Suffering

Today’s Passage – 1 Peter 1 – 5 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 111 – 115; Proverbs 23)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Matthew 6:33

Read the “1223 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” (1 Peter 1:6 & 7)

As I was reading this entire first letter from Peter, I could not help but notice all of the references to suffering. It seems that the Christians in the first-century Roman Empire were indeed put to the test often due to their allegiance to Jesus Christ. Look back in the text and notice the following verses:

“But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;” (1 Peter 3:14)

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:” (1 Peter 4:12)

“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” (1 Peter 5:10)

In fact, the word “suffer” appears 11 times in 1 Peter. These folks certainly knew what it was like to bear the cross of the Lord Jesus. There are people today in other parts of the world who also are well acquainted with suffering for the Lord. They know what it is like to be persecuted, and in some cases prosecuted, simply for living their Christian faith.

In America, however, there is very little suffering being experienced by believers. We live in a land of freedom. We can still worship the Lord without fear of reprisal. We know little of “counting the cost” in our relationship with God. We are well fed, we are warm in the winter and cool in the summer, we sit on cushioned seats; we have it made. Yet, if you were to carefully examine the hearts and attitudes of many believers today, you would find that they really do not fully appreciate the freedom and luxury that they have. They don’t recognize the wonderful place of liberty that God has given us here in the good ole U.S. of A. This is not to say that they haven’t experienced other forms of suffering, such as illnesses, etc.; but I am merely trying to point out that they are not suffering at the hands of their neighbors, or the government for worshipping Christ. Maybe, its because we are very carnal here in America. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3 that all that live godly shall suffer persecution. Maybe we are not as godly as those first century Christians.

There is something that Peter wrote in this epistle that I think we can all identify with, however:

“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;” (1 Peter 2:11)

Though I do not know any Christians here in our land that are being tortured for their faith, I do know of many that are in torment because of the battle going on in their flesh. I know that my flesh is my number one enemy. I can certainly identify with the Apostle Paul when he said that the things that he does not want to do, he does, and vice versa. Maybe that is why Satan isn’t attacking us with the frontal assault of persecution. He doesn’t have to because we are still losing the battle in our flesh and our lusts are keeping us from having the effectiveness and impact in the world that we could be having.  See the list of the “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19 – 21 if you don’t know what I am referring to. But maybe, if we really started walking in the Spirit, and putting to death the lusts that are reeking havoc in our lives, then we just might get the wicked one’s attention. Don’t misunderstand, I am not inviting, nor looking forward to suffering at the hands of the devil or the world; but I am looking forward to living a “Spirit-filled life” that is worthy of their attention.


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Is Your Faith Dead? – The Saturday Morning Post

Today’s Passages – James 2 – 5 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)(Second Milers also read – Psalms 106 – 110; Proverbs 22) Read the “1222 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?” (James 2:14)

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26)

Good morning. Is your faith dead? We are saved by grace through faith and not works. There is nothing we can do to work or earn a place in heaven. It is only through what the Lord Jesus Christ did for us.

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2Corinthians 5:21)

Jesus got our sins, and we got His righteousness. And the righteousness of Jesus is a working righteousness. You can believe, have faith, but faith without works is dead. Is your faith dead? James gives us several examples.

“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19)

The devils have faith: they believe in the one true God, and they tremble because their faith is dead. They know their final destination is the lake of fire.

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.” (James 2:21-23)

“And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” (Genesis 21:12)

God made this promise to Abraham about Isaac, and Abraham believed God. God also told Abraham…

“And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” (Genesis 22:2-5)

Abraham obeyed God and went. But look what he told his servants that went with him: both he and Isaac would go and worship, and both he and Isaac would come again to the servants. And Abraham obeyed until God stopped him from doing the sacrifice of Isaac. Abraham knew God, and believed God when He said in Isaac shall thy seed be called.

“And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:15-18)

Abraham’s faith in God manifested itself in obedience to God: works. And what about Rahab the harlot?

“Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” (James 2:25)

“And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token: And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death. And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the LORD hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee.” (Joshua 2:9-14)

Rahab put her trust in God, and believed that God’s people, the spys would keep their word. Her faith generated a work to save her family and the spys. Faith without works is dead. Is your faith dead, or is it generating a good work that God has ordained for you to walk in?

Peace.


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Don’t Budge

unmovable-faith-570x290

Today’s Passages – James 2 – 5 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 106 – 110; Proverbs 22)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Micah 6:8

Read the “1222 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” (James 5:8)

As I was reading this morning, my attention was drawn to the word “stablish” in verse 8. The context of this verse regards the believer enduring persecution and suffering seemingly at the hands of unbelievers. Verses 1 – 6 of chapter 5 are written to the rich oppressors of the world, but then, beginning in verse 6, the focus of the discussion is changed from the oppressor to the oppressed. James encourages these first  century believers to be patient; to stay with it. I did a little study on the word “stablish”. The word means to establish, to strengthen, or to fix resolutely. It means not to budge, not even a little bit. James is admonishing these struggling believers to be resolute in their faith; to strengthen their resolve, so that they will not turn back.

Too many believers today are turning back. Too many are quitting. Recently, I have observed many that have thrown in the towel on their faith. In some cases, it was the allure of the world that pulled them away; but I have also seen many who became discouraged because of a trial that they were going through. It seems that they were not “stablished” in their faith. I like what Isaiah said regarding our Lord Jesus: “For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.” Jesus was resolute; unmovable, and unwavering in his fulfillment of God’s will. As His followers, we need to be just as resolute; just as fixed in our faith. It is easy to have strength on the mountaintop; but we often waver when we get into the valley.

James admonished the believers to stablish their hearts. God would not command us to do it, unless it was something that we could actually do. But how? What can we do to strengthen our faith? I believe that there are three steps that we can take that will help us to remain fixed in our service and devotion to Him:

1  Stay in His Book – “Faith cometh by hearing”  The Bible will strengthen our faith. Read it, study it, memorize it, hear it preached.

2  Stay in His House – Get around a group of people that are “stablished” themselves. Stay away from the negativity and naysayers. Run with people in your church that are fixed in the right direction.

3  Stay in His Service – What I mean by this is be actively involved in serving others. If you have people that are depending on you, you will not be as tempted to get off track. If you know that people need you, and are following you as you follow the Lord, you will not want to let them down.

We need a whole lot more solid Christians in these last days who are stablished, fixed, resolute in their faith and devotion to the Lord. Why not ask God to help you be one of them.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)


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The Parable of the Orange Tree

orange-grove

Today’s Passage – Hebrews 12 – James 1; (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 101 – 105; Proverbs 21)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Psalm 19

Read a previous post from this passage – “We Talk Too Much, But Say Very Little”

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” – (James 1:22-25)

One of the frustrating things about the ministry is the lack of application we see in the lives of people from the truths that are being preached and taught from the Bible. For example, I can preach a message on soul winning and hear people say “Amen!”, with some of them complimenting the message on their way out; but then see few actually talk to people about the Lord. I can teach on the need to be separated, and again have the congregation appear to be in agreement, but then see little change in the area of separation. I see people go to the altar week after week under obvious conviction about a truth that was preached that morning, yet go out and do again the same things that they were convicted about.

We need to do more than just agree with God. We need to put into practical application the things that He is revealing to us from His Word. I am beginning to make it a habit now at the end of my messages to ask people what specific actions they are going to take as a result of what they have heard. Agreeing with God about the need for soulwinning or even feeling bad about people dying and going to Hell is useless, unless you actually decide to go soulwinning and then do it; but a specific, tangible decision that will lead to a change of action is necessary. Isn’t this what true repentance is? Isn’t it a change of mind and attitude that leads to a change in action?

Let’s not stop coming to the altar, but let’s not leave the altar until we have found out what God specifically wants us to do with what He has taught us. Unless actual change takes place, all of the conviction and contrition in the world is really just vanity.

Years ago, I heard a preacher tell us the following parable, which I believe perfectly illustrates this point:

The Parable of the Orange Tree by Dr. John White

I dreamed I drove on a Florida road, still and straight and empty. On either side were groves of orange trees, so that as I turned to look at them from time to time, line after line of trees stretched back endlessly from the road. Their boughs were heavy with round yellow fruit. This was harvest time. My wonder grew as the miles slipped by. How could the harvest be gathered?

Suddenly I realized that for all the hours I had driven (and this was how I knew I must be dreaming) I had seen no other person. The groves were empty of people. No other car had passed me. No houses were to be seen beside the highway. I was alone in a forest of orange trees.

But, at last, I saw some orange pickers. Far from the highway, almost on the horizon, lost in the vast wilderness of unpicked fruit, I could discern a tiny group of them working steadily. And many miles later I saw another group. I could not be sure, but I suspected that the earth beneath me was shaking with silent laughter at the hopelessness of their task. Yet the pickers went on picking.

The sun had long passed its zenith and the shadows were lengthening when, without any warning, I turned a corner of the road to see a notice “Leaving NEGLECTED COUNTY – Entering HOME COUNTY.” The contrast was so startling that I scarcely had time to take in the notice. I had to slow down for all at once the traffic was heavy. People by the thousands swarmed the road and crowded the sidewalks.

Even more startling was the transformation in the orange groves. Orange groves were still there and orange trees in abundance, but now, far from being silent and empty, they were filled with the laughter and singing of multitudes of people. Indeed it was the people we noticed rather than the trees. People and houses.

I parked the car at the roadside and mingled with the crowd. Smart gowns, neat shoes, showy hats, expensive suits, and starched shirts made me a little conscious of my work clothes. Everyone seemed so fresh and poised and gay.

“Is it a holiday?” I asked a well-dressed woman with whom I fell in step.

She looked a little startled for a moment, and then her face relaxed with a smile of gracious condescension.

“You’re a stranger, aren’t you?” she said before I could reply, “This is Orange Day.”

She must have seen a puzzled look on my face, for she went on, “It is so good to turn aside from one’s labors and pick oranges one day of the week.”

“But don’t you pick oranges every day?” I asked her.

“One may pick oranges at any time,” she said, “We should always be ready to pick oranges, but Orange Day is the day that we devote especially to orange picking.”

I left her and made my way further into the trees. Most of the people were carrying a book. Bound beautifully in leather, and edged and lettered in gold, I was able to discern on the edge of one of them the words: The Orange Picker’s Manual.

By and by I noticed around one of the orange trees, seats had been arranged, rising upward in tiers from the ground. The seats were almost full-but as I approached the group, a smiling well-dressed gentleman shook my hand and conducted me to a seat.

There, around the foot of the orange tree, I could see a number of people. One of them was addressing all the people on the seats and just as I got to my seat, everyone rose to his feet and began to sing. The man next to me shared with me his song book. It was called: Songs of the Orange Groves.

They sang for some time and the song leader waved his arms with a strange and frenzied abandon, exhorting the people in the intervals between the songs to sing more loudly.

I grew steadily more puzzled.

“When do we start to pick oranges?” I asked the man who had loaned me his book.

“It’s not long now,” he told me. “We like to get everyone warmed up first. Besides, we want to make the oranges feel at home.” I thought he was joking but his face was serious.

After a while a rather large man took over from the song leader and, after reading two sentences from his well-thumbed copy of the Orange Picker’s Manual, began to make a speech. I wasn’t clear whether he was addressing the people or the oranges.

I glanced behind me and saw a number of groups of people similar to our own group gathering around an occasional tree and being addressed by other large men. Some of the trees had no one around them.

“Which trees do we pick from?” I asked the man beside me. He did not seem to understand, so I pointed to the trees round about.

“This is our tree,” he said, pointing to the one we were gathered around.

“But there are too many of us to pick from just one tree,” I protested. “Why, there are more people than oranges!”

“But we don’t pick oranges,” the man explained. “We haven’t been called. That’s the Orange Picker’s job. We’re here to support him. Besides we haven’t been to college. You need to know how an orange thinks before you can pick it, successfully orange psychology, you know. Most of these folk here,” he went on, pointing to the congregation, “have never been to Manual School.”

“Manual School,” I whispered. “What’s that?”

“It’s where they go to study the Orange Picker’s Manual,” my informant went on. “It’s very hard to understand. You need years of study before it makes sense.”

“I see, I murmured. I had no idea that picking oranges was so difficult.”

The large man at the front was still making his speech. His face was red and he appeared to be indignant about something. So far as I could see there was rivalry with some of the other “orange-picking” groups. But a moment later a glow came on his face,

“But we are not forsaken,” he said. “We have much to be thankful for. Last week we saw THREE ORANGES BROUGHT INTO OUR BASKETS, and we are now completely debt free from the money we owed on the new cushion covers that grace the seats you now sit on.”

“Isn’t it wonderful?” the man next to me murmured. I made no reply. I felt that something must be profoundly wrong somewhere. All this seemed to be a very roundabout way of picking oranges.

The large man was reaching a climax in his speech. The atmosphere seemed tense. Then with a very dramatic gesture he reached two of the oranges, plucked them from the branch, and placed them in the basket at his feet. The applause was deafening.

“Do we start on the picking now?” I asked my informant.

“What in the world do you think we’re doing?” he hissed. “What do you suppose this tremendous effort has been made for? There’s more orange-picking talent in this group than in the rest of Home County. Thousands of dollars have been spent on the tree you’re looking at.”

I apologized quickly. “I wasn’t being critical,” I said. “And I’m sure the large man must be a very good orange picker – but surely the rest of us could try. After all, there are so many oranges that need picking. We’ve all got a pair of hands and we could read the Manual.”

“When you’ve been in the business as long as I have, you’ll realize that it’s not as simple as that,” he replied. “There isn’t time, for one thing. We have our work to do, our families to care for, and our homes to look after. We . . .”

But I wasn’t listening. Light was beginning to break on me. Whatever these people were, they were not orange pickers. Orange picking was just a form of entertainment for their weekends.

I tried one or two more of the groups around the trees. Not all of them had such high academic standards for orange pickers. Some held classes on orange picking. I tried to tell them of the trees I had seen in Neglected County but they seemed to have little interest.

“We haven’t picked the oranges here yet,” was their usual reply.

The sun was almost setting in my dream and, growing tired of the noise and activity all around me, I got in the car and began to drive back again along the road I had come. Soon all around me again were the vast and empty orange groves.

But there were changes. Something had happened in my absence. Everywhere the ground was littered with fallen fruit. And as I watched it seemed that before my eyes the trees began to rain oranges. Many of them lay rotting on the ground.

I felt there was something so strange about it all, and my bewilderment grew as I thought of all the people in Home County.

Then, booming through the trees there came a voice which said, “The harvest truly is plenteous but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest”, that he will send forth laborers. . .”

And I awakened – for it was only a dream!


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Living by Faith

living-by-faith-by-kimberly-mcrae

Today’s Passage – Hebrews 10 – 11 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 96 – 100; Proverbs 20)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Isaiah 51:11

Read the “1220 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Read previous posts from this morning’s reading passage – “Of Whom the World Was Not Worthy“.

“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”(Hebrews 10:38)

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, andthat he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

Hebrews chapter 11 is the great “Hall of Faith” chapter of the Bible. In it, God gives us example after example of men and women who lived by faith. They may have stumbled, and some may even have fallen a time or two in their lives, but for the most part their lives were characterized by their faith in God. What does it mean to live by faith? What exactly is faith? These are questions that few people in our world truly understand the answers to. Is faith just a mere acknowledgement of the fact that there is a God out there somewhere, or is our faith supposed to be more tangible than that; more substantive?

Faith begins with God, and is strengthened by the Word of God. God puts something inside all of us that draws us toward Him. He begins the process. He reveals Himself to us in a variety of ways: through creation, through the testimony of others, through a vacuum in our soul that somehow we know can only be filled by Him. If we are truly drawn to God, then we will also be drawn to His Word. His Word will strengthen our faith in Him. I have never seen God. Everything I know about God, I have received from His Word, and something inside of me tells me that His Word is true. I know that not everyone will receive this work of faith in their life. Most will resist and reject the clear evidences of Himself that God places in and around them.

Now once that I have received the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ, I must also choose to walk by faith; live by faith. All this means is that I trust the principles, prophecies, and promises contained in His Word, and I regulate my life around them. For instance, God’s Word tells me in Hebrews 10 that I am to assemble together with my brothers and sisters in Christ. If I am walking by faith, than I will yield my life to that principle because I believe God and want to obey His will. The degree to which we obey God seems to be directly related to the degree to which we believe God. Now the alternative to a life of faith is a life that is lived according to our own human reasoning. The problem with reasoning is that it is constantly changing, and when it is in disagreement with the principles found in God’s Word (which it often is), it will lead to error and heartache.

Christian, as we approach this new year, let us resolve to strengthen our faith through time spent with God daily in His Word, and then let us yield to the principles that He gives us to live by. I think you will find that by doing so, not only will you see more fruit in your life, but you will also find more fulfillment. Through the years, I have learned to trust God; to live by faith. I remember that there were times in Bible College, and in the pastorate, that my faith in God was tested; but God always came through. He always provided for my family, and He always did everything that He promised that He would do; and each time I trusted Him, my faith was strengthened. Sometimes, people never get to the point of having great faith because they fail to trust God in the little things of life. All I can say to these folks is that you can trust God. He will deliver. He will bless you far more abundantly than you can even imagine; but you have to come to Him in faith, because it is the only thing that pleases Him.


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Moving On

MovingOn

Today’s Passage – Hebrews 5 – 9 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 91 – 95; Proverbs 19)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Isaiah 40:31

Read the “1219 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” – (Hebrews 6:1-2)

The foundation of a house is very important. In fact, it is the most important part of the house because if it is not strong, the rest of the structure will not be able to stand for very long. However, if we are going to have a complete house we must build on top of the foundation. So, in order to have a house, we have to build beyond the foundation.

Kindergarten and grammar school are also foundational in the process of education, but if a student is going to learn all that he needs to know in life, he will have to enter into middle school, then high school, and possibly even higher education. Now this does not mean that we will never re-visit the things that we learn in grammar school, for those truths are the building blocks for everything else that we are going to learn in life. A knowledge of basic mathematics is necessary in order to do algebra, geometry, calculus, and accounting. Similarly, the basics of grammar and word building are necessary in order to effectively and intelligently communicate on an adult level.

A small child who is only about two and a half years old likes to play with pretty simple toys. He can even content himself with spoons and spatulas, and pots and pans. However, he won’t enjoy these things for very long as he will want to move on to bigger and better things. His world will enlarge. He will move beyond the confines of the house, and begin to explore the back yard, and eventually he will enter into the world; exploring and learning about all that is out there. He will not stay a toddler forever.

The passage above from Hebrews 6 teaches us this same principle, but the application regards our spiritual life. Too many Christians never grow up beyond the foundational truths of salvation. Now don’t misunderstand me, I love thinking about my salvation, and I re-visit those foundational truths often, but I also moved on beyond those foundational principles. At the end of chapter five, Paul rebukes some of his readers for their lack of growth:

“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” – (Hebrews 5:12-14)

Don’t stay a baby Christian. Grow up. Take those foundational principles of Christianity and incorporate them into a deeper walk with God. The only way that you will be able to do this is to be daily in the Word of God, and weekly in the services at your church where the Bible is preached and taught. Don’t miss any opportunity that comes your way that will help you grow up in the Lord. Take advantage of chances to participate and serve in the ministry. By serving, you are exercising and putting into practice what you learned in the classroom. There is no excuse for not growing, especially if you are part of a church that is flooding its members with opportunities to serve and grow. Get involved. Grow up in the Lord. Move on to bigger and better things spiritually.

PS – I need to warn you about one more thing. If you do decide to grow up and move on in your spiritual walk, you will be leaving behind some of your friends that will not choose to take that journey with you. That’s OK, though. You will find many more friends that will share your vision as you move further down the road. Don’t let anything or anybody hold you back from the journey of faith that God wants to bring you on.


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Better

good-better

Today’s Passage – Philemon – Hebrews 4 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 86 – 90; Proverbs 18)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Proverbs 27:15

Read the “1218 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” (Hebrews 1:4)

“But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.” (Hebrews 6:9)

“And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.” (Hebrews 7:7)

“For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.” (Hebrews 7:19)

“By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.” (Hebrews 7:22)

“But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.” (Hebrews 8:6)

“It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.” (Hebrews 9:23)

“For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.” (Hebrews 10:34)

“But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:16)

“Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:” (Hebrews 11:35)

“God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:40)

“And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:24)

Did you ever notice how many times the word “better” is used in the Letter to the Hebrews? This epistle was written to Jewish people, both saved and lost. God was encouraging the saved Jews to not look back to what they had under the Old Testament Law, because that what they now have in Christ is better. God was also challenging the lost Hebrews to consider Christ as the fulfillment of all of the Messianic prophesies, and that He was in reality what all of their ceremonies, sacrifices, and traditions pointed to. Old Testament Judaism was only a shadow of the substance of New Testament Christianity. Christianity is better for all of the reasons mentioned in the verses above.

My goal this morning is not to go through all of the points made in Hebrews regarding the better relationship that the New Testament believer has when compared to the Old Testament Jew; but rather, I would like to simply state that my life is also much better since I have been saved. Like the song says:

“What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart.”

I have been a Christian now for over two and a half decades, and I can say without hesitation that the life I now live as a child of God is infinitely better than what I had before. Not that I don’t still have my trials and struggles with the flesh, which I certainly do; but there are just so many blessings associated with being a Christian. My life is better now, my family is better now, and my future is sealed, secure and full of hope. Talk about a retirement plan. What a great God we serve, and what an awesome Saviour. Have you stopped to consider today how much better your life is since Jesus came in?


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Perilous Times

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Today’s Passage – 2 Timothy 3 – Titus 3; (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 81 – 85; Proverbs 17)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – 1 John 3:1

Read a previous post from this passage – “Sometimes You Have To Stand Alone

Read the “1217 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” – (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” – (Matthew 24:6-8)

“But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” – (2 Timothy 3:13)

Consider what our world has endured since the new millennium began over a dozen years ago: the terrorist attack on 9/11; several cataclysmic earthquakes; tsunamis that have wiped out hundreds of thousands of people; out of control wildfires caused by record drought conditions; economic disasters bringing record unemployment; the Middle East in complete turmoil; several hurricanes and cyclones, and even a new classification of storm called a “super storm”; and a senseless slaughter of children and adults in Connecticut, Las Vegas, and Texas. I do not think that I am overstating the condition of our world when I say that we are living in perilous times. These man-made and natural disasters have all been prophesied long ago by God in the Bible, so we should not be too surprised by what is taking place, though we are certainly grieved and impacted by these things. But we were warned, and we should have been prepared. We have also been given the principles that we need in order to live for the Lord in these perilous days, while continuing to reach people with the gospel.

The upside of all of this is that people are thinking about God. Unfortunately, many are blaming God even for the man-made tragedies, but at least they are thinking. This past weekend, we had several people show up at church who we haven’t seen in a long time. They are confused, and frightened, and I don’t blame them, because no matter how much we know from the Bible about the time that we are living in, there is still a lot of details that are left out. We do know, however, that God knows; and none of these events has taken Him by surprise, and they are all somehow part of His plan that will ultimately bring about the Millennial Kingdom of Christ. The Bible gives the illustration of birth pains, which (I’m told) are very painful, but also temporary; and these perilous days, though extremely trying, are also temporary, and will eventually yield to a time of greater peace, prosperity, and security. No pain, no gain.

We have established that the times are certainly perilous, and will only get worse; but what can we do? Just keep going. Keep going to church; keep going to the prayer closet; keep going soulwinning; keep loving people; keep standing for the Lord:

“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;” – (2 Timothy 3:14 )

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Christian Growth

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Today’s Passage – 1 Timothy 4 – 2 Timothy 2 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 76 – 80; Proverbs 16)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Psalm 121

Read the “1216 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Read a previous post from this morning’s reading passage – “Where Would Our Church Be Without the Young People

“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” – (2 Timothy 2:2)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” – (2 Timothy 2:15)

“But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.” – (2 Timothy 2:23)

I believe there are a lot of factors involved in the spiritual development of a Christian; but I think 2 Timothy chapter 2 shows us three keys to Christian growth:

1  A Christian must be steadfast in his faithfulness. (v 15) When we refer to this verse, we often use it to teach that the church must be concerned about teaching the doctrines of the faith, and training the disciples of the Lord. We would certainly not dispute that those are two very important functions of the local church. However, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the teaching and the training can only be done with faithful men. When I first trusted Christ as my Saviour twenty years ago, I did not need anybody to beg me to come to church and get involved in the things of the Lord. I had a desire on the inside to grow and serve. I certainly was not perfect by any means, but I was faithful. I just needed somebody to show me the way. We often blame the church for not teaching and training as it should, but I believe that if there is a hungry soul out there in the pew, that there God will supply someone to train them. The bottom line to this point is that if you are going to grow in the Lord, you have to stay faithful and thirsty for the things of God.

2  A Christian must be studious.  Studying is a lot of work, and it must be done on purpose. If spiritual growth is going to take place in the life of a believer, he must diligently apply himself to being a student of the Bible. Obviously, this will include attending all of the services and studies in the local church, but it also means that personal reading, meditation, and study must be done on a daily basis.

3  A Christian must not get sidetracked. On the surface this may not seem too important, but I have seen more Christians go down the tubes because of this than anything else. Lack of study will cause a slow and steady decline in growth, but getting sidetracked will bring about a swift demise. What do I mean by getting sidetracked? Well, it could mean getting distracted by something in the world, but it also often happens because the believer starts pursuing one particular issue of the faith. They become a one-issue Christian, and by doing so they lose balance, and balance is important to Christian growth. Paul said that he declared “all the counsel of God”. People who lose balance tend to major on minor issues and thereby lose sight of the bigger picture. They can become argumentative in their support of their pet issue. Be careful that you don’t get sidetracked.

It ought to be the goal of every Christian to continue to grow spiritually until the Lord takes him home to Heaven. By observing these three keys, you will find that growth will come slowly and steadily , which will result in a more effective and fruitful ministry for the Lord.


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Jesus Is Coming Soon – The Saturday Morning Post

Today’s Passages – 2 Thessalonians 1 – 1 Timothy 3 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read –Psalms 71 – 75; Proverbs 15)

Read the “1215 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.” (2Thesselonians 2:1-2)

Good morning. The year was 1914. World War 1 had started. By it’s end in 1918, and estimated 16 million had died. Blind Willie Johnson was around 21 years old at the time. The year 1918 was also the year of the Influenza epidemic. The war claimed 16 million lives, but the epidemic claimed 50 million. Blind Willie Johnson was an American gospel blues singer and guitarist. He was also an evangelist. One of the songs he wrote was about this time period: Jesus Is Coming Soon. Here are a couple of lines from the song…

Soldiers died on the battlefield, died in the counts too
Captain said to the lieutenant, “I don’t know what to do.”


[Chorus]
Well, we done told you, our God’s done warned you
Jesus coming soon
We done told you, our God’s done warned you
Jesus coming soon


Well, God is warning the nation, He’s a-warning them every way
To turn away from evil and seek the Lord and pray

Fifty million souls is a heck of a warning. This was a world wide war, and a world wide epidemic. Over here, the Dodge brothers were taken. One in 1918, the other two years later. Yet we still drive Dodges today. The epidemic in America did not subside until the summer of 1919, but the virus still circulates through the world today. The war lasted 4 years, the epidemic subsided after 1.5 years, but what a death toll. I look at America and wonder what it will look like five and a half years from now? Is Jesus coming that soon? People hate our president for trying to do what’s right. What happens if a liberal takes his place? As California works to ban the Bible as hate literature, and anything God connected is removed from public sight and schools across the nation. The photo above is the church a Ephesus. It was once a thriving church. Is this what the churches in America are going to look like in a few years? Jesus is coming soon. But one thing must happen before this…

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2Thesselonians 2:3-12)

And along with this…

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1Thesselonians 4:13-18)

Jesus is coming soon. Are you ready?

Peace.


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What’s Your Reputation Like?

 

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Today’s Passage – 1 Thessalonians 1 – 5; (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read –Psalms 66 – 70; Proverbs 14)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Ephesians 4:32

Read another post from this passage – “What’s Right With It

“So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.” – (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8)

What do people think of when they here your name? What do they think of when they hear the name of our church? Notice what it says in the above verses about the reputation of the Church at  Thessalonica. They were examples to all the believers of Macedonia and Achaia, which are both part of the Grecian Peninsula. Then it goes on to say that their reputation went beyond their immediate area, and spread abroad to “every place”. I am not in agreement with those who would say that the gospel should not be audibly spoken to those around us, only lived; but it seems that these Thessalonians, not only spoke the gospel with their mouths, they communicated their faith with their lives also. So much so that they were famous for their faith throughout the world.

What kind of reputation do you and I have. I am not suggesting that we should strive for some kind of notoriety among fellow believers, but I do think that we should be concerned that our lives are consistent with what we believe. Our words as well as our actions should communicate to those around us that we are indeed followers of Christ. I want our faith to be known in our community as a church that loves the Lord in sincerity, and believes and follows the Bible literally. Again, I am not seeking the accolades of men, but I do want the world to know that there are churches out there that are real.

Jesus said that we are to shine the light of the gospel to the world around us. It seems that this church in our passage today did just that. I hope that our church will have that same testimony.

One more thing. Did you notice what the caption says on the picture above. One foolish act can ruin an otherwise good reputation. Some mistakes that we make will take a long time to recover from, and unfortunately, some we will never recover from completely. I am not trying to condemn those who have made mistakes in the past here as much as I am trying to admonish and encourage those who have yet to blow it. Nobody is perfect, but the less skeletons we accumulate in our closets the better testimonies we will have. Keep your reputation in tact. Christ is glorified when we live out our faith in sincerity and purity, without hypocricy.


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Plugged In

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Today’s Passage – Colossians 1 – 4; (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 61 – 65; Proverbs 13)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Matthew 6:33

Read the 1213 Evening and Morning devotion from the late Charles Spurgeon.

“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you,and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;” – (Colossians 1:9)

“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;” – (Colossians 1:10)

If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;” – (Colossians 1:23)

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” – (Colossians 2:6-7)

“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (Colossians 3:1-2)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” – (Colossians 3:16)

“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;” – (John 8:31)

We need to stay plugged in to the Word of God. Previously, I wrote from this passage on “The Importance of Discipleship“, which is very important. However, I fear that many Christians who perhaps have grown beyond the early days of faith need to be encouraged to keep moving forward in their walk with the Lord. The new believer has an advantage to a certain degree over the Christian that has been saved for a while. The “babe” in Christ often has an appetite for the things of God that is much stronger than the more mature believer. The new Christian does not have to force himself to spend time in the Word, he wants to do it, so it comes easier for him. However, those of us who have been saved for a few years sometimes get a little bored with the routine. Many of the truths that we read about have become familiar to us. If we are not careful we will become apathetic toward our relationship with God, and will spend less time with Him.

Let me encourage those of you that have been saved for a while to renew your commitment to your relationship with the Lord. Get back into the Bible. If you have gotten away from spending daily time in the Word, then simply re-schedule your day to include time spent with God in His Word. Make sure you are looking for and receiving fresh truths from the Word, and share what God gives you with others. If you have gotten slack in your church attendance, get back where you belong. Stay plugged in to the places where God is speaking, so that you can continue to be strengthened spiritually.

 


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The Mind of Christ

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Today’s Passage – Philippians 1 – 4 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read –Psalms 56 – 60; Proverbs 12)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Psalm 61:1 – 3

Read the “1212 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Read previous posts from today’s passage – “Follow You?” & “Striving Together

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” (Philippians 2:5)

“For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16)

I just want to jot down a quick thought from the Scriptures this morning that I hope will be a blessing to you. Jesus is God. As God, He is equal with the Father in everything. Jesus is omniscient, meaning that there is nothing that He does not know. There is nothing that escapes His mind, unless He chooses to not remember it. Here in our text, the Bible is not referring to omniscience, but rather it is referring to Christ’s attitude. He had the mind of a servant; not the knowledge of a servant, but the humility of a servant. As God, He could have demanded that all of humanity bow the knee to Him. He also could have demanded that every creature in the universe should serve His every desire. But that is not what He did, is it?

It is funny how little, sinful  man who is by nature a lowly servant, and has no right to boast at all, is always trying to magnify himself; trying to make himself look better in the eyes of other men. Yet Jesus, who deserves all of the glory, humbled Himself, even unto death. Why, because He loves us. If He demonstrated His love through a form of humility, ought not we do the same thing. We are so full of ourselves. God tells us here that we should have the same mind, the same humble attitude that Christ demonstrated when He came to this earth to be born of a woman, to live a selfless life of service to men, and finally to die a horrible death on the cross in order to atone for your sins and mine.

“And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:44-45)

“Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” (John 13:13-17)


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Grow Up

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Today’s Passages – Ephesians 4 – 6 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 51 – 55; Proverbs 11)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Psalm 55:17

Read the “1211 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” (Ephesians 4:13-15)

“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:1)

“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” (Hebrews 5:12)

One of the many problems with the modern concept of Christianity in our world today, is that it is producing very immature Christians. At one time the churches of America understood that they had a responsibility to teach and preach sound Bible doctrine. Unfortunately, in most of our churches the Bible has been replaced with entertainment; and in some cases the Word of God has been almost removed altogether. If you were to travel back in time to the first half of the 20th century you would see that all Bible believing churches had multiple opportunities for the people to come to the House of God in order to learn Truth. Gradually, as the years passed, sermon lengths became shorter, and whole services were eliminated. It is rare to find an evangelical church with Sunday School for adults or evening services on Sunday, or Bible studies / Prayer Meetings during the week. It is no wonder that our country is rapidly deteriorating when God’s people are feeding sparsely on Jello and Tapioca, instead of meat. It is also not surprising that Christians are dropping like flies into all kinds of immorality when they are not taking in enough spiritual nourishment to strengthen them against the wiles of the Devil.

This lack of Bible can also be seen in our homes. There used to be such a thing as “a family altar” and family devotions. There was a time when it would not be uncommon for Christian fathers and mothers to read the Bible with their children. It was not at all unusual for a mom to insist that her children get up out of bed a little earlier so that they could spend some time in the Word of God before they faced the day. Now, we are too busy finding out what all our friends are doing on Facebook; or perhaps we are engrossed in the latest immoral sitcom on television. Shame on us. We are producing a bunch of weak, baby Christians who could not possibly be strong enough to carry the torch to the next generation.

In our passage today we see that God gave us all that we need in order to grow and mature in the faith. Notice vs. 11 – 12:

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:11-12)

God gave us pastors and teachers, but unfortunately they are too busy trying to please a carnal group of people instead preaching the Word of God. I heard recently of a pastor of a church (that was once a fundamental Baptist church) who went to a football game on  a Sunday morning instead of going to his pulpit. He got his wife to fill in for him. Shame on that pastor, and shame on that church for not firing him.

We need to get back to the basics; back to the Bible. We need to get rid of all of the technology that is supposed to be helping us so much, get rid of the social media, the filth on television, the mindless video games and internet surfing, and get back to “study[ing] to show [ourselves] approved unto God, [workmen] that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” And our churches need to get back to filling their services with sound doctrine, and lots of it. We are losing the battle. Few are getting saved today because our lights are too dim, and our salt has lost its savor. We need to wake up and go back to what worked before we completely lose this generation.


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Saved to Good Works – Not By Good Works

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Today’s Passages – Ephesians 1 – 3; (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 46 – 50; Proverbs 10)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Isaiah 40:31

Read the “1210 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” – (Ephesians 2:8-10)

These verses in Ephesians are perhaps among the most familiar in the Bible. We often use vs. 8 – 9 to convince people that salvation is not through our good works, but solely though the grace of God, which is available only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace has been defined as unmerited favor, or receiving something that we do not deserve. What a wonderful truth it is to know that our salvation is not dependent upon our good works, which are totally insufficient, and fall miserably short of the mark. As the verse teaches, salvation comes through the free gift of God’s grace. Jesus paid the price for our sins when He died on the cross, and now makes salvation available to any who will simply receive Him by faith.

However, just because works are not acceptable as payment for our sins, it doesn’t mean that we should not “work” for the Lord after we are saved. Verse 10, which is not quoted nearly as often as vs. 8 & 9, teaches very plainly that God has ordained that we should work for Him, after salvation. God has got a specific plan for each one of His children. He has something for all of us to do. Our job is to determine what God’s will is for our lives, and then do it. There are lots of opportunities for service in a local church.


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Don’t Shoot the Messenger

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Today’s Passages – Galatians 4 – 6; (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read –Psalm 41 – 45; Proverbs 9)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Psalm 48:1 & 2

Read the “1209 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” – (Galatians 4:16)

As I read verse 15, I thought of the phrase, “Don’t Shoot The Messenger”. I looked back in the blog archives and discovered that I have used that phrase as the title to two other posts derived from two different passages. It seems that men of God throughout the Bible have had trouble being negatively received by the people they are ministering to.

In this morning’s passage, Paul is trying to straighten out the problem of legalism in the churches of Galatia. They apparently were trying to mix New Testament Christianity with the Old Testament Law. By doing so, they were adding to salvation by grace through faith, making it a salvation of works. Paul explained to them that if they were going to try to keep the Law, they had better do it perfectly, which, of course, is an impossibility. We are not saved by keeping the Law, and we are certainly not kept by keeping the Law. Salvation comes through faith in Christ, and our Christian life is to be a walk of faith.

The point I am trying to make here in this post, however, is that the Christians in Galatia were very fond of Paul until he started preaching something that went contrary with what they were doing. They had been influenced by some people who were corrupting their thinking. Paul was merely trying to get them back on the right path, but the people didn’t want to hear it. Instead of searching the Scriptures as the Bereans did, and listening to the truth, the people were stubbornly holding on to their false doctrine; and Paul became the bad guy.

I have had this type of thing happen to me in the ministry. I have had people who at one time loved me, later turn on me and become an enemy. Usually it was because there was something in their lives that was inconsistent with the teaching of the Bible and the will of God. Instead of fixing the problem, they decided to get mad at the messenger. I understand that doctors sometimes experience this same scenario. They are just reporting the truth revealed through their examination. They didn’t cause the problem, but somehow they end up with the blame.

Let’s stop blaming the messengers that God sends into our lives. If the messenger is telling us the truth, then we must face it. We really ought to thank those who are being honest enough with us to help us by telling us what we really don’t want to hear. But how can we get help if we don’t know the truth. Don’t shoot the messenger.

Read the other two “Dont’ Shoot The Messenger” posts from 2 Chronicles 16 and 1 Kings 18


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Grace Or Works? – The Saturday Morning Post

Today’s Passages – Galatians 1 – 3 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 36 – 40; Proverbs 8)

Read the “1208 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:16)

Good morning. Works or grace? Do you believe you are going to Heaven because you are a good person, a good Baptist, a good Catholic, a good Methodist, or a good whatever? Sorry to burst your bubble, but you are not that good. And neither am I. Jesus told us…

“For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)

Your righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. Here’s how…

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2Corinthians 5:17-21)

Only the righteousness of Jesus exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees. And the only way to get His righteousness is to receive Him as your Saviour: that He knows you. Your righteousness is not going to make it. Isaiah said…

“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)

Your righteousness, my righteousness, the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees are all as filthy rags. You see…

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:” (Romans 3:10)

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23)

And there is nothing you can do to earn righteousness: there is no work good enough.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

You can try, but you’ll end up in this situation…

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:21-23)

If we could work our way to Heaven, why did Jesus have to die on the cross? Paul knew. He even persecuted the church for the sake of the Law, believing he was doing a good work for God. But God opened his eyes to the truth…

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:20-21)

The Apostle John summed up salvation in one verse…

“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1John 5:11-13)

Call it Easybelieveism, or whatever you like, but that’s what the Apostle Paul told the Philippian jailor…

“And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.” (Acts 16:27-34)

Works will never make it, but a perfect God, a perfect Saviour, with a perfect plan of salvation will get you there. For by grace are you saved.

Peace.


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Help Wanted – Ministry Positions Available

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Today’s Passages – 2 Corinthians 11 – 13; (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read –Psalms 31 – 35; Proverbs 7)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Proverbs 3:5 & 6

Read a previous post from this passage – “Do You Pass the Test

“Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.” – (2 Corinthians 11:22-30)

“And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” – (2 Corinthians 12:15)

Are you looking for a job? Do you want to make lots of money, live in a spacious, comfortable home, drive a fancy car? Are you looking for something that will not require a lot of your time and energy, but will yield great financial benefits? Do you require a good health insurance package, including dental and optical? Do you desire a great retirement package that will allow you to retire early with enough income to live comfortably? Then don’t apply for this job.

Welcome to the ministry. Paul the apostle was perhaps the greatest Christian that ever lived, but look what his earthly benefit package included: rejection, beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, hunger; and long, thankless hours. The ministry is not something that you do because of what you will get from it in this life. Those who surrender to God’s call to ministry will more often than not, know a life of sacrifice and struggle. Don’t misunderstand me, the ministry does have it’s great moments, and there is a good deal of satisfaction knowing that you are making an eternal difference; but the fact remains that if it is earthly rewards that you are looking for, you will most likely not get them in the ministry.

However, the ministry does provide the best eternal retirement package there is. Those who sacrifice for the Lord here on earth, will receive an abundant return for their investment in Heaven; and those benefits will last a lot longer than any earthly retirement package.

In spite of all the negatives that Paul had to endure, however, he would not have traded places with anyone else in the world. He couldn’t do anything else; and he learned to be content with whatever the will of God provided for him. As much as I often gripe about some of the aspects of the ministry, I don’t think that I could be happy doing anything else either. True happiness and joy is being in the center of the will of God, wherever that leads you.


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Without Wax

Without Wax

Today’s Passages – 2 Corinthians 6 – 10 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read –Psalms 26 – 30; Proverbs 6)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Psalm 34:6

Read the “1206 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Read previous posts from this passage – “And Be Ye Separate” and “Casting Down Imaginations

“I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.” (2 Corinthians 8:8)

“Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.” (2 Corinthians 8:24)

Tradition states that back in the days of the Roman Empire there were unscrupulous stoneworkers who crafted sculptures, but would sometimes cover the flaws and cracks in their work with wax. However, when the hot sun would beat upon their products, it would melt the wax and ruin the appearance of the sculpture. Potters also were guilty of sealing cracked and even broken wares with wax in order to sell them at the market, but when the unsuspecting buyer returned home and put something hot in the the pot, plate, or cup, it would also melt the wax. Eventually, men of character who traded these goods would stamp their wares “sine cera” meaning without wax. These two words eventually evolved into meaning “genuine” or “honest”.

In our text Paul states very candidly that we prove the sincerity or the genuineness of our love through the grace of giving. If you love someone you will give to them. If you love God, you will give back to Him. You may have heard this old saying that bears repeating here: “You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.” Do you genuinely and honestly love the Lord, then give to Him. You may say, how do I do that? Well for starters, I would strongly recommend that you give to the work of His local church. God has chosen the local church as the vehicle for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. But then beyond that, you may want to give to some things that you believe in. At our church, we are always taking up special offerings for various causes and people that have a need. Learn to give. God is a giver, not a taker. People who are yielded to God will be like Him and will also have a giving spirit about them.

Giving not only proves the genuineness of your love, but it also demonstrates the sincerity of your faith. If you say that you believe God, than believe what He says about giving:

“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” (Luke 6:38)

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shallnot be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10)

God promises to bless those who give back to Him. Notice that I said “give back”, because everything we have was given to us by Him in the first place. You can trust God with your money. Don’t get greedy. God loves to bless His children, but He cannot bless a child that doesn’t listen to Him.


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Are You Blind?

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Today’s Passages – 2 Corinthians 1 – 5 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 21 – 25; Proverbs 5)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Psalm 34:1 – 4

Read the “1205 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Read previous posts from this passage – “What’s New About You?” and “Ambassadors for Christ

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” – (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)

I remember one time I was walking in a store, kind of in my own little world, when I turned and accidentally bumped into someone. In their frustration, they asked me: “Are you blind?”. I guess I was. I mean I wasn’t paying attention, I was too busy focusing on other things that I just didn’t see the person I bumped into. Many years ago something similar happened to me. I was going along, living my life, when all of a sudden a light bulb clicked on in my heart and mind, and I saw for the first time that I was a lost sinner in need of a Savior. I had been in that condition for a very long time, but I just didn’t see it. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand it. Someone once said that light is to the eyes what understanding is to the mind; and although I had been a lost sinner for my whole life, I didn’t realize it until God opened my understanding to the Truth.

There are a lot of people out in this dark world who are lost in their sins. The god of this world (Satan) has them blindfolded. They are either deceived because of their religion, or distracted due to their pursuit of power, possessions, and pleasures; but they simply do not recognize their lost condition. Jesus talked about this:

“For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” – (Matthew 13:15)

The Bible tells us that Israel is blind (at least for now) to the fact that their Messiah has already come:

“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” – (Romans 11:25)

These people are not less intelligent than those who have been saved, and neither are they worse sinners than Christians; they are just blind. I have some friends and family members that are blind to this truth, but what can I do about it?

1  I can pray – God will have to open their eyes to the Truth. I must pray that they will be able to see the truth of the gospel before it is eternally too late.

2  I can continue to proclaim the truth. Satan is busy deceiving and distracting. I need to be busy proclaiming. I need to figure out ways to get people to listen to the Word of God. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

3  I can persist – There were many people who were trying get me to see Christ before my eyes were opened. They never gave up on me. They kept preaching to me, and praying for me, until finally it all sunk in. I must not give up on the people I love, either. I am not sure whether or not they will all come to a saving knowledge of Christ, but I am confident that some will. I need to keep at it, for their sakes.


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Most Miserable

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Today’s Passages – 1 Corinthians 15 – 16 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 16 – 20; Proverbs 4)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Psalm 25

Read the “1204 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Read a previous post from this passage – “A Family Addicted to the Ministry

“For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:16-19)

When I was working for my dad’s candy company, I would occasionally run into miserable people who seemed to take pleasure in ruining the day of everybody they came in contact with. There was one person in particular that I especially dreaded having to deal with. She worked for a supermarket that I delivered to in Philadelphia and her job was to check the order that I was bringing into the store to make sure the invoice was correct. Her job title was “security receiver”. She hated her job, she hated life, and she particularly hated the vendors, like me, who were delivering products to her store. She would sometimes make us wait outside in the rain or snow for long periods of time until she finished doing some “important” other task, like sweeping the floor, or filing away some paperwork. The worst day of my week was the day that I had to deliver to this store.

One day, however, I noticed something on her car, which was always parked right outside the back door of the store. There was an “OBX” sticker on her back bumper. “OBX” represents the Outer Banks area of North Carolina. I didn’t think this lady enjoyed anything about life, but apparently she enjoyed spending time in North Carolina. One day I decided to take a chance and talk to her about the bumper sticker. Her countenance changed immediately, and I think she even smiled. She began to tell me all about her past trips, and how she was looking forward to an upcoming vacation. Her attitude changed as she began to think and talk about something she enjoyed, and, more importantly, something she looked forward to. She transformed (at least temporarily) from a miserable person to a happy one.

In our text above the Apostle Paul states that people who do not believe that Christ is risen and who also won’t acknowledge a resurrection of all believers, are miserable people. Why? Because they have no hope, nothing to look forward to after this life. Paul says that if all we have is this life then we will be a most miserable people. Later on, in verse 58, Paul states that because of the hope that we have, we can be steadfast, unmoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord. Why? because we know that all of our labor down here will pay off with a wonderful reward in eternity.

The lady at the supermarket got happy temporarily thinking about a vacation. How much more should God’s people get happy thinking about the fact that because Christ is risen, we know He has the power to raise us up as well, and pull us out of this earth, which can oftentimes be a miserable place, and take us to a place that is anything but miserable, a place of exceeding, eternal joy.


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The Greatest of These is Charity (Love)

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Today’s Passages – 1 Corinthians 13 – 14; (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 11 – 15; Proverbs 3)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Psalm 92:1 – 4

Read the “1203 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1)

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matthew 5:44)

“And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.” (1 John 3:23)

“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12 & 13)

The Bible speaks much about love. In our passage today the word “charity” is used, which is the same word that is translated “love” many other places in the Bible. It means to love unconditionally; to have a deep abiding love that goes far beyond mere affection. This is the kind of love that God has for us. It was what He demonstrated (commendeth – Romans 5:12) when He died for us sinners. Why God loves us I do not know, but the Bible tells us He does.

This kind of Bible love spoken of here in our text and some of these other passages as well is something people often claim to have for others, especially in word. In other words, we often say that we love certain individuals or people in general. However, in practicality, I don’t think that we are being entirely truthful. Love is clearly more than just words, and it is even more than just feelings. Love is action. Love can be seen in the things that we do as well as say. In vv 4 – 7 of 1 Corinthians 13 there are listed practical examples of how love is put into action. Let me list them for you here:

Charity:

suffereth long, (patience)

and is kind;

charity envieth not;

charity vaunteth not itself, (does not boast)

is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, (inappropriately)

seeketh not her own,

is not easily provoked,

thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity,

but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things,

believeth all things,

hopeth all things,

endureth all things. (is able to survive anything, unconditional)

There are 15 practical applications of real love in those four verses. Take a good look at each one of them individually. Now ask yourself honestly: “Do these demonstrations of love show up in my love for others? Or am I falling short?” I think we both know the answer to that question. We all fall short, don’t we? I am not trying to make you feel bad, but I am trying to get you to realize how much needs to be done in our lives in order for us to truly represent Christ as His ambassadors. Remember, the Bible is clear that people will only see Jesus in us as we demonstrate love before them and to them. Now, here is the exciting part: You can’t love people in the flesh. It is not something that you can do on your own. You see, God is love; and you can only love people if the Holy Spirit of God is in you and is not being quenched (hindered from working in and through you). We must yield to the indwelling Holy Spirit of God inside of us. We must allow Him to love people through us. We must somehow get ourselves: our feelings, our hurts, our desires, etc. out of the way.

Do you want to love people as Jesus loves people? The world has love, but it is a conditional love. Some people are easy to love, but most people are not. Jesus died for a bunch of unloveable people. We must take our love up another notch if we are truly going to be His disciples.


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Learn From The Past

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Today’s Passages – 1 Corinthians 10 – 12 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 6 – 10; Proverbs 2)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Psalm 18:3 & 46

Read the “1202 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Read previous posts from this passage – “Are You Unworthy?” and “Be Careful

“But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.” (1 Corinthians 10:5-6)

“In history, a great volume is unrolled for our instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and infirmities of mankind.”
Edmund Burke

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
George Santayana

In 1 Corinthians 10, God gives us the example of the Children of Israel as they left Egypt and wandered through the wilderness on their way to the Land of Promise. The Bible references that there were people who did things that did not please God, which must mean that they were not acting in faith for “without faith it is impossible to please him”. There were many things that happened during their 40 years of wilderness wanderings that earned the chastisement of God: there was the golden calf, the rebellion against Moses, the numerous complaints about water and food, the griping about the manna, their lusting after the quail, and on and on it goes. In verse 6, however, we learn why God recorded all of these things in the Bible. They were examples for us to learn from, and hopefully not repeat.

1  We can learn from the past mistakes (and successes) of those recorded in the Bible.

2  We can learn from the past mistakes (and successes) of those who are with us today, particularly those who are older and have experienced a little more of life than we have.

3  We should also learn from our own past mistakes and successes.

We do not have to re-invent the wheel when we can take what others have learned and put it into practice in our lives; and we don’t have to see the bad history of others repeated in our own lives. Learn from the past!


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Dare Any Of You? – The Saturday Morning Post

Today’s Passages – 1Corinthians 6 – 9 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 1 – 5; Proverbs 1)

Read the “1201 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (1Corinthians 6:1-11)

Good morning. There was a movie starring Hulk Hogan, the wrestler. He played a space alien visiting earth. The family he was staying with needed to get into their driveway with the car, but the neighbor was blocking it with his dragster. Hulk Hogan gets out of the car, picks the dragster up and moves it out of the way. The neighbor comes running out telling Hulk Hogan, “Hey! You can’t do that!”

Hulk Hogan replies, “What are you going to do, beat me up?”

The neighbor says, “Are you crazy? This is the ninties, we’re gonna sue you!”

Money, money, money. That’s what it’s all about. Did you know that Judge Judy makes $47 million per year? That’s over $900,000 for each of the 52 days she works per year. All because people want to take their problems to court to see how much money they can get out of it. The same thing happens in our churches. Where there are people, there are problems. Many in the congregation can get hurt when someone looks at them funny, steals their seat, or even things worse. Rather than discuss it with the pastor, or take it befor the church, they up and leave. And the problem does not get solved. The ofending person may not even know he did something wrong. Jesus said…

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” (Matthew 18:15-17)

If you walk away, you will not solve the problem. If you don’t confront the offender, you will not solve the problem. If the offender doesn’t know there is a problem, how can he fix it? You may also cause him to hurt someone else. The right thing to do is confront the problem the Bible way. Jesus also said…

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34-35)

Peace.


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The Foolishness of Preaching

Today’s Passages – 1 Corinthians 1 – 5; (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 146 – 150; Proverbs 30)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Psalm 61:1 – 3

Read a previous post from this passage – “Baby Christians,and “A Father’s Love

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. … But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23-24)

It is amazing to me what the world thinks about preachers and preaching. Those who are faithful to preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ are often mocked and scorned, especially by the socially elite and well educated. They portray preachers as ignorant, ill-mannered, and unintelligent. I know, because before I was saved, I had the same opinion of Spirit-filled preachers.  Yet, God says that He is going to use the foolishness of preaching to bring people to salvation. The wealthy and proud may not always listen to what we have to say, but oftentimes the common people, who would have also gladly heard Jesus (Mark 12:37), will listen to us.

God does not only use the foolishness of preaching to save people’s souls, He also uses passionate, biblical exhortation to change saved peoples’ lives, strengthen them spiritual, and guide them in the will of God.

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4)

Passionate preaching of sound Bible doctrine is imperative if we are going to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ as we should. Support your preacher by attending the services faithfully and listening attentively. Let him know that you agree with him with a nod of your head and even a heavy “Amen”; and insist that he hold nothing back that ought to be said. America is in an mess today because of a lack of preaching. Preach the Word!


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If the Lord Will

Today’s Passages – Romans 14 – 16 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 141 – 145; Proverbs 29)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – Deuteronomy 32:4

Read the “1129 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Read previous posts from this passage – “Responsibility“, “Giving Back“, “It Is Written”, and “Just One More Thing

“Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company. But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.” (Romans 15:24-26)

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.” (James 4:14-16)

Things rarely go according to our plans. It was no different for the Apostle Paul. He had plans t travel to Spain that he thought were going to come to pass, but his plans were changed by God.

The Letter to the Romans was written from Corinth at the end of the third missionary journey. In Romans 15:24 – 26, Paul states that he had plans to stop in Rome on his way to Spain, but first he had to go back to Jerusalem to deliver an offering that he had collected from the saints in Macedonia (Philippi. Thessalonica, and Berea) and Achaia (Corinth, Cenchrea, and Athens). According to the Book of Acts, Paul does go to Jerusalem, but he will be falsely accused and arrested there, and taken into Roman custody. He will end up going to Rome, but not as he originally desires. After two years being confined to the palace prison in Caesarea, he is transferred to Rome in order to appeal his case to Caesar. He remains there for a couple of more years awaiting his trial, and is eventually released. However, there is no Biblical record of him every going to Spain. There are some traditional accounts of him traveling there (and possibly even into Brittain) before his death, but this cannot be proven.

This is not the first time Paul’s plans were changed by God, either. In his second missionary journey, it was his intention to go through Galatia and then northeast into Bythinia, but the Spirit of God wanted him to go west into Greece:

“Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.” (Acts 16:6-10)

God has the right to veto or change any plan that we may have. It is good to have dreams about the future, and it is right to pray and plan the road ahead, but don’t be surprised if God radically alters your future. God’s will is so much better than our will anyway. His wisdom is infinite, and he sees what we cannot possibly see. Who knows? Our plans may have led to disaster. We need to trust that God knows what is best. “If the Lord wills” or “The Lord willing” needs to be more than just a trite phrase we spit out on occasion; it needs to be a mindset of cheerful submission to the perfect will of God.


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The Fulness of the Gentiles

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Today’s Passages – Romans 11 – 13; (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read –Psalms 136 – 140; Proverbs 28)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Psalm 51

Read the “1128 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Read previous posts from this passage – “Be Ye Transformed“; “What’s The Difference

“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” – (Romans 11:25)

My preacher back in Texas used to share an illustration regarding Romans 11:25 that I thought was very profound. He said that he was on the lookout for the last Gentile that would be saved before God takes the Church up to Heaven. Dr. Gray is a tenacious soul winner, and he believes that this verse teaches that there will come a day when the “fulness” of the Gentiles will be complete. He wants to be the one who shares the gospel with that last Gentile.

When Jesus came to this earth, He offered Himself to the Nation of Israel as their Messiah. Though many of the Jewish people received Him (and still do today), the nation rejected Him:

“He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” – (John 1:11)

Because Israel rejected their Messiah, God has temporarily refocused His attention on the Gentiles. The good news of salvation – the Gospel – has been flowing freely to the Gentile nations of the world for 2000 years; but it seems to be coming to a close. I believe we are very close to the time when God will pull out of this earth all those that have placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, via what we call the rapture. Christ is coming soon to take His Bride – the Church – back home to Heaven. Then God will once again turn His attention back on the nation of Israel; and someday Israel, as a nation, “will look upon [Him] whom they have pierced”, and will realize that they were wrong about Him.

“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:” – (Romans 11:26)

However, until that time comes, we who are part of the bride are to “occupy”, or stay busy, till He comes. We are to do our best to get the message of Christ to every person on the planet. Someday that last Gentile will be saved, and Jesus will take us home. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.


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All Things For Good?!?

Today’s Passages – Romans 8 – 10 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read – Psalms 131 – 135; Proverbs 27)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – 1 John 3:1

Read the “1127 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Read a previous post from this passage – “Paul’s Motivation

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

How can God work all things, even very bad things, together for good? Many people, including a lot of Christians, have a hard time absorbing this truth, especially when they are going through a trial.

It is important to note that this verse does not say that all things are good in and of themselves. It would be ludicrous to attempt to make the argument that everything in this life is good. No, there is an awful lot of evil in the world, and that evil is allowed by God to enter into our lives at times. The effects of sin are everywhere around us. Immorality, cancer, relationship heartaches, natural disasters, financial setbacks; the list goes on and on. These are all part of the sin-cursed world that we live in, and Christians are not immune to experiencing the pain of these bad consequences in our lives. They are anything but good.

But, we also know that God is good. The things that He allows in our lives are not always good, but we know that He is good! And, we know that He loves His children very dearly. A little further in Romans 8, Paul reminds us of God’s love for us:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38-39)

If God loves us then why would He allow evil to come into our lives? Why would He let a young woman die of cancer? Why would He allow people to hurt each other? Why would He allow thousands of people to be killed in a natural disaster; or  dozens of His people slaughtered in a church shooting? Why? Why? Why?

The answer is – I don’t know. But, I know God loves me, and I know that God is good; and, though I cannot see what God is doing through these evil circumstances of life, I trust Him that He knows what He is doing. I may not always like it, but I know that God knows what is best. He may be using a trial to teach me something, to make me more like Christ. Or, He may be using my reaction to a trial to point someone else to Christ and/or to glorify Himself. Again, I don’t know, but He does. We simply have to learn to trust Him.

I once heard a preacher illustrate this verse by mixing ingredients and baking an apple pie. He pointed out that none of the individual ingredients were all that appealing in themselves, and certainly the process of going into an oven must not be very enjoyable; but the end result is something we all can enjoy. God is doing the same thing in your life and mine. He is mixing the ingredients, some good and some not so much; but, mixed together they will make something awesome. Trust Him to mix the right ingredients together in your life.

 


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God Forbid!

Today’s Passages – Romans 4 – 6; (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read –Psalms 126 – 130; Proverbs 26)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Psalm 47:1

Read the “1126 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Check out a previous post from this passage – “Imputed Righteousness

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:1-2)

Romans, chapter six, answers the question that would naturally be on the minds of many who are studying this wonderful Letter and who are trying to get their heads wrapped around the doctrine of justification. If we are saved by grace, and secure by grace, can we then do whatever we want to do, including willfully sinning in order to satisfy our lusts. Paul answers the question very clearly here in this chapter – God forbid! He clarifies this instruction further in vs 12 – 14:

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:12-14)

We are to yield to the indwelling Holy Spirit within us, instead of obeying the lusts that are still within our sinful flesh. Our flesh is not redeemed, but our spirit, which was dead in trespasses and sins, has been brought back to life by God and is the home of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit wants to direct my life in obedience to the will and Word of God. The flesh still cries out to get its way, but I now have a choice not to listen. I can yield to God.

Since the time of Christ, there have periodically been movements within  Christianity that have taught that God is now OK with sin, because of His grace. They have got as far as to say that the more we sin, the more grace will be manifested. While it is true that there is no sin that the Christian can commit that could undo the work of grace in his heart, God still expects us to live our lives as Spirit-filled and Bible-obedient Christians. Grace not only saves us from the penalty of past and future sins, it also helps us to live separated and surrendered lives.

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;” (Titus 2:11-12)

We will never be sinless as long as we live in these fleshly, mortal bodies; but, we can live our lives yielded to the Holy Spirit of God within us, and, if we do, our conduct will be pleasing to our Heavenly Father. The secret to winning the battle against the flesh is not to try to fight it head on in a battle of the wills. The key is to yield to (walk in) the Spirit.

“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. … If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16, 25)

 


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Guilty But Pronounced Innocent

Today’s Passages – Romans 1 – 3 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – click here to view the text from the Blue Letter Bible website)

(Second Milers also read –Psalms 120 – 125; Proverbs 25)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture Song – 1 Timothy 1:17

Read the “1125 Evening and Morning“ devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:” (Romans 3:9-10)

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” (Romans 3:20-22)

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:28)

The Letter to the Romans is an absolutely awesome portion of Scripture. Though it was written to teach the saved about their salvation, it is also the most comprehensive gospel tract available. In this wonderful epistle we learn about doctrine (chapters 1 – 8), dispensation (chapters 9 – 11), and duty (chapters 12 – 16).

Within the doctrine section of the Letter, we see that all men are guilty as fallen sinners before God. From Romans 1:18 all the way through 3:20, Paul exhaustedly proves that every man (and woman): Gentile or Jew, pagan or religious; all are guilty before God. Before a person can be saved, he must come to the brutal realization that he is a depraved and fallen, sinful creature. The truth hurts, but it is the truth. And, because of our sinful condition, we are completely deserving of God’s judgment, which is eternal separation from Him, ultimately in the Lake of Fire.

But, praise be to God,  the story does not end there. According to Romans 3:21 and 22, we can receive the righteousness of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ because of what He did for us on the Cross of Calvary. His death and shed blood on the Cross provide the atonement (redemption, complete cleansing of sin) for all lost sinners who are willing to repent and place their faith in Him.

Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians puts it this way:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

I am guilty. I am totally deserving of judgment in Hell, but I have been pronounced innocent by God – completely clear of all charges of sin, because of what Jesus did for me. He died in my place. Though in reality, I am guilty, God now sees me as innocent – sinless. Not only did Jesus forgive my sins from the past, He will also not hold me responsible for any future sins. I am completely forgiven of all sins – past, present, and future. In Romans 4, Paul further clarifies this:

“Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” (Romans 4:7-8)

What love, what mercy, what grace. We serve an awesome Saviour! Hallelujah!!

Do you believe that Jesus died for you? Have you placed your faith in Him and Him alone to take you to Heaven? I hope you have. If you have not yet trusted Him and you are concerned about your eternal destiny, click here.

I am already looking forward to tomorrow’s reading in Romans, where we will learn more about our justification in Christ and also explore the process of our sanctification.


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