Growing In The Knowledge Of God

 

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Grow in Grace and in the Knowledge of Our Lord

 

The final section of 2 Peter to look at is 3:15–18. Let me sum up the main points that I see and then look at them one at a time. First, from verse 15, we should regard the time in which we live as a time of salvation. Second, from verses 15 and 16, this is also what Paul taught, and his letters have the same authority as the inspired Old Testament Scriptures. Third, from verse 16, the inspiration of Paul’s letters, nevertheless, does not mean they are all easy to understand. Fourth, from verse 16, the misinterpretation of Scripture can lead to destruction. Fifth, from verses 17 and 18, therefore, guard yourself from error and destruction by growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. Finally, from the last sentence of the book, remember that the great goal of God in your life is that Jesus Christ be glorified. Everything else is designed to that end.

The Age of Salvation

First, then, verse 15: “Count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation.” This is a continuation of the thought of verse 9 where Peter said that the reason Christ has not yet returned is to give time for the full number of God’s people to be saved. Therefore, when Peter says, “Count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation,” he is telling us how to think about the time of delay in which we live before the second coming.

The human mind desires to see meaning and direction and coherence in history. And so we describe periods of history as Dark Ages, Renaissance, Enlightenment, the Industrial Age, etc. And in general, in trying to understand history, we key off of man—how man has progressed, what man has achieved determines the meaning of history.

But there is one group of people in the world, the Church of Jesus Christ, who should always key off of God, and as they look at the world, see things the way he does. Verse 15 is God’s Word on how to interpret the time in which we live. The history of the world between the first and second coming of Christ is, above all, an age of salvation. One thing marks this time as utterly unique, and it is more important than the renaissance of classical learning, the emergence of science, the rise of industry: namely, it is the time of salvation. The Savior has come and opened the way to God. While he forbears, the way is still open. When he comes, the way will be closed and the time of salvation will be past.

From the perspective of eternity we will look back on these brief 2,000 years or so, and the relative conditions of human life from the Dark Ages to the age of moon-landing and wrist-watch televisions will be utterly insignificant in comparison to the all-important distinguishing mark of this period between the first and second comings of Christ—this was the time when people could be saved by trusting Christ. The only history of eternal significance is the history of missions and its off-shoots in sound doctrine and holy living. The only biographies that will be cherished in the age to come are the lives of the saints—the people who knew that these were times for salvation. Let’s be a people who key off of God and see the times in which we live from his perspective. “Count the forbearance of the Lord as salvation.”

Paul’s Letters as Scripture

Second, notice that this is also what Paul taught and that Peter puts Paul’s letters in the same category as inspired Old Testament Scripture. Verses 15 and 16: “So also our beloved brother, Paul, wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.” Peter says: “Count the forbearance of the Lord as salvation.” Paul says, in Romans 2:4: “Do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Both teach that God’s withholding judgment is an act of forbearance that should be regarded as giving added time for repentance and salvation. And in 2 Corinthians 6:2 Paul said, “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

So by calling in Paul’s support, Peter shows that there is agreement among the apostles. The false teachers may reject the second coming of Christ. But the apostles of Jesus are united: Christ is coming, and the time while he delays is for our salvation.

When Peter lumps Paul’s letters together with “the other scriptures” (in verse 16), we gain an insight which is of terrific importance. Jesus himself viewed the Old Testament Scriptures as fully authoritative and binding when properly interpreted and applied (Matthew 5:17). They were the Word of God (cf. Mark 7:13). Peter taught in 1:20, 21 that prophetic Scripture (and I think he would include all of the Old Testament) was inspired by God as men were moved by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when he puts Paul’s letters in this same category, he is, I believe, claiming an equal inspiration and authority for Paul. He confirms what Paul claimed for himself. Paul said of his own teaching in 1 Corinthians 2:13, “We impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit.”

This is why the Bible stands at the center of Christian life. It is why this pulpit is at the center of the front and is lifted up. For we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God—that it stands before us as our guide, and over us as our judge, and under us as the rock of our hope. John Wesley wrote in the preface of his Standard Sermons: “I am a spirit come from God and returning to God; just hovering over a great gulf; ’til a few moments hence I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing—the way to heaven . . . He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri (a man of one book).” O that we might be a people of the book. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1). The apostles are united with each other and with the Old Testament in one great inspired book of God. The more you read it, the more you will see with the eyes of God.

 

Growing in the Knowledge of God – Wholly Loved – April 1

Growing in the Knowledge of God
By Kristen Terret

“… so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God …” Colossians 1:10

The textbook-sized amounts of information my sister, a fourth-year med student, has to memorize leaves my head spinning. Her journey reminds me of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day—the religious leaders who demanded Pilate crucify Jesus. They were experts in Old Testament Law and could recite scrolls of it. Since they didn’t recognize Jesus as their long awaited Savior, it’s safe to say that they knew the words but didn’t understand them.

My sister’s professors know what the Pharisees didn’t understand—that gaining information is solidified through action. They ask their medical students to complete up to eighty hours of clinical rotations in hospitals each week.

In this verse, Paul prays for believers to live a life worthy of Christ by “bearing fruit”—staying close to Jesus and demonstrating His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22)—and by “growing in the knowledge of God.

Knowing God certainly means reading, studying, and even memorizing Scripture, but it’s more than this. We come to know Him personally, through experience, as we apply what He teaches and live life with Him. As we do, we’ll begin to see God everywhere—in His glorious creation, our children and loved ones, and miracles that unfold before us. Each time we use biblical truth to impact humanity, we grow in our wisdom and understanding of Him.

Let’s avoid the Pharisee’s mistake and allow biblical living to open our eyes to the wondrous knowledge of God. 

 

Streams In The Desert

By: L.B. Cowman

“And the Lord said . . . Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:31-32).

Our faith is the center of the target at which God doth shoot when He tries us; and if any other grace shall escape untried, certainly faith shall not. There is no way of piercing faith to its very marrow like the sticking of the arrow of desertion into it; this finds it out whether it be of the immortals or no. Strip it of its armor of conscious enjoyment, and suffer the terrors of the Lord to set themselves in array against it; and that is faith indeed which can escape unhurt from the midst of the attack.

Faith must be tried, and seeming desertion is the furnace, heated seven times, into which it might be thrust. Blest the man who can endure the ordeal!
–C. H. Spurgeon.

Paul said, “I have kept the faith,” but he lost his head! They cut that off, but it didn’t touch his faith. He rejoiced in three things–this great Apostle to the Gentiles; he had “fought a good fight,” he had “finished his course,” he had “kept the faith.” What did all the rest amount to? St. Paul won the race; he gained the prize, and he has not only the admiration of earth today, but the admiration of Heaven. Why do we not act as if it paid to lose all to win Christ? Why are we not loyal to truth as he was? Ah, we haven’t his arithmetic. He counted differently from us; we count the things gain that he counted loss. We must have his faith, and keep it if we would wear the same crown.

Dancing For Joy Before God

 

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The Divine Dance

By: Jennifer Slattery, 1.cbn.com

When my husband and I were first married, we took up country dancing. Well, we tried, anyway. A local club offered free lessons one afternoon a week, so each week we’d go and do our best to scurry across the dance floor, preferably in time to the music. We weren’t very good. Actually, we stunk, so I decided to practice at home. I went to our local library and checked out dance instruction videos; and while my husband was at work, I practiced. Then I met him at the door with arms positioned, ready to dance.

The more I “learned” the worse I got. I stepped on his feet, jerked left when he wanted to go right; and combined, we created a robotic display that was anything but romantic. You see, the problem was I was so convinced I knew how to dance, I lost sight of my dance partner.

Often, I’m like that with God. I’m so focused on what I know to do, whether that be reading my Bible, teaching a Sunday school class, or fulfilling various responsibilities, it’s easy to take my eyes off the dancer. It’s easy to turn what should be an act of intimate surrender into rote behavior which ultimately leads to burn-out and ineffectiveness. But when I surrender to the dancer, forsaking my ideas and agendas, clearing my vision of everything but my Lead Dancer, everything flows.

Have you ever watched professional ballroom dancers or skating partners? There’s an intimate dynamic that occurs between them. The crowd can scream and holler, cameras can flash, but they don’t see it. They are focused 100 percent on their partner, attuned to the slightest signal, responding instantly, beautifully, effortlessly.

What if we knew God that intimately? What if we were so focused on Him, so in tune with Him, like Jesus we could say, “I do only what my Father wills.”? And what keeps us from that? What keeps us angsting, striving, and experiencing burn-out?

One Sunday, I spent the afternoon studying the Holy Spirit. Throughout Scripture, we are told the Holy Spirit guides us, has fellowship with us, teaches us, fills us, prays for us, and overshadows us.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14 NASB) ~ Fellowship–intimate interaction.

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6:63 NASB) ~ Life-giving.

Apart from Him, apart from full submission to Him, our efforts lead to futility. No matter how great our ministry, how in-depth our Bible study time, or how devoted our service, if it’s not ignited, guided and sustained by the Holy Spirit, it will be nothing but the effort of man operating on the wisdom of man to do the things of man. But we were called to more!

“The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; His word was on my tongue.” (2 Samuel 23:2 NIV)

Our ultimate goal as Christians should be to be cleansed and open vessels, ready to do God’s will. Like funnels, conduits of God’s power and grace.

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18 NIV)

To be filled, we must first be emptied — of ourselves, our sin, our wants, our desires. I believe anytime we cling to anything – even good things – other than God, they become a hindrance to the working of the Holy Spirit. That job we fear losing, the ministry we can’t let fail, whatever it is … when we begin to strive for it, hold tight to it, we begin to operate in our own will. To be overshadowed, we need to stay surrendered completely, focused on our Dancer, not the dance. Otherwise, I believe, our actions lack power. Why? Because we’ve left our dancer behind.

Lord, may we so driven by Your Spirit, so infused by Your presence, that Your love compels us. Remove all expectations and obligations except that of drawing near to You in full surrender, listening to Your voice, and obeying. Draw us into Your Dance, Oh, Lord.

 

2031. David Dancing Before The Ark Because Of His Election

by Charles H. Spurgeon on August 26, 2016

Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” And David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me before your father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel: therefore I will play before the Lord. And I will be even more vile than this, and will be base in my own sight: and concerning the maidservants whom you have spoken of, of them I shall be held in honour.” {2Sa 6:20-22}

1. David had been soaring up on eagle’s wings. Perhaps never in his life before had he so enjoyed the public worship of God. He had forgotten everything in the delight of bringing the ark of the Lord home to his own city, where he had prepared a tabernacle for its resting-place. He had thrown himself into the glad service of the Lord that day. Nor had he been alone in joyful adoration; for all the people had been unanimously with him in honouring Jehovah, the God of their forefathers. It had been a high day, a day of days, such a day as the nation had not enjoyed in all its history before.

2. The king came home to bless his household, wishing that all his family might share in his joy. Exactly at that moment his wife, Michal, Saul’s daughter, who had felt disgusted at seeing her husband dressed like a common Levite, and leading the way in the midst of the common people, came out to meet him, full of furious scorn. Her language to him must have acted as if a man had thrown a pail of cold water into his face. With sarcastic words, villainously exaggerating what he had done, and imputing to him what he had never done, she scolded the man she had scorned. How he must have felt it for the moment! We need not wonder if some have thought that his answer was somewhat bitter. Remember that David was not Jesus, but only David.

3. Always suspect some danger near when you perceive too much delight. It may sound like a paradox, but it is true, and experience proves it, that we never seem to be so near meeting the devil as when we have just met our God. When our Saviour had been on the Mount of Transfiguration with his disciples, he met, at the foot of the hill, a father with a child possessed by a demon! Whenever you enjoy a season of particularly close communion with God, and are full of very high joy, be on your guard. The very worst side of the world will be turned towards you when you have been nearest to the eternal throne. Pirates look out for loaded vessels. Probably Michal had never spoken to David before like this; but then David had never before danced before the ark of the Lord. Here stood the man of God confronted by one whose feelings were the very opposite of his own. Like an iceberg, she crossed the path of this great vessel, and chilled it like an Arctic winter.

4. This led David to reaffirm and yet more plainly state his faith in God. As many of the choicest words of our Lord Jesus were brought out of him by the Pharisees, so one of the choicest statements of electing love that David had made was brought out by this ill-tempered daughter of Saul. I hope it will be for our profit this morning to consider it. David justified what he had done by God’s choice of him. If he had arrayed himself like a Levite, and danced with all his might before the ark in the presence of the common people, he said, “It was before the Lord, who chose me before your father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel: therefore I will play before the Lord.”

5. Dear brethren, there is a great power in the truth of election when a man can grasp it. When he knows for himself truthfully, and by indisputable evidence, that the Lord has chosen him, then he breaks forth in songs of divine adoration and praise: then his heart is lifted up, and he pays homage to God which others would not think of paying. The Lord Jesus has revealed himself to him as he does not to the world; and therefore he acts towards the Lord Jesus as the world can never act, and does what the world can never understand. I am going to speak to those of you who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, for you are chosen: faith is the sure mark of election. If you believe in Jesus, and are resting in him, this is the sign that God has chosen you from before the foundation of the world; for no man ever yet had a true faith in Christ without receiving it from God, and that gift from God is the sign that he will give all other saving gifts, and that he has chosen that man to eternal salvation. The effect upon you of your knowing your election of God will be similar to the effect which it had upon David when he knew that the Lord had chosen him to be the ruler over Israel.

Abiding In Christ

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We Can Do Nothing


“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Suppose you are totally paralyzed and can do nothing for yourself but talk. And suppose a strong and reliable friend promised to live with you and do whatever you needed done. How could you glorify this friend if a stranger came to see you?

Would you glorify his generosity and strength by trying to get out of bed and carry him? No! You would say, “Friend, please come lift me up, and would you put a pillow behind me so I can look at my guest? And would you please put my glasses on for me?”

And so your visitor would learn from your requests that you are helpless and that your friend is strong and kind. You glorify your friend by needing him, and by asking him for help, and counting on him.

In John 15:5, Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” So we really are paralyzed. Without Christ, we are capable of no Christ-exalting good. As Paul says in Romans 7:18, “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.”

But John 15:5 also says that God does intend for us to do much Christ-exalting good, namely bear fruit: “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.” So as our strong and reliable friend — “I have called you friends” (John 15:15) — he promises to do for us, and through us, what we can’t do for ourselves.

How then do we glorify him? Jesus gives the answer in John 15:7: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” We pray! We ask God to do for us through Christ what we can’t do for ourselves — bear fruit.

John 15:8 gives the result: “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit.”

So how is God glorified by prayer? Prayer is the open admission that without Christ we can do nothing. And prayer is the turning away from ourselves to God in the confidence that he will provide the help we need.

 

Abide in Me

By: Danni Andrew, 1.cbn.com

pruning

My friend has grape vines on the fence in the backyard of his Mom’s house. The vines have completely intertwined with the fence and are literally all over the place. The grapes are beginning to die off and are in need of pruning.

As I was reading my devotions this morning I picked up a small devotional booklet and read a page before I picked up my regular devotional book. The passage in the small book was John 15:4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (NASB) I thought it was a good passage to start my day with. I set it down and began reading my regular devotional book. I had not gotten very far down the page when I read the scripture for the day. It was John 15:4. I stopped to read the small booklet again, and sure enough it was the same passage. God must be trying to tell me something.

My life has been like the grape vines on the backyard fence lately. Twisted, going every which way but the way it should be. God has been gently pruning my life. He has been getting rid of those things in my life which distract me and take away from the Joy of life in Jesus. Worry and stress have robbed me of my Joy in so many ways. The more time I spend worrying, the less I get done. The less I get done, the more stressed I get and the more I worry. My life has become twisted and unruly, just like the grape vines on my friends back fence.

In an attempt to get things done I have made a schedule. I created a list of things which must be done each day, and the time frame for them to be completed by. While being organized is a good thing it can distract me from what is most important. Spending time with Jesus in the word is more important than getting my schedule done. I have loosened the strings on my tight schedule. Now, I have a list of what needs to be done and am asking God to show me what HE wants me to get done today. It helps me to be more relaxed which in turn helps me to be more productive.

Control is one of the branches on my grapevine which needed to be pruned. I like to have control of things in my life, but I have a tendency to over control every area of my life. Unless I abide in Jesus and let Him have control, my life will be a mess. John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” NASB

What branch on your grapevine needs pruning? What is keeping you from experiencing the full joy Jesus has to offer you? He will gently prune those things in your life which are keeping you from experiencing His full joy. Abiding in Him means spending time with Him. Spending time with Jesus can only be good for you. What person, thing or habit are you holding onto that is stopping you from experiencing the full joy of what God has for you?

The more time I spend with Jesus the better my life is. When I open my day with Bible study, prayer and thanking God for what He has done for me, my problems get smaller and my workload gets lighter. When I let God tell me what He wants me to do today, the more “right” things I get done.. Only when I allow God to prune my grapevine, will I continue to grow.

 

Abiding in the Vine

By: John Kuperus

Scripture Reading — John 15:1-8

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5 —

If you want to make your life count, Jesus wisely explains how. He says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

The challenge is to be devoted to living in and for Jesus, in a way like a branch is attached to a vine and depends on it for life. This takes our whole heart.

How can we accomplish this? Only by the power of Christ himself. He makes that clear when he says, “Apart from me you can do nothing” in the way of bearing fruit. And he adds, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16).

In the verses of our Scripture today, the words “fruit” or “fruitful” occur seven times. God’s primary concern is not our comfort or happiness, but that we bear fruit. We need to let the gardener prune the self-centeredness and selfishness out of our lives so that we can truly remain in Jesus and bear fruit for his kingdom—“fruit that will last.” Then others will enjoy God’s goodness and be drawn to him also.

Christ is our lifeline, and he calls us to abide in him. Rather than living our own way, we grow to live his way, and he supplies all we need in order to do that. It’s the only way to truly live—forever.

I Will Never Leave The Cross

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Get to the Cross and Never Leave

Executive Editor, desiringGod.org

Christians, in theory, cling to an “old, old story” in an era freshly fixed on what’s new. As a society, we are increasingly like — and now perhaps exceed — those ancient Athenians who “would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). The information and digital revolutions have conspired to create a veritable vortex of telling and hearing new things (“news,” for short). Meanwhile, we Christians cling to our admittedly (and gloriously) ancient truths — truths both out of step with the news milieu, and precisely what we most need to regain our bearings and restore spiritual sanity.

In the early 1990s, D.A. Carson identified a danger now all the more pressing a generation later: “The cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight” (The Cross and Christian Ministry, 26). And the temptation goes back even further than that. Pastor and poet Horatius Bonar (1808–1889) wrote in 1864 in the book God’s Way of Holiness,

The secret of a believer’s holy walk is his continual recurrence to the blood of the Surety, and his daily [communion] with a crucified and risen Lord. All divine life, and all precious fruits of it, pardon, peace, and holiness, spring from the cross. All fancied sanctification which does not arise wholly from the blood of the cross is nothing better than Pharisaism. If we would be holy, we must get to the cross, and dwell there; else, notwithstanding all our labor, diligence, fasting, praying, and good works, we shall be yet void of real sanctification, destitute of those humble, gracious tempers which accompany a clear view of the cross.

Bonar’s charge cuts painfully across the grain of our day, and perhaps his antiquated language might give us a much-needed angle of focus as we cling to the ancient center in the era of media inundation.

All Springs from the Cross?

What is the biblical support for such a claim that all true holiness and good works “spring from the cross”? For the early Christians, that Jesus had been crucified was not simply a singular event, but it quickly became part of his identity, and theirs. Everything changed when God was crucified.

“Other world systems of belief will dream up resurrection. Only Christianity puts God on the cross.”

“Crucified” became a kind of identifying descriptor of our Lord even in the immediate aftermath of his resurrection, when the angel speaks to the women at the empty tomb: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen” (Matthew 28:5–6; so also Mark 16:6, “Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified”). Then, fifty days later, at the climactic moment of his Pentecost address, Peter declares, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).

Soon after, in Acts 4, when Peter has healed a lame beggar and been arrested, and now stands before the council, having been asked, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7), he answers, “By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead” (Acts 4:10). “Crucified,” as an identifying marker of Jesus, then came into its own in the ministry of the apostle Paul, who writes to the Galatians that, in his preaching, “Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” (Galatians 3:1).

For the apostles and early church, that Jesus was crucified was not accidental or peripheral; it was profoundly revealing. Counterintuitively, the early church didn’t try to hide his crucifixion but push it front and center. The Son of God had not only taken on our flesh and blood, but he had given himself, sinless, in our stead, to execution at the cross — which revealed to us, through Jesus, the very person and heart of God for his people (Romans 5:8). As Carson says about the cross, this was “the most astonishing act of divine self-disclosure that has ever occurred” (16).

Fancied Sanctification vs. Real

In 1 Corinthians 1:30, Paul says that this crucified Christ “became to us . . . sanctification,” or literally, holiness (Greek hagiasmos). Bonar speaks to two sanctifications: real and fancied. “Fancied sanctification,” he says, “does not arise wholly from the blood of the cross.”

With this, John Owen would agree. Commenting on Psalm 130:4 (“with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared”), he expresses how essential it is to approach God on the basis of forgiveness: “Now, the psalmist tells us that the foundation of this fear or worship, and the only motive and encouragement for sinners to engage in it and give up themselves unto it, is this, that there is forgiveness with God. Without this no sinner could fear, serve, or worship him” (Works of John Owen, 6:469).

For Christians, true worship and “real sanctification” not only flow from the purchase of the cross, but also draw strength from conscious faith in the crucified Christ. We know our former selves to be crucified with him (Romans 6:6). “I have been crucified with Christ,” Paul says. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). So also for us: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

 

Streams In The Desert

By: L.B. Cowman

My Father is the husbandman (John 15:1).

It is comforting to think of trouble, in whatever form it may come to, us, as a heavenly messenger, bringing us something from God. In its earthly aspect it may seem hurtful, even destructive; but in its spiritual out-working it yields blessing. Many of the richest blessings which have come down to us from the past are the fruit of sorrow or pain. We should never forget that redemption, the world’s greatest blessing, is the fruit of the world’s greatest sorrow. In every time of sharp pruning, when the knife is deep and the pain is sore, it is an unspeakable comfort to read, “My Father is the husbandman.”

Doctor Vincent tells of being in a great hothouse where luscious clusters of grapes were hanging on every side. The owner said, “When my new gardener came, he said he would have nothing to do with these vines unless he could cut them clean down to the stalk; and he did, and we had no grapes for two years, but this is the result.”

There is rich suggestiveness in this interpretation of the pruning process, as we apply it to the Christian life. Pruning seems to be destroying the vine, the gardener appears to be cutting it all away; but he looks on into the future and knows that the final outcome will be the enrichment of its life and greater abundance of fruit.

There are blessings we can never have unless we are ready to pay the price of pain. There is no way to reach them save through suffering.
–Dr. Miller

“I walked a mile with Pleasure,
She chattered all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

“I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh, the things I learned from her
When sorrow walked with me.”

 

Simplicity

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Simplicity

 By: Bob Segress, 1.cbn.com

“I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3 (NKJV)

A young mother brought her baby in for evaluation to my counseling office because she was worried that her beautiful little one might be retarded. She hardly ever cried, even when she was hurt. It was as if she didn’t feel pain, all she did was grimace a bit and then smile. She hardly ever cried during the day and the mother thought her child wasn’t normal.

After testing, observation, and evaluation, I had good news for the worried mother. The results revealed that the little one was an alert, brave, happy little warrior. Surprisingly, this news didn’t make the mother as happy as I expected. She expected a baby more like herself. She was a shy and fearful young lady who had turned out just as her dominating mother had desired. I realized that we had a generational problem.

The little one had a simple view that life was just fun even if it was painful at times. She was going to be a challenge for her young mother.

I thought of Einstein’s opinion about simplicity: “Any intelligent fool can make things more complicated, it takes the touch of genius to move in the opposite direction.” Other thoughts swept through my mind — Isaac Newton: “Truth is ever found in simplicity, not in multiplicity.” Fredric Chopin: “Simplicity is the final achievement.” God: “Your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity in Christ.”

Jesus is simply all we need. He is our Savior, Shepherd, and Friend (John 15:5). The simple reality about The Lord Jesus Christ is that He is “The Way, The Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). Completeness is found in the Son of God: Creation, Christmas, Cross.

Jesus gave His children five “Me” verses that reveal how to live “the simplicity in Christ.”

“Come to Me” (Matthew 11:28) first, and consistently. When we come to Jesus it provides the relationship we find with the Son of God.

“Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19). We come to Jesus and because of our relationship, we follow Jesus. He is our Shepherd; what could be more natural than for sheep to follow their shepherd, who is their protector and provider?

“Love Me” (John 14:15). Any time we love someone, our personality is modified; sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad, depending on how healthy that love is. Jesus is our “first love” (Rev. 2:4), the only divine love we will ever have.

“Ask Me” (John 14:14 NASB). A key to the simplicity in Christ is talking to Him. Only a simple, trusting, optimistic soul loves enough to ask Jesus with confidence. The “serpent” wishes to rob that confidence from every brave and smiling face.

“Abide in Me” (John 15:4) Life becomes very simple and effective when we relax in our relationship with Jesus. Just abiding in Christ is the simple solution to life and success.

The serpent is the master of seduction; we must resist his advances by obeying the five Me verses our Lord has given. He has told us with a compassionate voice: “If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love.” John 15:10.

 

Simplicity

C. H. SPURGEON,

“He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”- Jhn 1:11-13.

EVERYTHING here is simple; everything is sublime. Here is that simple gospel, by which the most ignorant may be saved. Here are profundities, in which the best-instructed may find themselves beyond their depth. Here are those everlasting hills of divine truth which man cannot climb; yet here is that plain path in which the wayfaring man, though a fool, need nor err, nor lose his way. I always feel that I have no time to spare for critical and captious persons. If they will not believe, neither shall they be established. They must take the consequences of their unbelief. But I can spare all day and all night for an anxious enquirer, for one who is blinded by the very blaze of the heavenly light that shines upon him, and who seems to lose his way by reason of the very plainness of the road that lies before him. In this most simple text are some of the deep things of God, and there are souls here that are puzzled by what are simplicities to some of us; and my one aim shall be, so to handle this text as to help and encourage and cheer some who would fain touch the hem of the Master’s garment, but cannot for the press of many difficulties and grave questions which rise before their minds.

Let us go to the text at once, and notice, first, a matter which is very simple: “As many as received him… even to them that believe on his name”; secondly, a matter which is very delightful: “to them gave he power to become the sons of God”; and thirdly, a matter which is very mysterious: “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

I. Here is, first, A MATTER WHICH IS VERY SIMPLE; receiving Christ, and believing on his name. Oh, that many here may be able to say, “Yes, I understand that simple matter. That is the way in which I found eternal life”!

The simple matter of which John here speaks is receiving Christ, or, in other words, believing on his name.

Receiving Christ is a distinctive act. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” The very people you would have thought would have eagerly welcomed Christ did not do so; but here and there a man stood apart from the rest, or a woman came out from her surroundings, and each of these said, “I receive Christ as the Messiah.” You will never go to heaven in a crowd. The crowd goes down the broad road to destruction; but the way which leadeth to life eternal is a narrow way; “and few there be that find it.” They that go to heaven must come out one by one, and say to him that sits at the wicket-gate, “Set my name down, sir, as a pilgrim to the celestial city.” They who would enter into life must fight as well as run, for it is an uphill fight all the way, and few there be that fight it out to the end, and win the crown of the victors.

 

Streams In The Desert

By: L.B. Cowman

“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29 :18).

Waiting upon God is necessary in order to see Him, to have a vision of Him. The time element in vision is essential. Our hearts are like a sensitive photographer’s plate; and in order to have God revealed there, we must sit at His feet a long time. The troubled surface of a lake will not reflect an object.

Our lives must be quiet and restful if we would see God. There is power in the sight of some things to affect one’s life. A quiet sunset will bring peace to a troubled heart. Thus the vision of God always transforms human life.

Jacob saw God at Jabbok’s ford, and became Israel. The vision of God transformed Gideon from a coward into a valiant soldier. The vision of Christ changed Thomas from a doubting follower into a loyal, devout disciple.

But men have had visions of God since Bible times. William Carey saw God, and left his shoemaker’s bench and went to India. David Livingstone saw God, and left all to follow Him through the jungles of dark Africa. Scores and hundreds have had visions of God, and are today in the uttermost parts of the earth working for the speedy evangelization of the heathen.
–Dr. Pardington

There is hardly ever a complete silence in the soul. God is whispering to us well-nigh incessantly. Whenever the sounds of the world die out in the soul, or sink low, then we hear the whisperings of God. He is always whispering to us, only we do not hear, because of the noise, hurry, and distraction which life causes as it rushes on.
–F. W. Faber

“Speak, Lord, in the stillness,
While I wait on Thee;
Hushed my heart to listen
In expectancy.

“Speak, O blessed Master,
In this quiet hour;
Let me see Thy face, Lord,
Feel Thy touch of power.

“For the words Thou speakest,
‘They are life,’ indeed;
Living bread from Heaven,
Now my spirit feed!

“Speak, Thy servant heareth!
Be not silent, Lord;
Waits my soul upon Thee
For the quickening word!”

Thirst No More

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How Thirsty Are You?

By: Bill Gaultiere, 1.cbn. com

thirsty man hiking

Have you ever been so thirsty that you had “cotton mouth” and your saliva balled up like tiny balls of cotton? That happened to me all the time as a kid playing football. Back then, no one carried a water bottle. Cotton mouth is uncomfortable, but it’s no big deal — at least that’s what my football coach always said!

But what about becoming so dehydrated that your whole body gets the chills, aches, and is about to collapse with exhaustion?

That’s happened to me twice while hiking in the high sierras with my son. The first time, he was 16-years-old and we were with his Boy Scout troop. We had hiked 12 miles that day, climbed over 5,000 feet, and had set up camp close to Mount Langley, a near “Fourteener” (a mountain peak that was 20 feet under 14,000 feet high).

There it was, a great mountain peak just a few miles and 4,000 of elevation gain away — I felt I had to climb it. It was late in the afternoon and no one wanted to go with me. So, I filled my camelback with water, grabbed a couple of bars, and headed for the peak, planning to be back for dinner.

Well, it took a lot longer than I thought. I ended up hiking in the dark with just a flashlight and I got lost. And I got altitude sickness. I felt like I was going to throw up. I was so thirsty and weak I could hardly walk. When I got back to camp at 8:30 pm, just before a search crew was going to look for me, the first thing I did was drink water!

Thirst for God!
What if we thirsted for God like that? David did. He prayed:

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1ESV)

His prayer resonates with us because this world is a dry and weary desert with no water. I often use his prayer to remind myself of how thirsty I am for God. One way I’ve done this is to paraphrase portions of Psalm 63 into a “Thirsty for Jesus” prayer.

Remember Jesus’ wonderful invitation to us who are thirsty:

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39, ESV)

Ahhh! Yes. When we open our hearts to Jesus we don’t just get a sip of water — his Spirit enters us and we gush forth with rivers of living water!

It All Ends Alright with God’s Promises

Praying the Promises | God's Promises in Unshakable Hope by Max Lucado

In all things God works for the good of those who love Him. — Romans 8:28 NIV

Haman had it out for the Israelites. We read about his story in the book of Esther. A few hundred years earlier, the Israelites had defeated Haman’s people, the Amalekites. Haman was an Amalekite carrying a huge grudge and vendetta on his shoulders. It just so happened that Haman was promoted to a very influential position by King Xerxes of Persia. With this access to power, Haman planned to completely exterminate the Jews on Adar 13, a date somewhere around the months of February and March on our calendar.

Yet, there was another storyline developing that would eventually collide with Haman’s story in a big way: King Xerxes selected a new queen, Queen Esther, who was Jewish.

What situation are you facing right now that stirs in you the same kind of fear the Jews had for Adar 13? Illness? Not enough money? Then take a tip from Esther. She used her influence as queen to talk to King Xerxes. She asked him to allow her people to defend themselves on Adar 13. He agreed. Because of this, when the day came, the Israelites were victorious and Haman was executed.

Early in his dealing with mankind, God promised to bless obedience:

If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. — Deuteronomy 28:13 NIV

Esther did what was right. She took a step of faith, and God blessed her obedience. He will do the same for you. No matter what situation you find yourself in today, God will ultimately win.

Promises from God

This God — how perfect are His deeds! How dependable His words! He is like a shield for all who seek His protection. The Lord alone is God; God alone is our defense. He is the God who makes me strong, who makes my pathway safe. — Psalm 18:30-32 GNT

We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall. — Proverbs 16:33 NLT

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. — 1 Corinthians 15:56-58

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? — 1 John 5:4-5

Praying God’s Promises

Almighty God, You have promised to honor obedience. Help me walk steadfastly in Your Word and in Your promise. Remind me of Your power. Give me the courage to take steps of faith, remembering that everything will end all right.

Thank You that even if my circumstances may cause me to fear, I have the final victory in Christ. I only have to do what is right and place my trust in You. You are my hope. You are my victory.

 

Streams IN The Desert

By: L.B. Cowman

It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good” (1 Sam. 3:18)

See God in everything, and God will calm and color all that thou dost see!” It may be that the circumstances of our sorrows will not be removed, their condition will remain unchanged; but if Christ, as Lord and Master of our life, is brought into our grief and gloom, “HE will compass us about with songs of deliverance.” To see HIM, and to be sure that His wisdom cannot err, His power cannot fail, His love can never change; to know that even His direst dealings with us are for our deepest spiritual gain, is to be able to say, in the midst of bereavement, sorrow, pain, and loss, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath, taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Nothing else but seeing God in everything will make us loving and patient with those who annoy and trouble us. They will be to us then only instruments for accomplishing His tender and wise purposes toward us, and we shall even find ourselves at last inwardly thanking them for the blessings they bring us. Nothing else will completely put an end to all murmuring or rebelling thoughts.
–H. W. Smith

“Give me a new idea,” I said,
While musing on a sleepless bed;
“A new idea that’ll bring to earth
A balm for souls of priceless worth;
That’ll give men thoughts of things above,
And teach them how to serve and love,
That’ll banish every selfish thought,
And rid men of the sins they’ve fought.”
The new thought came, just how, I’ll tell:
‘Twas when on bended knee I fell,
And sought from HIM who knows full well
The way our sorrow to expel.
SEE GOD IN ALL THINGS, great and small,
And give HIM praise whate’er befall,
In life or death, in pain or woe,
See God, and overcome thy foe.

HE made the day shine clear and bright;
I saw HIM in the noontide hour,
And gained from HIM refreshing shower.
At eventide, when worn and sad,
HE gave me help, and made me glad.
At midnight, when on tossing bed
My weary soul to sleep HE led.
I saw HIM when great losses came,
And found HE loved me just the same.
When heavy loads I had to bear,
I found HE lightened every care.
By sickness, sorrow, sore distress,
HE calmed my mind and gave me rest.
HE’S filled my heart with gladsome praise
Since I gave HIM the upward gaze.

‘Twas new to me, yet old to some,
This thought that to me has become
A revelation of the way
We all should live throughout the day;
For as each day unfolds its light,
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight.
Life will, indeed, a blessing bring,
If we SEE GOD IN EVERYTHING.”

–A. E. Finn

God Is With You In Suffering

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How to Suffer Without Grumbling

WHY I LOVE THE APOSTLE PAUL

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I am drawn to people who suffer without murmuring. Especially when they believe in God but never get angry with him or criticize him. It seems to me that not murmuring is one of the rarest traits in the world. And when it is combined with a deep faith in God — who could alter our painful circumstances, but doesn’t — it has a beautiful, God-trusting, God-honoring quality that makes it all the more attractive. Paul was like that.

Brought to the Brink of Death

Paul tells of the time when his faith was put to the test in a way that brought him to the brink of despair and death:

We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Corinthians 1:8–10)

Three things are remarkable here. First is the severity of the suffering: “We felt that we had received the sentence of death.” Second, there is purpose or design in this suffering: “That was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” Third, this purpose was God’s purpose. It could not have been Satan’s, since Satan certainly does not want Paul to rely on God.

So, the truth that Paul believed about his suffering — no matter how severe — was that it came ultimately with God’s purpose, and the purpose was that Paul would trust himself less and trust God more, every moment of his life, especially as death approached.

A Key to Not Murmuring

This, it seems, is how Paul could be free from murmuring in his suffering. He knew God was in charge of it, and that God’s purposes were totally for Paul’s good. Paul fleshes this truth out in several other places:

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3–5)

Again, the basis of Paul’s freedom from murmuring — indeed, the presence of his rejoicing — was his confidence that God was at work doing something crucial in Paul: producing endurance and God-saturated hope.

Suffering at the End of Earthly Life

But what about suffering that leads only to death and not to a new chapter of life on earth where reliance on God (2 Corinthians 1:9) and deepened character and hope (Romans 5:4) might be increased? Paul was keenly aware of this question and gave his answer in 2 Corinthians 4:16–18:

We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

The issue here is the gradual wasting away of human life — through affliction and sickness and aging. In other words, the next chapter after this suffering is not a season of greater faith and hope on earth. The next chapter is heaven.

So, is there any point in the increased suffering that comes with the approach of death? How do those of us who have only a few years left not murmur at our aches and pains and the onrush of death? Paul’s answer is that this life’s afflictions — if we endure them by trusting Christ — actually produce greater measures of glory in heaven. “This . . . affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory.”

Secret to Contentment

Therefore, even though Paul’s life was one of seemingly unremitting sufferings (2 Corinthians 11:23–33), there is scarcely a hint of murmuring, and none against God. He could get angry at destructive error and its teachers (Galatians 1:8–95:12). And he could express his pressures and burdens (2 Corinthians 11:28). Nevertheless, his contentment through it all was unusual.

He said he had learned the secret of contentment:

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11–13)

This “secret” seemed to be the all-satisfying presence and worth of Christ (Philippians 3:8), together with the confidence Paul felt in the merciful sovereignty of God that would work all things for his good (Philippians 1:12Romans 8:28). Watching Paul maintain his humble, God-dependent, Christ-cherishing contentment through all his sufferings causes me to stand in awe of this man.

 

Real. Not a Religion.

by Inspiration Ministries

“Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? … You have not lied to men but to God” … Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. – Acts 5:3-5 NASB

Many people’s faith was largely a set of rules or traditions. Some brought this perspective when they responded to the Gospel.

Consider the attitude of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira. On the surface, they might have seemed like model believers. But in fact, in their hearts, they were deceptive.

Believers demonstrated the depth of their conviction by sharing resources during this time. Some sold land “and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (v. 2).

Ananias and Sapphira appeared to share that commitment. But other believers did not know that Ananias “kept back some of the price for himself” (v. 3). However, Peter, inspired by the Spirit, knew that they had been under satanic influence.

The price they paid was severe: Both Ananias and Sapphira died as the result of their deception. The church was shocked. And with their death, “great fear came over all who heard of it.”

Believers were learning that following Jesus was not a religion or a set of rules. This was not about appearances or getting praise. This was about a real relationship with God. He was serious about their lives. Lying to other believers and to the Holy Spirit was, and is, a serious sin.

These are critical lessons every believer should learn today. Always remember to be honest with God. Be humble before Him. Develop a personal relationship with Him. Be sure that you are in tune with His Spirit.

 

Finding Peace in the Midst of Chaos

SEPTEMBER 16, 2019

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The papers fell off the kitchen table and onto the floor. My children were running and playing as they usually do, completely unaware of anything besides the fun they were having. But in that moment, as I watched whatever little work I had accomplished journey to the floor from the breeze my children created, defeat overtook me.

I’d been trying to get sensible words on those pages for hours, and nothing seemed to make sense. I thought the papers’ descent was my sign to just let it all go. Maybe try again another day, or at another time.

Sinking further into the chair and wondering what to do next, I watched my children play. They were in the moment, having the best time, laughing, chasing and simply enjoying one another. They couldn’t care less that the toy box had fallen over, the play dough was stuck to the floor or that the caps were off half of the markers.

But there I sat, feeling stuck in the thick of things, unable to accomplish any of my goals. The laundry, fresh out of the dryer, was waiting to be folded. The pile of dishes in the sink from breakfast needed to be washed. And those fallen pages still needed to have words on them.

How could my children block out everything and maintain so much joy in the middle of what felt like mayhem to me?

From my chair, I began to breathe deeply, whispering my need for God along with heartfelt thanksgiving for His presence in the midst of it all and a request for meaningful words to flow onto those pages.

My tension began to shift. And as only God can do when you slow down, surrender control and  embrace the stillness, He revealed my lesson.

The children were focused on having fun, and wherever I decided to place my attention determined what I would experience as well.

What I needed to do was adjust my focus, placing it solely on God and trusting that He had everything under control. Only when I made God the center of my focus did I begin to experience the truth of Isaiah 26:3, which says: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Shifting my attention enabled me to experience His peace, joy and hope even in the midst of the chaos surrounding me.

No matter what’s going on in the world, your home or your life, you can choose to focus your heart and mind on God. When you choose Him above all else, you can experience His perfect peace in every situation.

I thought about how much time I wasted feeling defeated. How by allowing discouragement to take over, I opened the door for other toxic thoughts and emotions to distract me from the blessings right in front of me. God was right there with me all along, patiently waiting for me to choose Him.

He’s always the best option and is delighted when you seek His face. So, no matter how many people, piles and projects need your attention, you can rest knowing peace can be found by simply keeping your mind stayed on God.

Dear God, as my children play, the piles of laundry and dishes await my attention and the deadlines loom, help me keep my mind stayed on You. Perfect peace is found in Your presence, and it’s where I long to be. Continue to guide me in Your truth, no matter what’s going on around me. In Jesus’ Na

Jesus Is Always Near

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In the Midst

Heidi & Rolland Baker,, Authors: 1.cbn.com

I used to think most of the Christian walk was about “toughing it out” — enduring suffering, living with disappointment and struggling through hardship. But I have realized something very precious, especially in the last year, as God has been teaching me and training me.

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (NIV)

Suffering has purpose. Understanding this changes how we feel about undergoing it.

Having joy because of trials in this way bears so much fruit. It actually leads us to a place where we are truly mature in Christ and lack nothing. Joy fills in the gaps.

In 2 Corinthians 8:2 , Paul writes, “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” (NIV)

Joy doesn’t change circumstances, but it does change our attitude toward what we face. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is part of the Holy Spirit’s character (see Galatians 5:22). He loves to bring “the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3).

What about you? Are you a carrier of joy or misery? How would people describe you? Would they say you lighten the atmosphere around you, or do you add to the heaviness? Being joyful is not the same as being happy. Happiness depends on outward things, but joy wells up from within.

All of us can feel relief and contentment when we have come through a hard time. We can rejoice and praise God for how He has brought us out of it. But the challenge is, how joyful are we in the midst of it?

 

Adoption

“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” Ephesians 1:5

Suggested Further Reading: Romans 9:10-24

It is at once a doctrine of Scripture and of common sense, that whatever God does in time he predestined to do in eternity. Some men find fault with divine predestination, and challenge the justice of eternal decrees. Now, if they will please remember that predestination is the counterpart of history, as an architectural plan, the carrying out of which we read in the facts that happen, they may perhaps obtain a slight clue to the unreasonableness of their hostility. I never heard any one among professors wantonly and wilfully find fault with God’s dealings, yet I have heard some who would even dare to call in question the equity of his counsels. If the thing itself be right, it must be right that God intended to do the thing; if you find no fault with facts, as you see them in providence, you have no grounds to complain of decrees, as you find them in predestination, for the decrees and the facts are just the counterpart one of the other. Have you any reason to find fault with God, that he has been pleased to save you, and save me? Then why should you find fault because Scripture says he pre-determined that he would save us? I cannot see, if the fact itself is agreeable, why the decree should be objectionable. I can see no reason why you should find fault with God’s foreordination, if you do not find fault with what does actually happen as the effect of it. Let a man but agree to acknowledge an act of providence, and I want to know how he can, except he runs in the very teeth of providence, find any fault with the predestination or intention that God made concerning that providence.

For meditation: Some talk as if the doctrine of predestination is the enemy of the Christian. Scripture lists it as one of the “all things” that work together for good to them that love God and which prove that God is for us (Romans 8:28-31).

 

Fellowship with God

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.’ 1 John 1:3

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:11–6:1

That which is the Father’s employment is our employment. I speak not of you all; he knows whom he has chosen. We cannot join with the Father in upholding all worlds, we cannot send forth floods of light at the rising of the sun, we cannot feed the cattle on a thousand hills, nor can we give food and life to all creatures that have breath. But there is something which we can do which he does. He does good to all his creatures, and we can do good also. He bears witness to his Son Jesus, and we can bear witness too. The ‘Father worketh hitherto’ that his Son may be glorified, and we work too. O Eternal Worker! it is his to save souls, and we are co-workers with him. You are his husbandry, you are his building; he scatters the seed of truth, we scatter it too; his words speak comfort, and our words comfort the weary too, when God the Spirit is with us. We hope we can say, ‘For me to live is Christ;’ and is this not what God lives for too? We desire nothing so much as to glorify him, and this is the Father’s will, as well as Jesus Christ’s prayer, ‘Glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.’ Do you not see, brethren, that we stand on the same platform with the eternal God? When we lift our hand, he lifts up his eternal arm; when we speak, he speaks too, and speaks the same thing; when we purpose Christ’s glory, he purposes that glory too; when we long to bring home the wandering sheep, and to recall the prodigal sons, he longs to do the same. So that in that respect we can say, ‘Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.’

For meditation: The essential first step in doing the work of God is to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 6:28–29). Faith in him is not only the route to salvation, but also an appointment as God’s fellow-worker (John 14:122 Corinthians 6:1). Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12), and so are his followers (Matthew 5:14).

Nothing Can Change God’s Love For You

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When You Believe in God But Aren’t Sure He Loves You

God is love.

Several years ago, I was having lunch with a man I had just met. For some reason, he opened up to me about his struggling marriage. When I asked him how God fit into his marriage, his countenance darkened, and he cut me off: “I don’t believe in God, and I don’t want to talk about religion.”

Not wanting to push too hard, I respected his stance and continued to talk about his marriage without mentioning anything more about God. He interrupted me again, repeating that he didn’t believe in God and that he didn’t want me to push religion on him.

I stopped in puzzlement, then resumed the conversation, all the more resolved not to mention God. A third time he blurted out, “I don’t want to talk about God. I don’t believe in God.”

Finally it dawned on me: This hurting man really did want to talk about God. Since he wouldn’t drop the subject, I asked carefully, “Tell me about this God you don’t believe in.” He was happy to oblige. He said he didn’t believe in a God who was angry, always waiting to catch people doing wrong, and who delighted in sending people to hell.

This time I interrupted: “That’s really interesting. I don’t believe in that God either.”

He looked confused. “But I thought you were a pastor.”

Seeing a slightly open door, I explained, “I believe in a good God who takes a personal interest in all of us. My God loved the world so much that He was willing to send His Son, Jesus, to die for us. I believe in a God who loves you more than you could ever imagine.”

The man looked at me sadly, obviously carrying a heavy load of spiritual pain. After a moment, he said, “I wish I could believe in that God, like you.”

This honest man’s words give voice to a reality that many of us experience daily in silence. My whole life I’ve heard the phrase “God loves you.” I’ve seen it on bumper stickers, heard it in sermons, and listened to it in songs on Christian radio. It’s one thing to hear this with our ears, and another to understand it with our hearts.

This is the root of a challenge for many Christian Atheists: belief in God doesn’t automatically result in the belief — the genuine heart conviction — that God loves us.

Oddly, our disbelief doesn’t necessarily question whether God can or does love people. We Christian Atheists can easily believe that God loves other people; we just can’t comprehend

how or why He’d love us. We hide our real selves from other people to ensure they won’t reject us. How much more we hide from God! There’s just no way God could love someone as undeserving and evil as I am.

Undeserved Love

When Amy and I were first married, we purchased a tiny home that was built in 1910. Unfortunately, there were only two shoebox-sized closets in the entire house — enough space to hang a dozen shirts, but no place to hang guests’ coats, hide a plunger, or store a bag of dog food. Thankfully, we could store things in the basement, which worked great until our first big rainstorm.

Our realtor neglected to mention that the basement flooded several times a year, which unfortunately we discovered one day when driving home through a torrential rain. It was raining not only cats and dogs but also billy goats and llamas. After about an hour of downpour, we arrived home to find the basement flooded with three feet of water. What few valuables we owned were, to our dismay, trying their best to make like sponges.

I leaped into the torrent and found myself standing waist deep in water. Amy, peering safely from four steps up, helpfully reminded me that the previous owners had left a sump pump in the basement. I remembered seeing it, so I felt around until I found it. And its power cord. (Can you see where this is going?) Looking around for an outlet, I noticed the end of an extension cord dangling from a rafter directly overhead. Standing waist deep in water, one cord in each hand, I had a spark — so to speak — of inspiration: if I plug this in really, really, really quickly, maybe I won’t get shocked.

I pressed the two metal prongs of the pump cord into the corresponding slits in the extension cord. When they connected, I saw into another dimension. My body became a pathway for billions and billions of teeny tiny electrons, an open channel for the power currents that coursed through the cords. The piercing shock triggered certain neurons in the language center of my brain, where a long-unused word — a very bad word — was stored.

Milliseconds later, the sheer force of the electrical current pushed the foul word toward the front of my face and out of my mouth. I remember looking up to see the horror on my new wife’s face. Her preacher-husband had just shouted the mother of all bad words. She also was certain it would be the last thing he ever said.

Obviously, I lived to see another day. And the pump worked. But that moment shocked me in more ways than one. How could the same heart that speaks of the love and glory of Christ utter such filth? And more important, how could God love someone as bad as I was? You might be thinking, That’s nothing! And you’d be right. I’ve done so many worse things.

But that was in my old life. Now I was a pastor. I was newly married and still trying to prove to myself that I was worthy of Amy’s love. And God’s.

I felt bad about myself and distant from God because of my sinfulness. Job, the man who lost everything, said,

My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself. — Job 42:5-6

Have you ever felt like that?

The closer I get to God, the more I realize just how bad I am. Even the apostle Paul — who penned two-thirds of the New Testament — had some seriously negative feelings about himself. He wrote,

I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. — 1 Corinthians 15:9

If Paul felt that way, it’s no wonder that I’ve wondered how God could love someone as bad as I am. It isn’t only our sense of guilt that prevents us from believing that God loves us — sometimes it is a simple sense of insignificance.

When Christian Atheists look at the world — famine, drought, epidemics, AIDS, war, poverty, human trafficking, genocide — we wonder why God would love people as

insignificant as we are. Six billion people inhabit this planet; how could God love us all? That doesn’t seem possible, let alone likely, and surely God has bigger things on His mind.

It turns out that many people in the Bible battled similar feelings of insignificance. When God asked Moses to deliver God’s people out of slavery, Moses responded,

Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt? — Exodus 3:11

King David, who was described as a man after God’s own heart, asked that very same question:

But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to You? — 1 Chronicles 29:14 NLT

When an angel of the Lord encouraged Gideon to take on the Midianites, he immediately offered his not-so-impressive resume to prove why he wasn’t up for the task. The insecure warrior said,

But Lord… how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family. — Judged 6:15-16

If these stories tell us anything, it’s that we’re in good company if we’ve ever felt like we’re not good enough or important enough to be loved by God.

I didn’t begin to understand how God could love so many people equally until I had more than one child. In 1994, Catie, our first child, was born. From the moment she smiled, Catie had me wrapped around her little finger, the classic daddy’s girl. When we found out we were having a second daughter, I remember wondering, “How could we love another as much as the first?” It seemed impossible. Then Mandy was born. She is Catie’s opposite in many ways, and yet I found more love in my heart. I love her just as much, but with an individual kind of love. Three years later, Anna was born. Again, I discovered an untapped reservoir of love that I didn’t know I had. The same was true with Sam, then later Stephen, and finally with Joy. God gave us six very different children. I love them all equally, but I love them each as individuals.

That’s how God loves you.

You are one of His children. He’s crazy about you. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more. And there is nothing you can do to make God love you less. Love is not something God does. It is who God is. And because of who He is, God loves you. Period.

Dare to claim the truth of John 3:16 for yourself:

For God so loved [insert your name] that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Why would God love you? Because that’s who God is: He’s love. And that makes you who you are: beloved.

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The Crown of Life

 

Scripture Reading — Revelation 2:8-11

“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. . . . Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” — Revelation 2:10

Jesus knows his church communities completely. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He also knows our sufferings.

In his letter to the church in Smyrna, Jesus reveals that he knew the afflictions of his followers there. He also knew that their suffering of injustices would grow worse. He composed this short letter to give hope and encouragement to their church community.

Suffering even more for their faith in Jesus would not be easy. Jesus described the enemies of the church as followers of Satan, the great deceiver who wants to destroy God’s people and all of God’s creation. Some of the Christians in Smyrna would be put in prison, Jesus said, and they would suffer persecution. John himself was being punished for his faith by being exiled to Patmos. Some others, like Polycarp of Smyrna, who was taught by John, were later executed for speaking out, teaching that Jesus is the Lord and Savior of the world. Like those early Christians, we too are called to “be faithful, even to the point of death.”

Suffering tests the character and strength of our faith in Jesus. We may also suffer terrible illness, grief, or financial loss—and find that it challenges our faith. But Jesus says, “Do not be afraid,” because, even though our enemy, the devil, may seem to have the upper hand, God will give us life forever with him.

Prayer

Strengthen us, Lord, that we may be faithful to you always. Amen.

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Streams In The Desert

By: L.B. Cowman

“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

The cross which my Lord bids me take up and carry may assume different shapes. I may have to content myself with a lowly and narrow sphere, when I feel that I have capacities for much higher work. I may have to go on cultivating year after year, a field which seems to yield me no harvests whatsoever. I may be bidden to cherish kind and loving thoughts about someone who has wronged me–be bidden speak to him tenderly, and take his part against all who oppose him, and crown him with sympathy and succor. I may have to confess my Master amongst those who do not wish to be reminded of Him and His claims. I may be called to “move among my race, and show a glorious morning face,” when my heart is breaking.

There are many crosses, and every one of them is sore and heavy. None of them is likely to be sought out by me of my own accord. But never is Jesus so near me as when I lift my cross, and lay it submissively on my shoulder, and give it the welcome of a patient and unmurmuring spirit.

He draws close, to ripen my wisdom, to deepen my peace, to increase my courage, to augment my power to be of use to others, through the very experience which is so grievous and distressing, and then–as I read on the seal of one of those Scottish Covenanters whom Claverhouse imprisoned on the lonely Bass, with the sea surging and sobbing round–I grow under the load.
–Alexander Smellie

“Use your cross as a crutch to help you on, and not as a stumblingblock to cast you down.”

“You may others from sadness to gladness beguile,
If you carry your cross with a smile.”

Do All To The Glory Of God

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God Goes Where You Go

By: Martha Noebel, 1.cbn.com

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Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 NIV

How comforting it is to know that wherever we go, God is there with us. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations and wonder if God is paying attention. We may feel so alone and even depressed. We can’t feel God’s presence, and we need His guidance and help.

Sometimes friends, spouses, and parents don’t really understand what we are going through. But God does and He cares. God told Joshua to be strong and to have courage. Then He told him a wonderful truth: “The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Yes, that’s right… wherever! We don’t have to feel all alone. God is with us. He is working out the problems, and we don’t even realize it.

But now … the Lord who created you … says: “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done. Isaiah 43:1-3, 13 NLT

God is with us, leading us, guiding us, loving us, providing for us — all with His unlimited resources. What do we need? Do we need strength, peace, love, joy, or hope? He has it all. He is longing to pour out His favor and blessing upon us. We need to be open to Him and to trust Him. We need, by faith, to receive what He has for us. It is essential we realize how much He loves us and that He has a good purpose and plan for us.

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Ephesians 3:14-16 NLT

This Scripture is awesome. There is nothing that God doesn’t know and can’t do for us. He walks with us every moment of every day. We need to speak these Scriptures to our hearts. The devil can’t stand it when we, in confidence, speak God’s Word. It builds faith in us and gives us the strength to stand.

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! Psalms 139:1-6 NLT

Like David let us declare:

Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. Psalms 25:4-5 NLT

You can trust God. No matter what is going on in your life, He is there! God goes where you go.

So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. Hebrews 10:35-36 NLT

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Whatever You Do

By: George Young, reframemedia.com