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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Spiritual Sight # 24

The Cause and Ground of Blindness (continued)

The Consequence of Living On the Ground of Nature

What is the ground of nature? Well, look at Israel and you can see quite clearly what the ground of nature is. The ground of nature is always a drawing of things toward oneself and a viewing of everything in the light of oneself, just how it affects "self". You see right at the beginning it was that. Yes, of course, the deliverance at the beginning affected us rather well, and so we were very happy. The mighty deliverance at the Red Sea is a good thing for us, so we are full of joy today. It will always be like that while things are good for us. But let us find that we are being tested at all, bring us tomorrow to this place and that, where it is not so obvious that it is all to our profit, and the song ceases, joy goes out, and murmuring comes in - "they murmured." Oh, how often it is said that they murmured! Why? Because they occupied carnal ground, natural ground, and on that ground there will always be the uprising of unbelief.

The strength of unbelief is just that very thing, personal natural interests and considerations, looking at things in the light of our own advantage or disadvantage. Allow that kind of thing to come in for a moment, and it will not be long before you are questioning and doubting, and found in unbelief; for the essence of faith is the very opposite of that. When things are going against you and your interests, and you are losing your life and all that you have, and you believe God, you trust God, that is faith indeed, that is the essence of faith. But faith is not real faith when w believe God merely while the sun shines and all goes well. Israel occupied natural ground persistently that they were found more in unbelief than in faith. It was that which blinded them. So that blind unbelief, when we come to analyse it, simply occupying ground that is other than resurrection ground; that is, we are occupying ground which God has put under the curse, which God has forbidden, upon which God has inscribed the warning to believers, Keep off!  If only we could see in our hearts those warning notices of God strewn over the whole territory of self-interest, worldly considerations, and so on, we should be saved from very much of the misery which comes into our lives.

Well, you see, the whole life of nature is a blind thing, and the measure in which we are ruled by nature is the measure of our blindness. "The natural man," says the Spirit of God, "receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God ... he cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned" or "discerned by the spiritual" (1 Corinthians 2:14). The whole life of nature is a blind thing. The measure in which we occupy that ground is the measure of our blindness. God was seeking to get Israel off that ground on to resurrection ground, to be governed, not by nature, but by the Spirit: and being governed by the Spirit means to walk in the light, means to have light, means to see.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 25 - (A Life In The Spirit)

Choosing Faith Over Fear


Choosing Faith over Fear

These days, there are plenty of reasons to fear. Our world seems to be in a continuous state of war and crisis. The jobs market is dismal, natural disasters wreak havoc, and stories of crime dominate the headlines. As Christians, we know that fear should have no place in our lives, but how can we ignore what's going on around us?
Basically, there are two paths you can walk: faith or fear. It's impossible to simultaneously trust God and not trust God. Another way of saying this is that you cannot both obey and disobey Him--partial obedience is disobedience. So, which road are you traveling?
Some people who read the Bible and believe in God nevertheless choose to live with fear. Seeing others experience hardship, they start wondering if it could happen to them: Someone at my office lost his job; will I be next? Someone died in an accident--I could die too. But this kind of "logic" places your circumstances above your relationship to God.
If Satan can get you to think like this, he has won the battle for your mind. But when you focus on God rather than your circumstances, whatever the situation is, you win.  The Bible tells us, "God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline" (2 Tim. 1:7).
Our heavenly Father understands our disappointment, suffering, pain, fear, and doubt. He is always there to encourage our hearts and help us understand that He's sufficient for all of our needs. When I accepted this as an absolute truth in my life, I found that my worrying stopped.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Spiritual Sight # 23

The Cause and Ground of Blindness (continued)

The Blinding Power of Unbelief

Thus it must stand as a thing under condemnation and judgment, this darkness, this blindness, this hiding, this shutting out of the glory of God, and that inward condition in the case of Israel in the time of Moses, and of those in like condition in the days of Paul, and in the case of all in such a position, that inward condition which acts like a veil is, as we know so well from all that is said about Israel, incorrigible unbelief. It was Israel's incorrigible unbelief which blinded them. But to say that is not to be altogether helpful. It is a statement of a fact, a very oppressive fact. We know our own hearts sufficiently well to know that there is an incorrigible unbelief in us all, and we want to understand why that unbelief is there, and what the nature of it is, so as to discover how the veil can be removed; that is, how the unbelief can be dealt with so that we behold the glory of the Lord and dwell in the eternal light.

Light on Resurrection Ground

Well then, let us look again to see what the Lord was ever and always seeking to do in the case of Israel. We can put it this way: He was always trying to get them heart, in spirit, in life, to occupy resurrection ground. That is first made evident in the Passover in Egypt, when the firstborn in every home in Egypt was slain on that terrible night when death was everywhere. But Israel was not, as is too superficially supposed, exempt. The casual, superficial idea is that the firstborn in Israel were not slain, only the firstborn in Egypt. But the firstborn in all Israel were slain. The difference was that the first born in Egypt were slain actually, and the firstborn in Israel substitutionary. When that lamb was slain in every Israelitish home, for every household, that lamb representatively passed under the same judgment as the firstborn in all Egypt, and in that lamb Israel passed representatively from death to life. In that lamb Israel was virtually brought through death on to resurrection ground. For Egypt there was no resurrection ground; for Israel there was. That is the difference. But all died, the one actually, the other representatively. Thus God, right at the foundation of Israel's national life, sought to get them established upon the ground of resurrection, which means that a death has taken place, an end has been brought about. One whole order of things has been brought in, and to get them to take their position upon that new ground, in that new order, was God's great effort and meaning in the Passover. The keeping of the Passover year by year as an established ordinance throughout all their generations and their history was God's way of showing that they belonged to another order, the order of the resurrection. While darkness was in every house of the Egyptians and over all the land of Egypt, the children of Israel had light in their dwellings; for light is always on resurrection ground, but only on resurrection ground.

Then at the Red Sea the same great principle was repeated, passing through and out on to resurrection ground; Egypt again swallowed up, but Israel saved. They all went into the same sea, but for Israel on the other side there is a pillar of fire to be their light on resurrection ground- the Spirit of light and life. They kept the Passover as they went on year by year under God's order, in order to preserve the testimony as to the ground upon which they stood nationally.

Then came the Jordan; and it is but a reiteration in principle of the same thing, now made necessary, not by their naked condition, but by their recognition of it. It is doubtful whether in Egypt and at the Red Sea Israel had the subjective understanding of the meaning of what God was doing in the Passover and in the Red Sea, but now they have the subjective consciousness of its being a necessity. They have been discovering things for forty years and they agree at last; they agree with God that another ground altogether is necessary if they are to abide in the light. You see, God was persistently by every means seeking to get Israel to occupy and remain upon resurrection ground, from that which there had been cut off entirely all the ground of nature. Their incorrigible unbelief had as its main constituent the clinging to unresurrection ground or ground of nature.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 24 - (The Consequence of Living On The Ground of Nature [or the "natural"])


Dangerous Self (and other devotionals)


Today's reading: 2 Samuel 13:1-22

When I read Scripture, I try to put myself in the shoes of the different characters in a story to help me better understand why they acted or responded in a particular manner. So the account of Amnon and Tamar is always a difficult one for me because it's such a tragic situation. Even so, we can learn many lessons from observing and living through terrible circumstances. And this particular account has quite a few lessons for us to take note of.
Lately I've been writing down lists of the things I notice as I read Scripture passages. Then I go back and spend some time considering each point. Here are some of the things that I noted from 2 Samuel 13:1-22:
  • That it is dangerous to continue to dwell on something that is tempting us. The longer we contemplate a temptation, the more likely we are to give in to it.
  • The people we choose to hang out with will influence our thinking.
  • When we become fixated on us and attaining our wants and desires, sinful thinking and actions are likely to follow.
  • Unchecked sin is progressive.
  • Our sin always involves and hurts other people.
What impacted me most from this account was the danger of harboring and operating with a selfish heart and attitude. Amnon's only concern was what he wanted. And as he continued to fixate on himself, he gave into the temptation to sin which then fanned into an out of control fire ending with the rape and disgraceful carding of Tamar.

What did God impress on your heart about temptation and giving into sin from this account? Was there a particular point or lesson that impacted you? 

~Tami~

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Psalm 31:4
Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me: for Thou art my strength.
Our spiritual foes are of the serpent's brood, a and seek to ensnare us by subtlety. The prayer before us supposes the possibility of the believer being caught like a bird. So deftly does the fowler do his work, that simple ones are soon surrounded by the net. The text asks that even out of Satan's meshes the captive one may be delivered; this is a proper petition, and one which can be granted: from between the jaws of the lion, and out of the belly of hell, can eternal love rescue the saint. It may need a sharp pull to save a soul from the net of temptations, and a mighty pull to extricate a man from the snares of malicious cunning, but the Lord is equal to every emergency, and the most skilfully placed nets of the hunter shall never be able to hold His chosen ones. Woe unto those who are so clever at net laying; they who tempt others shall be destroyed themselves. "For Thou art my strength." What an inexpressible sweetness is to be found in these few words! How joyfully may we encounter toils, and how cheerfully may we endure sufferings, when we can lay hold upon celestial strength. Divine power will rend asunder all the toils of our enemies, confound their politics, and frustrate their knavish tricks; he is a happy man who has such matchless might engaged upon his side. Our own strength would be of little service when embarrassed in the nets of base cunning, but the Lord's strength is ever available; we have but to invoke it, and we shall find it near at hand. If by faith we are depending alone upon the strength of the mighty God of Israel, we may use our holy reliance as a plea in supplication.
"Lord, evermore Thy face we seek:
Tempted we are, and poor, and weak;
Keep us with lowly hearts, and meek.
Let us not fall. Let us not fall."

~Charles Spurgeon~

____________________________

Abusing God's Patience
Have you ever ignored the press of conviction upon your heart? Maybe you rationalized your wrongdoing with the thought that if God were really upset, He'd put a stop to things by disciplining you. Psalm 50:21 reminds us that the silence of heaven does not mean approval. Remaining in sin is an abuse of the Lord's patience.
When God seems slow to react, we might hope He's overlooking our transgressions--we'd like to continue in sin because the momentary pleasure is more appealing than obedience. But thankfully, the Father knows our weaknesses, our innate carnality, and the state of our spiritual growth, and He therefore measures His response. Motivated by love and a desire to gently restore His children to righteousness, God refrains from doling out immediate punishment. Instead, He waits for the Holy Spirit's proddings to impact the believer's heart. The weight of conviction is actually an invitation to turn from wrongdoing and return to godliness.
However, we're a stubborn people. There are times when we persist in sin because the sentence against an evil deed isn't executed quickly (Eccl. 8:11). In this dangerous situation, it's possible to immerse ourselves in sin and harden our hearts against the Lord. Then the Holy Spirit's call to repentance falls on spiritual ears rapidly going deaf.
As we learn and understand more about God and His ways, we are increasingly responsible to live righteously. The Lord is not slow; He's patient. Do not abuse His patience with callous disregard for His statutes. Repent and be holy in the sight of the Lord.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

________________________

Thou shall rejoice in all the good the Lord thy God hath given unto thee - Deuteronomy 26:11

Do not be afraid of joy! There are some who only sip of the sweet draughts which God puts to their lips, afraid of drinking long and deeply. When good things come into their lives, they are always thinking of some bitter make-weight, possibly some impending trouble. This is a mistake. We must be prepared to learn the lessons of dark hours when God sends them; but we need not hesitate to learn those of bright and happy ones, when they, too, are meted out to us. As we give ourselves up to sorrow, we should give ourselves up to joy! As the soul descends into the grave, it should have great joy in its resurrection and ascension! If the soul-planet must travel to a wintry distance, let us hail those halcyon hours when it returns to stand in the summer spheres of joy! In the life of consecration our joy is considerably enhanced by sharing it with our Lord. Just as our burden of care is lightened by rolling it upon Him, in the same proportion our joy will be increased when He is permitted to partake of it.

We cannot always be on the strain. It is not possible to live on one side of our nature without impairing the health of all. David must bring his harp, and play in the presence of the soul, when its fits of depression return. There is necessity that we should cultivate tracks of our soul that lie toward a southern aspect, filling them with flowers, and fruits, and beehives, and things that children love.
Open your heart to joy, when it comes in the morning with jocund voice; by the back-door weeping will steal away. She only came to sojourn for a night.

~F. B. Meyer~

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The Beginning of Joy


by Max Lucado

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and I will give you rest.” You’ve been there. You’re turned your back on the noise and sought his voice. You’ve stepped away from the masses and followed the Master as he led you up the winding path to the summit. His summit. Clean air. Clear view. Crisp breeze. The roar of the marketplace is down there, and the perspective of the peak is up here. Gently he invited you to sit on the rock and look out with him at the ancient peaks that will never erode.

Just remember, he says, you’ll go nowhere tomorrow that I haven’t already been. Truth will still triumph. Death will still die. The victory is still yours. And delight is one decision away—seize it! Joy begins by breathing deep up there before you go crazy down here!


Monday, September 28, 2015

Spiritual Sight # 22

The Man Who Receives Spiritual Sight (continued)

The Human Instrument (continued)

I do not know what the Lord may be saying to you, but for us all the pivot of the whole matter is, Here is water! I am not saying that baptism is the pivot, but I am saying that it is represented by baptism. Are we ready for everything to go into the grave? Have we something we are holding on to; our position, our reputation, our status and all that, or is it all going into the grave? The Lord here has a man who does not say, "Is it necessary for me to be baptized; must I" Of course, if the Lord requires it, I will seek grace"; but a man who says, "Here it is, what doth hinder?" That is another angle altogether. Tell me anything that hinders and I will deal with it! Get that kind of spirit. "If you can show me anything that hinders my going on in the way that the Lord indicates, then I will deal with it. What does He want, Philip? Can you tell me any hindrance? Philip found no hindrance, but everything to help. Both went down together and Philip baptized him. The Lord just put into our hearts the meaning of that and give us to be good Ethiopians in this spiritual sense.

The Cause and Ground of Blindness

2 Corinthians 3:7-18; 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

We have been led in this conference to be concerned with the matter of spiritual sight. Here in the scripture which we have read we have another portion touching upon this very matter of blindness and seeing.

First, there is the fact of the blindness - "the god of this age hath blinded"; then there is the cause - "the god of this age"; and then there is the reason or object, namely; "that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, Who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them." We will look at it, then, in that order.

The Fact of Blindness

You will notice that a parallel is drawn between Israel in the days of Moses and the unbelieving in the days of Paul. In both cases it is said that there is a veil over their hearts, over their minds, a veil which shuts out, which excludes, and which is in the nature of darkening blindness. Moreover there is an element of judgment and condemnation in the way in which the apostle speaks of it. Even with regard to Israel gathered to the door of the tent of meeting, when Moses read the law, he says, in effect, that while Moses had to put a veil over his face because they could not bear to look upon the glory of his face, that was not really because the glory could not be beheld, but because of the state of their mind, of their heart, because of an inward condition in themselves. Had thee been another inward state, the veil would have been unnecessary; they could have beheld the glory and dwelt in the light. But the veil was an outward representation of an inward condition, hiding the glory of God. It was never the Lord's desire to hide His glory, but rather to manifest it, and that man should dwell in it, should enjoy it, that there should be no veil between God and man at all. Veils have always been as something between God and man because of a condition which God would rather not have.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 23 - (The Blinding Power of Unbelief)

Clean and Committed

Clean and Committed

But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him.  For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).

When God looks at us, the first thing He sees is the state of our heart.  In the next few devotionals we are going to look at several different aspects of the heart—things that must be present in order to experience the richer blessings of God.

·        A clean heart.  Psalm 51:10 says, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."

Every once in a while I have to clean out the drains throughout our house.  It is amazing how quickly they become clogged.  If I do not clean them, before long, the sinks get stopped up and the water will not flow through anymore.

If we don't periodically take time before God to have our hearts purified and cleansed, pretty soon His blessings can no longer flow to us or through us.

·        A committed heart.  2 Chronicles 16:9 (NIV) says, "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him."

I believe it is important to be committed to God before seeking His blessings.
God told Moses to tell Pharaoh, "Let my people go, that they may serve me."  
Most people want to be delivered from their captivity, but they are not so keen on the "serving God" part of the deal.

The Lord is looking for committed hearts.  Does your heart belong fully to Him?  If not, commit it to Him today!

~Bayless Conley~

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Spiritual Sight # 21

The Man Who Receives Spiritual Sight (continued)

The Human Instrument

Now I do not want to take very much time , so I pass to the third of the three, the human instrument, Philip, the means by which, on the one hand, the blind seeker would have his eyes opened, and by which, on the other hand, the Holy Spirit will be able to accomplish His work. We all want to be in that position where really honest, genuine business-meaning men and women can find what they are after through our instrumentality if God so will, and , on the other hand, where the Holy Spirit can find in us a vessel to hand where He sees such a need. Surely there is nothing we would desire more than that, just to be as Philip was.

But even in Philip's case, it was not that he was an automatic bit of machinery, something taken up willy-nilly. There were things about Philip which constituted the ground for the Lord; very, very simple matters, and yet not such as are so easy in practical life and outworking.

Philip was at the disposal of the Holy Spirit, and that without any question, and when you look, you see that that meant something in his case. Philip was down there in Samaria. Many were turning to the Lord, a great work of grace was going on, so great a work that they had to send down apostles from Jerusalem to deal with the situation; and Philip was the chief instrument in that work in the first place. Now when you are right in the thing like that, and the Lord suddenly says, "Now, Philip, I want you to leave all this and go down by the way that is desert; I will not tell you why, I will not tell you what I am going to do, I simply say, go to the desert," a man might have big questions. He might have said, "But, Lord, what about this? But, Lord, look at this big door of opportunity, look what I am doing, what I am in! What will happen here if I leave?" Many questions like that might have risen. He could have had serious reservations and put them in the way of the Lord. But we do not read of anything like that. The Lord simply said it, and Philip was so much at the disposal of the Lord that, without any questions, he moved. What a tremendous thing it is to be free for the Lord, free to the Lord, to be so much at the Lord's disposal that it is not difficult at all to leave anything, to adjust ourselves to an altogether new situation, if the Lord says it. It is a great thing! So Philip was at the Lord's disposal, and that is a big factor in a work like this of bringing sight to blind seekers, and being, not only the answer to man's need, but the answer to the need of the Holy Spirit; at the Lord's disposal and unhesitating in response to the Lord's suggestion; no delay, but a swift answer. "The Lord has said it, let us get on with it and leave the responsibility with Him."

It turned out all right, it was quite a safe thing to do. Now, the Lord never does explain Himself in advance. The Lord never does tell us how it is going to work out and what He is going to do. He always presents us with a challenge to faith in Him. All His requirements carry with them plenty of opportunities for arguing if you are so disposed; plenty of occasions, humanly speaking, of questions. The one who knows the Spirit knows well that the vindication will come along the line of swift obedience.

Well now, that is the story; simple, beautiful, but containing vital principles of enlightenment. If you want to see people go on, these are the things which the Lord requires. If you want to go on, these are the things which lie behind all real going on, all leaping into light, into knowledge, in the greater fullness of the Lord.

Well, look again at this man. It is a great story. You know that the Bible holds up Ethiopia as a type of darkness: but here is the darkness changed to the light, the full blaze of the noonday; for Christ is that: and that is the basis on which it is done, namely, a heart that is frank, humble, purposeful, and honest in its search.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 22)

When You Feel Unqualified


When You Feel Unqualified 
Guest Writer: Meet my friend Shana Schutte. We are blessed to have her as our guest writer.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Five years ago I wrote my first book. One day after its publication, I decided to surf the Internet to see if I could find any helpful reviews for the “paperback baby” I had just birthed after a year of labor. Google led me to a blog with an excerpt from my new read and a string of comments from a handful of people. A few had read my new book, some hadn’t. “She has no business writing and speaking. She doesn’t even have a degree in journalism.” “I have been in Christian education my entire life and even I don’t have a book published. She shouldn’t be writing.” “I spoke with my father who is a pastor and he said that Shana is totally unqualified.” I’ll be the first to admit I’m not perfect, but these comments hurt. They weren’t about my new book; they were about my character and qualifications. They were about me! 

When I pondered their comments, my spirit deflated. Perhaps they are right. I’m not qualified. I should just quit. I should stop talking about Christ, stop writing about Him. Who do I think I am? I haven’t been to seminary; I don’t have any formal speaking training. And, what makes me think I can write books? I don’t even have an English degree! My mind immediately turned to a prayer session I had spent with a few godly, affirming women. These ladies reminded me that those who struggle are the perfect candidates for God’s grace and to be used by Him. I then looked up 1 Corinthians 1:27-31 which says:

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the LORD.’”

Suddenly, the truth of this scripture sank into my heart, and the sadness I momentarily felt about being unqualified turned to jubilation. I am not qualified and that is magnificent, awesome, and a truly wonderful thing! It’s precisely because I am not qualified that I can only boast in Christ, and Jesus is lifted up!

Maybe God has called you to a task, dream, or challenge and you feel unqualified. Let me encourage you. You are unqualified—at least in some way—and that’s a very good thing. Even if you have the degree or the credentials, no one makes a difference for Christ whether it’s in medicine, ministry, business, or botany because they feel totally qualified. God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. Those who succeed and make a difference for God are those who are willing to step out in faith even though they know they are not totally qualified. Remember this as you support those around you who are stepping out in faith— remember this as you step out in faith.

You are unqualified—and this is a very, very good thing. It’s the very reason that Christ can be glorified through you.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

Prayer: Lord, it’s so awesome that it’s not about my qualifications and what I am able to do. It’s about what you are able to do through me. Thank you, Lord, for using me in spite of me. You are awesome! 

Application: What am I facing that I can’t do—but Christ can do through me?

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Spiritual Sight # 20

The Man Who Receives Spiritual Sight (continued)

The Holy Spirit

(a) The Ground He Requires

Well, then, the second party in the story is the Holy Spirit, and a brief word only needs to be said. Of course, in reality He was the first party in the whole business, but I mention Him second here because it is perhaps more helpful to examine the incident in this order. The Holy Spirit was aware of such a man, and the Holy Spirit is always aware of such a man. There is a sense in which an Ethiopian must go before the Holy Spirit. You understand what I mean by that. Before the Holy Spirit can really do His work, He must have something upon which to do it that meets His requirements, and the Holy Spirit was cognizant of this man, of his quest and of his heart, and the Holy Spirit is always aware of such people as to where they are.

(b) How He is Hindered

I think there is a very big story hanging upon a statement like that. If we did but know it, a lot of our problems are solved by understanding that. There is the big question which is always confronting us as to why is it that some leap into the light and go on, and others do not, but always lag behind, and never seem to see any more? Is it that there is selectiveness on the part of God, a kind of elect of the elect that He has, is it that He has favorites? I do NOT think so. I think a great part of the answer lies here, namely, in what God finds He has to deal with, whether people mean business with Him or not, whether He has a clear way or not, whether the ground is occupied or not already by that which is an obstruction to Him.I do not think anybody will fail to get all the light the Lord wants them to have if they really do mean business with God. The Holy Spirit knows us. He looks right deep down into our hearts and knows whether we mean business or not. He sees exactly what there is to hinder Him and how far He can go; for the Lord is not going to coerce anyone. If we are taken up with ourselves, occupied with ourselves, circling around ourselves, centering in ourselves, then the Holy Spirit has not a chance. We have to come to an end of ourselves. That is the trouble with so many. They have got a self-complex set up, and all the time it is a continuous going around in a circle and coming back the same point at which they started, and it is all around themselves, and they are wearing themselves out. Before long they are going to have an awful crash that involves all that for which they are supposed to stand and represent for the Lord, and it will come down with them. The Holy Spirit has not a clear way. We have to get out of the way, so far as this self-occupation is concerned, if we are going to move straight on, and to go on. He knows exactly where we are, whether we are tied up with things, religious things, traditions and so on, and so tied up in them that we are not open to the Lord to consider any further light at all. We have got it all, or our people with whom we are associated have got it all,and we are a part of that! You know what I mean. The Holy Spirit cannot do much with folk who are in a position like that; and He knows. His attitude is, It is no use, I cannot do much there, they are too tied up. But, if we are prepared to put everything into the water, then the Lord can go on and get a clear way.

The Holy Spirit knows. He knows you and He knows me. He knows us a great deal better than we know ourselves. We may have thought that we meant business and have been praying very much a long time and crying to the Lord to do something, while the Holy Spirit knows quite well that we are not at an end of ourselves and our own interests yet. Something more has to be done to bring us to despair before He can do what He wants. But He knows: that is the point. He knew this man. He knew that He had not a great deal to do to make a start with every prospect of a clear way, and He took the opportunity presented, and He was able to act sovereignly. He did that in order to meet this need.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 21 - (The Human Instrument)

Are All Sins the Same?


Are All Sins the Same?

Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, "You have committed a great sin."

—Exodus 32:30

Are some sins greater, or worse, than others? Our knee-jerk reaction might be that all sin is the same. But actually that is not true. All sin is not the same. According to the Scriptures, some sins are more offensive to God than other sins are.

Now in a broad sense, all sin is wrong, from the smallest infraction to the grossest, outright sin. It all separates us from God. Even one sin can separate us from God. Jesus made this clear in the Sermon on the Mount when He pointed out that lusting is as bad as committing adultery, and hating is as bad as murdering.

In one sense, adultery and lust are the same. But in another sense, they are different. In one sense, murder and hate are the same thing. But in another sense, they are different. Some sins have greater ramifications than others, but all sin separates us from God.

Jesus said to Pontius Pilate, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin" (John 19:11).

I think Jesus was referring here to either Caiaphas or Judas. Caiaphas was the high priest, the man who represented God and was supposed to be close to God. Judas was one of the handpicked disciples of the Lord. So if Jesus was referring to them, it really was, in effect, the same sin they would have committed. And what was this "greater sin"? It was sinning when they knew better.

The worst sin people can commit, the unforgivable sin, is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which is the outright rejection of Christ. And as Hebrews 2:3 says, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?"
~Greg Laurie~


Friday, September 25, 2015

Spiritual Sight # 19

The Man Who Receives Spiritual Sight (continued)

(c) A Seeker Who Meant Business with God

But the enlightenment that came to him brought with it a fresh challenge, as it always does. Every bit of new light coming from the Lord carries with it a fresh challenge, a challenge to some practical obedience. Now I am not going to stay to deal with a most interesting, and I think, a most profitable detail of the whole story, but let us  note it. Isaiah 53 brought Christ into view and Philip preached from that scripture Jesus, and the very next thing we strike right up against is, "Here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" Now, you have to do some filling in there, if you are to see how that arises with Isaiah 53. I leave you with that. Do not pass it over; you think about it. All I am going to say is that the revelation which came to the man then, the enlightenment of his eyes, brought with it a challenge to obedience, and this enlightened seeker was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision, but was swift to meet the challenge, quick to run in the way of His command, unhesitant in obedience to the light that had come. So far as the thing itself is concerned, all is very simple; but that is the substance of things. We see a man passing from darkness to light. We see a man passing from a quest to a heart ravishing knowledge. We see a man fumbling, changed into a man who has a firm grasp, a man whose heart is disappointed changed into one who goes on his way rejoicing. And the two things which from his side make that possible are an utter humility, in that he makes no bones at all about his ignorance and does not feign to know more than he does know, and his swift obedience to light coming to him. You have to say about this man, Here is an honest heart.

And that is how God deals with honest people. They get light they get joy.

Before we leave him, let us say of him that he is clearly a man who means business. I like this man in his intentness upon knowing and doing. He is right on the mark. All the enervating effect of his Ethiopian climate had not robbed him of spiritual energy. He rose above that, he meant business with God. No element of compromise, excuse, or anything like that at all is found in him. He was simply set upon knowing, if it could be known, and doing whatever there was to be done when enlightened.

Well, to the man who is bent on thus knowing and coming into things, God is going to show Himself of the same kind. God is to us what we are to Him. God will be debtor to no man, and if you and I really mean business with God and are going right out for all that God has for us, all that God wants us to have and to know, and are not going to take on any airs but get right down to the level where we really and genuinely are, in all humility, and we mean that whatever the Lord shows us we are going to do it by His grace without any hesitation, we shall find that, in the long run, God is not going to be our debtor, but He will meet us to the full. This man's story is given an immortal record. It comes in the Acts of the Holy Spirit, and when you come to ask the question, Why is this man included in the record and his story handed down from age to age to last as long as time? the answer is just what we have said: he was a man who meant business with God, was open to the Lord, honest in heart, humble in spirit, and obedience to the light that he had.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 20 - (The Holy Spirit (a) The Ground He Requires)

Hard Work, and Bad Pay!


Hard work, and bad pay!

(Archibald Brown, "Hard Work and Bad Pay!")

"The wages of sin is death!" Romans 6:23

What! is the reward for all that hard toil--death? Yes, death! Oh, extraordinary wages--but more astonishing still, that any should be found to work for them!


The death of the body, is but one result of sin. If sin had not found its way into God's fair earth--then death also would have been forever a stranger. Death is the dark shadow that sin casts. For six thousand years men have been receiving the wages of death. Death has passed upon all men, for all have sinned.

Think of the aggregate of sorrow that has come on this fallen world through death, the fruit of sin. Could all the groans that have burst from broken-hearted mourners since our first parents wept over their murdered son, be gathered into one--what a deep thunder-peal of anguish it would be! Were all the tears collected that death has caused to flow--what a briny ocean they would constitute! Let those call sin a trifle who dare--but to us it is clear that what could bring on man so dreadful a curse as death, must in itself be something unutterably horrible! 

And yet mere physical death, is the least that is meant here. If this was all the Lord meant--if men when they die, die like dogs--there would be no occasion for the agony of soul we often have. But alas! alas! the death referred to here is a death that never dies! It is placed in contrast to "eternal life." It means eternal death; in another word, HELL! Here, poor sinner, are your wages--here is the result of a life's toil for Satan, HELL!

Let me say moreover, sin pays some of its wages now; it gives sometimes an installment of Hell on earth. The wretched debauchee often finds it so. Mark his haggard countenance, his trembling gait; follow him to the hospital--no don't--let his end remain secret; terrible are the wages he receives!

Look at the drunkard; he is paid for his sin in his home, until not a single stick remains to tell of a place that once was bright and happy. Have you ever seen a drunkard in delirium tremens? If so, you will never doubt about the wages he receives in this life. Hearken to his shrieking--listen to his raving as he imagines he is being dragged to Hell by ten thousand fiery snakes!


This is all included in the wages "death;" and yet after all, this is nothing. If the only wages for sin were those received in a lifetime, we could be calmer. But oh, Eternity, Eternity is sin's long pay-day--and the wages paid is Hell!

Suppose a person were to go to a blacksmith and say to him, 'I want you to make me a long and heavy chain--I will pay you well for it.' The blacksmith, for the sake of the money, commences it; and after toiling hard for some time, finishes it. The person calls, and says on looking at it, 'Yes, it is a good chain--but not long enough; work on it another week, I will then call and pay you for it.' Encouraged by the promise of full reward, the blacksmith toils on, adding link to link. When his employer calls again, he praises him as before--but still insists that 'the chain is too short.' 'But,' says the blacksmith, 'I can do no more; my iron is all gone, and my strength too.'

'Oh then, just add a few more links, the chain will then answer my purpose, and you shall be well paid.' The blacksmith, with his remaining strength, and last few scraps of iron, adds the last link he can. 'The chain will now do,' says the man, 'you have worked hard and long; I will now pay you your wages.' And taking the chain, he suddenly binds the blacksmith hand and foot, and casts him into a furnace of fire!

Such are the wages of sin. It promises much--but its reward is damnation!

Servants of sin and Satan, behold your future doom! Be honest, and confess that your service is hard work, and bad pay. God forbid that in this large concourse of people, there should be a single one who will ever learn by bitter, eternal experience that "the wages of sin is death!"


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Spiritual Sight # 18

The Man Who Receives Spiritual Sight

Acts 8:26-40

In this simple but instructive incident we have three parties. We have the Ethiopian, the Holy Spirit, and the human instrument, Philip. The incident falls into the compass of our present meditation in this conference concerning spiritual sight.

The Ethiopian

(a) A Confessedly Blind Seeker

When we look at this Ethiopian, we at once see a blind seeker. Though religious, though moving in the circle of long standing and well-established religious tradition, though having been to Jerusalem, to the temple, to the very headquarters, he is still blind, still a blind seeker. That is quite clear from the questions he put to Philip about the Scriptures of those with whom he was associated, and their prophets. "How can I understand except some one shall guide me?" "Of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other?" He is manifestly a man in the dark, a man without spiritual sight, the eyes of his heart have not been enlightened; but the hopeful thing about him is that he is a confessedly blind man.

(b) A Humble Seeker

He was a very important man in this world, a man of considerable responsibility and influence and standing, and because of his position h might well have hedged things a bit. When challenged about his reading, he might have evaded the point or pointedness of the question and have given some kind of evasive non-committal answer. You know how people do who do not like to be thought ignorant, especially if they are people who are regarded as being so some standing, who have a position to keep up. This man, with all that he was among men on this earth, was a confessedly blind man. Without any hedging or evasion, he answers the question quite directly and honestly and frankly. 'Do I understand what I am reading? Well, how can I except someone teach me?' Then, in his openness, he pressed further for information, for explanation, for enlightenment. "Of whom speaketh the prophet?"

Now, that is very simple, I know, but it is fundamental. It is fundamental to any kind of spiritual understanding, it is basic to all spiritual knowledge, it governs degree of progress in spiritual things. The humility of this great man is the key to the whole story. He does not seek to give the impression that he knows what he does not know, to lead another to think that he understands when he does not understand; he starts right from the place where he truly and really was. He knew in his own heart that he did not understand and he gave no other impression, but let it be known that was exactly where he was, and that gave a fully opened way to the Lord. May it not be it was this that the Lord had been long before and upon which He was acting all the time? He knew that He had a perfectly honest and humble man in the dark seeking light, and He could move sovereignly in wonderful ways over considerable distances and take some momentous steps; for these were momentous steps  that were taken by the Lord in order to meet that life. You see what such a state of heart makes possible from the Lord's side, how much the Lord is prepared to do when He finds a heart like that. A blind man seeking light, but confessedly blind, and so it is not long before he is an enlightened seeker: for the Lord did not leave such a man in the dark; He gave him the light he was seeking.

And may we not say the Lord gave him a great deal more than he was seeking; for I do not think we should be adding anything to the story if we said that, when he went on his way rejoicing, he felt that he had got a great deal more than he had set out to get. It is always like that. When the Lord does a thing, He does it properly. As Mr. Spurgeon said, My cup runneth over, and my saucer also! When the Lord does a thing, He does it well. The man went on with a full and overflowing cup, and enlightened seeker. He had come to see what all the religious leaders of his day were not seeing, and were incapable of showing him.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 19 - (c. A Seeker Who Meant Business with God)

A Name Guarantee (and other Spurgeon devotionals)

A Name Guarantee 

"And whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son"   (John 14:13).

It is not every believer who has yet learned to pray in Christ's name. To ask not only for His sake, but in His name, as authorized by Him, is a high order of prayer. We would not dare to ask for some things in that blessed name, for it would be a wretched profanation of it; but when the petition is so clearly right that we dare set the name of Jesus to it, then it must be granted. Prayer is all the more sure to succeed because it is for the Father's glory through the Son. It glorifies His truth, His faithfulness, His power, His grace, The granting of prayer, when offered in the name of Jesus, reveals the Father's love to Him, and the honor which He has put upon Him. The glory of Jesus and of the Father are so wrapped up together that the grace which magnifies the one magnifies the other. The channel is made famous through the fullness of the fountain, and the fountain is honored through the channel by which it flows. If the answering of our prayers would dishonor our LORD, we would not pray; but since in this thing He is glorified, we will pray without ceasing in that dear name in which God and His people have a fellowship of delight.

~Charles Spurgeon~

_________________________


Genesis 24:63
Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide.
Very admirable was his occupation. If those who spend so many hours in idle company, light reading, and useless pastimes, could learn wisdom, they would find more profitable society and more interesting engagements in meditation than in the vanities which now have such charms for them. We should all know more, live nearer to God, and grow in grace, if we were more alone. Meditation chews the cud and extracts the real nutriment from the mental food gathered elsewhere. When Jesus is the theme, meditation is sweet indeed. Isaac found Rebecca while engaged in private musings; many others have found their best beloved there. Very admirable was the choice of place. In the field we have a study hung round with texts for thought. From the cedar to the hyssop, from the soaring eagle down to the chirping grasshopper, from the blue expanse of heaven to a drop of dew, all things are full of teaching, and when the eye is divinely opened, that teaching flashes upon the mind far more vividly than from written books. Our little rooms are neither so healthy, so suggestive, so agreeable, or so inspiring as the fields. Let us count nothing common or unclean, but feel that all created things point to their Maker, and the field will at once be hallowed. Very admirable was the season. The season of sunset as it draws a veil over the day, befits that repose of the soul when earthborn cares yield to the joys of heavenly communion. The glory of the setting sun excites our wonder, and the solemnity of approaching night awakens our awe. If the business of this day will permit it, it will be well, dear reader, if you can spare an hour to walk in the field at eventide, but if not, the Lord is in the town too, and will meet with thee in thy chamber or in the crowded street. Let thy heart go forth to meet Him.

~Charles Spurgeon~

____________________________


Ezekiel 36:26
And I will give you an heart of flesh.
A heart of flesh is known by its tenderness concerning sin. To have indulged a foul imagination, or to have allowed a wild desire to tarry even for a moment, is quite enough to make a heart of flesh grieve before the Lord. The heart of stone calls a great iniquity nothing, but not so the heart of flesh.
"If to the right or left I stray, That moment, Lord, reprove; And let me weep my life away, For having grieved thy love"
The heart of flesh is tender of God's will. My Lord Will-be-will is a great blusterer, and it is hard to subject him to God's will; but when the heart of flesh is given, the will quivers like an aspen leaf in every breath of heaven, and bows like an osier in every breeze of God's Spirit. The natural will is cold, hard iron, which is not to be hammered into form, but the renewed will, like molten metal, is soon moulded by the hand of grace. In the fleshy heart there is a tenderness of the affections. The hard heart does not love the Redeemer, but the renewed heart burns with affection towards Him. The hard heart is selfish and coldly demands, "Why should I weep for sin? Why should I love the Lord?" But the heart of flesh says; "Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee; help me to love Thee more!" Many are the privileges of this renewed heart;

"'Tis here the Spirit dwells, 'Tis here that Jesus rests."
It is fitted to receive every spiritual blessing, and every blessing comes to it. It is prepared to yield every heavenly fruit to the honour and praise of God, and therefore the Lord delights in it. A tender heart is the best defence against sin, and the best preparation for heaven. A renewed heart stands on its watchtower looking for the coming of the Lord Jesus. Have you this heart of flesh?

~Charles Spurgeon~

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Spiritual Sight # 17

Seeing the Lord and Seeing Ourselves (continued)

The Reason for the Necessary Experience (continued)

Now, to go on with a ministry like that is not a very comfortable thing. You have to be a crucified man to do that, you have to have no personal interest. If you are out for a reputation, for popularity, for success, for a following, then it is best not to go this way, not to see too much, best not to have insight into things; better put blinkers on and be an incorrigible optimist. if you are going the way of the Lord's purpose, of a people who really do answer to His thought, it is going to be a way which is cut clean through the mass who will not have it, and who let you know they will not have it, and you go a lonely way. They may think they have a case, but the fact is they are not hungry and desperate enough even to investigate to inquire at first hand. They are easily turned aside by the slightest criticism of you, or of your position, of your ministry, and you have to go on with the few, the handful who are going on. It is the price of vision, the price of seeing.   Isaiah had to be a crucified man in order to fulfill a ministry like that, and in order for you and me to occupy a position with God, we have to be crucified to that which was in Uzziah, a craving for position. Not satisfied with kingship, he must have priesthood. Nay, more than that, not satisfied with the blessing of God, he must have the very place of God. What a contrast is this! - on the one hand, king Uzziah; on the other, "mine eyes have seen the King."

Can you follow this? It is searching, it is tremendous, but oh, beloved, it is the way of the full desire and thought of the Lord. It is a lonely and costly way, and the effect is really to bring out what God sees in the heart of His people, and in order to do that - which is going to mean that we suffer for our revelation, for our vision, for seeing; we have to pay a great price for it - in order to do that, we have to be well crucified, to come to the place where we say, Well, I am undone, I am deserving of death; there is nothing for it but that I should pas out! The Lord says, That is all right, that is what I want - for you to pass out; I wanted Uzziah to pass out: then I could fill the temple! Uzziah is "self", it is man as he is, and God does not co-occupy His house with man, He must fill it.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 18 - (The Man Who Receives Spiritual Sight)

Christ Must Be All!

Christ must be all!

(Octavius Winslow)


"Christ is all!" Colossians 3:11

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith!" Hebrews 12:2


We cannot keep our eye too exclusively or too intently fixed on Jesus.

All salvation is in Him.
All salvation proceeds from Him.
All salvation leads to Him.


And for the assurance and comfort of our salvation, we are to repose believingly and entirely on Him. 


Christ the beginning--Christ the center--and Christ the end.

Oh sweet truth--to you who are sensible of your spiritual poverty, vileness, and insufficiency, and of the ten thousand flaws and failures of which, perhaps, no one is cognizant but God and your own soul! Oh, to turn and rest in Christ--a full Christ--a loving Christ--a tender Christ, whose heart's love never chills, from whose eye darts no reproof, from whose lips breathes no sentence of condemnation! Christ must be all!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Spiritual Sight # 16

Seeing the Lord and Seeing Ourselves (continued)

The Attainment of God's Object - The Fruit of Seeing the Lord (continued)

Now, this is not just language, these are not just words and ideas. What I want us to see this this, for one thing, that the work of the Spirit of God in us, by which our eyes are opened to see the Lord, will result in our feeling that the only thing for us is to die, the best thing for us is to die, to come to an end. Have you got there? Of course, satan will play on that ground, as indeed he has with many people, trying to drive them to make an end of everything, to work upon something that the Spirit of God is doing and turn it to his own account and create a tragedy. Let us keep in the spiritual realm, and recognize that the Lord will work in us for His own glory and for glorious possibilities, by bringing us to the place where we feel deeply and terribly that the best thing for us is to die. Then He has got in in agreement with His own mind about us. I am undone! - and the Lord might well have said, And so you are: I have known it all the time, I have had difficulty in making you know it; you are undone.

Well now, when you come to that place, you have come to the place where we can start. While we are there, pressing in all the time, occupying the place like Uzzaih, coming into the temple, into the house, into the sanctuary; busy, active; we in ourselves, what we are; while we are filling the temple, the Lord is not able to do anything. He says, Look here, you will have to go out, and you will have to come to the place where you hasten of your own accord to go out because you see you you are a leper. That is put in there about Uzzaih. "Yea, himself also hasted to go out." At last he realized that this is no place for him. When the Lord has got us to that place - I am undone, this is no place for me! - then He can start on the positive side, He has the way open. This seeing is a terrible thing, and yet it is a very necessary thing, and in the outcome it is a very glorious thing. The commission came then.

The Reason for the Necessary Experience

I will just add this one thing. Do you see how necessary it was that a thing like that should happen with Isaiah? What was he going to do? Was he going to preach a great revival? Was he going out to tell the people, Everything is all right, the Lord is going to do great things: cheer up, there is a great day just about to dawn? No! Go, make this people's heart fat, close their ears, shut their eyes! This is not a very joyful kind of work. What does it amount to? Well your see, the Lord knew the state of the people's hearts. He knows quite well that they do not want to see in reality. In reality they do not want to see. If they wanted to see, oh, they would be taking different attitudes altogether. They would be free of all prejudices, all suspicions, all criticisms; the would be reaching out and inquiring; they would be showing their signs of hunger and longing; they would be investigating, and they would not be readily put off by other people's judgments and criticisms. But He knew that in their heart they did not want to see, they really did not want to hear, whatever they might say about it; and this prophet will say later on, "Who hath believed our report?" (Isaiah 53:1). The Lord knew, and judgment always comes along the line of a people's heart. If you do not want, you will lose the capacity for wanting. If you do not want to see, you will lose the capacity for seeing. If you do not want to hear, you will lose the capacity for hearing. Judgment is organic, it is not mechanical. It comes along the line of our life. You sow a seed of inclination or disinclination and you will reap a harvest of inability, and one effect of a ministry of revelation is to draw out the people's inclination or disinclination unto their own judgment, and you will find that a ministry of revelation and life only makes some people harder. The Lord knows it is there.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 17)

Why Do We Suffer?

Why Do We Suffer?

Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53:10-11


We struggle when we think that we will have to experience "trials of various kinds." Various kinds of trials invariably come with suffering. It does not take much effort to see that there is so much suffering, but we wonder: Why do Christians have to experience it when Jesus came to give us life abundantly? We frequently forget that the abundant life starts here, amidst all the suffering. We all know that there are more ways to suffer than just physically. Mental, emotional and circumstantial events can all bring aspects of suffering. At any given time, we could be faced with a serious trial by any one of these means. Why would God allow that to happen?

The word Christian means "little Christ." As Christians, we are not greater than our Master and His call on earth was to suffer. The NIV says that He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus was filled with all the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) while still suffering and in sorrow. That is the goal of the Christian's life. Despite all the emotional, mental, physical, circumstantial torment, we have love, joy, peace, patience—through it all.

The rain falls on the just and unjust alike. It falls on the saved and the unsaved. We are not spared from trials because we are Christians. But it is through the everyday issues of life that we are changed into Christ-likeness because of them. Jesus is our example as well as our intercessor who knows and understands whatever we are facing. Turn to face Him, knowing that the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~