I Was Thinking
Humbled by a Virus
By Dr. Joseph Castleberry | Posted on May 11, 2020
I was thinking about the Tower of Babel. I was thinking about it because last night I was on a webinar out of Singapore and the speaker on the webinar was a man named Philip Ung. Philip Ung is one of the most wealthy men in the world and he is a devout Christian. As he shared his faith, I was touched by the humility of this man who is wealthy and powerful, but yet realizes his great need of God. And he loves God. And he's given his whole life and all of his business to God. As he talked about our situation today in the global pandemic, he gave the Tower of Babel as a biblical anchor for us to be able to think about what God is doing in our time today. I thought about that because I've thought a lot about the Tower of Babel. And it's an interesting story. The Bible in Genesis 11 tells us that after the flood, when Noah's sons began to leave the ark, God spoke to them.
What he had said to humanity at the beginning, be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. And so it was God's plan for the descendants of Noah to fill the whole world, to spread out, to become different, to diversify in language and place and culture and skin color and all of those things, because God wanted the blessing of diversity for humanity. But at Babel, the people said, let's make a tower and a great city so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered throughout the whole world.
They opposed the plan of God and so God opposed them. He came down and he frustrated their work by confusing their languages and putting an end to their project.
They had decided that they would save themselves. They would they would make a name for themselves. They would build an empire, draw all the peoples of the world back to their city, where there would be one government, one economy, one culture, one language, one people.
And who would be in charge? They would be in charge in their arrogance, they opposed God. And some people have called that opposition a curse, but the Bible never does, the Bible never refers to the people of Babel as being cursed. As a matter of fact, the Bible tells us this. God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble. At Babel, God humbled those proud people so that they could receive his grace.
Here and now, we've all been humbled by the coronavirus pandemic. It has humbled the powerful governors and presidents of the world. It has humbled the business community and the economy. It has humbled the scientists who are used to being able to cure disease. But this one we can't cure yet. It's humbled everyone. It's caused the great and the mighty to be holed up in their homes as they wait for somebody to come along and save us from this.
And someone will save us. God will save us. If in our humility, we turn our hearts to God, we call out to God and we say, God, I can't save myself from this situation. I can't save myself from the problems that I've created in my own life. I am not enough in myself to prosper. I'm not enough to get through this.
Help me. If you'll call out to God that way, God will hear you. He will come to you. He will give you his grace. You will begin to know God, and you will be better off than you've ever been before. Because a person who has God, has everything. Why don't you call out to God right now? God, I humble myself. Give me your Grace in Jesus' name and he will.
Living for Today?
By Dr. Joseph Castleberry | Posted on May 5, 2020
I was thinking about John Lennon's song Imagine. Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try. No, hell below us, above us only sky, imagine all the people living for today.
It would seem compelling to a lot of people, it just doesn't register with me at all. I've taken the Clifton Strengths test and it says that my strengths are that I'm futuristic and I'm a strategic person and an achiever, and I'm always driving towards the future. That's what I do. It's how I live, it's how I think, the future is huge to me.
Trying to live today is if there were no future as if there were no heaven, it just doesn't appeal to me at all. Jesus says something similar, but very different in Matthew, Chapter 6. He says, none of you can add a single hour to your life by worrying. He says that the birds of the field and the flowers of the field, they don't worry, they don't work or anything, but God takes care of them. And he says seek first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness and all these other things will be added to you. He says, don't worry about tomorrow. For tomorrow, will worry about itself. Sufficient for the day is the trouble thereof. So Jesus isn't saying live for today, like John Lennon. He's saying live today as if the future, the Kingdom of Heaven had already arrived.
That is the essence of the Christian life, to live today as though heaven had already come on the scene. To live according to the principles of heaven, to live according to the ethics of heaven, to live as though God were ruling among us. To literally make God the ruler of our lives. In the other Gospels, it says Kingdom of God, not kingdom of heaven. And the point is that God becomes the ruler of our life. What would it mean to live and let God be the ruler of your life, to live as though we were already in heaven. To live as though God were calling the shots, that is the true essence of the Christian life. To live today and let God be in charge.
You know, it's always tempting for every human being to want to be the God of our own life, to be our own king, our own God, call our own shots, be autonomous. In times like we're living through right now, being on your own doesn't really quite seem such a great thing. Some of us feel tremendously powerless in this world of uncertainty that we're facing. But God is powerful, and the Bible says he is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think.
I want God in charge of my life, I want God in charge of my future, I can't provide eternal life for myself. I certainly can't gain heaven by myself, but God can give it. And living right now with God in charge, living now as if I were already in heaven, that seems to be the best way to prepare. I hope you're prepared as well, if you're not, call out to God, just tell God, become my king, be my king today. You be the provider for my life. You be the one who guarantees my tomorrow, and give me today my daily bread as the Lord's Prayer says. It's the essence of what Jesus taught. Just go to God and make him the king.
By Dr. Joseph Castleberry | Posted on April 28, 2020
I love this fountain on the Northwest University campus, as a matter of fact, every time I walk by this fountain, I think about an encounter that Jesus had with a woman in a place called Samaria. She was at a well, and he was thirsty, and so he asked her if she would draw him some water up out of the well. And she said, how can you even ask me? You're a Jew. I'm a Samaritan. You know, our people don't get along. How can you ask me for water? And he said to her, if you knew the water that I have, you would ask of me and I would give you water and you would never be thirsty again. He said, whoever drinks the water I give it will be like a river, like a spring of water flowing out of their being into eternal life. And that's what Jesus offers everyone. He said, I came, that you might have life and have it more abundantly. This water is a symbol of life. Jesus was talking about water as if it were life. Life within us, flowing like an artesian spring out of us, flowing like a spring of water, as a matter of fact in John chapter 7, verse 34.
It says whoever believes in me, out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water and that water is unto eternal life. You can have life in you from Jesus that will never end. You can have life that continues to surge day after day. You can live in this world full of the life of the world that come. You can know that you have eternal life in Jesus Christ and all you have to do is put your faith in him. All you have to do is believe that what he said was true. And you can believe what I'm telling you and you can believe what any Christian will tell you, that the life that Jesus has given us is the most precious thing in our world. You don't have to live in this world like someone condemned to death. Death is real. They say the only thing certain are death and taxes. And apparently taxes can be postponed. Death can even be postponed. But it's surely going to come. In Christ we have the promise of God, of a life that lasts forever and that invades our existence now. Why not come to God, for life?
By Dr. Joseph Castleberry | Posted on April 21, 2020
I was thinking, sometimes you find things in places you never would have thought to look for them. For example, I found this fire hydrant here in the middle of a woodland trail here in Kirkland. It's not very far from the interstate. It's a beautiful forest walk called Watershed Park there used to be water works here in the park. And today this is, I guess, a remnant of that. I'm not really sure what the story is behind it, but sometimes you find things in places you weren't looking for them. It makes me think of the Narnia Chronicles in which the Pevensie kids went through a wardrobe into a forest, which they certainly weren't expecting to find in the back of a wardrobe. And when they got in the forest, they found a shining lamp out in the middle of the woods. And it turned out to have a really interesting story behind it. When you find something in a place that you weren't looking for it, it's a good idea to question what's the story behind this? Because often there's a real good story. In the Bible there are many occasions where someone finds something they weren't looking for.
One of the stories tells about Moses, who was tending his sheep out in the desert in Arabia, and he came upon a burning bush. And even though the bush was on fire, it wasn't being consumed. And he looked at it and said, What is this? And he began to pay attention to it. And as he paid attention to that odd thing, God spoke to him and called out to him and said, go back to Egypt and liberate my people from slavery and bring them into the land that I will give them. You know, that's exactly what Moses needed. He was a murderer on the lamb. He needed to redeem his life. And then out of nowhere, in a place he least expected it, God spoke to him and gave him a chance to redeem his life. Well, none of us expected to be in the middle of a global pandemic. Just a few weeks ago, we were in the middle of the greatest economy we had ever seen. And now all of a sudden, we're facing the worst financial crisis in the history of the United States. Everything seems to have fallen apart.
And many are saying that the life we used to live will never be back. We certainly didn't expect to find this, but maybe it's a good idea to take a look at it and ask ourselves what's the story behind it? The government's doing that right now. They're trying to figure out where the virus came from. But I can tell you this. God did not send it. The coronavirus is not the judgment of God on us. God didn't send it. But in the midst of it, God is at work. As a matter of fact, God is a specialist in taking things that were meant for evil and turning them to good. What is God telling you in the midst of this coronavirus?
There's this wonderful passage in Isaiah 65:1 where God says, I reveal myself to a people who did not ask for me. I was found by a people that was not seeking me. And I say, here I am, here I am. Maybe God's calling out to you right now saying in the midst of all this, here I am. Here I am. Book of Hebrews says today, if you hear God's voice, do not harden your hearts. And Romans 10:13 says this, whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
Maybe God is calling to you today. Maybe it's time to ask yourself, what is this strange thing that we have come into? What is God saying? If God's calling you, call back, call out to Him. Just say, God, here I am. Save me. And I promise you He will.
By Dr. Joseph Castleberry | Posted on April 21, 2020
I was thinking, we all know that God is with us, but what about the fact that we know that when Jesus was on the cross, God abandoned him? We know that while Jesus was hanging on the cross, he said, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? We know that. But do we? Is that what happened?
You know, theologians over the years reading that text have told us that Jesus became sin on the cross and therefore God had to turn his face away from him. But the Bible doesn't say that. In 2 Corinthians 5:22, it says God made him, who knew no sin to become sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God. But did Jesus ontologically become sin? I mean, did he in his very being, turn into sin? No, that's not what it's saying. What it's saying is that Jesus became a sin offering for us on the cross. He didn't turn into sin. He simply took the place of sin so that God might make us righteous. And so Jesus was a sin offering, but he didn't turn into sin. And like likewise, some people would quote Habakkuk Chapter two where where it says your eyes are too pure to look upon sin. But in the next phrase, he he accuses God of looking on sinners. So why do you do this? Since you're too pure to look on sin? It doesn't mean that Jesus, that God had to turn his face away from Jesus. I know that there's a lot of songs that say Jesus, that God turned his face away from Jesus. But the Bible just doesn't say that. As a matter of fact, when Jesus said, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? He quoted the Bible.
He quoted Psalm 22. What was that about when he said, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from the words of my groaning? The reason Jesus said that was that while he was on the cross, he was praying through the Psalms. That's what any righteous Jew would have done. And Jesus was a rabbi. He knew the Psalms by heart. And so as he hung on the cross in great agony, in tremendous suffering, certainly feeling alone, certainly feeling abandoned, he is praying the Psalm 22 much like you would pray. Psalm 23, the Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. But Jesus praying the one before that. My God, why have you forsaken me? And as you follow the words of that song of lament, you will see the very thoughts and words that were in Jesus' mind as he hung upon the cross. In that prophetic psalm you'll see the very action around the cross happening prophetically in the psalm, the men gambling for Jesus' clothing, his mouth drying up like a potsherd. That's where he said on the cross, I am thirsty. He talks about being in his mother's arms in his mother's womb. That's where he turned to John and said, This is your mother.
As a matter of fact, looking at that psalm, we can tell exactly what Jesus was thinking. And the psalm comes around to this ringing declaration of faith. You have not scorned the suffering of your afflicted one. You have not turned your face away. Jesus declares from the cross that God did not turn his face away from him. God did not abandon Jesus on the cross. As you continue praying through the Psalms, if you go and read through them, you'll see that Jesus would have gone from Psalm 22 to Psalm 23. The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He would have continued to pray out of his agony. These words of ringing faith in Psalm 23 and 24 and 25, 26. You can look right into the mind of Jesus as he prays through these Psalms, until finally he gets to Psalm 31 in which he says into your hands, I commend my spirit. Jesus on the cross knew that God was with him, that God had not turned his face away from him, despite his feelings, despite the loneliness, despite the agony, he knew that God was with him, that God had not forsaken him, as a matter of fact, that God had accepted him as a perfect sacrifice for the sin of humanity.
In the midst of your greatest hour of trial, in the worst moments you will ever spend in your life, you should know that no matter what it feels like, God is with you.
The God who is With Us
By Dr. Joseph Castleberry | Posted on April 21, 2020