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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Faith versus Reason (and other deevotionals)



Faith versus Reason


The first battle between faith and human reason took place in the garden of Eden. Spurred on by the lies of the serpent, Eve began to look at her situation from a purely logical perspective and decided she was being cheated by God out of something good. Her faith faltered as "reasonable" thoughts of self-interest filled her mind.
I am not saying that the way of faith is never logical, but by operating only on the basis of reason, a conflict with the Lord is inevitable. The reason is that His instructions and actions don't always appear reasonable from a human perspective. Although Isaiah 55:8-9 describes God's thoughts and ways as higher than man's, many people judge divine ideas to be lower than human intelligence.
Paul emphasizes this when he points out that God's choices are illogical by the world's standards. His message of salvation seems foolish, and His messengers appear weak and unimpressive. In an age that thrives on recognition, admiration, and importance, a person who believes the Bible is considered a weakling in need of a religious crutch to cope with life. While this description is given in derision, it's actually quite accurate. Recognizing their helplessness, believers lean on Christ so He can raise them to stand with Him in righteousness.
That day in Eden, sin and self-importance entered the human heart. But all the worldly wisdom that fuels our pride is nullified by God. He is looking not for great and impressive people but for weak, humble servants who can boast only in Christ. The Savior alone is their strength and wisdom.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~
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The last drops of my sacrifice are falling; my time to go has come. I have fought in the good fight; I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:6-22).

As soldiers show their scars and talk of battles when they come at last to spend their old age in the country at home, so shall we in the dear land to which we are hastening, speak of the goodness and faithfulness of God who brought us through all the trials of the way. I would not like to stand in the white-robed host and hear it said, "These are they that came out of great tribulation, all except one."
Would you like to be there and see yourself pointed at as the one saint who never knew a sorrow? Oh, no! for you would be an alien in the midst of the sacred brotherhood. We will be content to share the battle, for we shall soon wear the crown and wave the palm.
--C. H. Spurgeon
"Where were you wounded?" asked the surgeon of a soldier at Lookout Mountain. "Almost at the top," he answered. He forgot even his gaping wound--he only remembered that he had won the heights.
So let us go forth to higher endeavors for Christ and never rest till we can shout from the very top, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."

Finish thy work, then rest,
Till then rest never;
The rest for thee by God
Is rest forever.
God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas but for scars.
Of an old hero the minstrel sang--
With his Yemen sword for aid;
Ornament it carried none,
But the notches on the blade.
What nobler decoration of honor can any godly man seek after than his scars of service, his losses for the crown, his reproaches for Christ's sake, his being worn out in his Master's service.

~L. B. Cowman~
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Today's ReadingHosea 9Revelation 3

Today's Thoughts: Consider Your Deeds

"I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead." - Revelation 3:1

Companies hire consultants to come into their business to assess and evaluate the services they provide. The goal is to become more efficient, make more product and have better outcomes. Hiring an outsider allows an unbiased opinion without any emotional attachments to the employees involved or the personal dynamics that make up each "excuse" of why the employees do not achieve the company's goal.
In the Book of Revelation, Jesus does not ask for a consultant, like a prophet or angel, to come in to evaluate His church and His people. He clearly and lovingly assesses each church Himself. He starts each letter with the words, "I know your deeds" and then to six out of the seven churches, He says, "But".  Deed is also another word for work, which in the Greek means an act, deed, work that is done or anything accomplished by hand, art, industry or mind. These churches know Jesus because they each have a saving faith to be called and hear what He is saying. So, Jesus speaks to each one about their works, not their faith. And we know that faith without works (or deeds) is dead. However, the Overseer of each church rebukes their works and deeds that follow their faith. The stakes are high. The rebuke is not about losing your job but the shaking of your eternal foundation.
Jesus writes these letters explaining that He understands who they are, where they live, what they do and to six of the churches, how they fall short. Then, He lovingly tells them how to return or be restored. God is also for us. He wants us to be our best and live abundantly. How we live our life here day by day does matter for eternity. For me personally, I do not want any "Buts" when standing before Jesus face-to-face. I want to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into My rest." I want all He has for me here and I want to do it and live it His way.
Today, read over Revelation 2-3. Meditate on the verses; ponder His descriptions in your mind. Then ask the Lord which description looks a lot like you. He will honestly and clearly answer and then help you become all He wants you to be. The stakes are too high—take His words seriously.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~
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Pray Continually
Pray Continually 
Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today 

Pray continually. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

What do I do continually? I breathe continually—even at night as my body rests—I  breathe with a calm cadence. Breathing is mostly unconscious, unless oxygen to my lungs becomes restricted. If I am underwater too long—instinctively, I bolt to the surface gasping for air. My continuous prayers are like breathing. Sometimes my petitions happen automatically with little effort, other times I am fearful—spiritually smothered with an immediate need to seek heaven’s help. My continual prayers keep me connected to Christ, without which—I drown in self dependence.

What does it mean to pray continually? It is much more than an ongoing verbal barrage toward heaven. Humble, wordless cries to Christ draw us to Him, but prideful words pronounced in a self righteous tone isolate us. The soul’s unspoken requests to Jesus are just as necessary as conversational confessions. When we pray we tend to have a better day. Appointments with people run more smoothly when we keep our appointments with God. When we pray the Spirit shows us the way.  A perilously empty scuba diving air tank resembles a suffocating, prayer-less soul.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).

Does prayer really save us time? Yes but our agenda needs constant alignment with God’s agenda. Because there is ample time to do the Lord’s will, we require ongoing prayer for us to adjust around divine priorities. Championship teams often audible at the last second to assure victory over their opponent. Perhaps in prayer we discover a gentle, but firm answer of ‘no’ will get us to God’s best ‘yes.’ Faith is not fearful of disappointing people, but is committed to remaining true to Christ. When the Holy Spirit changes our heart, by faith we are wise to change our mind.

Consider employing a prayer card as part of your daily routine. Write down a verse, meditate on it and list any reflections and personal applications. On the back of the card pen a prayer to your heavenly Father and ask how the Holy Spirit may be speaking to your soul. For example you may pray something like, “Heavenly Father, thank You for giving me all I need. Show me what it means to be content in Christ in my current circumstance.” By faith, pray continually and the Holy Spirit will show you a better way—His ways are not our ways!

Be on the lookout for our upcoming Wisdom Hunter 30-day prayer challenge.

“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith” (2 Thessalonians 1:11).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, lead me by Your Spirit to be aware of constant prayer.

Application: Who needs my ongoing prayers?

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~
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Overcoming the Fear of What Other People Think
Overcoming the Fear of What Other People Think 
By Shana Schutte.

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

Have you ever feared doing something you know you should do because you feared criticism? If so, be encouraged. Throughout Scripture, men and women who were called to act for God experienced criticism. When Moses led the children of Israel through the desert, he cried out to God because those who followed him blamed and criticized him (Exodus 17:4). Paul was labeled as overzealous, unimpressive in person and insincere (2 Corinthians 10:10). And, every one of the disciples was criticized and—with the exception of John—were criticized to the moment of their deaths. Remember this: If we insist on being comfortable by avoiding the criticism of others, we won’t fulfill God’s plans for our lives that will bring Him glory. 

In his book The Believer’s Armor, John MacArthur writes, “You have all the resources, power and principles to live the Christian life. . . Even though power is available to follow godly principles, the enemy wants to withstand any good thing that God sets out to do. He will attempt to thwart God’s divine purpose for your life.” The Adversary likes to stop God’s children from fulfilling God’s plans for their lives through the fear of criticism. But God wants to give you the courage to say no to the fear of criticism and yes to Him.Isaiah 53:4 says that Jesus was despised, rejected, and not esteemed.

“Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted.”

Jesus is well acquainted with the battle we face with criticism. Can you imagine what His life would have been like if He had feared criticism and been self-protective? After being mocked by political groups, old and young men, and spiteful Pharisees, He would have determined who He would associate with and what He would say in His final hours on earth. And, rather than keeping His mouth shut when He was falsely accused, He would have defended Himself. When His enemies spit in His face, He would have retaliated. When they called Him names, He would have called down a legion of angels. When they marched Him to Golgotha, He would have run. And rather than laying down His life to give His all to those He loved, the redemption of the human race would have been lost in His misguided passion of self-protection and the fear of criticism.

If you allow the fear of criticism to rule you, you can miss out on being a gift to others because God’s plans for you aren’t just about you. They are about people God wants to influence and help through you. So, if you struggle with the fear of criticism and what others think, ask God to give you the courage to move forward in the face of criticism. And remember, you are living your life for the approval of just One.

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)

Prayer:  “Lord, I praise you that you have given me everything I need for life and godliness, including the ability to face the fear of criticism and still obey you. Help me listen closely to you rather than be distracted by the voices of those around me. Amen.”

Application: If you fear criticism or what others think, find a quiet spot today and make a list of why you are afraid. Then submit your fears to God in prayer and let Him bear your burden. Then thank Him that you can do all things through Him because He gives you strength.

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~

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