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Peace and Tranquility and Prosperity

4 Feb

Peace.

We sometimes think the way we gain peace is by getting more. More money. More security. More achievements. More people knowing about us.

And so we attempt to achieve peace by working more, earning more, knowing more, doing more.

John Calvin suggests this approach to obtaining peace is wrong-headed. Instead, a peaceful life begins with giving yourselves and possessions and desires and ambitions to God and trusting completely in his blessing.

He writes,

“To begin with, then, in seeking either the convenience or the tranquility of the present life, Scripture calls us to resign ourselves and all our possessions to the Lord’s will, and to yield to him the desires of our hearts to be tamed and subjugated.”

Instead of thinking I will achieve the life I want by getting something outside of me, I will instead find peace when I trust all that I have and all that I want to God’s wisdom about what is best for me. We have to make a deliberate and daily decision to do this, because we are wanting beings, and our desires are constantly running this way and that. In particular, Calvin continues,

“To covet wealth and honors, to strive for authority, to make for magnificence and pomp, our lust is mad, our desire boundless. On the other hand, wonderful is our fear, wonderful our hatred, of poverty, lowly birth, and humble condition! And we are spurred to rid ourselves of them by every means. Hence we can see how uneasy in mind all those persons are who order their lives according to their own plan. We can see how artfully they strive – to the point of weariness – to obtain the goal of their ambition or greed, while, on the other hand, avoiding poverty or lowly condition.”

If left to ourselves, we run as fast as we can from humbling situations towards positions of importance. We naturally strive for achieving a better position for ourselves, but unfortunately this pursuit often distracts us from really enjoying and using the life God’s given us.

How do we avoid getting stuck in this trap?

Especially, when everything and everyone around us is encouraging us to engage in this pointless pursuit.

John Calvin continues,

“In order not to be caught in such snares, godly men must hold to this path. First of all, let them neither desire nor hope for, nor contemplate any other way of prospering than by the Lord’s blessing. Upon this, then, let them safely and confidently throw themselves and rest. For however beautifully the flesh may seem to provide for itself, while it either strives by its own effort for honors and riches or relies upon its diligence, or is aided by the favor of men, yet it is certain that all these things are nothing, nor will we benefit at all, by skill or by labor, except in so far as the Lord prospers them both. On the contrary, however, his blessing alone finds a way, even through all hindrances, to bring all things to a happy and favorable outcome for us.”

If I want peace, instead of worrying so much about how I can get more, I need to work hard at resting in God’s loving concern for me and trusting that He will provide for me exactly what I need when I want it.

Relying on the Lord’s blessing alone like this is not only right, it is wise. If we get everything we want by our own strength, we won’t be able to enjoy it. It will be a cursed prosperity.

“Again, though we might be enabled to obtain some glory and riches for ourselves by following our own plans and trusting in our own efforts, if the curse of God rests on us, we will not really taste even the least particle of lasting happiness from it. (A worldly prosperity may be attained in forgetfulness of God, but it is accursed.) Without God’s blessing, we shall obtain nothing but what turns to our misfortune. For we ought by no means to desire what makes men more miserable. Therefore, suppose we believe that every means towards a prosperous and desirable outcome rests upon the blessing of God alone, and that, when this is absent, all sorts of misery and calamity dog us. It remains for us not greedily to strive after riches and honors, whether relying upon our own skills, our intelligence, or our own diligence, or depending upon the favor of men, or having confidence in vainly imagined fortune – but for us always to look to the Lord so that by his guidance we may be led to whatever lot he has provided for us. Thus it will first come to pass that we shall not dash out to seize upon riches and usurp honors through wickedness and by evil plans, or greed, to the injury of our neighbors, but pursue only those enterprises which do not lead us away from innocence.”

Basic Principles for Spiritual Warfare part 3

5 Nov

Living in Africa, you hear all sorts of strange things about demons and demonic possession and spiritual warfare. Everybody has some experience to talk about.

I suppose that’s not just Africa, either.

It wasn’t too long ago now that books like Bondage Breaker were best sellers in the United States. There was a whole lot of talk about demons and the way they not only attack unbelievers but war on believers as well.

It can all be a little confusing.

How are we supposed to think about spiritual warfare?

Before we dive too deep, I think it is important we go back to the basics and look at several fundamental biblical principles for understanding spiritual warfare.

So far, we have seen:

First, the Bible is our final authority.

And second, God is in complete control.

A third vital principle for us to understand is that humans are fully responsible.

This is an important biblical theme for us to get straight because we as human beings are always looking for opportunities to shift the blame for our wrong choices to someone else.

If there is one thing we are good at, it’s blame shifting.

Which means, if we are confronted with our sin, we will blame circumstances, we will blame God, we will blame other people, and if we can, we will even blame demons for what we did.

And there are even counselors and churches who have whole ministries based on this, where they are constantly searching for the demon behind every problem, the idea being that if you struggle with a pattern of lust or anger or pretty much anything else, the reason might be that you are being possessed or at least strongly influenced by a certain demon.

And as you can imagine this way of thinking has implications.

For example you might have a believer, who struggles with a particular sin for a long time, maybe he struggles with the sin of fear and this fear has dominated him for a long time, and there are Christians, where if this believer confessed this sin, they might think the reason he has had such significant struggles with this particular sin is because there is a certain demon behind it, in other words, the reason he has this problem is not so much his fault as it is the demons, which is why those leaders might think the solution is not the put off and put on that we read about in Ephesians but instead an exorcism of some sort in which they try to compel a spirit named fear to identify himself and come out through the authority of Jesus’ name.

Now while that sounds somewhat strange, at least to me, that particular approach to the Christian life is not all that unique; there are many who seem to think that one of the primary reasons believers have the problems they have is because of demons.

And to a certain extent you can understand that, because sometimes our struggles with sin are so intense, and we want to change so much, and we can’t figure out why it’s not happening more quickly that it feels to us there must be demons or something like that at work BUT the question which we have to ask however is if that is actually the way the Bible speaks.

Because remember the Bible is our final authority.

And so we have to ask if when we find people making sinful choices in the Bible, the Bible ever speaks as if the people making those sinful choices weren’t actually responsible for their decisions?

In other words, does the Bible ever say to someone who is struggling with a particular sin that the reason he is struggling with that sin is because he is being demonized and the answer is for that demon to be cast out?

And the answer to that question is a big fat no, and I can prove that to you in several different ways.

One way to prove that is to look at different situations in the Bible where the devil or demons are said to be involved with someone doing something sinful and see if the Bible then says that fact means the person who sinned was not responsible for his choices.

I mean, there are a whole lot of times in the Bible where people sin and the devil and demons aren’t even mentioned, so we won’t even talk about those; but what about the times where they are?

Let’s begin with Cain.

You know the man who murdered his brother?

In 1 John 3:12, the Bible tells us that we should not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. The evil one is Satan.

Cain, John says, was of Satan.

Now does that fact mean that he wasn’t responsible for his sin?

God didn’t think so because in Genesis 4:10, He comes to Cain and asks, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground and now you are cursed from the ground.”

Judas is another example.

When both Luke and John talk about Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, the describe it in terms of Satan filling Judas. Listen to Luke 22:3, “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve…” Or take John 13:27, where we read that “after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into Judas and Jesus said to him, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly.’”

Now, those are some pretty clear passages in regards to Satan’s influence over Judas’ actions and yet, when later in the New Testament, it talks about what Judas did, do they talk about poor Judas who had no role in the matter?

No, the opposite.

In fact Luke himself speaks of Judas in Acts 1:18 like this. “(Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness…)” The key idea there being his wickedness, obviously the pronoun his means that Judas was held responsible by God for his sinful decisions.

Another place we could look is to the story of Ananias and Sapphira, the two people who sold their field, gave some money to the church, but lied about exactly how much. When Peter speaks to them in Acts 5:3, he recognizes Satan’s influence when he asks, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds for yourself.” But look, here’s the deal, because even though Satan obviously did have an influence in Ananias’ life, God still held Ananias responsible, which we know for one thing because Peter says later “Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart. You have not lied to men but to God.” And also we know that God held Ananias responsible because Ananias died.

Still another would be the false teachers Paul speaks about in 2 Timothy 2:24-26.

In verse 26, Paul says that these false teachers need to escape from the snare of the devil, because they have been captured by him to do his will.

That is strong language and we have to ask if the fact that they have been captured by him to do his will mean they are not responsible for what they are doing?

Well, if you look at what Paul says in the verse before the answer seems to definitely be no because he says in verse 25 that Timothy is to correct these men with gentleness, so that perhaps God may grant them what?

Repentance, which is something you do when you recognize your responsibility for your own sin and you make a conscious and deliberate decision to turn from it.

Pretty much wherever we look, we find the writers of Scripture recognizing that Satan tempts and that Satan has an influence in the lives of individuals, but you know, we never find them excusing people’s sins as a result, and what’s more we don’t find them looking to the casting out of particular demons as the solution to the moral problems that people are having.

Instead, when the Bible does identify the cause of our sinful choices, we find the writers of Scripture laying the blame squarely and fully at the feet of our own sinful desires.

They don’t blame demons, but they do blame us and there are many passages which illustrate that but perhaps none illustrates that more clearly than James 1:13ff.

James is dealing with this whole problem of why people fall into sin.

He’s looking at this issue, why someone gives into temptation and he’s explaining what is at the root of that and he begins by saying that we can’t blame God.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”

You can see how the person James speaks about takes this blame game to a whole other level where he doesn’t blame the devil or demons, but instead he goes directly to God.

God’s it is your fault I did what I did.

And James says absolutely no one should ever say that.

Why?

Because first off what we know to be true about the character of God.

He hates evil and he doesn’t tempt people to do evil.

But if we can’t blame God, then who can we blame?

James answers,

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

Each person, that means everyone, is tempted, when he is lured and enticed by who?

Himself.

That is what is so crazy.

We are stuck in a trap and we are trying to figure out who set it and we are actually the ones who set the trap for ourselves.

James says it we are tempted by our own evil desires and that it is those same evil desires which when conceived give birth to sin.

And that means if you have a pattern in your life of giving into sinful fear or into sinful lust or into sinful anger, while those patterns can seem so strong and so difficult to overcome that you want to blame someone else and while the Bible doesn’t deny the fact that the devil and demons may be involved in tempting you or trying to entice you to do evil, God simply won’t allow you to blame your sinful decisions on them.

You are responsible for your sin.

And I think it is very important that you know that, this is not just random theological information, it is important because when are wrong about the source of a problem, you are going to be wrong about the solution to the problem.

If someone comes to you when you are struggling with sin and says that the reason you are struggling with that sin is because you need the demon of lust or anger or fear cast out, you know that solution isn’t God’s solution because when you look to the Bible, it never ever speaks like that.

Humans are fully responsible.

And failing to understand that is going to have serious consequences.

You can imagine, as I was reading one author suggesting, “a certain woman, for example, who is judged to be demon possessed” when her problems are actually the result of her own sinful behavior, if they think the problem is demon possession,then all of the sudden things are going to get deeply complicated.
Here she is struggling with what is sin but she meets these men who speak with this great intensity and certainty and they are telling her that she is possessed by an evil spirit.

Then they attempt to cast out of her demons that aren’t even there.

Now what is going to be the result of that?

Not only is all that yelling and binding going to be a waste of time, it’s going to lead to hopelessness and despair when it doesn’t work the way she wants, and what’s more, it is going to shift the focus away from the responsibility of this woman for her own sinful behavior.

She will begin viewing herself as a helpless victim rather than as a guilty sinner and this will result in her being confirmed in her sinful life patterns when the attempted casting out of demons fails, and with the people who are trying to help her, they will start getting frustrated as well, when all their praying and efforts don’t seem to be doing what they are hoping they will do.

This is why when we are confronted with sinful behavior, our first response should attribute it to sinful desires, and not demons.

Thoughts on having a big family

3 Oct

Maybe the most common reaction when people meet someone with lots of children is to think they are crazy. Another fairly common reaction among Christians (believe it or not) is to feel a little guilty.

Both fall short.

The person who has many children is as crazy as someone who wants more joy and blessing, because that is what children are. I am not totally sure why the person who feels guilty feels guilty, I am guessing there could be a number of possible causes, but before you act on that guilt and have more and more children I think there are a couple of things you should know.

In other words, if I were sitting down with someone who was thinking about the size of their family, here are a couple things this father of a bigger family might say:

1.) It is awesome.

The other day someone heard that my wife was having our ninth child and she said to Marda, “I am so sorry for you.”

We feel pretty much the opposite, actually.

I simply can’t describe for you how much joy there is in our family pretty much every day. It would work better if you came and stayed with us for a little bit otherwise I am going to sound a bit corny talking about all the hugs and laughs and all that.

I know awesome is a word that is overused, but I am telling you, it just is.

I grew up with siblings who were much older than me, like eight years was the closest, and when I see how tight my children are with each other and how much fun they have with one another, wow, I can get a little jealous.

The advantages are big.

Plus, I find having a big family such a help to me spiritually because look, if, when I wake up, I am not serious about dying to self, well, it is going to be a pretty long day.

2.) It is hard work.

Parenting one person is hard work, now times that by nine. Children need time, there’s just no getting around it. They need someone who plays with them and is silly with them and spends time talking about the Word of God with them individually. Each child is unique, special and deserves to be treated that way, especially by their own parents. But if you have a large family and your children aren’t going to become a number, you are going to have to be willing to put in an extra kind of effort.

Just leaving to go to work can take some time, think about giving hugs and kisses to ten different people.

I usually have two separate times of devotions with our children because their ages are so spread apart.

If you have a problem talking about the same thing over and over, then with nine children it is going to be a nightmare for you.

We have four different bedtimes in our home.

I think you get the idea and all that is on top of having a fairly massive amount of dishes and laundry and on and on we could go. Now, it is worth it. It is definitely worth working for more than an extra vacation or something like that, but it is work.

And it is the kind of work that takes some skill and in particular a little bit of organization, actually. I tend to be a fairly laid back guy so sometimes people don’t realize that I have a bit of structure to my life. Her name is Marda. I am able to be a little more laid back because that structure is there. If that organization weren’t there, a big family could potentially be chaos and not the good kind of chaos. Whenever Marda has gone into the hospital to have a baby and is gone for a few days, I am always amazed how much more serious I get, and I have to because it really does take a bit of focus to get done what needs to get done in a big family without things coming apart.

3.) If everything has to be perfect for you, then maybe you better change your attitude first.

It is good to be organized and you need it for a big family, believe me, but on the other hand, if you are the kind of person who is uptight about seeing a sock on the floor, you maybe better work on that before you have too many kids.

Take family pictures as an example. Try getting nine children under twelve to smile and look at the camera at the same exact time. If you are too uptight, it is going to drive you a little crazy.

4.) Remember, to do one good, you may at the same time, not be able to do another good.

There are some people who don’t want to have a large family because bottom line they are selfish. O.k., that’s a problem. Our attitude as believers needs to be all out for Christ and you know honestly, I think having and discipling children is a joy-filled, long lasting impact kind of way to do that. But there are others who are really focused on using their gifts and talents for the glory of God in a bit of a different way and as a result, they are thinking they should probably only have several children instead of like ten. That’s a whole lot more understandable. Because if you are going to have ten children, you may not have a lot of time for say, writing or say, you may not be invited to people’s houses for dinner quite as much. Even, like pre-marital counseling becomes a little tougher to do as a couple when you have more children because who is going to look after the babies when you are sitting down to talk?

5.) Money is not the issue you might think it is, unless it is a bigger issue than you think it is.

God’s ability to provide is unmatched.

Bottom line.

So when someone tells me they don’t want to have more children because it is too expensive, it is hard for me to compute. We don’t make a lot of money, but we are living in a house that is paid off, (o.k. we don’t own it but it’s paid off) and drive a car that is paid off and have enough to eat every day and all that. Not because I am so good with money, believe me, I have made some huge, embarrassing kinds of mistakes with our finances in the past which God in His grace has helped us escape.

God is good, He really is and He is able to provide for His family very well.

On the other hand, look, I need to be straight up, the money issue isn’t as big an issue to us because it is not as big an issue to us. I don’t know how to say it any other way. Vacations are going to be more expensive as a big family, groceries are going to be more expensive, hey, even going out to McDonalds can cost. But if you are looking at all that and saying, it’s too expensive, make sure you are not saying it is too expensive because your life is about having vacations and being comfortable because if you are a Christian, your life is most definitely not about all that even if you are pretending for a while that it is.

If as you stand before God you are limiting the size of your family, man, I hope it is not because you want to drive a nicer car or even to be able to pay for your children to go to ballet or something like that. Because that means your attitude towards money is turned upside down. Being a Christian costs. If you don’t have children and you make extra money, you should be thinking about how you can use that money sacrificially for God’s glory anyway so whether you use it for God’s glory by paying for your children’s groceries or use it for God’s glory by helping someone else pay for their groceries, either way you are all about strategically using what God’s given you financially to make God look great.

Not because you have to somehow earn God’s favor through what you do, but because you have it because of what Christ did.

And that principle is really important to believe and embrace across the board when it comes to all of this, because I mean, man if you are sitting there feeling guilty about your family size because you think having more children is going to get God to like you better, then you better repent and deal with that before you even think about having more kids.

How to Grow in Knowledge

21 Sep

Jonathan Edwards:

1. Be assiduous [show great care and perseverance] in reading the Holy Scriptures. This is the fountain whence all knowledge in divinity must be derived. Therefore let not this treasure lie by you neglected. Every man of common understanding who can read, may, if he please, become well acquainted with the Scriptures. And what an excellent attainment would this be!

2. Content not yourselves with only a cursory reading, without regarding the sense. This is an ill way of reading, to which, however, many accustom themselves all their days. When you read, observe what you read. Observe how things come in. Take notice of the drift of the discourse, and compare one scripture with another. For the Scripture, by the harmony of its different parts, casts great light upon itself.—We are expressly directed by Christ, to search the Scriptures, which evidently intends something more than a mere cursory reading. And use means to find out the meaning of the Scripture. When you have it explained in the preaching of the word, take notice of it; and if at any time a scripture that you did not understand be cleared up to your satisfaction, mark it, lay it up, and if possible remember it.

3. Procure, and diligently use, other books which may help you to grow in this knowledge. There are many excellent books extant, which might greatly forward you in this knowledge, and afford you a very profitable and pleasant entertainment in your leisure hours. There is doubtless a great defect in many, that through a lothness to be at a little expense, they furnish themselves with no more helps of this nature. They have a few books indeed, which now and then on sabbath-days they read; but they have had them so long, and read them so often, that they are weary of them, and it is now become a dull story, a mere task to read them.

4. Improve conversation with others to this end. How much might persons promote each other’s knowledge in divine things, if they would improve conversation as they might; if men that are ignorant were not ashamed to show their ignorance, and were willing to learn of others; if those that have knowledge would communicate it, without pride and ostentation; and if all were more disposed to enter on such conversation as would be for their mutual edification and instruction.

5. Seek not to grow in knowledge chiefly for the sake of applause, and to enable you to dispute with others; but seek it for the benefit of your souls, and in order to practice. If applause be your end, you will not be so likely to be led to me knowledge of the truth, but may justly, as often is the case of those who are proud of their knowledge, be led into error to your own perdition. This being; your end, if you should obtain much rational knowledge, 163it would not be likely to be of any benefit to you, but would puff you up with pride: 1 Cor. viii. 1. “Knowledge puffeth up.”

6. Seek to God, that he would direct you, and bless you, in this pursuit after knowledge. This is the apostle’s direction, Jam. i. 5. “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, who giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not.” God is the fountain of all divine knowledge: Prov. ii. 6. “The Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” Labour to be sensible of your own blindness and ignorance, and your need of the help of God, lest you be led into error, instead of true knowledge: 1 Cor. iii. 18. “If any man would be wise, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.”

7. Practise according to what knowledge you have. This will be the way to know more. The psalmist warmly recommends this way of seeking knowledge in divine truth, from his own experience: Psal. cxix. 100. “I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.” Christ also recommends the same: John vii. 17. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”

Back to the Basics

19 Sep

One way to understand how you are to live for Christ as you look to the future is by looking back and thinking about what you heard, learned, accepted and embraced when you first became a Christian.

Like the fact that you received Jesus as Lord.

There’s a sense in which the central message of the Bible is that God is Lord. The term itself is used over 7000 times. We go to the Old Testament, and throughout we continually find God saying, “Look I, YHWH, am Lord.”

In fact, the basic confession of the Old Testament is found in Deuteronomy 6:4,5, you’ve probably heard of it, it’s called the Shema. It’s one of a couple Bible verses a devout Jew would recite twice daily.

You know what it says?

“Hear O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Who is your God? He is the Lord.

Turn to the New Testament and as one author explains, “the confession Jesus is Lord summarizes the message of the New Testament.”

Acts 2:36, Peter’s coming to the end of the very first sermon recorded after Jesus died and rose again, and you know what his punch line is?

“Therefore, let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him [Jesus] both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Paul sums up what it means to become a Christian like this; Romans 10:9, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved…”

1 Corinthians 12:3, “Therefore I make known to you, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is accursed’; and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”

All of history, in fact, is leading up to a point where every single person is going to see that Jesus is Lord.

Paul explains in Philippians 2:9-11 that God has highly exalted Jesus and bestowed on Him the name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and “that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

So obviously when we received Jesus as Lord, this is an idea that has special significance.

Way back at the beginning of our Christian life we said we believed Jesus is God. That’s what a person is saying when he calls Jesus Lord.

It is interesting, you don’t read very often in the New Testament – Jesus is God. But we do find all the time – Jesus is Lord. The term Lord is actually the most common title for Jesus. Paul alone uses it over 230 times to describe him and that’s probably because when you read Jesus is Lord, you are actually reading a stronger affirmation of his deity than if you just read Jesus is God.

The Greek word for God is Theos. We don’t read in the New Testament very often Jesus is Theos – I think just four times or something like that. But over and over we read Jesus is Kupios – Jesus is Lord. That’s because Theos – it’s the Greek equivalent to the generic Hebrew word for God – elohim. But kupios is most often used in the New Testament as the Greek equivalent to a very specific Hebrew word for God – the name by which the one true God chose to reveal Himself – YHWH.

The name by which God describes himself in the Old Testament is YHWH. That’s a Hebrew word. In the Greek-speaking world, instead of the Hebrew word YHWH, the writers of Scripture used the Greek word for Lord. When we read Jesus is Lord, you know what you are reading, “Jesus is YHWH.”

This Jesus that you meet in the New Testament, this Jesus that the apostles proclaimed, He’s the same Lord you read about in the Old Testament.

When confessed Jesus as Lord, you know what we were saying? We were saying as someone has written that “Jesus shares the name and the nature, the holiness, the authority, power, majesty and eternity of the one and only true God.”

Which is huge.

And it obviously has got to have implications for the way a person lives his life. That’s the point.

If you need an explanation of what it looks like to live for Christ, you only needed to think about what you embraced when you called Him Lord.

If you have received Jesus as Lord, you will seek to live your life out submitting to His authority.

You can’t just say that He is Lord and then have Him somewhere on the side of your life – theologically or practically.

I’m talking about the way a person thinks.

That their thoughts belong to Jesus. Knowing that He has a right to tell them the way He wants them to think, and that they need to do everything they can to think the way He wants them to think.

I’m talking about the way a person makes priorities.

Believing that when it comes to the priorities in life, Jesus gets to say what should be their priorities and what should not.

I’m talking about the way a person talks.

Accepting that their words don’t belong to them. That they need to speak the way their master wants them to. In their families, before they say whatever it is that they want to say do their spouse, they first of all submit to the Lord.

I’m talking about the way a person makes decisions.

Actively seeking to figure out what Jesus wants them to do by studying His Word and talking to godly believers and praying. Not just being willing to do what Jesus says until is actually difficult, until it requires sacrifice – but realizing they need to do what He says not just when it is easy, but also when it is difficult.

As you think about how to live for Christ in the future, make sure the way you are living is lining up with the basic truths you said you believed about Christ in the past. As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him!

More than we ask or think!

14 Sep

How can I be sure God can keep the promises I read in His Word when the circumstances of my life seem so difficult?

In Ephesians 3:20 and 21 Paul tells us we can be confident because we serve a God who can do an absolutely unending amount more, look at this, than all that we could ask or think.

That’s amazing.

More than all that we could ask.

That means every single request that you bring to God that is in line with His will, you know what, He is able to accomplish it.

Bring your request, he can top that.

When we come to God in prayer and make requests we are coming to someone who can do everything you ask of Him, and it is even better than that really, because Paul says God can do more than we ask.

And not just more than we ask, but even more than we think.

Paul is saying that even your imagination is too small to get a grasp on the power of God to keep His promises to His people. If you sit down and you try to come up with this crazy way for God to be able to keep His promises, God can do more than that. His power is bigger than that.

Knowing that right there about God is one of the keys to the Christian life

And I think actually we sometimes really get in trouble because we think God is limited by what limits us.

You are in this situation.

You read God’s promise.

But you look at your circumstance and you think, “I can’t figure out a way for God to be good and to keep His promises in this situation. That must mean He must not be able to.”

But here’s the thing.

God’s not limited by what limits you.

Just because you can’t do it, doesn’t mean God can’t do it.

He’s able to do more than you can ask or think.

That’s actually a big part of what God’s been doing and proving all throughout the Bible. He is constantly proving to us there’s nothing that can stop Him from keeping His promises.

Think about Abraham.

Can a 100 year old man and 90 year old woman stop God from keeping His promise.

Boom, baby.

Or Joseph.

Can brothers abandoning you in a pit and then being sold into slavery and the person you work for making false accusations and you end up in prison for something you didn’t do stop God?

Boom, God uses that terrible circumstance to rescue His people from a future famine.

Or Israel?

How about being slaves in Egypt?

With a powerful Pharaoh who hates you, doing everything he can to oppress you?

Can that stop Him?

Boom, ten plagues!

An army chasing you?

Boom, walking across the Red Sea on dry land.

This is the whole Old Testament really.

A giant named Goliath.

Boom, boy with a slingshot and he’s down.

We have got walls falling down when people shout. We have got men being thrown into a fiery furnace. Over and over again God proves that He is able to do far more abundantly than we could ever ask or think.

Your imagination is way smaller than the power of God.

And you know if you have any doubts in your mind about that, you don’t just have to go to the Old Testament. If you are a believer this power to do more than you can imagine is not simply something you read about in God’s Word, it is also something you have seen in your own life.

We are such funny people sometimes. We are like oh man, can God keep His promises? I wonder if Paul would be like, man do you know, do you have any conception of the power that God has demonstrated in your life already? Do you have any conception of the power that God has demonstrated in bringing the church into existence?

Try this.

He raised Jesus from the dead.

A man went into the ground and came back up and now that man, the God man, sits on His throne above every other authority in the universe.

If you need something a little more personal.

Try this.

You were dead spiritually, living your life in disobedience to God’s Word, just living like the world, not even really thinking, just doing what everybody else did, under the control of a satanic influence, controlled by your own wicked desires.

And it wasn’t just what you did that was messed up though, it was who you were.

You were by nature children of wrath, completely unable to do anything about your desperate condition.

But you know what?

God could and God did.

When you were dead, in this terrible position, God made you alive together with Christ.

He made you something you weren’t.

And you know what he did?

It wasn’t just something in us as individuals. He took these two radically different groups of people, Jewish people and Gentile people, and he took those who believed in Christ and he joined them together, breaking down thousands of years of racial barriers and made one new people in which to dwell.

That’s power.

That’s power beyond what a person could ask or think. That’s the kind of power that is at work in us. And man, guys, when we start doubting whether God can answer our prayers, whether He is able, there are a couple huge spiritual problems going on.

One, it may be that we are doubting the resurrection. If God can keep that promise, He can keep any promise.

Two, it may be that we are self-righteous. We are just so self-righteous that we can’t see how much power God had to exercise already to save us and to change us. If we really were convinced salvation was as big as the Bible says it is, we wouldn’t doubt God’s ability to keep the promise in front of us.

Or three, it may be that we are failing to appreciate what is happening in the church, what a miracle the church really is!

We can trust that God will keep His promises and make big requests on the basis of those promises in spite of our circumstances, because we serve God who has the ability to keep everyone of His promises to us. He is able to do more than we ask or think!

A Word for Idolaters

13 Sep

James Gray offers four warnings to those who are tempted to prefer things above God:

“1. Be persuaded that there is more joy in the hope and expectation of your idols than in the enjoyment of them. All the enjoyment of an idolater stands in hope, little of it stands in fruition.

2. When a soul comes to the enjoyment of its predominant idol, God [often] blasts the idol or cuts short your life ordinarily. We see this in the parable of that fool in the gospel, when he embraces his predominant idol.

3. An eternity’s enjoyment of your idols is not worthy to be compared to one moment’s enjoyment of Christ; for all the pleasures that idols can afford unto you, the loss of one hour of fellowship with Christ is a greater loss than they all can compensate.

4. Finally, notice that when the devil presents you with the beauty of your idols and you embrace these temptations, be then afraid lest there be a knot of marriage made between you and your idols. There are two knots that will be made between you and your lust, there is a knot of love and a knot of desire. Certainly, when you cast these knots between you and your idols, God will cast a third knot between you and them. He [may] pass a sentence in heaven, saying, ‘They are joined to their idols, let them alone.'”

Remedies Against Satan’s Devices (1)