Take Up the Cross and Follow Him 23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily (the symbol of our death to self), and follow Me.
24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.
25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? ———
Romans 12:1 J.B. Phillips New Testament
We have seen God’s mercy and wisdom:how shall we respond? 1-2 With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him.
Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity. ———
Paul told the Roman Christians how to live so that their behavior would be worshipful to God.
God desires you to surrender every part of your life to Him.
Would you buy a house if you were only allowed to see one of its rooms? Would you purchase a car if you were permitted to see only its tires and a taillight? Would you pass judgment on a book after reading only one paragraph?
Nor would I. Good judgment requires a broad picture. Not only is that true in purchasing houses, cars, and books, it’s true in evaluating life.
One failure doesn’t make a person a failure; one achievement doesn’t make a person a success.
“The end of the matter is better than its beginning,” penned the sage.
“Be patient when trouble comes . . ., ” echoed the apostle Paul. . . . We only have a fragment.
Life’s mishaps and horrors are only a page out of a grand book.
We must be slow about drawing conclusions. We must reserve judgment on life’s storms until we know the whole story. . . .
“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”
He (Jesus) should know. He is the Author of our story. And He has already written the final chapter. (From In the Eye of the Storm by Max Lucado)
Wed, April 28 My Utmost for His Highest By Oswald Chambers
WHAT YOU WILL GET
“I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.” — Jeremiah 45:5
This is the firm and immovable secret of the Lord to those who trust Him – “I will give your life to you….”
What more does a man want than his life?
It is the essential thing. “…your life…as a prize…” means that wherever you may go, even if it is into hell, you will come out with your life and nothing can harm it.
So many of us are caught up in exhibiting things for others to see, not showing off property and possessions, but our blessings.
All these things that we so proudly show have to go. But there is something greater that can never go– the life that “is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
Are you prepared to let God take you into total oneness with Himself, paying no more attention to what you call the great things of life?
Are you prepared to surrender totally and let go?
The true test of abandonment or surrender is in refusing to say, “Well, what about this?”
Beware of your own ideas and speculations. The moment you allow yourself to think, “What about this?” you show that you have not surrendered and that you do not really trust God.
But once you do surrender, you will no longer think about what God is going to do.
Abandonment means to refuse yourself the luxury of asking any questions.
If you totally abandon yourself to God, He immediately says to you, “I will give your life to you as a prize….”
The reason people are tired of life is that God has not given them anything — they have not been given their life “as a prize.”
The way to get out of that condition is to abandon yourself to God. And once you do get to the point of total surrender to Him, you will be the most surprised and delighted person on earth.
God will have you absolutely, without any limitations, and He will have given you your life.
If you are not there, it is either because of disobedience in your life or your refusal to be simple enough. ———
In 2 Maccabees 2:2, the writer records that before Jerusalem’s fall to Babylon, Jeremiah took the Ark of the Covenant along with other sacred items and hid them in a cave on a mountain outside the city and sealed the entrance.
Ron wyatt is the brothers (now in heaven) who claims to have found both Noah’s Ark & the Ark of the Covenant; as well as Mount Sinai and the spot where the Red Sea crossing occurred.
Listen to this recording where you get to hear Ron Wyatt’s testimony about how he found the Ark of the Covenant, with the blood of Jesus on top of the mercy seat; and how he had that blood tested at a lab.
Being a Christian means we must learn to follow Jesus, as our Master Rabbi, and learn to walk as He walked, disciplining ourselves and practicing this lifestyle (of the presence of God in our life) 24/7 365…
CORE RHYTHMS – GOING DEEPER IN OUR LIFE WITH GOD April 12, 2010
INTRODUCTION The Christian faith begins and ends with Jesus Christ the incarnate God.
The Scriptures all testify about him (Luke 24:25-27) and he is quite literally the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
Furthermore, Jesus is many things to his people. He is the great revealer of God’s Word to us, he made sacrifice for our sins by his own death and resurrection and he is our king and leader.
His life is also an example for us in how to walk on earth in full surrender and harmony with our creator. His life had a certain pattern and rhythm to it of which we are called to be imitators (Ephesians 5:1,2, 1 Corinthians 11:1).
We are not called to ask what Jesus would do in some hypothetical way, but we are to know him personally and follow him with wisdom in the contours of our lives.
One of the things we see over and over in the life of Jesus is a path of constant contact and communion with God.
His life was given in joyful obedience and fellowship with his heavenly father; we desire our lives to have a similar rhythm. Christian Philosopher Dallas Willard makes note of this simple yet profound connection:
My central claim is that we can become like Christ by doing one thing—-by following him in the overall style of life he chose for himself.
If we have faith in Christ, we must believe that he knew how to live. We can, through faith and grace, become like Christ by practicing the types of activities he engaged in, by arranging our whole lives around the activities he himself practiced in order to remain constantly at home in the fellowship of his Father.
Yet there remains a major difference between us and Jesus. Jesus lived in complete and perfect harmony with the Father and we struggle forward with our sinfulness while he works on us day by day.
Jesus lived in communion with God in a complete way and our lives struggle in finding our rhythm in keeping in step with God.
Now let me also make something clear, Jesus lived his life on earth as a spiritually empowered human being, not some sort of superman.
He was tempted in every way yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He grew tired and frustrated with life just as we do, but stayed intimately connected with the Father.
We can become like him as God leads us as well, we just fall short at times where he did not. That is why WE follow HIM.
For us to live like Jesus we must examine the regular practices and flow of our own lives.
Rather than jumping right to an exhortation about the things we need to be doing, I want us to begin by looking at the heart behind certain spiritual activities.
If we do not initially cultivate a heart for God we will only create a list of duties which is disconnected from our relationship with God. This never goes well and ends up with wearisome and lifeless religion.
In this essay we will travel the following road together. First, we will discuss our deep need to regularly meet with God in order to be transformed and live in harmonious friendship with him.
Furthermore, in doing so, we need to find freedom in our surrender to his purposes in our lives as our King.
We will do this by looking at two helpful biblical metaphors which deal with appearing before God.
Second, we will discuss the role of what we call spiritual disciplines or means of grace in shaping our lives.
God has given his people certain practices to help transform us and grow us in friendship with him.
At this point we are going to shake it up a little and talk about disciplines using the metaphor of a dance.
God calls us to learn the rhythms of gospel life and mission together as we flow with him.
I am using this metaphor for two reasons:
1) to help out the guys as the ladies love to dance. Just kidding; but dancing is just all right with me,
2) more seriously, I like the metaphor as it portrays our relationship with God as the joyful pursuit which it truly is.
Finally, we will give a brief overview of each of the rhythms we will discuss as a community over the next eight weeks.
So let us appropriately begin with our need for God.
OUR NEED TO APPEAR BEFORE GOD In the Old Testament we read the following heart cry from the Psalmist.
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1, 2)
We live a daily struggle to connect with God because our world and our lives are out of rhythm and disjointed from him.
The Scriptures teach us that God created all things good for his purposes.
The universe and human beings were made to be in rhythm with their creator celebrating his goodness, power and glory.
Yet because of the sin and rebellion of human beings the rhythm of the world is now out of sync with its maker.
Creation groans containing both the echoes of an original harmony amidst current brokenness and futility (See Genesis 3 and Romans 8).
The good news of Jesus Christ has vast implications as it is God’s promise to redeem our lives and reconnect us with God.
Furthermore, the promise of the cross of Christ is that all things will be made new and brought back into perfect harmony in the coming Kingdom of God.
In the present age we struggle forward and long for this coming redemption that has started in us by faith in Jesus.
In Christ God has made a way back to the paradise which was lost in Eden both in reconnecting us personally with God and bringing all things under the Lordship of Jesus (See Ephesians 1).
In fact, the Kingdom will be better than Eden…really, it will.
The cry of the Psalmist above is a cry for reconnection with God in the midst of a world of sin, chaos, enemies, personal wandering, sadness and depression.
His soul is longing for God; for communion with and intimacy with the Father.
He wants to personally appear before God in worship.
There are two biblical metaphors which describe well the aspect of appearing before God; we will treat them ever so briefly here as I think they help us to get to the heart of the gospel and the “why” behind certain spiritual practices.
The Face of God – Favor in Relationship –
The Scriptures speaks of someone’s face representing their character and presence.
To seek the face of God is to seek his favor and an audience with him.
If God hides his face from his people, they feel distant and far from him like abandoned children. (See Psalm 27)
If God were to allow his face to shine upon them they experience the joy of his pleasure and salvation (See Psalm 80).
This metaphor is also extended in the New Testament where we are told the light of the knowledge of the glory of God is seen in the face of Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 4).
In Jesus we receive mercy, grace and favor from God.
His face upon us shifts from guilt and condemnation for our sins to fellowship and joy with our Savior.
Here we see the reality of the pleasantness and friendship involved with the favor/face of our Creator.
We want to appear before him in this sort of friendship.
The Throne of God – Bowing before our King –
Another metaphor of appearing before God deals with a throne.
God is presented in Scripture as a high, lofty, holy and majestic King (See Isaiah 6).
To come before his throne is to come in a posture of reverent fear and respect for our King.
We dare not approach him unless we come in his favor (See Psalm 89:1-18 and Revelation 4).
Both of these metaphors are needed for us to understand our relationship to God as his creatures and his children.
The gospel reestablishes relationship and the gospel brings joyful submission and surrender of our lives to God.
We understand that in the gospel, God is both our father/friend and sovereign king.
Some treat God in such a way that he is domesticated into our equal. Let me be clear, friendship with God is not the same as having a buddy.
Furthermore, some make God such a high and distant king that we forget that Jesus calls us his friends.
Both of these realities provide for us the right posture as we relate to almighty God. This sort of posture of appearing before God is articulated well in the book of Hebrews.
“14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” — Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV)
Here we come before the throne of God our King with the faithful advocacy of our high priest Jesus.
We come to a friend on the throne, but we only come as we have been forgiven on his terms.
We come as worshippers in need of mercy, grace and help. This is the posture in which we need to come to before God.
How do we arrive before the face and throne of God?
How do we connect in deep relationship and joyful surrender to our King?
Through the gospel!
In the gospel God has given us paths to walk which lead us precisely to these realities.
It is not a formula; it is a struggle forward driven by our desire and love for God.
The spiritual practices, disciplines and rhythms of life begin with a longing for relationship with God in Jesus Christ.
They place us in a proper posture to receive from him and be transformed by him. They help us, as a Christian long ago once said, to practice the presence of God.
THE DANCE OF THE GOSPEL In talking about spiritual practices and rhythms we are never leaving doctrinal truth behind.
In fact it is the truth of the gospel that provides grounds for all our spiritual practices.
We live certain rhythms in relationship to God who is revealed in truth.
Our theology should point to the One we love and desire to be more like, not to gods of our own making and imagination.
Our practices and rhythms are the enjoyable paths which enable the transformation and fruitful lives to take place.
The late Francis Schaeffer once said it this way:
“In the last analysis it is never doctrine alone that is important. It is always doctrine appropriated that counts…We may know the truth, we may have the knowledge, but it has not been appropriated, and so it will not mean anything to us in practice, and the fruit will not be born.”
So we begin with gospel truth and then we move towards certain rhythms of life which God uses to change our lives.
If we use the metaphor of a dance, the gospel is the music and the steps will be our spiritual disciplines and practices.
We’ll return to the dance a bit, but before that I want us to walk through some history together.
Throughout the history of the church, God’s people have sought to live lives marked by certain biblical practices.
Prayer, Silence, Solitude, Meditation, Study, Preaching, Baptism, Communion and Mission come to mind.
Some have called these means of grace as the things which God uses to change us.
Others have used the term spiritual disciplines reflecting the biblical language from 1 Timothy 4:7, 8:
“7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;
8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
The word train yourself in this passage has often been translated discipline or exercise yourself and for good reason.
The word here is gumnázō which literally meant to exercise/train at the gymnasium for the purpose of athletic competition.
It means we should undertake disciplined spiritual training much like an athlete trains her body for competition.
It means spiritually, we need to regularly hit the gym.
Throughout the history of the church there have been people who focused with extreme energy on the disciplined life of spiritual practices.
In the first few centuries after Jesus, people known as anchorite monks would withdraw from society to live alone as hermits in the Egyptian dessert.
Their goal was to remove themselves from all things worldly to focus solely in solitude on God.
One of the most famous was a man named Anthony who became legendary for his devotion to God and even weighed in on the side of orthodoxy against the followers of Arius who claimed Jesus was not fully divine.
Another rather famous ascetic monk was a man by the name of Simeon the Stylite.
His name was derived from the Greek word style which meant “pillar” or “pole.”
Desiring solitude from the world and the pressing needs of humanity this guy lived on a one meter square on the top of a pillar for 39 years.
Yes, to love Jesus he sat on a pole by himself in prayer and meditation for almost four decades.
Now, I could not do this.
One, I am called to some things in the mission of God that involve other people.
Two, I don’t think the sitting on a pole thing would work for me. Just sayin.
All this to say that focused discipline has been a part of Christian history in various flavors from the beginning.
Over time the lone monk gave way to monastic orders where men, and women in the case of convents, would withdraw in communities to focus on spiritual practices and seeking God.
Such strict discipline was always the realm of the few in times past, but we are not all called to a monkish existence even though on some crazy busy days a retreat from the chaos of the wordl does sound quite attractive.
The Scriptures do however call all followers of Jesus to implement certain rhythms and practices in our everyday lives.
Ancient, biblical practices of disciplined devotion should mark our paths in the modern world.
Yet today, even the word discipline can be misunderstood by some to mean some tortuous drudgery, so I want to use the terminology of gospel rhythms to express these practices as a joyful walk with God.
I also want to be clear that maintaining gospel rhythms in life is WORK and requires real DISCIPLINE.
We know that God’s purpose is to transform us to be more like Jesus (Romans 8:29, 30).
God is making us more like him in character, more like him in what we love, more like him in the way we go about our business here on the earth.
Yet many just want to say a prayer, have an experience, get a spiritual buzz and “poof!” become instant, mature, spiritual people.
No sweat, no work, no struggle.
After a while we find out that this just doesn’t work. The Christian faith is not a magic trick; it is daily discipleship following our Lord.
OK, back to dancing.
I think if you know what it takes to dance really well you will realize it indeed involves some work and discipline.
Just take the show Dancing with the Stars as an example.
The training involved to learn to dance in a new way, with a new flow and with a partner is quite rigorous.
On the show some sort of celebrity is partnered with a pro that is charged to teach and train said celebrity to dance.
They are whipped into shape by an arduous regiment of dance training.
As an aside, my favorite contestant had to be Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple computer…I think they said he looked like a Tele Tubby while doing his thing.
Dang Steve! Anyway, when you think about the dance for a minute you will realize that someone leads, someone follows.
Sanctification, the progressive work of God in our lives making us more like Jesus, is a bit like learning to dance.
God plays the music and leads his people; he gives us certain rhythms and steps that we must learn. We must do some work and we must follow.
If you have seen “The Carlton Dance” on the old school show the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, you realize that not everyone has the same kind of rhythm.
However, in the gospel we have the music and the beats that all of Jesus’ followers can flow to.
Let’s close by looking at the gospel rhythms that are core, or central, to our lives with Jesus.
CORE GOSPEL RHYTHMS God not only ordains the end for our lives, becoming like Jesus, but he also has designed the means to that end.
Gospel Rhythms are gifts to our lives to return us to the story of redemption, renew our minds with truth, refuel our souls with spiritual food and keep us connected in life giving relationship with God.
These rhythms are not simply made up by human beings, nor are they divine suggestions, but they are indeed gifts from God for every believer.
You may have a tendency to enjoy one more than another due to your unique design by God, but each is important.
Furthermore, there is a diversity of expression within the body of Christ of devotion and connection to God.
Some are more drawn to study, others more towards long walks in nature praying to God.
We also must realize that there should be no Christian life that is devoid of scripture, prayer and other gospel rhythms exemplified and commanded by Jesus.
In other words, you may like study better than prayer, but you need to pray.
You may like serving the needy more than you like meditating on Scripture, but you need biblical intake or your spiritual life will starve.
All of these rhythms are important for us but it is a reflection of the diversity of the church that you may feel drawn more towards one or the other.
One final note is in order.
The gospel rhythms we will discuss here are by no means exhaustive of the practices in the Bible.
There are certainly other things we do as believers and certainly other things which could be listed under spiritual disciplines for the Christian life.
We are simply covering a few practices we walk in as individuals and as a community of faith.
Scripture: Study and Meditation Much can be said about the study of the Bible, the Word of God, and the importance it has in our lives as followers of Jesus.
Author Donald Whitney is blunt and to the point in stating:
“No Spiritual Discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word. Nothing can substitute for it. There is simply no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture. The reasons for this are obvious. In the Bible God tells us about Himself, and especially about Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God.
The Bible unfolds the Law of God to us and shows us how we’ve all broken it. There we learn how Christ died as a sinless, willing Substitute for breakers of God’s Law and how we must repent and believe in him to be right with God. In the Bible we learn the ways and will of the Lord.”
Jesus tells us the importance of the Bible in quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 –
“Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
The most desirable possession we have been given are the very words of God.
The Bible is the solid food for our lives which align us with the heart of God.
He speaks through the Scriptures, which the author of Hebrews describes as “living and active sharper than any double edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12)
Paul told Timothy that the inspired Scriptures are useful for “teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness” to prepare our lives for everything God will call us to do (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
The importance of the Bible cannot be overstated. If we love God, we will love his Word; we will realize that without a word from God we would wither away spiritually and die.
The believer therefore will desire to be intimately involved with the Bible.
She will want to hear it taught and preached regularly. She will want to memorize it, hiding it in her heart. She will want to read it daily for encouragement and study it deeply so to grasp its truth and meaning. She will want to meditate, think deeply upon, and ponder the wisdom of the Word of God.
Meditation is a word which has almost been completely absorbed by a conception of the practice found in Eastern philosophies.
Eastern meditation, of the Hindu and Buddhist flavors, is a practice in which a person attempts to empty the mind, even remove/eradicate the self into the oneness of being.
It is a looking inward with the mind completely disengaged.
Biblical meditation is a completely different sort and it is lacking today in the lives of God’s people.
Meditation of the Biblical species is a contemplation of God, his words, his character and his works.
It is a filling of the mind with wonderful thoughts of God; his work in saving us, his works in creation, his works in history and in the world today.
It is allowing the Word of God to dwell, to linger, to simmer in our souls deeply.
Colossians 3:16 encourages us to Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
The goal of biblical mediation is to arouse the affections, to still the heart and to set it aflame.
Mediation should lead us to prayer; something which meditation will help us find a little easier to do.
In summary, in God’s Word he speaks to us, in our time in prayer we enter an intimate conversation with the Almighty.
To prayer we now turn.
Prayer and Fasting Perhaps the greatest privilege you have as a believer is that of prayer.
The fact is the creator of the universe desires for you to intimately communicate with him each day.
Prayer can be viewed as simply talking with God, sharing with him your thoughts, concerns, and desire to walk closely with him.
In prayer we can find help, guidance, and strength to face life’s many tough challenges.
In prayer we also find that the very one who made all things desires an audience with you; for you to worship him, to confess your sins to him, to thank him for all things, and to petition him with your needs.
But to be honest, most of us get too spazzed out in life to have any real prayer life.
The cell phones ring, TVs buzz, Facebook notifies, e-mails arrive, tweets flow down the screen and blogs update, etc. making us a rather distracted people.
I know I personally struggle to carve out time to pray during the day.
Peter reminds us of a very important aspect for a life of prayer when he writes,
“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7).
We must be self-controlled, mindful of eternal realities, and focused on the coming of Jesus.
This is precisely why we so need to sit our butts down to be alone and pray.
How it dries up the soul to run around all the time without quiet, peace, not being conscious of the company of God!
In prayer we can find the mercy and help we need in every struggle (Heb 4:16), we see God align our wills to his own (Matt 6:9-13), we find grace and forgiveness for sin, and we enjoy the presence and nearness of God. Oh how we all need to make time for prayer!
Fasting has long been a part of the lives of the followers of Jesus, but many times it can be misunderstood or altogether neglected.
Put very simply, fasting is the abstention from something for spiritual reasons.
Richard Foster has defined it this way: Fasting is the voluntary denial of a normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.
In the Bible people would abstain from food, at times water as well, and married couples from sex for times of prayer (really, see 1 Corinthians 7:1-5).
Fasting is a way to express the worth of God over temporal things, to seek him in concentrated prayer, to confess sin and show contrition of heart. Both the Old and New Testament show believers fasting.
We’ll take just a quick peek.
In the Old Testament Moses fasted before receiving the law of God (Deut 9:9), the Jewish people fasted for Queen Esther before she went before a king (Esther 4), King David fasts and prays when his son is stricken ill (2 Samuel 12), and the nation of Israel fasts corporately on several occasions to show repentance, consecrate themselves to God and ask his favor (2 Chron 20, Joel 2, Nehemiah 9).
Additionally every Jew would fast on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31) as the people went to God for atonement for sin.
Even the Ninevites fasted to show repentance at the preaching of Jonah.
In the New Testament, Jesus implicitly assumed his followers would fast when he said to them:
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.
Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18, emphasis added).
Jesus expected us to fast in certain seasons for dedicated times of spiritual pursuit, where we say before God, “You are more valuable to me than my normal needs and schedule.”
One point of emphasis needs to be made; we should always fast to seek God himself, not as a way to manipulate his hand to give us what we want.
It is a declaration that what we desire is in fact our God, not the gifts he may give to our lives…be they food, drink, marital intimacy, or even television.
A good fast in modern times is to give up media (iPod, internet, movies, TV) for a period of time to intentionally seek the Lord.
These things can be good for our enjoyment, but you would be surprised at how the Lord would speak to you if you set aside time to be alone, in silence, with his word, for prayer.
I commend such fasts to you today.
Many helpful books have been written recently to assist the church in fasting.
Work and Rest In the Scripture God calls us to a rhythm and balance between work and rest.
God has woven into the nature of creation a need to be active and a need to rest.
Our bodies need to sleep or they quickly break down.
The land needs to be left fallow or it will become depleted and dead lacking the vitality to bring forth produce.
God in his kindness modeled and gave to humanity the concept and command for Sabbath Rest whereby we work six days and leave one day for rest and worship (Exodus 20:8-11; Mark 2:23-28).
The rhythms of work/rest should occur daily, weekly, and seasonally in our lives for our good and for the glory of God.
Some of us in America must learn to rest in order to worship and honor our God.
Some of us are slackers and need to work a bit more.
We should see the sanctity of work as a gift from God and a calling by him.
We also need to see the love of God for us in telling us to slow it down and chill out regularly.
Sabbath rest allows the soul to readjust its gaze to the big picture of life and our worship and dependence on its maker.
Historically, both Jews and Christians have taken a day to rest and worship.
The Jewish community on the 7th day and the early Christians (all Jewish by the way) moved the day of worship to Sunday.
Why? To worship the risen Christ on the day he was raised triumphantly over death.
Due to our history in America being shaped by both communities we have a two day weekend. The actual day is not the important issue, maintaining a rhythm of work rest is the issue. We need to adjust ourselves to this gospel rhythm in our lives.
[NOTE: to read the entire article, you may download a complete copy of this paper (in pdf format) – here.]
In our fast pace, ever changing world that we live in today, it would seem that things are changing faster today than ever before; and as it were, most people and I think this is especially true of most Christians, we don’t particularly care for change.
It would seem that the older we get, the more true it becomes that we feel more comfortable and secure in maintaining the status quo.
That being said, there are certain things in life that are not meant to change.
In Proverbs 22:28, we’re told to, “Pass not beyond the ancient bounds which our forefathers have set;” and I would include that to encompass the cultural standards and boundaries of right and wrong that GOD has set forth in His Word.
Other than violating God’s commandments, found in His Word, change ultimately is a part of life.
As Born-again Christians, we’re not designed for safe harbors, rather we have been ordained of God to follow Christ.
1 John 2:6 Whoever says he abides in Him (in Christ) ought to walk in the same way in which He (Jesus) walked.
When Jesus was explaining to Nicodemus the absolute necessity that every man must be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God, He gave us some important insight on this subject of change.
In John chapter 3:5-8, Jesus tells us,
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You MUST be born again.’
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.
So is EVERYONE who is born of the Spirit.” ———
The Wind of the Spirit is controlled by God and it’s ALWAYS changing.
That’s why in order for us to follow God and be guided by the Holy Spirit, we must learn to live by faith and not by sight.
Proverbs 3:5-6 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
One of my favorite scriptures in the Bible is found in Psalms 37:4, where GOD promises to give us the desires of our heart if we delight in Him.
If you look up the word “delight,” in Hebrew, you’ll find that it means to be soft and pliable; in other words to be teachable like clay, in the hands of the Master Potter.
And so if we’re going to follow Jesus eventually we’re going to have to learn to cast our faith out into the deep, where Jesus is, beyond the safe harbors of life!
Listen to these words of Jesus:
John 14:15 Jesus speaking: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.
John 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
Let us take the time daily to know Him to be still and listen to His voice (See Psalms 46:10), and then do what He tells us to do.
Be still and know God:
Joy in the Silence
“My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my hope is from him.” — Psalm 62:5
In our hectic, noisy world, the spiritual discipline of silence is becoming more and more difficult to exercise.
To do so you would have to intentionally put yourself in a quiet place to focus on God and His presence, no speaking, no technology, no entertainment, no listening to voices of other people.
That would be pretty hard to accomplish these days, wouldn’t it?
Even in the early mornings when I sit in the dark sipping my coffee, I am aware of noise: the clock ticking, the computer humming, the birds beginning to chirp, a cell phone letting me know a text has arrived.
Times of daily silence and stillness before the Lord are essential if I am going to hear Him speak.
God is present and speaking in the midst of our turbulent world.
Listen to Him. He is saying, “I am in control, child. I am here for your every care and every need.
You are mine, and you are my beloved.”
The enemy would love to fill your life with noise and distraction. But you can wait silently for God alone, the One in whom all your true hope rests.
INSIGHT It takes time and quietness to listen to God.
“The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him” (Habakkuk 2:20). [from Anchor devotion – Haven ministries] ———
In my Bible reading today, I’m starting at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel.
And as I often do, when starting a new book, I often read from Eugene Peterson’s book entitled “The Invitation,” which gives a summary of each book in the Bible.
I thought this introduction to the book of Matthew was quite insightful.
I particularly like the part that says,
“Jesus is the coming together in final form of themes and energies and movements that had been set in motion before the foundation of the world.”
MATTHEW Fulfilled by Eugene H Peterson
The story of Jesus doesn’t begin with Jesus.
God had been at work for a long time.
Salvation, which is the main business of Jesus, is an old business.
Jesus is the coming together in final form of themes and energies and movements that had been set in motion before the foundation of the world.
Matthew opens the New Testament by setting the local story of Jesus in its world historical context.
He makes sure that as we read his account of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we see the connections with everything that has gone before.
In fact, in his account of Jesus’ birth alone, Matthew reminds his readers of two Old Testament prophecies being fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah.
Watch for this —a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son; they will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”). (Matthew 1: 23, quoting Isaiah 7: 14)
It’s you, Bethlehem, in Judah’s land, no longer bringing up the rear.
From you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel. (Matthew 2: 5-6, quoting Micah 5: 2)
“Fulfilled”is one of Matthew’s characteristic verbs: such and such happened “that it might be fulfilled.”
Jesus is unique, but he is not odd.
Better yet, Matthew tells the story in such a way that not only is everything previous to us completed in Jesus; we are completed in Jesus.
Every day we wake up in the middle of something that is already going on, that has been going on for a long time: genealogy and geology, history and culture, the cosmos —God.
We are neither accidental nor incidental to the story. We get orientation, briefing, background, reassurance.
Matthew provides the comprehensive context by which we see all God’s creation and salvation completed in Jesus, and all the parts of our lives —work, family, friends, memories, dreams —also completed in Jesus, who himself said, “Don’t suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures —either God’s Law or the Prophets.
I’m not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama”(Matthew 5: 17).
Lacking such a context, we are in danger of seeing Jesus as a mere diversion from the concerns announced in the newspapers. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Matthew’s gospel was primarily directed to the Jews, pointing out all the many prophecies, in the Tanakh (Jewish Old Testament), that were fulfilled in Jesus’ life and ministry, which He performed here on Earth, from age 30 to 33.
The Bible tells us that God lives in eternity, which means He lives outside of our time space continuum, both of which He has created for our benefit.
I think this point is emphasized quite well in Isaiah 46:9-10:
“9 Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me,
10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying,
‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’ “ ———
Eternity is not a long time, but rather it’s the absence of time and space, as we understand it.
The Bible tells us that we each have been created with a destiny and a purpose, and that God’s plan of redemption, for Adam and his descendants, began before God laid the foundation of the Earth.
In Revelation 13:8 we read: “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
When attempting to understand a verse, it always helps to look for other verses containing similar words or phrases.
Scripture should be compared with Scripture; after all, every verse is related to at least one other verse.
This method of cross-referencing increases the likelihood of exegesis (interpreting the text as Almighty God intended) and minimizes the possibility of eisegesis (interpreting it to fit our own biases and preconceived ideas).
We find something similar in 1 Peter chapter 1:
“19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.” ———
Long before Adam was created and placed on the Earth, long before he sinned in the Garden of Eden, long before Calvary’s crosswork was ever accomplished to undo the damage of sin, that crosswork had already occurred in the mind of the triune Godhead.
Jesus Christ’s destiny was predetermined long before He ever became a man, and long before there ever was a creation.
Nothing in His earthly life occurred fortuitously; even His miraculous birth and graphic death were in the Godhead’s eternal plan!
“Lo, I come to do thy will,” Messiah Jesus, quoting Psalm 40, told His Father at His incarnation (Hebrews 10:7-9).
If you read verses 10-22 of Hebrews chapter 10, you will see the cross!!
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—in their omniscience (all-knowledge)—could actually look into the future, down the corridor of time, to see that the Son would suffer and die on Cavalry’s cruel cross.
All three Persons would cooperate to work to that end. It was all settled fact in Heaven before it even came to pass on Earth.
[Quoted from: For What Saith the Scriptures? – arC Ministries’ Bible Questions Answered from the Dispensationally-Delivered Scriptures]
And the Bible says about each of us, that we also were created with a destiny and a purpose that was formed before the foundation of the Earth.
Romans 8:29-30 “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified;
those he justified, he also glorified.”
Ephesians 1:5; 11 “He (God) predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will…
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.”
Psalm 139:16 Living Bible (TLB)
16 You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book! ———
My point is God already has a plan and purpose for the Earth, for the future our nation and for each of us as individuals.
Nothing that happens, in the earth or in our individual lives, catches Him by surprise.
For God’s destiny to be fulfilled in our lives, the Bible tells us that we must first allow the Holy Spirit to rewrite the corrupt programming that we have received from the world; and this is done first as we immerse ourselves in God’s Word (the Bible), and thereby put on the mind of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 2:16 and Philippians 2:5); and secondly as we learn to trust God with all of our heart, not leaning on our own understanding; and then by acknowledging Him in all of our ways, He promises that He is directing our steps (see Proverbs 3:5-6), as we learn to walk by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
George Mueller’s Timeless Advice for Growing in Faith…
Expanded Bible (EXB)
35 So do not ·lose [throw away] ·the courage you had in the past [or your confident trust in God; or your boldness], which has a great reward.
36 You must ·hold on [persevere; endure], so you can do ·what God wants [the will of God] and receive what he has promised. 37 For in a very short time [Is. 26:20],
“The One who is coming will come and will not delay.
38 ·Those who are right with me [L My righteous one] will live by faith.
But if they ·turn back with fear [shrink back],
·I [L My soul] will not be pleased with them [Hab. 2:3–4].”
39 But we are not those who ·turn back [shrink back] and are ·lost [destroyed]. We are people who have faith ·and are saved [leading to the possession/ preservation of life/the soul].
Let not Satan deceive you in making you think that you could not have the same faith but that it is only for persons who are situated as I am.
When I lose such a thing as a key, I ask the Lord to direct me to it, and I look for an answer to my prayer; when a person with whom I have made an appointment does not come, according to the fixed time, and I begin to be inconvenienced by it, I ask the Lord to be pleased to hasten him to me and I look for an answer; when I do not understand a passage of the word of God, I lift up my heart to the Lord, that He would be pleased, by His Holy Spirit to instruct me, and I expect to be taught, though I do not fix the time when, and the manner how it should be; when I am going to minister in the Word, I seek help from the Lord, and while I, in the consciousness of natural inability as well as utter unworthiness begin this His service, I am not cast down, but of good cheer, because I look for His assistance, and believe that He, for His dear Son’s sake will help me.
And thus in other of my temporal and spiritual concerns I pray to the Lord, and expect an answer to my requests; and may not you do the same, dear believing reader?
Oh! I beseech you, do not think me an extraordinary believer, having privileges above other of God’s dear children, which they cannot have; nor look on my way of acting as something that would not do for other believers.
Make but trial! Do but stand still in the hour of trial, and you will see the help of God, if you trust in Him.
But there is so often a forsaking the ways of the Lord in the hour of trial, and thus the food of faith, the means whereby our faith may be increased, is lost.
This leads me to the following important point.
You ask, “How may I, a true believer, have my faith strengthened?”
The answer is this, George Mueller said:
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17).
As the increase of faith is a good gift, it must come from God, and therefore He ought to be asked for this blessing.
The following means, however, ought to be used, according to George Mueller:
1. The careful reading of the word of God, combined with meditation on it.
Through reading of the word of God, and especially through meditation on the word of God, the believer becomes more and more acquainted with the nature and character of God, and thus sees more and more, besides His holiness and justice, what a kind, loving, gracious, merciful, mighty, wise, and faithful Being He is, and, therefore, in poverty, affliction of body, bereavement in his family, difficulty in his service, want of a situation or employment, he will repose upon the ability of God to help him, because he has not only learned from His word that He is of almighty power and infinite wisdom, but he has also seen instance upon instance in the Holy Scriptures in which His almighty power and infinite wisdom have been actually exercised in helping and delivering His people; and he will repose upon the willingness of God to help him, because he has not only learned from the Scriptures what a kind, good, merciful, gracious, and faithful being God is, but because he has also seen in the word of God how, in a great variety of instances He has proved Himself to be so.
And the consideration of this, if God has become known to us through prayer and meditation on His own word, will lead us, in general at least, with a measure of confidence to rely upon Him: and thus the reading of the word of God, together with meditation on it, will be one especial means to strengthen our faith.
2. As with reference to the growth of every grace of the Spirit, it is of the utmost importance that we seek to maintain an upright heart and a good conscience, and, therefore, do not knowingly and habitually indulge in those things which are contrary to the mind of God, so it is also particularly the case with reference to the growth in faith.
How can I possibly continue to act faith upon God, concerning anything, if I am habitually grieving Him, and seek to detract from the glory and honour of Him in whom I profess to trust, upon whom I profess to depend?
All my confidence towards God, all my leaning upon Him in the hour of trial will be gone, if I have a guilty conscience, and do not seek to put away this guilty conscience, but still continue to do the things which are contrary to the mind of God.
And if, in any particular instance, I cannot trust in God, because of the guilty conscience, then my faith is weakened by that instance of distrust; for faith with every fresh trial of it either increases by trusting God, and thus getting help, or it decreases by not trusting Him; and then there is less and less power of looking simply and directly to Him, and a habit of self-dependence is begotten or encouraged.
One or the other of these will always be the case in each particular instance.
Either we trust in God, and in that case we neither trust in ourselves, nor in our fellow-men, nor in circumstances, nor in anything besides; or we DO trust in one or more of these, and in that case do NOT trust in God.
3. If we, indeed, desire our faith to be strengthened, we should not shrink from opportunities where our faith may be tried, and, therefore, through the trial, be strengthened.
In our natural state we dislike dealing with God alone.
Through our natural alienation from God we shrink from Him, and from eternal realities.
This cleaves to us more or less, even after our regeneration. Hence it is, that more or less, even as believers, we have the same shrinking from standing with God alone, from depending upon Him alone, from looking to Him alone: and yet this is the very position in which we ought to be, if we wish our faith to be strengthened.
The more I am in a position to be tried in faith with reference to my body, my family, my service for the Lord, my business, etc., the more shall I have opportunity of seeing God’s help and deliverance; and every fresh instance, in which He helps and delivers me, will tend towards the increase of my faith.
On this account, therefore, the believer should not shrink from situations, positions, circumstances, in which his faith may be tried; but should cheerfully embrace them as opportunities where he may see the hand of God stretched out on his behalf, to help and deliver him, and whereby he may thus have his faith strengthened.
4. The last important point for the strengthening of our faith is, that we let God work for us, when the hour of the trial of our faith comes, and do not work a deliverance of our own.
Wherever God has given faith, it is given, among other reasons, for the very purpose of being tried.
Yea, however weak our faith may be, God will try it; only with this restriction, that as in every way, He leads on gently, gradually, patiently, so also with reference to the trial of our faith.
At first our faith will be tried very little in comparison with what it may be afterwards; for God never lays more upon us that He is willing to enable us to bear.
Now when the trial of faith comes, we are naturally inclined to distrust God, and to trust rather in ourselves, or in our friends, or in circumstances.
We will rather work a deliverance of our own somehow or other, than simply look to God and wait for His help.
But if we do not patiently wait for God’s help, if we work a deliverance of our own, then at the next trial of our faith it will be thus again, we shall be again inclined to deliver ourselves; and thus with every fresh instance of that kind, our faith will decrease; whilst on the contrary, were we to stand still, in order to see the salvation of God, to see His hand stretched out on our behalf, trusting in Him alone, then our faith would be increased, and with every fresh case in which the hand of God is stretched out on our behalf in the hour of the trial of our faith, our faith would be increased yet more.
Would the believer, therefore, have his faith strengthened, he must especially, give time to God, who tries his faith in order to prove to His child, in the end, how willing He is to help and deliver him, the moment it is good for him.
Though older, these timeless truths from George Mueller can help us grow in our faith. ———
This Psalm, this prayer of David, is appropriate, I believe, for these times that we are living in today...
In Psalm 5 David rejoices because of GOD’s protection and His peace that guards and watches over him, in the midst of great adversity; its called GOD’s Shalom peace that we read about in Philippians 4:6, that peace that passes all understanding, that guards our heart and our mind, and enables us to endure every obstacles and resistance in our life.
In this Psalm David encourages others also to trust in GOD.
David knew, through all his deep struggles and grief, that only his faith and reliance in GOD was sustaining him.
Sorrow and hard times come, but GOD’s covenant people can always place their confidence in Him because He listens to our every prayer and puts His joy in our hearts (see Nehemiah 8:10).
We’re living in an amoral political environment today, where a good many people adjust their morality according to the prevailing political winds, where good is called evil and evil is called good.
A good many politicians today operate in an environment of duplicity, double standards and rampant lies, that more and more we’re seeing at every turn, where these corrupt politicians betray our country and their oath of office for personal advancement, power and financial gain.
These same politicians, who take an oath to protect and obey our constitution and to serve the American people, instead they lie and cheat continually, as their standard business practice; they have betrayed their oath of office and have also betrayed their country; and for them, the ends always justifies the means.
This is the time that we must appeal to the Courtroomourtroom of Heaven, as David did in this Psalm.
Let David’s prayer be our prayer:
“Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies— make your way straight before me.
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies.
Declare them guilty, O God!
Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you.
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”
As Watchman on the Wall intercessors, let us continually stand in the gap, as GOD instructed us to do, in 2 Chronicles 7:14, THAT THESE CRIMINALS WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO GET AWAY WITH STEALING THIS ELECTION!
Let us Stand also against all of Satan’s lies, his cheating and wickedness, and let us continue to pray for Donald Trump, our 45th president, that he will also reign as our ONLY lawful 46th president.
Getting our heads on straight each day, in preparation for the battle ahead…
The battleground starts in our mind, in our attitude and in the way we think, whether we can conform to God’s way of thinking, having put on the mind of Christ (see Philippians 2:5), or whether we are attempting to fight according to our flesh, in our natural way of thinking.
GOD’s rules of engagement in spiritual warfare are far different from what we know and understand in the natural.
If we are going to win the battles that confront us today, personally and nationally, then we’re going to have to learn to fight the way God tells us to.
Thursday, February 18 The Spirit Filled Believer
The Power of Praise and Worship by Dick Mills
“Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people – who had come against Judah; and they were defeated.” — 2 Chron. 20:22
Think of it! Singing and praising your way to victory. Singing and praising your way through discouragement, oppression, depression, fear, and worry.
“…And they were three days gathering the spoil (the loot) because there was so much” (v. 25).
In Bible days, driving an enemy out entitled the victor to all the spoils of the battles.
The army of Judah so routed the enemy that it took three days to collect all the booty the enemy had left behind. And the victory was wrought not by fighting but by singing and praising the Lord!
God responded to the prayers of His people with these reassuring words:
“…the battle is not yours, but God’s” (v. 15).
With this assurance, the king of Judah appointed singers and praisers to go out before the army and to praise the Lord.
When they began to praise, the enemy was defeated.
The key word in this passage is began.
Your victory is dependent upon your doing something.
You need to begin. Begin to count your blessings. Begin to enumerate past deliverances. Begin to praise the Lord. Begin to sing your song of deliverance.
The Bible says the Lord inhabits the praises of His people (Ps. 22:3).
When the Lord’s presence comes into our setting of praise and worship, the enemy is powerless against us.
We can literally sing our way through every battle and win the victory the same way Jehosphaphat’s army won.
Singing and praising the Lord is an effective weapon in our spiritual warfare!
Appreciation of the Mystery 14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
In the fall of 1947, a pastor named Robert Boyd Munger was preparing to preach a Sunday evening message to the congregation of First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley.
As he prepared he was drawn to passages in scripture like the one (above) from the Ephesians’ 3, passages, which touch on the remarkable idea that the God of the universe, who we know as Jesus Christ, desires to come in and make a home (an abode) in each one of our hearts.
Part 1 Watch “My Heart, Christs Home 1” on YouTube