In Your Presence There is Fullness of Joy

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Ps 16:11 ESV)

The Christian life is a pilgrimage that is incredibly different and unique for every born-again child of God. For some, the Master’s call to be fishers of men takes them down a danger-filled road that runs through the dark valley that is chilled by the shadow of death. For others, their journey is marked by relative peace as in the times of unrivaled prosperity and rest that the land of Israel knew during the reign of king Solomon. For some saints, the journey to the New Jerusalem is a painful but short one. And though they are executed for refusing to deny their Lord, they are not abandoned to Sheol but whisked away to their beloved Saviour’s side by the King’s chariots of fire. For others, their race is a marathon that takes them through the seemingly mundane, but very real trials of ordinary life. And whether the saint is battered on the road by Giant Despair of Doubting Castle or tempted to cease running because of the seductive power of the fleeting treasures of this world in Vanity Fair—with the LORD always before us, we will never be shaken. Though we may have no certainty concerning what trials lie ahead of us, we may have great confidence that the path of the cross that the Lord has revealed to us, is the true path of life. And at the end of this road lies the City of God where our ultimate hope is hidden.

How sweet this truth from God’s Word is! Sweeter than honey to our lips! Because God has made known to us the path of life, we know the way into the presence of God himself through the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. And though our Good Shepherd might lead us into the wilderness, it is only so that we might reach the Promised Land where our soul will at last find green pastures and still waters. There in the presence of our Father, we will experience joy—not just temporary, earthly joy that comes and goes like the ebb and flow of the ocean’s waves—but complete, fullness of joy that overflows our cup!

How unlike our world this is! For all the joy we experience in this world is mixed with pain and sadness. David’s joy at the transportation of the ark was mingled with grief as the LORD struck Uzzah dead for placing his hand on the holy vessel. The apostle Paul’s joy at being caught up into the third heaven was mitigated by his severe thorn in the flesh that drove him to depend on God for daily grace. For us, the joy of marriage will one day be replaced by the sadness of death. The joy of new possessions and growth will be tempered by the painful effects of aging. In this world, we taste only the little drippings of joy that spill from the overflowing cup of heavenly joy that awaits us in the presence of God. There in heaven, we will never again feel our heavenly Father frown at us on account of our sins for we will be sinless. We will never again feel the aches and pains of old age and toil in this sin-cursed world. We will know only unbridled joy as our immortal bodies leap and bound through the streets of the New Jerusalem that gleam with the glory of God. We will age day by day yet have the joy of remaining forever young. And finally, we will have the ultimate delight of the Psalmist—to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to bask in the joy of the One who is the giver of all good gifts and unending joy. Oh, how incomparable heavenly joy is! Joy so full that it makes the joys of this world seem like nothing. Joy so complete that we could never possibly imagine ourselves happier!

And not only joy, the Psalmist says, but pleasures forevermore. Not just for a time, but forever. Even when one million years have passed according to our earthly calendar, it will not even equal one hour on heaven’s calendar in eternity. The toil of serving those who cannot repay us day in and day out, will be replaced with an eternity of being served by God’s ministering servants—the angels of heaven. The ravages of chronic illness will be replaced by immortality and eternal health. The pain of severed relationships on this earth will give way to the pleasures of heavenly friendships that will never again be strained by the effects of sin. Prisoners shall have boundless freedom, the hungry will feast always at the dining table of the Lamb. The tears we have shed on this earth will be wiped away by the finger of Jesus himself whose very presence will ensure that no foul thing will ever come through the gates of the New Jerusalem that are never shut night or day. Perfect, unending love. Perfect, unending worship of the living God. Here on earth, joy enters into us. But in the King’s land, we will enter into joy. On that final day, the ungodly will drink the wine of the wrath of God full strength, but we who are faithful to our Lord unto death will drink the water from the river of life full strength, with overflowing joy.

Christian, do you long to taste the fullness of joy that is found only in the presence of our God? Does your soul pant and thirst after the living God? Do you realize that the light tastes of joy that you have on earth are but little drops that have fallen from the fullness of the river of delight in heaven? Do the eternal pleasures that are at our Lord’s right hand cause you to tear your gaze away from the transient, lackluster joys of this world and fix your eyes on Christ? Does the fullness of joy that awaits you in the Lord’s presence not make your present, light momentary afflictions seem so small? Be encouraged Christian as you run your race and do not give up. For though the finish line may seem far away, our Lord waits for you there with the victor’s crown. And when you have finished the race and kept the faith by his strength, you will have your soul’s ultimate reward—the joy and pleasure of the presence of God himself, forever.

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The God Who Keeps His Promises

Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. 44 And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Josh 21:43 ESV)

In the Hebrew text of these three verses, the word “all” appears no less than six times. This passage comes as the final word in a detailed list of all the different land allocations that were given to the children of Israel after they had conquered the promised land of Canaan. Every major city and its surrounding villages, every regional boundary bordering the numerous brooks and streams that ran through Israel, every bit of pastureland belonging to all the different tribes was accounted for. Nothing was left out. Not because Israel had done a marvelous job in the conquest! In fact, they had failed to obey God’s commands fully in some cases, allowing some of the Canaanites to remain in the land.

But the reason that they received their inheritance is because God ALWAYS keeps his promises. They received the land because God swore to give the land to their ancestors and so he did (21:43). They had peace from their enemies because the LORD gave it to them (21:44). No giant Anakim soldier or fortified city could resist them because the Lord had “handed over all their enemies to them” (21:44). Every single promise—down to the last one—was accomplished.

What assurance this gives to us as believers in an ever-changing world! How much spiritual bedrock this gives to us to build our entire lives on! Are we not painfully aware of how many in this world (us included) make promises that are not or cannot be kept?

How many grooms have gazed into the eyes of their beautiful brides on their wedding day declaring their steadfast love yet left them for some mistress a few years later? How many fathers have made promises to their little girls to return home safely from war only to have a military commander salute their spouse at the door with a folded flag and a letter of condolences? How many businessmen have promised their employees the investment opportunity of a lifetime with their novel product only to have been reduced to rags and bankruptcy by a downturn of the stock market or a change in public tastes?

Christian, are you staggered by our God who always keeps his promises? When we are deserted or betrayed by our closest friends, we will never truly be alone because our Lord has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Deut 31:6). When we sin against our God despite our adamant promises to never do so again and turn to him in humility and repentance, we will never hear him say, “You have sinned too much! The blood of the cross is no longer good for you!” God will never throw us out in exasperation for he is faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Christian, let us never take for granted the incredible promises of God! Let us weep for joy that the fountain of grace will never run dry because we serve a God who never goes back on his Word! As surely as the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return there, neither does God’s Word ever return empty. The heavens and the earth will be burnt up with a roar, but our Lord’s words will never pass away. The friend we once ate bread with might turn against us (Ps 41:9), but Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). Because our God does not change, the children of Jacob were not consumed (Mal 3:6) and neither are we.

All praise and glory be to our God whose promises never fail!

The Glory of God in Human Weakness

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor 12:8-9 ESV)

The world we live in does not know what to do with weakness. Business people seek to fire it, the dissatisfied parent seeks to abort it, the eugenicist seeks to exterminate it, and nature tries to devour it. The fittest survive and thrive whereas the weak become slaves and prey.

But the inverted kingdom of Jesus Christ turns conventional wisdom on its head. In Christ’s kingdom, the last shall become first. The one who would be great must be a servant to all. Those who humble themselves in the sight of God will be exalted by Him before all men. And whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will ultimately gain it.

Weakness is no exception in the kingdom of God. It is not to be disdained or rejected but embraced and celebrated. Not because we Christians are delusional or devoted to being countercultural, but because the insignificant canvas of our weakness shows off the matchless might and unparalleled genius of our Lord whose skill at painting with the brushstrokes of human lives has no equal.

It is not completely clear whether Paul was plagued by a demon, an illness, or some combination of the two. But what is clear is that the Lord allowed this “messenger of Satan” to harass him and though the apostle pleaded for relief, our Lord comforted him not by removing it, but by reminding him that His power “is made perfect in weakness.”

How important this is for us as believers to understand! God’s power shines more brightly in human weakness than in human strength! And whether it was with the Israelites and the Exodus, or Gideon with his ragtag group of three hundred men, this the Lord’s pattern in the Scriptures. This is how our Lord exalts his own great name—by humbling human strength and elevating his divine power! And do we not see this truth displayed in the lives of believers all around us?

The single mother who must work every day from morning to night to put bread on the table and support her seven children is a living testament to the surpassing greatness of the power of God in weakness. For the world around her is astounded by a weak woman whose jar of flour is never too empty to feed her hungry mouths and whose jar of oil is never too empty to supply her impossible amounts of divine stamina and strength. The old missionary who once preached boldly in the jungles of foreign lands and now struggles to empty his bedpan while finding delight in Jesus gives glory to God in his weakness. For what is clear in the wrinkled face of such an old saint that is mixed with joy and pain, is that our treasure is not in this world—not in our activity, nor in our vitality—but stored up in heaven where rust and moth do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal. The baby that comes into the world with a congenital heart disease and does not live for more than a few days is a display of the power of God in weakness. The numerous hugs and kisses that are lavished on a little one who is not long for this world reminds us that smallness or weakness does nothing to mar the dignity of being made in the image of God but rather enhances it.

So, go before the throne of grace, Christian! Plead with God, as Paul did, that your thorn might be removed from you. But if our Lord instead gives you all sufficient grace, then boast in your weakness, that the power of Christ might shine through your life. The concrete wall of a house may be stronger than a fragile pane of glass. But only a glass window allows its inhabitants to soak in the life-giving warmth of the sun. The same is true for us as Christians. Never think that you are too weak to be used by God. If our Lord has made you as fragile as glass, do not complain and lie in the dust on the floor. Be encouraged! Rise and work for the glory of God! So that as people look at you—look THROUGH your fragility—their gaze is drawn to the true Son, whose life-giving Gospel rays give eternal warmth and light.

The Precious Blood of Christ

…knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Pet 1:18-19 ESV)

The temptation to worship and serve the god of silver and gold is a strong one. The god of money whispers into our ears, “Serve me, and I will give you the mansion of your dreams. Serve me and you will have the best doctors to care for you. Serve me and you will drink from the fountain of the finest pleasures in this world.” Yet, we all know, that there are things all the silver and gold in the world cannot buy. Money can buy a house, but not a home. Money can buy friends, but not love. Money can buy a church building and food for ten thousand orphans… but one thing it cannot buy, is peace with God—the forgiveness of our sins! A billion dollars in your bank account to spend over 80 years of life is absolutely worthless if it can do nothing to save your soul from the eternal fires of hell.

But not so with the blood of Christ! The blood of Christ cannot buy you a house, a meal, nor even a jacket to protect you from the cold. Yet, the blood of Christ is infinitely more valuable than all the money in the world! For it ALONE—nothing else—can pay for our sins and give us everlasting peace with God!

The Israelites whom God called out of Egypt into the wilderness understood the absolute necessity of having peace with God. The thick veil and cloth curtains of the tabernacle served as a daily reminder that though God lived in their midst, he was holy. And without this separation from their sinfulness, every single one of them would be dead. Numbers 28 tell us just how vividly the people were constantly reminded of the horrific nature of their terminal disease of sin. Every single day, a lamb was slaughtered and burned in the morning and another again in the evening. God’s people could never forget that whether they were awake or asleep, that they only lived because another had died in their place. Perhaps walking by the tabernacle, you would hear the little lamb crying, “Baa, baa,” only to have its voice instantly cut off as the priest’s knife slashed through its throat. And as the severed artery spurted out blood into its windpipe, the little creature would gasp and gurgle as it drowned in its own blood—and died. And you would think to yourself, “Little lamb. You did not die because you were an evil creature or because you had sinned. You were spotless and innocent. Little lamb, you died to remind me of the infinite offense of my own sin against a holy God whose eyes are too pure to look on evil!”

Now, every day two lambs were slaughtered. Every Sabbath, two additional lambs were slaughtered. On the first day of every month, seven additional lambs were slaughtered, and so on. In total, 1,084 lambs were slaughtered publicly every year—not including all the lambs that were killed to atone for the individual sins of the people. Never was there a year, month, week or even a SINGLE DAY, when the people of God did not have a reminder of their need to be cleansed of their sins. There must be blood! For without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. How dreadful is sin! So vile, so monstrous, so horrid, despicable that it cannot be washed away with the strongest chemicals on the planet—only, the blood of Christ.

How precious then is the blood of Christ! More valuable than the blood of a thousand lambs or goats and bulls that can never take away sins. Yet, our Jesus, by his death on the cross offered once and for all, a single sacrifice for sins, and then sat down at the right hand of God!

It is FINISHED! It is FINISHED! Christ has paid for all my sins! Hallelujah, death is vanquished, Jesus blood has pardoned me!

Christian, do you remember your horror at sin when God opened your eyes to see the immense magnitude of your crimes against him? Do you identify with the old hymns that says, “Behold the man upon a cross, my sin—MY SIN—upon his shoulders. Ashamed I hear my mocking voice, call out among the scoffers. It was my sin—MY SIN—sin that held him there, not nails, until God’s plan to redeem was accomplished. His dying breath has brought me life, I know that it is finished.”

How precious is the blood of Christ that brings us peace with God! I am no longer a slave to sin. I am no longer a criminal sitting on eternal Death Row. The precious blood of Christ covers me so completely that the destroying angel of the Exodus will look at me and say, “I see no enemy here deserving of death. Only a child of God, purchased by the blood of God’s one and only Son.” I am child of the king. I have a palace waiting for me in heaven. I have a future in the King’s shining land where I will eat with saints from all the ages forever. I have an eternity of perfect happiness and bliss in the New Garden of Eden, where I will walk with my Lord and Savior day by day in the cool of his garden. And there, I will sing his praises forever, with unending joy in my heart, even as I hold the nail-scarred hands that paid my ransom.

Brothers and sisters, a fountain of our own tears of regret for our own sins cannot save us. The greatest sacrificial acts of love done for others cannot save us. The best sermons preached in the name of God in this world cannot save us. The only thing that can save us, is the precious blood of Jesus Christ. And for his shed blood on Calvary’s cross, we give him the highest praise.

The Philistine Way is Too Hard for You

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. (Ex 13:17-18 ESV).

The children of Israel were truly frail and spiritually weak when they came out of Egypt. When God delivered them with his mighty hand from the power of the cruel and tyrannical Pharaoh, he rescued them knowing full well their immaturity and propensity to run away from him. But after setting them free from slavery, our text tells us that God did not lead them straight to the promised land of Canaan by taking them on the short and direct route, east through the land of the Philistines. Rather, God led the people through the wilderness—to the impassable waters of the Red Sea.

What a strange route to take to enter the promised land! Yet God with the superior wisdom of a discerning parent knew that his firstborn child was not ready to go into battle against the Philistines, let alone the Canaanites. God knew that though Israel had excitedly marched out of Egypt equipped for battle, their childish hearts were not ready to wage war against their adversaries and would quickly run back to the shackles of slavery at the first hint of trouble.

So instead, he brought them first through the wilderness to the Red Sea—a place where they would be hemmed in and trapped on all sides—both by the impassable waters of that body of water and the murderous army of Pharaoh and his chariots. There God would begin the training of his young children. For what the people of Israel needed to learn with their hearts was that any hope of victory lay not in their skill with the sword, the cleverness of their tactics, or even their strength in numbers. God’s people needed to understand that their help came from the Lord alone, the maker of heaven and earth. The horse might be made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord (Prov 21:31). And to teach them this lesson, he drove them to a place where they faced certain destruction if the LORD God did not act.

And there, at the brink of the Red Sea as the people were thrown into utter pandemonium, God declared to them, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Ex 14:14). And that day, the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea with the mighty waters towering over them, a wall of divinely bound water on their left and right. But the Egyptians who pursued them through the midst of the sea did not prevail. As Moses stretched out his hand, a deluge of millions of tons of water came crashing down on the Egyptian soldiers, wiping out the entire army in an instant. And so, God saved his children, not through any action of their own, but solely through HIS actions.

God sent his children to the Red Sea, not to destroy them, but to teach them an invaluable lesson before they squared off against the Canaanite cities of the promised land. God needed to burn into his children’s hearts the understanding that he fought FOR them before he would fight THROUGH them.

How humbling and comforting this is to learn! God knows our weak hearts and will not place us into trials where we are doomed to give into our temptations and abandon our faith. The trials that he sends us are perfectly crafted by our Master to grow us in steadfastness—that we might be perfect, complete, and lacking in nothing. And the reason we are still in the faith today is because God did not lead us into the trials of war when we were not yet ready for it. He is not a cruel master who sends infants in Christ to die in spiritual wars that are reserved for mature, battle-hardened soldiers of the cross.

Believer, are you in a period of trial in your life that is humanly impossible to pass? Do you look at Pharaoh’s army on one side, the Red Sea on the other, and cry out to God for help? Do you wish that you were back in the land of Egypt living as a slave or perhaps that he had sent you by way of the land of the Philistines instead? Child of God, do not turn either to the left or to the right and stray away from the road that divine Providence has brought you on. We serve a God who fights for us. We serve a God who acts on behalf of those who wait for him (Is 64:4). We serve a God who sympathizes with our weaknesses and knows that we are but dust. He has brought you here in life and not anywhere else although you may think that the grass is greener on the other side. He knows your weak frame better than you know yourself. He knows that the way of the Philistines is too hard for you at the moment, but that through this particular trial, as impossible as it seems, you will grow.

Would you trust him and submit yourself to him along this road that he chosen for you? Let the LORD your God fight for you. You need only to be silent.

The Best Education in the World

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13 ESV)

The greatest education in the world is not found where you would most expect it. It is not found in the vaunted halls of the university of Oxford among the minds of the world’s brightest scholars. It is not found at the feet of an ancient monk in a remote monastery, hidden high above the clouds on a snow-capped mountain in Tibet. It is not even found in the Ph.D programs of the finest evangelical seminaries that stand for the authority of God’s Word.The greatest education to be had in this world is found in being with Jesus.

The disciples that Jesus called were not men who were known for their staggering intellect or advanced studies. Of all the apostles, only Paul, the latecomer to the apostolic band and untimely born Pharisee-turned-Christian had the benefit of advanced rabbinical training. Yet, when the blue-collar fishermen, Peter and John stood before those towering intellectuals and scholars of the law who presided over the supreme Jewish court, the giants of their world were stunned. For all their wisdom and learning paled in the face of men who had learned from the Master, Jesus Christ, himself.

How great is the education in the school of Christ! How much divine compassion was burnt into their souls as they watched their Lord lay his hands on shunned beggars and heal them of their diseases! How much of God’s heart for the lowly and downtrodden was injected into their chests as they watched Jesus receive children into his arms and sit with the prostitutes and the tax collectors! What lessons of courage and zeal for God were permanently etched onto their consciences as they gaped at Jesus scourging and expelling the marketeers who had transformed God’s temple into a den of thieves! How much Scripture did they grasp from Christ as the eternal Word himself taught them the Word and lived the Word in front of them! For them, Christ was truly the living Word of God. For all the perfect justice, wrath, kindness, and mercy of God flowed through the very person of Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters, to know Jesus Christ—to be intimately acquainted with his person and his works—is to have divine knowledge of what is true, right, and holy. It is the greatest knowledge in the world and no amount of gold and silver nor volumes of encyclopedias can compare with it. You may not hold an advanced degree from some great university. Your daily work might be labeled as unskilled and replaceable. But if you know Christ and are known by Him, then the Holy Spirit of the omnipotent, immortal King lives in you! And should the most fearsome magistrates or government officials drag you into court and demand that you speak to them, the Lord has promised that in the very hour of your greatest need, you will be given what to say. For it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. And though you may stand in the presence of the wisest men in this world, our God can so empower you that none will be able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which you will speak. They will look at your face and see not the timidity or fear of an uneducated country bumpkin, but the face of angel (Acts 6:10, 15)—the shining face of one who has looked upon the glory of God and not died because of the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.

So do not fear, child of God, that you are insignificant or foolish in the eyes of this world. For those who have sat in the school of Jesus are the wisest in the eyes of God. None who wish to enter his school will ever be cast out, and the unaffordable cost of tuition for your education has already been paid for by the infinitely valuable blood of Christ. So, let us draw close to our God that he might draw close to us, and learn well as Mary did, at the feet of our supremely wise Master.

God Made Ostriches Dumb for His Glory

“The wings of the ostrich wave proudly, but are they the pinions and plumage of love? 14 For she leaves her eggs to the earth and lets them be warmed on the ground, 15 forgetting that a foot may crush them and that the wild beast may trample them. 16 She deals cruelly with her young, as if they were not hers; though her labor be in vain, yet she has no fear, 17 because God has made her forget wisdom and given her no share in understanding. 18 When she rouses herself to flee, she laughs at the horse and his rider. (Job 39:13 ESV)

When God created the world, he declared that everything that he made was very good. From the lush emerald greens of the tropical jungles, to the massive leviathans of the deep that swim the untamed oceans, to the mighty herds of four-legged creatures that roam the sun-warmed lands of the African savanna—our Creator crafted the entirety of this world with his matchless brilliance and wisdom ex nihilo (out of nothing) to display his glory.

God’s genius in creation speaks so magnificently to his divine wisdom that when Job complains to God about his seemingly unjust and pointless sufferings, God does not attempt to convince Job with argumentation or reason, but simply points him to the staggering complexity and sheer awesomeness of the created order. God is the one who loads the storm clouds with moisture so that they shower the earth with rain (37:11). God is the one who forbids the waves of the raging ocean to surge an inch beyond the stops he has placed for them on the seashore (38:11). God is the one who feeds the ravens in the sky with the food that they need each day (38:41). And God is the one who crafted the arid plains of the inhabitable desert into a home for the wild donkey (39:5).

But the spectacular wisdom of God is not just to be seen in the mighty works of nature that awe us with their absolute immensity or raw power. The wisdom of God is even more brilliantly displayed in the seemingly foolish, weak, and insignificant things of the world that are possessed with hidden qualities that their Master has placed in them. The ostrich is indeed a strange creature in this world. It has a tiny head attached to a long neck that is coupled to its plump football-shaped body. It has wings, yet it cannot fly. It is a bird, yet it lives on the ground. Unlike other airborne fowls, the ostrich makes its nest not in the safety of a tree’s lofty branches, but in the vulnerable, unsafe environment of the ground where a heavy foot might stomp on its eggs or a wild beast might trample them (39:15). If one could give the ostrich marks for parental skill, the ostrich would earn a failing grade in the art of baby-proofing her home. But the reason for this lack of intelligence is stunning to us. For, the ostrich is dumb, because God made her dumb and given her “no share in understanding.” (Job 39:17)

Now one might be tempted to think that such a “dumb” creature is a mistake, a blight on God’s brilliance, yet nothing could be farther from the truth! For despite the ostrich’s silly demeanor, awkward proportions, and lack of parental wisdom, her twin legs can propel her to such incredible speeds that she can leave the fastest horse and rider trying to hunt her in the dust. So quick is this “dumb” creature that she veritably laughs at the feeble attempts of any pursuer to catch her! In short, God shows his brilliance and ingenuity in designing a foolish creature that defies our expectations and shames the wisest human hunters and their nimble steeds.

Brothers and sisters, is this not a perfect illustration of the wisdom of God displayed in the work and person of Jesus Christ? Does not the apostle write that the word of the cross is foolishness to the perishing world (1 Cor 1:18)? Is not the wisdom of the world utterly insufficient when it comes to knowing God (1 Cor 1:21)? Who could have imagined that the masterplan of God was to consign all of mankind to disobedience so that he might pour out his matchless grace and kindness on all of us through the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom 11:32)? What human science is capable of plumbing the very depths of the infinite wisdom of God? There is none.

The greatness of God’s wisdom is not ultimately found in things that appear glorious and wise to us. The greatness of God’s wisdom is found in the stunning significance of things that seem inconsequential and even dumb to us, whether this involves sickness, suffering or even the sword. For our God’s glory shines not just in the things that we deem to be honorable and worthy in this world, but in the lowly, dishonorable, yet surprising things.

Perhaps your life’s griefs and sufferings are as inexplicable as that of godly Job’s. Perhaps you find yourself in a precarious position at work with close relationships around you that seems utterly foolish to you and you are at a complete loss to see how any good might come out of your circumstances. Perhaps you are simply stressed out by the enormity of the tasks that God has heaped on you and you lack the wisdom to know what to do. But when you are tempted to grumble and complain, remember the ostrich.

Remember that God made the ostrich dumb to display his glory. And if his glory can shine so brilliantly through such a silly creature, what can he do through you, O you of little faith?

The Pain of Childbirth for Women and Men

…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! (Gal 4:19 ESV)

In this world, there are few types of sufferings that are as common, graphic, and immensely painful as childbirth. Every single human being, save for the first man and woman, came into the world through a human mother who carried them stoically for nine months and then gave birth to them. Although there is unspeakable joy in holding a newborn baby in one’s arms, the hour of childbirth itself is one of excruciating agony and intense suffering. Childbirth is one of the great equalizers in this world, for apart from the pain relief afforded through modern medical technology, women great and small have all experienced the anguish of birthing their child. From the queen who sits on the throne of a country, to the farmer’s wife, they can all testify to the uncontrollable pain of contractions racking their bodies over and over again, the discomfort of being drenched in sweat from head to toe, and the pain of tearing flesh as the baby is violently moved through the birth canal. No mother by her skill or experience can bypass any of the steps of childbirth. And though she may find emotional support in a husband or a midwife, the blood, the cries of pain and the grinding of gritted teeth are hers alone to bear.

Yet, is it not the overwhelming testimonies of mothers that despite their sufferings they would not give up their children to avoid that moment of pain? Though their hour of sorrow is intense, did not Jesus speak rightly when he said that her sorrow is forgotten when she holds her precious baby in her hands (John 16:21)?

And this graphic analogy is the one that Paul chooses to describe the pain of laboring over Christians to see them grow into maturity! How instructive this is for us as we seek to make disciples of all peoples! True discipleship and raising spiritual children to maturity in Christ is so difficult, so heart-wrenching, so consuming and painful that the only appropriate analogy is one of a woman suffering the agonies of childbirth.

Brothers and sisters, are you suffering right now as you labour over the spiritual babies that the Lord has given into your care? Does the pain of betrayal or false accusations rack your body with wave after wave of painful contractions? Do you feel the tearing of your own flesh and heart as your spiritual child forces their way violently down their own path of sin? Do you cry out to the Lord, “How long oh Lord!” when you look at your labour which seems to drag on hour after hour without any relief? Ah in your moments of greatest despair, remember our great high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. Though he invested greatly into his own disciples, they deserted him when he needed them most at Gethsemane. Though he spoke only the truth and came from the Father’s side, he was falsely accused, beaten and crucified. Though he had the power to end his torment on the cross by summoning a legion of angels to his side, he hung there enduring the wrath of God until the entirety of his labors was complete. He was vilified by his own creation, yet our Lord cried over Jerusalem and longed to take his wayward children underneath his wings!

Take heart Christian, and do not give up, even if your labor for Christ is as unbearable as the pain of childbirth. Christ will never leave your or forsake you and when your labor is done, you will enter into the joy of your Master.

Jesus Will Come Sooner if Only We Will Work

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Pet 3:11-13 ESV)

The Day of the Lord will be the most terrible, yet awesome and unforgettable day that the world has ever seen. The Lord God himself will descend from the heavens, surrounded by legions of shining angelic warriors, ready to make war against those who defy their Master. His arrival will be sounded by a deafening trumpet blast in the vault of the heavens that will echo in every corner of the earth—from the deepest jungles of the Amazonian rainforest to the skyscrapers of the densest metropolises of the world. The clarion call will seize the attention of every single human being, from the mighty president of a country who sits in his official residence to the common worker in the field (Matt 24:29-31). The very earth itself will not be unaware of his coming and will tremble violently in the presence of the matchless, unbridled power of our immortal Lord. His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives and at his slight touch, the entire mountain will be torn in two as the creation itself bows in humble deference to its Creator. In that day, the nations of the world will find themselves in a battle that they have absolutely no hope of winning and will wail at the coming of the Son of Man.

But at the same time, that very day of abject horror for many, will be a joyous day for all who have longed for the appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For the Lord himself will gather his elect, his precious bride, the church, to be with him in the heavenly mansions that he has gone to prepare for us in his Father’s land. The swords of the angels will bathe themselves in the blood of God’s enemies, but they will not harm a hair on the heads of the people of God. The dead in Christ will rise at the sound of our Master’s voice and those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness will have their mourning turned into joy as their Savior comes to relieve their sufferings.

But that day which is known to God and has been fixed by him (Acts 17:31) is not a day that we are to passively wait for. Though God’s sovereignty has decreed the very day on which he shall return, his sovereignty does not exclude our responsibility to live holy lives that model the Gospel of Jesus Christ and “hasten” the day of the Lord. How remarkable this is! To think that God has determined that the holiness and godliness of his people would seize the very hands of the divine, heavenly clock and push them towards that final day—the day on which our Lord Jesus returns! Is this not what the Bible teaches? Did not Christ command us to pray, “Your kingdom come?” Did not Christ teach us that the “gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt 24:14)? Did our resurrected Lord not command us to go into the world and make disciples of all nations?

Brothers and sisters, we must never think that our daily actions are insignificant. For every soul that is saved for Christ, brings us one soul closer to the grand total of the redeemed who will one day stand before the throne of God dressed in white robes and waving palm branches in their hands shouting, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev 7:10)! Our actions matter! For God has ordained that the godly actions of his people would accelerate the heavenly timetable and hasten the coming of that day when our precious Saviour will stand at our side. So, if Christ is our treasure and ultimate joy, let us expend ourselves fully as ambassadors for Christ and hasten the day of our Saviour’s return. Let us be diligent about our Master’s work and declare the Gospel to this world and complete #TheTaskUnfinished! And when our work is done, we will receive our life’s greatest reward—the ultimate joy of seeing Him whom our soul loves.

Come Lord Jesus, come!

Some Said It Thundered

27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” (John 12:27-29 ESV)

The words of a man who is about to die can be some of the most profound that he will ever speak. Our Lord Jesus spoke many deep things about the nature of the kingdom of God, eternal life, and how his followers were to treat each other, yet the words spoken at this particular moment are among the most significant that our Lord and Savior ever uttered. And if their significance was initially unnoticed, God the Father himself echoed the steeled purpose behind the words of the Son of God.

There are only three instances in the life of Jesus in which the Father speaks from heaven. At Jesus’ baptism, the Father declares Jesus to be his beloved Son with whom he is well-pleased (Matt 3:17) and inaugurates his earth-shaking ministry. At the Transfiguration, the veil of human flesh is peeled back for a moment and the earthly eyes of the disciples looked upon the blinding glory of Jesus Christ that was his from before the foundation of the world. The Father then speaks for a second time, declaring Christ to be his beloved Son with whom he is well pleased once again, exhorting his disciples to “listen to him.” The final time that the Father speaks is here. As the Son pours out the anguish in his own soul but sets his face towards the cross with the knowledge that it was for this very purpose that the Lamb of God came into the world, the Father speaks one final time.

The mighty plan of salvation will require an immense sacrifice that has no parallel and will never have any parallel in human history. And the reason that Christ willingly went to the cross was to glorify the Father’s name. The living Word of the Father declared from the vault of the heavens was our omnipotent God’s confirmation of his infinitely glorious masterplan to redeem the human race from the eternal wages of sin and death in the fires of hell.

But despite how pivotal and magnificent of a moment the third and final utterance of the Father was in salvation history, there were many who heard but did not hear. Many heard the everlasting Father’s very own voice echo from the skies above, and yet many heard nothing but thunder. Many heard the words of the living God himself—words confirming the glorious purpose for which the Son of God came into the world—yet all they could hear was a loud, but otherwise ordinary boom of a thunderstorm.

How shocking this is! How unfathomable! To think that the God of the universe SPOKE in an intelligible, stentorian voice, from his royal dais in the heavens, to a large crowd about the grandest work to ever be accomplished and yet many did NOT hear him!

Jesus was absolutely right when he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father (Joh 6:65 ESV).”  And when Peter made his confession that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus also rightly exclaimed, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 16:17 ESV)

Brothers and sisters, let us never forget that the only reason we can hear the Word of God is because God gave us ears to hear. If he were not merciful to us, the reading of the Holy Scriptures would be no different from reading a fiction novel or a textbook. Instead of hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd speaking words of eternal life from the sacred writings, we would only hear the voice of some common mortal clamoring for our attention in an ordinary book. We would find no encouragement in our daily devotionals. We would never feel the comfort of God’s voice from his Word in the midst of the trials of life. We would find nothing for our souls to rejoice over if the Scriptures were only the common thunder of man and not the living oracles of God himself.

We have indeed been given a precious treasure in God’s Word, but we must also praise God that he gave us ears to HEAR his precious Word. What a great gift it is to have been given the knowledge of the secrets of heaven (Matt 13:11) and to hear the voice of the living God leading to eternal life. And for this undeserved gift of mercy, we give him the highest praise.