Part 3

Experiencing Hardship - Try True Worship (Header 1)

A Commentary on Psalm 118

A Commentary on Psalm 118

In our first post we introduced how worshiping God through our fears and hardships unleashes divine power in our lives, and we used the writer of Psalm 118 as our primary example. Give Thanks 2 Then in our second post we continued our in-depth look at this special Psalm, and proceeded to reveal Scriptural proof that encountering our fears and hardships with an attitude of worship will also make us conduits of God’s power, to a lost and dying world. In this third post we will conclude our in-depth look at Psalm 118, but before we read through our psalmist’s closing words let’s quickly review another story concerning an additional faithful worshiper of God — Gideon.

In the book of Judges is where we find Gideon’s account of how God used him to return Israel’s worship to God, as most of Israel was at this time worshiping Baal. Gideon was timid and shy at first, and though he worshiped and obeyed God he would do so in his way — with a doubtful heart. But when God commanded him to fight the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples who had joined forces to destroy Gideon and his faithful few, the Almighty used a transformed and obedient worshiper to defeat thousands with only three-hundred:

“Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he [Gideon] placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside. ‘Watch me,’ he told them. ‘Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, “For the LORD and for Gideon.” ’ Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, ‘A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!’ While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled. When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the LORD caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath.” (Judges 7:16-22)

Gideon’s faithful obedience and worship released the power of God upon the land, and Israel’s enemies were defeated. (You can read this entire narrative in Judges 6:1-7:25.) It was the same for our author; in verses fifteen through seventeen we can continue to feel how God’s power was welling up inside this man:

“Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: ‘The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things! The LORD’s right hand is lifted high; the LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!’ I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.”

Our author doesn’t fear his enemy. No, he exalts God’s love and power! This individual doesn’t fear mortal death, but acknowledges life because he knows the “Author and Giver of Life.”

You see, it does not matter that we have failed in our lives. God knows we aren’t perfect. Ever since mankind chose self-worship over the true and perfect worship of God we have struggled to regain our righteousness. But you see, righteousness was given to us by God when He created us. Humanity never could lay claim to such purity, it was always the property of our divine Creator. I understand that mankind was able to remove God’s righteousness by rejecting God’s purpose, will, and plan, but we could never hope to regain this divine quality once we gave it up — this thing called “righteousness” — unless God made a way to return it to us. Our “man of letters” understood this truth too.

“The LORD has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death. Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. I will give You thanks, for You answered me; You have become my salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:18-23)

clouds 6 See how he realizes he has deserved God’s discipline, and has even embraced it. Why? Because he also knows his fate should be death, but God has chosen to make a way for him to escape this fate and live. He acknowledges that his righteousness has been restored to him by God, by way of this “gateway” that his divine Creator has provided him. Thus we see a glimpse of what was yet to come in the human embodiment of God’s Word — Jesus Christ — His only begotten Son (John 1:1-5). What a marvelous thing to embrace, and what a confounding mystery for so many who have yet to grasp it.

As our writer closes out this psalm, he returns to his anthem of praise and worship:

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and He has made His light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give You thanks; You are my God, and I will exalt You. Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:24-29)

Again, our psalmist is praising and worshiping God for His never ending, never changing love for His people, and again he encourages others to join in and enjoy the very presence of God. These are still plain words of worship towards God, but oh what power they posses. We too can access the divine, if we will just worship God in “spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). That spirit being the Holy Spirit of God, Who indwells each of us who have become true believers, and the truth being the very Word of God — Jesus Christ — who gave us access to the divine Father through His gracious sacrifice and awe-inspiring resurrection.

So as you experience your fears, meet them “head-on” with an attitude of worship! We all will have to endure some type of dread. For many it will be an uncomfortable circumstance such as dealing with heights, seeing a dentist or doctor, or even public speaking. Maybe for you its a fear of insects, snakes, and spiders. Possibly its an anxiety towards dogs, enclosed spaces, flying, loud noises or storms. What ever the distress may be in your life, consider the words penned in this psalm and remember, “In the name of the LORD I [meaning you and me] cut them off.”

The same goes with your hardships. When these times of misfortune appear, attack them with an attitude of worship! It may be a bankruptcy, divorce, or the loss of a job that brings you anguish. It quite possibly may be addiction, disease, a mental disorder, or physical pain that causes you to feel destitute. It may even be the death of a close friend or relative, a major move, or poor employment that causes you trouble. No matter the tribulation, recall that it is God Who is bigger than all our problems. And if God lives in you, then you too can “look in triumph” over your “enemies,” just as our psalmist did.

Suffering 3 This speaks volumes to me, because my hardship (as of the date of this post) is stage four colon cancer. This really ministers to me because my fear is the side affects from my chemotherapy treatments. Yet, because I have chosen to glorify God in this rough season of life, I can “cut off” the cancer that engulfs my body. Because I choose to possess an attitude of worship, and not focus on my discomfort and pain, I can “look in triumph” over these dread “enemies” known to me as anemia, discomfort, fatigue, pain, tumor growth, and all the other various side affects I am experiencing and will continue to experience until I’m healed.

Please understand that I am not promoting a “name it and claim it” doctrine; our psalmist wasn’t either. We cannot command our heavenly Father to do our bidding simply because we say so in His Son’s name. Our request must be in line with God’s divine purpose, will, and plan for our lives (Romans 12:2-3; Ephesians 1:3-12, 5:15-17; Hebrews 10:35-36; James 4:3; 1 John 5:14-15). Outside of God’s holy and righteous intent, our petitions have no authority. It is the LORD’s authority that matters; it’s His sovereignty that controls all things physical and spiritual.

The writer of this psalm came to understand our sovereign God’s authority and power over all things. He laid claim to this divine clout by allowing himself to rest in God’s sovereignty. It was through his godly worship that he could focus on this truth. It was through his reverent worship that he became a worthy vessel of God’s might and righteousness. It was through his joyous worship that God’s perfect intent for this man could be fulfilled, and God’s awesome power be made visible through this writer’s life, in spite of the changes taking place; no matter the unexpected situations that transpired around him.

So in closing, I invite you to join with me — you in your hardship and me in mine — and together let’s, “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.”

Experiencing Hardship? Try True Worship! by J.Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jsnmin.org/.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

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Part 2

A Special Commentary on True Faith

A Special Commentary on True Faith

Heaven Is For Real In Part One of this special post on true faith we talked of the Thomas Nelson publication, Heaven Is For Real (Book) and the recent movie by Sony/TriStar Pictures of the same name, Heaven Is For Real. The message being presented by both the book and the film is one that states that to have faith one must “see, and believe, like a child.” To which I argued that a real childlike faith comes from believing without seeing. As we continue this look at true faith, recall with me the story of the Apostle Thomas.

Shortly after the resurrected Lord Jesus had begun to appear before the other ten apostles, the Apostle Thomas had stated that unless he could see with his own eyes the resurrected Christ standing before him, and unless he could touch with his own hands the scars on Jesus’ body, that he would not believe what the other ten were telling him concerning God’s Son. The Apostle Thomas refused to have faith without hard evidence, so Christ gave it to him. Let’s read, together, the words from the beloved Apostle John as he retells the story of the Apostle Thomas’ doubt:

“Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.’ A week later His disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” (John 20:24-29)

God’s blessing will not fill us by basing our faith on evidence, but by simply believing. Our hope comes to us through God’s promises. Those promises are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and it doesn’t just concern forgiveness of sins or eternal life. It concerns all areas of our faith — all acts of worship.

Missionaries who have surrendered to God’s calling to take His Gospel message to all parts of the earth — these men, women, and family units are placing their physical health and wellbeing on the line for the sake of fulfilling God’s plan for them. Yes, they are ignoring the physical dangers of this world for the sake of Christ’s call to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20a) No, they are not listening to the “seeing is believing” Christians who would tell them to consider the safety of their own lives first, or to consider the safety of their family’s lives. No, they are simply answering a call to be faithful in what God is telling them to do, and to trust that God has their best interest in mind.

A Study of Abundant Faith and Deadly Fiction

A Study of Abundant Faith and Deadly Fiction

And God’s best interest for humanity is not based on “creature comforts,” nor is God concerned with physical abundance in the areas of physical wealth, pleasure, and power. God’s good news is not a “Prosperity Gospel,” nor is it a “Poverty Gospel” — No! God’s Gospel message is one of provision. Meeting our physical and spiritual needs on a daily basis. This creates a relationship between Creator God and created humanity.

You see, God is more concerned with the eternal plan that He has for each of us. An eternal plan to see us prosper spiritually and not be harmed. Eternal plans that will give mankind hope and a real, eternal future. (Jeremiah 29:11) Our fallen and imperfect bodies are meant for death. To try to save them while denying the opportunity to fulfill God’s plan is ridiculous. Yes, we have a responsibility to remain as healthy and well as we can be, but only to serve God’s purpose. We — our entire being (body, mind, and soul) — belong to God, and what He has planed for us must come first. Remember these words of Christ:

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One Who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. ‘Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. But whoever disowns Me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.’” (Matthew 10:28-33)

Some of you are aware that I am fighting a high staged colon cancer, and that I have opted to do so through diet, natural supplements, and naturopathic treatments. I have chosen to do so, not because of personal preference, or fear of conventional treatments (a.k.a.: chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery), but because God has led me down this path and I want to be faithful to act upon His calling. I have done so to the sounds of criticism and fear, which come from many people; some of whom are family members and others I count as friends.

I understand that much of this comes from their love and concern for me, and their love and concern for my wife and children. But what is so frustrating to me, is that the majority of these who are judging and being critical of my choice to follow God’s course claim to be believers in Christ. Some even serve in a church as a full-time minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A career choice that is based on the entire premiss of following the calling that God has placed upon them. Yet, as I have stepped out in faith to serve God through this trial and test, I have been met with opposition and, at times, halfhearted support. Is not God the author of all of life? Is not God capable to see His purpose fulfilled in each of us? Are we not to step out in our faith and act upon it? Conventional medicine may play its part at some point, but only if God gives me, my wife, and kids clear direction.

Bible 13 James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ had this to say, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14-17) How can we claim faith in Christ and not answer God’s call to fulfill His plan? No matter the situation; in all areas of our lives. How can we claim the hope of Christ if we constantly fear the things of this world? How can we expect to see Jesus welcome us into eternity if we do not allow eternity to exist in our own lives today — now — while we can still testify to others of Christ’s Gospel message?

The “evidence of things not seen” is not in a story such as Colton Burpo’s, and it’s not in acquiring physical wealth, pleasure, or power and claiming God’s blessings as a result. No! Such evidence of our faith is in our deeds — our obedience and our sacrifices. We must live a life that reflects Christ. We must live a life that acts on its faith, and its hope (2 Corinthians 13:5). We must be Christlike in all areas of our existence — the physical, the mental, and the spiritual. This is the life of a true worshiper of God.

If you claim to be a Christian — a Christ follower — and you cannot claim such faith as I have just described, then consider that you are possibly not a true believer. If you work in a church, serve in a church, or attend a church weekly and yet doubt any part of the holy Scripture’s teachings — needing evidence and proof before you can fully say you believe — then stop calling yourself a pastor, worship leader, teacher, or follower of Christ. Resign yourself to become a student of the Holy Bible — the very Word of God — until such a time as your “faith” can became real to you through your actions, and not through sight. A true worshiper of God is called to “deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me [Jesus Christ]. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24b-25) The cross is an instrument of pain, torture, and death. It’s not a symbol of blessing, comfort, or peace even though it is because Christ willingly endured the pain, torture, and death of the cross that we can have the assurance of God’s blessing, comfort, and peace (John 10:18).

Taking up the cross of Christ means we must expect to endure pain in this life; to be tortured from time-to-time in some way or fashion (1 Peter 4:12-14). And we must embrace the truth that death — physical death, anyway — awaits us all, but not before God says so. It is God Who has numbered our days (Job 14:5; Psalm 139:16). God will keep us here until He has made us as Christlike as He possibly can (Psalm 138:8; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13), then the hope of our faith will become reality for all of eternity.

Santa Claus 1 In closing recall with me theses words from the publisher of the book Heaven Is for Real. Thomas Nelson claims that this book will “forever change the way you think of eternity, offering the chance to see, and believe, like a child.” What child has ever seen Santa Claus deliver his/her toys at Christmas and believed? What child has ever seen the Easter Bunny, the Tooth-fairy, or any other fictional character and then believed. Children trust what their parents tell them — blindly believing that what is being said is the truth. Colton Burpo didn’t believe because he saw heaven. Colton believed because his father, the Rev. Todd Burpo, taught him concerning our hope of heaven in Christ. Colton only saw what he already believed to be true. What he saw simply further confirmed his faith.

Todd Burpo, however (and his congregation), were the ones who began to truly believe in the hope of Christ because a child saw, and continued to believe. Children don’t have to see to believe. This is what Jesus was trying to teach in Mark, chapter ten. It’s the point that the Apostle Thomas — and so many others since — missed, altogether. Read with me these verses, written by John Mark:

“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone [any adult] who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them.” (Mark 10:13-16)

Do you really want to forever change the way you think of eternity? Then stop living your life from an earthly stand point and start believing and living like a child (2 Corinthians 4:18; 1 Peter 1:3-16). Begin worshiping God in your deeds and not just in your words (Colossians 3:17). If you choose to do so, you will experience the freedom and the joy that comes from “blind faith” — a true childlike faith in Jesus Christ. After all, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29b)

Heaven Is For Real by J.Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jsnmin.org/.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Heaven Is For Real” © 2010 by Todd Burpo & Lynn Vincent

All rights reserved. The brief information quoted from this book’s press release appears curtesy of Thomas Nelson, Inc. and Christianbook.Com.

Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Thomas Nelson, Inc., titles may be purchased in bulk for educational, business, fund-raising, or sales promotional use. For information, please e-mail SpecialMarkets@ThomasNelson.com.

Movie trailer made available by Jason Ministries, and Sony/TriStar Pictures; Copyright © 2014

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Article 6

Living Your True Purpose (Header)

Living Your True Purpose (Article 6)Friend Of A Wounded Heart, by CCM artist Wayne Watson, is in my opinion one of the most powerful songs ever recorded, not only by Wayne, but in the history of CCM. Suffering 5 The melody flowing through the verses is both sorrowful and beautiful. As the melody transitions into the chorus it becomes a majestic sound of hope and assurance.

Lyrically this song is packed full of sympathetic understanding, as each verse connects with it’s listener in such a way that you believe the writer experienced your own pain — your own experience with suffering. Then as the verses reach the chorus, the lyrics emphasize the melody’s sounds of hope and assurance. The words of the chorus tell us that we are not alone in our pain. There is one who has experienced our suffering. It’s Jesus! The friend of a wounded heart. I really need this reminder.

In this season of life, I have been reminded that I am not exempt from suffering. Not that I ever really thought that I was, but we do tend to get complacent in the “good times.” We do occasionally believe that maybe we are not going to have to suffer as others do, but the reality is we all do endure hardships from time-to-time. Many do so more than others.

For me, my season of suffering was realized back in late September of this year when I was diagnosed with stage three, possibly even stage four, colon cancer. As so many who have been diagnosed with cancer (or any other type of terminal disease) can attest to, when you are given such a diagnosis your mind races, your stress levels increase. You almost immediately begin asking the typical types of questions like, “Why me, God?” or “Can this really be happening?” or “When will this pain end?”

We humans are so predictable in so many areas of our lives, especially when we endure hardship. Those of us who claim to be followers of Christ tend to be more predictable than most, as we act surprised, and shocked that God would allow such a thing as pain and suffering. It’s almost as if we believe that as a Christian we shouldn’t have to suffer; we shouldn’t have to experience anything that isn’t pleasant. That just can’t be any farther from the truth.

Satan has “sold” the followers of Christ on this lie for far too long. Why the Devil even has preachers building entire theologies and doctrines around this ideology. But in spite of what these “Prosperity Gospel” doctrines teach, God makes it very clear in Scripture that we all — especially those of us who follow the true teaching of Jesus Christ — will endure suffering. Read with me this verse from 1 Peter, chapter four:

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)

Did you get that? “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering;” our suffering is normal. Our times of plenty, our times of happiness, our times of pleasure are the times that we are to be surprised about. Our distress is commonplace, especially if we serve Christ, because this world is broken. This world is not only broken, but it hates God. As a Christian we should expect hard times — painful times — times of suffering. After all, Christ calls those of us who follow Him to follow Him in His suffering. Read with me these words from Matthew, chapter sixteen:

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.’ ” (Matthew 16:24)

What is a cross, but an instrument of torture? I know most of us think of it as a logo for Christianity, or a cool piece of jewelry, but the reality of the cross is not religion or beauty at all — it’s suffering, pain, and death. Life in a broken world is hard, it is painful, and it will reap all manner of distress. Especially if we serve the Creator of the world, whom the world hates. We may not endure it for long, and we may endure suffering multiple times, in multiple ways, but whether we suffer for a moment or for a physical lifetime is beside the point. The fact remains that humanity will endure hardship, and when we do God’s grace is available to help us through it (2 Corinthians 12:9).

God also promises we won’t have to suffer alone. Not only are the followers of Christ called to help each other through the hard times (Galatians 6:2), but we are also given the very Spirit of Christ — the Holy Spirit — as a helper and mediator (John 14:15-17; Romans 8:22-27). It’s because of the Holy Spirit, and the hope of the Gospel message, that we can endure hardship and find joy in it. Yes, you can be joyful in your suffering.

Again, let’s review what Simon Peter said, “Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” You see, our suffering allows us to become one with Christ; it grows in us His characteristics (Romans 5:1-5). Suffering allows us to really know Jesus in a special way, and our temporary pain brings glory to Him eternally.

My suffering and your suffering (whether past, present, or future) exists not just because of our broken world or because of Satan’s evil ways, but because it will grow us into true worshipers and ultimately bring glory to God, our Creator. Let’s close with the words of James, the half brother of Jesus:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything . . . Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:2-4, 12)

J.Scott 1J.Scott Harden appreciates all prayers during this season of life. If you would like to help J.Scott focus more on healing, and less on financials, then please consider donating generously to help bring peace and healing back into his life.

J.Scott Harden is the main provider to a family of six (three teenage boys, one teenage girl, his wife of twenty years, and himself).

Living Your True Purpose by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jsnmin.org.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Friend Of A Wounded Heart lyrics and music written by Claire D. Cloninger and Wayne Watson. Copyright © 1987 Word Entertainment LLC, a Warner/Curb Company.

Video made available by Jason Ministries, Word Entertainment LLC, a Warner/Curb Company, and Dayspring; Copyright © 1987 All Rights Reserved.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Article II, part 1

Truth or Dare (Article 2)

Power. That ever elusive ability to absolutely direct, or wholly influence, life’s course of events or, more importantly, the behavior of others. Deep in our soul’s, we know that we can never really have it. DNA 1 We don’t understand why such power eludes us, but the truth of our inability to rule our destinies, and the destinies of others, does not detour us from chasing after it. Power — one of humanity’s most addictive vices.

So, why is power so attractive to us? What is it about the human spirit that makes mankind pursue it so vigorously? I honestly believe it’s because God has placed that desire in each person, but because of mankind’s being disconnected from Him that desire has gone amuck and causes us to act in a cancerous manner. Cancerous? Yes, cancerous — allow me to explain.

The human body is made up of trillions of cells, all of them growing and dividing in a controlled way to produce more cells as they are needed to keep the body healthy. When cells become old or damaged, they simply die off and are replaced with new cells. Scientists have tried to confirm an exact number, regarding just how many cells make up the human body, but to date they cannot confirm an exact count.

Now, each cell has a specific coding programed into them, known as DNA (Deoxyribo Nucleic Acid). A cell’s DNA defines what it will do, or accomplish. However, if any of our cells DNA becomes damaged or mutates, then the result is a cancerous cell. Cancerous cells do not die when they should and do not allow new cells to form when the body needs them. Essentially these cancerous cells are rogue cells behaving in a faulty, or unpredictable way. A cancerous cell, is really a cell gone mad.

As these cancerous cells group together, they form tumors. Some of these tumors are malignant and some are not, but all are a result of cells acting outside of their normal coding. By the way, there are approximately one-hundred different types of cancerous diseases, each named for the organ for which they originated (ex.: colon cancer begins in the colon, lymphoma begins in the lymph nodes, etc.), but all cancerous diseases begin at the cellular level.

So, what does a cancerous cell have to do with our addiction to, and the pursuit of, power? To answer I must first explain one other statement made earlier. I must explain why I said God has placed into humanity a desire for power.

Read with me from the first chapter of Genesis, verse twenty-six, which states: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” According to Scripture humanity was created to rule, to have power over, to dominate all the earth and its inhabitants, but we were to do so corporately, together, and do so under the perfect guidance of our Creator.

So, what happened? What went wrong? Two things. First, sin entered into an angel’s heart. Lucifer (a.k.a. Satan, or the Devil), God’s most wise and most beautiful cherub (Ezekiel 28:12b), decided he could rule over all of creation better than the great I AM (Isaiah 14:13-14). The result was a revolt, led by Lucifer, and when that short lived rebellion was done he, and one-third of heaven’s angelic hosts, was hurled to earth (Isaiah 14:12; Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:3-4 & 7-9). Lucifer was no longer a cherished guardian cherub (Ezekiel 28:14a), he was now Satan, the chief demon of demons.

Satan, who no longer had any authority in heaven, now saw the chance to gain authority in another kingdom. Sure, it wasn’t as grand as heaven, nor did it have the breadth of all of God’s creation, but it was convenient. This kingdom was where Satan was forced to begin his punishment, apart from God, and it was home to one of Yahweh’s most cherished creatures — humanity. This kingdom was earth, and Satan could only take over if mankind (Adam and Eve) relented their authority. So Satan devised a plan.

The Devil decided that he would trick humanity into abdicating their rule of earth to him. Satan, having the power to make himself appear as anything he wished, decided to become as a serpent. Serpents were common on earth and humanity would not question its being there with them. So, making himself as a serpent, Satan began working out this diabolical scheme.

This master demon chose to work his scam on the female of the species, known as Eve. I would guess that Satan did so, because the female was created by God, from a rib of the male of the species (a.k.a. Adam or “Man”), and learned most of what she knew from Adam concerning their purpose — sort of secondhand knowledge, if you will. Not to mention the fact that Eve’s name meant “Life,” and by attacking humanity through her Satan would bring death to her, and mankind’s future generations. Also, if the Devil tried to deceive the male (who was created by God, Himself, and directly taught concerning His statutes), he might have been met with more complications. These complications could have resulted in failure. Satan, knowing this, goes to work on Eve and begins to get her to reexamine the powers she, and Adam, were told they had, by God.

Mankind’s powers, to recap, were to rule over the earth and its living creatures, but another inferred power was that humanity had been given power over death. This ability to avoid death was only available to them as long as they refused to eat from a particular tree; a tree that existed in the very center of the garden that God had placed them in. This plot of land was known as the Garden of Eden, and that became the stage for Satan’s attack and the tree at its center would be his bait.

While Adam and Eve were in the garden, foraging from tree-to-tree, enjoying all the fruits that God had given them. Satan, now disguised as a serpent, awaited his chance to confront Eve. Patiently the serpent hid and watched for Eve to walk far enough away from Adam to begin his con. With all the skills of a master predator, Satan finally gets his opportunity and he launched his sneak attack. Before Eve even knows what hit her, Satan has her eating from the forbidden tree; the tree which gives humanity the ability to be “like God.” The tree of knowledge; the knowledge of what is good and evil. Eve soon has Adam eating from it too, and the result is the second thing that went wrong — sin entered into mankind. (You can read the entire story in the third chapter of Genesis.)

You see, sin is what disconnects us from God. Sin keeps us from fulfilling God’s original intention. Sin causes our spiritual “DNA” to get recoded and go mad. Sin is why Satan, and a third of the angels, thought they could conquer God. Really!? Talk about somebody going mad! But less we forget, sin is what caused us to doubt God’s promises and abdicate our rule of earth to Satan and his minions, once they came after our home. Sin is the reason power has become the addictive vice that it is, for both demons and humanity. Sin reprogrammed Lucifer’s, a third of the angel’s, and mankind’s purpose from God’s original design.

This is why I related mankind’s seeking after power to that of a cancerous cell. Just as a cancerous cell is out of control, devouring healthy cells and preventing itself from fulfilling its purpose, so too are we out of control when power becomes our god. When we, the human race, care more about power than we do our own planet, our own food and water resources, even ourselves, then madness has indeed set in.

When we can devour our earth and its creatures with a veracious appetite of death and destruction, when we can allow humanity to do the same to its self, then insanity has become our motivation. God never intended such perversions from our rule. Mankind was to be responsible stewards of earth and its creatures. A perverse appetite cannot be satisfied. A perverse appetite, fed by death and destruction, is an appetite that must be contented no matter the cost, but never can be. We, just like Satan and his demons, have become cancerous cells willing to destroy ourselves to obtain this ever elusive thing known as power, and only God has the cure — grace!

In our next post we will look more deeply at God’s grace, and at varied forms of this madness known as power.

Truth or Dare by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jasonmin.wordpress.com.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.

Article IV, part 1



I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. . . . Where!?” This is probably how most of us would respond to the concept of joy — with a question.

Imagine suffering through some great physical ailment, such as cancer, and being counseled with these words from James 1:2, “Count it pure joy, my brothers [or sisters], whenever you face trials of many kinds.” You’d probably fight back the urge to slap someone by firing back with a great big “What!?” “Count this bone breaking, gut wrenching, painful curse as what!?” “Joy?” Or, imagine suffering through an unexpected divorce after twenty-plus years of what you thought was wedded bliss and hearing someone say these words from 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Be joyful always.” You’d probably exchange a cross-eyed glance for a moment, only to ask, “Be joyful when!? Now!?

We all realize that life is hard and that suffering is bound to catch up to each of us at some point. And some of us know that God wants us to experience joy in all aspects of our lives. So, why is it when suffering enters our lives do we not only question the suffering but also the idea of being joyful in the midst of it?

It has to do with our thoughts. We were incorrectly taught that bad things are meant for bad people and that good things happen to good people. And who can be more good than we Christians, right? After all, we are God’s adopted children (Ephesians 1:4-5), are we not? Well, let’s examine this ideal more closely.

What makes us believe or think that bad things happen to bad people? From an early age we were told stories and shown movies that depict the message that “crime doesn’t pay” or “good conquers evil.” In the Bible we read such verses as: “The Lord reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the people with justice” (Psalm 9:7-8). We also learn that our own laws here in America — based on the Ten Commandments, our Constitution and the Bill of Rights — will bring justice and will punish those who intend to do us harm. Yes, we learn these things, read such verses, and study such ideals, but who or what defines for us what is good and what is bad? The answer is: our Creator, the great “I Am” — God.

God defines evil and righteousness. To be evil is to take on the attributes and spirit of Satan (Galatians 5:19-21), but to be good is to take on the attributes and Spirit of Jesus Christ, God’s Son (Galatians 5:22-23). Is this not why we think of Christians as good people? Don’t we expect Christians to act as Christ would act? After all, doesn’t popular Christian culture teach us to always ask “WWJD” (what would Jesus do)? Why ask this question if we aren’t expected to act on it?

For American citizens, living within the boundaries of our laws determines if we are good citizens or bad citizens. And though it is true that we are counted as good citizens if we obey the law, and though it is true that we as Christians are expected to act as Christ did, there is another truth we must come to terms with, and that is, “There is no one righteous [good], not even one” (Romans 3:10). None of us are good. Obey the law perfectly; we can’t. Be as righteous as Jesus; a daily struggle all Christians should aspire to accomplish, though not likely to happen.

So, why bother? Why care enough to try? Because even though we can’t be righteous on our own, Christ’s Spirit living in us can.

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known to which the Law of the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ.” (Romans 3:21-24)

Jesus’ Spirit in us gives us the strength to be good; to do good things (Philippians 4:13).

You have read that no one person is good; yet you see that we can be good with God’s help. You may even grasp the overall concept, but how does this truth answer our question from earlier regarding suffering and joy? In this way: we must stop thinking that “good” people won’t and shouldn’t suffer. None are good and life is hard. Just as Jesus suffered for living a righteous life, so too should we expect to suffer. Listen to the apostle Peter’s words: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13). Did you catch that? Suffering in this life is not strange or abnormal, but very much the norm. And even better, if we rejoice in our participation (as hard as it will be, have the right attitude of worship — your choice, remember) then we can be overjoyed, totally thrilled beyond our wildest imagination, when God’s glory is revealed to us in heaven! Joy within suffering is our choice and a marvelous avenue to experiencing true worship and God’s glory. So, how do we do it? How do we choose to be “joyful in all things”? We must first realize what this principle of worship really is and what joy really means.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “joy” as:

(noun) a feeling of great pleasure and happiness: ‘tears of joy’/‘the joy of being alive.’ Also as (verb) [heart.] poetic/literary — rejoice: ‘I felt shame that I had ever joyed in his discomfiture or pain.’

And, The Life Application Study Bible (NIV) defines “joy” as, “(noun) emotion evoked by well-being, success or good fortune: gladness or delight.” I find both of these definitions to be inadequate; well short of accurate. Allow me to explain why.

The definitions we just read are lacking, because they ascribe to joy the same attributions of happiness. Though these definitions define joy as both a noun and a verb, which it is, they really are ascribing no more depth to the word than if it were simply the word “happy” (an adjective). But happiness is really nothing more than an emotion. Something we occasionally experience, because it is fleeting. Joy is not a temporal emotion, but an actual attribution of God’s character — a part of His being; a “fruit” of His Spirit, according to Galatians chapter 5 verse 22.

Nothing about God is temporary. “In the beginning God . . .” (Genesis 1:1a); “In the beginning . . . was God” (John 1:1); “I am the Alpha and the Omega . . . who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). God and His characteristics always have been, are now, and always will be. Happiness is not one of the fruits of His Spirit, but joy — real joy — is! Real joy can never be temporal or fleeting because it is a source of power and strength (Nehemiah 8:10b). Joy, can only come from God’s love for us and our obedience to Him (John 15:9-11). And joy, everlasting joy, can only come from God’s forgiveness and our restoration to, and peace with, Him (Luke 15:8-32).

Best-selling author C.S. Lewis once said that “joy is never in our power and pleasure [or happiness] often is.” If it’s in our power, then it’s fallible, temporal, of us and not of God, and definitely not real joy. Only a facsimile befitting the simple definitions ascribed to it from any dictionary on any shelf. We must understand what joy really is. It is eternal, a source of power for us, an attribute direct from God our Creator, Himself. Let’s now look deeper into what joy means to us and how we can apply real joy to our everyday lives and our everyday worship.

In our next post, we will fully disclose what joy means, and will expose how to correctly apply it to our everyday life and worship. Article 4, part two, will take the word “joy” and dissect it; cutting into what we said it is and looking around inside it — finding what lies at its core. To do this we will literally examine the word letter by letter, and when we are done, the acrostic we end up with will be a simple and applicable tool with which you can allow God to bring real joy to you daily.

The Joshua Project by J.Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at jasonmin.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jasonmin.wordpress.com/.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Down In My Heart (I’ve Got the Joy)” by George Willis Cooke, pub.: Unknown, Copyright: Public Domain

If your church or organization would like to talk with J. Scott Harden about a speaking engagement, or a writing project, please get in touch with Mr. Harden through Jason MinistriesTwitter account or Facebook page.