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God Reigns

Unknown 2

By Burk Parsons

What is the kingdom of God? It’s a simple question, yet if I were to ask that same question to a hundred theologians I would likely get a hundred different answers. The kingdom of God is not some sort of ancient or obsolete doctrine that no one has ever heard of. Rather, it is something we hear about all the time as a fundamental component of Jesus’ teaching and a primary theme throughout sacred Scripture. Although few would admit it, when most Christians think about the kingdom of God, their minds are strained to conceive of anything beyond some ethereal notion of mustard seeds, lost coins, different soils, and undefined future bliss.

However, when it comes right down to it, the kingdom of God should be more simple to define than just about any other theological term. It’s quite plain really: God reigns. Or, to say it another way: The kingdom of God is the omnipotent rule and sovereign reign of Almighty God over all things, the inauguration of which came with the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ Jesus and the fullness of which is yet to come.

Nevertheless, while it is important to have a good, biblical answer to the question, what is the kingdom of God? it is just as important to have an honest answer to the question, whose kingdom do you serve? These are the questions that are at the very heart of the Sermon on the Mount: Are you the king of your own kingdom? Are you the self-appointed potentate of your own, private little empire? You may answer with a hearty no, but does your life demonstrate that you are a servant of God or a servant of self? We all certainly want to be part of the kingdom, but most Christians want to serve the kingdom on their own terms.

As divinely appointed citizens of the kingdom of God we are foreigners in the kingdom of this world. We are real characters in the real story of redemptive history in real space and real time who have been summoned to follow the King of kings as servants, saints, and soldiers – coram Deo, before His face, in life and in death. Augustine understood this well: “We want to reach the kingdom of God, but we don’t want to travel by way of death. And yet there stands necessity saying: ‘This way, please.’ Do not hesitate, man, to go this way, when this is the way that God came to you.”

Source: http://www.ligonier.org (December 1, 2007)

 

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Warren Wiersbe on How To Be Victorious Over Fear

Being Victorious Over Fear (Series: Encouragement for Difficult Days)

A lady once approached D. L. Moody and told him she had found a wonderful promise in the Bible that helped her overcome fear. Her verse was Psalm 56:3: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” Mr. Moody replied, “Why I have a better promise than that!” And he quoted Isaiah 12:2: “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid.” Mr. Moody did have a greater promise.

These words from Isaiah 12:2 are worth knowing in these days when it is so easy to become frightened. Jesus told us that in the end times men’s hearts will fail them for fear of the things about to happen; and I believe we are seeing some of this take place today. Psychologists are writing books and magazine articles about overcoming fear.

There are some kinds of fear that are good for us. We warn our children not to go near the busy streets, and we put within them a healthy fear of being struck by a car. Eventually, of course, that infantile fear will be replaced by mature common sense; but until that happens, we dare not take any chances. In fact, the fear of punishment is one basis for discipline. It may not be the highest motive for doing good, but at least it helps us to get started.

The Bible often talks about the fear of the Lord. It tells us that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” and that “the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life.” This fear, of course, is a proper respect and reverence for God. It is not the cringing fear of a slave before a brutal master, but the proper respect of a son before a loving Father. It is the kind of fear that opens the way to abundant life in Christ. The kind of fear Isaiah 12:2 is talking about is the fear that paralyzes people-the fear that gets into the heart and mind and creates tension and worry, and that keeps a person from enjoying life and doing his best. I meet people every week who are afraid of life, afraid of death, afraid of the past, afraid of the future-in fact, people whose lives are being enslaved by fear.

Jesus Christ never meant for us to be the slaves of fear. It is exciting to read the Bible and discover how many times God says “Fear not” to people. When the angels appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Christ at Bethlehem, their first words were, “Fear not.” When Peter fell at Jesus’ feet and asked Jesus to depart from him because Peter felt he was a sinful man, Jesus said, “Fear not, Peter.” When Jairus received the bad news that his daughter had just died, Jesus said to Jairus, “Fear not, only believe….” Jesus Christ wants us to conquer fear; and He is able to help us win the battle. What causes fear in our lives? Sometimes fear is caused by a guilty conscience. When Adam and Eve sinned, they felt guilty and became afraid; and they tried to hide from God. Shakespeare was right when he said, “Conscience doth make cowards of us all.” Whenever we disobey God, we lose our close fellowship with Him, and that spiritual loneliness creates fear. We wonder if anybody knows what we have done. We worry about being found out and hope no tragic consequences come from our sins. The solution to that problem, of course, is to seek God’s forgiveness. God promises to cleanse our sins if we will but confess them and forsake them.

Often fear is caused by ignorance. Children are afraid in the night because the shadows look like giants and bears and ghosts. But even adults can get frightened when they really don’t know what is going on. Anxiety about the future, either for ourselves or for our loved ones, can sometimes create fear. Another cause is our own feeling of weakness. We are so accustomed to managing things ourselves that when an unmanageable crisis comes along, we feel helpless and afraid.

Sometimes fear comes, not before the battle or even in the midst of the battle, but after we have won the victory. Often

there is an emotional letdown, and fear rushes in. Abraham had this experience in Genesis 15 after he had waged war against four powerful kings and won the victory. That night as he lay down to sleep, Abraham wondered if those kings would return and challenge him again, and perhaps bring back superior forces. It was then that God appeared to Abraham and said, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen. 15:1). But when we study all the cases and try to understand the root cause of fear, one truth stands out clearly: the real cause

of fear is unbelief. After stilling a storm that had frightened His disciples out of their wits, Jesus said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” Fear and faith can never be friends; and if we are afraid, it is a sign that we have no faith. This is why Isaiah 12:2 says, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid.”

The secret of victory over fear is faith in God. There is no problem too great for God to solve, no burden too heavy for God to carry, no battle too overwhelming for God to fight and win. God is big enough to conquer the enemies that rob us of our peace and leave paralyzing fears behind. Isaiah 12:2 doesn’t say, “When I am afraid, I will trust“; it says, “I will trust, and not be afraid.” Faith is not simply medicine to kill the disease; faith is spiritual power to keep us from being infected in the first place.

Notice what the prophet puts first: “Behold, God is my salvation.” If you want to overcome fear, get your eyes off yourself and your feelings, and off the problems that have upset you, and get your eyes on God. The Jewish spies in the Old Testament became frightened when they investigated the Promised Land, because they saw giants and high walls and felt like grasshoppers in comparison. The enemy soldiers were big, and the walls were high, but God was far above all of them. Had the spies lifted their eyes just a bit higher and seen God, they would not have been afraid. So the first step in overcoming fear is to look by faith at God. Worship God, get a fresh glimpse of His greatness and glory, and realize that He is still on the throne. The second step is to lay hold of God’s Word. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. When you read the Bible, you find your faith growing. You discover that God has always been adequate for the needs of His people.

The third step is to pray and surrender to the Holy Spirit. Tell God about your fears-tell Him that your fears are really evidences of unbelief-and like that concerned man in the Gospel story, ask God to help your unbelief. Surrender yourself to the Holy Spirit of God, because the Spirit can work in you to take away fear

and give you peace. Second Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” The Holy Spirit within you can give you power for your weakness; He can generate love; He can give order and discipline to your mind. The Holy Spirit is God’s psychologist, so turn yourself over to Him.

One of the ministries of the Spirit of God is making Jesus Christ real to us. As you pray and read the Word, the Spirit will give you a spiritual understanding of Jesus Christ, and He will become very real to you. Even in the midst of storms and trials, Jesus Christ comes with peace and courage for you.

There is no reason for you to be afraid. Fear will only rob you and buffet you and paralyze you. Jesus Christ can take away your fear and give you peace. “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid.”

About the Author:

Warren W. Wiersbe is the Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary, and is the author of more than 100 books. Billy Graham calls him “one of the greatest Bible expositors of our generation.” Interestingly, Warren’s earliest works had nothing to do with scriptural interpretation. His interest was in magic, and his first published title was Action with Cards (1944).

“It was sort of imbecilic for a fifteen-year-old amateur magician to have the audacity to write a book and send it to one of the nation’s leading magic houses,” Warren says. But having a total of three books published by the L.L. Ireland Magic Company—before the age of 20—gave him a surge of confidence. In later years, he applied his confidence and writing talent to the Youth for Christ (YFC) ministry.

Warren wrote many articles and guidebooks for YFC over a three-year period, but not all his manuscripts were seen by the public eye. One effort in particular, The Life I Now Live, based on Galatians 2:20, was never published. The reason, Warren explains with his characteristic humor, is simple: it was “a terrible book…Whenever I want to aggravate my wife, all I have to say is, ‘I think I’ll get out that Galatians 2:20 manuscript and work on it.’” Fortunately, Warren’s good manuscripts far outnumbered the “terrible” ones, and he was eventually hired by Moody Press to write three books.

The much-sought-after author then moved on to writing books for Calvary Baptist Church. It was during his ten years at Calvary that Expository Outlines on the New Testament and Expository Outlines on the Old Testament took shape. These two works later became the foundation of Warren’s widely popular Bible studies known as the Be series, featuring such titles as Be Loyal (a study on Matthew) and Be Delivered (a study on Exodus). Several of these books have been translated into Spanish.

His next avenue of ministry was Chicago’s Moody Memorial Church, where he served for seven years. He wrote nearly 20 books at Moody before moving to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he and his wife, Betty, now live. Prior to relocating, he had been the senior pastor of Moody Church, a teacher at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a producer of the Back to the Bible radio program.

During all these years of ministry, Warren held many more posts and took part in other projects too numerous to mention. His accomplishments are extensive, and his catalog of biblical works is indeed impressive and far-reaching (many of his books have been translated into other languages). But Warren has no intention of slowing down any time soon, as he readily explains: “I don’t like it when people ask me how I’m enjoying my ‘retirement,’ because I’m still a very busy person who is not yet living on Social Security or a pension. Since my leaving Back to the Bible, at least a dozen books have been published, and the Lord willing, more are on the way.”

Wiersbe’s recent books include Your Next MiracleThe 20 Essential Qualities of a Child of GodClassic Sermons on the Fruit of the SpiritClassic Sermons on Jesus the ShepherdKey Words of the Christian LifeLonely PeopleA Gallery of GraceReal Peace: Freedom and Conscience in the Christian Life, and On Being a Leader for God.

The article above was adapted from Warren W. Wiersbe’s classic encouraging devotional: The Bumps Are What You Climb On: Encouragement For Difficult Days. Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1996.

 

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JOHN MAXWELL’S ACRONYM FOR H.O.P.E.

HOPE

H.O.P.E. = HOLDING ON, PRAYING EXPECTANTLY

I listened patiently as he poured out his problems. His work was not going well. Some of his children were sowing their wild oats and he was worried about them. The straw that finally broke his back was that his wife decided to leave him. There he sat, all slumped over in despair. It was the last sentence of his story that alarmed me. He said, “I have nothing to live for; I have lost all hope.” I began to share with him that hope was the one thing he could not afford to lose. He could lose his business, his money, and maybe even his family, and rebound on the court of life if he kept his hope alive.

If hope is so important, what is it? Tertullian said, “Hope is patience with the lamp lit.” Hope is holding on when things around you begin to slip away. Hope is praying expectantly when there are seemingly no answers. Dr. G. Campbell Morgan tells of a man whose shop had been burned during the disastrous Chicago fire. He arrived at the ruins the next morning carrying a table. He set the table amid the charred debris and above it placed this optimistic sign: “Everything lost except wife, children, and hope. Business will be resumed as usual tomorrow morning.”

Many men become bitter toward life because of the unfortunate circumstances in which they find themselves. Many quit. Others have taken their own lives. What makes the difference in the outcome? Talent? No! The only difference between those who threw in the towel and quit and those who used their energy to rebuild and keep going, is found in the word hope.

What does hope do for mankind?

Hope shines brightest when the hour is the darkest.

Hope motivates when discouragement comes.

Hope energizes when the body is tired.

Hope sweetness while the bitterness bites.

Hope sings when all melodies are gone.

Hope believes when the evidence is eliminated.

Hope listens for answers when no one is talking.

Hope climbs over obstacles when no one is helping.

Hope endures hardship when no one is caring.

Hope smiles confidently when no one is laughing.

Hope reaches for answers when no one is asking.

Hope presses toward victory when no one is encouraging.

Hope dares to give when no one is sharing.

Hope brings the victory when no one is winning.

There is nothing to do but bury a man when his hopes are gone. Losing hope usually precedes loss of life itself. You don’t need a better environment; you just need more hope. It’s the one thing in your life that you cannot do without!

SOURCE: John C. Maxwell. Think On These Things: A Fresh, New Way To Look At Life. Kansas City: Beacon Hill, 1979, pp. 127-128.

 

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Jerry Bridges: Faith and the Power of God

PRECARIOUS ROCK CLIMBER

The healing of the demon possessed boy (Matt. 17:14–20) at first glance seems to be only one more in a series of miraculous healings recorded by Matthew. What makes this one unique is Jesus’ emphasis on the role of faith. It is true that faith is prominent in the miracles recorded in chapter 9, but in chapter 17 it is the lack of faith that is emphasized by Jesus.

That God is not dependent on human faith for accomplishing His work is clear from the accounts of other miracles recorded by Matthew. The transfiguration of Jesus immediately prior to the healing of the boy is a prime example. It was a spectacular miracle; yet no human faith was involved. This is also true in the feeding of the five thousand (Matt. 14:13–21) and the four thousand (15:32–38). So the first thing we need to learn about faith and the power of God is that He is not dependent on our faith to do His work. God will not be hostage to our lack of faith.

The second thing we need to learn, however, is that God often requires our faith in the carrying out of His purposes. We see this in the healing of the demon possessed boy. Mark, in his account, brings this out sharply in Jesus’ conversation with the boy’s father. The father, in great distress, said to Jesus: “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” (Mark 9:22). He had already experienced the failure of the disciples, so he was not sure if Jesus could help. His faith at this point may be described as no more than an uncertain hope that Jesus could do what the disciples could not do.

Jesus responded to the father: “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes” (v. 23). Biblical faith may be described in different ways depending on the situation. The description of faith in Hebrews 11:1 as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” was appropriate for the Jewish recipients of the letter, who were facing severe opposition and needed to be encouraged as to the certainty of their hope in Christ.

For the father of the boy, faith would mean believing that Jesus could heal his son. We are often like the father. We may face what seems to be an intractable situation, and because we have prayed a long time without an answer, we begin to doubt that God can answer our prayer. But we must believe that with God nothing is impossible.

Sarah, the wife of Abraham, doubted that God could give them a son in their advanced age, to which God replied, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14). Centuries later, the prophet Jeremiah wavered in his faith when God told him to buy a field in the face of the Chaldeans’ invasion (Jer. 32:6-26). Again God’s response was: “Is anything too hard for me?” (v. 27). To have faith in God, even in the face of unanswered prayer or a seemingly impossible situation, means we continue to believe that He can do what seems impossible to us.

The importance of faith is further emphasized in Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question: “Why could we not cast it out?” (Matt. 17:19). He said it was because of their little faith. We are not told in what way their faith was deficient. We do know that Jesus had previously given them authority over demons to cast them out (Matt. 10:1–8), so why was their faith so weak at this time? Perhaps it was because the demon did not respond immediately to their command, and so they began to doubt the power of Jesus. Or perhaps they presumed that because they had been successful before, they would be at that time. So we see that faith not only involves a firm reliance on Jesus’ power and ability, but also a complete renunciation of any confidence in our own.

Last month we looked briefly at the subject of God’s providence. In Matthew 17 we see an example of it in action, in connection with a mundane event — the paying of the temple tax. Jesus, as the Son of God, was under no obligation to pay the tax. Yet in order to give no offense, He sent Peter to catch a fish in whose mouth was the required shekel. This brief account raises some questions: How did the shekel get into the mouth of the fish? How did Peter just “happen” to catch that fish and not another one nearby? It is possible that Jesus performed a miracle and created the coin out of nothing in the mouth of the fish.

It is more likely, however, that it was a work of providence. Someone “accidentally” dropped a shekel into the sea. A particular fish grabbed it, and it stuck in its mouth. The fish swam to the exact spot where Peter cast his net and the fish was caught. None of these events was miraculous; yet all of them were necessary to accomplish Jesus’ purpose, and Jesus was in control of each one of them. God’s power is as much at work in His providence as in His miracles. So as we struggle with our own faith, or lack of it, in the difficult situations of life, let us believe that God is able, whether through miracles or providence, to care for us.

SOURCE: Jerry Bridges, July 1, 2008 @ http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/faith-and-power-god/

 

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Jerry Bridges: The Providence of Jesus

Feeding of the 5000

The feeding of the five thousand, recorded in Matthew 14:13–21, is probably the most well known of all of Jesus’ miracles. It is the only one recorded by all four of the gospel writers (see Mark 6:30–44;Luke 9:10–19John 6:1–14). It is also one that skeptics have most often tried to explain away. A common explanation is that the little boy’s example of generosity in giving his bread and fish to Jesus prompted others to share the food they had brought along, so that there was enough for all.

That this was an amazing miracle is beyond doubt. To use a contemporary expression, it was “over the top.” It is impossible to visualize in our minds what it must have looked like, and the extreme brevity of the account tempts us to fill in the details. But we should refrain from doing so, knowing that the Holy Spirit guided the gospel writers to give us only as much detail as He wanted us to know.

Rather than puzzling over omitted details, we need to ask of any portion of Scripture what it teaches us. Without claiming to have plumbed the depths of this passage, let me draw out one obvious lesson: Jesus controls the physical universe, and He exercises that control for His people.

Scripture teaches us that the Son of God was not only the agent of creation, but that He also upholds the universe and holds it together by the word of His power (Heb. 1:1–3Col. 1:16–17). That is, He who created the universe in the beginning also sustains and directs it moment by moment on a continual basis. We know, for example, that ordinarily the physical laws of the universe operate in a consistent and predictable manner. The reason they do is because of the consistent will of Christ causing them to do so. They do not operate on their own.

This helps us understand why Jesus could perform miracles; in this case causing five small barley cakes and two small fish to multiply so dramatically that they fed more than five thousand people. Jesus, who created the physical laws and stands outside of them and over them, could, as He purposed, change or countermand any of them. In fact He could, if He so willed, create an entirely new law of multiplication for that specific occasion so that the bread and fish multiplied.

We really don’t know what Jesus did, or what the multiplication process looked like. We only know the results, and we know that the Lord of the universe could, in whatever way He chose, produce those miraculous results. Miracles were no problem for Jesus.

Today, at least in the Western world, we seem to see few miracles, and certainly none the scope of the feeding of the five thousand. What we do see, however, are the results of God’s invisible hand of providence. Setting aside the theological definition of providence  to keep it simple, we may say that providence is God’s orchestrating all events and circumstances in the universe for His glory and the good of His people (Rom. 8:28).

Scripture teaches us that just as the Son of God was the agent of creation and is its present sustainer, so too is He also the agent of God’s providence. Jesus is in sovereign control, not only of the physical laws of the universe, but of all the events and circumstances in the universe, including those that happen to each of us. If you have food today in your cupboard and refrigerator, that is as much the result of Jesus’ care for you as was the feeding of the five thousand.

Just as the physical laws of the universe ordinarily operate in a consistent and predictable manner, so providence ordinarily operates in a predictable cause and effect relationship. “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Prov. 10:4). That’s cause and effect, and it is generally predictable. But just as Jesus intervened in the physical laws during His time on earth, so He intervenes in normal cause-and-effect relationships. Sometimes from our perspective His intervention is “good” and sometimes it’s “bad.” In either case He is in control “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” (Lam. 3:38).

The good news, however, is that Jesus is not only in control of all the events and circumstances of our lives, He is also compassionate. In the record of the feeding of the five thousand, the text says “He had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matt. 14:14). At the subsequent feeding of the four thousand, Jesus said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat” (Matt. 15:32). Whether it was healing the sick or feeding the multitude, Jesus was moved to act by His compassion. On other occasions throughout the Gospels we see Jesus acting as a result of His compassion. And what He was while on earth, He is today in heaven: a sovereign and compassionate Savior who works all things for His glory and our good.

*SOURCE: June 1st, 2008 @ http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/providence-jesus/

 

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Warren Wiersbe: The Power of God’s Name

OT Words for today Wiersbe

“From the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations,” says the LORD of hosts.” – Malachi 1:11

The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high view of God, wrote A.W. Tozer in his excellent book The Knowledge of the Holy. For “church” you may substitute “Christian” or “Sunday school teacher” or “missionary.” The prophet Malachi ministered to the Jewish exiles who had returned to their land from Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Unfortunately, the level of their spiritual life was not very high. They could have glorified the name of the Lord before the Gentiles, but instead they chose to argue with the Lord. Believers today have three responsibilities when it comes to the names of God.

(1) We must know God’s name. In Bible times, names were indications of character and ability, and the names of God tell us who he is and what he can do. Jehovah means “I Am Who I Am” (Exodus 3:13-14). He is the self-existent, eternal God who always was, always is, and always will be. Jehovah-Sabaoth is “the LORD of hosts, the LORD of the armies of heaven” (1 Samuel 1:3,11), while Jehovah-Rapha is “the LORD who heals” (Exodus 15:22-27). For the battles in life, we must know Jehovah-Nissi, “the LORD our banner” (Exodus 17:8-15), who can give us victory. Jehovah-Shalom is “the LORD our peace” (Judges 6:24), and Jehovah Ra-ah is “the LORD our shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). I could go on, but I suggest you pursue this study yourself with the help of a good study Bible. To know God’s names is to know him better and be able to call on him for the help we need. “Those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, LORD have not forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10).

(2) We must honor God’s name. The priests in the temple were not honoring God’s name but were despising it by performing their ministries carelessly and offering the Lord sacrifices unacceptable to him (Malachi 1:6-10). Malachi used the word “contemptible” to describe their work (1:7,12; 2:9). God demands that we give him our best and serve him in a way that honors his name (1 Chronicles 21:24). The Lord would rather that someone close the temple doors than allow such cheap sacrifices to be offered on his altar (Mal. 1:10; Lev. 22:20). The priests were not rejoicing in their ministry but were weary of the whole thing (Mal. 1:13). “Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing” (Ps. 100:2). We must give glory to his name (Mal. 2:2) and fear his name (1:14; 4:2). There was a godly remnant that did fear the Lord and honor his name (3:16-19), and they were the hope of the nation.

(3) We must spread his name abroad. The Lord wanted his name to be “magnified beyond the border of Israel” (1:5). The prophet saw a day when Jews and Gentiles would be one people of faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:11-22). When he died on the cross, Jesus tore the veil of the temple, opening the way to God for all people and breaking down the wall that separated Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:14) so that we are “all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). The name of Jesus Christ and his gospel must be shared with the world, for there are no borders that must confine us. “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Are we doing our part?

*SOURCE: Adapted from Warren Wiersbe. Old Testament Words For Today. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013, Chapter 95.

 

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John Piper on God’s Sovereign Work in Your Life

The Effect of Your Life in 1,400 Years

The Effect of Your Life in 1,400 Years

Do you think God has purposes for your life that will be realized in 1,400 years?

I do. Your life and mine.

Yes, the new heavens and the new earth may be here by then. I hope so. If so, there are things that are happening to you now that will have reverberations then for your good.

I say that because Paul says, “This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). When Paul speaks of “light momentary affliction,” he is referring to all the painful experiences of our lives — the same thing he means by “the sufferings of this present time” in Romans 8:18. All of this present time.

And when he says that these life-long experiences are “preparing for us an eternal weight of glory,” he means that there is a correlation between those experiences now and our experiences of glory later. And that correlation is more than sequential, and more than evidence that we are going to glory.

It would be little comfort to Paul if I said the point was: “How I handle my backache and how you handle your beheading are evidence that we are both going to glory.” That’s true. But it’s not the point of the word “preparing” (katergazetai). His beheading will have a different effect on his glory than my backache will on mine. And I’ll be the happier for his reward.

Everything Relates to Everything

But what if, in 1,400 years Christ has not returned? Will your life make a difference in that world? I think so. In God’s governance of the world, everything relates to everything.

Consider this illustration.

When I was in Ethiopia last November, I was told of an Ethiopian missionary who went to Pakistan. He entered a town with a view to evangelizing and planting a church, even though Pakistan is not open to this kind of missionary work.

But when he went before the town leaders and they found out that he was from Ethiopia they said something to the effect: “You may do your work here. We owe you the gift of openness and hospitality, because your people gave asylum to Mohammed’s family 1,400 years ago.”

The Land of Justice

Since then I have tried to track down the history behind this amazing statement. In 2008 there was a symposium about this very tradition. Scholars from Princeton, Cornell, Rutgers, and the National Museum of Ethiopia met to discuss new historical findings.

In Islamic history and tradition, Ethiopia (Abyssinia) is known as the “Haven of the First Migration” of Muslims. During Mohammed’s lifetime (570 – 632) his followers were being persecuted in the surroundings of Mecca by pagan tribes.

Dr. Said Samatar, Professor of African History at Rutgers, explained “King Armah (Negash) and his decision to grant refuge to the family of the Prophet Mohammad, who arrived at Aksum while fleeing from their pagan persecutors.” King Armah was a Christian and had the reputation of treating people generously. Dr. Samatar described how “a Christian King refused bribes and granted sanctuary to the fleeing Muslims in Aksum.”

“Mohammad didn’t forget the generosity of the Negash,” he said, “and in the sayings (hadith) of the Prophet that have been recorded and passed on for generations, it is noted that ‘Abyssinia [Ethiopia] is a land of justice in which no one is oppressed.’”

Therefore, for many Muslims even today, 1,400 years later, “Ethiopia is synonymous with freedom from persecution and emancipation from fear.”

Consider Your Impact

Do you think that the Christians of Abysinnia, 1,400 years ago thought that what they were doing would have an effect for the glory of Christ and the good of the world fourteen centuries later, when a Pakistani mayor opened his city to a Christian Ethiopian missionary?

Therefore, I conclude that what we do in obedience to Christ in this life is never wasted. Our acts are like pebbles dropped in the pond of history. No matter how small our pebble, God rules the ripples. And he causes the design on the face of the waters to be exactly what he wills.

Your pebbles count. Drop them with daily faithfulness, and leave the ripples to God.

SOURCE: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/the-effect-of-your-life-in-1-400-years

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.

 

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As Christians We Should Be Fresh and Flourishing

A DEVOTIONAL BASED ON PSALM 92:7-15

PPP Wiersbe

By Warren W. Wiersbe

Someone has said that there are three stages in life: childhood, adolescence, and “My, you’re looking good.” We can’t stop aging. But no matter how old we grow, we ought to continue growing in the Lord. “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the hous of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing” (vv. 12-14). I am greatly encouraged by those words, because as I get older, I want my life to count more and more for Jesus.

God tells us to be like palm trees. That means we should be planted–“planted in the house of the Lord.” We must abide in Christ, whose roots are spiritual. What a tragedy it is to get older and move into the world and into sin, abandoning what you were taught from the Word of God.

We should also be productive. “They shall be fresh and floursihing” — fruitful trees to the glory of God. Palm trees stand a lot of abuse, storms, and wind. The wind that breaks other trees bends the palm tree, but then it comes back up. Palm trees have roots that go down deep to draw up the water in the desert area. They can survive when other trees are dying. And palm trees just keep on prodicing fruit. The fruit doesn’t diminish; it gets better and sweeter.

Finally, we should be flourishing “in the courts of our God.” When some people get old, they get grouchy, mean, and critical. Let’s not be like that. Allow the Lord to make you fresh and flourishing. Have roots that go deep. You can stand the storms and still be fruitful, feeding others from the blessing of the Lord.

God wants you to grow strong, productive trees that bear much fruit. He wants your roots to grow deep to draw nourishment from His hidden resources. Are you planted and feeding on the Word of God daily? Are you producing fruit and bringing glory to Him? Are you flourishing and feeding others?

*SOURCE: Warren W. Wiersbe. Prayer, Praise & Promises: A Daily Walk Through the Psalms. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011.

 

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Creating A Positive Environment With Our Words

ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER

Encourage each other

By Dane Ortlund

Our words to one another about one another not only describe reality. They also create reality.

“You idiot!” does not simply assess what is objectively true to the speaker. It also produces, in the one spoken to, death and darkness. Not only do our words reveal what is true of us, they also generate reality for another. Specifically, our words are either death-bringing or life-giving. Either depleting or nourishing, draining or filling.

The gospel is a message of life, of nourishing, of filling. Because of Christ’s work in our behalf, we are set free from sin, adopted into God’s family, welcomed in. The “word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Eph. 1:13) is a word that gives life. And the great privilege we have when we gather with other believers—other obnoxious believers, other theologically imprecise believers, other spiritually sleepy believers, other frustrating believers, other sinning believers—is of passing on horizontally a taste of what we’ve been given vertically. Amid all my sin and messiness, in Jesus, God has given me a word of welcome, a word of love—“the word of life” (Phil. 2:161 John 1:1). Loved with this word of grace, I love others with words of grace.

After all, when Paul says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up,” what is the “therefore” referring to? What is fueling such encouragement? One of the greatest exultations in all the New Testament about the hope of the gospel: “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him” (1 Thess. 5:9–10).

Having been shown life through the word of the gospel, we give life through the words we use.

That’s easier said than done. All day long, words are flowing out of us. Passing another and saying hello in the hallway at work, chatting over lunch, greeting our spouse at the end of the day, tucking a child in with a good night story, speaking with a salesperson at Best Buy, talking on the phone while driving. We also use words without employing the larynx: emails, tweets, Facebook comments, handwritten notes stuck on the fridge. Even in this article I am using words: Are they bringing life?

In the hurricane of words that make up any given day, how do we walk in wisdom such that our words inject sanity, calm, and life rather than destruction? In two ways.

First, by saying nothing.

One major way we give life to others with our words is by not using any. It feels awkward to sit with someone depressed or overwhelmed with life and to say nothing. But what comes out of our mouth as medicine can, in fact, sicken rather than strengthen another’s heart (Prov. 23:8). A sufferer, when the pain is raw, needs warm presence, not fixing words. Paul said, “Weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15), not “provide theological answers to those who weep.” That Romans 8:28 comes before Romans 12:15 in the canon does not mean it should in our counseling and friendships.

Second, by saying something.

All our words tumble out impelled by one of two motives. I am using words either for myself or for you. All my speech is either fueled by self (no matter how smiling it is) or by love (no matter how painful it is).

The question, then, is why do you speak the words you do? Why do you speak the way you do? What is the aroma of your words? Are you spraying bullets, forgetting God has set down the gun rightly aimed at you? Do you speak to others the way you wish to be spoken to? What kind of speech has given you life as you consider meaningful relationships in your past? Do you ever—ever—look another human being in the face and say to them the following words: “May I tell you something I admire about you?” (It is one of the great secrets to Christian community that speaking a word of grace to another builds up you as much as the other.)

In your short life, you have a million tiny opportunities, including a hundred today, to inject a small but potent dose of life and light into another. As you consider doing this, you will immediately find a good reason presenting itself that seems to clearly mitigate your impulse to build another up. Some weakness, some corresponding fault, will arise in your mind, cancelling out your reason to encourage that person. Indeed, with some people in our lives, we honestly have difficulty finding anything encouraging to say.

Once more we remember the gospel. God did not allow our own faults to mitigate His word of gospel life to us. We have given Him every reason to withhold that precious word from us. Instead He lavishes us with assurances of undeserved love. We come alive. We breathe again.

John Owen wrote that God “loves life into us.” Will you love life into another?

*SOURCE: July 1st, 2013 @ http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/encourage-another/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Dane Ortlund serves as Bible publishing director at Crossway Books in Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author of Defiant Grace: The Surprising Message and Mission of Jesus.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Attitude, Devotions, Encouragement

 

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Brad Johnston on The “Learning” in Contentment

content

My favorite weekly meeting is Wednesday at 6 a.m. at Perkins Restaurant.

There I recently had one of those jump-off-the-page-of-your-Bible experiences. Call me dumb, but I had never processed the fact that three times in Paul’s famous “contentment passage” in Philippians 4 – which I have quoted anecdotally dozens of times – the Apostle specifically uses the word “learned” (in Philippians 4:9 and 11, 12 ).

The men’s prayer breakfast is not a big one, as prayer breakfasts go. But it is a faithful one, an intimate one. Men from our church gather like clockwork each week for the sole purpose of lifting our hearts together before the Throne of Grace. We make 3-4 specific prayer requests for the week, and then lift one another’s burdens to the Lord in prayer before a hearty breakfast. Our prayers are far ranging, kingdom focused prayers for the advance of God’s reign in this world. It is not a place where we sit on our hands, but where we take the Kingdom by storm.

But recently  God has landed the prayer breakfast guys in the school of contentment. He has simply overwhelmed us with his presence and blessings and pressed us to “come back” to a place of joy and satisfaction — of thanksgiving! In my analysis, the Lord has been teaching us a contentment that can be described as intense pleasure in who Jesus is, and what he has done/is doing/will do for his people. We have been discovering something of the end that Paul has in mind when he calls to learn contentment. Three observations about how God leads us into biblical contentment.

First, he has called each one of us to action. Contentment is not passivity. Each of the men at prayer breakfast wear various hats: in the church, as the head their families, and in their professional labors. Men must sometimes leave early because of pressing matters on their plate. We aspire to be like the Apostle Paul, who was engaged in the work to which he was called. What he believed was visible in his lifestyle and he called those to whom he ministered to “learn by practice” what they had seen Paul practice.

Second, God has called each of us to flexibility. In a variety of ways each of us has had unexpected developments in our lives recently. It has really pushed us to understand better what Paul meant in Phil. 4:11 that “whatever situation” is a place where God will minister his grace by prompting me to trust in his wisdom and rest in his provision. The guys have discussed in recent weeks the places of apparent chaos and of disappointment. The wonder of Paul’s Calvinistic convictions is that he could never step outside of God’s personal and transformative gaze. Whether in Tarsus, Jerusalem, or the far flung wilderness of Asia Minor Paul knew that because God was God, therefore Paul could never step off his grid. His heavenly Father was intent on teaching him the positive aspects of the Tenth Commandment every day and in every — at a very personal level!

Finally, God has called us to be fixated on Christ. Paul no doubt had specific episodes from his ministry in mind when he said “I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Phil. 4:12). As he pushed forward in his itinerant ministry year after year things didn’t always go as planned. Colleagues abandoned him. Logistics did not work out. Travel plans were stymied. And yet through it all the Apostle’s faith shone through: “all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

It has been such an intense pleasure to explore this theme of contentment with the guys over our waffles and eggs recently. Through different circumstances and at different times he has brought each of us to that place of peaceful contentment. We are simply overwhelmed at the blessings the Lord has poured out into our lives. It doesn’t usually mean we stay there. But we are learning, learning, learning that instead of grasping and fighting for what we desire, we can rest contentedly in God’s absolute sovereignty. Instead of fixating on something material, or urgent, or created, we can reorient our fixation upon Jesus Christ. Then we can quietly do what we can in God’s kingdom, and leave the results up to him.

Soli Deo gloria.

SOURCE” http://gentlereformation.com/?p=336235

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Attitude, Devotions

 

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