Lessons from the Life of Philip

Philip illustrates two lessons for us today from a handful of passages in John. These lessons may not be the primary points of the passages that we will consider, but they are nonetheless good reminders for us today.

Those who seek the Lord will find Him. 

Jeremiah 29:13 promises, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” When telling Nathanael about Jesus, Philip claimed, “We have found Him” (John 1:45). He must have been searching for Jesus to say he had found Him.

Perhaps we could say that Philip found Jesus in multiple ways.

First, Philip found Jesus through the message of John the Baptist. Philip was from the same city as Andrew (John 1:44), a disciple of John the Baptist. Philip likely heard John the Baptist preach and was waiting for the Messiah as a result.

Second, Philip found Jesus in the Scriptures. When Philip went to bring Nathanael to Jesus, he motivated him to come by identifying Jesus as “Him of who Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote―Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45). Philip knew what the Old Testament said about the coming Messiah. Whether from the synagogue, John the Baptist, personal study, or all of the above, he believed truths and was waiting for the Messiah.

Third, Philip found Jesus in person. Jesus first “found Philip,” and when He did, Philip later said, “We have found Him” (John 1:43, 45). Philip’s wait was over. Now He followed Jesus who he found and followed Him in person.

Like Philip, we find Jesus in the Scriptures and biblical sermons. Though we do not presently see Him with our eyes, we love Him and will see His face one day (1 Peter 1:8–9; Revelation 22:4). May God help us to see Jesus now in the Word, and may we persevere until we see Him in person in time to come.

Jesus is greater than we often think Him to be.

As one of the twelve apostles, Philip learned many things about Jesus. From passages that specifically record Philip interacting with Jesus, we see Philip learned that Jesus was greater than he thought in three ways.

First, Jesus is greater in power. John 6:1–14 records Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the five thousand. Just before His miracle, He asked Philip where to buy bread (John 6:5). Philip apparently forgot Jesus’ power to turn water to wine at Cana and focused only on the magnitude of their dilemma—it would cost a fortune to feed so many (John 6:7). Then, Jesus performed His miracle, and Philip saw His power again.

Second, Jesus is greater in love. John 12:20–21 recalls the request by some Greeks to see Jesus. Perhaps unsure of whether he should let them meet Jesus or whether Jesus would want to meet them, Philip sought Andrew instead (John 12:22). Andrew knew Jesus would love these Greeks and gladly speak to them about how to have eternal life (John 12:22–26; cf. 1:41). Whatever doubts Philip had about letting these Greeks meet Jesus, they were laid aside when Jesus received them and gave them the words of life.

Third, Jesus is greater in person. In explaining His coming departure to the disciples, Jesus taught them that to know Him was to the Father as well, which further meant that they would one day be with Jesus again (John 14:1–7). Philip responded by asking to see the Father, prompting Jesus to teach on the matter again—to see Jesus was to see the Father because Jesus was in the Father and His Father in Him (John 14:8–11). Jesus was greater than Philip realized, and Jesus patiently taught him more of who He was.

Summary

Like Philip, we often forget how great Jesus is. We forget how powerful He is, how loving He is, and truths about Him in Scripture. May we often remind ourselves about His power, love, and person and know Him as the Bible reveals Him to be.

All quotes ESV

Eight Lessons I Learned from Having Covid-19

I started having chills on Tuesday, December 1. Over the next couple of weeks, I had Covid-19 with just about all of its symptoms, and it developed into Covid-pneumonia. It is by far the worst illness I’ve had in decades, and I thank God that my family did not get it to the degree that I did. After a few days of losing weight (almost 10% of my body weight), getting worse, and having difficulty when I moved around (especially after going up or down stairs), my wife took me to the emergency room at a local hospital. They took me in right away, gave me a round of fluids, steroids, and antibiotics through an IV, and they sent me home after a few hours with pill forms of steroids and antibiotics to continue the healing process. That was my turnaround day, and the Lord continued to heal me over the next few days. Why this thing poisoned my system so severely and barely bit the heels of my family, I may never know.

Like anyone else on earth, I did not want to get Covid-19, especially to the degree that I did. But, now that it’s all done, I’m thankful for the lessons that I learned through this ordeal. God taught me much through suffering this virus. As you read on, you’ll find eight lessons for why I’m thankful that God allowed me to suffer Covid-19.

#1: God’s plans are always better than our plans.

I had writing plans, study plans, preaching plans, family plans, etc. for the first half of December (and after). I’m a type-A personality who enjoys planning as much as executing. But for all my planning, especially for December, God had other plans (cf. Proverbs 16:1, 3, 9, 33). And for all of the lessons I’ve learned and relearned, I’m so glad He did. His plans are better than mine.

#2: Nothing satisfies the soul more than God.

Between having cottonmouth and not wanting to eat, I could do little more than sleep in my bed or vegetate in my chair. The fevers and headaches kept me from being able to read. Whether checking the news, trying to play a game on my phone, or watching a video (sports bloopers and the like), what I enjoyed most was reading a psalm, and especially Psalm 110. Christ is my Great High Priest, He is coming again, and His people will follow Him in that day. God’s Word gave me the greatest pleasure in the midst of my great displeasure. Covid-19 parched my body and gave my soul a thirst for my God.

#3: God values personal sanctification more than our practical goals.

There was something worse than the virus in me when I was ill. There was anger for missing goals and frustration for not knowing why I got Covid-19 and why I got it so severely. I spoke like Job several times. Just ask my wife. (And she did not tell me to curse God and die, in case you were wondering.) God let me suffer so I could see that He was sovereign and that I needed sanctification. I am ashamed of some of the reactions I had. I am glad that He mercifully exposed my sin so that I can better show the fruit of His Spirit in time to come.

#4: God is merciful and compassionate to heal the sick.

Speaking of Job, not only do we learn that he was steadfast in his trials, but God was also compassionate and merciful to Him in the end (James 5:11). I wondered for a good week if God would be merciful and compassionate to me. He was. And His mercy and compassion was to do some healing to my soul along the way. If only I could have realized that better at the time.

#5: Fellow pastors are gifts from God.

My church only has about 50 people, but God has graced us with two pastors. While I was out of commission, my fellow pastor stepped into the helm and put his previous lead pastor experience to good use. It was a great comfort to me in sickness to know that my fellow shepherd was leading our flock. And I’m thankful that God was able to spotlight his gifts to our congregation during this time. He’s a good man, my church knows it, and I’m eternally thankful for him.

#6: God’s people are full of love.

The dear folks in my church called, texted, sent notes, made meals, gave us money for meals, and prayed for healing. They did all the little things I do to prepare for our services and filled in the gaps. Somebody watched our kids when my wife took me to the emergency room. They came to our house and caroled at our front door, bringing both me and my wife to tears. I’ve never seen such love, and without suffering through Covid-19, I might have never seen it. I’m overwhelmed by the privilege to serve such a wonderful church.

#7: A godly wife is the glue that keeps the family together.

I’m convinced I’d die in three days without my wife. Day 1 – I’m in the fetal position in my bed. Day 2 – I’m shriveled up like a raisin. Day 3 – I’m in heaven. Okay, that’s a bit ridiculous, but it’s probably not too far off the mark. During this time, she managed our children and me, kept the house going, and did it all with a heavy load and heart. She did it while working through her own bout of fevers and headaches as well. Her kindness and diligence overwhelm me. I know I don’t deserve her, but I’m so grateful that she said “yes.”

#8: I love Bob Jones University.

This lesson may seem out of the blue when compared to the previous seven, but I say “I love BJU” for two reasons as it relates to my time with Covid-19. First, when I was able to start reading again, I slowly worked through 172 pages of student papers I had to grade for a Doctor of Ministry class that I recently taught for BJU, “The Theology and Development of Leadership.” If I could paraphrase 3 John 4 with respect to teaching at BJU, “I have no greater joy that to read what my students are writing of the truth.” Perhaps a parallel joy, though, would be to hear of their service for the truth as well. I not only had six students, but I now have six more colleagues in ministry. Praise God for these diligent men. Second, one of my brothers told me to read a biography while I was sick, so I grabbed Dan Turner’s Standing Without Apology: The History of Bob Jones University. Until I gave this book a read, I never knew the heritage of BJU in depth, just how broad the ministry of BJU was, and the intensity of its battles over the years. Reading this book at this time motivated me all the more to conquer Covid-19 and get back to serving my church because God’s work is worth every ounce of effort we can give it, whether at a college, church, or wherever. I hope to fight for God’s work in every corner just like those who have served at BJU. I’m thankful for God’s preservation of this school and its role in my life over the years. I love BJU. (And for full disclosure—I am admittedly biased. I went to college at BJU and teach as adjunct faculty. The ministry of fellow students, my brothers, faculty, and staff made a lasting impression upon me— spiritually, culturally, and ecclesiastically. I am forever indebted to the school for what I received during my time as a student and grateful to teach in its seminary.)

Well, there you have it. I thank the Lord for giving me Covid-19, and you can see why above. If you happen to get it yourself, pray and see what the Lord might teach you as well.

Spiritual Soldiers Standing Strong: Ephesians 6:11–17

Ephesians 6:11–17 gives us the necessary commands and picturesque language to prepare us for spiritual battle. What follows below is a brief summary of four themes from this passage.

First, stand ready and firm in battle. We ready ourselves with God’s armor in order “to stand” (Ephesians 6:11), “to withstand” (Ephesians 6:13), and “to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13).

Second, God empowers us for battle. We are “strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” when we “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10–11). As we do so, we are “able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11), “able to withstand in the evil day” (Ephesians 6:13), and “can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16). (The Greek word dunamai is translated “able” or “can” in the verses just cited.)

Third, God equips us for battle. Paul itemizes the whole armor of God into six pieces of protection, teaching us how to ready ourselves and to engage in spiritual battle. (1) We fasten the belt of truth (Ephesians 6:13). As a belt holds extra fabric close to ready for movement, so also we ready ourselves for battle by knowing the truth. (2) We put on the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14). As the breastplate protects the heart and vital organs, so also our practical righteousness shields us from further temptation. (3) We ready ourselves with the shoes of the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15). As the right footgear allows a soldier to stand firm, so also we find our peace in the gospel when the enemy attacks. (4) We take up the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16). As a shield protects its bearer from the enemy’s arrows and spears, so also our faith fends away the enemy’s many blows. (5) We take up the helmet of our salvation (Ephesians 6:17). As a helmet protects the head from enemy’s sword, so also we ready our minds with the truths of salvation lest we reject them and fall away. (6) We take up the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). As a sword blocks the blows of the enemy and wounds the enemy in return, so also the Word of God is our sure defense and may even pierce an enemy’s soul to bring him captive to Christ.

Fourth, our struggle is against Satan, demons, and evil. Our struggle is not “not…against flesh and blood” but various demonic powers (Ephesians 6:12). Our day of battle is evil as a whole (Ephesians 6:13). Our fiercest opponent is Satan himself (Ephesians 6:11, 16).

Other Scriptures brace us for battle as well. “Wage the good warfare (1 Timothy 1:18). Use your “weapons of…warfare” enabled with “divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4). “Share in suffering as a good solider of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3). “Fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:11).

From all the passages above, be a spiritual soldier who stands strong in the battle while fighting for Jesus Christ. May God strengthen us for the struggle!

Lessons from the Life of Andrew

What follows below are three simple practical lessons illustrated from the life of Andrew. These lessons may not be the main points of each narrative cited below, but they come to mind when we observe the various texts describing the life of Andrew. As simple as they may be, I hope they encourage you today.

Be willing to serve in the background.

We see Andrew in the background in a couple of ways in his ministry. First, in half of the instances that his name is mentioned, Andrew is described as “the brother of Peter,” implying Peter was more well-known than him (Matthew 4:18; 10:2; Mark 1:16; Luke 6:14; John 1:40; 6:8). Andrew faithfully served in Peter’s shadow to some degree. Second, Andrew served close to those who were closer to Christ during His earthly ministry than he was. Often called the “inner three,” Peter, James, and John were with Christ at His Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1–8) and in Gethsemane the night before His death (Matthew 26:37). John MacArthur calls Andrew one of the “inner four” because his name is always included with these three in the first set of four names in all of the lists of the disciples (Matthew 10:2; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13). He also joined the three to see Peter’s mother-in-law healed (Mark 1:29) and hear Jesus teach about end times (Mark 13:3).

Whether serving in his brother’s shadow or being close to the three but not one of them, Andrew still served his Lord. We should likewise serve the Lord in whatever role the Lord gives us.

Be willing to serve others on a personal level.

Andrew was one of the first two disciples to follow Jesus (John 1:35–40) and personally connected people to Jesus in two instances noted in Scripture. First, he went and brought Peter to Jesus as well (John 1:41), and, second, he later brought some Greeks to Jesus (John 12:20–22), allowing them to hear from Him how to have eternal life (John 12:23–24).

All it takes for someone to meet Jesus is for us to speak to that person and bring him to Christ. We can introduce him to Christ through the Scriptures, and if they believe, they, too, will see His face one day (Revelation 22:4).

Be willing to serve in tough circumstances.

Andrew showed himself faithful in an interesting way in the feeding of the five thousand. This crowd listened to Jesus teach long enough to need food (John 6:1–6, 10). When Jesus pressed the disciples with the people’s need, Philip could only think of the money involved while Andrew searched for food and pointed out a boy’s meal of five loaves and two fish (John 6:7–9). While Andrew himself was perplexed at what to do with such a small number of items for so many people (John 6:9, “What are they for so many?”), he at least did something. It was these same loaves and fish that Jesus used to miraculously feed the crowd (John 6:11).

Like Andrew, we must be willing to serve in tough circumstances, even if we do not know a difficult situation will be resolved. Faithfully serve, and God is perfectly capable of resolving any situation in His own time and in His own way.

Wisdom and Instruction Concerning the Kings of Men

Proverbs and Kings

What follows below in this section is simply a brief summary of the verses in Proverbs mentioning a “king” or “kings.”

  • The glory of kings is their people, and their ruin is to lose them (14:28; 30:31).
  • To keep the favor of the king and to avoid his wrath, one should be wise, righteous and gracious in speech, pure in heart, skillful in work, and respectful of his office. One should not be shameful, disloyal, or self-promoting (14:35; 16:13–15; 19:12; 20:2; 20:26; 22:11, 29; 24:21–22; 25:6–7).
  • God expects a king to rule with wisdom (8:15), uphold His Word in judgment (16:10), do no evil (16:11), rid the land of evil (20:8, 26), investigate matters diligently (25:2), listen to righteous counsel (25:4–5), be just, refuse bribes (29:4), faithfully judge the poor (29:14), be prepared (30:22), and forsake immorality and drunkenness (31:3). Kings should be those whose bits of wisdom are proverbial for the land (1:1; 25:1; 31:1).
  • God is sovereign over kings (20:28) and their hearts (21:1) and is the only One who truly knows their motivations (25:3).

From the NT, whoever our kings may be…

When Life Puts You in a Press – Mark 14:32–42

This is more or less a transcript from a Facebook Live video that I provided to my church yesterday morning. I hope you find it to be an encouragement during trying times. Bold formatting indicates main points and Scriptural quotations from the ESV.

Imagine being pressed from all sides in life, find yourself in a somewhat isolated location, have only a few people with you, and even they do not quite give the encouragement that you wish.

That’s Jesus in Gethsemane. I’m going to be speaking from Mark 14:32–42.

Mark 14:32–42 (ESV)

32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Gethsemane (14:32) means “olive press” in Hebrew and was a garden just past the brook Kidron where Jesus often met with his disciples and thus known to Judas (Luke 22:39, “And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives”; John 18:1–2, “…there was a garden… Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples”).

In the New Bible Dictionary, the entry for “Olive” states, “The oil was usually extracted from the berries by placing them in a shallow rock cistern and crushing them with a large upright millstone. Occasionally the berries were pounded by the feet of the harvesters (Dt. 33:24; Mi. 6:15), but this was a rather inefficient procedure. After being allowed to stand for a time the oil separated itself from foreign matter, and was then stored in jars or rock cisterns.”

Jesus was “in the press,” so to speak—this was the night before His death, and His disciples would desert Him. In Mark 14:27, referring to their response to His looming arrest, He told the twelve “You will all fall away.” Besides this, He who knew no sin would become sin for us and be separated from His Father for a time on the cross.

What might you be facing today? Has the temporary halt in our economy hit your wallet yet? Are you about to snap because of the time you’ve been sheltered in your place? Do you have other concerns that are weighing you down on top of this? Are you a single parent trying to figure out when to see your child? Are you elderly and wanting to see your grandchildren but have to wait until April 7?

Imagine this: I have a sister-in-law who is a nurse with 4 young children, and she may have to work on a floor helping those with COVID-19. If nothing else, just walking into the hospital is going to increase the risk for her (and thus her children) receiving the virus. Added to this, her husband in the army was just deployed to help our country with the situation as well.

Whatever our concerns may be, Mark 14:32–42 is an excellent passage for us today for multiple reasons:

  • We can learn from the example of Jesus how He persevered through a time of suffering.
  • In keeping with greater point of Mark, we can be encouraged as believers to remember what it was for our Savior to suffer for us.
  • For anyone who is not a Christian, this video will give you an explanation for how you can know Christ, find eternal life in Him, and know that you will one day see His face and be with Him and the Father in heaven forever.

Getting to our passage, Mark 14:32–42 records a series of “threes”: (1) Jesus tells the three (Peter, James, and John) to pray and watch with Him three times (Mark 14:34, 37, 38); (2) the three sleep three times (Mark 14:37, 40, 41); and (3) Jesus prays three times (Mark 14:35–36, 39, 41).

Let’s walk through this cycle of “threes” one by one, and we will close with some applications for our lives at the end.

Jesus prays the first time (Mark 14:32–36).

As noted, Jesus is in Gethsemane (Mark 14:32) where He took with Him only Peter and James and John, sometimes referred to as “the inner three” of the twelve disciples. They were with Him at the raising of Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5:37), the Transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:2), and, with Andrew, the Olivet Discourse (Mark 13:3).

From Mark’s description of Jesus and his record of Jesus’ words, Jesus was very much “in the press.” Notice these descriptions:

  • He… began to be greatly distressed (Mark 14:33). Distressed (ekthambeō) is translated “amazed” in Mark 9:15 to describe the crowd’s reaction to Jesus. It is translated “alarmed” in Mark 16:5–6 to describe the women’s shock as they came to Jesus’ tomb and found an angel instead of Jesus. One lexicon defines ekthambeō in this way: “to be moved to a relatively intense emotional state because of someth. causing great surprise or perplexity, be very excited” (BDAG). In context, distressed is an appropriate translation—Jesus is intensely emotionally aroused over the thought of His coming betrayal, trial, torture, and crucifixion.
  • He… began to be… troubled (Mark 14:33). The word for troubled (adēmoneō) is used to describe how the Philippians were “distressed” that Epaphroditus was ill, almost to the point of death (Philippians 2:26–27). Comprehending His own death, Jesus was just as troubled and more.
  • My soul is very sorrowful (Mark 14:34). Sorrowful (perilupos) is a word used to describe how Herod was “exceedingly sorry” when forced to behead the imprisoned John the Baptist (Mark 6:26). The rich young ruler was “very sad” to contemplate giving up his love for riches in order to put his love and trust in Christ (Luke 18:23). As mentioned above, Jesus was sorrowful to think of what was coming His way.
  • He fell on the ground (Mark 14:35). Jesus’ posture matched His inner turmoil. He could only throw Himself down to pray.

And pray He did. Jesus prayed that the hour might pass from Him, the hour when the Father would pour out this cup of wrath against sin on Him on the cross (Mark 14:35–36). Hebrews 5:7 tells us that Jesus prayed “with loud cries and tears . . . and he was heard because of his reverence.” Nonetheless, Jesus submitted to what the Father would will, drinking from the cup as God desired, and would provide a means of salvation for you and me (Mark 14:36).

In commanding the three to remain here and watch, He was asking them to stay with Him and pray as well (Mark 14:34).

Jesus prays the second time (Mark 14:37–39).

Unfortunately, instead of heeding His command, the three were sleeping instead (Mark 14:37). Practically speaking, they had eaten a big meal in Mark 14:17–25. It was also late and when they usually slept. However, this was a special time for the willing spirit to watch and pray and thus not enter into temptation by succumbing to one’s weak flesh, that is, a tired body (Mark 14:38). This temptation for them was to fall away as Jesus prophesied earlier in Mark 14:26–31.

For a second time, Jesus prayed the same words (Mark 14:39).

Jesus prays the third time (Mark 14:40–42).

After praying, Jesus returned and again found them sleeping, with heavy eyes, unable to answer Him (Mark 14:40). That He came the third time back implies that Jesus went prayed a third time as before (Mark 14:41). At this point, the hour for Jesus as the Son of Man had come to be betrayed into the hands of sinners with the betrayer at hand (Mark 14:41–42). With this arrest, the most intense parts of the suffering of Jesus would begin.

Some Applications for Us Today

For Christians…

  • Just as Jesus did, take your trial to God in prayer. It may be that He takes it away, but we should be willing to go through the trial in order for Him to test and strengthen our faith.
  • From Jesus’ admonition to the disciples, remember that prayer is part of the means for you to persevere. They did not pray, and thus they fell away during Jesus’ hour of trial. Jesus prayed, God gave Jesus strength, and Jesus persevered.
  • Fight your flesh and persevere in prayer. It’s easy to be lazy. It’s easy to forget. It’s easy to do something else. But prayer is hard work, and we should be diligent to pray.
  • Your Father will never abandon you, even when others are inattentive at the least or flee from you at most. The disciples slept. The disciples ran away at Jesus’ arrest. But Jesus knew the Father would see Him though it all. Stay close to Him in prayer.

For everyone…

This intense time of prayer was just the beginning of what Jesus would suffer for us. He would be mocked, beaten, and eventually crucified on the cross—all within the next day. In doing so, Jesus as God and man died for the sins of you and me. And in doing so, He died sinlessly in perfect obedience to the will of His heavenly Father. Jesus did not deserve this death, so God raised Him from the grave and thereby vindicated that Jesus was true.

When we truly see our sin as God does—as something worthy of God’s wrath and eternal death—and when we see Christ as we must—as the One who paid the penalty for our sin and who provided the perfect obedience that we cannot—only then will God declare us forgiven, righteous, and holy in His sight. We must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and no one else for our salvation. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Salvation from eternal death is through no other Name, and no man will be in heaven with the Father apart from believing in His glorious Son.

When Jesus died, God miraculously ripped the 40-foot curtain of the Jerusalem temple from top to bottom, as if to say, “My Son has provided a new and living way for you to come to Me” (see Hebrews 10:19–22). A Roman centurion watched the curtain tear and exclaimed, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:38–39). We must truly believe and say the same!

Closing Thoughts

For those of us who have echoed the centurion’s words with saving faith in Christ, we know that, whatever this world may bring our way, Christ suffered for us, and in doing so, He left us an example for how to suffer as well. If you find yourself “in the press” today, trust in Christ, take your distress to the Father in prayer, and rejoice to know that your suffering will be over when you are one day with Him.

Should Christians Get Tattoos?

These are my notes from teaching some teens on this topic in my church. This is a debated issue, but I believe Scripture is sufficient to answer whether or not Christians should get tattoos. Here is what I believe Scripture says about the matter:

  1. At the very least, tattoos or any other modification of our anatomy should not be identified with paganism or worldliness (Leviticus 19:28; cf. Leviticus 21:5; Deuteronomy 14:1–2). Sometimes physical alterations were allowable but had a distinctly God-given purpose (Genesis 4:15; Exodus 21:1–6). Even shaving one’s hair was temporary, as would be the mourning with which it was associated (Job 1:20; Isaiah 22:12).
  2. Though speaking to women concerning clothing and hair, 1 Peter 3:3–4 and 1 Timothy 2:9–10 give a principle for all Christians—God is more concerned with our hearts and actions than our outward, physical appearance. Good works and words are what best adorn the temple of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:20). Bringing the eyes of others to look at something else is simply a distraction.
  3. The Bible speaks against worldliness (1 John 2:15–17). Historically, it is not Christians who have originated and advocated for tattoos. This is a worldly enterprise. Unbelievers typically get tattoos to show what means most to them. Why would we take a pagan practice and attempt to Christianize it (by, say, tattooing a verse to your arm), especially when the Bible commends what matters most to us (Christ, God, the Bible, etc.) to simply be visible as a way of life (Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:11–12)?
  4. Referring again to 1 John 2:15–17, the body itself is passing away (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16). This makes much of our body, something to be bettered at our glorification. However eternal the message of a tattoo may be (even if it is a Bible verse, a cross, etc.), it will eventually be marred by fading or be disfigured by aging skin. Do we want to represent what is most important to us with faded ink on wrinkles?
  5. What do you your parents say? Do you even want to do something as an adult that would permanently disappoint your parents? What about a spouse? See Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16; Proverbs 1:8; Ephesians 6:1–3.
  6. Tattoos are not a wise use of money. It costs a bit to get tattoos and even more to remove them. The bigger and inkier the tattoo, the more expensive, time-consuming, and painful it will be to have it removed.
  7. Because of their permanent appearance, tattoos imply an absolute commitment to whatever the tattoo says or symbolizes. Your tattoo thus boasts of something. But the Bible commends us to boast in the Lord (Jeremiah 9:23–24). And, if there is anything worth nothing about ourselves, it should be from another person, unprompted by us (Proverbs 27:2). Our words and actions should be commitment enough to whatever the matter of commitment may be (James 5:12).
  8. The only physical symbol that the Bible commands of us is baptism. And even this is not something that permanently attaches itself to our physical bodies everywhere we go.
  9. At the very least, getting a tattoo brings attention to something debatable among Christians, permanently marking yourself as controversial in this regard. Not only does the tattoo boast of whatever its message may be, but the tattoo in and of itself boasts of a willingness to do what many Christians have chosen not to do, something the Bible discourages (cf. Romans 14:6b, 22).
  10. Some people have been taught and believe differently, being Christians who get tattoos. Some people have tattoos and then become Christians, later regretting their tattoos. Either way it happens, we should not judge someone by their immediate appearance but come to understand why they received their tattoos and evaluate their faith by their words and works as a whole (cf. 1 Samuel 16:7).

A couple of blog posts on the matter helped me to collect my thoughts (click here and here), and then I added some of my own thoughts as well.

Ezra, an Excellent Example of Resolution for the New Year

“On the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia” (Ezra 7:9).1

When Ezra set out on this journey, he was resolved to see it through: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10 ESV). He had been tasked by God and even a pagan king to lead thousands of people to Jerusalem, deliver gifts from Babylon, and set the worship of the temple in order (see all of Ezra 7–8). In doing so, he had to be ready to teach after finishing what would be a four-month journey (cf. Ezra 7:9). From Ezra 7–8, here are a small handful of resolutions that all of us should make.

Be prepared, be in the Word, and do what the Word commands.

Ezra was “scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given” (Ezra 7:6). He was “learned in matters of the commandments of the Lord and his statutes for Israel” (Ezra 7:11). He was known as “Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven” (Ezra 7:12, 21). There is no way Ezra could have asked for what Israel needed for the nation’s temple worship if he had not studied it and known it in advance (cf. Ezra 7:6). Having studied the Law of the Lord (cf. Ezra 7:10), Ezra was prepared to ask for what was necessary, deliver it, and even lead thousands of people along the way. The more we ready ourselves for God’s service through being in the Word and in prayer, so also can we be used in a mighty way, whatever the task may be.

Teach the Word to others.

Ezra was uniquely born into the priesthood and commissioned to teach others to obey the Law. While not all of us might be skilled to teach in front of others, we are all responsible for the Great Commission to one degree or another, making disciples as we are able, teaching  them to observe the commandments of Christ (Matt 28:18–20). This may be indeed like Ezra, formally teaching the Word, or it may be by example or personal conversation, naturally as relationships are formed in the church (cf. Titus 2:1–8). In knowing and living the Word, we will be able to example and teach it to others.

Be courageous.

Ezra “took courage,” knowing the favorable “hand of the Lord God” was on him (Ezra 7:28; cf. 7:9, 28; 8:18, 22, 31). He asked bold questions (Ezra 7:6), led God’s people through difficulty (Ezra 8:21–23), and took full advantage of the faithfulness of God. Likewise, as we see God clearly laying good works before us in the year ahead, may we be courageous to do what God has given us to do.

What will your new year hold for you? How will you be in the Word? What will you do for God? As you are resolved to serve the Lord, be courageous to do His will!

  1. All quotes ESV. []

Special Times Without Special People: Hope for the Holidays When You Grieve for Those Who Have Passed Away

Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and other special days to remember—these days and their memories bring grief to those who have shared them with loved ones who have passed away, especially if their passing is around or on one of these days.

The grief is all the greater if the one now passed never knew the Lord. In such a situation, we know that, as biting as the grief may be, the Son of God came from heaven, suffered for our sins on the cross, and was raised so that we by faith in Him might be with Him forever. After His coming, God Himself “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4 ESV). For those of us who know the Lord, there is at least the hope that our suffering will one day end.

When we grieve for believers who have gone to be with the Lord, we are encouraged that their absence “from the body” means that they are “at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8 ESV). We are also encouraged that we do “not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14 ESV). When Christ comes again, “the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 ESV). We are to “encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18 ESV).

Suffering will be no more. We will be reunited with the dead in Christ who are now more alive than they have ever been before. Right now, these believers are in the presence of Christ, anticipating with us when He will call us all to Himself, reuniting us to be with Him forever.

These are words of hope for any time when you grieve for those who have passed away, and especially during those special times that you once shared with these special people. If you have lost a spouse, parent, child, relative, or friend, may the Lord give you comfort today from these encouraging truths.

 

Why I Will Not Watch the Joker or Movies Like It (and Neither Should You)

Should you be tempted, there are several reasons not to see the newly-debuted Joker (or movies like this one). I’m sure that if I were to watch it, I could offer a hundred more. (And while some choose to be the filter for others by watching movies like this one and warning them of the content therein, I would suggest that Spirit in us as Christians is the better “filter,” leading us not to watch this kind of thing to begin with. Cf. Galatians 5:16–26.)

Here are at least three reasons not to watch the Joker:

First, Hollywood has no design for your edification as a Christian. This is said for even “better” movies that seem to have fewer objectionable scenes and themes for your mind’s consideration. To intentionally put one’s mind for 120 minutes towards a movie that entertains and climaxes on one sinful moment after another seems to be anything but obedience to passages such as Romans 12:1–2 and Philippians 4:8.

Second, it offers as entertainment the very violence it says that the film is supposed to condemn. One is supposed to abhor the violence that makes a man into being the villainous Joker. But then the movie is said to revel in his revenge through violence upon those trod him down. I read in the news that the lead actor left an interview because he was asked if the movie actually promoted the very violence that it says to condemn. He apparently didn’t know how to answer the question. Besides this actor’s naively playing such a role and apparently (at least initially) not being able to care less as to what impact his production has upon you as the viewer, the very fact that the question was asked betrays that the answer is, incidentally at best and intentionally at worst, yes. In the end, yes, you as the viewer will be tempted or told to glory in the Joker as he robs the Lord of vengeance and sinfully retaliates against his aggressors.

Third, there are better ways of redeeming the time before the coming of our Lord (cf. Ephesians 5:15–16). Do something intentionally Christian. Or enjoy the natural things of this world with a view to glorifying God in His creation. Read a good book. Spend some time with your family. Or at the least, for the few that are out there, maybe just choose a movie that has some wholesome qualities.

What I’ve said of the Joker above could be said for thousands of movies besides. Please know I write these things as one Christian to another and as a pastor who simply desires that we glory in what is truly worth our affection. Whether we eat or drink or watch a movie, we should do all to the glory of God, but only in a manner that is truly glorifying to Him.