The Red Sea Rules: “God Means for You to Be Where You Are”

There are so many good portions of this book that I could share a post a day for weeks, but I’ll limit myself to just a few quotes over the next couple of days, and I’ll encourage you to read the book yourself.

Here’s a section about trusting God during difficult times.

Red Sea Rule #1: Realize that God means for you to be where you are.

“Consider these men and women who, through no fault of their own, found themselves beset with soul-disabling difficulties while trying to follow God:

Hagar, a single mom, was forced into the desert with her boy to die of thirst.

Joseph, wanting to fulfill divine dreams, was seized, stripped, sold as a slave, and imprisoned in Egypt.

Moses was caught between the splendors of Egyptian royalty and thankless affliction with God’s people.

David, being anointed by Samuel, was pursued by Israelite troops.

Hezekiah, seeking revival, was trapped by the most powerful arm on earth, bent on annihilating his people.

The Lord’s disciples sailed at His command on Galilee only to face a terror-filled night of storms and waves.

The Son of man Himself, fulfilling the Father’s will, was nailed fast to wood and left to hang by his hands until dead.

The apostles, trying to preach this Crucified One, were horsewhipped.

The leader of that apostolic band later told his readers: “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (I Peter 4:12).

In other words, Christians shouldn’t be surprised when, in seeking to do God’s will, we find ourselves trapped in painful, frightening, difficult, or impossible situations. Life is hard–especially for Christians. We have a determined enemy seeking to devour us. “In the world,” Jesus warned, “you will have tribulation” (John 16:33).

Then He added: “But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

God allows our faith to be tried, and He permits troubles to crowd into our lives. Sometimes they seem more than we can bear, but Christ can bear them.”

~quoted from The Red Sea Rules by Robert Morgan, pp. 9-10

I was particularly struck by the reference to Christ’s enduring the suffering on the cross for our sins. He could have avoided the trial, but he “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:3). He cried out to the Father to be delivered from the trial, but the Father said “No” and essentially said, “You need to stay where you are to accomplish my purpose for you.” That trial involved suffering and death, but it fulfilled God’s plan of salvation. That trial also resulted in Christ’s resurrection and glorification and made the way for our salvation.

Hebrews 12:1-14

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14  Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

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Mid-Week Message: “In the Arena of Now with the Gospel”

This sermon informed my understanding of Ephesians 6:10-20 and explains how this passage fits in the overarching message of Ephesians.

The Whole Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

“In the Arena of NOW with the Gospel,” preached by Bob Bixby at Morning Star Baptist Church on 8/14/2011. You can find a PDF of his notes here.

“Beneath the Cross of Jesus”

I sang this in church last night. After Pastor’s sermon in the morning contrasting selfishness and servant-hood, the line “Once strangers chasing selfish dreams, / Now one through grace alone” seemed particularly appropriate. I also love the line “For hands that should discard me / Hold wounds which tell me, ‘Come.'”

I love this song! So many good lines and so much truth.

Beneath the Cross of Jesus

Beneath the cross of Jesus
I find a place to stand,
And wonder at such mercy
That calls me as I am;
For hands that should discard me
Hold wounds which tell me, “Come.”
Beneath the cross of Jesus
My unworthy soul is won.

Beneath the cross of Jesus
His family is my own—
Once strangers chasing selfish dreams,
Now one through grace alone.
How could I now dishonor
The ones that You have loved?
Beneath the cross of Jesus
See the children called by God.

Beneath the cross of Jesus—
The path before the crown—
We follow in His footsteps
Where promised hope is found.
How great the joy before us
To be His perfect bride;
Beneath the cross of Jesus
We will gladly live our lives.

“Beneath the Cross of Jesus”
Words and Music by Keith & Kristyn Getty
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music

“Always Mardi Gras and Never Easter” by Russell Moore

I meant to post this article yesterday as one of my “Resources for Observing Lent,” but I forgot; however, this article is worthy of its own post of recommendation. Below are a few provocative paragraphs, but I encourage you to read the entire article, since these are just excerpts from his argument.

Dr. Moore writes,

“Some of the older Baptists at my church hated the whole idea of Mardi Gras, and saw this party as a kind of blasphemy that exposed everything they rejected about the culturally acclimated Catholicism all around them. “Those Catholics,” I remember hearing one neo-Puritan critic lament, “They just go out and get as drunk as they want to, they eat until they vomit. They’re just getting it all out of their system before they have to get all somber and holy for Lent.”

I could see his point. I never saw any of my devout Catholic friends or family behaving that way. But it made sense to me that gorging and getting drunk the day before Lent probably wasn’t what the Lord meant when he said to “repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

As the years have gone by, though, I’m realizing that perhaps the naysayers pegged something accurately about some of the Catholicism around me. But I’m convinced they missed the truth that we Baptists had a Mardi Gras, too. The Mardi Gras of Protestantism didn’t celebrate the day on just a yearly calendar, though, but, much more importantly, on the calendar of a lifespan.

The typical cycle went something like this. You were born, and reared up in Sunday school until you were old enough to raise your hand when the teacher asked who believed in Jesus and wanted to go to heaven. At that point, you were baptized—usually long before the first pimple of puberty—and shortly thereafter, you had your first spaghetti-dinner fundraiser to raise money to go to summer youth camp. And then, sometime between the ages of 15 and 20, you’d go completely wild.

Our view of the “College and Career” Sunday school class was somewhat like our view of Purgatory. It might be there, technically, but there was no one in it. After a few years of carnality, you’d settle down, start having kids, and then be back in church, just in time to get those kids into Sunday school, and start the cycle all over again. If you didn’t get divorced or indicted, you’d be chairman of deacons or head of the women’s missionary auxiliary by the time your own kids were going completely wild. It was just kind of expected. You were going to get things out of your system before you settled down. But you know, I never could find that in the Book of Acts, either. . . .

Do many Catholics follow their appetites and “sin that grace may abound,” hoping that confession and the last rites will even it all out before God? Sure. And do many Evangelicals do the same, hoping that a repeated prayer or an altar-call response will deliver them in the Day of Judgment? Yes. Both paths lead to the same place: to hell.”

You can read the entire article here, and I highly recommend that you do so.

A Baptist Observation of Lent?

I am a part of a church tradition that does not normally observe Lent, at least not in my limited experience. I suspect that part of the reason is that many of the people from my church converted to Fundamentalism from Catholicism, so we generally eschewed anything that was related to the traditional liturgies (although Baptists have their own liturgies, but that’s a topic for another day–and possibly a different blog).

I didn’t know anything about Lent until I read Jan Karon’s Mitford Series, which chronicles the life of Father Tim, an Episcopal priest. After reading about the services he led during Lent and Easter, I did a little research about Lent and eventually found Nancy Guthrie’s book, Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross. For the past few years during the season of Lent, I have purposefully ordered my Bible reading and Christian Living reading so I could meditate on Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. I’ve found that setting aside this time to think about Jesus’s suffering on the cross for my sins increases my love for the Savior and makes the entire Easter season more meaningful.

In past years, I’ve read the Gospel accounts of the Holy Week and Christian literature, such as C.J. Mahaney’s Living the Cross-Centered Life and Christ Our Mediator, John Piper’s Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ and Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship.

This year, I am already following a pretty intense Bible reading plan, so I am not going to alter it for Lent, but I am going to pay particular attention to prophecies about Christ’s death and resurrection (as I read in the Old Testament), what Jesus said about the gospel (as I read Luke and John), and what the epistles say about Jesus’s death and resurrection. I’ll occasionally post verses that stand out to me and that follow those themes.

In addition, I’m pulling out my trusted copy of Jesus, Keep Me Near the Crosswhich I’ve read from the past three years or so, and I’ll be reading John Stott’s The Cross of Christ, and if I have time, I’d also like to re-read Michael Barrett’s Complete in Him.

I’m planning on posting links to additional resources in a future post.

Do you have plans for Bible study, reading, meditation, or fasting during Lent?

For Singles: A Reminder of the Gospel during Valentine’s Week

“Your greatest need is not a spouse. Your greatest need is to be delivered from the wrath of God–and that has already been accomplished for you through the death and resurrection of Christ. So why doubt that God will provide a much, much lesser need? Trust His sovereignty, trust His wisdom, trust His love.”

C.J. Mahaney, quoted in Carolyn McCulley, Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye?, pp. 20-21

Trusting God for Everything

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were talking about trusting God, because we’re both making big decisions about our life journeys. She said something to the effect of, “Sometimes I find it easier to trust God with my salvation than to trust Him for the nitty-gritty details of life.” Isn’t that true? At least, I’ve thought that before. Since that conversation, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to trust God in every aspect of life.

Well, since it’s February 3rd, I read these familiar verses from Proverbs 3 today.

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (KJV)

 

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. (ESV)

A couple of people have reminded me of these verses recently, and it is so comforting to know that as I trust God, He will give direction. Other passages about God’s leading remind me that He hasmy good in mind and that He will lead gently as the tender Shepherd who loves me, died for me, and cares for me.

I also read Mark 4 and 5 today and was struck by Jesus’s control over the natural and physical worlds, and I noticed how the Jesus’s followers responded to Him–some with faith and others with unbelief.

1. You can trust Jesus because He has power over nature.

In Mark 4:35-41, the disciples panic because of the great storm they are experiencing, even though Jesus is right there in the boat with them! He calms the sea and at the disciples’ response says, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”

 35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

As if to prove His point that the disciples can trust Him with everything, Jesus then demonstrates his power over both the spiritual and physical realms in a series of remarkable events.

2. You can trust Jesus because He has power over the spirit world.

Upon landing on the other side of the sea after the great storm, Jesus and the disciples meet a demon-possessed man, whom Jesus frees from the legion of demons controlling Him, restores him to mental health, and converts him into a follower and preacher of the good news.

1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.

14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. (Mark 5:1-20)

 

3. You can trust Jesus because He has power over the body.

A woman who had experienced a terrible hemorrhaging for twelve years sought Jesus out because she had faith that Jesus could heal her if she just touched His garment.

25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’”32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (Mark 5:25-34)

Jesus doesn’t always choose to heal people of their diseases, but throughout the gospels we see Him healing physical ailments and demonstrating His power to save souls through  healing sick bodies.

4. You can trust Jesus because He has power over death.

Jairus believed Jesus could heal his daughter, so he sought Jesus out and brought Jesus to his home; however, his daughter died before Jesus arrived. Jesus demonstrates His power over death, but raising her from the dead like you would wake a little girl up from a nap.

21 And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. 22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 And he went with him.

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. (Mark 5:21-24)

 

35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. (Mark 5:35-43)

As I read these accounts today, my faith was strengthened and I was encouraged that I can trust God with my problems and with my decisions. If He can control storms, subdue demons, heal diseases, and raise the dead, He can meet my needs. If Jesus met my greatest need, my need for forgiveness of sins, He can meet all of my other needs.

“A Prayer for Preaching the Gospel to Ourselves”

On Wednesday, my pastor reminded us that the gospel is not just for salvation, but also for our sanctification, and I thought of this prayer by Scotty Smith.

I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Rom. 1:15-17

Dear Lord Jesus, even as Paul was eager to preach the gospel to believers in Rome, I’m equally eager to preach it to my own heart today—this morning, afternoon and evening. All I really need is you plus what you choose to give me, but I really do need you all the time.

There was a time, however, when I thought the gospel was only for nonbelievers—the doorway, just the portal for beginning a relationship with you. I now realize the gospel is just as much for believers as it is for nonbelievers; because from beginning to end, our salvation is entirely dependent upon the grace, truth, and power of the gospel.

Thank you for showing me that salvation is not merely our post-mortem holiday—the good news of going to heaven when we die. It’s about dead people, like me, coming to life in you now. It’s about becoming like you, Jesus—being transformed into your loving likeness. Only the resources of the gospel are sufficient for such a task, for we’re not just separated from God by a great distance, we are thoroughly broken and corrupted by sin. We need a big gospel for our great need. Indeed, there’s nothing more than the gospel, there is just more of the gospel. (I believe this… free me to believe it much, much more)

So I praise you today, Jesus, that you’ve already accomplished everything necessary to completely save us. You came into the world as God’s promised Messiah—the man from heaven, the second Adam. You lived a life of perfect obedience on our behalf—as our substitute, fulfilling all the demands of God’s law for us. You died upon the cross for us—taking the criticism and judgment we deserve; and you have completely exhausted God’s righteous anger against our sin. (Sing and soar, O my soul!)

Through faith in you, all of my sins have been forgiven (past, present and future), and I’ve been given the gift of your perfect righteousness. God has already declared me righteous in his sight, for he has hidden my life in yours. He cannot love me more than he does today, and he will not ever love me less. In fact, because of your work for us, Jesus, God now loves me just as much as he loves you. Amazing! I’d be slap-worthy arrogant—make that a blasphemer, if this wasn’t revealed in the gospel.

By adoption, I’m God’s beloved child; by his generosity, I’m indwelt by the Holy Spirit; by his faithfulness, I’m an heir of the new heaven and new earth. Though a non-dancer, this makes me want to dance in the Spirit! Lord Jesus, keep pressing this gospel into my yet-to-be glorified heart—pound it, reveal it. So very Amen I pray, in your priceless and peerless name.

“The Beginning”

I finished Tim Keller’s book King’s Cross this week. I read it slowly and with my Bible open; I’ve greatly enjoyed this study. And then my pastor began a series on the book of Mark, so I’ll be studying this book for a while longer. Tim Keller has some good one-liners, but I usually find the extended passages and arguments to be the most helpful and interesting. Here’s a quote from the last chapter, “The Beginning.”

“Paul mentions five appearances of the risen Christ, including five hundred people at one “sighting.” Seven appearances are recounted in the four Gospels. And Acts 1:3-4 tells us that for forty days Jesus appeared constantly to numerous groups of people. the size of the groups and the number of the sightings make it virtually impossible to conclude that all these people had hallucinations. Either they must have actually seen Jesus, or hundreds of people must have been part of an elaborate conspiracy that lasted for decades. Paul suggests to his readers that they can go and talk to any of the five hundred witnesses they like. If this was a hoax, it would have had to last for years, and each of the dozens of conspirators would have had to take the secret to his grave.

Moreover, there has to be some explanation for how the cowardly group of disciples was transformed into a group of leaders. Many of them went on to live sacrificial lives, and many of them were killed for teaching that Jesus had been resurrected.

Three fundamental lines of evidence intertwine to convince us that Jesus rose from the dead: the fact of the empty tomb, the testimony of numerous eyewitness, and the long-term impact on the lives of Jesus’s followers.

Jesus had risen, just as he told them he would. After a criminal does his time in jail and fully satisfies the sentence, the law has no more claim on him and he walks out free. Jesus Christ came to pay the penalty for our sins. That was an infinite sentence, but he must have satisfied it fully, because on Easter Sunday he walked out free. The resurrection was God’s way of stamping PAID IN FULL right across history so that nobody could miss it” (218-219).