Jesus Surprises Us along the Way!

I want to relate the second personal experience in which I learned God takes care of us as His cherished possessions.

Romans 14:8c—”…whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”


Interior of Montreal Cathedral, with Christ as Pantacrator above the apse

In Eastern Christianity, churches have a central picture (Icon) under the dome directly above the congregation. It is Christ as Pantocrator—Christ as Almighty Ruler over the Universe. In the above photo, the picture demonstrated to the congregation Christ is watching over his own children.

In Greece, during the Ottoman occupation, all pictures were stuccoed over, since Muslims do not permit a person’s physical representation in art. After the Ottoman withdrawal from Greece, the stucco was removed. In one such church, to the surprise of the construction crew, the Pantacrator still stared from the ceiling. All the while covered over, Christ was still watching over his own though unseen beneath the plaster.

Today we cannot see Christ physically. He is in heaven unseen by us. However, he is watching over us, his own children, in every experience of our lives.

Personal Experience Two

One faith formative experience involved our oldest son, Joe (age 10 at the time), contracting appendicitis. This time we had insurance, but the deductible was $1,000 on hospital stays. In 1987, $1,000 might just as soon be $1 Million. We didn’t have it.

When Joe had his surgery in 1987, I again thought there would be another mean, “little man” before whom I would appear and hear that same spiel about not taking care of my child, feel just as lowdown, and then sign to pay in installments. God had another idea.


When I went back to the Seminary after Joe’s surgery, I checked my post office box. There was a letter saying someone had made a donation to my account. Inside also was a check for $100. I was happy. I thought, “Well, there is a down payment on that deductible!”

I informed my wife and sons of the gift. We all were happy, but the visit to the hospital bursar was still in the back of my mind.

On Monday morning, I had another letter in my P.O. Box saying someone had actually given me a gift for $1,000. However, the seminary had a policy of giving 10% immediately and then verifying with the institutional bursar that no further debts were owed to the seminary before giving the person the remaining 90%. I was angry at first. Why didn’t they at least let me know more was forthcoming? In the envelope was a check for $900. That met the $1,000 deductible. No visit to the bursar of the hospital was now necessary. The bill was paid in full. 

The Unseen Majesty of God’s Provision

Here is the majesty of the Lord’s provision. The person who gave the money had already sent the gift before Joe contracted appendicitis. I learned through that experience that God is always previous to his people’s needs!

Before they call I will answer 2

I was used to the Lord hearing prayer and then answering in a way that met my needs. I told him I had a need, and then he met it. This time he was prior to my need and had already sent the answer before I knew anything about it. (Isaiah 65:24)

That is true from a human standpoint, but not good theology. My praying does not really tell God anything he does not already know. Then, why pray? First, because God commands us to. Second, his answer often incorporates our praying into the process. God let me know through this incident that he is ultimately responsible for me and all that concerns me. I learned more about God through that incident than I had through the whole of my previous experiences, I think.

Why all the Pain, though?

C.S. Lewis said it so well in his book The Problem of Pain:


whispers to us in our pleasures,
speaks in our conscience, but
shouts in our pain… .

(see “Miller” below.) 

God got my full attention in this experience and not only “burned the dross out, but burned in His promises.” (C. H. Spurgeon quotation; for source see “Taylor” below.)

Two further Scriptures have come to life from the printed page of my Bible.


1 Peter 5:6-7 (NKJV)—Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

This is self-humbling—

God cares for us, and He is mighty. He calls us to humble ourselves under Him. Not because He is a controlling God that wants us to force us to bow down to Him because we are nothing. Rather it is because He wants to lift us up and care for us. As we humble ourselves, we truly submit to Him. We’re trusting Him with what’s going on in our lives and believing He is the provider for our needs instead of us ourselves. (adapted for clarity; see “Mobley” below.)

All Things do Work together for the Good

Jesus already knows all of our troubles before they happen. He wants us to accept all from His hands and submit to his providence. Once humbled, he lifts his children up into His arms and meets their needs.

Romans 8:28 (NKJV)—And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

This was my mother’s life’s verse. She quoted it often to me. Now it has become a light for my path. 


Lord, I may not always see Your hand,
But I know I can trust Your heart to do what is right!
If I am struggling against Your best for me,
Help me to cease the struggle and trust in You!
Your ways are perfect and past finding out by my puny intellect.
I rest upon Your perfect way to give me what I need.
Thank-you ahead of time. In Jesus Name, Amen.


Miller, Jeffrey. (2001). “When Tragedy Strikes.” Accessed 16 July 2018 from

Mobley, Mike. (2013). “How To Humble Yourself Before The Lord.” Accessed 16 July 2018 from

Pantocrator picture. Accessed 16 July 2018 from

Taylor, Cami Marie. (2016). My Mountain: Overcoming Problems. Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press.

© 2018 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Jesus is a Caring Lord!

Romans 14:8c—Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

If you will allow me to refer to personal experiences, one in this post and another in the next, I believe they will help illustrate how God treats us as his cherished possessions.

God is responsible for those who belong to him. I have expreienced God’s personal care of me and my family over many years of ministry! I did not always discern God’s plan, or the steps laid out in that plan, for my life, at the time. I did have to keep on walking, though.


I have to admit many times I had been making my way in the dark, so to speak. I often asked God, “Why did that experience come into my life at that moment?” “Why didn’t I get that other church?” “Why did that officer have to die at that crucial moment in the church’s life and leave the flock open to attack by that cabal of Satan’s tools?”

Rev. G. Campbell Morgan, the great English preacher, used to tell younger people, “Dis-appointment; His-appointment.” He had learned this valuable lesson after a lifetime of walking with God in difficult circumstances. Christ knows best even if we do not understand why as yet. (see “G. Campbell Morgan” below).

One faith formative experience occurred for me when our second son was on the way. We had had both sons without insurance in the late 1970s. The doctor’s fee was $800; the hospital bill was $800; total money owed = $1600. In between their births, Joseph (age 18 months) contracted meningitis. He had a 10 day stay in the hospital that ate up the money we had saved to pay for his brother’s birth.

Let me go back a bit. When Joseph had been born, I had the painful experience of going to the business office and appearing before the hospital bursar. He was a curmudgeon of a little man who tried to squeeze money out of me. He tried to get me to borrow money from the bank, from my family, and my friends. 

Stave_One_Marley's_Ghost.jpgThose I knew had little money, as did I. I was in full time ministry which paid room and board plus $150 a month. 

I never will forget that little man’s first words to me when JoEllen was admitted to the hospital. He said, “Well, I see you didn’t take care of your wife.” Then he let me sweat a while before adding, “We’re not going to turn her away. We’ll take care of her.” I then signed a document that I would pay in $100 a month installments until the bill was fully discharged. I left feeling quite smaller than that little man appeared to me. (This conjured up in my mind images of Ebenezer Scrooge and those who owed him money, pictured to the left above.) 

Nevertheless, God provided for us so that we paid the bill in installments of $100 per month until it was paid off.

Joseph’s meningitis stay, 19 months later, had been $1600. This was the exact amount we had saved for John’s birth.  Since we had no money left in savings after paying Joseph’s bill, I had to appear before that same “little man” again when JoEllen was admitted to the hospital to give birth to John. He looked into a manilla folder, looked up at me, and sneered, “Well, I see you didn’t take care of your wife, again.” Then I sweat awhile before he added, “We’re not going to turn her away this time, either. We’ll take care of her even though you didn’t.” I then signed the paper and agreed to pay in monthly installments of $100 until it was paid off.

God provided again so I could pay out of my monthly wages in installments. I learned through both of these painful experiences that God always provides for his people’s needs! Two passages of God’s Word came alive.

Psalm 34:15—The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.

Psalm 34:17—The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.

God let me know through these incidents that he is ultimately responsible for me and all that concerns me. No mean “Scrooge” in a business office controls my life. I learned more about God through this than I had through the whole of my theology books, I think. God hears a desperate cry from His child! 

When I say “God provided,” I am not saying money fell from the sky. I did not beg on the streets. I didn’t write letters to friends and churches asking for money. I can say we didn’t go on vacation. Christmas money from relatives went to pay off the bill. Sometimes, dear friends sent money, and for that we were grateful. But, we didn’t ask for money. Mostly God stretched the little we had into enough to meet our needs and obligations. 

Jesus is my Lord, I am his bond slave, and therefore, he takes responsibility for me when he sends me anywhere on his mission. He will do that same for you, too!

I like the poem that King George VI quoted the year England faced invasion by the Nazis, Christmas Day 1939. “The Gate of the Year”— 

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied:

“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”


I can say from past expreience, as merely a sinner saved by grace and not by any means a “super-Christian,” my hand in God’s hand has been better than the brightest light and much safer than any familiar way!

The same will be true for everyone who by faith puts his hand in the hand of that same God. He is faithful to keep covenant with His children! 


I can’t see a way ahead for me just now. 
My life is dark and seems meaningless.
I’m on a treadmill that never stops.
My bills mount up and I can barely get by each month. 
Take my hand and lead me from this place. 
I trust You to take me in the right direction, although it is dark before me.
My needs are still great but I trust You to meet them all as I walk with You. 
Keep me close to You as I go further into the unknown.
I know Your light is at the end of that way. 

In Jesus name name, Amen. 


G. CAMPBELL MORGAN—”A Preacher Come from God,” Part 2 accessed 16 July 2018 from N.B. Jill Morgan, daughter-in-law and biographer of the great preacher, attributes this adage to her mother-in-law, Mrs. Morgan. 

Gate of the Year. (1908). Accessed 16 July 2018 from The_Gate_of_the_Year

© 2018 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

It’s Better not to Look Back! At least, in that Way.

We began in the last post to look at the second reason why the Lordship of Christ is essential to the Christian life—

Submission to Jesus as Lord provides us with an adequate motive for living.  

We saw in the last post that we are not to live a self-centered life intent on pleasing ourselves only. Let’s look at another principle of Christian ethics.

Romans 14:7-8

7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.
8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord.

The Christian Life is more than living by a past era’s ethical rules.

Verse 8 says “We live to the Lord”—that is with Him and His will always in view. “What is always present to Paul’s mind, as the rule of his conduct, is the will and the interest of his Lord” (see “Nicoll,” below).

In this post, we will see that we cannot look to the past as an infallible guide to how we should live now. 

We need to see how our forebears behaved, certainly. They did things right. They also erred in areas. We can learn from their mistakes. 

C. S. Lewis clarifies how to look to the past.

…it is not the remembered but the forgotten past that enslaves us. To study the past does indeed liberate us from the present, from the idols of our own market-place. But I think it liberates us from the past, too. I think no class of men are less enslaved to the past than historians. The unhistorical are usually, without knowing it, enslaved to a fairly recent past. (see “Lewis,” below and the N. B. that follows that entry).

Camelot Dore

Too many people look for a golden age in the past. This is Gustave Doré’s 1868 etching of Camelot. Arthurian legend has long caused people to look back to the past and strive to recreate it in the present. 

The Roman Church and the OT Lifestyle

Old-Testament-oriented Jewish Christians looked to Daniel and his three Hebrew youths for an example of how not to succumb to an Imperial pagan lifestyle. Daniel 1 states the crux of the matter from an Old Testament perspective. Daniel had withstood a pagan empire by refusing its delicacies—1:8—

8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank…

So, 1st Century Jewish Christians in Rome thought they should abstain, as well. This makes good sense of Jewish Christians “not drinking wine” in Romans 14. Jews were never ascetics before the inroads of Gnosticism much later. You will remember Rome had at this stage already gotten the crypto-name “Babylon” (cf. I Peter 5:13). (see “Shogren,” below, pp. 243, 248)

It is always safer for the immature in the faith to revert to the ethical standards of the past generations rather than apply the Scriptures directly to present problems. They perhaps think, “My Grandfather didn’t play cards because people might think he was a gambler. I’m going to follow his example and not play Bridge.” We could multiply examples of things our forefathers didn’t do. Maybe it’s time to consult God’s Word directly about our behavior today. We live in a day where playing cards does not cause people to assume we are reckless gamblers just because we are playing “Canasta.”

One man said his parents wouldn’t let them drink soda from cans for fear people might think they were drinking beer. I would say to him, it’s time to lay that past “ethical safeguard” to rest. Some folks are going to assume the worst no matter what. It’s up to us to do what we do in obedience to God’s Word. We can leave the rest to God who judges righteously in all things.

fence around the bible edited

The Talmud (Oral Law and its Commentaries) aimed to build a fence around the Torah (Law), so people would not even get close to breaking the law. Rabbi Akiva said “Tradition is a fence to Torah.”

Don’t we Christians fence people out often when we add our man-made traditions and ethical rules to the Christian life?

Modern day legalism

We have 21st Century counterparts to those who are weak in the faith in the church. We have those who advocate extra-Biblical rules added to prevent us from ever even getting close to breaking God’s commandments.

My mother was a member of a church that had a dress code for those who attended worship. New people were admitted as they were dressed the first time they attended. After that first visit, they would be given “the dress code” and were told to observe it in the future when they came to church. Needless to say, she said there were few second visits.

Business people working

Rules without relationship leads often to abuse or disillusionment.

In my childhood community one of the churches at one time considered it a sin to own a radio. However, when television came onto the scene in the 1950s, it was all right to own a radio but now a sin to own a TV. Many in that church did not wear jewelry—even wedding rings. When people began to wear ear rings, it became all right to wear a wedding ring, but a sin to wear ear rings. I could go on.

Our man-made rules ought not to be more important than the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and fence people out of the kingdom of God!

Extra-Biblical rules have no basis in the Scriptures. They change with the times, but remain a step behind society. They make people feel safe in the church, so extra-Biblical rules flourish today in certain circles. It is better to follow God’s Word and obey his commandments as clarified by Jesus in the Gospels and by the Apostles in the New Testament Letters to Churches. We have dead heroes from the past who established ethical rules for their day, but we are to be living models of Christ in the present.



I see application in two areas for our not living by past traditions and ethical rules.

First, people are still establishing extra-biblical rules in our day. The churches they establish should ask: “What has Christ in his word taught concerning ethics for our day?”

Second, many have been alienated from the church because of abuse from extra-biblical rules and regulations of people’s behavior.

Cyprian of Carthage famously said, “You cannot have God for your Father unless you have the church for your Mother.” (see Cortez below.) There is no one mother-church. The one you can find that nurtures and enfolds you into its membership is a mother to you! It’s out there. Don’t give up on finding a church where you fit.

Prayer for those who tend toward extra-biblical rules.

O Lord Jesus Christ, I tend toward multiplying manmade rules for others.
I have not helped the hurting but I have actually
heaped on more hurt through my harsh judgment and criticism.
Your Word is the sufficient guide to our belief and practice.
Help me to stop creating harsh rules of behavior for myself and others.
Help me to follow your Word and apply its precepts to myself first.
In Jesus’s Name. Amen.

Prayer for those who were abused by extra-biblical rules.

Lord Jesus, I wanted to see You in that church.
Instead I was hurt by the people there.

The rules about behavior and belief were harsh and unfeeling.
I did not gain a relationship with You in that group, but 
I got a set of rules and treatment
that still haunts my dreams and waking thoughts.
I was hurt and am disillusioned by that group.
I can’t change them, but I still want You as my Lord and Savior.
Lead me to a church that will help me through this pain
to a soul-satisfying walk with You and encouraging fellowship with them.
I know Your Word will correct as a well as encourage.
I want both. But Your yoke of requirements is easy and
Your burden of obligations is light, according to Your Word.
Help me to follow your Word and apply its precepts to myself.

In Jesus’s Name. Amen.


Cortez, Marc. (22 Nov. 2010).  “Calvin on the Church as the ‘Mother’ of Believers.” [Blog post] Accessed 16 June 2018 from

Lewis, C. S. (1954). De Descriptione Temporum. [On the Delination of Time]. Inaugural Lecture from The Chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University. Accessed 18 July 2018 from
N. B. Lewis referred to historians trained in the humanities approach to history. In my view, he would ahve been apalled by the social socience approach to history in the academy today! Such historians learn about past customs and culture, but do not learn any lessons to guide behavior today. 

Nicoll, W. R. (1956 reprint). The Expositor’s Greek Testament: Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Accessed 14 June 2018 from

Shogren, G. (2000). “Is the Kingdom of God about Eating and Drinking or Isn’t It?” (Romans 14:17). Novum Testamentum, 42(3), 238-256. Retrieved from

© 2018 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Christ Assumes Lordship of Our Lives

Over the past few weeks we have looked at two reasons why the Lordship of Christ is essential for the Christian life.

First, submission to Jesus as Lord connects us to him in a personal relationship.
Second, submission to Jesus as Lord provides us with an adequate motive for living.

Now, I want to shift in the next few posts to a third reason:

Submission to Jesus as Lord makes us his cherished possession.

This reason comes from Romans 14: 8c…”whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

This last phrase, “we are the Lord’s,” indicates possession. One commentator says this about the phrase—”[Paul’s] whole argument [in Romans 14:1-15:13] rests on the position of Christians as slaves of Jesus Christ.” (see Parry below).

This aspect of submission to Christ as Lord is probably the most controversial for modern people. No one wants to be someone else’s property. This conjures up the idea of people as chattel of another and the idea of Simon LaGree abusing people as he wills. Scripture chooses this image—that of a slave (doulos)—for the relationship we have with Christ.

As Christians, we indeed do forfeit the right of ownership to our own lives. That’s un-American! Our theme song is like the Burger King jingle, “I want to have it my way.” How’s that working out for us?

We make all our choices and end up in terrible trouble so often. Is it not better to serve another who has our best interests at heart? Jesus Christ is the very best of Lords. Those who become his slaves are doing do voluntarily! He doesn’t force himself on anyone.

Colossians 1:16 tells us

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

We as humans were created by Jesus Christ and for Jesus Christ. We do not use Aristotle’s the terminology anymore, but Jesus Christ is the final cause of human beings. To serve Jesus Christ is the true fulfillment of every desire we have by virtue of creation by God. We do not gamble and lose when we trust him to lead us in the best way he sees fit. He does not wish to harm us in any way. His provisions for us are suited to us as a good parent’s provision for a child he or she loves.

Christ does indeed assume Lordship over us.

I enjoy the story behind hymns. One of my favorites is “My Glorious Victor, Prince Divine.” It is by Bishop Handley Carr Glyn Moule, of England (Bishop of Durham, England, 1901-1920). The Bishop of Durham and the Bishop of Bath and Wells have the privilege of escorting and supporting the Sovereigns of England at their coronation. Moule did this twice, once for Edward VII (King 1901-1910) and then for George V (King 1910-1936). Moule saw the medieval pageantry of monarchy as it was enacted at these coronations.

Note the antiquated oath of fealty taken by a Prince of Wales—

I, (name) Prince of Wales, do become your liege man of life and limb and of earthly worship and faith and truth. I will bear unto you to live and die against all manner of folks. (see “Investiture of the Prince of Wales” below).

As the person pledges fealty, he places his folded hands in the hands of his sovereign. It is a moving ceremony and filled with pageantry we know nothing about today. (See picture of Medieval pledge of fealty below.)


Oath of Fealty taken by a vassal to his Liege Lord

Prior to his consecration as Bishop, Moule was moved to write a hymn relating the whole ceremony to a Christian’s pledging his loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ. Think of the earthly scene as you read the words, and then relate them to your submission to Jesus as Lord.

My glorious Victor, Prince Divine,
Clasp these surrender’d hands in Thine;
At length my will is all Thine own,
Glad vassal of a Saviour’s throne.

Moule adds the 2-4 verses of the hymn from Exodus 21:5-6.

5 if the servant plainly says, “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,” 6 his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.

This ritual of making a person a “love slave” is even further removed from our modern culture than are Medieval fealty rituals. We perhaps think that the supreme love for another would be to set that person free from any servitude, but the love slave is made a life-long slave at his own request.

Deut 15 - take an awl - ear

Master piercing a love slave’s ear with an awl to the door lintel.

The ritual would consist of a person’s voluntarily asking to be made a slave for life. The master would pierce the slave’s ear at the doorpost of the entrance to the house. The awl would actually pierce the ear on the lintel itself. Hereafter, his pierced ear would be a token and sign of his service to his master.

(c) William Riviere; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Handley Moule (1841–1920), Bishop of Durham (1901–1920)

Read the other stanzas and picture how it relates to our voluntary lifetime service to our Lord and master Jesus Christ.

My Master, lead me to Thy door;
Pierce this now willing ear once more:
Thy bonds are freedom; let me stay
With Thee, to toil, endure, obey.
Yes, ear and hand, and thought and will,
Use all in Thy dear slav’ry still!
Self’s weary liberties I cast
Beneath Thy feet; there keep them fast.
Tread them still down; and then, I know,
These hands shall with Thy gifts o’erflow;
And piercèd ears shall hear the tone
Which tells me Thou and I are one.
(Moule, 1885).

Being a such slave is not so bad if we serve a great and good Lord! He directs our steps and rules us, but he also takes responsibility for our every need.


My Lord and Master,
Nothing around me in this world satisfies.
I have tried all I desired and now I am empty and forlorn.
Pleasure seemed good for a while, but then
Its vain titillation ended and more and more I feel unsatisfied.
I know I was created by You and for You and nothing but You will
Fill the need at my heart’s center.
I willingly serve you, My lord, My Savior, and my King.


Parry, R. St. John. (1921). Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges on Romans. (Cambridge: UK, Cambridge University Press). Accessed 15 July 2018 fro

Investiture of the Prince of Wales. (2018). Accessed 3 June 2018 from

© 2018 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved