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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Just Believe (and other devotionals)

Just Believe
Jesus answered and said to him, "Because I said to you, 'I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these." John 1:50
What does it take for you to believe? For some, we want the small things like a peaceful day. For others, we want our bodies healed. And for others, we want God to appear to us and give us direction on what to do next. All of these requests fall on the lines of appeasing our flesh. Our flesh doesn’t want to struggle or guess; we want clarity, peace and a life that is pain free. But that is why many do not believe.
At times, God does perform these kinds of miracles, but God doesn’t need to prove He is God as much as we need to prove we believe He is God. Despite how we feel, what we see or how we think, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith goes beyond the senses to a deep understanding and knowing that He is God in the midst of a hassled day and in the hurts from life’s circumstances. Faith is believing without seeing.
The Lord asks us today, “Do you believe?” If the answer is yes, He will spiritually open your eyes to see in faith what He has for you. He might not show you through a burning bush or through an earthquake, but it is that still small voice that will testify within your spirit His will and ways for you. Sometimes He says, “Wait.” Other times He will say, “Go.” But every time, the Lord Jesus Christ will say, “Just believe.” He knows what is best. Trust Him today with that issue you want to see God work through so badly. Give it to Him. Lay it down at His feet. Just believe and you will see greater things than these.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~
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The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)

The whole thought of God, running right through this letter, is spiritual fullness; and any religion – even Christianity – mixing and confusing soul and spirit, the sentient and the spiritual (as did the Christian-Judaism and as does organized Christianity) is doomed to the destiny of Judaism. If we draw upon the soul resources of people to build up Christianity, instead of recognizing that “all things are out from God” – that all must first come from Him and have its first point of contact with man in his spirit, which, being renewed (made anew) becomes the vessel and vehicle of all divine things for ever after – no matter how immense may be our structure, it is going to crash when the great "shaking" comes. Christianity now is very largely a built up thing with many Jewish features in it; i.e., outward orders, forms, vestments, titles, buildings and rigidly fixed boundaries of apprehension of truth. Viewed from a heavenly standpoint, it is all so much nonsense, child's play; albeit so seriously regarded by its children.

It is important to recognize that this letter was addressed to a people who – for a long period – had held the position nationally of a people whom God had taken out of the world unto Himself. It seeks to explain their nature and history in the light of Christ and true spiritual Christianity. It shows that even such a people may make their separation earthly and earthbound, and that for so doing they have been “overthrown,” and will – even as Christians – be overthrown again if they repeat in Christianity what their fathers did in Judaism. There is something here much more than typology interpreted and the interpretation accepted as to salvation from sin and judgment; it is the essential and indispensable heavenly relatedness and life of the Lord's people as inwardly detached from the natural life even in a religious sense.

By T. Austin-Sparks
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Become a Fruit-Bearing Christian

by Andrew Murray

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. " (John 15:1-2)

A vine is planted solely for the sake of its fruit. There are many sorts of vines, each with its different sort of fruit. When a vinedresser plants a vine or a vineyard, he selects the type that produces the desired fruit. The fruit will be the manifestation of his purpose. When God planted the Heavenly Vine, it was that its fruit might bring life and strength to dying men. The very life of God, which man had lost by the fall, was to be brought back to him by Christ from heaven; Christ was to be to us the True Tree of Life. In Him, the True, the Heavenly Vine, in His Word and work, in His life and death, the life of God was brought within reach of men; all who should eat of the fruit should live forever.
More wonderful still, Christ's disciples should not only eat and live, but in turn become fruit-bearing branches. The Divine life entering into them should not only dwell in them, but so assert its life-giving power that it should show itself in the fruit they bear for their fellow men. As truly as the Heavenly Vine, all its branches receive the life of God.
I. The Life in the Vine
We often speak of receiving Christ, following Christ, of Christ living in us, when our ideas of who Christ is are very vague. Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice to God for men, and in that proved what is the true nobility of man as partaker of the Divine nature. We speak, and rightly too, of the obedience of Christ as the praiseworthy cause of our salvation: "By the obedience of One many were made righteous." But we do not sufficiently recognize what it was that gave that obedience its redeeming power. It was this—that in it Christ restored that which is the only thing that the creature can render to its Creator, and so rendered to God what man owed to Him. It is because of this obedience He became a Redeemer, and this nature is the very life which as the Heavenly Vine He imparts. "Let this mind be in you, which was in Christ Jesus, who became obedient unto death. Therefore God has highly exalted Him." The life of God in human nature is obedience to the death.
And with that Christ loved men. In that He fulfilled the will of God. He gave Himself to the mighty Redeeming love of God towards men, and so gave Himself as much to men as to God. There is no possible way of living for God but by loving and living for the men whom He loves and lives for. The human life in Christ could be nothing but a surrender to His love to be used in saving and blessing men. Whether in God, or in Christ, or in us, the Divine life is love to men. This is the life-sap of the True Vine, the spirit that was in Christ Jesus.

II. The Life in the Branch
The life in the Branch is essentially and entirely the same as that in the Vine. If we are to bear fruit, it can only come as the life and the power that work in the Vine work in us. This alone is the secret of effective service.
In Christian work a great mistake is often made. The difference between work and fruit is overlooked. Under a sense of duty or from an inborn love of work, a Christian may be very diligent in doing his work for God, and yet find little blessing in it. He may think of gratitude as the great motive of the Christian life, and not understand that though that may rouse the will, it cannot give the power to work successfully. We need to see that if work is to be acceptable and effective, it must come as fruit; it must be the spontaneous outgrowth of a healthy, vigorous life, the Spirit and power of Christ living and working in us. And that power can only work freely and effectively in us as our main concern is to maintain the relationship to our Lord close and intimate. As He streams His nature into us, our work will truly be the fruit the Vine bears.
Still another mistake is made. We pray very earnestly for God's blessing on our work and on those whom we wish to help. We forget that the God who delights to bless ourselves first, to give into our hearts the blessing He wants to impart through us. We are not channels, in the sense in which a lead pipe is when it carries water, and yet does not drink it in. We are channels in the way the branch is. The sap of the vine, before it goes through it to form fruit, first enters to be its life, to give it new wood and strength, and then passes on into the grape. When we preach the love of God and obedience to Him, when we call men to surrender themselves to that love, we must first seek each day to be receiving afresh, in close communion with Christ Jesus, that love and devotion to God into our hearts. When we teach love to man, we should do it as those in whom the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, is manifest in its freshness and beauty.
It is by having exactly the same spirit that was in Christ Jesus, and being possessed of the same mind and disposition that was in Him, that we can bear the same fruit He bore, that He can still bring forth fruit through us. And this spirit we cannot have by any imitation or effort, but only by receiving it fresh from Him every morning and all day. An intense devotion to God and an entire yielding up of ourselves to His service for men, and giving up of our life to live, and love and die for men, as Jesus did, this is the life to which the branches of the True Vine are called, this is the life for which the True Vine will surely prepare us. His words are true: He is the Truth and the Life. He gives all He promises. Count no time too precious and no pains too great, in waiting on Him by His Spirit to reveal to you the wondrous mystery of your being a branch, a partaker of the very Life there is in the Vine.
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The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. (Luke 18:27)
All hangs upon this one thing (as simple as it may seem) that if Christ is present (which means nothing else than that God is present) anything is possible at any moment. Are you waiting for some day when things will be better? It is not a matter of time at all, it is a matter of Him. He says, "I am time and eternity all in a moment, and you need not accept anything in the matter of time; you accept Me, and you may be well-nigh dead in the morning and be very much alive before the day is over. 'I am the resurrection and the life.'" Mary said, “I know that He will rise again in the last day.” For her resurrection was a matter of time. Oh no. Resurrection was right there....
As long as it takes to break a loaf you have gone from seed-time to harvest. "'Do you not say, There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest?' (John 4:35). I am here, and there can be harvest at any moment when I am here." It is not a matter of time, of circumstance. We are dealing with God, and He is not bound by anything that is known to our human life at all. Eternity dwells in any moment when He is present. All things are bound up with any moment when He is present. The centurion said, "Just say the word and my servant will be healed." "You need not come. Distance does not matter, time does not matter, just speak the word and it will be done." The Lord said, "Ihave not found such great faith, not even in Israel." The word was uttered, and when the enquiry was made as to when it happened it was found to synchronize with the moment when He spoke. He takes everything into His hands, and says "My hour..." and when that comes, there is no postponement. Oh, that we should lay hold of that more, live on that, never surrender to conditions, never surrender to the inevitable from the standpoint of the human, but say, "We have Him; He is our future, He is our circumstance." Anything can be at any moment with the Lord present.

By T. Austin-Sparks
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A medicine essential for our spiritual health and happiness!

(John Cumming)

"I, even I, am He who comforts you!" Isaiah 51:12

How does God comfort us? Suppose you are in some great trouble--how will God comfort you? 

God comforts us by showing us the necessity of that trouble. Do you ever think of this--that there is NO CHANCE? Not a pang can pierce the heart of His redeemed child, for which there is not a needs-be! 
Not an ache can gnaw the frame; 
not a grief can pierce the heart;
not a shadow can darken the soul--
which is not permitted because there was a needs-be!

It is comfort to know that no affliction is random, that no bereavement is accident--but that each is sent because it was a medicine essential for our spiritual health and happiness. Thus God comforts us. 

God comforts us in affliction, by revealing to us what is the source of trouble. We are told that not a trouble can befall us that has not been first in God's bosom; that not a tear can start in the eye that He has not first planned, and estimated, and weighed, and pronounced to be expedient for us. 

Admit for one moment, that CHANCE is the parent of your troubles--that accident is the author of your bereavements--and what a gloomy place must this world be! What a sad heart must the mourner's be! What an unhappy man must the victim of trouble be! But when we know that the blow that strikes the heaviest, is from our Father's hand; that the sorrow that pierces the heart with the keenest agony, lay in His bosom before it received its mission to touch us--then surely it is a truth, "I, even I, am He who comforts you!" 

God comforts us by showing us the end of that trouble. If the sorrows, bereavements, disappointments, griefs, secret and open, had no end, and no grand object, and no great purpose to accomplish--then they would be intolerable. But He tells us, "Though no tribulation for the present seems joyous, but grievous--yet afterwards it works out the peaceable fruits of righteousness to those who are exercised thereby." He tells us that "Our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding, even an eternal weight of glory." "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."

And therefore the necessity, the source, and the end of our troubles, revealed to us by God--take away the edge of them, and make at least tolerable that which, if inexplicable, would be altogether intolerable.

Lastly, He will comfort us by delivering us from all our troubles, and introducing us into a glorious rest--more bright and beautiful than eye has seen, or ear has heard, or man's heart in its happiest imaginings has ever conceived!
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“My thoughts are not your thoughts, and My ways are not your ways,” declares the Lord. “Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts are higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8,9 GW)
God's thoughts about things are very different from ours. We would often allow what God would never allow. He has an altogether different point of view about things. We judge in one way about things, and God judges in another. It is necessary for us to come to God's standpoint. "Oh," we would say, "There is no harm in such-and-such a thing. Oh, there is no wrong in that; look at So-and-so and So-and-so," and we take our standard, perhaps, from other people. We have known people to do that; point to some outstanding figure in the work of God, in whose life was a certain thing - that one has been taken as the model, to be copied, and so the thing has been taken on. "Oh, there is no harm in it; look at So-and-so." And I have known lives and ministries to be ruined on that very excuse.
The question is: What does the Lord say about it? God says, "Walk before Me!" Not before any human model; not before any human standard; "There is no harm in it; So-and-so does it; it is quite a common practice." No, no! "Walk before Me," says the Lord. We have got to get this in the spirit, in the inward man. It is deeper than our best moral standards. Otherwise there is no point in it being in the Bible at all, if our moral standards can rise to God's satisfaction - why must we be so handled and reconstituted? It is deeper than our intellect, than our reason. You cannot, by reason or intellect, arrive at God's standard at all. Not at all! Oh, do not think that by any method of reasoning, you are ever going to reach God's standard. You never will. Here, it is only by revelation of the Holy Spirit. Christ has got to be revealed in our hearts by the Spirit. There is no point in Jesus saying: "When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He shall guide you into all the truth," if we could get there by our own intelligence. Not at all. It must come by the revelation of Christ in our hearts, in the inward parts. This is something spiritual. "God is Spirit; they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth" - spirit and truth go together. Only what is spiritual, what is of God, is truth - only that!

By T. Austin-Sparks
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The only sure medicine for troubled hearts!

(J.C. Ryle)

"Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God--believe also in Me!" John 14:1
This verse is rich in precious truth. For eighteen centuries it has been peculiarly dear to Christ's believing servants in every part of the world. Many are the sick rooms which it has lightened! Many are the dying hearts which it has cheered! 
We have in this passage, a precious remedy against an old disease. That disease is trouble of heart. That remedy is faith.
Heart-trouble is the commonest thing in the world!
No rank, or class, or condition is exempt from it.
No bars, or bolts, or locks can keep it out.
Partly from inward causes--and partly from outward causes;
partly from the body--and partly from the mind;
partly from what we love--and partly from what we fear
--the journey of life is full of trouble! Between grace and glory--even the best of Christians have manybitter cups to drink. Even the holiest saints find the world to be a valley of tears! "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows!" John 16:33
Faith in the Lord Jesus is the only sure medicine for troubled hearts!
To believe more thoroughly,
to trust more entirely,
to rest more unreservedly,
to lay hold more firmly,
to lean back more completely--
this is the prescription which our Master urges on the attention of all His disciples.
Never let us forget that there are degrees in faith, and that there is a wide difference between weak and strong believers. The weakest faith is enough to give a man a saving interest in Christ, and ought not to be despised--but it will not give a man such inward comfort as a strong faith. Vagueness and dimness of perception are the defect of weak believers. They do not see clearly what they believe and why they believe. In such cases more faith is the one thing needed. Like Peter on the water, they need to look more steadily at Jesus--and less at the waves and wind. 
"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You! Isaiah 26:3
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 Walking in the midst of the fire (Daniel 3:25).
The fire did not arrest their motion; they walked in the midst of it. It was one of the streets through which they moved to their destiny. The comfort of Christ's revelation is not that it teaches emancipation from sorrow, but emancipation through sorrow.
O my God, teach me, when the shadows have gathered, that I am only in a tunnel. It is enough for me to know that it will be all right some day.
They tell me that I shall stand upon the peaks of Olivet, the heights of resurrection glory. But I want more, O my Father; I want Calvary to lead up to it. I want to know that the shadows of this world are the shades of an avenue the avenue to the house of my Father. Tell me I am only forced to climb because Thy house is on the hill! I shall receive no hurt from sorrow if I shall walk in the midst of the fire.
--George Matheson
'The road is too rough,' I said; 'It is uphill all the way; 
No flowers, but thorns instead;
And the skies over head are grey.'
But One took my hand at the entrance dim,
And sweet is the road that I walk with Him.
"The cross is too great,' I cried--
'More than the back can bear,
So rough and heavy and wide,
And nobody by to care.'
And One stooped softly and touched my hand:
'I know. I care. And I understand.'
"Then why do we fret and sigh;
Cross-bearers all we go:
But the road ends by-and-by
In the dearest place we know,
And every step in the journey we
May take in the Lord's own company.

~L. B. Cowman~

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