Baptism

baptism-complete

The Bible clearly teaches that baptism is the first step of obedience after surrendering to Christ: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Baptism allows a believer to communicate to the world their heart-felt commitment to Christ. It shows that they have decided to put Christ at the center of their life, after coming into life-changing relationship with Him. Baptism is an outward picture of what has already taken place on the inside of a person. Being baptized does not make you right with God, but it shows others that you have already trusted in what Christ did for you on the cross. Like a wedding ring in marriage, the action of baptism is a symbol of a commitment made, a declaration to others of the love and devotion you have for Christ.

Baptism FAQ

What if I’ve already been baptized? Do I have to do it again? 

Many people’s parents had them baptized as infants or children, and although we believe that those parents were doing what they thought best as a way to dedicate their children to the Lord, the Bible only gives examples of adults who made that decision for themselves.  So even if you were baptized as an infant, we’d love to see you take this step of obedience to declare for yourself that you wish to follow Jesus with your whole life.

Does it matter whether someone is sprinkled or dunked? 

Following the examples given in Scripture, we baptize by immersion (Mark 1:9-10). If you have a medical condition which prohibits full-immersion, please let us know and we will discuss alternatives with you, so you can still take this public step of obedience to Christ.

My child wishes to be baptized – what age does Grace Church baptize at?

If your child is 8-13, we’ll ask you to schedule a meeting with our Pastor prior to scheduling a baptism date. We typically do not baptize children under 8 years of age, because we want to make sure your child understands the abstract significance of baptism. We would, however, be happy to schedule a Child Dedication service, where you can publicly dedicate your child to the Lord during a Sunday morning service.

Our Core Values

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As we fulfill our vision, we are guided by these values from the Bible…

  • People matter to God. He wants a relationship with them. Luke 19:10
  • Prayer is the most important work of the people of God. Philippians 4:6-7
  • Everything we have belongs to God. 1 Chronicles 29:14
  • Knowing and obeying God’s Word is needed to true success. Joshua 1:8
  • Completing the Great Commission will require the effort of every fully devoted follower of Jesus. Matthew 28:19
  • Without the power of the Holy Spirit, we can accomplish nothing. 1 Corinthians 2:4-5
  • Achieving God’s purposes means taking faith-filled risks. This always involves change. Hebrews 11:6

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Our Vision

 

Businessman looking to the future with telescope

To be a Christ-centered Acts 1:8 family.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
-Acts 1:8

We want to be about one thing – Jesus. In a culture divided by politics, race, secondary doctrine, and endless other issues, we want to be about one thing – Jesus.20170812_145752-1

We want to be about Acts 1:8. We don’t want to be about human effort and agenda. We want God’s Spirit to fill us and work through us to reach the world with the Good News of the love and grace of Jesus.

We want to be a family. Not just people who happen to occupy the same building together. We want to love one another and build one another up.

 

Our Mission

our-mission
Our mission is to help people take the next step in their journey with Jesus…together.

We are here to HELP people in their journey. We want to provide the resources and encouragement necessary for you to know Jesus better. We are not here to force anything on anyone, but we are here to come alongside and help as best we can.

We are here to help people take THEIR NEXT STEP. Everybody is different. No two stories are the same. Therefore, there is no “cookie-cutter” approach to getting to know Jesus better. We want to get to know you, where you are at spiritually, and where you want to be spiritually. We want to work with you to help you move one step closer in that direction.

We are here to help people in their JOURNEY WITH JESUS. After all, following Jesus and 20882154_10210519762925432_2991833360393977204_ngetting to know Jesus is really a life-long process (a journey). The great thing about a journey is your starting point is less important than your destination. Wrong turns can be course-corrected. It doesn’t even matter how fast you travel. What matters is moving forward.

We are in this journey TOGETHER. We all get tired, discouraged, and frustrated along the way. Therefore, we journey together. We help each other. We work together. We lean on each other when we are weak. We help others when we are strong.

We’d love for you to journey along with us!

 

Prayer Meeting Devotion (March 22, 2017)

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
James 4:8a

It is interesting to watch people gathered around a campfire. They will sit close to the fire until they warm up, then they scoot away when they get too hot. But as the fire dies down, they get cold and slide closer to the flames again. We like a comfortable temperature – give me 72 degrees at all times, right? campfire_t610

I find the same principle at work spiritually. We like to stay a comfortable distance away from the presence of God. We certainly do not want to be so far away as to be spiritually cold. But if we get too close, it gets uncomfortable. God starts pruning us. He starts convicting us. So we scoot back to our comfortable distance.

Can I urge you to press in deeper with the Lord? To draw closer to the fire of His presence? To get as close as possible to Him?

Prayer Meeting Devotion (March 15, 2017)

“Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards
are in blossom.”

-Song of Solomon 2:15

For most of us, it will not be the big sins that do us in. Most of us will not commit moral failure. We will not find ourselves in prison for tax fraud. For most of us, it will be the little foxes that undermine our relationship with Jesus. It will be time wasted in front of the television. It will SBZpair-723256be time spent on our favorite hobby. It will be time on Facebook. It will be time at the gym. None of these things are bad. However, it is very easy to allow those things to subtly choke out time in the presence of the Lord in prayer and His Word.

Would you be willing to let God reveal to you the little foxes in your life? The little things that are not wrong, but still crowd out time we could give to Jesus?

Prayer Meeting Devotion (March 8, 2017)

“THIN PLACES”

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”                       Acts 16:25-31

As Paul and Silas sit in prison, praying and singing hymns, where is God? Well, we know that God is everywhere at all times. Theologically, we call this the omnipresence of God – there is no where that God is not. But something interesting happens in this passage. God shows us in a way that is beyond His omnipresence. Writers of old referred to these moments as “thin places” – where the divide between heaven and earth is thinner than normal. Some refer to these moments as God’s manifest presence.

We see many of these moments in the Bible. We also see many of these moments in church history. We have become accustomed to not experiencing these moments, so we have made a theology that leans heavy on God’s omnipresence. However, we must long for and pray for these moments when we experience “thin places” when God manifests His presence in life-changing ways. This is the only way to see His Kingdom advanced with power in our lives and in our churches today.

Prayer Meeting Devotion (March 1, 2017)

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.                    –James 5:13-18

Could you imagine walking outside in the middle of a thunder storm and praying for it to stop? Elijah’s prayers changed the weather! Was he a superhero? Not according to James. According to James, Elijah was an ordinary person, just like the rest of us. The difference, I believe, is that he “prayed fervently.” Literally, “praying he prayed.” He meant it! He prayed with passion. He prayed with confidence in the greatness of God.

“But we need to pray according to God’s will.” I know. But do you notice that we always start from a place of doubt. We would never call it doubt, but the bottom line is we “spiritualize” our doubt. We decide for God what His will is and is not. The end result is that we pray for a place of doubt, assuming God will not answer our prayers.

Let’s get back to praying big prayers to a big God for His glory and let Him decide, for Himself, what His will is for each situation.

Prayer Meeting Devotion (2/22/17)

Raspberries are fascinating. A common method of growing raspberries is to plant the canes and allow them to grow for a year in cooler climates. After the1024px-raspberries05 year is over, they are completely uprooted and replanted in warmer climates. Once replanted, they quickly flower and produce a crop. Their roots also spread quickly underground and can easily overtake gardens.

Acts 12:24 says, “But the word of the God increased and multiplied.” By the time Jesus ascends to heaven, there are 120 disciples gathered when the Spirit comes at Pentecost. Once they have the power of the Holy Spirit, countless lives enter the Kingdom of God. Initially, the disciples seem to try and track the numbers. However, as Acts goes on, the numbers seem to reach uncountable levels. Here is where we find our verse – God’s Word just keeps increasing and multiplying.

Much like the raspberry, I believe that God has brought us through our initial season of planting. It is time for our roots to spread. It is time to see the Word of God increase and multiply through us. If the Holy Spirit can use 120 disciples to take the name of Jesus to the world, He can certainly use a slightly smaller number of us to take the name of Jesus throughout our region.

Would you join me and asking God to fill us with His Spirit so that His Word would increase and multiply through us to reach our community, this city, this county, and to the ends of the earth? He can do beyond all we ask or imagine. He is simply looking for those who will go in the power of His Spirit!

 

 

 

People Pleasing and God – Galatians 1:10

By Being God-Pleasers, We Can Stop Being People-Pleasers

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Appropriate Approval

One of the greatest desires of humanity is to feel accepted by others.  We go to great lengths to be in the “right” jobs, “rub elbows” with the “right people”, say the “right things” so no one is offended, and do whatever it takes to be accepted and recognized by others.

Paul challenges our culturally induced bondage by asking a challenging question:  From whom are we trying to win our approval?  Is it man, or God?  Many people struggle with identity issues.  Many women have emaciated their bodies, trying to lose that extra pound so that they won’t be perceived as “fat”, when they are – literally – on the brink of starvation and malnutrition.  Men try to earn enough money, power, and respect to be accepted by other men and to attract a mate, especially when they are not perceived as “attractive” by the people they want to notice them.

The question on everyone’s mind is, “am I good enough?

Pleasing People

Culture tells us that we should be people-pleasers.  By conforming to the expectations of other people around us (or the people we want to be around us), we will find contentment, community, relationship, and happiness in life.  Pleasing people generally leads to one outcome – the surrender of your personal identity and purpose.  When we allow others to dictate and determine the circumstances in which we will be accepted, and doing “whatever it takes” to conform to those expectations, we are, in effect, surrendering our autonomous control over to those whom we seek to please.

Paul challenges this by saying that we need to be God-pleasers, not people-pleasers.  The order of importance with whom we should please should form the acrostic JOY:

  • Jesus
  • Others
  • You

When we follow this rule, we will have JOY in our lives!

Doubtful Doulos

Paul then suggests that if he was trying to please people, he would not be a servant of Christ.  The word servant, in the Greek, is doulos.  It means a person who voluntarily is the bond-servant of another because they love the other person so much.  When we seek to please people, we are placing them above God.  The doulos places his master’s interests above his/her own interests, as well as the interests of others.  By placing Jesus in the place of authority over our lives, and placing His interests and desires over the interests and desires of everyone else, we are able to overcome the bondage that people-pleasing introduces into our life.

Objectively Overcoming

So, you might say, I am a people-pleaser.  I have been doing it for so long, I don’t know how to do anything else!  My life is miserable, and I want to be free of it!  I read the Bible, pray, and plead with God to remove it, but I keep failing, almost every single time. What can  I do?

Spend more time in prayer with God

This is a sin that is deeply ingrained in many people.  Prayer is the opportunity to place God above other people as you seek relationship with Him and acknowledge that He is the one who is most important in your life.  Soak this concern in prayer with tears.  Mourn over your sin. Confess your need to have this broken in your life to God.  And ask God to remember you.  When God remembers a person, He acts divinely on behalf of that person.  It was once said that when God remembers you, “Batten down the hatches, grab hold of something sturdy, because here comes God in a mighty way!”

Confess your sins to other Christians

Find Godly, Spirit-filled disciples of Christ, and confess your sin to them.  Ask them to pray for you that you may be delivered out of this sin.  God wants us to be free, not in bondage!

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

When we confess our sins to one another and pray for one another, we are being accountable to one another and supportive of one another.  God desires this in community, and this makes us real to one another.  Let us put aside the fake smiles and facades that we present to each other and be real, without guile.  Let us not be judgmental, but supportive and encouraging.  It is time for the church to step up as we advertise ourselves to others in TRUTH.

Remember who you are in Christ

Many times, we forget who we are in Christ.  Rather than be drawn to people in our time of loneliness, pain, suffering, abandonment, or any other situation that leaves us feeling disconnected from others, we need to embrace God, and remember who we are in Him:

  • Jesus died on the cross for you while you were still a sinner
  • God loves you because He sent Jesus to die for your sins
  • God has given you the Holy Spirit to indwell you, empower you, comfort you, console you, admonish you, and glorify Jesus
  • Read Ephesians 1-3.  Remember who you are in Christ
  • God has promised to never leave you nor forsake you
  • God has promised to always forgive you and restore you when you repent
  • God is omnipotent.  He can fix anything, and even move Heaven and Earth to help you
  • God redeemed you because He wants to have a relationship with you!
  • God never changes.  He loves you more than your parents every could, and loves you unconditionally, as an act of His will, and does so sacrificially (both through the death and resurrection of Jesus, as well as His continued support today and throughout eternity)
  • It is God who will always be there for you
  • Feelings are not facts (even though that is what culture teaches).  They are just feelings.  With your renewed mind, force your will to take them captive and place them under the authority of the Holy Spirit.*

A Qualifying Question

Let’s as a question:  Are we people-pleasers, or God-pleasers?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it should be You and You alone that I seek to please.  Help me when I feel obligated to please people.  Give me the strength and desire to set You above all, and to place every obligation I make, and every decision under Your guidance and care.  Help me to weather the criticism of others as I seek to honor You in all things.  And if honoring You in this manner causes difficulties in my relationships, help me to endure the emotional pain that ensues.  Give me Your peace in my heart that transcends understanding, and overcome the bondage that I am in.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


Notes: This blog has been edited for spelling errors, formatting, and clarity

*Taking every thought captive to Christ in the mind is a difficult thing to do if you are not proficient in this skill.

First, remember that God has freed you from the bondage of sin.  If there is unrepentant, unaddressed sin (apart from people-pleasing) in your life, confess it to God, turn away from it and turn towards God and His holy word (which is the final authority for these things – 2 Timothy 3:16).

Next, realize that God has healthy boundaries (for a good book on the subject, read “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend).  He cannot abide sin, because He is holy.  Sin damages our relationship with Him, as it places a wedge between us and God.  Set appropriate boundaries for others.  “No” is actually a good word!

Take a year off saying “Yes” to people.  Say “No” to anything and everyone that tries to involve you in anything that will take away from your devotion to God (call it a “fast” for your Christian friends, or a “sabbatical” for your secular friends).  Be reasonable – you probably still need to work to eat and have a roof over your head…

Spend ALL of this extra time in the word of God and in prayer.  Draw close to your Savior, and go deep with Him.  Let Him nudge you and change you and strengthen you.

Remember the J.O.Y. principle, and follow it.

Entrenched sin will take some time to overcome.  Don’t expect that God will (always) just flick the switch, and voilà, that aspect of your character is fixed (He does do that sometimes…).  Expect that as part of your training in righteousness, that he will place people in your life who will intentionally try to manipulate you by playing on what they perceive to be your desire to like them.  Anyone who does this is doing so at the behest of Satan, who uses deceit to get his way.  Good, righteous, Spirit-filled disciples of Christ will not manipulate you in this way, even when your answer is”no”, and may appear to cause them loss or difficulty in some way (disciples of Christ know that God will provide for their needs through another source).

Once you set healthy boundaries for people, don’t use this as an excuse to not do anything for Jesus.  You need a reset to get your life back in balance.  Once it comes back in balance (be patient – a week or two is not enough time for this to occur), you are in the position to say “Yes” only when it is appropriate (don’t overbook or overwork yourself, but don’t move to the other end of the spectrum and rest forever – Christ has good works that He has planned in advance for you to do.  Go do them and claim your reward from Him later!).

Now, reconsider that life, as viewed through your eyes, is like TV commercials designed to influence you to do things that you normally wouldn’t do.  We must be aware of these influences so that we can say “NO!” to them.  Satan can place thoughts in your mind.  It is up to us to recognize that those thoughts are not always Godly, even if they appear to be (for instance, if you overextend yourself in ministry, the toll that decision and resulting effects take will cause ALL of your ministry to decrease in effectiveness, even though you are doing “good things” for the cause of Christ).  We generally don’t think about our thoughts.  We just let them go, and think they are all from us.  They aren’t!

We need to set up barriers in our minds against them.  The best barriers are the words of scripture.  When we have a bad thought (stealing something, for example), we should immediately tear down that stronghold thought by countering it with “You shall not steal” if there is a desire behind the thought.  Many of these thoughts are safely discarded as rubbish.  It is the ones that invoke desire in us to harbor the thoughts and act on them that need to be dealt with more immediately and with greater fervor:

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (emphasis added)

This is just the start.  Rely upon and seek out the wisdom of God in His word and through reliance upon His Spirit to convict, exhort, and empower you as you work through the recovery from this dark pit.

Special Considerations:

Some people are in jobs where if they say “no” to anything, they’ll be fired.  Others may be single parents trying to keep it together, with no time for themselves, barely living and certainly not thriving.  There are people who are severely challenged physically or with severe health-impacting diseases.  To every person in these circumstances, I would counsel you to understand that God sees your plight and has a special place in His heart for you.  Seek Him, and trust Him.  Take your eyes off of your situation, and place them upon Almighty God, who is able to do even more abundantly than we could ever imagine.  Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.  And when the pressures of this life fade in the peace of God that transcends understanding, you will be in a better position to see clearly what God desires for you to do in your circumstances.

Prayer Meeting Devotion Overview (2/15/17)

Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Jesus is about to unleash His disciples to take the message of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. This is an important work. It is an urgent work. However, He does not want them to start just yet. – Acts 1:4 says, “And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father.”

The disciples could have gone out and preached Jesus. But they would have failed. Not because they did not have the Spirit. This is not the first time that the disciples will encounter the Holy Spirit. In John 20:22, Jesus breathes on the disciples and says “receive the Spirit.” In other words, coming into Acts 1, the disciples do have the Holy Spirit in them. But there is a difference between them having the Spirit and the Spirit coming upon them. To “come upon” means to “overtake.”

So, even though the disciples have the Spirit in them after John 20, by Acts 1, they are still not ready to go into all the world. They needed to wait for the power of the Spirit to come upon them. How often do we rush out to do work for Jesus assuming that, since the Holy Spirit is in us as believers, the power of the Holy Spirit has not “come upon” us?

Would you open your heart afresh to the anointing power of God’s Spirit upon you? Would you pray for this power to come upon your church?


Note: This blog has been edited for spelling and clarity.

Prayer Meeting Devotional Overview (2/8/17)

Psalm 16:11 – “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Emphasis added)

When this passage uses the word “presence,” it is the Hebrew word paniym which refers to one’s face, or presence. Even in our culture, we understand the nature of personal space. The reality is, we allow some people to come close to our face, but if others come too close we pull away. The difference is the level of intimacy we have with that person. If our relationship is close, we welcome them to be close. Through Jesus Christ, we are allowed to draw near to the very face of God. In that closeness, we find the fullness, or abundance, of joy.

Certainly, we understand the difference between joy and happiness, but sometimes we put too much space between those two concepts. In other words, we allow there to be too much joy with so little happiness. The reality is, true joy will bring with it the emotion of happiness.

The psalmist goes on to say that at the right hand of God are pleasures forevermore. The right side is known as the place of strength and power. In other words, you will know true delight when you stand at the side of God’s power and strength because there is nothing that can come into your life that God is unable to handle.

The Psalmist speaks of finding this joy and delight in the presence of God. Now, this brings up a question we will explore in the coming weeks. Namely, since God is everywhere present, how can we come “into” His presence?

For now, let us ask God to make us a people marked by living and being in His presence.


Note:  This blog has been edited for spelling and clarity.

Press on Towards Christ – Philippians 3:12-14

We Have Not Yet Arrived

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Aggressively Advance

Paul had a form of tunnel vision.  It was the intentional, singular goal in his life – that he press on towards Christ.  Paul realized that the distractions of life would pull at him, and try to derail his efforts, keeping him from doing what God had determined before time began that he should accomplish:

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Each of us has a calling from God to do what God has planned in advance for us to accomplish.  We must strive with every ounce of energy in our bodies to do that which God desires for us to accomplish for, and in, His name.

Awaiting  Arrival

Many people would look at the ministry of Paul and say that Paul had arrived, that he had advanced as far as he could spiritually, was mature and complete, lacking in nothing.  But Paul reminds us here that he himself recognizes that he has not yet arrived.  Paul can only see one thing – Christ and Him crucified.  Paul is in the process of allowing God to nail everything that is not of God that is still in Paul to the cross of Christ.  Paul still has a sin nature he inherited from Adam, and that causes him distress:

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Forget the Former

Paul has a secret weapon that he uses effectively and mightily in the war on his flesh: He forgets what is behind.  When we dwell on the past, we are not able to focus on the future.  The past holds us in its grip, reminding us of our failures (guilt and shame), as well as our successes (pride and haughtiness), and traps us in a mental loop where we are unable to see clearly what we are doing or where we are going.  Paul reminds himself that he is forgiven.  You are forgiven!  All that you have ever done, are doing, and will do, is forgiven by God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

The ordinance of baptism is not only sign of obedience to God and to that world that you are now identifying with Christ rather than the world, it is designed, symbolically, to represent the cleansing of your sins, shedding all of the dirt of your past.  Practically, this act is designed to remove from your conscious and subconscious, all traces of guilt and shame for what has gone before.  When we go under the water, then come back up, our conscience is completely clean.  We feel new, and the burden of what was has been removed from our shoulders:

12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.

14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’ [Emphasis mine]

The blood of Christ washes our sins away.  Baptism washes the psychological effects of our sin away.  When we are baptized, we can feel that God has cleansed our conscience, and from there move forward.  If you have not been baptized because:

  • You have heard that it is legalism (it’s not – obedience to God is not legalism, it is the act of  gratitude and respect towards your Father in Heaven)
  • You have heard it is not required for salvation (it isn’t – the thief on the cross was not baptized, yet Christ promised he would be in his kingdom [also look at Joel 2:32].  Requirements are just that – absolute, inviolable precursors needed to ensure success)
  • You have heard that you don’t have to be obedient in this command

then I highly recommend that you find someone who is willing to baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit so that you can receive the blessing that comes both from obedience and the cleansing of your conscience!

Pointedly Proceed

Paul was straining towards what is ahead.  His sole focus was to keep his eyes on Christ, and continue to arrange his life in such a manner that he was passionately pursuing his own sanctification as well as the mission that God had provided to him.   Paul sought to please the Lord in everything he said, thought, and did.  He did not always succeed, but rather than live in the past, Paul strove towards the future and his goal: honoring his Lord Jesus Christ in all that he did and all that he was.

Gazing toward the Goal

The key to doing all of this is to keep our eyes focused solely upon Jesus.  There is a refrain in an old hymn that puts this in perspective:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What am I doing to press on towards the goal?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, may all praise and glory be unto the Lord God Almighty, who is worthy.  I thank You for Paul’s life as an example of how to live in a way that honors and glorifies Your name.  Thank you for showing me that perfection in this life is not possible, but it is You that looks at the hearts of men, and gives grace and mercy to all of us who fail, even though we strive with all of our hearts to obey You in everything You have said.  Grant me the strength to forgive myself, and help me to keep my eyes upon Jesus, so that I would always look forward, and leave the past behind.  Father, I know it is Satan who tries to get me to dwell in my past.  Help me to let go of the past.  And Father, I ask that you would help me to better understand how baptism cleanses my conscience.  Give me clean hands and a pure heart, unaffected by my past, that I can strive with the singular purpose of love and obedience in following Jesus.  Amen.

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Combat Training with God – 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

God Will Provide A Way For You To Honor Him When You Are Tempted/Tested

12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Proper Precautions

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Paul warns us that we should take a careful look at how we are walking.  When we think that we are doing well, and we are standing, BEWARE!  It is very likely that we will fall.  Pride has a tendency to distract us from having a proper perception of our circumstances.  While there are many who are walking properly, when we think we are walking, pay careful and close attention to your walk;  that is usually when you are about to step into a large pit of slimy quicksand up to your ears.

Common Causes

Paul tells us that there are common temptations that assail us.  The Apostle John lists them in three categories:

  1. The lust of the eyes
  2. The lust of the flesh
  3. The pride of life

These are the same methods that Satan tried to use to when he was testing Jesus after his forty day fast.  James reiterates that temptation is caused by our own evil desires:

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

There is no temptation that is unique to you; it just feels that way.  You will find, if you talk to other people whom you can trust will hold what you say in confidence, that everyone faces similar temptations.  The source may be different, but the temptation is the same.  Everyone has different triggers, and it is up to us to ask God to remove those triggers so that we can start to react differently to temptation.  Removing a trigger in you life doesn’t mean that the evil desire is removed; it means that we have more than a microsecond to remember that we can say “NO!” to the temptation rather than giving in to it.

Royal Relief

It is terrible when we feel helpless to say “NO” to temptation.  But the reason that we say “YES” is that we are not saying “NO” in the first place!  God is faithful, and He will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to bear up under it.  We may not believe that, because we have been yielding to temptation for so long that, like Pavlov’s dogs, we automatically say “YES!” when the opportunity is presented to us.  But God is not cruel, and He will provide a way for us to honor Him when we face our temptations.

Difficult Door

The way to honor God during temptation is not easy.  And we need His help to overcome all temptation.  The good news is that the blood of Jesus Christ has freed us from the bondage of sin, so we now have the CAPABILITY to say “NO!” to temptation.  But how can we do that when our bodies are weak, and fail us each and every time we are presented with a challenge?

God is faithful to provide us with many examples in the Bible on how to deal with temptation.  The very first mention of temptation was when God approached Cain, and told him that if he did what was wrong, sin was crouching at his door, but he needed to rule over it:

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Joseph was placed into a precarious situation with Potiphar’s wife.  She desired to know him physically, and even engineered a situation where they would be alone so there would be no witnesses.  When Joseph realized the situation that he was in, he escaped sin by performing the ultimate Houdini act – he escaped by running as fast as he could from the temptation.  This is not always possible, but it can be very effective.

When Nehemiah was faced with the temptation to hide in the temple from his enemies, he perceived that this was a ruse to get him to sin.  Nehemiah refused to give in to the ploy, and did not cower in the temple.  Temptation can come from may places.  It is important to remember to be vigilant in guarding ourselves against the wiles of the enemy as he tries to get us to do what is not right in the eyes of Almighty God.

Jesus Himself gave us a wonderful way to face temptation.  He used scripture to refute it.  God will give us the ability and the way to escape temptation.  However, we must remember that there may be consequences for saying “NO!”  Joseph was placed in jail after Potiphar’s wife lied about her seductress encounter with him. The fate of many of the saints in the second half of Hebrews 11 tells of their woes.

We too may face social, career, financial, and possibly many other types of loss, ruination, or troubles because we have chosen to say “NO!” to temptation.  These consequences may have lasting repercussions in our lives here on Earth, as well as our family’s lives.  Count the cost – God desires obedience in the face of opposition.  But God is faithful, and as we are obedient to Him, He will provide a way for us.  Even if that way is to be reunited with Him in glory.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: What is my tendency when I am presented with a temptation?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for Your faithfulness in all things.  Thank You for providing a way to say “NO!” to temptation.  Thank You for giving me the opportunity to honor and glorify You with my mind, my words, and my body.  Help me to be faithful, even unto death, so that You may be praised, honored and glorified.  Strengthen me during my trials, and show me the way to resist them so that I would honor You.  And when I have been backed into a corner, whether through my own fault, or the evil, sadistic, hateful plots of others to discredit and destroy me, give me the strength to do what is right, even in the face of death.  I pray that You would help me when the fallout from these encounters causes my circumstances to be grim and dire.  I know, Father, that You are sovereign over all things.  Help me to endure so that I would not lose my reward.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Legalism and God – 1 Timothy 4:1-5

Everything God Created Is Good

1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Demonic Deception

The devil has been at it since the beginning.  He has some direct responsibility with the fall of man, and continues to lash out at God in the only way he knows how – by interfering in the lives of the very beings that God created to bear His image.  Not every spirit is of God, and many have fallen prey to the teachings of evil spiritual beings.  Even now, people struggle with spiritual strongholds in their lives because they have believed something that is not true, and hold to those teachings as truth.

For instance, baptism is an ordinance of the faith.  This is something that disciples should very much desire to do.  However, baptism as an act is not required for the salvation.  Even Abraham, the first patriarch of God’s people, was shown to be saved by believing God which was credited to him as righteousness.

Heretical Hypocrites

Many who are misled are now misleading others, convinced that they alone have the true interpretation of scripture (because it is at odds with what others are saying, therefore everyone else is wrong…).  While we are all sinners, and each of us has a sin nature that impedes our ability to properly and completely follow God (rather than our sinful desires),  this can lead to a life of hypocrisy.  It is very dangerous to lecture people to do something, and then do the exact opposite in private (or worse, publicly!).  And while each of us struggle with the sinful weakness that is within each of us, we must be honest with ourselves and others lest we pass ourselves off as someone who has overcome when we have not.

Many areas of life are affected, and many deceptions are being taught even today.  Cults have arisen around people who say that marriage is evil, and that everyone should stay celibate.  Others – in Paul’s day – were Jews who were still adhering to the Levitical practices of abstaining from eating food that was deemed unclean.  Even Peter was called on this when he had a vision from God in preparation for accepting the Gentiles as being called by God.

But there is the other end of the spectrum where people believe that they are now free to do anything that they want because grace will cover any wrongdoing.  This does not take into account that we are responsible for what we do in the flesh.  We are given grace to give us time to learn the ways of God, not as an excuse to gratify our sinful nature with its desires and the resulting serious consequences.

Thoughtfully Thankful

Paul understood that we are to receive all things with thankfulness, rather than to impose the ceremonial law on them.  Elijah was a prime example.  When sequestered during the great drought that he had announced, God provided him with bread and meat from ravens (unclean creatures under the ceremonial law) to eat every day as he bid his time at the brook in the Kerith Ravine.  We are to have hearts of contentment and thanksgiving, for it is God who provides for all of our needs.  Regardless of the size and type of bounty, we can be assured that God is the one who has provided for our needs.

Created and Consecrated

Paul tells us that we should do all things in thanksgiving to God who created all things as good.  We can enjoy what God provided to us in thanksgiving, not concerning ourselves with ceremonial law.  We need to keep in mind that we are still responsible for what we do.  Paul elsewhere has said:

I have the right to do anything,” you say — but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”-but I will not be mastered by anything.

It is important to realize that although we have freedom in Christ, we are not to abuse this freedom.  We are still to conduct ourselves in a righteous manner, for we are image-bearers of God.  Paul also has said:

23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” – but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God – 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

If in doubt, ask yourself “Is what I am about to do/say/think going to honor and glorify God?”  If you cannot answer “yes” to that question, then why should you do it?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I doing all things with thanksgiving to God, for His glory, in light of His mercy and grace?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have provided all things for us to enjoy.  But even as You instructed Adam to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, keep me now from anything that would cause me to stumble.  Help me to accept that all things were created by You are good, and that while some things may not cause others to stumble, they may cause me to trip and fall.  Give me wisdom and discernment to abstain from anything that would cause me to stumble, and to accept their use by others.  Provide me with the strength and character to ensure that I am not mastered by anything, but rather that through self-control in submission to the Holy Spirit all things that I do, with thanksgiving to You, would be to Your glory.  And if I find that after a period of abstinence that something still has too great a hold in my life, help me to remove it or seek Godly council for help to stay away from whatever may cause me to fall.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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The Prophesy of Jesus – Luke 4:14-21

Jesus Fulfilled Every Prophesy That Was Ever Made Of Him

14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Spirit Supervised

Every last prophecy made of Jesus’ life has been fulfilled.  Jesus Himself, when He returned to His hometown of Nazareth, read Isaiah in the Synagogue as a teacher of the law, and ascribed it to Himself.   John the Baptist proclaimed that the Spirit of God was upon Jesus upon seeing Him at the river where John himself baptized Jesus:

32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

Salvation Spoken

Jesus has said,

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Peter also testifies to this:

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Jesus is the ONLY one who can bring us salvation.  Throughout the Bible, this is consistently witnessed, and is here and now declared by Jesus.

Freedom Found

Sin has a terrible way of making you its slave.  As we sin more and more, we feel trapped and unable to bear the burden of it and the shame in bringing it into the light of truth.  Jesus proclaimed that freedom was to be had, and that He was the one to do it.  And in the great exchange, Jesus would take from us the shame and burden of our sin and give us His righteousness instead.  Jesus truly did free the prisoners.

Saving Sight

Jesus restored the sight of those held in the chains and bondage of the darkness of sin.  Sin has the ability to blind us to the truth, for we rationalize and discard the truth for a lie when we sin.  By restoring us with the truth, He removed the scales from our eyes, and we could see clearly for the first time ever as we became spiritually alive.

Fatherly Favor

God the Father poured out his grace and mercy – His favor – upon mankind with the birth of Jesus Christ.  For it was only through His sacrifice that we were able to be reconciled to the Father.  God the Father poured out His love in the sacrifice of His Son for us.  God sacrificed what He loved most dearly so that we could be healed.  Not many fathers would sacrifice their son for another person.  But God greatly desired to pour out His favor upon us – so much so, that He wanted to adopt us as His children.  The favor of God was fulfilled in Jesus.

Formally Fulfilled

Jesus was able to rightly claim that all of these prophecies made by Isaiah had come to pass in Him.  He was the embodiment and the fulfillment of the scripture.  Jesus did not come to do away with the law (scripture), but to fulfill it.  And Jesus perfectly fulfilled every word of scripture as He lived His life perfectly submitted to and in control of the Holy Spirit of God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I believe the word of God is truthful in everything it says, no matter what circumstances may appear to be?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I cannot thank You enough for the favor You have poured out upon me in grace and mercy through the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Give me strength and wisdom to believe Your word over anything that I see or am told that is contrary to it.  Remember me and help me through Your Holy Spirit that He may confirm all that I read in Your word.  Guide me and guard me in my ways.  Help me to believe all of the prophesies that You have made, that I may not be led astray.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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The Star of Jacob – Numbers 24:17-19

And A Prophesied Star Arose In The Sky

17 “I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob;
a scepter will rise out of Israel.
He will crush the foreheads of Moab,
the skulls of all the people of Sheth.
18 Edom will be conquered;
Seir, his enemy, will be conquered,
but Israel will grow strong.
19 A ruler will come out of Jacob
and destroy the survivors of the city.”

Royal Ruler

It is ironic that Balaam, a man of divination sought out by Balak, would be used by God to bless, rather than curse, the people he was told to curse.  Not only did he bless Israel (much to the consternation of Balak, who was paying him good money to pronounce a curse), he prophesied about the coming King of kings and Lord of lords.  His reference to The Lord Jesus Christ was to name Him as a star, and as a scepter.  The wise men took star as a literal star, indicating that a sign in heaven would precede his birth.

In Genesis 1:14-15, God declared that the lights in the sky (sun, moon, and stars) would serve as signs to mark sacred times as well as days and years:

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so.

How fitting then that a star would rise in the night to point to the most blessed of events – the arrival of the Son of God, beautiful and perfect, in the most humble and ignoble of circumstances.  And not only did the star stay in the sky for his birth, but it led the wise men to Jesus:

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

(Just an interesting aside – note that the Magi (wise men) arrived at a HOUSE to find Jesus, not a stable/barn/cave.  They were led to the home of Joseph and Mary, where they worshiped the King of kings and Lord of lords, and gave their gifts.  These gifts were of special significance, not only for their symbolic value, but possibly necessary to enable Joseph to take his family and flee to Egypt to escape the murderous hatred of Herod after Joseph was warned by an angel in a dream.)

Lamb and Lion

The prophecy shows that the coming ruler would destroy His enemies.  And Christ did exactly that – for the last two thousand years, The Lord Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords, has been destroying His enemies by turning them into His friends.  Every time that a person gives their life to Christ, they have been destroyed as an enemy, and received as a child of God, a brother or sister, princes and princesses.

The reference to crushing their foreheads is interesting.  While grisly in detail, the forehead has been used elsewhere in scripture to indicate thought:

“This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips. For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”

“And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”

The use is these cases are that our thoughts (foreheads) and actions (hands) are to be governed by the law.  And when we give our lives to Christ, the Holy Spirit indwells us, and through sanctification He aligns our thoughts and our actions with the express will of God through His word.We are thus now governed by a greater power than the law (which only points our our sin) – The Lord God Almighty Himself.  What better way to destroy your enemies than to lead them in such a way that they become your willing subjects (let alone adopted family members!)?

But that was when Jesus came as a lamb.  He came as the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, and to win the hearts of men from Satan to God.  He will next be coming as the Lion of Judah, ready to destroy all who refuse to bend the knee after His gracious invitation to join Him as his friend and brother/sister.

Approaching Apantesis

The up and coming battle prophesied by Balaam will be a bit different.  In the Greek, apantesis is a term used to describe a very unique event.  When the conquering hero returns from war, the people of his city would rush out of the city gates and meet him far away.  Then, with the conquering hero, they would join him on his return to the city, with great fanfare and rejoicing:

16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.  42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

It is imperative that we be like the wise men, ready for the journey, prepared for the sign, eagerly awaiting the time that is to come, rather than Herod, mass-murderer of children, ignorant of his Savior’s birth and hating His very existence.  Be prepared!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I taking the time and effort to make the necessary preparations for the imminent return of my Savior?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your mercy, compassion, grace, and love abound in all that You say and do.  You are a jealous God, insofar as You show Your loving desire to protect me from evil.  Help me to be prepared for the return of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  He will come like a thief in the night.  And You, Father God, have warned us that He is coming.  Help me to be prepared so that I will be like the virgins who brought oil with them, waiting for the bridegroom to return.  Sanctify me in Your word.  Help me to do all that You want me to do here on Earth.  Let my life be the beacon of light on a hill, and fill my mouth and thoughts with the desire to tell everyone I meet about You.  Remove the barriers in my heart that would prevent me from being the person that You desire me to be.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Restoration by God – Psalm 71:19-21

It Is God Who Brings Down And God Who Restores

19 Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
you who have done great things.
Who is like you, God?
20 Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
21 You will increase my honor
and comfort me once more.

Regaling Righteousness

David has the foresight to recognize and desire to see that the righteousness of God is to be made known to all.  Earlier in this Psalm, David writes:

13 May my accusers perish in shame;
may those who want to harm me
be covered with scorn and disgrace.

14 As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.

15 My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
of your saving acts all day long-
though I know not how to relate them all.
16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
17 Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.

As God’s children, we should greatly desire that the glory and righteousness of God be magnified among men.  Not only should we be displaying the righteousness of God in our everyday lives, but we must also speak the truth about His righteousness to others.  Faith comes through hearing the word of God.

It has always been known by the enemies of God that faith comes through hearing.  That is one of the reasons why there is such a great effort placed on muzzling the voice of truth in society.  They know that if people hear the truth, and believe the truth, the truth will set them free.  Only by silencing the truth and then speaking lies are the enemies of God able to continue to exert their control over people.

There is an old nursery rhyme that exemplifies this truth:

Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.

This is a bald-faced lie told to children to help them cope with the emotional trauma of the power of the spoken word.  Words DO hurt.  And words CAN help.  When we pretend that what we say has no effect upon others, we deceive ourselves and lay the groundwork for all manner of mischief.  After all, if spoken lies have no power, then lying must be OK, because it doesn’t hurt anyone.  But Jesus addressed this very poignantly:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

When we lie, we murder the truth.

Terrible Trouble

God is sovereign.  We know this in our minds, but question it in our hearts when terrible things happen to people – murder, rape, theft, disease, and all other manner of difficulty and trials.  The understanding that God is sovereign and is responsible for allowing difficulty into our lives is characterized well in the life of Job.  Job recognizes the sovereignty of God, and tells his wife after his afflictions:

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

Job’s relatives, after Job had gone through his trials, acknowledged the responsibility and sovereignty of God in their actions and words to Job:

10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

We would do well to remember that God has not forgotten us in our trials, but rather has sovereignly allowed them into our lives to bring about change in us and glory to Him.  And after those trials are over, God restores us.  We must also remember that God does not do evil, but may allow evil to come into our lives through our circumstances for His purposes and our sanctification.

Rescued in Resurrection

Not everyone is restored in this life after trials.  Job and many listed in the annals of the righteous in Hebrews were restored while they lived on the Earth.  Jesus was not restored on the Earth.  He passed into glory to fulfill what God has intended for our benefit and His glory.  Many who endure great trials will not be redeemed until the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We can take heart and have peace, knowing that our pain and suffering will not last forever.  God will rescue us from all our troubles, even if it is not on this side of life.

David recognizes this and records it for us to give us the opportunity to soberly consider these things.  And just because God does not redeem a person during their life certainly does not mean that He will not redeem them going forward.  We must always have our eyes fixed upon the cross of Christ and the future glory that awaits as we will patiently wait for God to act.

Pleased in Peace

David consoles himself knowing that God will restore and increase his honor at a later time.  He knows that God will comfort him at a future time, in God’s time, for God’s purposes, to bring about the maximum glory to God.  We can rest as well in the knowledge that God will comfort us in our afflictions, for He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.  Using our intellect, we must direct our will to force our emotions into line with the truth.  Otherwise, we will be led by our emotions, and that can have disastrous consequences.  Everything has its proper place and purpose.  Let us reassure ourselves in the character, power and sovereignty of God when all seems bleak.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What comes out of our mouth when we face trials of various kinds?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your glory is over the Earth.  You are to be magnified and glorified.  My lips should be singing praises to You, and revealing Your great and mighty deeds to those who will listen.  Give me the courage to stand strong when people seek to silence the truth.  Help me to remember Your goodness and mercy and grace as You allow me to suffer through my trials.  Help me to overcome, and to speak of Your deliverance to your people so that they would be encouraged.  Help me to speak to strangers and those who do not know You that they may know that the Living God loves them and desires to be in relationship with them.  Prepare the hearts of the people, Lord God, and direct me to them that You would be magnified and glorified.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Spiritual Maturity in Christ – Hebrews 5:11-14

Crave The Milk, But Move To The Solid Food

11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Move to Maturity

When the letter to the Romans was written, there was a serious issue going on with that body of believers.  Although they had been walking with the Lord Jesus Christ as His disciples for some time, they were not maturing.  While this may seem odd, we see the same thing today in the Western Church.  We have people who have been walking with God for more than a decade who still call themselves baby Christians.  They should be at a point where you should be able to call on any one of them to come up to the front of a Sunday School class and lead it, but instead, they barely know enough to keep themselves spiritually alive in Christ.

This is the equivalent of a child who is sixteen years old and is still obtaining nourishment from his mother’s teat.  Most people would find it odd that the child has not been weaned from his mother’s milk and onto solid food (it’s a bit creepy as well).  Paul saw Christians in that same position.  These people cling to the promises of God but are not challenged by the word to grow.  They memorize passages like, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  However, they have not taken the time to dig deeper and to allow the word of the Living God to penetrate their minds and challenge them to be holy as their Father in Heaven is holy.

If the congregation is doing their job right (delving deep into the word of God and applying its principles and guidance in their lives) and the pastor is doing his job right (going deep and wide in the word of God, imparting the deeper truths about spiritual growth and development and how to implement them in everyday life), they should have the equivalent experience of a Seminary degree after five to ten years of instruction.

If your pastor is still preaching the milk of the word, and you desire the solid food of the word, talk to him and ask him to bring it to the congregation.  Most likely, the pastor will decline, citing that the congregation isn’t ready for it.  And that may indeed be true. In that case, ask that a course be developed that goes deep into the word, and be faithful in attending it.

If you have ever fasted for an extended period of time, coming off the fast requires a progression of dietary changes to prepare the body for the food.  First, liquids are introduced (broth).  After a while, more solid food is introduced with the liquid (such as well-cooked vegetable soups).  Then the body is slowly given solid food (meat is added to the soup, as well as complex starches such as beans and grain-based items).  Moving directly to solid food after an extended fast will cause issues with your digestive system (it’s bad on the Good/Bad scale).  In the same way, people who don’t want to eat solid food will try to maintain their liquid diet.

Develop Discernment

As people are weaned from the milk of the word to the solid food of the word, they need to develop discernment so that they can distinguish what is good from what is evil.  Romans 12:1-2 discusses this very thing:

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

When we submit ourselves to the word and the Holy Spirit, we grow in truth and righteousness, able to test and approve what is good and what is evil.  Our minds are transformed, and we begin to see life from the perspective of a holy, eternal God, who is perfectly complete and balanced in every aspect of His character.  We will then be able to discern what is good and righteous from what is evil and offensive to God.

If we stay with the milk of the word, and don’t move on to solid food, we are like the sixteen-year-old who still suckles his mother, acting like a baby, when he should be growing into adulthood.  It is the trials of this period of life that enable us to take on additional responsibility and develop the ability to think and make well-informed decisions.  We learn about how actions cause reactions and what is needed to move forward in their life.  It is a harsh awakening for people when they are not prepared for the world and thrown out into it to survive.  Coddled young adults generally tend to continue to act like children, and when given responsibility and privilege, abuse it as a child would.

The law in the United States allows sixteen-year-old young adults (or so we hope) to apply for a driver’s permit.  Let us hope that when the time comes, and we are called upon to learn how to drive the more difficult vehicles of life such as marriage (and procreation by implication), operation of a motor vehicle, firearm ownership, and the rights to smoke tobacco, drink alcohol, and vote for who will be in authority over us, that we will be mature enough to do these things responsibly.

In the same way, we should be learning and growing in truth and righteousness, learning discernment, so that we can rightly handle the word of God and mature into the people who God desires us to be.  One last thing to remember – milk is still good for us, but solid food is better.  Peter tells us to crave spiritual milk so that we can grow up in our salvation.  Milk is just the primer, the jump-start, and starting point.  Our goal is maturity in the solid food of the word.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I able to digest the solid food of the word of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us Your word to help us to know You and to guide us as we walk with Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Give me the ability to digest the solid food of the word, that my testing, I would develop discernment in righteousness, abstaining from what is evil, and growing in Your knowledge and grace.  Help me to mature, regardless of where I am currently in my spiritual maturity.  Show me how to better apply Your word to everyday living, and give my heart a great desire to be more obedient to You in all things.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Authority by God – Daniel 2:19-23

There Is No Authority Except That Which Is Established By God

19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said:

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.
23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

Riddle Revealed

Have you ever had a mystery in your life that neither you nor no one else could figure out?  Daniel was in that exact same place.  The king had asked a question of the wise men of his time that no one had ever asked before – to rightly divine what the king’s dream had been, and its proper interpretation.  In previous times, the king would reveal the dream and ask for the interpretation.  However, being clever, the king asked the wise men not only the interpretation to the dream, but also the dream itself.  For only the truly wise person would be able to divine both the interpretation as well as the dream.

The Lord God Almighty knows all things.  What is done in darkness is as clear as light to Him.  He is omniscient – knowing all things.  Nothing is withheld from God.  In order for God to be sovereign over all of creation, He would need to know everything that was going on in creation all of the time.  And this time was no exception.  When Daniel and his three friends prayed to the One who knows all things, God was faithful and provided the knowledge to Daniel, His chosen instrument, to deliver the message to the king.

Despots Deposed

Daniel then prayed a prayer that glorified God and reveals some interesting aspects of the character of God.  Daniel rightly proclaims that it is God who removes people from positions of authority.  While the reasons for this are the purview of God for His plan, this revelation should give us hope and assurance.

When faced with unholy rulers who oppress people rather than serving them in submission to the Lord God Almighty, those who are faithful to God should bend their knees in fervent prayer that God would remove such a one from office.  When the true disciples of God cry out for justice and Godly leadership over them, repenting of their sins and the sins of their nation, turning their faces back towards God and away from sin (in that order), humbling themselves in prayer and fasting, God will hear their prayers and heal their land.

Authority Authenticated

It is God and God alone that places leaders in their positions of power.  For God and God alone has all authority, and He delegates that authority to whomever He chooses.  For some, He delegates it in righteousness for His glory.  For others, He delegates it to bring about the discipline of His people.

Habakkuk, in an apparent prayer of despair,  cried out to God in an attempt to understand why the righteous were held back, and the wicked prospered on Earth.  God said to Habakkuk,

See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright — but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness

We must remember that it is God’s purview and His alone that allows the wicked to prosper and to be in leadership over others.  While we have every obligation to ensure that we are living righteously and living in a just manner before God, it is God and God alone who will raise up leaders and lay them low.  This is a divine attribute of God, that He and He alone has all authority and can do with it what He wants for His purposes.

Information Imparted

Since God is all-knowing, it is God’s responsibility to provide that knowledge to others.  Many try to seek wisdom and knowledge through other channels, such as divination (tarot cards, Ouija boards, palm reading, tea leaves, and any number of other methods including seeking out those who traffic with Demonic beings.  Any method of revelation of true hidden knowledge is through God and God alone.  Others may guess at the nature of truth, but only God knows it for sure.

The sad aspect of the seeking of wisdom and knowledge outside of God is that these methods lead a person down a very dark path away from God.  Whether it be Saul and the medium of Endor trying to (and from what scripture says, apparently successfully at the attempt) channel the spirit of Samuel from the dead, or others who traffic in demons, any attempt at divination is evil and hated by God.

When someone goes to a real medium (a person who is being imparted with knowledge from demonic beings impersonating the dearly departed), they may get some real information that no one else could possibly know because no other human being was present.  However angels and demons are among us.  And they communicate with each other.  The knowledge that you get may have just enough truth in it to hook you into believing that the person you consulted really does know the future.  Once a person is hooked, they will depend more and more upon the medium or method of divination rather than depending upon God for knowledge and assistance.  Our God is a jealous God, and will not allow us to serve two masters.  Free will has been given to us, and we can choose whom we will serve.  We can choose to serve God, or serve anyone or anything else.  The choice is ours.  And every choice has its consequences.

The one who goes to a medium to see if they got the job after the interview may very well be told the truth.  A demon may have been present when the HR official authorized the paperwork or verbally approved the hiring.  Perhaps there is something that only the mark knows (the person seeking information from mediums) that is told to the mark.  After all, if no other human being had been present, how could this medium know the truth of the situation (such as where the serial killer buries the bodies or disposes of them, etc.)?

For the spiritual safety of God’s people, God and God alone should be consulted for wisdom and truth.  If it is to the glory of God that it not be revealed, so be it.  If we need to wait upon God’s timing for it, so be it.  It is the impatience of man that leads us to seek knowledge and wisdom apart from God and His word.  If you are ever presented with that temptation, remember what happened to king Saul because of his impatience with God’s timing (offering up the burnt offering to God, and seeking out the medium of Endor).

Wisdom Welcomed

Daniel welcomed the wisdom that God had provided, as should we.  Regardless of the word of knowledge that we are given by God, we should treasure it and act upon it, for God has seen fit to provide us with understanding and wisdom.  God loves it when we move in obedience to His revealed word.

And when we have received the answer to our prayer, we should praise the Lord God Almighty for what He has done.  God is worthy of all praise, honor, glory, power, strength, and dominion.  Let us give great praise to the One who provides for our every need, and gives us that which we have requested.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I able to be content when waiting for God to act upon my requests (especially with the outcomes of who is in authority over the nation I live in)?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have revealed Yourself to us through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  You have given us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and to lead us into the way everlasting.  Give me patience this day as I wait for You to act, and help me to be content with the outcome that You have decreed.  Regardless of my circumstances, help me to never take my eyes off of You.  Grant me peace in my heart, and bring me around to Your way of thinking so that I can be better prepared when difficulties occur in my life.  Help me to live by faith and faith alone in You when You send wicked rulers to be over us, and help me to rejoice when You relent and send leaders that will follow You to be over us.  This I ask in the glorious name of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Combat Training with God – Joshua 14:6-12

Give A Good Report

6 Now the people of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’

10 “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

Complete Conviction

Caleb was one of only two military-age males that survived the forty-year trek through the desert.  He and Joshua were the only ones to bring back a good report of the land from the twelve spies that were sent forty-five years ago by Moses.  It was the reports of the other ten, and the fear of the hearts of the people, that caused them to wander for forty years in the desert.  Caleb had complete conviction in his heart that God would help them to overcome the inhabitants of the land that God was giving them.

Reputable Report

Caleb gave the report that with the help of God, that the people of Israel could drive out the inhabitants of the land across the Jordan.  Caleb remembered that God had parted the Red Sea and that Pharaoh and his army of chariots were completely destroyed by God when the waters collapsed upon them.  Caleb remembered that God had delivered them from the tenth plague that took the life of the firstborn male of man and cattle during the Passover.  Caleb remembered every time that God had helped His people through the most difficult situations.  It is only remembering what God has done that we can look forward and say that God will do something.

Still Strong

Caleb then declares that, after eighty-five years, he is still strong and able-bodied, and requests that Joshua give him the hill country of the Anakites.  Caleb knows that regardless of his physical age, God is able to provide for him and his family.  Caleb knew that God is not able to go back on His word.  And God had said that the land that his feet tread upon would be his.  Caleb was merely claiming what God had already provided.  It should be noted that he took the most difficult of terrains available, in part because no one else wanted them, and in part because they were the best and most defensible.  Finally, he requested them because God had already given them to him – his feet had tread upon that land.  The other ten had already died.  Caleb had the pick of the land, and he chose the most difficult part of the land.  With great risk can come great reward.  And since God is for you, who can be against you?

Fight the good Fight

In all of this, Caleb was ready to go out and to take what God had promised him.  Caleb was fighting the good fight, not depending upon his strength or ability, but rather upon the strength and ability that God is able to provide.  He was merely going out to get what God had already given him.  Caleb had the eternal perspective that God had, and that gave him the confidence to go and take the most difficult and fortified regions of the land because it was God would be fighting for him and with him.  When we have been given a word from God, we should approach it in the same fashion.  Have a firm conviction in your heart that God will do what He says He will do, and then go and do what God has told you to do, regardless of what your circumstances appear to be.  For if God has said it, it is already done and written in stone.  For no one can change what God has already said will be done.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I claiming through obedience what God has already promised me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have been gracious to Your servant.  Give me the strength and courage to do all that You have commanded me to do, and to leave the results up to You.  Help me to be faithful and obedient in all that You have revealed to me, and let not my heart faint when giants oppose me.  Rather, help me to be like David and Caleb, that I would remember that You are fighting for me, and have already gone out before me, and let me rush at my enemies that they would know I am not afraid, and that You are the all-powerful Lord God Almighty.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?