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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Our Role in the Nation we Love – Charles Stanley

god bless americaFreedom is one of the most-prized human ideals, and as Americans, we are blessed to live in a nation where we can serve God with unreserved obedience. Throughout our great history, people have fought and given their lives to be liberated from tyranny. We know that the rights and privileges we enjoy today have come at an awesome price.

So as we consider the price our Founding Fathers paid to sign the Declaration of Independence and provide us with national autonomy so many years later, I challenge you to consider both the freedom from oppression we enjoy in the United States, and the liberty from sin we have through Jesus Christ our Savior.

These are important subjects to consider because as our nation faces one crisis after another, we must be wise and watchful. The decisions being made and the direction the country will take in the months and years ahead are sure to impact many generations to come. If we continue to make the mistake of surrendering control of our lives and country to those who act contrary to God’s Word, we will find ourselves bound by the same chains our forefathers cast off so long ago.

That is why it is critically important for all Americans to seek and obey God, because it’s only through Him that we have true liberty to live life at its best.

Therefore, the first thing we need to do is make the choice to put the Lord first in everything we do. We must reject the destructive ways of the world and choose to live in submission to our heavenly Father (John 8:34–36).

Second, we must trust God to change the course and character of our nation. We are to be salt and light in our communities, stepping out in obedience with the faith that He will hear from heaven and heal our land (2 Chron. 7:14).

Third, we are to fight this battle for America’s future on our knees. It is our duty as Christians to pray for our leaders in the hope that they will turn their hearts to do the will of God. Only He can transform them into men and women who will truly honor Him (1 Tim. 2:1–4).

We may not know who the next president will be or who will hold the seats of power throughout the land in the years to come, but we do know the King of kings and the Lord of lords. So let us embrace the freedom He’s given us and thank Him for liberating us to live for His name’s sake. May He bless you as you continue to serve Him with love and faithfulness, and may God continue to bless America.

God’s ideal for His children – J.R. Miller

rejoice-in-the-lordRejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

For most of us it is not easy to be always joyful; yet we should learn our lesson so well that whether amid circumstances of sorrow or of gladness–our song shall never be interrupted.

Joy is God’s ideal for His children. He means for them to be sunny-faced and happy-hearted. He does not wish them to be heavy-hearted and sad. He has made the world full of beauty and full of music. The mission of the gospel is to start songs wherever it goes. Its keynote is joy–good tidings of great joy to all people. We are commanded to rejoice always.

This does not mean that the Christian’s life is exempt from trouble, pain, and sorrow. The gospel does not give us a new set of conditions with the hard things left out. The Christian’s home is not sheltered from life’s storms–any more than the worldly man’s home is. Sickness enters the circle where the voice of prayer is heard, with its hot breath–as well as the home where no heart adores and no knee bends before God. In the holiest home sanctuary, the loving group gathers about the bed of death, and there is sorrow of bereavement.

Nor is grief less poignant in the believer’s case, than in that of the man who knows not Christ. Grace does not make . . .
love less tender,
the pang of affliction less sharp,
the sense of loss less keen, or
the feeling of loneliness less deep.

God does not give joy to His children by making them incapable of suffering. Divine grace makes the heart all the more tender, and the capacity for loving all the deeper; hence it increases rather than lessens the measure of sorrow when afflictions come.

But the joy of the Christian is something which lies too deep to be disturbed by the waves and tides of earthly trouble. It has its source in the very heart of God. Sorrow is not prevented by grace, but is swallowed up in the floods of heavenly joy. That was what Jesus meant when He talked to His disciples of joy just as He was about to go out to Gethsemane. He said their sorrow would be turned into joy, and that they would have a joy which the world could not take from them; that is, a joy which earth’s deepest darkness could not put out. God’s joy is not the absence of sorrow, but divine comfort overcoming sorrow–sunshine striking through the black clouds, transfiguring them!

“You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy!” John 16:20

His Seal of Authenticity – Greg Laurie

seal-of-GodRead Ephesians 1.13 – Traveling by air today requires that you first go through airport security and present your identification before you can board your plane. And when the TSA agents pull out a mysterious little light and run it over your driver’s license, they are authenticating it. They are making sure that everything is legitimate. With that little light, they can find a mark that isn’t visible to you. But they can see it with their light.

There is a mark on believers that God can see. He knows who belongs to Him. But during the Tribulation period, there also will be a mark on the people of the Antichrist (see Revelation 13:16–18).

When Christ comes into our lives, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. The Bible says, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13–14).

In ancient days, when a king would send something, he would seal it. The seal from his signet ring, imprinted in the wax, essentially said, “This belongs to the king. Don’t mess with it.”

As a believer, you belong to the King. He has sealed you. He has marked you. You have his ID tag on you. You are his property.

An elderly gentleman who was known for his godly life was asked, “What do you do when you are tempted?”

He said, “I just look up to heaven and say, ‘Lord, Your property is in danger.’ ”

Do you have God’s mark? Is His I. D. tag attached to you? Can you proudly say that you belong to Him?

A Mixed Body – R.C. Sproul

wheatandtaresMatthew 13:47–50 “So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous” (v. 49).

The parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24–30, 36–43) is probably not first and foremost about the presence of people who profess the Christian faith falsely in the institutional church. However, this does not mean that Jesus has nothing to say on the subject. The parable of the net apparently deals with the fact that those who do not really know Christ will “worship” beside true believers in the visible covenant community.

Several hints in Matthew 13:47–50 indicate that the parable of the net is about the church. First among these is Jesus’ use of a fishing metaphor (v. 47). He calls His disciples to be “fishers of men” and four of the Twelve — Peter, Andrew, James, and John — were professional fishermen before our Lord made them apostles (4:18–22). Fishermen casting a net brings to mind the call of the Twelve (and all believers) to preach the Gospel and catch people for the kingdom.

Second, the indiscriminate casting of the net reminds us of the external call of the Gospel (13:47). In Jesus’ day, Jewish fishermen used a net with weights and floaters that, when pulled by rope out of the water, ensnared a multitude of various kinds of fish. Similarly, Christ calls His church to evangelize all mankind without regard to the distinctions between human beings (28:18–20).

Our Lord’s contemporaries are again familiar with the imagery in this parable. Those who had worked on the seas knew well the task of sorting out the edible fish from those not fit for consumption (13:48), which is likened to the angelic separation of the righteous from the unrighteous when the kingdom is consummated (vv. 49–50). Like a net catching fish, the church will bring in many kinds of people. Yet just as not all fish are fit for eating, so too are not all members of the visible church fit for heaven. The church we can see is a mixed body until the Savior returns. All those whom we see professing Christ (the visible church) do not necessarily have faith; some join the church for motives other than serving Jesus. These false professors are mixed with true believers in the visible church, but not forever. For on Judgment Day those who never possessed saving trust in Christ will find eternal punishment (vv. 49–50).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

When people abandon Christ, they prove that they never had faith at all, since those with true faith are preserved by God, never to fall away permanently (1 John 2:19). Still, when we see people leave Jesus, it does not necessarily mean there is no hope for them. Only God knows the state of a person’s heart, and He may be pleased to bring one who has backslidden back into His fold. That is why we must never cease praying for those who have left the church.

Jesus: Doorway to the Father – Charles Stanley

jesus way truth lifeRead | John 14:6-11

A significant percentage of westerners profess to know God and therefore call themselves Christians. Yet many of them do not believe in Jesus or His claim to be the Son of God. The fact is, a person cannot know the Father and be His child unless he or she has received Jesus Christ as Savior and entered into a personal relationship with Him.

Jesus is the doorway to salvation. It’s not enough to “know God” in the sense of simply realizing there is a supreme Deity. Without faith in Jesus, it is impossible to come to the Father (John 14:6). Since God is holy, He can’t tolerate sin in His presence. But all people are sinners (Ps. 53:3; Isa. 53:6). Jesus died in our place to pay our debt and thereby bridge the gap between impure man and holy God. Any person who receives His sacrifice for sin is forgiven, declared righteous, and welcomed into fellowship with God.

Jesus is the doorway to revelation. He was the earthly representation of His Father in heaven. Christ’s life among men provides the most complete picture we have of the Father. Jesus’ actions, choices, and teachings reveal how the Almighty thinks and what He desires from us.

Jesus said that He and His Father are one (John 10:30). Omitting Christ from religious beliefs or practice leaves people with an inaccurate view of the Creator. We are saved not by works but by faith, through grace (Eph. 2:8-9). And the faith God values is the belief “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).

Waiting on God – Charles Swindoll

wait-upon-the-lordRead – Psalm 27:14

David’s cry for help doesn’t end with an account of God’s sudden and miraculous provision. Instead, the songwriter committed to doing what comes least naturally to people in fear. He committed to doing nothing. He chose to wait on God. Read that again—aloud.

Exhortation to Wait

Wait for the LORD;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the LORD. (Psalm 27:14)

It’s a fitting conclusion, but completely unexpected. David levels an exhortation to himself to wait! He realized that the pressure would not suddenly leave. He knew his enemies would not do an about-face and depart immediately after he rose from his knees. He was realistic enough to know that anything worth having is worth waiting for. So, in the final lines of his song, he tells himself to relax, to enter into God’s rest, to cease from his own works. (See Hebrews 4:9-11.) Strength and courage are developed during a trial, not after it is over. Waiting on God is essential.

The term “wait” is from the Hebrew verb kawah, which eventually carried the idea of eagerly looking for something. It originally meant “to twist, stretch.” The noun form means “line, cord, thread.” The literal definition became a word picture involving tension or eager anticipation. Isaiah 40:31 uses this same term: “Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength.”

If you are waiting for God to work this week, keep on waiting! In the wait there will come strength and courage. I urge you to review the truths in Psalm 27 each time you are tempted to be afraid. Don’t become paralyzed and ineffective. Take yourself out of the grind of fear! Look upon each threatening circumstance as an opportunity to grow in your faith, rather than to retreat. How? Follow David’s example.

First: Call to mind what you know to be true about God.
Second: Express what you need boldly.
Third: Wait. Let the fearful circumstance become God’s opportunity to strengthen you.

Click on link for free E-book Waiting On God by Andrew Murray

The Adjusting of the Scales – George Mylne, 1859

The Weightier Book“In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other!” Ecclesiastes 7:14

Adversity and prosperity are divinely balanced against each other with unerring divine skill. In each, respectively, the due proportions are precisely weighed, so lovingly and wisely, that none should say, “It might have been better done!” Christian, I appeal to you: Could it have been better done? Are God’s ways unjust? Have they been so to you?

It is true, your path is chequered–sweet chasing bitter–and bitter chasing sweet, in quick succession. It may be, that bitter is more frequent than the sweet–that your prosperous times are few and far between. Is there no reason for it? Is God’s divine balance, then, deranged? God knows the reason for your adversity–though unknown to you. He faithfully keeps the balance true between your needs–and their supply; between His chastenings–and your good. He cannot be unkind, or unequal, or unjust. Perhaps you cannot hit upon the specific sin, and say, “For this particular sin I am chastened.” But say, my friend–if there is no particular sin, is there no particular lack of virtue in you? Is there no grace to strengthen–no infirmity to check?

God’s ways are always just–His purposes are always wise and loving. How beautiful is His providence! How exquisite is His skill!

Grace is poised against temptation; joys are balanced against sorrows. The lights and shadows of experience thus perfected, and perfecting each other. Were all prosperity–we would be lifted up in pride. Were all adversity–we would faint under the heavy load.

God’s ways are just and equal–look back and see. Had times been pleasant with you, and experience been sweet? How surely they were followed by deadness in the soul! Your joy was gone–you knew not why. Ah! but God knew it. It was the adjusting of the scales, that nothing might be out of balance. Has life gone prosperously? Sooner or later, crosses came–some disappointment, something to bring you down, something or other, counter to your will–it was the adjusting of the scales. And just so with health, and other comforts–God keeps the scales perfectly balanced.

Watch God’s providence in great things, watch it in little things–the events, the thoughts, the feelings of the day. You will always find it just–the balance must be kept. Hence all your variations in the scale of comfort–and the endless shades and vicissitudes of your experience. All this is well-ordered in God’s wisdom, love, and mercy!

Lessons for the Christian’s Daily Walk – George Mylne, 1859

Jesus_Paid_It_AllIn the day of adversity, consider!” Ecclesiastes 7:14

In your adversity, consider:
That you deserve it all!
That, had you nothing but adversity, it only were your due!
That every moment free from trouble, is a mercy!
That had the full curse been poured on you–your life would be nothing but sorrow and vexation!

Consider that God afflicts you for your profit–to bring your sins to mind, and lead you to the Cross. Believer, God chastens you in love, to make you a partaker of His holiness. (Hebrews 12:10.) How often have you forgotten Him! But He never forgets you–and thus He chastens you.

Consider, how much you live for the world–how little you live for the Lord!
Consider how earthly, sensual, and devilish is your nature!
Consider your thoughts–how vain!
Consider your service–how unprofitable!
Consider, then, God’s love in chastening you.

Are you in sickness–then consider your many days of former health–all undeserved by you! Consider your many helps in trouble, God’s presence, and His grace–all undeserved by you!

In sleepless nights, consider how many nights you have slept soundly and sweetly–all undeserved by you! Consider Him, who gives you songs in the night–all undeserved by you!

In poverty, consider how all your former needs have been supplied–food, clothing, lodging, and so many comforts–all undeserved by you!

Have you incurred the loss of sight or hearing; loss of limbs, or power of using them? Consider, then, your former powers; how much enjoyment you have had in seeing, hearing, moving, handling–all undeserved by you!

O tried believer, consider, then, that your afflictions are light–and they are but for a moment. They are all ordered in divine wisdom, tenderness, and love! Consider Jesus! what sufferings He endured–all for unworthy you! Then faint not, nor be weary, but consider your “eternal weight of glory”–glory “that far outweighs” all your woes–glory, all undeserved by you!

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all! So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal!” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

Staying Faithful Together – Charles Swindoll

Worship-bannerReadPsalm 26:8

David’s prayer for protection while enduring mistreatment didn’t merely ask God for help; the king’s song included a commitment on his part.

Resolved: I will be faithful in public worship.

O LORD, I love the habitation of Your house
And the place where Your glory dwells. (26:8)

As we read this verse, we can see why David was known as “a man after God’s own heart.” Even while he was under the pile, feeling more like a punching bag than a child of the Lord, he remained faithful to the place where he could sense God’s glory—the tabernacle (26:8). You must pause and read three brief statements from three ancient Psalms: 27:4, 65:4, and 84:10. To him, worship was no religious habit, no ritualistic, boring process; it was something essential, something vital. When enduring mistreatment, David looked up in worship.

Unfortunately, we live in a day when the value and necessity of public worship is de-emphasized. I realize that some churches may fail to point the worshiper to the living Christ and to teach His marvelous Word. But this does not mean that all churches and all public worship gatherings are to be ignored! Hebrews 10:23-25 leaves us no option; we are to assemble together for the purpose of mutual stimulation toward the expression of love and good deeds . . . if nothing else, for personal encouragement! This is so important when undergoing mistreatment. We need each other. Christian friend, do not neglect this God-ordained, healthy expression of your faith.

Let me add one further thought: show me a believer who consistently neglects the regular services of a church that faithfully preaches and teaches the Word, and I’ll show you one whose cutting edge on spiritual things is getting dull—one who is eroding, spiritually speaking. I detect from my reading of the book of Acts that the healthy yet persecuted believers absolutely craved every opportunity to meet and worship together—even in secret. What a healthy example to follow!

Regeneration is Permanent – RC Sproul

Philippians 1:6 “I am sure oRegenerationf this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (v. 6).

One of the most important questions we can answer is whether or not the new birth is something that can be lost. If God has regenerated a person, can that person return permanently to a state of degeneracy?

Looking at Scripture as a whole, it is clear that those who are transformed by the Holy Spirit will continue in that state until the end of life. Many passages of the Bible teach this doctrine, one of the most important being Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians in today’s passage. In 1:6, the apostle clearly proclaims the permanency of regeneration. God will bring the good work He started in us to completion. The Lord never aborts the person that He has quickened.

This is comforting because we know that if it were up to us, none of us would be able to die in a state of grace. This does not mean that sanctification is passive or that we should sit back and let God do all of the work. Paul tells us in Philippians to work out our salvation in fear and trembling (2:12). Nevertheless, God undergirds all of our efforts to pursue maturity in Christ. His sovereign presence and saving power is what ultimately keeps us in the faith (v. 13).

The fact that regeneration is permanent does not mean that believers cannot fall into sin, even heinous ones. Simon Peter illustrates this truth well. Remember that he committed the worst sin of all, denying the Lord and Master who would redeem His soul (Matt. 26:69–75). But Peter did not remain in sin forever; he came to repent of his sin and found restoration in Christ Jesus (John 21:15–19). For this reason we must always turn to the Lord even if we have transgressed His will most grievously. He will restore us when we humbly confess our sin, and this confession is an outward evidence of repentance and the staying power of regeneration in our hearts (1 John 1:8–10).

Furthermore, we should also pray for those who seem to have fallen from the faith. We do not know their most inner thoughts, and they may be regenerate, though in sin. Therefore, we pray for their hearts to be softened that they might bear the fruit of the new birth once more.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

The permanency of our regeneration is something we must not take for granted. Knowing that we have been born again should motivate us to live out this truth by heeding the many warnings in Scripture against unbelief (Heb. 6:1–12). If we do not heed these warnings and repent when necessary, we reveal that we are still slaves to sin and must question whether we have been born again in the first place (Rom. 6:1–2, 15–16). What sins do you need to repent over this day?

When Temptation Comes – Greg Laurie

175px-Ary_Scheffer_-_The_Temptation_of_Christ_(1854)Read, 1 Corinthians 10:13 – In the New Testament, we have the account of Jesus saying to Peter, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31–32).

Put yourself in Peter’s sandals. You’re sitting near the Lord when He turns to you, looks you in the eyes, calls you by name, and says, “Satan has been asking excessively that you be taken out of the care and protection of God. The devil has been asking for you by name.” I don’t know about you, but if Jesus Christ, the Son of God, said that to me, it would be cause for great concern.

Peter was such a big fish that Satan himself went after him. I wonder if the Lord paused for effect: “Satan has been asking for you. . .by name. . ..But I have good news, Peter. I have prayed for you.”

It’s a good reminder to us that when the devil comes knocking at our door, we should say, “Lord, would You mind getting that?” We are no match for the devil. But even though he is a powerful foe, he is still a created being, and certainly not as powerful as God. Even so, we don’t want to tangle with him—or any of his servants. We want to stand behind God’s protection.

In spite of the devil’s power and wicked agenda, he must first ask permission when it comes to attacking the children of God, because of the hedge of protection that God has placed around us.

God knows what you are ready for. And He won’t give you more than you can handle. We have His word on that!

The Purpose of the Parables – R.C. Sproul

Parables-of-Jesus-1-1Matthew 13:12–17 “Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (v. 17).

Our study today will examine the purpose of parables. Jesus tells us in Matthew 15:12–15 that He speaks in parables to hide the secrets of the kingdom from some and reveal them to others (Matt. 13:12–15). This does not mean His parables are full of esoteric information that only a select few can grasp with their minds. Christ’s enemies often understand exactly what His parables mean (see 21:33–46); the problem is their refusal to trust His teaching about Himself and God’s kingdom. The difficulty the Pharisees have is moral and thus volitional, not intellectual. They choose not to believe our Savior’s words. Those who take up their cross gain more access to kingdom truth; those who reject Him lose whatever insight they had (13:12). Matthew Henry says parables make the things of God “more plain and easy” to those willing to be taught, and “at the same time more difficult and obscure to those who [are] willfully ignorant.”

A person’s final response to the parables reveals whether or not he is elect. Today’s passage assumes that God chooses to save only part of sinful humanity; the rest He leaves to harden themselves in their sin (Rom. 9:1–18). As Dr. R.C. Sproul has taught on many occasions, God does not create unbelief and is not culpable when sinners do not respond to the parables with saving faith. Yet this hardening is not outside the scope of our Creator’s sovereign plan. He sends Jesus to speak in parables so that the rebellious will rage against Him more fiercely and manifest the justness of their condemnation (Matt. 13:13–15; Rom. 9:19–24). The Almighty decrees that those whom His grace passes over will hate His Son. And those whom His grace passes over do choose to hate His Son without coercion. We are always free to do what we want, but apart from God’s grace we do not want to love Jesus. John Calvin writes that the Lord opens a man’s ears “and that no man obtains or accomplishes this by his own industry.”

We would be amiss to emphasize the parables’ hardening purpose over the gratitude Jesus encourages in the elect. Our focus is not to be on why God has not chosen some. Instead, we must be thankful that He has made us, who are no more deserving than the reprobate, to see the kingdom (Matt. 13:16–17).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

We should marvel at God’s grace every time we recall that we have trusted Christ alone for our salvation. Before the Lord quickened us, we were dead in sin and had no desire at all to know or serve Him. But by His Spirit our Creator overcame this stubbornness and changed our hearts, enabling us to believe the Gospel. Take time today to thank God for His matchless grace and remember that your deeds contribute nothing to your salvation.

Our Need for Spiritual Discernment – Charles Stanley

discerning-the-will-of-god_t_nvRead | Philippians 1:8-11

Have you ever asked yourself, How do I know this is the right decision? Often there’s no scripture that addresses in detail the particular choice we need to make—for example, what kind of car to buy, the best investment to make, which job to accept, or whether to work or spend time with the family when overtime hours are offered. Rather than specifying exhaustive rules that speak to every possible situation in life, God’s Word contains principles and instructions to guide our decision making.

That is not to say God hands us His Book and then leaves us alone. To ensure that our feet remain on the right path, He grants us spiritual discernment—the capacity to judge between right and wrong, wise and unwise, good and best.

In cultivating such discernment, we’re inviting God to be intimately involved in all our decisions; there is no matter too insignificant for His consideration and assistance. A plan that is outside the Lord’s will—or even good decisions formulated without consulting Him—can short-circuit His plan to give us His best.

Spiritual discernment protects us from making decisions based on what looks good or feels right. We are limited to five senses and our experience, but God views our lives from a vantage point of infinite knowledge. Our instructor, the Holy Spirit, teaches us the wisdom of God’s way and knows precisely how to apply it to our unique circumstances. As we develop a habit of following His promptings, our senses become trained to distinguish good from evil, and we mature spiritually (Heb. 5:14).