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God Will Help You Fight Giants

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Hope for the Battle Weary

MAY 16, 2019

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20 (NIV)

Do you ever worry that all of your hard times and suffering will be for nothing? That all of this pain you keep trying to press through is completely and utterly pointless?

I deeply understand that kind of fear and fatigue. What it’s like to pray the same prayers over and over, with little to no change, all while the disappointments linger on and on.

That’s why I wish I could give you a gift today. It’s actually one I received myself in the middle of the most heartbreaking season of my marriage.

When Art and I realized our marriage wasn’t going to make any progress without some professional help, we started seeing an amazing counselor. We spent more than 75 hours in his office. It was all with the understanding that we were on the same page, moving ahead together. All the devastation would be repaired, restored and made right.

But during one of our sessions, my counselor knew we’d leave his office and walk into one of the fiercest seasons of this battle. He took a professionally done frame off his office wall and tore the backing to open it. He pulled out a real purple heart, the high honor the government gave his family when his brother-in-law was killed in the line of duty, trying to save others.

Then he knelt in front of us and placed this priceless medal in my hand.

“Hold on to this, Lysa, for as long as you need it. When the battle gets so fierce you wonder if you will survive, remember this moment of my telling you that you will make it through this. If God gave out purple hearts, you would absolutely receive this high honor. What you are going through won’t be for nothing. Your hurt will not be wasted. It will be for the saving of many lives.”

Speechless, I looked down at this beautifully outrageous gift. The moment stole all my words, and I had nothing to offer back to him but tears. I mouthed the words, “thank you.” I felt brave that day.

Less than a month after we returned home from that counseling appointment, my heart was devastated again.

I couldn’t breathe. The medal was the only physical thing I felt I could hold, when every bit of my life was flying around as shattered debris. I thought we were almost done with that horrific season, and then I realized we hadn’t even started the healing.

And while that purple heart couldn’t heal me, it sure steadied me for the next two years, as Art and I did the hard work to put our marriage back together again.

I want to be that friend who helps steady you today, sweet sister. Because I know what it’s like to feel battle-weary.

I’m sure Joseph, the speaker in our key verse, was familiar with feelings of discouragement and fatigue. How could you be thrown into a pit by your family, sold into slavery and then unfairly imprisoned … without wondering if any good could ever come of your story?

But God had a plan. From pit to palace, Joseph was positioned to spare not only the lives of his family, but the entire nation of Israel. This is why his words to his brothers in Genesis 50:20 are such a beautiful picture of redemption and hope: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

God has a plan for your life, too. The enemy is going to try to trip you and rip you to shreds with the hurtful hisses that all of this suffering is for nothing. Don’t you dare listen.

I’m holding a purple heart in my hand that tells me something different. And it’s not just for me. It’s for you, too. I knew it the minute the counselor put it in my hand, it should be pinned on your chest, too. And if you were here with me today, I’d do just that. I would remind you that your story, surrendered into the hands of God, will not be wasted.

Close your eyes and breathe. You’re brave, beautiful and hand-picked. A decorated soldier in this horrible battle with a glorious ending. I’m declaring over you that the Lord will restore you, redeem you and write His glorious story onto the pages of your life. The journey might not look anything like you planned, but I’m believing with you that God is working things out in ways you cannot yet see.

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The day of atonement

By: Charles Spurgeon

“This shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year.” Leviticus 16:34

Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 9:6-14

Jesus Christ “died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.” That day of atonement happened only once a year, to teach us that only once should Jesus Christ die; and that though he would come a second time, yet it would be without a sin offering unto salvation. The lambs were perpetually slaughtered; morning and evening they offered sacrifice to God, to remind the people that they always needed a sacrifice; but the day of atonement being the type of the one great propitiation, it was but once a year that the high priest entered within the veil with blood as the atonement for the sins of the people. And this was at a certain set and appointed time; it was not left to the choice of Moses, or to the convenience of Aaron, or to any other circumstance which might affect the date; it was appointed to be on a peculiar set day, as you find at the 29th verse: “In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month;” and at no other time was the day of atonement to be, to show us that God’s great day of atonement was appointed and predestined by himself. Christ’s expiation occurred but once, and then not by any chance; God had settled it from before the foundation of the world; and at that hour when God had predestined, on that very day that God had decreed that Christ should die, he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers, he was dumb. It was but once a year, because the sacrifice should be once; it was at an appointed time in the year, because in the fulness of time Jesus Christ should come into the world to die for us.

For meditation: Daily and annual sacrifices of animals could never bring salvation from sin—that required only the single sacrifice of Christ on a single day (Zechariah 3:912:1013:1Hebrews 9:25,2610:11,12).

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Trashed Potential

From: Sermons for Men

Judges 16:1–31

Recommended Reading: Proverbs 29:23; Romans 6:12–14; Ephesians 6:11–18

You knew that guy in high school—the guy with all the money, the looks, the clothes and the fastest car. He was the popular one, the guy everyone liked to hang out with, the one who was a lock for being voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” But instead of taking advantage of all these advantages, he decided to spend his time chasing girls and partying, to the dismay of his parents and the ruin of his GPA.

Trust Fund Babies. College playboys. Frat-house social committee chairmen. To direct these terms at other guys is to accuse them of riding Daddy’s coattails and to call into question their work ethic and the seriousness with which they take life. Those who have less in the world can only scratch their heads and wonder what they could do with the same perks.

Now, this is a stereotype, to be sure. A few bad apples don’t spoil the whole barrel in this case. But as we can’t think back on that one guy and not wonder what happened, so also we can’t read the story of Samson and not wonder what went haywire.

Mighty Samson, who has never lost a battle, is captured by a woman, tortured by his enemies and enslaved until his death. The mighty warrior who has killed scores of his enemies with rudimentary tools and with his bare hands trips up on the most obvious of ploys. The one who was to be dedicated to God’s service for the purpose of saving his people ends up in bondage to the very people he was intended to conquer.

What was he thinking? How could he have subjected himself to this kind of trickery? Didn’t Delilah ask him repeatedly about the secret of his strength, and couldn’t he see where this was leading? Did he forget that the Philistines had come into her house and tried to capture him on a number of occasions? Or did he just enjoy playing this game, knowing he couldn’t lose?

The sad fact is that Samson was just as human as you and I. He allowed his eyes to lead him astray, and he allowed his pride to strategize for him. In some sense he was a victim of his own success—and he learned the hard way that even a slugger with a perfect batting average can strike out when it matters most.

So what can we learn from Samson’s story today? Were you the one in high school who squandered your advantages and made foolish choices? Can you think back on times when you deliberately disobeyed what you knew to be God’s will for your life—and paid the price? If so, gain encouragement from the end of Samson’s story. God gave him a second chance to show that he was God’s man, and Samson struck a crippling blow to his enemies. God also gives us more chances than we can count to return to him and rededicate ourselves to his mission in the world.

Fight Evil With The Spirit and Word

 

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Fight Evil through Spiritual Warfare

From:  crosswalk.com

God calls all Christians, regardless of gender, to engage in the spiritual battles that take place every day in our fallen world.  But women can be particularly successful in the war against evil, because they tend to be sensitive to the spiritual realm, and they’re often committed to helping those they love by praying for them.

If you’re a woman who’s ready to use the power of prayer to fight evil, enter the battle that’s happening around you with the confidence that God is on your side.  Here’s how you can fight evil through spiritual warfare:

Recognize the reality of evil at work around you.  Always keep in mind that Satan and his demons are real and active in our fallen world; don’t be deceived by thinking that evil doesn’t affect your life and the lives of those you love.  Ask God to give you the ability to discern evil at work in the various situations you encounter.

Allow yourself to feel indignation at the evil oppression you notice around you.  Let your desire to see what’s right replace what’s wrong motivate you to engage in spiritual warfare.  If you’re wondering whether or not a particular trial you’re experiencing is due to God’s correction or an evil attack, keep in mind that God’s correction is marked by conviction about an attitude or deed, a call to repentance, an assurance of forgiveness, and a restoration of a sense of value as God’s child, while an evil attack is marked by accusation, condemnation, depression, hopelessness, and destroyed self-esteem.

Make prayer a top priority.  Adjust your schedule to make the time you’ll need to pray through spiritual warfare issues regularly.  Let go of unnecessary activities in your life that take up valuable time you could otherwise be spending in prayer.  Eliminate distractions so you can focus on what matters most from an eternal perspective.

Be confident.  Realize that, while you are vulnerable to evil whenever you choose not to obey God or draw upon the strength He offers you, you can always win over evil if you rely on God’s power working through you, since God’s power is far greater than evil’s power.  Be confident that you can triumph in spiritual battles if you make use of God’s provisions and obey His instructions.

Use the Bible‘s truth to fight evil’s lies.  God’s Word, the Bible, contains great power to combat the enemy’s lies with the truth.  Ask God to help you gain a deeper understanding of the Bible and build an arsenal of biblical verses to use during spiritual warfare.

Go for prayer walks.  Walk around the physical places over which you’re praying for evil spirits to flee and the Holy Spirit to influence.  Travel in pairs, and while you walk, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what evil is doing there.  Then bind evil’s work and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth about Jesus to the people there.  Cover places such as schools, parks, government buildings, stores, offices, restaurants, nightclubs, and residential neighborhoods.  Declare that God will be victorious over evil in each place you walk.

Be disciplined.  Rather than rushing into spiritual warfare, always make time to sense the Holy Spirit’s leading and follow it one step at a time, trusting the Spirit for continued guidance on the right strategy and timing.  Prepare yourself to engage in spiritual battles by fasting, controlling your thoughts so they reflect biblical truth, and praying for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind.  Be patient when you encounter hardship while battling evil; continue to trust God through difficulty.  Pray for the self-control you need to avoid sinning through the words you speak (such as through gossiping, lying, or complaining) and to speak Spirit-led words to people instead.

Use the weapons God gives you.  Besides your primary weapon – the Bible – God also makes other powerful weapons available to you to use in spiritual warfare.  Use the name of Jesus with authority over evil when you’re in a right relationship with Jesus and speaking directly to evil, commanding it to leave.  Appropriate Jesus’ shed blood on the Cross as protection from evil.  Praise God often, remembering that He empowers you and helps you fight evil from a position of victory rather than defeat.  Make a habit of worshipping God, waiting in His presence until He makes you aware of something from the Bible to use in warfare against evil, and then using Scripture to fight along with whatever other weapons God leads you to use.  Pray in agreement with other believers when possible, to strengthen the power of your prayers.

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Fighting Evil with Good

Scriptures: Matthew 5:43-48, Romans 12:9-21

Christian faith does not offer an illusory hope of life on earth without evil. Instead, Christian faith calls us to fight evil with good in the world as it is. In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus urges his disciples: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be children” of God, who “makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (vs. 44-45) The lesson of scripture is that God loves our enemies, so the church calls on Christians not merely to love those who love them but to love as God loves.

Consider Paul’s counsel to the Christians in Rome. “Let love be genuine,” he writes. “Hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.” (Rom. 12:9) Clearly, Paul believes that Christians should resist evil with their own goodness. “Bless those who persecute you,” he says. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.” (Rom. 12:14, 17)

We need to be reminded that these teachings were not written for rulers. Jesus and Paul are not advising governing officials in Palestine or in cities of the Roman Empire. These teachings were written to help Christians resolve differences within their churches and persevere in the face of persecution.

Listen carefully to Paul’s words. “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God.” (Rom. 12:18-19) Paul knows that the Christians in Rome do not have control over what is happening there. “If it is possible,” he says, Christians are to live in peace. “So far as it depends on you,” he advises Christians, settle your differences among yourselves and with non-Christians without violence.

Paul expects there will be violence, but tells Christians in Rome not to seek vengeance. Although they may be unable to prevent persecution, they have the power not to seek vengeance through violence. Paul teaches that vengeance belongs only to God. If Christians are to live peaceably with non-Christians, then Christians must respond to evil with good. Listen to Paul’s words to the church in Rome: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” (Rom. 12:20)

What does Paul mean? He is quoting Proverbs 25:21-22. Literally, of course, showing mercy to one’s enemies will not “heap burning coals on their heads.” But this metaphor may be taken to mean that loving our enemies is how they may come to have remorse for the injustice they have done to us. If they have harmed us, because they felt their cause was just, our loving response may undermine their self-justification, and so open their minds and their hearts.

Paul urges the Christians in Rome: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:21) The power of evil cannot be defeated, if we respond to evil with evil, no matter how justified our response may be. Christian faith teaches that evil can only be overcome with good. Responding to evil with good is how we witness to the love of God for the world.

What does this mean for American Christians today? The New Testament was not written for citizens with the power to elect their government, nor does the Bible anticipate attacks on the United States at the beginning of the 21st century. But both scripture and the church call us to fight evil with good, and this wisdom should not simply be dismissed as either unrealistic or unpatriotic.

How might American Christians fight the evil of terrorism with good sense and good will?

1. By seeking justice rather than vengeance. The war against terrorism should not be motivated by a desire for revenge. When people are arrested and charged with being terrorists, they must be given a presumption of innocence and a fair trial. When war is waged against a government harboring terrorists, the violence must be limited to the objective of ending the government’s support for terrorism.

2. By providing food, water and medicine for our enemies. The goal of the war in Afghanistan should be to aid the people. Even as we fight this war, we should urge our government to reach out to our enemies so that at least some of them, some day, will become our friends.

3. By promoting the rule of law within and among nations. While our government wages war, it should also support initiatives for peace that help the United Nations mediate disputes among nations and that strengthen the use of international law in fighting terrorism.

4. By supporting all that is good in America. Patriotism in support of our civil liberties, our constitutional form of government, American openness and generosity, and a renewed spirit of community service deserves the support of every citizen.

5. By understanding the history of Islamic civilization. We should welcome the opportunity to learn more about the heritage of 1/5 of the world’s peoples, and to understand why terrorism against America is now being justified by some Muslims because of the way the Western nations have treated Islamic peoples.

6. By worshiping the one God of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. There is only one God. That is our Christian faith. The God of Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad is worshiped in different ways by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Yet our prayers are all directed to the God who is God, and only the God who is God will answer our prayers.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:21) This Christian teaching is good advice. May we take it to heart and put it into practice.

 

Spiritual Life In Abundance

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You Can Have the Abundant Life Now

By: Brad Henry, 1.cbn.com

2 Corinthians 12:9a “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Here is the dilemma of our lives. How do we earn a living, use the best of our talents, and not cave into pride?

It is OUR choice whom we will serve because each of us has a Free Will. Many Christians are saved, but have no power from the Holy Spirit in their lives. Pride is of the flesh and is powerful for self, but destructive to a Spirit-led life. Let’s look at what the flesh desires.

“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:21

What does the Spirit desire?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” Galatians 5:22, 23

So how can we live by the Spirit and not the flesh?

Living by the Holy Spirit means that we give up OUR rights and invite Jesus to have full control of our mind, will and emotions. Our Flesh is our body, muscles, joints. Our soul is our mind, will, and emotions. Our Spirit is the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ when we are saved and we ask for the Lord to give us His Spirit. So we are distinctively three parts. The battle is in our soul. The soul will either gravitate to the deeds of the flesh or to the fruit of the Spirit.

“But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,” Jude 1:20

To build up our faith we need to pray IN the Spirit and not the flesh. Praying in the flesh we can all do. We just pray with no emotion and our prayers feel as though it is a rote prayer. Praying in the spirit is a wonderful gift Jesus has given to each of us.

It is only when our mind is free and uncluttered that the Holy Spirit can start to crucify the deeds of our flesh. We need to get in a quiet place and ask the Lord to pour out His Holy Spirit upon us. We need to allow the Spirit to teach us and lead us into all truth. I have been praying and the Lord will bring up someone for me to call or a scripture passage to go to. That does not happen when I pray in the flesh. The key to praying in the Spirit is surrendering all you have and all you will be to the Lord. When your total dependence is on Him great – and I mean great – things will happen.

“Lord please help EVERYONE reading this right now to be able to pray IN the Spirit. Through your Spirit, may all the strongholds people have been bound by, be stripped away and crucified. We cannot do it by Will Power, but only by the power of your Spirit. Forgive us, Lord Jesus, for a heart that many times wanders and does not seek you. Help us today to start a new path to you that is not side-tracked any longer. I know that so many reading this, Jesus, want to be close to you, but they do not know how. I pray right now that those who try to draw close to you today in prayer – that you Jesus, will reveal to them the peace that comes through your Spirit.” Amen

Please find a quite place to pray, worship, praise, and thank the Lord. Abundant life is in the Holy Spirit, NOT the flesh.

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Faith versus sight

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘For we walk by faith, not by sight.’ 2 Corinthians 5:7

Suggested Further Reading: Proverbs 31:10–31

In Scripture we often read of men who, by faith, did great exploits. ‘By thee I have run through a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall.’ Now, this is a very great thing to do; and some Christians are always fixing their eyes upon exploits of faith. The apostle Paul did cut through troops and leap over walls, but in this place he speaks of the common actions of life. It is as if he said, ‘I not only leap walls by faith, but I walk by faith; I not only break through troops by faith, but I go and do my business by faith.’ That man has not yet learned the true spirit of Christianity who is always saying, ‘I can preach a sermon by faith.’ Yes, sir, but can you make a coat by faith? ‘I can distribute tracts, and visit the district by faith.’ Can you cook a dinner by faith? I mean, can you perform the common actions of the household, and the daily duties which fall to your lot, in the spirit of faith? This is what the apostle means. He does not speak about running, or jumping, or fighting, but about walking; and he means to tell you that the ordinary life of a Christian is different from the life of another man; that he has learned to introduce faith into everything he does. It was not a bad saying of one who said that he ‘did eat and drink, and sleep eternal life.’ We want not a home-spun religion, but a religion that was spun in heaven, and that will do to wear at home and about the house. ‘We walk by faith.’ The Muslim worships at the ‘holy hour;’ the true Christian calls all hours ‘holy’ and worships God always.

For meditation: Do you regard your Christian faith and worship as being just a matter of Sunday services and church activities? True faith should extend to what we eat, drink and wear (Matthew 6:25,30–31) and true worship should include the manner in which we eat, drink and do anything else (1 Corinthians 10:31).

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Room to Grow

MAY 22, 2019

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52 (NIV)

I love watching the natural world come to life each year.

 

Sometimes it seems like everything turns green overnight. But when I see a rose bush burst

with red blooms or an apple tree heavy with fruit, I remember growth in nature takes time

and requires ongoing nourishment: water, sun and nutrients from the soil.

Our spiritual growth works the same way. We require several key ingredients in order to mature in our faith.

This process is exemplified by the ways that Jesus grew: in wisdom, in stature, in favor with God and others. Luke 2:52 says, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”

While we don’t know the specific details about His growth in these three areas, it’s clear He didn’t just wait around for it to happen.

In order to grow in wisdom, Jesus likely studied His culture and faith on a regular basis, just like most other Jewish boys growing up. While children and teens often enjoy learning, as adults we need to sustain the same hunger for knowledge and intellectual curiosity. Too often, we’re satisfied with what we already know. We become complacent and stunt our own growth.

Wisdom is one of the fruits of growing in our faith. One of the easiest ways to stimulate growth toward wisdom is to learn from the wisdom of others. Being curious about people, observing them, respecting their different ways of doing things and their different perspectives — all of these help us stretch ourselves. Spending time reading and studying God’s Word is also crucial to cultivating wisdom.

We notice that Jesus also grew in stature, becoming taller and stronger as He passed from childhood into adolescence and adulthood. While physical growth may seem natural, it also requires practicing habits that keep us healthy. Our bodies require nutritious food, clean water, regular exercise, fresh air and plenty of sleep.

Once we reach adulthood, we may be tempted at times to ignore our body’s needs, especially for proper nutrition and adequate rest. We eat fast food on-the-go and push through our exhaustion. But over time, our bodies always remind us of our physical limitations. While they’re resilient and amazing, they’re also fragile and temporary. If I want to grow in all areas of my life, then I have to take care of my body.

Healthy physical growth requires taking control of my schedule. Not everything that’s doable is sustainable. We have to learn to discern between what’s truly important and what’s merely urgent. Physical health also requires obeying God’s command to take a sabbath, a designated day of sacred rest. While the sabbath doesn’t have to be the seventh day of the week, or even always on a Sunday, setting aside this time weekly allows me to recharge my soul and do things that refuel my tank.

Finally, Jesus grew in favor with God and man. This kind of growth implies that we’re designed to change and mature through our relationships. Growing “in favor with God” requires spending time with Him — through prayer, praise and worship, time in His Word and serving others.

To grow in favor with others, I must be intentional and invest in key relationships. It’s so easy for busyness to skate on the surface, even with people I love and want to enjoy. Healthy growth requires putting down roots and doing life together with others. If we’re not deliberate about nurturing close relationships, we can accidentally insulate ourselves and miss a crucial component of our personal growth.

If we’re not growing, then we’re resigning ourselves to stagnation and settling for less. But this is not God’s intention for His children! Jesus told us He came to bring us life to the full (John 10:10), overflowing with joy, peace, passion and purpose. No matter where we are in our spiritual journey, God always provides room for us to grow!

Winning The Spiritual Battle

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Defeating the Devil

From: ligonier.org

“Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

– 2 Corinthians 11:14

As we conclude today our brief look at what Scripture says about our growth in holiness and the obstacles to our sanctification, we will be looking at the third of the Christian’s three major enemies—the devil himself. Our battle to grow in holiness is an explicitly supernatural one, and it involves defeating the devil as well as the world and the flesh.

In the modern West, Satan is largely relegated to the category of myth. Many people deny the existence of a personal being known as the devil, even many people who profess the name of Christ. It has not always been this way. Our forefathers in the faith were acutely aware of the power and presence of Satan. Martin Luther, for example, spoke regularly of his encounters with the Prince of Lies. Luther struggled with bouts of Anfechtungen—extreme depression—and he even spoke of being able to see the devil and throw his inkpot at him. Today, people think the devil is little more than a historical curiosity, a being invented to explain certain phenomena and not a supernatural creature in his own right.

Luther was at the forefront of the greatest revival of truth since the Apostolic age, so it is unsurprising that Satan might focus his attention on the great German Reformer. In the case of most of the rest of us, the devil likely has bigger fish to fry. We should not take that, however, to mean that we will not be called upon to defeat demonic forces as they wage war on our own lives. There is a legion of demons who exist to influence the world for ill and lead God’s people astray (Mark 5:1–20). Jesus Himself frequently dealt with evil spirits. To ignore them is to be unprepared for the spiritual battles that we must fight.

We need not go looking for a demon under every rock, for the world and our flesh can entice us to enough law-breaking without demonic assistance. Still, we must know how evil spirits present themselves if we are to resist them. As today’s passage indicates, we should not necessarily expect our spiritual enemies to look overtly evil. Satan is the master trickster who often disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). In many cases, evil does not look all that disgusting to us. The devil draws us in by offering things to us that look good, not by broadcasting it loud and clear that we are being tempted to do what is wrong. Wise Christians train their powers of discernment by the Word of God, seeking to know God’s thoughts that they might recognize evil when it comes in the guise of an angel of light.

Coram Deo

Because the Son of God came to destroy the devil, we need not fear the devil. We also need not wonder too much if there is a demon behind specific temptations that confront us. What we should do is become fully grounded in God’s Word. As we grow in our knowledge of Scripture, our discernment improves, and we find it easier to identify as sinister things that might at first glance appear to be good. Let us train our minds by the Word of God.

The Believer’s Struggle

From: ligonier.org

“The law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

– Romans 7:14-17

Romans 7:1–13 is concerned largely with explaining that while the law of God—particularly as inscripturated in the Mosaic law—is good in itself, it cannot solve the problem of sin. In fact, the law and sin are so closely connected that one must come out from under the law if transgression is ever to be dealt with (vv. 1–6). This is not the fault of the law, which is holy. Neither is God to blame, for the Lord never intended His law to answer the problem of sin (see Gal. 3). In fact, unless our Creator changes our hearts, His law is a tool that sin uses to urge us to greater wickedness. Paul’s own life before Christ testifies to this reality, as does the collective experience of Israel, the nation that when presented with God’s commandments in written form, broke them without looking back (Rom. 7:1–13).

The Apostle is so caught up in clarifying his perspective on God’s law that he does not call direct attention to his shift in Romans 7:14 from describing his experience as an unregenerate person with the Lord’s commandments to his life as a believer. Until the end of the chapter, Paul describes the Christian’s struggle against sin. Though we see this in his change from the past tense to the present tense in verse 14, the best evidence that Paul now speaks of the regenerate person is that the conflict he describes “does not exist in man before he is renewed by the Spirit of God” (John Calvin). Paul is a consistent thinker, and he could not be portraying an unregenerate person in verses 14–25 unless he were ignoring almost everything else he says about the affections and abilities of unregenerate men and women (for example, Rom. 1:18–3:20Eph. 2:1–10). Those to whom the Holy Spirit has not given new hearts cannot have the true longing to do God’s will that Paul describes.

Many scholars argue that the Apostle refers to the unregenerate person in Romans 7:14–25, and their case rests largely on Paul describing himself as being “sold under sin” (v. 14). How, these scholars ask, could 7:14–25 describe a regenerate individual, for 6:18 says Christians are “slaves of righteousness”? Here we note the testimony of the greatest thinkers in church history to what happens when we grow in our sanctification—the more we are conformed to Christ, the more we see how unlike Him we remain. Christians feel sin more acutely because of the change wrought in us by the Spirit. A conflict exists between our regenerate hearts and the remaining presence of sin in our lives that was not there before conversion, and we see our sin more and more for what it truly is.

 

Warring Against the World

From: ligonier.org

“The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.”

– John 7:7

Commitment to Christ cannot be halfway; it requires a single-minded intent to press on and obey Him even when the going gets tough (Luke 16:16). We do not work up this intent ourselves, but it is a gift of God’s grace, and it is something that we should ask the Lord to grant us continually. Moreover, as we understand our primary enemies to Christian growth, we will see all the more the reasons why we need such a drive to serve Jesus.

Martin Luther said that Christians face three enemies—the world, the flesh, and the devil. Obviously, these foes are interrelated. Our flesh—the remaining tendency toward sin in our lives—is co-opted by the devil to love the world and not the Savior. Yet, we can distinguish among these enemies, and today we are considering the opposition of the world.

When we are talking about the world as an enemy, we are talking about the fallen world system that sets itself in opposition to Christ. In itself, the world was originally very good (Gen. 1), but in the fall of Adam, it was set against its Creator. It hates Jesus because of His testimony about its fallen system of pride and ungodliness, and thus it gains the capacity to hate all who are united to Christ (John 7:7).

The world is that sphere, or that group of people, that has no affection for the things of God. It exists in antithesis and opposition to and tension over against the Lord’s kingdom. Yet our Creator loves the world even in its fallenness, and having sent His Son to save the world, commissions us as ambassadors of grace to the world (John 3:1620:21). As those who have been sent into the world, we are tempted to adopt the world’s ways, so Jesus has prayed for us that we would not be of the world and under the sway of Satan even as we remain in the world (John 17:14–16). This call to be in but not of the world is critical, emphasizing the biblical point that God does not save us in order to snatch us out of the world or that we might live in isolation in our own Christian ghettos. Instead, like Jesus, we are to minister in the world wherever we are to people no matter where they are from.

As we are seeking to share the gospel with others, there will be pressure to conform to the world, to water down the gospel so that we become more acceptable in its eyes. The danger of vain philosophy lurks around every corner. But the solution is not to ignore such things or to change our message to make it more acceptable. The answer is to remain in the world and confront the world—graciously, of course—with the truth of the gospel.

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The Sword of the Spirit

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”—Ephesians 6:17.

O BE A CHRISTIAN is to be a warrior. The good soldier of Jesus Christ must not expect to find ease in this world: it is a battle-field. Neither must he reckon upon the friendship of the world; for that would be enmity against God. His occupation is war. As he puts on piece by piece of the panoply provided for him, he may wisely say to himself, “This warns me of danger; this prepares me for warfare; this prophesies opposition.”
    Difficulties meet us even in standing our ground; for the apostle, two or three times, bids us—”Stand.” In the rush of the fight, men are apt to be carried off their legs. If they can keep their footing, they will be victorious; but if they are borne down by the rush of their adversaries, everything is lost. You are to put on the heavenly armor in order that you may stand; and you will need it to maintain the position in which your Captain has placed you. If even to stand requires all this care, judge ye what the warfare must be! The apostle also speaks of withstanding as well as standing. We are not merely to defend, but also to assail. It is not enough that you are not conquered; you have to conquer: and hence we find, that we are to take, not only a helmet to protect the head, but also a sword, with which to annoy the foe. Ours, therefore, is a stern conflict, standing and withstanding; and we shall want all the armor from the divine magazine, all the strength from the mighty God of Jacob.
    It is clear from our text that our defense and our conquest must be obtained by sheer fighting. Many try compromise; but if you are a true Christian, you can never do this business well. The language of deceit fits not a holy tongue. The adversary is the father of lies, and those that are with him understand the art of equivocation; but saints abhor it. If we discuss terms of peace, and attempt to gain something by policy, we have entered upon a course from which we shall return in disgrace. We have no order from our Captain to patch up a truce, and get as good terms as we can. We are not sent out to offer concessions. It is said that if we yield a little, perhaps the world will yield a little also, and good may come of it. If we are not too strict and narrow, perhaps sin will kindly consent to be more decent. Our association with it will prevent its being so barefaced and atrocious. If we are not narrow-minded, our broad doctrine will go down with the world, and those on the other side will not be so greedy of error as they now are. No such thing. Assuredly this is not the order which our Captain has issued. When peace is to be made, he will make it himself, or he will tell us how to behave to that end; but at present our orders are very different.
    Neither may we hope to gain by being neutral, or granting an occasional truce. We are not to cease from conflict, and try to be as agreeable as we can with our Lord’s foes, frequenting their assemblies, and tasting their dainties. No such orders are written here. You are to grasp your weapon, and go forth to fight.
    Neither may you so much as dream of winning the battle by accident. No man was ever holy by a happy chance. Infinite damage may be done by carelessness; but no man ever won life’s battle by it. To let things go on as they please, is to let them bear us down to hell. We have no orders to be quiet, and take matters easily. No; we are to pray always, and watch constantly. The one note that rings out from the text is this:—TAKE THE SWORD! TAKE THE SWORD! No longer is it, talk and debate! No longer is it, parley and compromise! The word of thunder is—Take the sword. The Captain’s voice is clear as a trumpet—Take the sword! No Christian man here will have been obedient to our text unless with clear, sharp, and decisive firmness, courage, and resolve, he takes the sword. We must go to heaven sword in hand, all the way. “TAKE THE SWORD.” On this command I would enlarge. May the Holy Spirit help me!
    It is noteworthy that there is only one weapon of offense provided, although there are several pieces of armor. The Roman soldier usually carried a spear as well as a sword. We have seen frequent representations of the legionary standing upon guard as sentry, and he almost always stands with a spear in his right hand, while his sword hangs at his side. But Paul, for excellent reasons, concentrates our offensive weapon in one, because it answers for all. We are to use the sword, and that only. Therefore, if you are going to this fight, see well to your only weapon. If you are to have no other, take care that you have this always in your hand. Let the Captain’s voice ring in your ear, “Take the sword! Take the sword!”, and so go forth to the field.
    Notice, first, the sword you are to take is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. That is our first head; and the second is equally upon the surface of the text: This sword is to be ours. We are ordered to take the sword of the Spirit, and so make it our own sword.

Trust God and Believe

 

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Trust Him in Everything

By: Byron Bohnert, 1.cbn.com

nascar

In the sport of NASCAR there are individual drivers for every racecar and for every driver there is a spotter. On their own, a race car driver is more likely to crash; but with the help of a spotter they are able to avoid some costly accidents.

Bob Margolis from Yahoo Sports explains, The spotter is a team member with a radio who is placed in a high position where they can see as much of the entire race track as physically possible-usually on top of the highest grandstand. His or her primary job is to make sure the driver is safe during the race and to be a second set of eyes. More than anything else, it’s a job based on trust. When a spotter says ‘clear,’ his driver has to trust he’s being given good information and that no other car is there, meaning he can move up or down the track.”

We ourselves, are in a race, and God is our spotter. From His vantage point, God is able to see every detail of our life. Nothing is hidden from God’s sight, and to Him our road ahead is clearly visible.

I’m learning that when things don’t work out the way I would have wanted, there is a greater plan in the future. The focus has to be taken off my doubts and placed on a promised word from God.

His words in Jeremiah 29:11 are straightforward: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'” (NLT)

In one of Pastor Kevin Gerald’s messages he said, “The eyes of faith are not always looking at the natural, the eyes of faith look out and they see the good, and they focus on the positive, and the eyes of faith are going to continue to trust God in everything.”

No matter how bleak today may look, there is always change on the horizon for those of us who have the faith to believe.

Habakkuk learned how to trust God and not be affected by the negative stuff going on around him. He writes in Habakkuk 3:17-19,

“Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I’m singing joyful praise to God. I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength. I run like a deer. I feel like I’m king of the mountain!” (MSG)

When we’re in a tight spot and problems are raging all around, a sense of uncertainty tries to envelop the mind. If we are not careful, it is easy to get mentally sidetracked. By focusing on our problems and never looking up, we will fail to experience the peace of God.

Isaiah 26:3 tells us,

“God will keep in perfect peace all who trust in Him, all whose thoughts are fixed on Him!” (NLT)

To reiterate about the spotter, Bob Margolis goes on to say, “Spotters can be responsible for keeping a young, perhaps emotional and easily frustrated driver calm while also telling him to slow down or speed up. He adds, “…the spotter also is a driver’s co-pilot in the sense that he’s able to see the big picture throughout the race.”

You and I have to come to the place where we need to trust God completely and allow Him the freedom to point us in the right direction. Not only do we have to trust Him, we have to remember that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Rom. 8:28 NLT).

 

Trusting In The Lord

By: J. Vernon McGee, Daily Devotions

8/6 Psalm 112:7

He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.

The people who fear the LORD and delight in His word are promised good things in this psalm. They are generous, merciful, gracious and just in their dealings with others. They and their children are blessed. But the one verse to consider today also shows us their attitude toward bad news.

Because they fear the LORD, they conduct their lives in a way that is guilt free. When they hear something discouraging, there is no need to search their hearts to see if it is the discipline of God. They search their hearts continually and order their lives in accord with God’s Word. That is why their hearts are firm when they hear bad news. They know situations come and go. What seems catastrophic today can turn out to be a blessing tomorrow. If they are right with God, there is no need to fear. God will see them through whatever comes. They have kept the main thing as the main thing.

This peace of mind during times of testing is also the result of trusting the LORD. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and present in your situation. He cares for you. Nothing gets by Him or surprises Him. In the end you will prevail over whatever has come. Those who delighted in your temporary trouble will be upset as you rise above it all. You will be victorious while the wicked melt away. Your desire in the LORD will be satisfied, while their desire in the world will leave them empty.

Remember: When you are tempted to fear, and when your heart is tempted to be shaken, trust the LORD. Take great delight in His Word.

 

Streams In The Desert

By: L.B. Cowman

Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south, blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out! (Song of Solomon 4:16).

Look at the meaning of this prayer a moment. Its root is found in the fact that, as delicious odors may lie latent in a spice tree, so graces may lie unexercised and undeveloped in a Christian’s heart. There is many a plant of profession; but from the ground there breathes forth no fragrance of holy affections or of godly deeds. The same winds blow on the thistle bush and on the spice tree, but it is only one of them which gives out rich odors.

Sometimes God sends severe blasts of trial upon His children to develop their graces. Just as torches burn most brightly when swung to and fro; just as the juniper plant smells sweetest when flung into the flames; so the richest qualities of a Christian often come out under the north wind of suffering and adversity. Bruised hearts often emit the fragrance that God loveth to smell.

I had a tiny box, a precious box
Of human love–my spikenard of great price;
I kept it close within my heart of hearts,
And scarce would lift the lid lest it should waste
Its perfume on the air. One day a strange
Deep sorrow came with crushing weight, and fell
Upon my costly treasure, sweet and rare,
And broke the box to atoms. All my heart
Rose in dismay and sorrow at this waste,
But as I mourned, behold a miracle
Of grace Divine. My human love was changed
To Heaven‘s own, and poured in healing streams
On other broken hearts, while soft and clear
A voice above me whispered, “Child of Mine,
With comfort wherewith thou art comforted,
From this time forth, go comfort others,
And thou shalt know blest fellowship with Me,
Whose broken heart of love hath healed the world.”

 

Assembling Together

by Inspiration Ministries

Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:25 NASB

It is important for believers to know what they believe, to have a personal relationship with Jesus, and to follow His leading to fulfill their unique calling.

But the Bible also stresses the importance of interaction with other believers. Recognize that each of us is part of the same body. We need other believers, and other believers need us.

Each of us is to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering” (v. 23). In many ways, this is an individual matter. But holding fast can be strengthened through our relationships with other believers.

Through these relationships, we find people who have gone through challenges like those we have faced. This process can help us recognize weaknesses and mistakes. We can be reminded of Scriptural principles that we might have forgotten or neglected.

Second, we are to “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (v. 24). The interaction puts us in a position to be a source of inspiration for others, examples for them to follow, and reminders of the impact when we apply Biblical principles.

As Jesus has changed our lives, we can help spread His influence. We can demonstrate the truth and the power of the Gospel. The result will be an increase in “good deeds” as more and more believers let their “light shine” (Matthew 5:16).

Be sure you are fulfilling your place in the body of Christ.

Jesus Gives You Peace

 John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

 

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From Panic to Peace

“So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17 (NKJV0

Here I am, lying in bed, staring at the ceiling. No sleep. Body still, mind racing. Panic building.

I forgot to contact Pat today. She’s so sick and probably needed me.

Did my daughter realize she hurt my feelings with that comment?

What if I don’t make my deadline?

I should have exercised today.

Why does life seem darker at night? Not just literally. It’s as though Satan and his minions are just waiting for me to be alone so they can begin the battle for my mind.

Recently I began to meditate on Philippians 4:6a: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything” (NLT). Did the Apostle Paul really mean not to worry about anything? Is that even possible? Isn’t worry just part of human nature?

Yes, worry is part of our human nature. Unfortunately when sin entered the world, emotions like worry did too. However, our fallen human nature always clarifies what being separated from God looks like. And it often looks like fear.

As God’s beloved children, we are called to faith, not fear. Faith says, “God is in charge of my life; I will trust Him, even when circumstances might suggest He’s not there. I believe God loves me and knows what is best for me.” Faith always crowds out fear.

My heart longs to live in faith; however, at times this is difficult. But here’s the key: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

If I haven’t made time to hear from God through His Word, I find my prayers being more of a monologue of fear-based worry.

But when I make time to listen to God, I’m reminded of His promises and I become familiar with His voice. As a result, my prayers really do change from panic to praise. In bed at night, a dialogue evolves (no longer a monologue). When I turn to God with my concerns, I can hear His response. As John 10:27a tells us, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them …” (ESV).

God’s Word reminds us to put the kingdom of God first and the things we need will be ours (Matthew 6:33, ESV). In other words, when I devote myself to God first, all the rest will sort itself out, and this brings peace.

What is most pressing in your life right now? Whatever that is, put God’s Word there instead. Replace worry with the truth of God’s love and power. Then we can trust that God will do as He says: “keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed” on Him (Isaiah 26:3a, ESV).

As I think about God’s promises, panic turns to praise, praise turns to peace and peace turns to sleep. I begin to understand what Paul meant when he said, “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:7a, NLT).

It is possible to experience God’s peace. When we learn to cast our cares on God and trust Him to handle them, faith replaces fear. Worry sees problems, but faith sees the God who can handle the problems.

God’s Word changes how we cast our cares. When we choose to cast them onto Him instead of into the air, we’ll find comfort in His promises. Then maybe we can finally get a good night’s sleep.

Heavenly Father, thank You for watching over me at night. Forgive me for the times I have worried. Help me to be devoted to You and Your love, not my circumstances. Instead of tossing and turning at night, I want to remember to turn the pages of Scripture in my mind. I want to rest in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

The Peace Strangler

By: Gene Marklund, 1.cbn.com

woman sitting alone and quiet on a porch

Mary was a struggling young businesswoman who was brought up in a Christian home and had a deep faith in the Lord. She began to feel an emptiness and loss of connection between her, her church, and her Lord. She struggled for months and could not find an answer to what seemed like a tall brick wall between her and God. Maybe she was too busy. Maybe her life was too hectic and the stress of her job requirements, competition, late hours at the office, and social activities were just getting to be too much.

So, she decided to take a break. She would go visit her Grandmother in the mountains of Tennessee in a little town near Gatlinburg, away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Besides, she was due a vacation anyway.

She loaded up her car and drove to Tennessee. It was good to see her Grandmother and Grandad again, to sit on the front porch on that old porch swing and enjoy the hills, trees, blue sky and peace that nature brings. The second day of her visit, her Grandmother sat beside her on that porch swing, patted her lightly on the hand and said, “Dear, what is it that is bothering you?”

“I don’t know Grandmother,” She replied. “I feel empty. And the closeness I used to feel with the Lord just isn’t there anymore like it used to be. There is no time for anything for myself and I don’t know what to do about it. How did this happen?”

Her Grandmother looked out and surveyed the surrounding countryside, took a sip of her steaming hot coffee and said, “It’s very simple, dear. You’re too busy. That old enemy, the devil, has used his strategy on you.”

“What are you saying? I’m living right. I’m not out sinning and carrying on.”

“I didn’t say you were, honey. That’s not the strategy of the strangler of peace. His strategy is much more subtle. More sneaky, but very devastating. Devastating to your life, your peace, and ultimately to your soul.”

“You see, we live in a world of noise,” she continued. “Our televisions take up half a wall in our homes and broadcast 24/7. If we’re awake, and even in our sleep, they broadcast into our ears, through our minds, and into our hearts. What are we allowing to stream into our consciousness? In our cars, we have AM and FM radio, CDs, iPads, and various other devices — and now, satellite radio. Noise inescapable. How wonderful and marvelous are all these devices bringing streams of noise which enter into our ears, through our minds, and into our hearts. And just in case we might have a peaceful moment as we walk from our home to our car, we have another miracle device which masquerades as a telephone that we plug directly into our ears, sending noise straight through our minds, and into our hearts. And yet we cry, Why can’t I have any peace in my life? Why can’t I ever hear from the Lord? The answer is simple … noise. The cares of this life. Remember what the Apostle Paul wrote,

‘Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.’ (Romans 8:5 NIV)

Dear, I would like to introduce to you an old concept that is foreign in our world today, a concept which many people can’t conceive of. That concept is silence. Yes, silence. There is a reason why Jesus made the statement,

‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’ (Matthew 11:15)

How can we ever expect to have peace or hear from the Lord if we constantly dunk our heads into the cauldron of noise, that cauldron of news, weather, sports, and music? Now, make no mistake, I love all those things as much as you do but sometimes we’ve got to take a break, pull our heads out of the noise, and be still. Be still And listen. Listen to the silence which is available to He who has ears to hear.

Try to sit still in total silence for 10 minutes. Just listen to the silence. Do you want to have peace? Do you want to hear from the Lord? Here is your starting point. Now I’m going to leave you and go inside for a while but you sit here and just listen with your ears to the silence around you and the Lord’s spirit within you. And be at peace.”

Mary found her peace, and a new and vibrant relationship with her Lord, right there on the old porch swing at her Grandmother’s house.

Perfect Peace for Anxious Souls


 

John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” So in the last hour of his life, Jesus is helping you not be anxious. “Let not your hearts be troubled.” The peace he has in mind might include global, national, political, intra-ethnic or inter-ethnic peace. Those aren’t at the front of his mind, though, and I know it isn’t because of what he says: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled.”

That’s what he has in mind. Of course, there are a thousand fruits. This is the root of a new world order, but on his mind is: “You look troubled. Your faces look trouble. I love you. I don’t like it when you look that way. I don’t want to leave you that way.” It’s that simple. It’s that precious. It’s that personal. It is. He says, “Heart — don’t let your heart be troubled. Not your globe, but don’t let your heart be troubled. Neither let it be afraid. I want you to be fearless, Peter. I want you to be a rock.”

“The peace that Jesus gives is not circumstantially based. It is peace in bad circumstances.”

“Not as the world gives.” How does the world give peace? It does. The world gives peace with retirement accounts. The world gives peace with health insurance. The world gives peace with bomb shelters. The world gives peace with safety nets in the society. The world gives peace with police. The world gives peace of mind in a hundred ways, which I’m thankful for and I’m glad they exist. And Jesus says, “I’m not giving that way. That’s not what I’m doing.” “What do you mean, Jesus, that you’re not doing it that way?”

And Jesus responds, “I’m not giving you the kind of peace that can be taken away when the police go away. I’m not giving you the kind of peace that can be taken away in India no matter what. That is not what I’m about.” How do I know that he means that the world’s peace of mind is circumstantially based? Like, get health insurance, get a nice retirement account, live in the right neighborhood, get the right locks on your doors, and then you can have some peace of mind.

“That’s not what I’m giving you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. I’m giving you peace so that when the locks come off, the police go away, the mob comes, and your cross is on the horizon, you’ve still got it.” I know he has all this in mind because in John 16:33, he says the same thing, only he makes it explicit: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

The peace that Jesus gives is not circumstantially based. It is peace in bad circumstances, in tribulation, in no health insurance, and in police breakdown — in societal breakdown. It’s in these things we have peace — the peace that passes all human comprehension. Why did Paul call it that in Philippians 4:7? What does that mean? That means human beings can’t grasp it, and they can’t make it happen. God makes it happen.

Does he give us any clue as to how? Yes, he does. He calls it, “My peace.” “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.” “I gave you my joy,” meaning, “I love the Father. I delight in the Father. The Father loves me. Come on in and have our love — our joy. I have a peace with the Father that is unrivaled,” Jesus says. “My peace is unrivaled in the universe. Would you like some of mine? Come on in.”

How do you get in? How do you get into the peace that Jesus enjoys with the Father? There’s no sin between the Son and the Father. The Son looks on the Father and he sees infinite original righteousness. The Father looks on the Son and sees infinite reflected righteousness. They love each other infinitely. They delight in what they see.

How are you going to get in on that? Because he says, “Let us go. I’m going to the cross tomorrow, and I’m going to purchase your forgiveness. I’m going to satisfy the Father’s wrath against all your unrighteousness and I’m going to provide a completed righteousness, so that if you would rest in me, trust me, you will now not just have a peace that I make, but a peace that I have with my Father. I’m making a way for you into the very experience, by the Spirit reigning in your heart, pouring out the peace that exists between the Father and the Son. I’m going to pour it out into your life, so that now you will have my faith and my joy and my peace.” We have a great Savior and a great salvation.

“Don’t let your heart be troubled. Don’t let it be afraid. Trust him.”

Right now, you can receive Jesus’s faith. Jesus was totally confident in his Father, in his cross-work, that Satan would be defeated, and all his saving work would be accomplished. And he invites you: “I’m showing these things to you so that you can believe with me,” and receive his joy, displayed most fully by enduring the cross to show the world, “I love the Father that much. I’m satisfied that much in the Father.”

And you can come on into this infinite, this Vesuvius, this volcanic love between the Son and the Father. Come on in. Receive this. Spend the rest of your life swimming in this ocean. If this sounds unusual to you — like you’ve never even heard anybody talk about inviting you into the very love that the Son has, the Father has, the joy between them, the peace between them — just enjoy the next thirty years of discovery. It’s very deep. It’s worthy of all your life.

Don’t walk out of here saying, “Oh, that’s heavy. They do heavy stuff at Bethlehem.” We don’t do heavy stuff. We swim. We just frolic in mystery and talk about it a little bit. Nobody knows anything, comparatively speaking. Receive his peace. “My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives.” Don’t let your heart be troubled. Don’t let it be afraid. Trust him.

 

Lessons From Isaiah The Prophet

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( Lessons Today From Isaiah The Prophet)

 

Isaiah

His name means: “The Lord Has Saved”

His work: An eighth-century BC prophet, Isaiah’s message was primarily directed toward Judah and Jerusalem, warning God’s people of coming judgment on their sins.
His character: He was a learned man of principle and integrity and of deep humility.
His sorrow: Isaiah was grieved that God’s people were unwilling to repent.
His triumph: Isaiah had a vision of God that profoundly shaped his long prophetic ministry.
Key Scriptures: Isaiah 6

A Look at the Man

The people noticed the difference in Isaiah. Rumor had spread that he had seen a vision in the temple that day. No one knew exactly what—or whom—he had seen, but whatever had happened, Isaiah was a changed man.

What Isaiah had experienced in the temple was one of history’s most profound commissioning ceremonies, and because of its power, Isaiah’s course was changed like a flood tearing down a riverbank.

Isaiah had grown up on the right side of the tracks. His family was from the royal tribe of Judah. His pedigree and command of the language marked his stature and his message. After the vision in the temple, for almost sixty years his assignment included ministry in the courts of the kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. So naturally Isaiah might have been tempted to place himself above the people to whom he preached. But because of the temple visitation, the preacher never forgot that he too was counted among the sinners. Just because he had been gifted and called to deliver God’s message didn’t excuse him from the need for repentance.

Isaiah had witnessed something very few mortals have seen before his time or since. He was allowed the privilege of seeing a glimpse of God’s glory. The experience tore away any shroud of pride that may have covered him, replacing it with a sense of wonder and humility. It was as though the living God was saying to the prophet, “Don’t forget who you’re talking about, Isaiah. Never forget whom you serve.”

And there was the searing heat of the burning ember. Why couldn’t God have just told me of my forgiveness? Why the coal? Why this pain? Isaiah must have wondered over the succeeding weeks as the scabs on his lips slowly healed. But God had a purpose in this, too. He wanted Isaiah to remember the pain of repentance, the agony of confession. And he touched the part of Isaiah’s body that he was using to represent the Holy One of Israel: his mouth. No doubt it was several weeks, perhaps months, before Isaiah could speak without physical pain. God’s mission had been perfectly accomplished.

And now Isaiah’s message of the people’s sinfulness included the promise of redemption in the coming of the Savior: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

The sparkle in Isaiah’s eyes didn’t come from a strident preacher who delighted in shouting condemnation, but in the words of deliverance through the Son of God who would come to save the people from their sins—including the sins of the woeful prophet.

Reflect On: Isaiah 25:1–5
Praise God: For his sovereignty and power, for his mercy and his grace.
Offer Thanks: For calling us to repentance and for providing a Savior.
Confess: Our casual attitude about being in his holy presence in worship and our cavalier attitude about our own sin.
Ask God: To give you a glimpse of his glory—an understanding of what Isaiah must have experienced that day in the temple. Tell him that you’re willing to be sent, to be his ambassador, his mouthpiece.

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The Bridegroom and the Bride

By: George Young,  today.reframemedia.com

 

Scripture Reading — Isaiah 62:1-5

As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. — Isaiah 62:5

Marriage is a metaphor often used in the Bible to describe God’s love for his people. Certainly “treasures in heaven” has rich meaning, and the Lord often uses that phrase to express the infinite value of salvation and eternal life. But in Isaiah 62 and other passages, we also find word pictures describing the Lord as a bridegroom rejoicing over his people as his bride. It is a deeply personal metaphor.

Isaiah prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem, the people’s exile to another land, and, later, their restoration. The promise of salvation is pictured this way: “No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah [‘My Delight is in her’], and your land Beulah [‘Married’].” And “as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”

Revelation 21:2-3 describes the “new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” And a loud voice says, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people. . . . They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

We eagerly await that day. The new Jerusalem will shine “with the glory of God, and its brilliance [will be] like that of a very precious jewel” (Revelation 21:11). And “the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’” (22:17).

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Call to Obedience

From: Kurt Sellers, today.reframemedia.com

  

Scripture Reading — Isaiah 6:1-10

I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips . . . and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty. — Isaiah 6:5

Occasionally I burn my fingers on our backyard grill. It’s usually not serious, but it definitely stings. Can you imagine the sting of a burning coal touching your lips? That’s what happens to Isaiah in his vision of heaven.

In the same year that Uzziah the king died, the prophet had a vision: he saw the King, the Lord Almighty, high on a throne, and his robe filled the temple. Hebrew tradition taught that no one could see God and live. Isaiah lamented his own uncleanness and that of the people of Israel. Then a seraph, an angel who ­attended God’s throne, used tongs to take a live coal from the temple altar. Touching it to the prophet’s lips, he cleansed Isaiah for service.

Purified, Isaiah could now answer God’s call. “Here am I. Send me!” His passion inspires us. But the rest of the passage is bleak. The people, still impure, hear God’s call, but their hearts remain callous and closed.

Still, there is hope for repentance; there is hope for the people to “turn and be healed.” And the holy seed of God’s faithfulness remains, and from that “stump in the land” a shoot will grow. Jesus, coming from the stump of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), will restore God’s people.

Do you hear his call today? By the purifying fire of Christ and his Spirit, we can serve and glorify God wherever he calls and sends us.

Trust God, He Never Fails

 
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Will You Just Trust Me?

AUGUST 2, 2019

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5 (NLT0

When we moved into our first little rental house with snaking sidewalks and a dandelion-dotted yard, my 2-year-old was fascinated with the back door. The door itself wasn’t anything special, but beyond its paint-chipped frame were soaring blue skies and soft green grass, a squat little sandbox and a big tall slide. And when those squeaky hinges swung open wide, our small son’s world opened wide, too.

Though Lukas wasn’t able to open the back door himself, he soon discovered that if he pounded persistently on that weary wood, I’d open the door with a playful push.

Down the hallway, there was a second door that intrigued my toddler too. However, this door didn’t lead to the great outdoors. It led to a storage closet piled high with a haphazard heap of boxes and crates.

Much to my toddler’s dismay, no amount of knocking made that closet door budge. I knew how quickly teetering boxes and careening crates could turn into a toddler-toppling-catastrophe, so I refused to turn the knob at his bidding.

Unfortunately, that closet door became a giant source of frustration for my wee one. Countless times a day, Lukas would pound on it with a tight-fisted rap. And when he’d realize his knocking was to no avail, he’d protest my response with a flush-faced wail.

Finally, one afternoon when my patience was waning and my son was sobbing, I slumped to the floor in front of that closet door and echoed my disgruntled boy’s cries.

When our wails finally turned to whimpers, I cupped Lukas’ crimson face and declared, “I love you too much to open this door!” Then, looking him in the eye, I pleaded, “Would you please just trust me?”

As my words hung heavy in the air between us, I felt a wave of conviction swell within me. You see, my toddler wasn’t the only one frustrated by closed doors; his mom was discouraged as well.

For years, I’d been asking God to open doors for me — doors of opportunity and advancement, doors of healing and gain. But God’s answer in that particular season of my life was “no.”

Little by little, I’d allowed those closed doors to open my heart to doubts:

Maybe God doesn’t care about my dreams.
Maybe God doesn’t listen to my prayers.
Maybe God isn’t good all the time.

But when I found myself sitting in a narrow hallway with a tantrum-throwing toddler on my lap and a swell of tears in my eyes, I realized the closed doors in my life weren’t much different than that tightly shut closet.

With the humility of a parent who is also a child, I finally recognized that God’s “no’s” aren’t a declaration of His displeasure, but an expression of His love.

God’s love is mighty enough to open any door and merciful enough to hold it shut. And when we remember that inarguable truth, we can admit that the closed doors in our lives don’t raise the question of God’s faithfulness; they reveal a quandary of our faith.

We may trust God to be the guardian of our souls, but will we trust Him to be the guardian of our doors as well?

It’s a question we all confront as we navigate the ever-changing landscapes of our lives. Perhaps that’s why Proverbs 3:5 advises us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.”

It can be difficult to rest in God’s wisdom when we don’t understand His ways. But if we’re honest, our limited vision is no match for our Father’s sovereign sight. Just as my young son didn’t know what waited beyond the closet door, we can’t fully understand what lies on the other side of our prayers and pleas.

God sees the future, knows the past and directs our steps in the present with unchanging love.

All He asks of us is what I asked my son on that long-ago day in the hallway of our little rental house:

“Would you please just trust me?”

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God in the covenant

By: Charles Spurgeon

“I will be their God.” Jeremiah 31:33

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Samuel 22:1-7

Child of God, let me urge thee to make use of thy God. Make use of him in prayer; I beseech thee, go to him often, because he is thy God. If he were another man’s God, thou mightest weary him; but he is thy God. If he were my God and not thine, thou wouldst have no right to approach him; but he is thy God; he has made himself over to thee, if we may use such an expression, (and I think we may) he has become the positive property of all his children, so that all he has, and all he is, is theirs. O child, wilt thou let thy treasury lie idle, when thou wantest it? No; go and draw from it by prayer.

“To him in every trouble flee,
Thy best, thy only friend.”

Fly to him, tell him all thy wants. Use him constantly by faith, at all times. Oh! I beseech thee, if some dark providence has come over thee, use thy God as a sun, for he is a sun. If some strong enemy has come out against thee, use thy God for a shield, for he is a shield to protect thee. If thou hast lost thy way in the mazes of life, use him for a guide, for the great Jehovah will direct thee. If thou art in storms, use him, for he is the God who stilleth the raging of the sea, and saith unto the waves, “Be still.” If thou art a poor thing, knowing not which way to turn, use him for a shepherd, for the Lord is thy Shepherd, and thou shalt not want. Whate’er thou art, where’er thou art, remember God is just what thou wantest, and he is just where thou wantest . I beseech thee, then, make use of thy God.

For meditation: The false gods of the Greeks and Romans were given specific individual roles; the one true God is a glorious all-rounder—omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent—the complete opposite of the false god (1 Kings 18:27,37).

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Nothing but a Number

Devotions for men.com

Joshua 13:1–7

Recommended Reading: Genesis 6:5—9:17 (especially 7:6); Luke 2:36–38

Japanese mountain climber Yuichiro Miura reached the summit of Mount Everest at age 70. George Brunstad was also 70 when he swam the English Channel. Naval officer Grace Hopper became the first female rear admiral of the United States Navy when she was 79. Margaret Haggerty completed her quest to run a marathon on each of the seven continents when she was 84.

If stories like these teach us anything, it’s that senior adults are capable of amazing things.

That was certainly true of Joshua. Even though he was probably nearing the century mark, God had a plan for him. Age didn’t matter to God. Rather than telling Joshua to rest, retire or step aside for a younger replacement, God instructed him to get to work.

Perhaps we should take a cue from God in our attitude toward older adults. From an early age most of us were taught to respect our elders. However, too often we confuse politeness for respect. What’s the difference? Politeness might include offering a hand to senior adults when they struggle with steps or making awkward small talk with aging relatives at family gatherings. Respect, however, would include realizing that with their years of challenges and experiences these adults are a rich, God-given resource.

In this age of politically correct labels, perhaps a better name for senior citizens is “ultra-experienced adults.” God entrusted Joshua with an important duty a quarter century after Joshua reached retirement age because of his vast military experience and knowledge.

Think of the older adults you know. How does God want to use them in your life? What experiences of theirs might benefit you? What life lessons have they learned that might keep you from making a bad decision? And what might you be able to learn from hearing their stories and asking for their advice?

Faith In Christ Sets You Free

 

 

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Born Free

By: Joe Stowell, Strength For The Journey

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

I remember one commute when I ended up following a busted-up pickup truck that sported a bumper sticker proudly announcing, BORN FREE. As I thought about the announcement on the bumper, it seemed to me that whoever was sitting behind the wheel was speaking for a lot of us. For some strange reason, we feel that personal freedom is a birthright. As Eric Clapton sings, “I was born with a raging thirst . . . a hunger to be free!” And it’s that hunger that fires up the celebration of our own independence and the crowning of “me” as final authority. But not all hunger is good hunger. Our hunger to be free is why we end up, as Clapton admits, down so many dead-end streets, lonely and disappointed.

Think for a minute about people who are addicted to things like drugs, alcohol, or pornography. If you asked how they ended up in bondage to their desires, they would tell you that it started as a need to be free to do whatever they wanted to do. Don’t miss the point: If all we have is the right to be free, then our thirst for freedom may end up making us slaves. Beware! A life guided by the “I’ll-do-whatever-I-want-to-do” formula inevitably ends up not being free at all. Left to ourselves, we make a lot of lame choices that end up leaving us in the chains of regret, guilt, and brokenness.

But that doesn’t mean we’re not supposed to be free. The great news is that God wants us to be free. It’s just a matter of how and where we can find true freedom.

Becoming free starts with deleting the thought that you and I are born to be free. The reality is that we are born sinners already in the grip of Satan, the cruel master of our souls. David admits, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). And Paul adds that before we came to Christ we were “slaves to sin” (Romans 6:17). So we need to get it right. We were born slaves of sin. In order to be free, we need someone to overthrow the regime that enslaves us.

That’s exactly why Jesus came. He came to set us—the captives—free! Jesus Himself said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). He taught us that freedom is not an inherent right of birth after all but rather the result of obeying the truth: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

In one sense, we are born to be free—born again to be free. And that freedom is experienced when we commit our lives to living by God’s truth and following the guidance of Jesus. When we forgive, as He has taught us, we are free from the bondage of bitterness and free to move into the future instead of being stuck in the past. When we manage our relationships according to God’s Word, we are free from the regrets and brokenness that comes from using others instead of serving others. When we let Jesus direct our desires and passions, we are free from the bondage of guilt and addiction. His truth is the path to true freedom.

There is a great hymn that proclaims, “My chains fell off, my heart was free! I rose, went forth, and followed Thee!”

Jesus died to set you free. Those who follow Him are free indeed!

 

Set Free

 By: John Kuperus, today.reframemedia

Scripture Reading — Mark 5:1-13

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. — Mark 5:6

Jesus met a man who was deeply conflicted, a madman. The local community had tried to restrain him with shackles and chains. But nothing had worked. Now he lived outside the community in caves where the people buried their dead. He could often be heard crying out among the hills and tombs, and he “cut himself with stones.” His situation seemed hopeless, with no one to help.

Can you relate to this man? Have you had dreams and aspirations that have been dashed? Is your internal pain so great that you have thought about harming yourself? Has your community tried to help, only to restrain you in some way?

Jesus came to help this man, and we can see that even a Gentile madman mattered to him. The message is clear. In the midst of our madness, Jesus cares about us and is willing to bring healing. We all matter to Jesus! Everyone does!

This man, who was teeming with demons, saw Jesus coming. “He ran and fell on his knees in front of him.” Shame, defilement, guilt, and uncleanness are not able to keep anyone from Jesus.

Jesus helped him, saying, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” And the man was freed, restored to his right mind. Has Jesus freed you from the madness of overpowering sin? Run to him today!

 

Called to Freedom

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

Labels are awful. They imprison us in categories that are hard to escape. Maybe you are familiar with labels too …

I am a wreck.

I am a people-pleaser.

I am unglued.

I am an insecure mess.

And the list goes on.

With all the struggles my family has been through this past year, it’s hard to look at social media and not feel the weight of life looking so different than I thought it would.

I labeled our situation as a mess and then resigned myself to never feeling normal again.

But one day, I found hope in an unexpected memory that came to mind.

I don’t often visit museums. However, I’d read some fascinating facts about Michelangelo’s David,and made it my mission several years ago to go and see the original at the Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy.

Sources say the artist never left his David. For more than two years, he worked on and slept beside the 6-ton slab of marble whose subject called to him from inside the unchiseled places. When at last the 17-foot David emerged, Michelangelo is reported to have said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” When asked how he made his statue, Michelangelo answered, “It is easy. You just chip away the stone that doesn’t look like David.”

After a two-hour wait in a long line of tourists, I was about to see it for myself. I stopped just inside the narrow corridor, still 30 feet from the David. This was not where everyone else wanted to stop, and so I caused a bit of a traffic jam.

I understood why everyone rushed past me. Why would anyone stop to stare at the unfinished sculptures lining the hallway? Why attend to blocks of stone with roughly hewn, half-completed figures when sculpted perfection stands just a short walk away? Who would stop?

A woman captivated by seeing her interior reality vividly depicted in stone, that’s who. I stood in the shadow of one of the unfinished sculptures that’s part of this collection aptly titled Prisoners. And I stared.

I tilted my head and let it soak in. This less-noticed sculpture was me — an unfinished prisoner locked inside my self-imposed labels.

Then, I turned and looked down the corridor at the David, the statue fully chiseled by a master artist. As I walked toward it, I whispered, “O God, chisel me. I don’t want to be locked in my hard perceptions forever. I want to be all that You have in mind for me to be.”

It is beautiful when the Master chisels. God doesn’t want us to label ourselves and stay stuck. But He does want to make us aware of the chiseling that needs to be done. So, instead of condemning myself with statements like, I’m such a mess, I could say, Let God chisel. Let Him work on my hard places so I can leave the dark places of being stuck and come into the light of who He designed me to be.

God is calling us out — out of darkness, out from those places we thought would never get better, out of being stuck. And with His call comes His promise that He will complete the good work He began in us. (Philippians 1:6)

God Is Always Reliable

 

God Is Reliable

1 Kings 5:56 – “Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant.”

Exodus 34:6 – The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

2 Samuel 7:13-14 – He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men.

Psalms 33:4 – For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.

Hebrews 13:5 – Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”