ACST 39: The Empowerer

Red Lightning Flash The incarnation was a singular event in which the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. Pentecost was another such singular event in which the Holy Spirit came down and resided within the church and began ministering through us. Luke records this event:

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…[1]

From that time on, believers had the capacity to minister through spiritual gifts and miraculous ministries. That power came from the presence of the Holy Spirit. Although he has always been present everywhere, from Pentecost on, he has invested himself in the church of Jesus Christ.

the rifle era

Before Jesus, God’s Holy Spirit invested himself in people by coming upon them, to empower them to perform specific miracles, or the enable them to do a particular ministry.

· “And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe. And the Spirit of God came upon him, and he took up his discourse”[2]

· “The Spirit of the LORD was upon (Othniel), and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim.”[3]

· “Then the Spirit of the LORD was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD…”[4]

· “Then the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon (Samson), and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat.”[5]

· “When they came to Gibeah, behold, a group of prophets met (Saul), and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them.”[6]

· “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward.”[7]

· “Then Saul sent messengers to take David, and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as head over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied”[8]

· And (Saul) went there to Naioth in Ramah. And the Spirit of God came upon him also, and as he went he prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah.[9]

· “The Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The LORD is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.”[10]

· Ezekiel said “And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and he said to me, “Say, Thus says the LORD: So you think, O house of Israel. For I know the things that come into your mind….”[11]

The power of God at work could be described as that of a rifle, specifically targeting one person or group, and doing one thing at a time. During this time God’s power for ministry could be said to be available, but not predictable, and not prominent.

the ricochet era

The Messiah’s ministry was to be different than the ministries of these upon whom the Spirit came. The Messiah was to have the power of the Spirit without measure – without limit. The Holy Spirit would rest upon the Messiah and never leave him. Power from God is both available and predictable if you are looking in the right place.

· “And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”[12]

· “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.”[13]

· “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound”[14]

When Jesus Christ appeared for his public ministry, his baptism by John publically demonstrated that he was this Messiah. The Holy Spirit visibly descended and rested upon him. From that time on, the Holy Spirit manifested God’s power wherever Jesus went.

· “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”[15]

· “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness”[16]

· “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.”[17]

The Holy Spirit manifested his power in Jesus’ life and ministry. That power did not dissipate once a particular miracle happened, but continued to manifest wherever Jesus was. It was like a bullet, which, after reaching its target, would ricochet to the next and the next.

the shotgun era

Jesus promised to pass on that special access to God’s power through the Holy Spirit. He predicted the event that we know as Pentecost. He told them “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”[18] He promised “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”[19]

On that day, the Holy Spirit came, rested upon, and resided within the believers gathered. But unlike the Old Testament saints, this power was to remain in the believers for the purpose of witnessing the fact that Christ has been raised from the dead. The power was tied to the gospel message, and will not diminish until all have had the opportunity to hear that gospel. The power will remain as long as the mission remains.

· “And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.”[20]

· “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.”[21]

· “by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God- so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel”[22]

· “and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”[23]

· “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”[24]

· “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being”[25]

· “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us”[26]

· “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”[27]

This era in which we now live is both the era of the Holy Spirit, and the era of the church, through which the Holy Spirit chooses to operate. He has invested himself in us, and his power blasts through the obstacles as we continue to spread the gospel. The power of the Holy Spirit is like the blast of a shotgun, that permeates the whole area where the gospel is being proclaimed.

a powerless church?

Sadly, that power often seems to be missing in the church today. Some feel that this special power was only for the age in which the apostles began to originally spread the gospel, and therefore we should not expect the same kind of power today. They teach that the church should concentrate on showing love and other aspects of the sanctified life, because the special power and gifts have ceased.

It is true that Paul argues for an emphasis on love in 1 Corinthians 13, because the miraculous gifts do manifest temporarily. He was not arguing that the era of the Holy Spirit’s power would end in the first century. He was trying to correct an over-emphasis on the expression of supernatural gifts to the exclusion of the fruit of a sanctified life. Paul encouraged both the manifestation of spiritual gifts and spiritual fruit, because each has its place.

Perhaps one of the reasons that the church seems so powerless today is that she has lost sight of the dual role of the Holy Spirit in the presentation of the gospel. His power is available to both transform us into Christ’s image, and to proclaim Christ’s gospel. It can both build up believers and (through miracles) break down walls preventing belief. Some traditions emphasize the Holy Spirit’s role as a sanctifier, others stress his role as a miracle maker. Both must be seen together to get a clear view of who the Holy Spirit actually is. His power is available to change us, and to draw others to Christ.

baptism and fullness

Another helpful distinction can clarify the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. All believers have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. That is the initial act of entering into the life of someone who has confessed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul told the Corinthians “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free- and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.”[28] The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not some extra blessing that a believers has to work for – it comes with being part of the body of Christ – no extra charge.

Simultaneous with the initial baptism with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the bible says “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”[29] This fullness of the Holy Spirit was a temporary phenomenon. It resulted in power for miraculous ministry. It came and went, as the apostles continued to spread the gospel.[30]

The church needs to continually seek this fullness of the Spirit to manifest the difference between who we were before Christ, and who we are now. Paul told the Ephesians “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”[31] The old life of debauchery must be replaced by a new life, empowered by the Holy Spirit. This new life involves manifestations of spiritual gifts in which the Holy spirit speaks, sings, and gives thanks through our voices. It also expresses itself in a sanctified life in which we submit to one another instead of trying to rule over each other. Here, again, spiritual gifts and the fruit of the Spirit are working together for the same cause: advancing the gospel.

He is Here

The spiritual gifts and the fruit of the spirit and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit all have one source: the person of the Holy Spirit. They exist because he exists. They will never cease because He will never cease. Since he is here, his power is available to answer our prayers, and to surprise us with unexpected miracles. He is not a mechanistic power, so his work cannot be manipulated. That explains why our prayers sometimes do not result in the answers we expect. He is God, and does not curtail his own sovereignty.

But we should pray, precisely because he is here within us. He has chosen to invest himself in our lives. He has chosen to empower us to fulfill our mission. He has chosen to make us more like Christ. If we are doing what he wants us to do, we should expect his empowerment to do it.

[1] Acts 2:1-4.

[2] Numbers 24:2-3.

[3] Judges 3:10.

[4] Judges 11:29-30.

[5] Judges 14:6. (see also 14:19; 15:14).

[6] 1 Samuel 10:10. (see also 10:6; 11:6).

[7] 1 Samuel 16:13.

[8] 1 Samuel 19:20.

[9] 1 Samuel 19:23.

[10] 2 Chronicles 15:1-2.

[11] Ezekiel 11:5.

[12] Isaiah 11:2.

[13] Isaiah 42:1-3.

[14] Isaiah 61:1.

[15] Matthew 3:16 – 4:1.

[16] Luke 4:1.

[17] Luke 4:14-15.

[18] Luke 24:49.

[19] Acts 1:8.

[20] Acts 4:33.

[21] Acts 6:8.

[22] Romans 15:19-20.

[23] 1 Corinthians 2:4-5.

[24] 2 Corinthians 10:4.

[25] Ephesians 3:14-16.

[26] Ephesians 3:20.

[27] James 5:16.

[28] 1 Corinthians 12:13-14.

[29] Acts 2:4.

[30] Acts 4:8, 31; 6:8; 7:55; 9:17; 11:24; 13:9, 52.

[31] Ephesians 5:18-21.

Overcoming Pray-ers Block



Why Prayer is Important

Prayer is among the most important disciplines that mature Christians learn in their walk with the LORD. The saying goes that “prayer changes things.” That is not exactly true. If it were not for our loving, merciful and sovereign God, prayer would accomplish nothing. But since we have a God who answers prayers, the importance of prayer cannot be understated.

Most Christians agree with this assessment, so proving the value of prayer is not necessary. Even the most immature Christians recognize and acknowledge that they should pray – that it would be good for them if they did pray, and that prayer would change their lives if they did it more often.

The Bible reminds us again and again that when God’s people pray, things happen:

“Abraham prayed to God, and God healed…”[1]

“Isaac prayed to the LORD …and Rebekah his wife conceived.”[2]

“Moses prayed to the LORD, and the fire died down.”[3]

Hannah prayed for a child. She “called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the LORD.””[4]

“Elisha prayed” and some eyes were opened, others were blinded.[5]

“Hezekiah …and Isaiah …prayed” and stopped the Assyrian army from invading Judah.[6]

“Ezra prayed” and his people repented of their rebellion.[7]

Daniel prayed and God delivered him from the lions.[8]

Jonah prayed, and God delivered him by the fish, and then from the fish.[9]

Jesus prayed, and taught his disciples to pray.[10]

They prayed, and taught the church to pray.[11]

Pray-ers Block

But in spite of this biblical evidence, I dare say that we all stand convicted that we do not pray enough, and feel defeated by our sad attempts to reach heaven in prayer. We read Paul’s challenge to “pray without ceasing,”[12] but are ashamed to admit that we do not live up to that challenge. Like a writer, who knows she should be writing, but suffers from writers block, we pray-ers are often stricken with pray-ers block.

There are no easy, automatic solutions to the problem of pray-ers block. Like regular bible study, consistent giving, and loving fellowship with other believers, regular prayer is a discipline. It can be accomplished, but not without hard work, determination, and self-control.

Perhaps some readers are ready to stop reading now – afraid that my counsel has strayed away from the doctrine of salvation by grace. Let me assure you that I have not done so. Every spiritual and physical blessing we ever receive from the LORD is through grace — bought by the blood of Christ and not our own works.

But the champions of salvation by grace were also the champions of regular disciplined prayer. They taught that once crossing the threshold of deliverance we would be faced with a wilderness that we would need to be guided through. That guidance comes through the Holy Spirit, and we keep in contact with him through prayer. They knew from the writings of Moses that it is possible to be rescued by grace and still die in the wilderness. For that reason they commanded prayer.

To put it another way, our call into the church by grace is a call to be the church – which requires doing battle in the spirit realm. God has taken up his battle armour for us. “He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.”[13] That does not mean that we are bystanders in the spiritual war. No, by faith in God’s grace we must:

· Trust in his truth (fasten on the belt),

· Trust in his righteousness (put on the breastplate),

· Trust in his gospel of peace (put on the shoes),

· Trust in his protection (take up the shield of faith),

· Trust in his salvation (take the helmet),

· Trust in his word (take the sword of the Spirit)[14]

But that trust is demonstrated by “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints”.[15] The kingdom of God is at war with the kingdom of darkness. We demonstrate which side we are on –our citizenship in the kingdom –by doing warfare – on our knees.

Some practical Suggestions

Pray-ers block is not something that can be overcome by putting into practice a few simple steps to success. However, like writers block, it can be overcome if the sufferer really wants to, and is willing to change her behaviour to make it happen. To that end, here are a few suggestions of the kind of changes that have helped others pray more consistently.

1. Pray out loud. For many, attempts to pray silently are defeated by minds that get distracted too easily. Some have found that praying out loud helps them to concentrate, and keeps their minds from wandering off.

2. Write your prayers. Writing out one’s thoughts to the LORD often helps to keep those prayers on target. Writing is also understood as being more substantial than merely speaking, which can help the pray-er to realize the significance of what he is doing. The Bible contains many examples of prayers offered to God which have been written for our benefit.

3. Read and/or listen to other people’s prayers. Those prayers written in the bible are of benefit to us today. Also other prayers by great saints of the past, and the things they have written about prayer can serve to guide us in expressing our devotion to the LORD, in seeking his will, and in praying for others. They cannot replace our prayers to God, but can serve as examples for us to follow.

4. Make lists. Some of the great warriors of prayer that I have known brought lists with them to prayer meetings. The lists helped them to focus on particular people and specific needs. The lists were also evidence that they took prayer seriously. This suggestion is particularly helpful if one is task-oriented. Be creative! Sources of these lists can include:

a. church bulletins and directories,

b. social networks,

c. newspapers,

d. prayer calendars,

e. newsletters,

f. websites,

g. school yearbooks,

h. club membership lists.

5. Illustrate. Use pictures to help focus your prayers. One of my lists is my friends on Facebook. Having profile pictures associated with each name helps me to stay focused on them and their needs as I pray. When we were foreign missionaries, my family benefited greatly from an army of pray-ers who kept our prayer card in their Bibles, or on their refrigerators. Regularly seeing our picture reminded them to keep praying for us.

6. Covenant. Make agreements with yourself and the LORD to pray for specific things at specific times. Examples of such covenants include:

a. praying for a congregation every time you pass the building where they worship,

b. praying for everyone you know on their birthdays,

c. praying for political leaders every time you see the national flag,

d. praying for the sick and injured that you know every time you see a hospital sign or see or hear an ambulance,

e. praying for people with a certain first name every time you see that name in writing, or hear it spoken.

f. dividing all your lists into seven categories, then assigning a day of the week to each category.

7. Record. When you pray for specific things, keep records of the requests so that you can see how God is answering your prayers. We often miss the joy of discovering how much God is listening because we fail to check back on the status of prayers previously prayed.


There are victories to be won, and obstacles to be overcome which will only happen when God’s people appeal to him to intervene. God is looking for a people who are willing to persevere through the times when prayer seems dry and distant. He is looking for people who see every challenge they face as an opportunity to pray until he does something about it. He is looking for a people who are not satisfied with a “normal” prayer life. We can be a people like that if we only learn to persevere in prayer.

[1] Genesis 20:17.

[2] Genesis 25:21.

[3] Numbers 11:2.

[4] 1 Samuel 1:20.

[5] 2 Kings 6:17-18.

[6] 2 Chronicles 32:20 -21.

[7] Ezra 10:1 .

[8] Daniel 6:10.

[9] Jonah 2:1, 10.

[10] Luke 11:1; Matthew 6:9.

[11] Acts 1:24; 4:31; James 5:13-16.

[12] 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

[13] Isaiah 59:17.

[14] Ephesians 6:13-17.

[15] Ephesians 6:18.

reflecting grace


LORD, today you have challenged me by your word to reflect grace in my relationships, and I want to do that.

John said of you that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” you reflected the glory of heaven. I want to do that too.

I especially want to be an agent of grace to the people you have blessed me with in my family, my church, my friends, the people I casually encounter, and the people I minister to by my writings.

I believe that I have received grace from you, and that I can be a reflection of that grace. I also know that by allowing my flesh to prevail I can hinder that reflection. Cleanse the mirror of my life by your Holy Spirit so that I reflect you in purity, without distortion.

I believe that I, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, am “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”  I pray that I will always be a willing participant in the process.

I pray that many others come into your kingdom after seeing it reflected in my life.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.


see Ephesians 5:22-6:9; John 1:14, 16-17; 2 Corinthians 3:18.




I’ve been going through a bit of a rough road for a while now.  I trust the LORD to lead me out of it.  He always does. It’s just taking longer than usual.

I found comfort today in the words of this sermon that I preached in 2009. If you are going through tough times, I hope this helps you as much.

Psalm 42:1-11 (ESV)


As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me continually, “Where is your God?” 4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. 5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation 6 and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. 8 By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. 9 I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” 10 As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me continually, “Where is your God?” 11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

If you want to know what a person is thinking, listen to his conversations. If you want to know what he is feeling, listen to his songs. That’s why the psalms are so important to Christians. We get to go deeper into the inner feelings of people as they wrestled with life and God and the devil. As we do that, we realize something really important: they felt like us. They got mad at the same things that we do. They felt glad at the same kinds of things that make us glad. The same sorts of things embarrassed them, and the same conditions that tend to depress us, made them depressed as well.

This psalm bares a soul who is in the depths of an ugly depression. For that reason alone it deserves a place in the scriptures because God’s people need to know that it’s OK to feel that way some time. If you wake up feeling depressed, it doesn’t mean that you have somehow failed God. We are commanded to rejoice in the LORD:

Psalm 64:10 “Let the righteous one rejoice in the LORD”
Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”

So, what do we do when we don’t feel like obeying those commands? This psalm is written for just such times as that. It’s like a blues song. It’s a song you can sing when you don’t feel like singing. It’s a song about hard times, disappointment, distress. It digs deep into the pits -the bad times, but it doesn’t leave us there. In fact, within this psalm are some of the tools that we can use to pull ourselves out of depression. Do you want to know what those tools are? Well, listen up.

1)Tool #1: Realize that depression is a natural consequence to living in a fallen world.

This psalm was written by a believer who suffered from depression (5-6,11).

We do not know whether one of the descendants of Korah was the author, or whether they were just a group of collectors. But whoever the original author of this psalm was, two things are sure about it: it bears the mark of the Holy Spirit, and it reflects the feelings of a person who is battling with depression.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul?”
“Why are you in turmoil within me?”
“My soul is cast down within me”

Many of the psalms were written by those who had deep bouts of depression.

There is, in fact, a whole category of psalms that reflect the believer’s inner conflict when times are bad. They are called psalms of Lament. Jeremiah’s book Lamentations was a Lament.

Many of the heroes of the faith suffered from depression.

John Calvin was of the opinion that Psalm 42 was actually written by David, and that is possible, considering all the psalms that are ascribed to David which struggled with this same harsh reality. We know, for example that David wrote:

Psalm 22:1-2 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.”

Jesus himself quoted that psalm when he was in agony on the cross. Why would he do that? It is a psalm that reflected such disappointment, such despair, that the Holy Spirit used it to predict Christ’s ordeal on the cross!

Psalm 22:6-8 “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; `He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!'”

Psalm 22:14-18 “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet – I can count all my bones – they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

Feelings of depression can be the Holy Spirit yearning for what’s next (2,5-6,11).

In psalm 42, the psalmist forced himself to look beyond the present problems and envision a triumphant future.

Psalm 42:2 “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”

Psalm 42:5-6,11 “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

This is the Holy Spirit’s way of reminding us that the last line of the song has not yet been written. The troubles we face are real. They reflect the fact that we live in a fallen world where the good guys don’t always win, and evil sometimes triumphs, but that is only temporary. When the last line of the song is written, God is the winner, and things are set right. Remember psalm 22? Here’s how it ends:

Psalm 22:27-31 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.

That explains why Jesus could be quoting such a sad song as he hung on the cross. He was reminding himself of the bad predicament he was in – true. But the Holy Spirit was reminding him of the eternal result of his suffering. All the ends of the earth will remember his day on the cross. Posterity shall serve him!

2)Tool #2: Recognize that the circumstances of your life are not accidental.

The psalmist finds himself not where he wants to be (6).

Psalm 42:6 “I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.”

I think that the psalmist of Psalm 42 was not David, but was one of the descendants of Korah. He was a Levite, and his life revolved around the annual worship celebrations at the temple of God in Jerusalem. But here’s the problem: he cannot go to Jerusalem. He is held captive in a Gentile land far north of Jerusalem.

He is haunted by the inability to return to the glory days of the past (4).

Psalm 42:4 “These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.”

When I pastored in a small church many years ago, I had a couple in my church who had been members in a large, energetic church. They were a great couple, and I thank the Lord for their contribution to our church, but they complained a lot. When I visited them, they would constantly compare their present church experience to that church in their glorious past. Their present circumstances were unbearable for them, not because I was a bad pastor, and not because we had bad programs or people, but because they were living in the past. Depression does that to you.

The Korahite is lost in his memories of a better day – a day when he could function in his God-given role as a leader in a worship procession like no other. Vast crowds would laugh and sing, chant scriptures and hug each other as they marched into the Holy City itself… and he would be among the Levites leading them.

Perhaps you have had a great experience in your past. Hang on to those memories and rejoice in them, but don’t get stuck there. God has a future for you too. Don’t allow your past to keep you from experiencing the new blessings God has in store for you today and tomorrow. Rejoice over yesterday, and then let it go. The same Holy Spirit who gave you a good yesterday has a great tomorrow for you. Expect it.

He is hounded by constant reminders that his witness is inadequate. They ask “where is your God?” (3,10).

To add insult to injury, the Korahite appears to have lived in a pagan land with relative prosperity. He was a poor believing stranger living among rich unbelievers. His neighbors noticed that his tent was a little shabby compared to theirs. He had fewer animals, or maybe none at all. His crops didn’t gleam in the sun as brightly as theirs did. They would pass by him and deliver one of the most crushing rhetorical questions ever.
Psalm 42:3 “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me continually, `Where is your God?'”

Psalm 42:10 “As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me continually, `Where is your God?'”

Those pagan Gentiles had only one way of looking at things: the religious way. If a man is poor, or unhealthy, or lives in unsanitary conditions, it’s a reflection on the god he serves. He’s poor because his god is weak.

Now, how is a person supposed to witness in a situation like that? You see, being a witness is not just a New Testament thing. It didn’t begin with the Great Commission. God wanted the nation of Israel to be witnesses to his greatness, “that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other” (1 Kings 8:60). But things are so bad for this Korahite that he is witnessing in reverse – he seems to be driving people away from God.

He asks “why?” (5,9,11).

He asks himself why he feels so bad. He knows he should not feel that way. He hasn’t forgotten his theology. He knows who God is, and he knows God is still on his throne. But he feels bowed down, humiliated inside. His anger is turned inward, and it is eating him up.

Psalm 42:5,11 “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”

Then he turns his questioning to God, and asks him “why?”

Psalm 42:9 “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy”

If you ever get to that point in your life where you want to ask God “why?” then go ahead and do it. I’m not going to stop you. If you are counseling with someone who keeps asking God “why?” then let them go ahead and do it. Do not stop them. Don’t give them the idea that God does not want them to ask “why?” I say this for several reasons:

First, asking “why?” is part of a normal grieving process. We were built to look for answers to the mysteries in our lives.

Second, asking “why?” is a form of prayer, and prayer gets the depressed person closer to God, which is just what he needs.

Third, don’t think that asking God “why?” is a challenge or an insult to God. He’s a big God, he can take it.

We can ask God “why?” because he knows the answer. The circumstances of your life are not accidental. They are all part of his plan. He may give you an answer as you ask him to explain what you are going through. But even if he doesn’t give you an answer right now, he will help you to see that there is an answer. He has a plan, and he is working out that plan.

When you get to that point, you can say with Joseph:

Genesis 50:20 “As for you (my brothers who sold me as a slave), you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”

When you get to that point, you can say with the Apostle Paul:

Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.”

And what did Paul mean by “all things”?

2 Corinthians 11:23-28 “with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”

Paul was probably well acquainted with Psalm 42. He was no stranger to difficult times, but he knew that God was behind the scenes in every one of those times causing things to work together for his good. He knew that the circumstances of his life were not accidental, and neither are the circumstances of our lives.

3)Tool #3: Retrain your feelings by centering on God himself.

He pants for God like a thirsty deer (1-2).

Psalm 42:1-2 “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”

Those words seem strange today because our society has developed a thirst for everything but God. When times are bad we cry after the government to fix it. Well, I have no problem with the government trying to fix my problems, but I suspect that some of them are beyond the government’s ability to fix. The psalmist here was wise enough to understand that his problem was not really the circumstances of his life. His problem was that he had developed a God-shaped hole in his life. Brothers and sisters, there’s a hole in us that only God can fill.

He encourages himself to hope in God (5,11).

Psalm 42:5-6,11 “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

In other words, the song is not over yet. The psalmist keeps reminding himself that the Sovereign God is still working, and he will write the last verse.

He remembers past experiences with God (6).

Psalm 42:6 “I remember you”

One of the best cures for depression is a scrapbook or photo album. Just bring it out and start remembering all the good times you have had in God’s presence with godly friends. If you don’t have something like that – get it. If you can’t remember any experiences like that – that’s what church membership is for.

He keeps his relationship with God strong (7-8).

Psalm 42:7-8 “Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.”

Nothing is more powerful to conquer depression than a regular devotional life. The psalmist would apparently go for regular walks in the woods, and every time he came upon a stream or waterfall he would hear God talking. Every day he would reflect on how God loves him, and he would spend time singing and praying every night.

I don’t know what kind of week you are having, but if you are struggling with depression, you’ve come to the right place. God is here, and he wants to help you overcome that depression.

on Matthew 26:64


R.H. asks

“Can you refer me to a helpful explanation of what exactly the Lord Jesus meant when he spoke (to) the High Priest in Matthew 26.64?”



Matthew 26:64 ESV

Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Caiaphas used this statement by Jesus as his only evidence to assert that Jesus was a blasphemer and deserved death. To him, Jesus had definitely crossed the line with the statement. What was Jesus saying?

  1. He affirmed Caiaphas’ charge that he claimed to be the Christ, the Son of God.  The idiomatic statement “You have said so” was understood as a direct confirmation.
  2. He implied that more evidence would follow. The statement “but I tell you, from now on…”  is the equivalent of the modern colloquialism “you ain’t seen nothing yet.” 
  3. His challenge was not specifically to Caiaphas, but to all of the people he represented.  The second “you” in the verse is plural in the Greek, and so is the third “you”. He is speaking to the Sanhedrin Council. He asserts that they  will personally see that Jesus is who he says he is at some point in the future. By extension, this challenge applies to all unbelieving Jews and all other nations and individuals who reject Christ in this life.
  4. Particularly, Jesus claims to be the one who will fulfill Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man who comes in the clouds (Daniel 7:13-14). This is a reference to his second coming. This explains when this revelation will ultimately take place.
  5. Jesus’ reference to his being “seated at the right hand of power” seems to come from Psalm 110:1-2.  This messianic prediction speaks of a time when the Messiah will rule over the earth, and God will defeat all of his enemies. Caiaphas would have understood this statement as a direct rejection of his authority as high priest. Jesus implied that by rejecting him, Caiaphas had sided with all other authorities who reject God, and will suffer their fate.

Why would Jesus use the enigmatic phrase “from now on” (Greek ap arti) if he was referring to his second coming?  I think he implied that the first evidence of his messiahship and coming glory was going to be the crucifixion itself. It was the crucifixion that the Sanhedrin was calling for.  Jesus was tying together the two divergent aspects of the Messiah by saying that the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 is going to prove to be the Son of Man of Daniel 7. Remember that all the members of the Sanhedrin affirmed the concept of the coming Messiah in principle. 

This should serve as a wake-up call for all of those who claim to believe in God and the Bible but are not yet ready to subscribe to the lordship of Jesus Christ, and to join his church. The trial that day was not a debate between atheists and theists. It came down to one man: a carpenter’s son from Nazareth. The ultimate fate of millions of people depended upon the Sanhedrin’s willingness to accept that Jesus was who he said he was.  They were unwilling.

The gospel affirms that Jesus is who he said he was. Those willing to accept that claim will not be ashamed when they see him coming in the clouds.