Serious Business

“Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23 NKJV).

Luke 9 represents somewhat of a turning point in God’s word. In this chapter, Jesus’ apostles to be are given a taste of the ministry which awaits them as he sends them out to “preach the kingdom of God” (vs. 2) throughout the towns in the area. Not long after their return, the twelve gather with Jesus as He prays (vs. 18). From this point forward, Jesus equips them with vital information.

First, Jesus establishes His conditions of ministry: the fact that He is God’s Son (18 – 20). The people of Judea have no idea of Jesus’ identity, believing Him to be Elijah, John the Baptist, or one of the prophets. Peter correctly identifies Jesus as “the Christ of God.” As God’s son, Jesus has all authority (Matthew 28:18).

Second, Jesus gives the charge to his disciples to “deny themselves” by taking up their crosses daily and following Him (vs. 23). Certainly, His disciples had never heard such a message. Jesus also made it known that to follow Him begins with a desire to do so.

Third, this new lifestyle of denial will require a change. From this point forward, every facet of their lives will be under Jesus’ control. Another version renders Luke 9:23 in this fashion: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead” (Message).

Finally, this change will have consequences. It may require a complete denial of all the world has to offer. However, Jesus assures them that anyone “who loses his life for My sake will find it” (vs. 24). In other words, what Jesus offers far transcends anything the world offers. In fact, focusing only on the world’s wealth – rather than eternal – is not profitable (vs. 25).

Today, we as God’s children reap the benefits of this lifestyle. Are you taking up the cross?

Song: “I Surrender All”

“Father, I pray that I’ll never be afraid – or ashamed – to take up the cross daily. May my life bring glory to You and Lord Jesus, always and forever. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Kenny Westmoreland, Celina, TN (

He Is Not Like Us

Today’s Scripture: Psalm 50:21 – “These things you have done and I kept silence; you thought that I was just like you. I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.”

The police silently pulled up in front of the house in the early morning hours. Lights were on in the house, and in the covering of darkness they surrounded the place. Then they pounded on the door, announced themselves, and broke in the door to enter the house.

As the couple were being led from the house to the police cruiser, neighbors stood around watching all that was going on. The man yelled at the bystanders and chastised his neighbors for calling the police. He said, “We didn’t think you cared. Nobody ever said anything.” One of the neighbors replied, “You made the mistake of concluding that our silence meant approval.”

This is not the only instance in which it may have appeared that God was slow in answering prayer. Habakkuk cries out to God, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to You, Violence! Yet You do not save.” Why were there 400 years between the testaments?

I certainly can conclude that those gaps in time were not because God is like us. Isaiah 55:9 – “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Often we hear comments about the length of time it has been since the promised return of Jesus. Their conclusion is that there must not be any return at all. But His silence does not mean that God is just like us.

Song: “Unto Thee Oh Lord”

God, we not only acknowledge your return, but we anticipate it. We want to be ready and that means that we acknowledge who you are and follow in your footsteps. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Dennis Russell, Santa Maria, CA

Holy Ground

“Then He said, ‘Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5).

Moses was told that the ground by the burning bush is holy ground, ground made holy by the presence of God. We sing two songs both called “Holy Ground.” They can convey the idea that where a group is gathered is holy ground and this is true. However, have you ever thought that as a Christian where you are is holy ground? It doesn’t matter whether you are alone or in a group, you are standing on holy ground.

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you. If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are” (I Corinthians 3:16-17).

Paul said. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27).

Peter tells us to be holy in all our behavior because, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (I Peter 1:13-16).

We are warned not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God in Ephesians 4:30. When we do not try to resist temptation, when we do not try to become Christ-like, we grieve the Holy Spirit. We grieve Him by failing to acknowledge that we are on holy ground.

Let us, as we go through life, remember that where we are is holy ground.

Song: “Holy Ground”

Ever present Father, God we fail at times to acknowledge Your presence and that where we are You are. May we never lose sight of the fact that we are in Your mighty and awesome presence. In the name of our Lord Jesus. Amen.

Ed Wittlif, Denver, Colorado

The Cry

Job 7:6-21

“I cannot keep from speaking. I must express my anguish. My bitter soul must complain. Am I a sea monster or a dragon that you must place me under guard? I think, ‘My bed will comfort me, and sleep will ease my misery,’ but then you shatter me with dreams and terrify me with visions. I would rather be strangled—rather die than suffer like this. I hate my life and don’t want to go on living. Oh, leave me alone for my few remaining days.”

“What are people, that you should make so much of us, that you should think of us so often? For you examine us every morning and test us every moment. Why won’t you leave me alone, at least long enough for me to swallow! If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of all humanity? Why make me your target? Am I a burden to you? Why not just forgive my sin and take away my guilt? For soon I will lie down in the dust and die. When you look for me, I will be gone.” (Job 7:11-21)

Job stopped talking to Eliphaz and spoke directly to God. He had lived a blameless life, but now he was beginning to doubt the value of living in such a way. By doing this, he was coming dangerously close to suggesting that God didn’t care about him and was not being fair. Later God reproved Job for this attitude (Job 38:2).

Job referred to God as a watcher or observer of humanity. He was expressing his feeling that God seemed like an enemy to him—someone who mercilessly watched him squirm in his misery. We know that God does watch over everything that happens to us. But we must remember that he sees us with compassion. He looks on us with eyes of love.

Job felt deep anguish and bitterness, and he spoke honestly to God about his frustrations. If we express our feelings to God, we can deal with them without exploding in harmful words and actions. Satan always exploits these thoughts to get us to forsake God. Our suffering, like Job’s, may not be the result of our sin, but we must be careful not to sin as a result of our suffering.

The next time strong emotions threaten to overwhelm you, express them openly to God in prayer. This will help you gain an eternal perspective on the situation and give you greater ability to deal with it constructively.

God’s Ways Don’t Make Sense

Job 9:1-35

“If someone wanted to take God to court, would it be possible to answer him even once in a thousand times? For God is so wise and so mighty. Who has ever challenged him successfully? …

“… Though I am innocent, my own mouth would pronounce me guilty. Though I am blameless, it would prove me wicked.” (Job 9:3-4, 20)

Job knew that God didn’t owe him anything. Job was alive by the grace of God, even if he was suffering. Job also believed that he had not sinned in a way to deserve such suffering.

Job didn’t think his life warranted such suffering, so he wanted his case presented before God (Job 9:32-35). He recognized, however, that arguing with God would be futile and unproductive (Job 9:4). Job knew that in bringing his case against God, he would only sin by falsely accusing God. “Though I am innocent, my own mouth would pronounce me guilty.”

When we face hardships, whether big or small, we can become indignant, believing that we did nothing to deserve them. Job’s attitude can guide us here. We must be careful to avoid accusing God or believing we’re right and he’s wrong. God is always right, even if we can’t understand our own circumstances. God is always right. Period.

Like Job, we must live in the fear of the Lord. That wisdom will keep us from sinning. That wisdom will cultivate humility for the times when God’s ways don’t make sense.

An Anguished Argument

Job 10:1-22

“‘You formed me with your hands; you made me, yet now you completely destroy me. Remember that you made me from dust—will you turn me back to dust so soon? You guided my conception and formed me in the womb. You clothed me with skin and flesh, and you knit my bones and sinews together. You gave me life and showed me your unfailing love. My life was preserved by your care.

Yet your real motive—your true intent—was to watch me, and if I sinned, you would not forgive my guilt. If I am guilty, too bad for me; and even if I’m innocent, I can’t hold my head high, because I am filled with shame and misery. And if I hold my head high, you hunt me like a lion and display your awesome power against me. Again and again you witness against me. You pour out your growing anger on me and bring fresh armies against me.’” (Job 10:8-17)

In frustration, Job jumped to the conclusion that God was out to get him. He could only see life from his human perspective and had no idea of the bigger picture or the end of the story. His focus, quite naturally, was on his current predicament and not on God’s purpose and goodness.

Like Job, our perspective is extremely limited—we cannot know the future or all of the other events that are occurring in the world. So we should be careful about using our experiences to make assumptions about life in general. Wrong assumptions lead to wrong conclusions.

Job began to wallow in self-pity. When we face baffling affliction, our pain can lure us toward feeling sorry for ourselves. At this point we are only one step away from self-righteousness, where we keep track of life’s injustices and say, “Look what happened to me; how unfair it is!” We may feel like blaming God.

If you find yourself doubting God, remember that you probably can’t see the whole picture. And when you are struggling, don’t assume the worst. God wants only the very best for you. Many people endure great pain, but ultimately they find some greater good came from it.

Remember that life’s trials, whether allowed by God or sent by God, can be the means for development and refinement. When facing trials, instead of asking, “Who did this to me and how can I get out of it?” ask, “What can I learn and how can I grow?”

A Matter of Death and Life

Job 13:20–14:22

“But when people die, their strength is gone. They breathe their last, and then where are they? As water evaporates from a lake and a river disappears in drought, people are laid to rest and do not rise again. Until the heavens are no more, they will not wake up nor be roused from their sleep.”

“I wish you would hide me in the grave and forget me there until your anger has passed. But mark your calendar to think of me again! Can the dead live again? If so, this would give me hope through all my years of struggle, and I would eagerly await the release of death. You would call and I would answer, and you would yearn for me, your handiwork.” (Job 14:10-15)

Life is short and full of trouble, Job lamented in his closing remarks to this first round of conversation. Sickness, loneliness, disappointment, and death caused him to conclude that life is not fair. Some understand Job 14:14-15 to mean that, even in his gloom, Job hoped for the resurrection of the dead.

The Old Testament does not say much about the resurrection of the dead. Job’s pessimism about death is understandable. What is remarkable is his budding hope (Job 14:14). If only God would hide him with the dead and then bring him out again! If only he could die and live again!

When we must endure suffering, we have an advantage over Job. Christ arose, and we have hope based on his promise in John 14:19. We know that the dead will rise.

Job’s profound speech in this section illustrates great truth: To have a right set of doctrines is not enough. To know what to believe is not all that is required to please God. Truth untested by life’s experiences may become static and stagnant. Suffering can bring a dynamic quality to life. Just as drought drives the roots of a tree deeper to find water, so suffering can drive us beyond superficial acceptance of truth to dependence on God for hope and life.

God’s solution to believers who live in an unfair world is to guarantee life with him forever. No matter how unfair your present world seems, God offers the opportunity of being in his presence eternally. Today, thank God for his love and presence now, and live in hope for the resurrection to come.

Redeemed from Suffering

Job 19:1-29

“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!” (Job 19:25-27)

Although Job struggled with the idea that God was presently against him, he firmly believed that in the end God would be on his side. He appealed directly to God (his witness and advocate, Job 16:19) and to God’s knowledge of his innocence. Job showed he had cast all his hope for any fair defense upon God.

What tremendous faith Job had: He thought that God had abandoned him and brought all these disasters upon him! Facing death, Job still expected to see God—and he expected to do so in his body.

When the book of Job was written, Israel did not have a well-developed belief about the resurrection. For Job, it seemed unlikely to him that, in his body, he would see God. But Job still declared, “In my body I will see God!” He was confident that God’s justice would triumph, even if it took a miracle like resurrection (see also Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2, 13).

Do you trust that God will make all things right even if they’ve all gone wrong in the present? Do you trust that even if things end in brokenness, God will raise them in glory? Spend time imagining your own resurrection and eternal life. How does it change your perspective about today?

Tried and True

Job 23:1-17

“I go east, but he is not there. I go west, but I cannot find him. I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden. I look to the south, but he is concealed.”

“But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold. For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside. I have not departed from his commands, but have treasured his words more than daily food. But once he has made his decision, who can change his mind? Whatever he wants to do, he does. So he will do to me whatever he has planned. He controls my destiny.” (Job 23:8-14)

Job continued his questioning, saying that his suffering would be more bearable if only he knew why it was happening. If he knew of a sin for which he could repent, he would! He knew about wicked people, and he knew they would be punished; he knew God could vindicate him if he so chose. In all his examples of the wicked in the world, Job’s overriding desire was for God to clear his name, prove his righteousness, and explain why he had received this calamity. Eliphaz had tried to condemn Job by identifying some secret sin that he may have committed. Here Job declares his confidence in his integrity and God’s justice. Job tried to make his friends see that their questions about God, life, and justice were not as simple as they assumed.

We are always likely to have hidden sin in our lives, sin we don’t even know about because God’s standards are so high, and our performance is so imperfect. If we put our trust in God, however, all our sins are forgiven because of what Christ did on the cross on our behalf (Romans 5:1; 8:1). And even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts (1 John 3:20). His forgiveness and cleansing are sufficient; they overrule our nagging doubts. The Holy Spirit in us proves that we are forgiven even though we may feel guilty. If we, like Job, are truly seeking God, we can stand up under others’ accusations as well as our own nagging doubts. If God has forgiven and accepted us, we are forgiven indeed.

Today, remember that you are forgiven. When you sin, confess it to God and ask for his strength to do better. He has already forgiven you.

The Source

Job 28:1-28

“But do people know where to find wisdom? Where can they find understanding? No one knows where to find it, for it is not found among the living. ‘It is not here,’ says the ocean. ‘Nor is it here,’ says the sea. It cannot be bought with gold. It cannot be purchased with silver. It’s worth more than all the gold of Ophir, greater than precious onyx or lapis lazuli. Wisdom is more valuable than gold and crystal. It cannot be purchased with jewels mounted in fine gold. Coral and jasper are worthless in trying to get it. The price of wisdom is far above rubies. Precious peridot from Ethiopia cannot be exchanged for it. It’s worth more than the purest gold.”

“But do people know where to find wisdom? Where can they find understanding? It is hidden from the eyes of all humanity. Even the sharp-eyed birds in the sky cannot discover it. Destruction and Death say, ‘We’ve heard only rumors of where wisdom can be found.’

“God alone understands the way to wisdom; he knows where it can be found, for he looks throughout the whole earth and sees everything under the heavens.” (Job 28:12-24)

Job and his friends disagreed about how people become wise. Eliphaz’s attitude toward God was: “I have personally observed how God works and have figured him out.” Bildad’s attitude was: “Those who have gone before us figured God out and all we have to do is use that knowledge.” Zophar’s attitude was: “The wise know what God is like, but there aren’t many of us around.”

Job, however, believed that God is the source of wisdom, and the first step to wisdom is to fear God. So his attitude was: “God reveals his wisdom to those who humbly trust him.”

Those who do not understand the importance of God’s Word naturally seek wisdom here on earth. They look to philosophers and other leaders to give them direction for living. Yet Job said that ultimate truth and wisdom cannot be found there.

No leader or group of leaders can produce enough knowledge or insight to explain the totality of human experience. The ultimate interpretation of life, of who we are and where we are going, must come from outside and above our mortal lives. To be lifted above and beyond the boundaries of life, we must know and trust the Lord of life.

Thank God for giving you his Word so that you can know him better. Commit to knowing him more by reading his Word and living by the wisdom he gives.