Thursday, 1/14/21 – Discipleship – Pray first, then pray…

Pray first, then pray…

The context around Pastor Andrew’s reference to God’s assessment of Daniel as a man “highly esteemed” in his message last Sunday is a three-week period Daniel spent in focussed prayer. Cyrus was now King in Persia and the first wave of exiles had returned to Jerusalem under Ezra. Daniel, now 84, was not among them and possibly felt he could be more helpful where he was, utilizing his now high position in government.

For whatever reason Daniel was in mourning, perhaps because so few had returned with Ezra, or the opposition Ezra experienced, or possibly Daniel was overwhelmed by all the preceding events and revelations. For three weeks now Daniel had disciplined himself. “I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over,” he records (10:3). He did this to humble himself, to bow himself low before the Almighty God to Whom he wept and prayed.

And then…

“A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, ‘Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.’ And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.” (Dan. 10:10-11).

God broke in! Have you ever had “a hand touch you” like that?  One that “sets you trembling,” and drops you to hands and knees, overcome by the magnitude of such a jolting encounter with forces that perhaps until now were only theological? These moments can come when we lower ourselves before God and seek Him with all our heart.

But what I want you to notice today is the divine messenger’s response:

“Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.” (Dan. 10:12-13).

We cannot imagine what goes on in heaven when we pray, what battles are being fought. Pray… keep on praying… then pray some more. God will be victorious!

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).

Press on…

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of life in Christ? Or, would you like to begin this journey by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Thursday, 1/7/20 – Discipleship – The Bible: The Word made Print

The Bible: The Word made Print

I remember those lovely, long sessions of prayer and devotion in the basement Prayer Room of the Bible College I attended many years ago. It was cold down there, thinly carpeted, with stone block walls. The only “furnishings” were the wood slat locker-room style benches permanently fixed along two adjacent walls. A slight dank potato smell lingered in the room from the huge vegetable storage bins in a room nearby. Uninviting at first, but soon soothed by the warmth of my body and Presence of the Holy Spirit of God.

Typically, after moments of settling and centering my soul upon Him, I would begin with a prayer…. the words of the psalmist David as he approached and extolled the Word of God: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” (Ps. 119:18). And He always did. So much so that I fully expected to hear Him each day during my morning tryst.

Sometimes He would speak reassuringly, sometimes granting His boldness, sometimes His forgiveness, and yes, sometimes His rebuke and discipline. But I always left that room knowing His love, His peace, or that lovely sweetness of soul that echoes “It is well.”

Sometimes He would give me a word, one which I was eager to discover more fully, applying the investigator’s interrogatives who, what, when, where, why, how? – exploring concordances, cross-references and commentaries until the results became repetitive.

On other days God was silent, His Word seemed dead to me, my time in it was nothing but effort, but I spent those days plodding on in it anyway. Fuel for the day ahead is needed regardless of one’s loss of taste or appetite. Not every day are days of harvest. He has promised “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isa. 55:11). This truth never fails.

The prayerful study of the Word of God, is as precious today as it was then. It is Living. You may read it but it also reads you… convicts you, comforts and encourages you. The Word eternal become perhaps not person, but print: inspired, unchanging, transformative. What an honour!

Press on…

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of life in Christ? Or, would you like to begin this journey by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Thursday, 12/31/20 – Discipleship – Priorities

Priorities

As each time zone reaches the stroke of midnight tonight millions of people around this globe will begin new commitments to milliions of new lists of new priorities for the new year. Research has shown that by the end of January 80% of resolution makers will have at first wavered, then failed, then abandoned their commitments. After twelve months only 8% of these millions will have succeeded and kept their initial resolutions.

What resolutions typically top the lists of these determined individuals? You can likely guess:

  1. Exercise more
  2. Lose weight
  3. Save more / spend less
  4. Quit smoking
  5. Spend more time with family and friends

The resolutions one sets reveal the priorities one holds. They can provide great insights into one’s heart if one dares to look. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34).

Solomon wrote, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Prov. 4:23). Jesus said, “…the things that come out of a person’s mouth [or are expressed by pen, or digitally] come from the heart…” (Matt. 15:18). “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45).

Jesus told the Pharisees, “God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.” (Luke 16:15). So it is best to source one’s resolutions not from ones own heart but from the heart of God. Scripture gives us clear instruction as to what this is:

Jesus both commands and promises this: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6:33). Or as a recent translation has it, “…make your top priority God’s kingdom and his way of life…” (NTE)*

Do this, and continue in it, and you will have the happiest new year of all!

Press on…

*New Testament for Everyone (© Nicholas Thomas Wright 2011).

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of life in Christ? Or, would you like to begin this journey by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Thursday, 12/24/20 – Discipleship – Freedom!

Freedom!

When you’ve accepted God’s judgment that you are a sinner, justly deserving God’s wrath and punishment, you can have no cause for pride,. When you have trusted that the holy Christ’s sacrificial dying in your place has been sufficient to satisfy the wrath and justice of God, you have no fear of eternity and experience peace with God. When your treasures are in heaven and not on earth the things of earth no longer hold you.

Integrity before God means more to you than being the object of envy of others. The success of others do not threaten you. When your view and values are heavenward this world no longer entices you. You are free of it, and free of your own self-righteousness. When you know that it is before God that you stand or fall you are no longer bothered by what others may think of you, you no longer feel driven to defend yourself. When you surrender to Christ and take Him as Saviour and Lord you are free! Yes… free indeed!

This is why Jesus came into this world… to set men and women free. This is why we celebrate his birth… from the Old English ‘Crīstes mæsse’ (Christ Mass), the Church’s commemoration of God’s gift of grace and redemption… of freedom from sin, freedom from pride, freedom from inner turmoil, freedom from fear, freedom from temporal enticement, freedom from the taunts and opinions of others, freedom from guilt and self righteousness.

In Christ the believer is free to freely give!

Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matt. 10:8).

Press on…

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of life in Christ? Or, would you like to begin this journey by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Thursday, 12/17/20 – Discipleship: Assurance

Assurance

How are you assured of any thing? Unless you are very naïve, you will probably want to do some research and check the facts. How would you determine what constitutes a fact? Well, you would probably look to trustworthy witnesses to the event or claim in question. If I was looking to verify the health benefits claimed by some new product I might seek out peer reviewed results of several credible lab studies. I would look for honest reviews of people who had used the product and give special attention to any feedback from longstanding trusted friends.

If the evidence resulting from these and other avenues of verification supported the product’s claims your faith in the product would grow. You might decide to act on this confidence by shelling out the money required to obtain the product to try it for yourself. If it works, you will be happy, or at least content. You might even begin to tell others… sharing this good news with excitement.

Three components are to be noted in this process of assurance: FACTS, FAITH, and FEELINGS. The feelings always come last and are personal. They have nothing to do with the veracity of the claim.

In fact, neither does your personal faith in the product or claim influence its inherent truthfulness or untruthfulness. There are still people in this world who refuse to believe the world is round and insist instead that it is flat! But the facts, in fact, are the sole and bedrock thing. Gravity doesn’t care whether or not you believe in it.   

And so it is with assurance of salvation. Repeatedly the apostles proclaimed, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Jesus said “He that believes on me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). [See also John 3:16, 36; 5:24.] Paul’s great summary of the gospel states “…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:9).

As Jesus said to Martha “Whoever lives by believing in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:26). Your answer to that question determines everything. Feelings are a variable adjunct!

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Thursday, 12/10/20 – Discipleship – Soon Return of Christ

Soon Return of Christ

I remember as a kid watching the original hidden camera t.v. show, “Candid Camera.” The show ran from 1960-1975 and was hosted by its creator Allen Funt with Durward Kirby. This is really dating me, but I think I can even still remember the theme song lyrics…

“When you least expect it, You’re elected, You’re the star today. Smile, you’re on Candid Camera. With a hocus pocus, You’re in focus, It’s your lucky day. Smile, you’re on Candid Camera.”

Click HERE for a clip utilising a bowling alley.

Some folk were offended to find they had fallen for a ruse. Others saw the humor in themselves, “Smiled,” and laughed along. But none of them knew in advance they were being filmed. Truly, each had been pranked when he or she “least expected it.”

The devil works the same way: “When you least expect it…” Boom! A temptation! A snare.

Grief works the same way: “When you least expect it…” Whammo! A flashback! A memory.

Power outages, accidents or injuries also occur “when you least expect them”…suddenly… without warning… doing something you’ve done many times before without incident, but this time… “Whomp!” You’re in darkness, or injured.

Jesus told us His return would be like that also: “Be ready,” He said, “because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matt. 24:44; Luke 12:40). He likened His return to the coming of a thief: “If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.” Or a returning master who “will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour [of which] he is not aware.” (Matt. 24:43, 50).

Everyone will be busy about their everyday business: …eating… drinking… marrying… working in a field… doing daily tasks (see v.37-41)… then, “Ka-Boom!

The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God… every eye will see him… the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” (1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 1:7; 2 Pet. 3:10).

So, “Smile!” Be ready at all times! For “…that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.“ (Matt. 24:36).

Be ready… because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.” (Matt. 24:44).

Press on…

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of life in Christ? Or, would you like to begin this journey by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Thursday, 12/3/20 – Discipleship – God’s Will: Doing right under pressure

God’s Will: Doing right under pressure

Show me the way I should go… Teach me to do your will,” prayed David (Ps. 143:8, 10).

I wonder what God’s answer to David’s prayer looked like? To understand that it is important to grasp the circumstances during which David wrote this prayer in psalm.

David was fleeing from Saul. His enemies were using treachery and slander against him. It would be easy for David to lash out in kind back at them. David did not want to do that, though emotions burned within him. But still, David must respond to this current crisis in some way! What was that way to be? What truths, principles, morals ought he turn to to guide him?

“Show me the way I should go… Teach me to do your will…”

(Ps. 143:8, 10)

He turns to His God, Jehovah, and pleads.. “Teach me to do YOUR Will… for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” His prayer is not unlike that of Christ who in similar, yet far more strenuous struggle, prayed and surrendered “…not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).

Barnes restates the sentiment of David’s prayer in light of his circumstances like this: “Teach me in the present emergency to do that which thou wilt approve; which will be wise; which will be best adapted to secure my deliverance and my safety.”

We are all in a time of present emergency, of threat against our health, our welfare, and possibly our lives. How we respond during this trial is what we will be stuck with when we look back upon it. Will it be Christ honoring? Noble? Courageous? What truths, principles, morals will guide you?

On this passage Henry notes, “Teach me to do thy will, not only show me what thy will is, but teach me how to do it… If we do in sincerity take God for our God, we may depend upon him to teach us to do his will, as a master does his servant.”

Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt. 12:50).

“To be found doing the will of God is the only safe state for man.” – Clarke

Press on…

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of life in Christ? Or, would you like to begin this journey by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Thursday, 11/26/20 – Discipleship: “Fear-less” Evangelism

“Fear-less” Evangelism

A few days ago the elders of our church gathered together to discuss various aspects of our fundamental beliefs, the trying social issues of our day, and several “what if…” scenarios. One such topic was the gospel message of salvation Christ. We noted a damaging trend of recent years in how the message of salvation has been presented. Often the message today goes something like this: God loves you and wants you to follow Him. Live righteously and He will bless your life, then, when you die you will go to heaven.

This is a damnable gospel message! — No… really… it is damnable! Paul, writing to the Galatians, affirms :

“I am astonished that you… are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all…. You But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! …If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (see Gal. 1:6-10).

What is the problem with this contemporary pseudo-gospel message? There is no mention of personal sin, no mention of God’s wrath against sin, no mention of the hell that awaits the unrepentant!

Scripture informs us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge… of wisdom…” (Prov. 9:7, 1:10). God is Loving — that’s why He sent Jesus – but He is also Holy and Righteous and it is just this holiness and righteousness that can not allow Him to overlook sin, to act unjustly. If He did, he would be neither holy nor righteous.

Just believing in God is not sufficient. “The demons also believe – and tremble!” (James 2:19). They know there is no salvation for them! Jude urges us to use all means possible to draw men and women to God:

“Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” (Jude 22,23). (See also 1 Cor. 9:22b).

The gospel message is this: We are all impure, sinful, and under the wrath of God, but in His love God has given His Son to bear that wrath. We must repent… turn around… fall before Him as Saviour and Lord. When we do, He transforms us, sees us as holy… sees the righteousness of His Son and fits us for heaven.

The true gospel begins with fear and ends with love.

Press on…

Thursday, 11/19/20 – Discipleship – Fellowship is fun!

Fellowship is fun!

Fellowship is fun! Hard to think of it as a “spiritual discipline.” Shouldn’t “disciplines” be difficult? No! Spiritual disciples are joyous things! A daily quiet time with one’s Maker, receiving the love and guidance of He Who loves you most. A time of personal study and application of His Word, the Holy Scriptures inspired and made fruitful by the Holy Spirit, Living, Powerful. Sharing your faith with others–the great privilege of being a co-labourer with God in bringing a lost soul to salvation in Christ! These are all great joys we are commanded to do, and fellowship also is among them.

Fellowship is not just for you. When you deprive yourself of fellowship with other believers, you also deprive other believers of fellowship with you! Nasty business! Shame is upon You. You don’t have that privilege! Doing so transgresses the command of God:

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb. 10:24-25).

Whether in large assemblies, house meetings, or coffee shop trysts, believers need times with likeminded other believers in order to grow and to nourish one another. In fact, scripture says much about our ministry to “one another” as a brief perusal of its pages soon proves:

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” “Live in harmony with one another.” “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another…” “Accept one another…” “…instruct one another.” (Rom. 12:10, 16; 13:8; 15:7, 14)

“…agree with one another” (1 Cor. 1:10); “…serve one another humbly in love” (Gal. 5:13); “…bear with one another in love” “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other…” “speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs…” “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph. 4:2, 32; 5:19, 21); “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5);Bear with each other and forgive one another…” “…teach and admonish one another” (Col. 3:13, 16)“

I don’t encourage this next one given our current cultural and Covid-19 climate, but it was indeed the practice of the early church to “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12).

Rather, our duties to encourage and to love one another appear primary: “…encourage one another” (2 Cor. 13:11; 1 Thess. 4:18; Heb. 10:25); encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thess. 5:11);encourage one another daily” (Heb. 3:13); “love one another” (1 Thess. 4:9); “Keep on loving one another” (Heb. 13:1); “love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Pet. 1:22).

Yes, fellowship is fun, and fellowship is commanded. You need others and others need you! Don’t let Covid-19 make you a hermit. Be creative… be obedient… with one another.

Press on…

Thursday, 11/12/20 – Prayer: “MAN SPEAKS WITH GOD!”

Prayer: “MAN SPEAKS WITH GOD!”

I once made up a mock newspaper with headline:

MAN SPEAKS WITH GOD!

I held it up before the congregation and said… If people really believed that a man would speak with God they would flock from miles and kilometers just to watch the spectacle! It would be an event something like Moses ascending Sinai to speak with the Almighty!

The event is described in the 19th and 20th chapters of Exodus…

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him…

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. ..The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. (Ex. 19:16-19; 20:18, 21).

But now through Christ, our Saviour, Mediator, Justifier, Lord and Brother, God has come down to us… walked among us… given us His Spirit to indwell us and assist us in the feebleness of our praying. As C.S. Lewis marvels…

An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God. But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God—that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying—the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on—the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers. The man is being caught up into the higher kinds of life… spiritual life: he is being pulled into God, by God, while still remaining himself. – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Christian, this great privilege is yours! You, conversing with the Almighty, creature with Creator, clay with Potter, within and without, in deep fellowship together! O what miracle of love! John, amazed gasps… “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (John 3:1)!

Press on…

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of life in Christ? Or, would you like to begin this journey by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.