be as comforting to us as they are challenging. God is in complete control of every aspect of our lives, both day and night, which should strengthen our resolve to live lives that are sold out for our Savior. The Lord God Almighty does not slumber at night (Psalm 121:3-4), leaving you to fend for yourself . . . not for one instant! Even during the darkest night of the soul, the Lord is in complete control, and He has promised you a morning light.

For you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. (Malachi 4:2)

From dusk until dawn, Jesus is sovereignly overruling all things, just as He does from dawn until dusk. No detail is left unattended. Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from His sovereign will, nor does one hair fall from your head apart from His perfect knowledge. No force in this universe is beyond His control, for all things serve Him (Psalm 119:91).

God will tolerate no rivals, and that includes those principalities and powers that contend against His good. To be sure, evil forces exist in this world, but they are the servants of our Savior, doing His bidding to expand His kingdom. From the first watch of the night until the first light of the day, nothing happens to you that doesn’t first pass through His nail-scarred hands. There is cosmic comfort in knowing our God has said, “I form the light and create darkness. . . . I, the Lord, do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).

In sacred Scripture, we find the “night” and “darkness” used as a metaphor for a variety of things, including evil, adversity, affliction, and ignorance. But there is another idea that I want to set before you, which is that darkness can also symbolize disappointment, despair, disillusionment, and defeat. Where light symbolizes God in all His goodness, mercy, and grace, darkness connotes all that is anti-God. We do not see as well in the darkness, but darkness is absolutely transparent to Him. The remedy for us when we are in the middle of our darkness is to trust in our God even when we cannot trace Him. There is much we will miss seeing in the darkness, which is why we must keep our focus on the One who sees all at all times.

And therein lies the challenge in today’s verse. There is no thought we ponder and no action we take that is concealed from our Lord’s eyes. As the psalmist says —

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day,

for darkness is as light to you. (Ps 139:11-12)

Those “secret sins” you are tempted to indulge in? Those acts you believe that darkness and a drawn shade will conceal from a watching world? There is One who is watching, One who discerns your every thought, who knows the words you are about to speak before your lips even form them (Psalm 139:2-4), One for whom there is no such thing as a locked door or “secret place.” Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must all give account (Hebrews 4:13).

Jesus tells us —

There is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.  (Luke 8:17-18)

Therefore, since our every action is known to our Lord and Savior, we are challenged and commanded to walk in the light of His love and His Word, seeking daily to be filled with His Spirit, and following in the path of right thoughts and deeds.

Because Jesus is in control of both the day and the night, we can advance confidently down that road of righteousness and good works He has called us travel, regardless of how difficult or desperate it may seem at times. Moses compared the brevity of time to “a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4); in light of this truth, let us not waste a single moment fretting over whatever “night” we are currently experiencing. Remember, there is a time coming when there will be no more night, when darkness will be totally vanquished, because the kingdom of God will be fully established and the true Light of this world will shine brightly in the new heavens and the new earth and in every aspect of your existence forever and ever.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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The Ocean of Omnipotence

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Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Consider the ocean and be encouraged today. Those of us who live near an ocean can call this picture to mind easily . . . some of you may need to recall the last time you stood before the vast, unending sea and set that picture in your mind. Do you have it?

Now consider this: Until you can drain this immense body of water dry, God’s ocean of omnipotence is always available to meet you in your place of deepest need. So fear not! God has given you everything you need to do everything He is calling you to do. Make no mistake, no weapon formed can ever come up against you and overcome the power of the Most High God that is at work within you.

Think about it this way: the Creator of the universe—the One who made the earth and hung it on nothing and directs it in its orbit . . . the One who continually fuels the flaming furnace of the sun . . . the One who commanded the morning to begin and the day to dawn . . . the One who closed the floodgates as the sea gushed from the womb and set limits which it cannot pass—this is the One who has promised to strengthen you for the work He has set before you.

You are swimming in the ocean of His omnipotence, and with every stroke, you are strengthened by His righteous right hand. God is not like man, for He cannot lie, nor does He promise and not fulfill His Word (Numbers 23:19). When He said, “I will strengthen you and help you,” He meant what He said! It is impossible that God could fail you, regardless of what it is you are facing today. God cannot “over-promise” Himself, for every promise He makes to us is “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20).

So, regardless of where this finds you today, do not fear and do not be dismayed. You may be facing mountainous obstacles, but what is that to Omnipotence? Keep these words of the prophet Isaiah with you today and every day God gives to you. Your ocean of omnipotence is overflowing and fully available to you if you will but dip your toe in it and believe this undeniable and unwavering truth:

Greater is the power that is in you than any power that comes up against you!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

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Unto us a child is born, to us a son is given. (Isaiah 9:6)

Today is the first day of December, which means Christmas is finally drawing near. As a pastor, I am reminded that the Christmas season is filled with mixed emotions. For some, as the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” . . . but for others, it is a time of fresh reminders of painful providences from a Christmas now past, reminders which make the Christmas season the most painful time of the year for many.

I relate to both groups quite well. To be sure, the Christmas season is a wonderful time of the year for the Boland family. We make our annual trek to Disney World to share in Mickey’s Christmas. We take out the decorations, turning our Florida home into a winter wonderland. Most importantly, it is the time of the year when we are reminded of the good news of the Gospel, proclaimed a little more than 2,000 years ago on that first Christmas morning in the little town of Bethlehem.

Inasmuch as Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year for our family, it is also the most painful. Both of my parents went home to be with the Lord during the Christmas season: Mom after only a six-week battle against cancer during the 2014 Christmas season and Dad on Christmas Day, 1995. Both of these painful memories are reminders of how desperately we need the good news of the Gospel.

You see, sin brought death into this world, but God promised us life through His Son, Jesus Christ. Death is not the end for the Christian; death has lost its sting because Jesus conquered death when He came out of the grave on the third day. And that is the glorious good news of the Gospel. By trusting in the atoning work of Jesus Christ as our Savior, our sins are forgiven and then death merely marks the beginning of life eternal with Him.

“Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43 NKJV)

So regardless of where this Christmas season finds you—whether it is filled with wonder and joy or marred by pain and sorrow or, as it is for me and for many of you, mixed with some of both—keep the good news of the Gospel in view. God promised a Savior, and on that first Christmas morning He fulfilled that promise in the birth of the baby Jesus. But Jesus did not stay a baby. He grew up, increased in wisdom and stature, lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death, rose supernaturally from the grave, and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father.

Jesus knows the wonder of Christmas and He knows the pain of it too. When He promised to never leave nor forsake you, He meant with He said! Jesus is not only with you, He is for you. Remember that glorious truth over the next 25 days as we advance toward Christmas Day.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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The Weakness of Strengths

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Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”(John 13:37)

We have a tendency to prepare ourselves for the attacks of the evil one where we are the weakest. But experience has taught me that Satan often attacks where we are seemingly the strongest. Today’s word is designed to be both a comfort and a caution to you as you go throughout your day.

In today’s verse we read of Peter’s sold-out commitment and service to his Savior. Peter was confident in his commitment to Christ, but, ultimately, Peter’s confidence was in himself. Peter was boasting of his own strength, and this is exactly where the devil found his foothold.

Peter was unaware of the weakness of his strengths. We must all remember that the enemy’s attacks will come, not only at our weak points or during our low periods, but also at the peak of what we consider to be our strengths. Peter was secure in his belief that his own strength and will could withstand any attack that might come his way, and that is exactly where Satan tripped him up, exposing Peter’s true, natural condition: harassed and helpless apart from his Shepherd.

What was true for Peter is true for you and me. We have all been tripped up by the devil in places we felt the strongest. Our strength is our weakness when, like Samson, we trust in the gift of our strength rather than in the One who gave us that gift. We must never believe that we are safe in our strengths; we are only safe in the strength of our Savior, who is at work within us. To be sure, the devil looks for chinks in our armor and launches his attacks, but we must also be ready to do battle with the evil one in areas where we believe we are fully armored.

When we find ourselves in the cross-hairs of the world, the flesh, and the devil, let us remember that we can do all things . . . but only those things in which Christ has strengthened us. The best way to keep our strengths from becoming our weaknesses to the watching world is to keep our eye of faith fixed on Jesus, the One who has promised us victory in Him and in Him alone. It is in His strength, nor our strength, where we will stand firm against every attack the devil sends our way.

As James said, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Christian, remember that where we are weak, there Christ is strong.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Holy Hair Brush

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Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Luke 12:6-7)

When was the last time you considered just how much God cares for you—I mean, really contemplated and considered God’s cosmic care for you? Has it been a while? Well, I have a word of eternal encouragement for you today!

In the passage from which today’s verse is taken, Jesus is talking about how valuable you are to God and just how much He cares for you. When Jesus says, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God” (Luke 12:6), He is arguing from the lesser to the greater. If God cares for five sparrows that are sold for roughly a single hour’s pay, then how much more does God care for you—you who are made in the image of God? Then Jesus strengthens His message of “cosmic care” for you even further by revealing that the exact number of hairs on your head are known by God.

The problem for most of us is that we have a tendency to forget what God thinks about us and to focus more on what others think of us. Yet our true worth comes not from our peers and how they judge our performance; our true worth comes from God, because we are His and His care for us is cosmic—which is another way of saying that His care is beyond our comprehension. God cares for all of His creatures and that most certainly includes you, right now, right where this finds you. God’s care for you does not fluctuate based on your accomplishments, achievements, or accolades. His care for you is fixed from eternity past. He tells us,

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3)

Christian, consider this biblical truth as you begin yet another day of life on this side of the grave: there has never been a time in your life—in fact, there has never been a time in all eternity—when God has not cared for you and loved you with His eternal love. You have eternally been the object of His Almighty affection. From everlasting to everlasting, you have been on His mind, in His heart, and part of His eternal plan. This should strengthen your resolve to rise above anything that has been trying to keep you down, knowing that the power of the One who is in you is greater than the power of the one who is in this world (1 John 4:4).

So the next time you are grooming yourself for the day ahead, consider what you are holding in your hand: a “holy hair brush,” because the Holy One knows who you are, what you need, and precisely how many hairs are left on your head after you just brushed. Now, that is care worth contemplating . . . don’t you agree?

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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