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Monday, November 30, 2015

Faith Unto Enlargement Through Adversity # 4

Sung By The Lord Before Gethsemane

But there is something even more than that. The second thing about this Psalm is that it is believed to have been the Psalm sung by the Lord Himself and by His disciples on the Passover night. Before I knew this, I used to say, 'I wish I knew what it was they sang when it says that after the supper, "when they had sung a hymn, they went out' " (Matthew 26:30). I have discovered that, on very good grounds, it is strongly believed that this was the Psalm that they sang. The Lord Jesus actually sang this Psalm! And His disciples sang it with Him - I wonder if they really knew what they were singing? Let us look at it.

There is no doubt that this Psalm is very largely, if not altogether, related to the Lord Jesus, because it is quoted in immediate connection with Him in several places in the New Testament. For instance: "Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord: we have blessed you out of the house of the Lord" (v. 26). But the titles of the Psalm, the "Passover Hosanna Psalm," is not based upon that incident of the Lord's entry into Jerusalem, when they cut down psalm branches and went before Him singing out of this Psalm: "Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord," but upon other grounds. And then you know that on several occasions in the New Testament the words are quoted: "The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner" (v. 22). The Lord Jesus used them concerning Himself (Matthew 21:42), and Peter used them concerning Christ (1 Peter 2:7). So this is in a large sense what is called "Messianic" Psalm. It is related to the Lord Jesus.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 5 - (The Triumph of Faith)

Trust Required

Trust Required

Trust Required 
Yet you brought me out of the womb, you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. Psalm 22:9

God requires us to trust from our birth. In the beginning we are totally dependent on others. God uses doctors, nurses and midwives to navigate us out of the birth canal. There is nothing we could do to gain access into this life other than wait on the warm embrace of others. Furthermore it was God’s work that brought us into the world. He conceived us and brought us out of our mother’s womb. God stamped on our infant soul, “Trust in Me is required”.

We were born desperately needy. The milk from our mother’s breast sustained our life. She was our lifeline. She was the nurturer we trusted without reservation. In the same way we depend on the milk of God’s word. We are babies in need of the elementary principles of the faith. At the genesis of our faith we were infants who sucked life from our Savior Jesus. We trusted Him totally as our redeemer and refuge. Trust was required then and is still required now.

“Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness” (Hebrews 5:13).

In this life we never graduate from our Savior’s school of trust. We are in Christ’s classroom of trust until we graduate to heaven. It is a required course for Christ followers. He loved us as an infant and He does not cast us off in our riper years. He was our God when we left our mother and He will be our God when we return to mother earth. Be glad that God requires trust in Him. Trust connects us to Christ. The closer our walk with Jesus—the higher our level of faith. 

Moreover trust in others is required for robust relationships. Do not replace trust with skepticism because of the few who have fractured your faith in people. If you trust God you can trust others. Little faith in God leads to little faith in people. A big faith in God thinks the best of others. Don’t be defensive with your spouse or co-workers. Trust them until they cannot be trusted. Trust facilitates trust. A robust and growing relationship with Jesus and people requires trust.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans15:13).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, like a child trusts a good parent—I trust You with my whole heart.

Application: What is the result of total trust in God’s trustworthiness? How can I grow in righteousness?

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Faith Unto Enlargement Through Adversity # 3

From Limitation to Enlargement

So "the Lord answered me and set me in a large place" (v. 5). From death to life, from bondage to liberty, from limitation to enlargement - into a "large place" - and this represented a very great thing on the Lord's part. Consider all that the Lord had to cope with - though of course it is putting it in a wrong way to say the Lord ever has to "cope with" anything, for He is so supremely superior to every situation. Yet what was against His people was no small thing. To bring them out into this enlargement meant the overcoming of tremendous difficulties. "The Lord answered me and set me in a large place." We are reminded of another word, so familiar to us: "Thou broughtest us into the net ... Thou didst cause men to ride over our heads. We went through fire and through water; but Thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place" (Psalm 66:11-12). It is a Psalm of triumph over limitation, bringing into enlargement.

God's Faithfulness Over His People's Unfaithfulness

The version from which I have quoted uses the word "lovingkindness." The version which is perhaps more familiar has the word "mercy" - "His mercy endureth for ever." I think there is a note about "lovingkindness" - God's lovingkindness' - that touches the heart, when you think of the failure and the unfaithfulness of His own people. What a story it is all the way along, right through the lives of the major and the minor prophets. It would seem that if ever the mercy of God, the lovingkindness of God, could have been exhausted, it would have been so with these people, so terrible were their reactions to the mercy of God;. How far they went against the Lord! But here in the end - and with Nehemiah we are in the last Book of the Old Testament in historical order, we are at the end of a dispensation - the great note is: "His lovingkindness endureth for ever." When they used that language, these people knew what they were talking about. It was not just poetry or sentiment.

It is therefore, a Psalm of tremendous consolation. We know our weakness, we know our unfaithfulness, we know how we have failed and do fail. The end of the story is - "His lovingkindness endureth for ever." You see, this is the experience - and, out of the experience, the testimony - of a people who have proved the Lord to be faithful over against all that men could do against them. It is a Psalm worth having. No wonder Luther said, "That is my Psalm!"

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4 - (Sung By the Lord Before Gethsemane)

No Storm Disturbs the Soul that Dwells in the Lord

"And the peace of God, which transcends all our powers of thought, will be a garrison to guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7)

There is what is called the "cushion of the sea." Down beneath the surface that is agitated by storms, and driven about with winds, there is a part of the sea that is never stirred. When we dredge the bottom and bring up the remains of animal and vegetable life we find that they give evidence of not having been disturbed in the least, for hundreds and thousands of years. The peace of God is that eternal calm which, like the cushion of the sea, lies far too deep down to be reached by any external trouble and disturbance; and he who enters into the presence of God, becomes partaker of that undisturbed and undisturbable calm.
--Dr. A. T. Pierson

When winds are raging o'er the upper ocean,
And billows wild contend with angry roar,
'Tis said, far down beneath the wild commotion,
That peaceful stillness reigneth evermore.
Far, far beneath, the noise of tempest dieth,
And silver waves chime ever peacefully,
And no rude storm, how fierce soe'er it flieth,
Disturbs the Sabbath of that deeper sea.
So to the heart that knows Thy love, O Purest,
There is a temple sacred evermore,
And all the babble of life's angry voices
Dies in hushed silence at its peaceful door.
Far, far away, the roar of passion dieth,
And loving thoughts rise calm and peacefully,
And no rude storm, how fierce soe'er it flieth,
Disturbs the soul that dwells, O Lord, in Thee.

--Harriet Beecher Stowe

"The Pilgrim they laid in a large upper chamber, facing the sun-rising. The name of the chamber was Peace."
--Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress

~L. B. Cowman~

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Faith Unto Enlargement Through Adversity # 2

Life Out of Death

We must remember that the "I" and the "me" repeated in this Psalm (118) represent the personification of the remnant or of the nation. It is as though the nation were speaking as an individual; it is a collective "I". The nation is here saying: "The Lord hath chastened me sore" - how true that was for us seventy years in captivity "but he hath not given me over unto death" (v. 18). "I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord" (v. 17): so that the remnant speaking in these words does really embody this great truth of life out of death and life triumphant over death.

The Lord had promised His people, when they were in that far-off exile and captivity, that He would 'open their graves' and bring them out (Ezekiel 37:12-14), and here it is. They are out - out of that grave of captivity; and a grave it was. There is no singing in the grave. "The dead praise not the Lord" (Psalm 115:17) is a phrase of Scripture, and how true it was away there. "Upon the willows ... we hanged up our harps... how shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" (Psalm 137:2-4). The dead praise Thee not." But listen! "O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good; for His lovingkindness endureth for ever" - four times repeated at the very beginning of the Psalm, and then added as the crown at the end. It is a new Psalm on resurrection ground. So the Psalm, to begin with, is one of life out of death.

Release From Bondage

And then quite clearly it is one of release from bondage. These people are so rejoicing in this aspect of their position by the lovingkindness of the Lord, that they are reminded of their earliest great deliverance, and you will see here in the Psalm a reference to the great deliverance from Egypt, and a quotation from the Book of Exodus. They bring the two together - deliverance from Egypt and deliverance from Babylon - and the deliverance from Egypt is always, in the Scripture, termed deliverance "out of the house of bondage." The Psalm, then, is the Psalm of release from bondage.

Now, bringing that into the rebuilding of the second Temple, you can see how the remnant were straitened, were pressed, by the nations represented by these people who had been brought into Samaria. What a time Nehemiah had from these people in building the wall! he was pressed on every side! What a time Ezra had! How those prophets suffered! The work was held up for more than a decade by reason of this opposition and adversity all around. But the point is that the Temple was built and finished and dedicated, and this Psalm was sung at the Passover which followed the dedication. It says: 'Let men do their worst, let them oppress from every side, let them oppose as they will. The thing is done: the Lord has done it in spite of everything, and we are out.'

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3 - (From Limitation to Enlargement)

Arrested Development

Arrested Development

Arrested Development
To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.Revelation 2:18-19

On vacation we like to ride bikes as a family. We take a leisurely ride on the sidewalk within view of the beach or enjoy the shade of live oaks standing at attention like soldiers with Spanish moss draped over their limbs. The bikes operate smoothly as long as they move forward. But at a stand still they are wobbly at best—and totally useless when pedaling backwards. Our life in Christ is similar. As long as we move forward in faith and love—we grow in grace. If we maintain a spiritual status quo, we fall or digress. More with God accelerates our growth in God.

The church in Thyatira had digressed in their good deeds for Christ. They started out strong for the Lord, but their intolerance for sin was replaced with their tolerance for sexual immorality and idolatry. In an attempt to become relevant in the latest craze of the culture, the church became spiritually irrelevant. God blesses the culture through a church intolerant of what’s wrong and tolerant of what’s right. False teachers accept sin and reject salvation. True teachers teach truth. Is your church only remembered for its past glory days—or, is it praised today for God’s glory?

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Does your faith and love reflect arrested development or accelerated development? Did you start out strong and stay that way or have you lost your spiritual momentum? Repentance of sin needs to be replaced with virtue, otherwise that spiritual vacuum will soon be claimed by unseemly settlers. It’s not enough to celebrate your past salvation without trusting Jesus with your present situation. The exercise of your faith and love strengthens the muscles of grace. See yourself as a vessel of Christ’s service—in need of growing your capacity to love. Gradual development transforms.

Are you in God’s game of love, faith and service, or are you standing on the sidelines? Is your age span in the first, second, third or fourth quarter? Your life is not over until it is over, so finish faithful and strong. Instead of coasting with Christ to the finish line of life, leave all your spiritual energy on the track of trust with a kick to the end. Do more with the Lord—you will not be bored. Anyone can be average—so don’t be anyone. A fully developed life in Christ is the most fulfilling life. More of Jesus means becoming more like Jesus—and doing more for Jesus.

“We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, grow me into a greater vessel of Your love, faith and service.

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~

Friday, November 27, 2015

Faith Unto Enlargement Through Adversity # 1

Read Psalm 118:1-4, 5-16

The real title of this Psalm is the "Passover Hosanna Psalm," and its theme is faith unto enlargement through adversity. Martin Luther called this Psalm his Psalm, and I think his life is a very good commentary upon it. We know why he made it his Psalm. He might well have been the originator of it, so true was his life to all that is here. It is just an explanation and  a summing  up of all his experience. "This is my Psalm," he said.

This Psalm was really born out of experience, and it is that that makes it live. There lies behind it very deep history, especially in two particular connections.

The Background of the Psalm

In the first place, this Psalm, whose composer no one seems to know, was at least adapted to, if not composed for, the Passover after the dedication of the second Temple. You are probably acquainted with the history of the second Temple. You have to turn, of course, to the Book of Ezra, and alongside of it to the Book of Nehemiah, and then to the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah; and when you have read those four books, you have the setting of Psalm 118. Read again verses 5 to 16 of the Psalm in the light of that, and you will see what light is thrown upon these verses. Or take a fragment - verse 10: "All nations compassed me about: in the name of the Lord I will cut them off. They compassed me about ..." And turn to the Book of Ezra, chapter 4, verses 9 and 10. Here you have a whole host of nations all gathered against Ezra and the building of the second Temple. They compassed him about - all these nations compassed him about - they compassed him about like stinging bees. Thus this description of adversity, of opposition, gives this Psalm a very real practical application: for the remnant which had escaped from captivity had returned to the land with the building and dedication of the Temple in view, and if this Psalm is a description of things as they were then, it is indeed the story of life out of death.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2 - (Life Out of Death)

Show God's Kindness

Show God's Kindess

Show God's Kindness 
The king asked, “Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”   2 Samuel 9:3

God’s kindness is unconventional, as it extends to the unexpecting and the undeserving. God’s kindness is king because it has no bounds and it is not limited by past disagreements or conflicts. His kindness does not cower in a corner for fear of being taken advantage of. The kindness of God gets over grudges and reaches out to the unreachable. It transcends times of confusion and misunderstanding, and its design is to be distributed indiscriminately. Kings of kindness search out those who need it the most, and they don’t have to look very far to find those who need a tender touch.        
Who are candidates for God’s kindness? Everyone with whom we come in contact on a daily basis is a kindness candidate. The cashier at the retail store needs a kind smile; the server at the restaurant needs a kind commendation and a generous gratuity; an angry child needs kindness and love, a discouraged spouse needs kind words of understanding, not a speech on what to do next; employees need kind instruction, and employers need kind feedback; friends need kind accountability, and extended family needs your kind presence; the poor need kindness and care, and the afflicted, suffering, and rejected need a boatload of kindness. We can be kind because the Lord has been kind to us.
His kindness is our unlimited reservoir of kindness. Without our Savior shedding His kindness on us, we have little capacity for kindness. It is because we have been blessed by the kindness of King Jesus that we are able to extend His eternal kindness to others. We don’t deserve it, but He allows us to feast with Him by faith. His blessing is bountiful to those who love His father.
For the sake of Christ, God extends His kindness to Christ’s friends. Our affiliation with Jesus opens wide the door to our heavenly Father’s kindness. That kindness flows to those who follow His son. Devotion to Jesus is a magnet for our Master’s kindness. Love Jesus, and the kindness of the Lord will flood your life and overflow into the dry, parched souls of those thirsting for kindness. So, unleash the kindness of God on others. God’s kindness brings out the best in everyone. They may suspect your actions and question your motives because it is unusual to experience kindness that expects nothing in return. Some hurting and cynical people will have to get used to God’s kindness through you. It takes time to validate your vision for kindness in their life.
Therefore, do not grow weary in being kind to the one who is suspicious of kindness. The kindness of God leads to a change of mind about motives. It kills critical spirits and overcomes uncaring attitudes. Indeed, the kindness of God treats others as it wants to be treated; so don’t be surprised that in the long run, your kindness generates kindness. God designed His kindness to be deployed as soon as it’s received. In a culture of kindness, families and teams that fear God are forged.

The Bible says, “And God raised us up with Christ … in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6-7).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, use Your kindness to stir my heart to repentance.

Application: Who needs a kind word or deed from me today?

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~

Thursday, November 26, 2015

"The Rights of God" # 39

Christ and the Rights of the Father (continued)

Here too the context is important. The words are in Deuteronomy 5 verses 8 and 9. There we read of the worship of other gods. "Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any likeness ... for I, the Lord, am a jealous God." Let us take note that God jealously demands all worship, to be recognized and honored as the only true God. With this passage the Lord defeats the enemy. God demands all our worship.

World dominion is bound up with this last temptation. How can we gain world dominion? Who will rule over the kingdoms of the world in the end? He, Who has maintained the rights of God to the full. "The kingdoms of this world are because the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ" (Revelation 11:15). This is true for the church. She is destined to reign. The pressure of the enemy in connection with the offer of world dominion has to do with his demand of worship. Let us be assured that every pressure in our life serves the purpose to get us to worship the devil. Is this possible? Now, let us suppose we were in difficult times. It is possible for us to evade the difficulties. If it were faithfulness towards God and God-given revelation that brought us into this difficult situation, we could perhaps alleviate this situation through compromise. We could give in to something. Certainly, it would be unfaithfulness. We would steal from God what is His. But the difficulties! That is the enemy. That is the pressure: to bring us to a place where we rob God of something, or in other words, where we give the devil something. Ultimately it is about the issue of whom we worship, whom we trust completely, unreservedly. Our Lord Jesus Christ kept His position faithfully. At the Jordan He took this stand. "Nothing for Myself, everything for the Father. I live to do the Father's will." And then comes the test, the temptation. Then everything gets examined and tested as to its reality. But the day came when the Father could give His Son the confirmation from heaven: "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased. And He was transfigured before them."

We too will be put to the test. For us too it is about the proof of the reality of the position to which we testified in our baptism. We testified to have died to sin, self, and the world. From now on I live for God only! This will be put to the test. It will be well with us if in faith we hold fast to this position, if we stand firm in everything that has been given to us in our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him we have the victory. In Him we have everything. Oh, that we could whole-heartedly and with uninterrupted willingness say together with Paul:

"For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead: and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him Which died for them, and rose again." (2 Corinthians 5:15).

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)

Results of Faithfulness (and other devotionals)

Results of Faithfulness

Results of Faithfulness 

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it. Revelation 2:17

Faith in Jesus is our starting point with Jesus. As infant believers we are totally dependent on adult believers to disciple us in the faith. We look to the more mature as the model of a faithful follower of Christ. Similar to the life cycle of a child, we grow and mature, but not without drifting, doubting and resisting along the way on our faith journey. We begin by faith in Jesus, we grow into faithfulness to Jesus, we enjoy the fruit of being with Jesus and we are rewarded by Jesus. In short it is all about Jesus! Our part is to remain faithful—especially when lured in by the culture.

John wrote to the church in Pergamum that struggled with unfaithfulness. Idolatry and sexual immorality infiltrated the local gathering of believers in Jesus. Sin infected the Body of Christ threatening its long term health and stunting its short term influence for God. Christ can change the culture—but this church shunned the Lord’s Spirit—it struggled to be “salt and light”. The fruit of faithfulness is a lost world who embraces the next world. Love is irresistible. It draws others into an affection for Christ. Faithfulness bears the fruit of loving people to Jesus!

“It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it” (3 John 1:3).

Faithfulness to Jesus is rewarded by Jesus. He satisfies our soul with heavenly manna—His Word. Like food and water sustain the human body, Scripture sustains the faithful. Additionally, our heavenly Father renames us with a name in accordance to our identity in Christ. Cephas became Peter. He would be a rock of faith to build the church. James and John became the Sons of Thunder who boldly proclaimed the gospel. Our new name will be a commentary on our victorious life in the Lord. In intimate encounters with Jesus He reminds us who we are.

Has your faithfulness to Jesus become hard? Do you feel like you are working in the salt mines instead of being salty for your Savior? If so, take a step back and breathe in some fresh air of faith. Grow into a praying life instead of a life that just prays at a set time. The results of your faithfulness may take years before coming to fruition—but it’s worth the wait. Your eternal rewards from Christ come when you go to be with Christ. You can’t grasp their significance until the day you possess and experience them. God rewards the faithful with His timeless love!

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I praise You for Your faithfulness that leads me to remain faithful!

Application: Where in my life do I need to remain faithful to Christ and His word?

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~ 


The Cure for the Drought Brought by Sin

In our last devotional, we talked about sin being the number one cause for spiritual drought.  The natural question is, "What is the cure, how do I end that drought?"

One word:  repentance.

In addition to the passage we read yesterday, 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 is clear and instructive,

"When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

True repentance literally means an inward change of heart resulting in an outward change of direction.  If there is no outward change of direction, then it is not true repentance.

There is no real repentance even if you are feeling emotional and weeping over your sin.  That is not repentance.  Feeling sorry is not repentance.
Repentance is the change of heart that results in a change of lifestyle, a change of direction, a turning.  So I have a word for you:  If there is known sin in your life, repent.

King David gives us a great example in Psalm 32:4-5 when he said,
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.  I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden.  I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD…."
If, because of sin, you are in a drought spiritually, repent.  If you do, your drought can be broken and you can experience the blessings of God.

~Bayless Conley~


Today's reading: 1 Kings 14:1-20

Although Jeroboam clearly understands that it was God who raised him up to be king, he refuses to truly recognize God, let alone submit to or serve Him. It's a sad picture that continues throughout his entire reign. How disappointing that even in the middle of a life and death crisis with their son, we fail to see any remorse, repentance or turning to God from Jeroboam or his wife.

What does this account with Jeroboam and his wife show us about the impact of continual disregard for God? 


John 21:12
Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine.
In these words the believer is invited to a holy nearness to Jesus. "Come and dine," implies the same table, the same meat; ay, and sometimes it means to sit side by side, and lean our head upon the Saviour's bosom. It is being brought into the banqueting-house, where waves the banner of redeeming love. "Come and dine," gives us a vision of union with Jesus, because the only food that we can feast upon when we dine with Jesus is Himself. Oh, what union is this! It is a depth which reason cannot fathom, that we thus feed upon Jesus. "He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him." It is also an invitation to enjoy fellowship with the saints. Christians may differ on a variety of points, but they have all one spiritual appetite; and if we cannot all feel alike, we can all feed alike on the bread of life sent down from heaven. At the table of fellowship with Jesus we are one bread and one cup. As the loving cup goes round we pledge one another heartily therein. Get nearer to Jesus, and you will find yourself linked more and more in spirit to all who are like yourself, supported by the same heavenly manna. If we were more near to Jesus we should be more near to one another. We likewise see in these words the source of strength for every Christian. To look at Christ is to live, but for strength to serve Him you must "come and dine." We labour under much unnecessary weakness on account of neglecting this percept of the Master. We none of us need to put ourselves on low diet; on the contrary, we should fatten on the marrow and fatness of the gospel that we may accumulate strength therein, and urge every power to its full tension in the Master's service. Thus, then, if you would realize nearness to Jesus, union with Jesus, love to His people and strength from Jesus, "come and dine" with Him by faith.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"The Rights of God" # 38

Christ and the Rights of the Father (continued)

There are many times we feel as though we are pushed into a corner. Maybe we have taken a position of absolute obedience towards God. We have declared to God that we are willing for His will to be done. It does not take long before we find ourselves in an impossible position. Such a position is basically about nothing less and nothing else but our faithfulness towards God. Are we prepared to die rather than take our life into our own hands and give up our dependency on God, to perish rather than do something which has not told us to do?

In connection with this temptation there is the possibility of a new discovery. We find this in the answer Jesus gives the devil: "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). The enemy could have answered: "Without food you will surely die." But the Lord knows another kind of food. Obedience means life. Jesus did not turn the stones into bread and yet still lived another three and a half years. When the disciples returned to Him when He was sitting on the edge of the well of Samaria and asked Him to eat. He could tell them, from a deeper experience than they could imagine: "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work" (John 4:34). It is manna for us to be faithful to God. There is life in obedience.

The second temptation - The devil set Him on the pinnacle of the temple. "If Thou art the Son of Son, cast Thyself down" (Matt. 4:6). The devil puts himself on the same ground as the Lord. He uses the Word. The temptation becomes therefore more intense. Besides the Lord, probably nobody knows the Word as well as the adversary. Therefore spiritual discernment is needed. This we have in the answer: "it is written: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord Thy God" (Matt. 4:7). - In which context is this Word written? Israel was in trouble. The question arose, whether the Lord was in her midst or not; in other words, a questioning of the faithfulness of God, whether God keeps His Word or not. Is it not significant that the Lord uses exactly this passage to answer the enemy? The devil says in other words: "If You believe that the Father is with You, then try it. If You are really convinced that He is on your side, then do something for once that will show this." A big temptation that our Lord did NOT succumb to. But what must we do? We find ourselves in trouble. Do we believe that God is faithful? Do we consider the possibility that God could deny Himself? When the Lord says: "I am with you," let us believe it. Let us never do anything to put God to the test. The Lord has a right to demand such a position from us. Jesus gave His Father this right. He held fast to the position that he had taken: "Not My will, but Your will be done."

The third temptation. - The devil took Him to a high mountain. "All these things I will give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me." The answer: "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve" (Matt. 4:8-10).

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 39)

The Number One Cause for Spiritual Drought

The Number One Cause for Spiritual Drought

By far the Scriptures teach that the number one cause for spiritual drought is sin.  And the number one cure for drought, according to the Scriptures, is repentance.
In 2 Chronicles 6:26-27, King Solomon is clear in this prayer,

When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, when they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin because You afflict them, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel, that You may teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance.

Notice that the heavens were shut up, there was no rain, because of sin.  But when the people confessed God's name and turned and repented, Solomon prayed, "God, hear and open the heavens once again and send rain."

This prayer is particularly significant because Solomon is praying at the dedication of the temple.  Scripture declares to us in 2 Corinthians 6:16You are the temple of the living God.

The Old Testament temple was just a type and a shadow pointing to better things—to the era in which God would no longer dwell in buildings made with mortar and stone, but take up residence in human hearts.

That's you and me!  As 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us, our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are not our own.  We have been bought with a price, and God's expectation is that we glorify Him in our bodies.  You and I are God's temple.

If there is sin in your life, turn from it and turn to God, so that you can experience the refreshing rain of God's blessing in your life.

~Bayless Conley~

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"The Rights of God" # 37

Christ and the Rights of the Father (continued)

This is the negative side to start with. The positive side, however, is in the fact that God now had such a Man, that somebody was there, a Man on this earth, in Whom the rights of God had been completely kept, Who could say: "Not My will, but Thine." In other words: "I don't want to live an earthly life as I want to my liking, but a life in full subjection and dependence on God. Not I, but God!!" Paul writes in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 5, at verses 14 and 15: "For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that One died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they that live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto Him Who for their sakes died and rose again."

Let us express that in the shortest way possible for all of us: From now on I live for God! Nothing outside of Him, everything for Him. This is the way in which God comes to His rights. With reference to Jesus, this was the meaning of His baptism.

"And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.' "

"Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread." But He answered and said, "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.' "

Then the devil taketh Him up onto the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto Him, "If thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down: for it is written, 'He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee: and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.' "

Jesus said unto him, "It is written again, 'Thou shalt not tempt the Lord Thy God.' " Again, the devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto Him, "All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me." Then saith Jesus unto him, "Get thee hence, satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve' " (Matthew 17:4-1-10)

We see the Lord taking this stand from the beginning and from that moment everything had to be in agreement with this foundation. This means testing. That is why the road from the Jordan led to the desert. He fasted for forty days and forty nights. Then He was hungry" (Matthew 4:2). A state of physical weakness is always a good prerequisite for temptations from the enemy. The devil selects his occasions in such a way that they seem to promise success. He would have little to hope for, had he come forty days earlier, when Jesus stood in the full power of Him Who had spoken from an open heaven: "This is My beloved Son." When, however, circumstances seemed suitable to him, he questioned the sonship of the Son of God with the word: "If Thou are the Son of God..." A promising position for the enemy! A person who is close to dying of hunger and thirst, for whom something has to happen quickly, if he is to stay alive! At that moment the devil attacks. That is temptation.

Do we not have the right to dare to do something for the sake of staying alive? The enemy whispers to us: "If you don't do it, you will die." For us, however, everything should revolve around the issue, without which nothing existed for the Lord Jesus: to persevere in dependence on the Father for as long as He wants.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 38)

Are You Called?

Are You Called

Are You Called? 

Guest Writer: Meet my son-in-law Tripp Prince. We are blessed to have him as our guest writer.

You, O LORD, are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name.Jeremiah 14:9

Do you think of yourself as called? In church circles we usually reserve this language for "professional" Christians: the pastors, teachers, and missionaries amongst us. And while we can and should respect these leaders, we must be careful not to create a special class of Christian, the "called ones." In fact, in God's family, each and every follower of Christ is called! To understand this more fully, however, we need to ask ourselves, what or to what, are we called? Let's look at three answers to this question.

We are called Sons and Daughters.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. 1 John 3:1

To be called a son or a daughter of God is to be given a new identity. Though we were once separated and isolated from God, he has now drawn near to us in Jesus and invited us to know him as our Father. In this great act of love, God speaks worth, value, and meaning over us. He calls us out of darkness and invites us to encounter the radiance of his glory, his marvelous and uncreated light.

We are called to Love.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27

When we encounter the unspeakable joy of being called a child of God, we are invited to respond to God in loving gratitude. One primary way we do this is through the act of worship. We offer God our sincere gratitude and thanksgiving for the love he showed us and continues to freely give us. Yet, we also respond to his love by sharing it with the people God has placed in our lives. What does it mean to love your neighbor? In part, it is as simple as extending the dignity and worth you have received from God to everyone you encounter. In a world that often tells us "you are worthless," Christ invites us to tell others through word and action that "you are beloved by the King!"

We are called on Mission.

Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Isaiah 12:4

If you are a follower of Christ, you have been given a mission! As we've seen above, this mission is simple: love. When Isaiah invites us to proclaim the exalted name of the Lord, we are telling the world that the Lord is good and filled with great love for everyone he has created. You may not think of it this way, but you are living as a missionary every day that you choose to deny yourself and live for the sake of others. When you make yet another plate of mac & cheese for hungry little mouths, when you go out of your way to publicly affirm and build up a coworker, or when you give up vacation time to care for a sick loved one, you are participating in the mission of God in the world. God takes our small gifts of love and sacrifice, insignificant as they may seem, and uses them to advance his Kingdom in the world.

Prayer: Father, thank you that you love us unconditionally and have given us the privilege of sharing your love with a world in need.

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~

Monday, November 23, 2015

"The Rights of God" # 36

Christ and the Rights of the Father

It is important to recognize  that the Lord lived on this earth with a double purpose. For the first time there was a Man on this earth whose whole life was an expression of what God wanted, in Whom all the rights of God were fulfilled. This was what God had intended from the beginning. In Christ He saw it.

On the other hand, Christ therefore became the cornerstone of a spiritual temple,  a temple in which God's rights are fully respected. Christ was never intended to stay by Himself. He was intended to become the head of a body, the grain of wheat with much fruit, a vine with many branches. But what applies to the head must also apply to the whole body; what applies to the body, also to the individual member. The vine is to be recognized by its branches. By way of summarizing we can say: Christ, in living fellowship with His own, is purposed to be an expression of God's rights. God is to be everything and in everything.

That is why Paul does not address the Corinthians as an assembly of individuals, but he writes to "the church of God." She is the church of God. The Lord desires His full rights in everything that belongs to Him.

If Christ is the Head of the church, then what should be true for all the members must first be made real in Him. Let us therefore now draw our attention to that through which God assures His rights in Christ. Herein a completely new outlook opens up for us on the life of Jesus Christ. We see that everything depends on the rights of the Father being expressed from moment to moment by Him. Let us briefly prove this by mentioning a few points.

Right at the beginning of His life we want to see two things: firstly the position that Jesus takes, and secondly the consequence of the stand He has taken. This relates to His baptism. We do not have to say much about baptism as such. We can summarize it in a few words.

What did He want to express through it? Nothing less than that He Himself, with everything that He was, had died. However, this is not about a dying to sin in Him. He was without sin. Since it could not be about dying because of sin, and since baptism is nothing else but a picture of death and resurrection, in the case of Jesus Christ, therefore, it must have a special background. This is indeed the case. It would have been possible for Jesus Christ to live a personal life, that is, a life of His own choice, without the unbroken relationship with the Father, according to His own human will. In itself that would not have been sin. He could have acted independently of the Father.

Now, here we see the meaning and purpose of the baptism of Jesus Christ. His baptism was to express that He wanted to live in utter dependence on the Father, that He had died to everything that did not stand in close connection to His Father. It is futile to ask if a life independent from God would have led to sin, as it was in the case of Adam, because precisely through baptism the Son of God testified that He was not thinking of independence in the slightest and that He had died to every possibility of it. He refused to possess any will of His own. he gave the Father that which He demanded. He gave Him an unrestricted right to dispose of Him as He wished to. "Lo, I am come to do Thy will, O God" (Hebrews 10:7).

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 37)

By His Power

By His Power

By His Power 
Guest Writer: Meet my friend Shana Schutte. We are blessed to have her as our guest writer.

This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Zechariah 4:6

One thing I love about God’s Word is that it’s filled with treasures. A while back, I found a jewel. As I read Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 1:11, the following phrase grabbed me, “. . . and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by faith.”

I immediately thought about my purpose: sharing Jesus through written and spoken communication. I began this calling in faith but later allowed fear and pride to take over. So I tightened my hands on the reigns of my life, and I tried to control outcomes. Instead of trusting God as I worked, I trusted in myself. I forgot that it was my job to act “by faith” but God’s job to fulfill those actions by “His power.” Indeed, we fulfill all of our “good purposes” by His power, and every act prompted by our faith is fulfilled by God. We take the first step(s) but the fulfillment and completion of those steps belong to Him. The good works assigned to us originated with Him and they will be completed by Him.

 “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

We get into trouble when we start our purpose or some other good work in faith but we try to “finish” our God-given assignment in the flesh. We push. We press. We demand. We leave God out and try to act independently of Him. All of this leads to panic, but the fruit of the Spirit is peace (Galatians 5:22-23).

During the season I describe, if I could have had a conversation with God, perhaps He would have said the following words to me: “Am I not the One who started the work in you? Haven’t I caused amazing things to happen to bring you to this place in which you now stand? Why is it that you now feel you must compete this work in your own strength? You must continue to abide in Me. I will give you the resources and the strength you need to complete the works I have prepared for you to finish (2 Peter 1:3; Ephesians2:10). Your job is to obey Me, to keep your heart free from unbelief and hardening, and to depend on Me. I will do this. It’s My work.”

“We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)

Prayer: Lord, it’s such a refreshing reminder that I can trust you to complete the works you have given me to do. Please help me to fully embrace this truth so it will change how I live.

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~