Sunday, November 30, 2008
After we’ve been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ from an evil conscience (Hebrews 10:22), how do we stay pure? How do we keep our hearts from being stained all over again?
Listen to the answer from Psalm 119:9: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” We keep our hearts cleansed through the Word of God. When the Word cleanses us, it cleanses from wrong thinking, wrong doctrine, and wrong behaviour. This is why Jesus prayed to the Father on behalf of His followers, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
How often do you think such sanctification, such cleansing by the Word, is necessary? How much do you think it takes to make or keep you clean?
I’ve heard some people say, “Just spend three minutes a day alone with God.”
I can understand where they’re coming from. Some believers go through their days without spending any time with the Lord. And three minutes with God is better than none!
But the question is, are we selling God short? Are we selling God’s Word short? Is Deuteronomy 8:3 true when it says that “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD”? In three minutes a day can I really present myself “approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)?
Prayerfully evaluate how much time you are spending in God’s Word. If you’ve been short-changing God, ask Him to show you how to reprioritize your schedule.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
"When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water."
- James 3:3-12
Friday, November 28, 2008
I Surrender All
All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessèd Savior,
I surrender all.
All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessèd Savior,
I surrender all.
All to Jesus, I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessèd Savior,
I surrender all.
All to Jesus, I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessèd Savior,
I surrender all.
All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
O the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to His Name!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
with a passion that will not pass away.
Now torch it with Thy holy fire
that nevermore shall earth’s desire
invade or quench the heaven born power.
I would be trapped within Thy holy will,
Thine every holy purpose to fulfill,
that every effort of my life
shall bring rapturous praise to my eternal King.
I pledge from this day to the grave
to be Thine own, unquestioning slave.”
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low by thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”
(Tomorrow – pt. 5: I Surrender All)
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Today we are going to look at what surrender means practically – applicably in every day life. Luke 14:25-27 is one of the clearest passages of Christ’s call to surrender. “He was calling [all] to come and die to everything that competed with His reign and rule in their lives.” Verse 33 of this chapter includes the same call.
DeMoss explains that “it’s one thing to have an emotional experience at a Christian gathering where you are inspired and challenged to surrender control of everything to God. It’s another matter to live out that surrender once the emotion of the moment has passed.” Surrender isn’t an emotion, and it’s not spurred on by an emotion every day of our lives. It’s a decision and a daily, ongoing thing. So, what does a surrendered life look like?
Frances Ridely Havergal’s hymn “Take My Life and Let It Be” is a perfect example which DeMoss used in her book. She explains that in this hymn, “each line focuses on one dimension of what it means to be fully surrendered to Christ.”
The following is a list of questions stemming from specific areas of surrender for personal examination and application. Think about them and pray about them as you think of your life surrendered to God.
My Life: “Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.”
- Have I ever consciously acknowledged Christ’s ownership of my life?
- Have I made a volitional, unconditional, lifetime surrender of my life to Christ?
- Am I seeking to live out that surrender on a daily basis?
- Are there any “compartments” of my life over which I am reserving the right to exercise control?
My Time: “Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.”
- Do I live with the conscious realization that all my time belongs to God, or have I merely reserved a portion of my time for the “spiritual” category of my life?
- Am I living each day in the light of eternity?
- Am I purposeful and intentional in my use of time, seeking to invest moments of my days in ways that will bring glory to God?
- Do I seek His direction as to how I should use my “free time”?
- Am I squandering time with meaningless, useless conversation or entertainment?
- Do I set apart time each day for worship, prayer, and personal devotion?
- Do I readily respond to opportunities to serve others, even if it requires sacrificing “my” time?
- Do I become resentful or impatient when others interrupt my schedule or when I am faced with unplanned demands on my time?
My Body: “Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love. Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.”
- Am I yielding the members (parts) of my body to God as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13)?
- Do I use the members of my body to express the kindness and love of Christ to others (e.g., using my hands for serving, etc)?
- Are any of the members of my body – eyes, ears, hands, feet, mouth, etc. – being used to sin against God (e.g., stealing, lying, listening to or repeating gossip, inflicting physical harm on mate or children, listening to profanity, viewing pornography, sexual sin)?
- Do I treat my body as if it is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19)?
- Am I abusing my body in any way (e.g., with food, alcohol, illegal or prescription drugs)?
- Am I morally pure – what I see, what I think, what I do, where I go, what I listen to, what I say?
My Tongue: “Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee.”
- Do the words that come out of my mouth reveal that my lips and tongue are fully surrendered to God?
- Do I habitually verbalize the goodness and greatness of God?
- Do I regularly ask the Lord to guard my tongue?
- Am I filling my mind and heart with the Word of God, so that what comes out of my mouth will be “messages from Him”?
- Do I speak words that are critical, unkind, untrue, self-centered, rude, profane, or unnecessary?
- Do I look for and take advantage of opportunities to give a verbal witness for Christ?
- Do I intentionally use my tongue to edify and encourage others in their walk with God?
My Possessions: “Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.”
- Do I treat any of my possessions as if they were mine rather than God’s?
- Do I give generously, sacrificially, and gladly to the Lord’s work and to others in need?
- Do I own anything that I would not be willing to part with if God were to take it from me or ask me to give it to another?
- Am I a wise steward of the material resources God has entrusted to me?
- Do I view God as my provider and the source of all my material possessions?
- Do I give my tithes and offerings to the Lord before I pay my bills or spend my income?
My Mind: “Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.”
- Am I “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5)?
- Am I disciplining my mind to get to know God and His Word better?
- Am I wasting my mind on worldly knowledge or pursuits that do not have eternal, spiritual value?
- Am I guarding the entrance of my mind from impure influences (e.g., books, magazines, movies, music, conversations)?
My Will: “Take my will and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.”
- Do I consistently seek to know and to do the will of God in the practical, daily matters of life?
- When I read the Word of God (or hear it proclaimed), am I quick to say “Yes, Lord” and to do what it says?
- Is there anything God has shown me to be His will that I have been neglecting or refusing to obey?
- Do I become resentful when things don’t go my way? Do I have to have the last word in disagreements?
- Am I stubborn? Demanding? Controlling?
- Am I quick to respond in confession and repentance when the Holy Spirit convicts me of sin?
My Affection: “Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.”
- Do I love Christ and His Kingdom more than this earth and its pleasures? Is there anything or anyone that I am more devoted to than Christ?
- Am I allowing Christ to reign and rule over my affections, my emotions, and my responses?
- Am I allowing anyone or anything other than Christ to control my emotions and responses?
- Do I trust God’s right to rule over the circumstances of my life?
My Relationships: “Take my love; my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.”
- Is it my desire and intent to love God with all my heart, above all earthly relationships? Do I enjoy and seek out the friendship of God as much as I do human friendships?
- Do I love God more than I love myself? Do I seek His interests, His reputation, and His pleasure above my own?
- Have I surrendered to God all my desires, rights, and expectations regarding my family?
- Am I willing to let God decide whether I am to be married and to whom?
- Am I willing to love my mate in a Christlike way, regardless of whether or not that love is reciprocated?
- Have I released my children to the Lord? Am I trying to control their lives? Am I willing for Him to call them and use them in His service – anywhere, in any way, regardless of the cost?
- Is there anyone that I “love” in a way that is not pure? Am I holding on to any friendships or relationships that God wants me to relinquish?
- Am I willing to sacrifice friendships, if necessary, in order to obey God and His call in my life?
- Am I willing to speak the truth in love to others about their spiritual condition, even if it means risking the loss of the relationship or my reputation?
Myself: “Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.”
- Have I surrendered all that I am and all that I have to God?
- Is there any part of myself – my plans, relationships, possessions, emotions, career, future – that I am knowingly holding back from God?
- Have I settled the issue that the ultimate purpose of my life is to please God and bring Him glory?
- Is it the intent of my heart, by His grace, to live the rest of my life wholly for Him and for His pleasure, rather than for myself and my pleasure?
(Tomorrow – pt. 4: Examples and testimonies of a surrendered life)
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
To be a living sacrifice will involve all my possessions… All should be available to God for the furtherance of His Kingdom. My money is His… He has the right to direct the spending of each penny. … I must consider that I own nothing. All is God’s, and what I have, I have on trust from Him, to be used as He wishes.
To be a living sacrifice will involve all of myself. My will and my emotions, my health and vitality, my thinking and activities all are to be available to God, to be employed as He chooses, to reveal Himself to others. …All rights are His – to direct my living so that He can most clearly reveal Himself through me. God has the right, then, to choose my job, to choose my companions and my friends…
To be a living sacrifice will involve all my love. …I relinquish the right to choose whom I love and how, giving the Lord the right to choose for me… Whether I have a life partner or not is wholly His to decide, and I accept gladly His best will for my life. I must bring all these areas of my affections to the Lord for His control, for here, above all else, I need to sacrifice my right to choose for myself…” – Dr. Helen Roseveare
Does that seem too much to ask? Does it seem ridiculous to have to give up everything? Does it seem weak-minded? Does it seem extreme?
To many, yes, it does; to many, this whole notion of complete surrender seems utterly extreme. Some would look at the above explanation of surrender and call anyone who actually lives like that a “radical.” But in actuality, it’s not at all extreme or radical. When you look to the cross – look to Christ and His sacrifice – surrendering our lives to Him is not extreme or too much to ask. “In light of the incredible mercy of God poured out on us (past, present, and future mercies), a full and complete sacrifice of our lives is the only logical response we can make… in light of who God is and who we are, such surrender is completely reasonable.” As Isaac Watts penned in his well-known hymn “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross” (written in 1707) –
“Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”
We can ask, “shall we devote to [our] Saviour only our spare evening? Is He not worthy of the whole of our lives?” Can we give our all? Unfortunately, many people answer ‘no’ to that… allowing themselves to be tied too tightly to earthly things – hence why many never fully surrender.
Another reason for lack of surrender is plain old fear. “What might it mean for you today to offer yourself as a ‘living sacrifice’ to God?” Some fear surrender because of the uncertainty that comes with it; many “wrestle with real fears of what that might mean for us… Full surrender to Christ forces us to face the possibility – or the reality – of giving up some of the things we consider most important in life.” The fact is that “we don’t know what God knows – which is why we so often find it difficult to embrace His will and why we must learn to ‘trust and obey.’” It’s also a truth that “the pathway of surrender is not always an easy one.”
“Our natural tendency is to hold on tightly, to try to protect and preserve whatever we think we can’t live without. We are afraid that if we surrender everything to God – our health, our material possessions, our family, our reputation, our career plans, all our rights, our future – He might take us up on it!”
DeMoss points out that “many of our fears about relinquishing total control of our lives to God fall into four categories…"
- Provision – Will I have what I need?
- Pleasure – Will I be happy?
- Protection – Will I (and those I love) be safe?
- Personal relationships – Will my relational needs be met?
“[God says,] ‘I am your protection and your provision; if you have Me, you have all you need. So trust Me!’” We also have to remember to think properly about the temporal and the eternal. “Everything this world offers is temporary at best.” Remembering this helps tremendously!
As we continue in our walk with God, and as we continue to live in surrender, we are comforted, as “each ‘small’ step of surrender that we take confirms that God is worthy of our trust and prepares us to trust Him with bigger surrenders that may be required down the road.”
We can choose to either be bogged down by our fear and distrust, or we can let go, in faith that He knows best. We can either “trust the promises of God – which will free you to live joyfully under His loving Lordship – or live under the tyranny of that which you will not surrender.”
As an example for this – trusting His promises – here are a few quick Scripture verses related to the “four fears” mentioned:
- Provision – Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:19; Matthew 7:7; Philippians 4:6
- Pleasure – (first off, remember that “our hearts can never be truly satisfied with less than Him”) Psalm 16:11; 36:7-8
- Protection – Psalm 21:2, 4-6
- Personal Relationships – 1 John 1:3,7; Hebrews 13:5; Psalm 73:25
Philippians 2:5 tells us that our “attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” One of the best ways to act on this is in surrender, because “every time you and I bow our heads in acceptance of and surrender to the will of God, we embrace the cross and we manifest to the world the heart of Christ who bowed His head to the will of His Father.”
A simple fact of this all is that “to call Him Lord means to say Yes – to His will, His Word, and His ways. We cannot call Him Lord and then proceed to run our own lives.”
No matter the issue, however daunting it may seem, whatever the price or fears, no matter where that surrender might lead you –
“To be totally surrendered to God means to bow the knee before a Sovereign Lord. It means to say Yes to God…
- Yes to His choices for your life – even when they don’t seem comfortable or convenient
- Yes to difficult or painful circumstances that you cannot understand or change
- Yes to everything that is revealed in His Word
- Yes to His plans, His purposes, and His priorities
- Yes to the human authorities He has placed in your life
- Yes to His disciplines
- Yes to His control over your appetites, your body, your time, your relationships, your future – everything
(Tomorrow – pt. 3: A practical/applicable look at surrender)
Monday, November 24, 2008
This book made quite a deep impact on my life years ago when I first read it, and the truths in it are still always a huge blessing. The topic of surrender is one that I think is important to talk about. So, I’d like to give a basic summary of this book… talking about what surrender is and what it means for a Christian to surrender all to God. Although I’ll be using lots of quotes from the book, I still urge you to get this book and read it through yourself as it’s absolutely full of important truths and thoughts for application. :)
I want to start by simply looking at what surrender means. In our society today “surrender” is seen as a negative thing… it usually has implications of weakness or ‘giving up’ in a pessimistic way. Our society is always trying to tell us that we have to make our own way, prosper ourselves, be independent and free, etc. Basically, surrender is the opposite of what the world says we ought to live. And yet Christ calls us to surrender to Him:
“The terms of our surrender to the Lord Jesus are non-negotiable and unconditional. What does He ask us to surrender? In a word, everything. Christian surrender means that we come to Him on His terms and say simply, ‘I surrender all.’ We lay down our arms, we hand over everything we have, everything we are, everything we hope to be.”
Yet we fight this with all our might sometimes. There are lots of reasons why we don’t want to surrender, because it’s not easy to surrender! “One of the challenges of complete surrender to Christ is that we don’t know what lies ahead.” But “God says, ‘Here’s a blank piece of paper. I want you to sign your name on the bottom line, hand it back to Me, and let Me fill in the details. Why? Because I am God; because I have bought you; because I am trustworthy; because you know how much I love you; because you live for My glory and not your own independent, self-promoting pleasure.’”
“Surrender to Christ is life-changing… that surrender involves a transfer of allegiance and a transformation of perspective that ought to affect every aspect of our lives.”
As frightening as that may seem to some, the truth is that “surrender is the source and means of true freedom and fullness… to surrender to the Creator’s control is not onerous or burdensome; it is, in fact, the place of blessing, fullness, and peace. …If we will let Him, God will fill in the details of our lives with His incomparable wisdom and sovereign plan, written in the indelible ink of His covenant faithfulness and love.”
But why do we have to surrender? The Scripture says that “from the moment we were conceived, we were at war with God (Psalm 51:5).” We want to be in control… “beneath the surface, every human being has an inborn determination to run his own life and an unwillingness to be mastered by Christ, the King of kings.” We think we know best and we think we can handle everything just fine. And usually we do think we’re doing a great job! “We so easily become desensitized to God’s standards or feel that compared to the world’s standards we are doing fine.” And yet, as DeMoss reminds us, “If you claim to be a follower of Christ while living in denial about certain areas of your life that are not pleasing to Him, you are not living a fully surrendered life, no matter how many people may think of you as a ‘good Christian.’”
The fact is that we’re not in control, we can’t rule our own lives, and we’re not as invincible as we think we are. This is why surrender to God is vital. He’s the One in control: “God exercises His sovereign control over the universe because He is the only one capable of running the universe. Inherent in His being is absolute sovereignty – the right to rule. He is the Creator – we are His creatures. He is eternal – we are finite. He is all-powerful – we have no power of our own. He is autonomous, independent, and self-existent, needing no one and nothing – we are dependent on Him for our next breath (Acts 17:24-25).”
So, what if we don’t surrender? What if we just want to keep living as we were and doing what we’re doing? Actually, many people do just that. But in the end, everyone will surrender, whether they want to or not, when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Without complete surrender to Him in our lives here on earth we won’t be prepared or willing to bow the knee in the end. And meanwhile, in our lives now, “there can be no peace with God, nor can there be peace in our hearts, apart from unconditional surrender. Refusing to surrender merely compounds our losses; delayed surrender only prolongs the conflict.” “As long as we refuse to surrender our will to the will of God, we are never truly free. Rather, we find ourselves dominated by ungodly appetites and forces.”
You see, surrender isn’t a negative thing and it certainly doesn’t mean we’re weak minded. In fact, living without this surrender is the negative. When we do surrender, a huge transformation takes place, and instead of having the negative implications the world may assume, it accomplishes the opposite:
“Once a lifetime surrender has been made, many of our battles will be much less difficult to fight, because the outcome – Jesus is Lord – has already been established. That fundamental acknowledgement of His sovereign right to reign and rule over us will serve us well as our allegiance to the King is tested on a daily basis.” And, “in surrendering to Him, we finally see the ‘surpassing value’ of Christ over all that the world ever could have given us (Philippians 3:8).”
But surrender to Christ doesn’t just end at that one commitment… it’s an ongoing thing. “Having surrendered our lives to Christ as Saviour and Lord, we must now learn what it means to live out a surrendered life – to continually say no to self, and yes to God.” As both initial and ongoing, it is “a surrender that is made once and for all, as well as daily, recurring sacrifice of our lives to God. Our initial surrender to Christ is the launching pad for a lifetime of continual surrender and sacrifice. Now, on a daily, perpetual basis, we are called to live out that consecration, by responding to the various circumstances and choices of life in obedience and surrender to His will.”
Along with thinking of ‘surrender’ is the thought and picture of a slave. Now, if ‘surrender’ is a negative word, ‘slave’ is one unthinkable to apply to ourselves in today’s society. In fact, even in many Bible translations they have changed the word ‘slave’ to ‘servant’ because it doesn’t give quite as much negative connotations. “A servant is defined as ‘a person employed to perform services for another.’ A slave, on the other hand, is a ‘human being who is owned as property by, and is absolutely subject to the will of another.” And yet we see again that when applying this word to our lives in Christ, it’s not negative in any way… “It is absolutely appropriate that human beings should choose to be the slaves of the Lord Jesus, whom they love and long to serve for all their lives.”
DeMoss shares personally, that she has “come to believe that there is no greater calling to be marked as His slave – to choose to give my life in the service of the Master I have grown to know and love and trust.”
This isn’t just a “here and there” surrender… we can’t pick and choose what to surrender, when to surrender specific things, etc. By surrendering all to God we’re not just making a “commitment” or acting as “servants.” No, we are “to offer ourselves as living sacrifices – that is, we are to go on living in these bodies, recognizing that they are not our own, that they belong to God, whose temple we are.” What does it mean to “offer our bodies”? “Offering our bodies speaks of a complete presentation of ourselves to God. It means devoting to the Lord Jesus, not just our ‘spare evenings,’ but ‘the whole of [our] lives.’” … “God’s call to lay down our lives on the altar of sacrifice means that we give Him all that we are – our rights, our reputation, our desires, our future plans; everything that concerns us – first, for a lifetime, and then, day by day, moment by moment, decision by decision.”
(Tomorrow – pt. 2: Why we hesitate to surrender)
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
’Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.
Bold shall I stand in Thy great day;
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.
The holy, meek, unspotted Lamb,
Who from the Father’s bosom came,
Who died for me, e’en me to atone,
Now for my Lord and God I own.
Lord, I believe Thy precious blood,
Which, at the mercy seat of God,
Forever doth for sinners plead,
For me, e’en for my soul, was shed.
Lord, I believe were sinners more
Than sands upon the ocean shore,
Thou hast for all a ransom paid,
For all a full atonement made.
When from the dust of death I rise
To claim my mansion in the skies,
Ev’n then this shall be all my plea,
Jesus hath lived, hath died, for me.
This spotless robe the same appears,
When ruined nature sinks in years;
No age can change its glorious hue,
The robe of Christ is ever new.
Jesus, the endless praise to Thee,
Whose boundless mercy hath for me—
For me a full atonement made,
An everlasting ransom paid.
O let the dead now hear Thy voice;
Now bid Thy banished ones rejoice;
Their beauty this, their glorious dress,
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Why is God against idolatry? Because its focus is on what man creates rather than on the Creator. God loves us and desires our highest good. He made us for Himself. Nothing – no person, no object – is to take His rightful place in our affections or attention.
Think about it. Does He have the pre-eminence in your affections? Do you desire Him above all else and everyone else? Or have others – idols – crowded Him out so that you live for others, seeking to please them above your God? And what priority do you give Him? How much of your attention does He receive? Do you talk with Him daily? Weekly? Monthly? Annually? Do you take vacations from God or with God?I urge you to take a moment and think about these things. If you have idols in your life, you must realize they are as great a sin as adultery or murder. Hear the word of the Lord in Exodus 20:3: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Have you?
Friday, November 21, 2008
Isaiah 7:9b has always been one of my favourite verses of the Bible. It’s one that I turn to in my head often. I suppose you could say it’s my “life verse” as some people word it. I’d read the book of Isaiah before, but in this section Isaiah is talking about King Ahaz and the Assyrians and war, and I reckon I just didn’t take much notice of this particular verse. But re-reading it again several years ago, this little part in verse 9 jumped out at me:
“If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (NIV). What a powerful truth in so few words!
Now, I know that quoting just these two lines might result in many people telling me I’m taking it out of context… but even though these words were directed to King Ahaz and the nation of Israel being established, I think these words are true for us today – no matter the context.
We may not be facing an army and trusting in Assyrians rather than on God… but we do face all sorts of things every day of our lives. Throughout the Bible we are told countless times to “stand firm”: 1 Corinthians 16:13 says “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong,” Ephesians 6 talks about the armour of God and tells us to “stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place…” James 5:8 reminds us to “be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near.” Isaiah 7:9b is yet another verse which, to me, reminds me of the utter importance of standing firm in our faith as it is followed by a warning that tells us that if we don’t, we will not stand at all.
Thinking of this – standing firm in faith – there are a few quick commentary references I’d like to point out taken from Isaiah 7:9…
Jamieson, Faussett and Brown bring out the fact that there is a play on words here… in Hebrew this can be translated as: “If you will not confide, you will not abide.” And this is a very true warning that Ahaz needed to hear. Unfortunately he didn’t listen, and brought distress on himself by distrust in the Lord and trust in Assyria. He was warned that his shaken and distorted state would not be established; that though the things that were told to him were very encouraging, they would not be so to him unless he believed them and would be willing to take God at His word. This is so true of us today, who, when facing trials, attempt to fix things or produce results on our own or in other things other than God. Who, rather than taking God at His word and remembering His promises and love, decide to trust in the world or others for protection or comfort.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary states that “Faith is absolutely necessary to quiet and compose the mind in trials.” How absolutely true this is! And as this was true for the Israelites at the time this was written, it’s also true for us today.
John Darby writes about this verse saying that it was a reminder to the people of the time that they were not to be troubled by the fear of the people, but rather that they were to “sanctify Jehovah of hosts Himself, and give Him all His true importance in their hearts. He will be their sanctuary in the day of their trouble.”
This is why this verse is so applicable to us all each and every day. If we stand firm in our faith – if we give Him all His true importance in our heart – He will be our comfort, our protection, our everything. If we do not stand firm in our faith – if we give way to fear, to the world, to distress and distrust – then we will not stand at all.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
We've all been through storms in life, and this hymn is one that I often remember while going through a particularly difficult time...
‘Til The Storm Passes By
(Mosie Lister, 1958)
In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face,
While the storm howls above me, and there's no hiding place.
'Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry,
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.
Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more,
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky;
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand,
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.
Many times Satan whispered, "There is no need to try,
For there's no end of sorrow, there's no hope by and by"
But I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I'll rise
Where the storms never darken the skies.
When the long night has ended and the storms come no more,
Let me stand in Thy presence on the bright peaceful shore;
In that land where the tempest, never comes, Lord, may I
Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I put some of it into my own words in order to make it more applicable to women and men alike, but the majority of it is right from the “guide” itself, and it reads as follows:
The Scriptures call us to develop an attraction to true beauty. 1 Peter 3:3-6 describes the beautiful wife as a woman who has a gentle and quiet spirit, born out of her faith and hope in God, and displayed in her trusting submission to her husband.
… Is this the kind of beauty the driving force in a relationship? Or have you made romantic attraction and “chemistry” the deciding issue? Now don’t get me wrong, you should be physically attracted… but we get in trouble, both in dating and in marriage, when we make physical beauty and “chemistry” the threshold issue in the decision to commit to marriage.
Physical beauty in a fallen world is fading and transient. What’s more, the world narrowly defines beauty as the body of a teenager, and scorns the beauty of motherhood and maturity. But which “body” are you going to spend most of your years together? Personalities also change and mature, and what seems like “chemistry” when you’re 22 might feel like superficial immaturity 10 years later.
No one lives in a perpetual state of “being in love.” But in marriage, our love is called to “always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere” (1 Cor. 13:7). If mere worldly, physical beauty if the main thing attracting our love, then our love will prove as ephemeral as that beauty. But if we have developed an attraction to true beauty, then we have nothing to fear.
Don’t Wait for a Soul Mate
Our culture has embraced a rather absurd notion that there is just one person who can “complete us.” This is a disastrous mindset with which to approach a lifelong marital decision.
Many people mistake a storm of emotion as the identifying mark of their soul mate. How else can you identify “destiny”? Such individuals marry on an infatuation binge without seriously considering character, compatibility, life goals, family desires, spiritual health, and other important concerns.
God has given us biblical ways of making a “wise” choice that we can use to arrive at a solid decision, based on a number of factors:
- Is the person a believer who fears God (Proverbs 31:30) and who is biblically eligible for marriage (Mark 10:11-12)?
- How do they handle their money? (Proverbs 31:16, 18)
- Is this person a hard worker? (Proverbs 13:4; 26:13-15)
- Do they live an upright life? (Proverbs 13:6, 20; 25:28)
- Does this person wound people with their words, or are they an encourager? (Proverbs 12:18; 18:21)
- Are they peaceful, or quarrelsome? (Proverbs 17:19; 19:8)
Prayer & Parental, Pastoral, and Wise Advice
Look For A ‘Sole Mate’
Instead of following Plato in a wild pursuit of our soul mate, we should seek to find a biblical “sole mate.” A sole mate is someone who walks with us as together we apply biblical love. The most accurate definition of true love is found in John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
This love is not based on feelings, but on sacrifice. The Bible calls men to act like martyrs toward their wives, laying down their own lives on their wives’ behalf (Ephesians 5:25). Love is not an emotion; it’s a policy and a commitment that we choose to keep. Such love is not based on the worthiness of the person being loved – none of us deserve Christ’s sacrifice! – but on the worthiness of the One who calls us to love: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
A “sole mate” appreciates that marriage is a school of character. Character that shows in the women or men who, through the duties and sacrifice of marriage, have trained themselves to love with God’s love. They live out the gospel on a daily basis, forgiving, serving, and putting others first in the most ordinary issues of life in such a way that they see themselves in training for godliness.
As Christ’s follower – as a true sole mate – I’m called to take his example and his definition of love and apply it to my spouse. It really doesn’t matter whether my spouse is a “soul mate,” as much as it matters that I choose to love him/her with Christ’s love. That means a sacrificial mindset marked by generosity, kindness, and mercy.
A biblical sole mate who walks in this truth, who daily travels God’s journey on sacrificial love, and who willingly goes “into training” for godliness is a far more stable foundation upon which to build a lifelong partnership that the philosophy of Plato.
The guide then continues and focuses on a section that looks at “How Do You Decide to Marry the Man or Woman You’re Dating.” Since that may be a step too far ahead for some at this point, there still are things that one can really think about and take into consideration even when still at the point of friendship/beginning a new relationship. These were specific thoughts such as:
- Generally speaking, will you be able to serve God better together than apart?
- Does this relationship spur you on in your Christian discipleship, or does it dull and distract your interest in the Lord and his people? Are you more or less eager to study God’s word, and pray, and give yourself in service as a result of time spent together?
- What do other mature Christian friends and family members say about your relationship? Do they see a relationship that is spiritually solid and God-glorifying?
All of these things are important to think about, apply and make a priority whether you are single and preparing for that future someone, or if you’re in a relationship, or even if you’re already married and need to make your focus deeper in Christ. :)
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
It's hard to be a single Christian girl - there's no doubt about that. You'll hear it from nearly every girl that there just doesn't seem to be any good Christian guys out there today. lol But the problem is that because of thoughts like this, we girls tend to go looking for that kind of relationship in other things. And the most common way we think we find what we're looking for is in close friendships with guys. Everyone in these types of guy/girl friendships thinks that it'll never get complicated and that neither of them will ever get hurt. Sadly, that's just not possible! I've fallen prey to these thoughts before and have been hurt because of them.
A few months ago I promised myself I'd never get involved in an intimate friendship with a guy again. A lot of friends said not to say that, and that having friendships like that can't be all that bad, that I was just overreacting, etc. But reading these articles reminded me again of why I made that decision. The truth is that when we form these kinds of friendships, they do lead to at least one person feeling like it's going to lead to more, and when it doesn't lead to more, someone gets hurt.
I'm not saying that guys and girls can't be friends... and neither are these articles. But I am saying that as friends there are lines to draw. Getting caught up in an intimate friendship crosses those lines before you know it and often we're blind to that crossing. I've had guy "friends" tell me they thought I was their soulmate, or that I may be "the one"... all while we were "just friends." Obviously we crossed the line somewhere! Other times it's not quite as obvious, but line-crossing still occurred at some point. But can I point the finger and blame these guys for saying stuff like that? No, of course not. I'm just as much to blame. And as a result, I've hurt guys, and guys have hurt me. And that's just not what should be happening between Christian brothers and sisters.
I see this all the time, all around me... which is why I want to link to these articles and encourage you to read them. If you're facing this kind of thing, please pray about it and make a decision as to whether or not it's right that you're in the intimate friendship you're in. And encourage others to do the same. :)
Article #1: Not Your Buddy
Article #2: Just Friends
Article #3: Stuck in the Just-Friends Zone
Monday, November 17, 2008
First, let’s look at the first bit – verse 13:
An interesting way to think of it is also to look at what Barton W. Johnson says, when he explains that “the divisions between God's children and the children of this world turns on obedience to God.”
John Darby’s Synopsis of the Bible puts it simply, saying that we are “…to walk as obedient children, no longer following the lusts that had led them in the days of their ignorance.” The Geneva Study Bible explains this command as consisting of two things, which are mainly the ‘putting off’ of, or renouncing, our lusts, and ‘putting on’ of godly living. John Gill points out the connection between this phrase, and that in Romans 12:2: “be not conformed to this world.” And here it gets detailed! He says, “to be conformed, or fashioned to the world, is to be fashioned to the lusts of it; and to be fashioned to the lusts of it is to indulge them, to make provision for them, to obey them, to live and walk in them; which should not be done by the children of God, and who profess themselves to be obedient ones to the Gospel, which teaches otherwise; and that because they are lusts, foolish, hurtful, and deceitful ones, ungodly ones; the lusts of the devil, as well as of the world, and of the flesh, and which war against the soul; and because they are "former" ones, which they served in a time of unregeneracy, and were now convinced and ashamed of, and therefore should no longer live to them.”
That they were “lusts in ignorance” means that they were “those which they had indulged in a state of ignorance… when they knew not God, especially in Christ, and were ignorant of his righteousness, and of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, as committed against a law that was holy and spiritual; nor did they know Christ, and the way of salvation by him. But now they were made light in the Lord, and had knowledge of all these things; and therefore, as their light increased, and the grace of God, bringing salvation, appeared unto them, and shone out on then, it became them to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and not to walk as they had done before.”
To sum up this particular section, Barton W. Johnson brings it all together simply as he says, “The spirit of obedience would cause [believers] to turn away from their former sinful life when in ignorance of the gospel,” and Matthew Henry notes that these words “may be taken as an argument to press [believers] to holiness from the consideration of what they now are, children of obedience, and what they were when they lived in lust and ignorance.”
Then we move on to the last command: “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy” – or – “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation...”
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary introduces this wonderfully as he notes:
“Holiness is the desire and duty of every Christian. It must be in all affairs, in every condition, and towards all people. We must especially watch and pray against the sins to which we are inclined. The written word of God is the surest rule of a Christian's life, and by this rule we are commanded to be holy every way. God makes those holy whom he saves.”
John Gill digs into this command and states that to be holy is to be like God the Father, “who had called them, not merely in an external way, by the outward ministry of the word; but internally, powerfully, and efficaciously, by his Spirit and grace; and who had called them to holiness of life and conversation, as well as in calling had implanted principles of holiness in them, and therefore is said to call them with an holy calling; and who himself is holy, naturally, perfectly, and originally, and in such sense as no creature is, angels or men; and is glorious in holiness, and is the source and fountain of holiness in others.”
He explains this type of holiness as this: “To be holy in this sense is an imitating of God, a copying after him, though he is far from being equalled by a sinful creature, or even by an angel in heaven; however, the arguments to it, taken from the nature of God, and of his effectual calling to grace and holiness, are very strong and powerful; for it is walking worthy of him, who has called us to his kingdom and glory; and walking worthy of that calling wherein we are called; and a following of God, as dear and obedient children; and what is according to his will, and what he directs unto, and requires, as appears from what follows.”
Barton W. Johnson says this in a straightforward manner, stating, “We must not only submit to God's commands but seek to imitate his holiness.” And Jamieson, Faussett and Brown point out the fact that “God is our grand model” and that as “Christians are already holy unto God by consecration; they must be so also in their outward walk and behaviour in all respects. The outward must correspond to the inward man.”
Matthew Henry then brought out the exact thing that I had been mulling over… How can we be holy? Or as Henry puts it, “Who is sufficient for this? And yet it is required in strong terms.”
John Gill points out that internal holiness is “God’s work, and not the creature’s act; it is the sanctification of the Spirit, of which he is the author.”
Jamieson, Faussett and Brown further point out that “God, in giving the command, is willing to give also the power to obey it, namely, through the sanctifying of the Spirit.”
In conclusion of mulling over this all, I want to point out several things that the Matthew Henry Bible Commentary discussed as areas of which to learn and apply:
- The children of God ought to prove themselves to be such by their obedience to God, by their present, constant, universal obedience.
- The best of God's children have had their times of lust and ignorance, but when converted, differ exceedingly from what they were formerly. They are people of another fashion and manner from what they were before; their inward frame, behaviour, speech, and conversation, are much altered from what they were in times past.
- The grace of God in calling a sinner is a powerful engagement to holiness. It is a great favour to be called effectually by divine grace out of a state of sin and misery into the possession of all the blessings of the new covenant; and great favours are strong obligations; they enable as well as oblige to be holy.
- Complete holiness is the desire and duty of every Christian. We must be holy, as God is holy: we must imitate him, though we can never equal him. He is perfectly, unchangeably, and eternally holy; and we should aspire after such a state. The consideration of the holiness of God should oblige as to the highest degree of holiness we can attain unto.
- The written word of God is the surest rule of a Christian's life, and by this rule we are commanded to be holy every way.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
But You live again!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Do you ever get frustrated or anxious?
It’s hard sometimes, isn’t it, to have peace when your circumstances are difficult… to have joy when your heart is filled with anxiety?
Circumstances, as well as our frustration and anxiety about the concerns of life, can rob us of our joy.
The apostle Paul was well aware of this as he wrote to the believers at Philippi, for he himself was living under house arrest as a prisoner of the Roman Empire. His circumstances were less than ideal! Yet, listen to his words:
“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).
If you’ll learn what kept Paul in peace and contentment despite his circumstances, if you’ll learn how he handled the anxieties of life, you will have a biblical example and pattern to follow in your own life.
Philippians 4 lays out several precepts which, if adhered to, will grant us the same victory Paul experienced.
First, Paul rejoiced in every circumstance – no matter what it was:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).
Here is a command that, if obeyed, will bring victory and peace in the midst of any situation. Why? Because the minute you begin rejoicing, your circumstances cease to control you, and you find yourself living above your circumstances as more than a conqueror.
It is crucial to understand, however, that the command to rejoice does not mean rejoicing in your circumstances; it means rejoicing in your Saviour who is Lord over every circumstance of life. You could not be in the predicament you are in without the Lord’s foreknowledge.
God is sovereign: He rules over all; nothing happens without His permission (Daniel 4:34-35).
Rejoicing is a matter of obedience – an obedience that will start you on the road to peace and contentment.
We are to live by faith, not feelings. Then, like Paul, we can handle anything… because of Jesus. Listen to God’s Word through the apostle again:
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Or, to paraphrase it: “I can keep on bearing all things through Him who constantly infuses His strength into me.”
Christ’s strength, His grace, His power are sufficient to enable us to endure what comes our way. Therefore, we can “rejoice in the Lord always.”
… Sometimes it isn’t a specific circumstance that destroys our joy and our peace. Anxiety about life in general can have the same effect.
Anxiety begins in your mind and, if left unchecked, can frazzle your nerves and eat away at your insides.
Anxiety is a tormentor that can keep you locked in a living hell, immobilizing you so that you cannot cope with life, let alone live as you should for the kingdom of God.
Now the world will tell you that it is natural and normal to be anxious. Well, anxiety may be natural and normal for the world, but it is not to be part of a believer’s lifestyle… no matter what our circumstances.
Either God’s Word is true, or it is not. Either God is who He says He is, or He’s not. And He is who and what He says He is, and His Word stands as His character stands. Therefore, no matter what our future holds, God says,
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).
“Be anxious for nothing” is a command; and yet, in the same breath, God gives us the means of obeying that command.
The moment anxious thoughts invade your mind, go to the Lord in prayer. This is where you begin. The word for prayer is proseuche, and it refers to prayer in a general way rather than to petitioning God for specific needs. “General prayer” causes us to look first at God – who He is and what He has promised – rather than at whatever is making us anxious. Focus on God. Rehearse His character, His promises, His works. Remember His names, His attributes, and how they suit your situation. As you rehearse and remember, you will see the cause of your anxiety in a whole new light.
After you focus on God in prayer, remembering and rehearsing His character and His promises, then pour out your supplication before your God whom you have just worshiped and adored. The word for supplication is deesis, which means “a wanting or a need.” It is at this point that you get very specific in your petitions to your God, your Jehovah-jireh, the Lord who provides. Tell God exactly what you want or need.
Once you have turned your focus on God’s character and His promises and have laid your specific petitions regarding your anxieties before His throne, faith is then to take command by giving thanks. Note that Philippians 4:6 says: “By prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.” The act of thanksgiving is a demonstration of the fact that you are going to trust, to believe God.
“Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is [that’s where your general prayer comes in] and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him [this is where supplication comes in]” (Hebrews 11:6).
The thanksgiving is where the faith comes in.
And what is the end result? Peace instead of anxiety.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
Oh, my friend, not only do I want you to know these three steps to freedom from anxiety today, but I also want you to be spiritually prepared for tomorrow.
“Do not be anxious about tomorrow” (Matthew 6:34).
Don’t be anxious in the midst of today; and don’t be anxious thinking about tomorrow. Know God’s Word – and live accordingly.
Invest your time and energies in getting to know your God by getting to know His Word. The returns of that investment are far greater than anything Wall Street has to offer, for these returns – rewards – are eternal.
Trying times are coming, and it is vital that you know how to live. When you do, you won’t be anxious about anything!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Are you aware of Satan’s deadly devices?
Has disappointment in a person or a situation ever caused you to go into an emotional tailspin?
Have you ever felt you might drown in your discouragement?
Have you ever fallen into a well of dejection and despaired to the point where you were so demoralized that you simply sat down and didn’t attempt to climb out?
Then, my friend, you have engaged in warfare with the evil one, who desires to take you captive; and you have allowed him to penetrate your line of defense with his armoured division and his foot soldiers.
You have done battle with Satan’s Five Deadly D’s and tasted their awful wretchedness.
The first deadly D is Disappointment. To counterattack disappointment you need to launch the Christian’s Strategic Defense System (SDS) of faith that in meekness praises God in every situation by seeing it as God’s sovereign appointment. Change the D of Disappointment to an H, and you have His Appointment.
If you refuse to do this, if you refuse to give thanks in everything, believing that this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you, then the next deadly D the enemy will launch against you is Discouragement.
To become discouraged is to become disheartened – to be weakened, to lose your courage so that you think there is no way you can win. When this happens, you throw up your hands and say, “I’ll never make it! I’ll never survive. It’s no use, I’ll never get out of this one.”
Unless you deal with discouragement – head it off at the pass – there is no way to be the victor.
Have you listened to the world’s analysis of your condition or your future rather than being strong and courageous believing your God?
If so, then you have found yourself mired in the mud of Dejection.
Instead of the joy of the Lord being your strength, as Nehemiah exhorts his people (Nehemiah 8:10), you are about to faint (Isaiah 61:3). When dejection pulls you down into its depths, you face lowness of spirit and emotional fatigue. The oil of gladness has been exchanged for mourning, and you have not covered yourself with a spirit of praise. Either you praise God in pure, gut-level faith, whether you feel it or not, or you will continue to weaken.
Then you will find yourself in Despair, having lost or abandoned hope. Despair leaves you apathetic; your mind is numb. And if this goes unchecked, you may find yourself acting recklessly, not considering the consequences of your actions. Desperation is energized despair, and in this state you do things which you later greatly regret, but which many times bring lifelong consequences.
Often you see examples of this when people suddenly find themselves confronted by the infidelity of their mate or the demand for a divorce, or when they are faced with financial reversal.
When you find yourself in a state of despair, you need to say with the psalmist,
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence” (Psalm 42:5).
When you are in despair, write down why and then look for a specific promise of God to write next to each cause of your despair. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself Demoralized. And demoralized people run in circles – if they even have the strength to run! They are cast into disorder. They cannot get their act together in their home or in their business affairs or in any of the disciplines of life. Many times they are simply paralysed with fear.
But God has not given you “the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). His is the power, the glory, and the victory; so when the Five Deadly D’s are launched against you, you can be more than a conqueror of this enemy of your soul.
“Whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith” (1 John 5:4).