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Saturday, April 23, 2016

God's Dwelling Place (and other devotionals)

God’s Dwelling Place

And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. Exodus 25:8

Does it matter to you where you live? Are you satisfied with your house or do you hope for something more, something better? For many of us, our physical dwelling place tends to keep us longing for a something a little nicer. If we live in the same house for a long time, we probably have redecorated most of it more than once. As humans, we get bored and want a fresh look at the things around us, especially our homes. As physical structures, our homes deteriorate in the elements and require repairs and fix-ups over time. Regardless of the reasons, we all must deal with where we dwell. So what about where God dwells?
Where does God dwell? The verse above tells us that God had a place made just so He could dwell with His people. But this place was no ordinary dwelling; it was a holy place, a sanctuary where His people could enter into the presence of the Lord. This sanctuary was built to the finest detail using the best fabrics, stones and precious metals. As the Israelites transported this mobile dwelling place throughout their travels in the desert, they never needed to upgrade, redecorate, or fix-up…even after 40 years! The Presence of the Lord kept all things restored, refreshed and renewed.
But were the Israelites completely satisfied with the things given to them by God? How could these people have been anything but eternally grateful and in awe of the Lord’s miraculous power in their lives? But the Bible tells us that they were stiff-necked and continually complaining. What about us? Are we satisfied with what God has given us? Even more so, what about His promise we have that His Holy Spirit lives within us? John1:14 says that the Word became flesh and tabernacled (dwelt) among us. Jesus came to earth to dwell with us. He left us His Holy Spirit who dwells in us today. Paul tells us in First Corinthians 6:19 that our bodies are the “temple” of the Holy Spirit, so we are now God’s dwelling place, for those who have accepted Jesus as Savior.
We should be very thankful that the Lord does not get bored with His temples, or His dwelling places today. What if He became dissatisfied to the point of looking for something better? He is God and He has every right to want more, to want the best. And thankfully for us, that something better is just what He has in store for us, not here but in heaven. Jesus promised that He would go to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). The key for us: get our eyes off our earthly houses and fix them upon Jesus, our eternal home with Him. 

~Daily Disciples Devotional~
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Work It Out

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

—Philippians 2:12

I don't necessarily like to exercise, but I try to get out and take a walk every day. I also go to the gym a couple of days a week. I know it makes me feel better, and it helps me to actually do what I am called by God to do.

Just as we need to work out to stay in shape physically, we need to work out spiritually as well. Paul told the Christians in Philippi, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12–13). The phrase work out doesn't mean work for your salvation. It means that you are to work it out. Another way to translate it would be "carry it to the goal and fully complete your salvation."

The idea is that we are to work out what God has worked in. That is our part. But it is God who is working in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure. God plays a part, and we play a part.

But we must be careful that we don't turn our backs on the things of God because we can make a mess of our lives. Hebrews 3:12 says, "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God." Then we read, "For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end" (verse 14). These words were written to believers. So God is saying, "Look, Christian, you make sure that you carry it to the goal."

God will work in you, but you must work it out in your life as well.\
~Greg Laurie~
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DECEITFULNESS OF SIN

by Archibald Alexander

All sin takes its origin from false views of things. Our first parents would never have sinned--had they not been deceived by the tempter. Eve saw that the forbidden fruit was beautiful, and she was persuaded also good for food, that is, pleasant to the taste and nutritious. Here was a deception. This fruit was never intended for nourishment, whatever might have been its flavor. It was intended for trial, and not for food.
But the greatest deception practiced on our first mother by the arch deceiver was, that the eating of this food would make her wise to know good and evil, even as it is known to God. The deceitful words of the tempter wrought this unfounded persuasion in her mind. The desire of knowledge is natural, a part of man's original constitution, as well as the appetite for food; but these natural propensities are not to be indulged by every means, and gratified on all occasions, but should be kept under the government of reason and conscience. The brutes were made to be governed by appetite and instinct; but man is the subject of law, and he cannot but feel the binding obligation of law. He is a moral agent, and may properly be subjected to a trial whether he will obey the law of his Creator.
How widely different does sin appear after it is committed--from what it did before. Passion or craving appetite creates a false medium by which the unwary soul is deceived, and led into transgression. After our first parents sinned, "their eyes were opened." A sense of guilt unknown before now seized them, and this was like a new vision—not of beauty, but odious deformity. Innocence was lost. Shame and confusion take the place of peace and purity. Unhappy change! The guilty pair are now sensible of their great mistake, of their guilty act, of their disgraceful condition, of their ruined state. Their whole race is ruined! What will they do when their Creator shall make his usual visit—heretofore so delightful and instructive? Hark, he comes—his voice is heard in the garden. The wretched culprits are seized with terror and consternation. Guilt causes them to flee from the presence of the best and kindest of fathers. They try to hide themselves. They run into the densest thickets of the trees of the garden. But they cannot conceal themselves from the eye of Omniscience. They cannot escape from the arm of the Almighty, much less resist his power.
Behold, the Creator not finding his creature man in his proper place, sends forth a voice, which must have been like the most terrible thunder, when the awful sound penetrated his ear, and resounded through his whole soul: "Adam, where are you?" Trembling, the guilty pair come forth to meet the frowns of a displeased and righteous Judge. We need pursue the interesting history no farther at present.
From this first transgression, by which sin entered into the world, we may form some idea of its deceitful nature. This first sin is a sort of example of all other sins. As they flow from this as streams from a fountain, they all partake of the poison of their origin. In all sin there is some bait—some apparent good—some expectation of pleasure or profit from unlawful indulgence. In all sin the mind is under a delusive influence. Right thoughts and motives are for the moment forgotten or overborne; the attention, like the eye of a beguiled bird, is fixed on a point from which it cannot be withdrawn. The enticement prevails, and guilt is contracted.
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A far-off Hell is the dread of no man!

(Charles Spurgeon, "Flowers from a Puritan's Garden" 1883)

"The stars, those vast globes of light, by reason of the great distance between us and them--seem but as so many sparks in the sky. Just so, we have but a weak sight of things which are at a great distance, and their effect on us is usually but small."

Hence the need of faith, by which spiritual realities are brought near to us, and made to stand out in their reality.
 
A far-off Hell is the dread of no man
--and a far-off Heaven is scarcely desired by anyone. God Himself, while thought of as far away--is not feared or reverenced as He should be. If we did but ponderupon the matter, we would soon see that a mere span of time divides us from the eternal world, while the Lord Almighty is nearer to us than our souls are to our bodies!

Strange that the brief time which intervenes between us and eternity, should appear to the most of men to be so important--while eternity itself they regard as a trifling matter. They use the microscope tomagnify the small concerns of time. O that they would use the telescope of faith upon the vast matters of eternity!

How differently would they order their lives, if the day of judgment were felt to be at their doors! How eagerly would they seek to escape from infinite wrath, if they felt it to be near!

Lord, arouse me to a due estimate of eternal matters! Enable me to project my soul into the infinite. Break me free of this narrow present--and launch my soul upon the wide and open sea of the infinite ages to come. You are in eternity, and let my soul even now dwell there with You.
"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal!" 2 Corinthians 4:18\

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Thoughtful Living


Are you living thoughtfully and intentionally—or automatically? It’s so easy to get up each morning, do our work, enjoy some relaxation or entertainment, and fall into bed each night without giving any thought to God’s involvement in our lives. But to be ignorant of how He has blessed, guided, protected, and warned us is a foolish way to live. Just consider the benefits of keeping our spiritual eyes and ears open throughout the day.
Those who are aware of the Lord’s presence during their daily activities enjoy the peace of knowing that He is always in control and working to accomplish His good purposes. Every day’s experiences with Him teach them to know and love Him more.
When we learn to see God’s footprints in our days, we will become aware of the scope of His involvement in our lives. Maybe He strengthened you for a task or opened a door of opportunity. Perhaps He guided your decisions or helped you respond in a godly way to a difficult person.
If our ears are open to the Lord’s warnings and instructions, we won’t repeat the same mistakes again and again. But those who are deaf to His voice will continue in unhealthy thought patterns, negative emotions, and foolish responses.
Each night before you go to sleep, take some time to reflect on the day’s activities. The Lord is constantly with you, guarding and guiding your way. He wants you to see Him in everything and understand life from His perspective as you rely on His wisdom and power to face any challenge. 

~Charles Stanley~
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Their strength is to sit still. (Isa. 30:7).

In order really to know God, inward stillness is absolutely necessary. I remember when I first learned this. A time of great emergency had risen in my life, when every part of my being seemed to throb with anxiety, and when the necessity for immediate and vigorous action seemed overpowering; and yet circumstances were such that I could do nothing, and the person who could, would not stir.
For a little while it seemed as if I must fly to pieces with the inward turmoil, when suddenly the still small voice whispered in the depths of my soul, "Be still, and know that I am God." The word was with power, and I hearkened. I composed my body to perfect stillness, and I constrained my troubled spirit into quietness, and looked up and waited; and then I did "know" that it was God, God even in the very emergency and in my helplessness to meet it; and I rested in Him.
It was an experience that I would not have missed for worlds; and I may add also, that out of this stillness seemed to arise a power to deal with the emergency, that very soon brought it to a successful issue. I learned then effectually that my "strength was to sit still."
--Hannah Whitall Smith
There is a perfect passivity which is not indolence. It is a living stillness born of trust. Quiet tension is not trust. It is simply compressed anxiety.
Not in the tumult of the rending storm,
Not in the earthquake or devouring flame;
But in the hush that could all fear transform,
The still, small whisper to the prophet came.
0 Soul, keep silence on the mount of God,
Though cares and needs throb around thee like a sea;
From supplications and desires unshod,
Be still, and hear what God shall say to thee.
All fellowship hath interludes of rest,
New strength maturing in each poise of power;
The sweetest Alleluias of the blest
Are silent, for the space of half an hour.
0 rest, in utter quietude of soul,
Abandon words, leave prayer and praise awhile;
Let thy whole being, hushed in His control,
Learn the full meaning of His voice and smile.
Not as an athlete wrestling for a crown,
Not taking Heaven by violence of will;
But with thy Father as a child sit down,

And know the bliss that follows His "Be Still!"

~L. B. Cowman~
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Isaiah 53:6
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Here a confession of sin common to all the elect people of God. They have all fallen, and therefore, in common chorus, they all say, from the first who entered heaven to the last who shall enter there, "All we like sheep have gone astray." The confession, while thus unanimous, is also special and particular: "We have turned every one to his own way." There is a peculiar sinfulness about every one of the individuals; all are sinful, but each one with some special aggravation not found in his fellow. It is the mark of genuine repentance that while it naturally associates itself with other penitents, it also takes up a position of loneliness. "We have turned every one to his own way," is a confession that each man had sinned against light peculiar to himself, or sinned with an aggravation which he could not perceive in others. This confession is unreserved; there is not a word to detract from its force, nor a syllable by way of excuse. The confession is a giving up of all pleas of self-righteousness. It is the declaration of men who are consciously guilty-guilty with aggravations, guilty without excuse: they stand with their weapons of rebellion broken in pieces, and cry, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way." Yet we hear no dolorous wailings attending this confession of sin; for the next sentence makes it almost a song. "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." It is the most grievous sentence of the three, but it overflows with comfort. Strange is it that where misery was concentrated mercy reigned; where sorrow reached her climax weary souls find rest. The Saviour bruised is the healing of bruised hearts. See how the lowliest penitence gives place to assured confidence through simply gazing at Christ on the cross!

~Charles Spurgeon~


Sunday, April 17, 2016

All the Hell ... (and other devotionals)


All the Hell that you shall ever have!

("The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod" or, "The Silent Soul with Sovereign Antidotes" by Thomas Brooks, 1659)

Consider Christian, that all your . . .
  trials and troubles,
  calamities and miseries,
  crosses and losses,
which you meet with in this world--is all the Hell that you shall ever have!

Here and now, you have your Hell. 
Hereafter, you shall have your Heaven! 

This life is the worst of your condition--the best is yet to come! 

Lazarus had his Hell first--and his Heaven last. 
Dives had his Heaven first--and his Hell at last. 

You have all your pangs, and pains, and throes here--that ever you shall have! 
Your ease, and rest, and pleasure--is yet to come.

Here you have all your bitters--your sweets are yet to come! 

Here you have your sorrows--your joys are yet to come. 

Here you have all your winter nights--your summer days are yet to come!

Here you have your evil things--your good things are yet to come. 

Death will put an end to all your sins--and to all your sufferings! 

Death will be an inlet to those joys, delights, and comforts--which shall never have an end! 

Who can seriously meditate upon this, and not be silent under God's most smarting rod?

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THE CROSS


by Archibald Alexander
Whence came the tree from which the cross was made? What has become of the particles of which it was composed? What hands were employed in preparing this instrument of a cruel death? To such questions no answer can be given--and none is needed. The cross was a common mode of punishment among several nations, and among the Romans was reserved for the punishment of slaves and the vilest malefactors. It was never made use of by the Jews. If they had had the power of execution in their hands when Christ suffered, the punishment for the offence alleged against him would have been stoning. But by the ordering of divine Providence, our Lord was put to death in that way which was accursed, according to the Jewish law; for it was written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree."
The death of Christ on the cross may well be reckoned mysterious, for it was at the same time a cursed and a blesseddeath. Christ was "made a curse for us," that he might deliver us from the curse of the law. And yet Christ's death on the cross is the most blessed event which ever occurred in the world; for on the cross the price of our redemption was paid. Christ "bore our sins in his own body on the tree." He died, "the just for the unjust," to bring us unto God. This led Paul to say, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The cross is a center in which many lines of truth meet. The cross is an incomprehensible mystery. That God should be manifest in the flesh, is the great "mystery of godliness." That the Prince of life should be crucified, was an event which caused the angels to stoop from their celestial thrones, that they might gaze in amazement upon it. The prophets who predicted these events were perplexed at their own prophecies, "They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating, when He testified in advance to the messianic sufferings and the glories that would follow."
The truths which are exhibited in a clear and strong light by the crucifixion of Christ, are such as these:
1. The infinite evil of sin, which in order to its pardon required such a sacrifice.
2. The holiness and justice of God, which would not allow sin to pass without full evidence of the divine disapprobation, and his inflexible purpose to visit it with deserved punishment.
3. The wisdom of God, in contriving a method of salvation by which his own glory would be promoted in the eternal salvation of hell-deserving sinners. This wisdom is chiefly manifest in the incarnation of the Son of God, by which the divine and human natures are united in one person.
4. But the most wonderful exhibition of the cross is the mercy of God, the love of God to sinners—such love as never could have been conceived of, had it not been manifest by the gift of his own Son! "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life."
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 The Providence of God!

(Don Fortner)

"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

Predestination is the sovereign, eternal, immutable, unalterable purpose of God almighty, by which He ordained and ordered, according to His own will and good pleasure, all things that come to pass in time.

Divine providence is the daily, constant, sovereign rule of our God over all things for the accomplishment of His eternal purpose of grace in predestination. Divine providence is the accomplishment of God's sovereign will and purpose. Providence is God bringing to pass in time (sovereignly, absolutely, and perfectly) what He purposed in eternity.

Predestination is God's purpose.
Providence is God's execution of His purpose.

Nothing in the universe happens by luck, chance, fortune, accident or by blind fate! Everything that comes to pass in time--was purposed by our God in eternity, and is brought to pass by His wise, adorable, good Providence.

Nothing comes to pass in time--that God did not purpose in eternity, in sovereign predestination.
Nothing comes to pass in time--except that which God sovereignly brings to pass in His Providence.
And that which God predestined in eternity and brings to pass in his Providence is for the good of His elect, and the glory of His name. This is clearly and incontrovertibly the teaching of Holy Scripture (Psalm 76:10; Proverbs 16:4, 9, 33; 21:1; Daniel 4:34, 35, 37; Isaiah 46:9-11; Romans 11:33-36).

Providence is God's government of the universe. If we have a proper view of God's Providence, we will see the hand of God and the heart of God in everything--in all the experiences of our lives. Believers ascribe their sorrows, and even the cursing of their enemies--to the hand of their heavenly Father's wise and good Providence (Job 1:21; 1 Samuel 3:18; 2 Samuel 16:11-12).

God is not idle. He never needs to rest, recuperate, or regroup. God almighty, our God and heavenly Father--is always at work, governing the world. I have frequently heard preachers and religious leaders speak of sickness, poverty and war, sin, crime and cruelty, famine, earthquakes and death--as things over which God has no control. Nonsense!

God's Providence is as 'minute' as it is 'mysterious' (Matthew 10:30). Our God has ordained the number of hairs on the heads of all. Not even a worthless sparrow falls to the ground without His decree.

God's Providence is 'all inclusive'. God rules everything, great and small, everywhere, and at all times.

He who created all things, rules all things!

Nothing in God's universe breathes or wiggles contrary to God's decree (Isaiah 46:9-13).

As a wise, skilled pharmacist mixes medicine--so our heavenly Father wisely mixes exactly the right measure of bitter things and sweet, to do us good.
Too much joy would intoxicate us.
Too much misery would drive us to despair.
Too much sorrow would crush us.
Too much suffering would break our spirits.
Too much pleasure would ruin us.
Too much defeat would discourage us.
Too much success would puff us up.
Too much failure would keep us from doing anything.
Too much criticism would harden us.
Too much praise would make us proud.
Our great God knows exactly what we need. By His grace, if we are His--we will bow to His Providence, accept it, and give thanks for it.

God's Providence is always executed in the 'wisest manner' possible. We are often unable to see and understand the reasons and causes for specific events in our lives, in the lives of others, or in the history of the world. But our lack of understanding does not prevent us from believing God. We bow to His will, which is evident in His works of Providence, and say, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!"

The God of Providence rules all things well. How we ought to trust Him! Ever remember, our heavenly Father is God all wise, good, and omnipotent. He is. . .
  too wise to err,
  too good to do wrong,
  and too strong to fail!

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Why the Cross?

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

—1 Corinthians 1:18

A true story was reported about a couple that was visiting a jewelry store. As the jeweler showed them various crosses, the woman commented, "I like these, but do you have any without this little man on them?"

That is what so many people want today: a cross without Jesus. They want a cross without any offense, one that will look cool with their outfits. But if we could travel back in time and see the cross in its original context, we would realize that it was a bloody and vile symbol. It would have been the worst picture imaginable to see someone hanging on a cross.

The Romans chose crucifixion because it was meant to be a slow, torturous way to die. It was designed to humiliate a person. The crucifixions outside Roman cities served as warnings to anyone who would dare oppose the rule of Rome.

If there was any other way, do you think that God would have allowed His Son to suffer like this? If there had been any other way we could have been forgiven, then God surely would have found it. If living a good moral life would get us to heaven, then Jesus never would have died for us. But He did, because there was and is no other way. He had to pay the price for our sin. At the Cross, Jesus purchased the salvation of the world.

If you were ever tempted to doubt God's love for you, even for a moment, then take a long, hard look at the Cross. Nails did not hold Jesus to that cross. His love did.
~Greg Laurie~
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Wisdom Cries Out
Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares. She cries out in the chief concourses, At the openings of the gates in the city She speaks her words: "How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, And fools hate knowledge. Turn at my rebuke; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, Because you disdained all my counsel, And would have none of my rebuke,  I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes, When your terror comes like a storm, And your destruction comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you.  "Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the Lord, They would have none of my counsel And despised my every rebuke. Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, And be filled to the full with their own fancies.  For the turning away of the simple will slay them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them;  But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, And will be secure, without fear of evil." Proverbs 1:20-33
I awoke one morning to a phone call from my mom, who lives in Tennessee. She called to tell me that she was okay, just in case I had seen the news and worried if she had survived. The night before, tornadoes had ripped through my family's small town and devastated a large portion of the area. I thanked God that she was okay, at least physically. Deeper though, I wondered how much more was headed our way – in terms of storms. Has anyone noticed that there seems to be a pattern of climate changes and weather related catastrophes? Are these "wake up" calls from God?
Today's verses speak about our attitude towards God's wisdom. Are we choosing to fear the Lord, or are we turning from Him? To fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). Today we need wisdom from above to live in this world as Christians. We must keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus so that nothing else matters. The tighter we cling to the world's goods, the harder it is to lose them. Storms will come in our lives; they will continue to challenge and test our hearts. Read the verses above and pray that your heart seeks the Lord first in all that you do. Ask Him to give you wisdom. Pray for "the fear of the Lord" to bring safety and protection in the midst of the storms. Do not stop praying.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~
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BIBLE MEDITATION:
“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”James 4:17

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
Are you one of those people who believes “Put off until tomorrow what you could be doing today”? This is one of those times when the fingers pointing back at me outnumber the one that’s pointing to you! What am I talking about? Procrastination.

Did you know that procrastination is a sin? I say that because sin is not merely doing wrong, it is failing to do what you ought to do. Procrastination and disobedience are just different shades of the same sin. I heard a quote once that said it well:
               “When you have a job to do,
               Begin this very hour.
               You supply the will,
               God supplies the power.”

That is the will power we need to instantly obey!

ACTION POINT:
Has a certain task been hounding you? Confess your procrastination as sin. And act now. Don’t hesitate. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow may never come. Today is the day!

Adrian Rogers~
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The Value of Seeking the Lord
We all have ambitions and desires. And while these are not necessarily wrong, we should analyze our priorities: Where do I invest my time and energy? What or who occupies my thoughts? As important as our earthly pursuits, responsibilities, and relationships may be, they cannot compare to the value of a life spent seeking the Lord.
First of all, consider what it means to seeksomething. The word connotes a strong desire and an energetic quest to achieve it.Suppose you discovered a very productive vein of gold on your property. You wouldn’t just stroll out and look at it occasionally. No, you would gather some equipment and diligently go out each day to chip away at the rocks and collect the precious metal.
In the same way, seeking the Lord is not a quick and occasional encounter, but a wholehearted effort to know Him more intimately and follow Him more closely. Those who unreservedly pursue this kind of fellowship with God are determined to spend time with Him; they also want to forsake anything that could hinder growth in their relationship with the Lord. God’s committed followers boldly claim His promises and trust Him to fulfill His Word. Their experiences with the Lord bring amazing satisfaction yet cause them to hunger for more of Him.
The Christian life is meant to be a pursuit of God. To walk through the door of salvation and stand still, never drawing any closer to Him, is to miss the treasures that are available in Christ. Those who seek Him soon discover that knowing Him is the greatest reward of all.

~Charles Stanley~

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Our Trials (and other devotionals)

Our trials!

(Don Fortner)

"We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:3-4 

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything!" James 1:2-4

Our trials teach us the vanity of this life. 

Our trials prove our faith. 

Our trials give us patience. 

Our trials make Christ precious to us. 

Our trials have a way of detaching us from this world. 

Our trials teach us to pray.


"Trials make the promise sweet,
 Trials give new life to prayer;
 Trials bring me to His feet,
 Lay me low and keep me there!"

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A Major in Discomfort
by Chuck Swindoll
Notice carefully how the process took place through those years of desert learning, because it is the same with you and me. God must break through several hard, exterior barriers in our lives before He can renovate our souls. His persistent goal is to break through to the inner person. As David acknowledged, "Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom" (Psalm 51:6).
What are those resistant layers in our hearts, and how does He break through to that hidden part? First, He finds pride. And He uses the sandpaper of obscurity to remove it ever so gradually.

Then He finds us gripped by fear—dread of our past, anxiety over our present, and terror over what may lie ahead—and He uses the passing of time to remove that fear. We learn that things aren't out of hand at all; they're in His hand.
He next encounters the barrier of resentment—the tyranny of bitterness. He breaks down that layer with solitude. In the silence of His presence, we gain a fresh perspective, gradually release our cherished rights, and let go of the expectations that held us hostage.
Finally, He gets down to the basic habits of living, he penetrates our inner person, and there He brings discomfort and hardship to buff away that last layer of resistance. Why? So that He might renovate us at the very core of our being.
Reach for the hand of your Guide! He is Lord of the desert. Make that your desert. The most precious object of God's love is His child in the desert. If it were possible, you mean more to Him during this time than at any other time. You are as the pupil of His eye. You are His beloved student taking his toughest courses. While testing you, He loves you with an infinite amount of love.
Jesus walked through the desert first. He felt its heat. He endured its loneliness. He accepted its obscurity. He faced down Satan himself while the desert winds howled. And you can be sure He will never, ever forget or forsake the one who follows Him across the sand.
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The Cross The Believer's Motivation


Paul was single-minded in the message he preached. The cross was not only his primary subject; it was also his motivation for living. When we begin to understand all that Jesus did for us at Calvary, we, too, can receive fresh motivation to live for Him. For instance, we can...
Walk humbly before God. Since the power to live the Christian life is supplied by Christ, there is no room for pride. When Jesus died, our "flesh" nature was crucified with Him so that we could live in newness of life. Any success we achieve in living righteously or walking in obedience is possible only because He is working through us.
Serve the Lord faithfully. At the cross, we were placed "in Christ," and He is in us (Gal. 2:20). We are now His body on earth, created for good works which God has prepared for us to do (Eph. 2:10). Jesus wasn’t crucified so we could sit in pews each Sunday and listen to sermons. He has specific tasks for each of us to achieve during our lifetime.
Share our faith. Knowing all that Jesus accomplished at the cross should motivate us to share the gospel with others. This world is filled with hurting people who know nothing about salvation. Since their eternal destiny is at stake, how can we keep our mouths closed?
Too often we view the cross only as a past event that secured our eternal destiny, and we fail to see how it can motivate daily choices and activities. Stop to contemplate all that God is continually accomplishing in you though the cross. Let it be your motivation to live wholeheartedly for Christ.

~Charles Stanley~
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BIBLE MEDITATION:
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
Let me tell you how to experience God: Get your heart pure, and you will see God with the eyes of faith.

You see, Jesus is not talking about your physical body. You get your spiritual heart right and your spiritual eyes will see.

Hebrews 11:27 says that Moses “endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” You get your heart right and you’ll see the invisible God…
...in circumstances
...in nature
...in the face of your spouse, your child, your grandchild.

You’ll see Him in the Scriptures. God will become a bright, living reality to you.

ACTION POINT:
Put on the eyes of faith today and find God creating and sustaining life. Maybe there is a garden newly abloom with spring flowers. Do you see the hand of God?

~Adrian Rogers~
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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Yes, He is Altogether Lovely! (and other devotionals)

Classic writings and sermons from the masters of Christian ministry

The Fruit of Sorrow 

Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. 
2 Corinthians 7:9 

Recommended Reading
2 Corinthians 7:8-13
Sometimes when a well-known person—athlete, celebrity, politician, religious leader—makes a public apology, it begs the question: Are they truly sorry or sorry they were found out? Only God knows, of course. Said another way, if people (including us) are sorry for sins, shouldn’t they come forth on their own before they are called out?

The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about this matter, saying that “godly sorrow produces repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:10). That is, when we are truly sorry about something, it will be evidenced by our repentance—which includes confession, asking forgiveness, and restitution where needed. There is a false kind of sorrow—the “sorrow of the world” Paul called it. And that sorrow leads not to repentance but to “death.” Yes, sins and errors of judgment are embarrassing and sometimes shameful. But when their magnitude is truly realized, godly sorrow always leads to repentance—a change of mind and direction.

Let sorrow for sin bear its proper fruit—repentance that leads you back to God.

Christianity starts with repentance. 
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

~David Jeremiah~

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Glorify ye the Lord in the fires" (Isa. 24:15).
Mark the little word "in"! We are to honor Him in the trial--in that which is an affliction indeed and though there have been cases where God did not let His saints feel the fire, yet, ordinarily, fire hurts.
But just here we are to glorify Him by our perfect faith in His goodness and love that has permitted all this to come upon us.
And more than that, we are to believe that out of this is coming something more for His praise than could have come but for this fiery trial.
We can only go through some fires with a large faith; little faith will fail. We must have the victory in the furnace.  --Margaret Bottome
A man has as much religion as he can show in times of trouble. The men who were cast into the fiery furnace came out as they went in--except their bonds.
How often in some furnace of affliction God strikes them off! Their bodies were unhurt--their skin not even blistered. Their hair was unsinged, their garments not scorched, and even the smell of fire had not passed upon them. And that is the way Christians should come out of furnace trials--liberated from their bonds, but untouched by the flames.
"Triumphing over them in it" (Col. 2:15).
That is the real triumph--triumphing over sickness, in it; triumphing over death, dying; triumphing over adverse circumstances, in them. Oh, believe me, there is a power that can make us victors in the strife. There are heights to be reached where we can look down and over the way we have come, and sing our song of triumph on this side of Heaven. We can make others regard us as rich, while we are poor, and make many rich in our poverty. Our triumph is to be in it. Christ's triumph was in His humiliation. Possibly our triumph, also, is to be made manifest in what seems to others humiliation.
--Margaret Bottome
Is there not something captivating in the sight of a man or a woman burdened with many tribulations and yet carrying a heart as sound as a bell? Is there not something contagiously valorous in the vision of one who is greatly tempted, but is more than conqueror? Is it not heartening to see some pilgrim who is broken in body, but who retains the splendor of an unbroken patience? What a witness all this offers to the enduement of His grace!  --J. H. Jowett
"When each earthly prop gives under,
And life seems a restless sea,
Are you then a God-kept wonder,
Satisfied and calm and free?"

~L. B. Cowman~

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THE LOVE OF CHRIST FOR US

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in Heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." - Ephesians 3:14-19
Thank God that the Holy Spirit dwells within us with the fullness of His love so that we are not left with our limitations.
As we think on God's love, forgiveness, compassion, and grace we know that there is no way to measure or contain His capacity in these things. Every attribute that God has is eternal and cannot be contained or measured.
UNLIKE HUMAN LOVE
His love has no beginning and no end; it is eternal in every way. His love was upon us before we were formed and will extend to us throughout eternity. Human love most often depends upon the actions of another, but God's love has no dependency or expectation upon another. He is not capable of withholding love or wavering in His love toward us. Even in the midst of our sin and constant "wavering" affections, His love is immeasurable and unmovable.
The same is true with every attribute of God. His forgiveness is eternal in every sense of the word. His grace, mercy, wisdom, power, righteousness, justice and goodness are absolutely measureless and cannot be contained within time or space. Often we misunderstand God's ways with us as being measurable by believing that He is withholding from us (healing, provision, blessings, etc.). Our understanding is limited to our experience or our ability to imagine God's ways, but still everything we know or imagine is contained within the limits of our humanity. We are not able to comprehend that which is not comprehensible.
As humans, we live within the boundaries of time and space; God is the only immeasurable thing we know. So how do we do what Ephesians 3:14-19 says? How do we grasp how long, wide, high, or deep is the love of God if it is immeasurable and uncontainable? We can only grasp it by understanding verse 19: "to know this love that surpasses knowledge..." We must grasp the truth that HIS LOVE for us will always SURPASS our knowledge and our limited understanding.

~Albert Finch Ministry~
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Yes, He is altogether lovely!

(William Dyer, "Christ's Famous Titles")

"Yes, He is altogether lovely!" Song of Songs 5:16

Jesus is most desirable in Himself--and all things that are desirable are in Him. Beauty is in Christ,bounty is in Christ, riches and honor are in Christ. Jesus Christ is the treasure hidden in the gospel, and the pearl of great price. He is the sun in the firmament of the Scriptures, whom to know is everlasting life. He is . . .
  a spring full of the water of life,
  a hive of sweetness,
  a storehouse of riches,
  a river of pleasures, wherein you may bathe your souls to all eternity!

Oh! He is all fullness and sweetness! "He is the chief among ten thousand!" Song of Songs 5:10

You may go to Heaven . . .
  without health,
  without wealth,
  without honor,
  without pleasure,
  without friends,
  without learning,
but you can never go to Heaven without Christ! 
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." John 14:6

"He loved me--and gave Himself for me!" Galatians 2:20

All that Christ did and suffered--it is for me!

All that Christ has--is mine!


Christ's love is mine to pity me!

Christ's mercy is mine to save me!

Christ's graces are mine to beautify me!

Christ's power is mine to protect me!

Christ's wisdom is mine to counsel me!

Christ's Spirit is mine to comfort me!

Christ's Word is mine to teach me!

Christ's glory is mine to crown me!

Therefore, a grain of saving grace in the heart, is better than a chain of gold around the neck!

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The consummate April Fool!



"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world!" Psalm 19:1-4

He who looks up to the heavens and then writes himself down as an atheist, brands himself at the same moment as an idiot or a liar! The Atheist is the fool preeminently, and a fool universally! To say there is no God is . . .
  to belie the plainest evidence, which is obstinacy;
  to oppose the common consent of mankind, which is stupidity;
  to stifle consciousness, which is madness.

If the sinner could by his atheism destroy the God whom he hates, there would be some sense, although much wickedness, in his infidelity. But as denying the existence of fire does not prevent its burning a man who is in it--so doubting the existence of God will not stop the omnipotent Judge from destroying the rebel who breaks His laws. Nay, this atheism is a crime which much provokes God, and will bring down terrible vengeance on the fool who indulges it!
"The fool says in his heart: There is no God!" Psalm 14:1

The world we live in, is a world of fools! (John Jamieson)

Who in the world is a greater fool, a more ignorant, wretched person--than he who is an atheist? (Jeremy Taylor)

"Take heed, you senseless ones among the people; you fools, when will you become wise?" Psalm 94:8

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Today’s Verses: Judges 1Luke 4:1-30

Today’s Thoughts: Verses vs. Voices

"The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here. For it is written:" 'He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus answered, "It says: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Luke 4:9-12

Many times my mind taunts me with thoughts like “If you are really God’s child, then why doesn’t He do this for you?” or “If God has really given you this spiritual gift for the body of Christ, why aren’t you any good at it?” Over and over, I hear thoughts that make me feel guilty or condemned and insecure in my Christian walk. I know the Word of God and yet, my mind doesn’t seem strong enough to just stay focused on the verses to overcome the voices. In essence, Satan attempts to discredit us just like he tried with Jesus. Satan said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God”… prove it!  These are the same kind of words we as believers hear in our heads too. We question if we are really saved, we question God’s ability to use us and we question that the promises given to us in His Word are really for us today. In other words, we find ourselves testing the Lord’s ability to save us, protect us, use us and speak to us; thus, saying to Him, “Prove it.”  But Jesus didn’t do that.
Jesus confidently used the Word of God to attack Satan’s use of the Scriptures directly. It is amazing that the Living Word of God (Jesus) quotes the Written Word of God (the Bible) to attack the words of the enemy.
Lately, I have been struggling with a trial that I have failed in the past. The circumstances and people have changed but the trial is the same. I felt myself heading down the same path as in the past. Crying out to the Lord, I said to Him, “OK, Lord, I’ve been here before and have lived through the consequences of failing this test. I know that You have been faithful regardless of my faithlessness. I know that You love me and You have every right to test my heart and try my motives to see which way I will go. Lord, I choose You. I choose to not test You or question You in this. I know that Your promises will come to pass and You don’t have to prove anything to me.” With that prayer, I knew that the temptation to fail had been lifted. Jesus is our example as He was tempted in the same types of trials (with different circumstances and people) but overcame them all.  We, too, can overcome the taunting voices of the enemy to live a life pleasing to God by staying on His side and by fighting His way using His words.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~