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Sunday, July 31, 2016

For Me To Live Is Christ (and other devotionals)

“Behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem saying, ‘Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.’” Matthew 2:1-2.

Not all “wise men” are wise men. You may be a great entrepreneur, a great businessman, engineer, or nuclear physicist. You may be a physician, lawyer, a gifted artist. But if you don’t know Jesus, you’re not truly wise. There’s a kind of wisdom that’s not wisdom at all; it’s the wisdom of this world. “PhD” may stand for “phenomenal dud” if you don’t know Jesus. 

Omar Bradley, a great American five-star general, once said, “We’re living in a time when our achievement, our knowledge of science, has gone far beyond our power to control it. We have too many men of science and too few men of God. We’ve brought about brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. We’re living in a time of nuclear giants and spiritual pigmies.” 

That’s well said. What is real wisdom? Wise men and women will seek Jesus. Do you know the mark of wisdom, how to determine wisdom? Just tell me what motivates you, tell me the consummate ambition of your life, and I can tell you clearly whether you’re wise or not just by what you seek. The apostle Paul summed up his life in one sentence: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). What he meant was the source, the substance, the subject, the satisfaction of his life was Christ. 

Could you put your life in a sentence like that? “For me to live is Christ.” Pause and think about that.

~Adrian Rogers~

Trust Perseveres
Trust Perseveres 
For the King trusts in the Lord, through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken. Psalm 21:7

Trust in God perseveres. It perseveres with the addition of more responsibilities and in a season of lost opportunities. Whether in the excitement of promotion or the discouragement of demotion it still trusts God. In fact, the more responsibility we gain, the more we need God. The more it seems we are capable, the more we realize we are incapable without Christ. Power may tempt us to lower our guard in trusting God, but the more responsibility and power we are entrusted with, the more we need to trust the Lord.  Kings and presidents need Christ as much as or more than paupers and priests. Trust is not contingent on our felt need. It is contingent on our having the ability to breathe. As long as we have breath in our lungs, we desperately need the Lord. Self-confidence is an obstacle to our holy confidence in Christ. He sees us through. Trust in Him perseveres.

Trust perseveres because it is buoyant in its belief in the unfailing love of God. The love of God stands secure in the face of suffering. The love of God licks the wounds of a lacerated soul. The love of God provides the grace to forgive and forget. The love of God continues in the face of ugly odds because it is optimistic of what we can hope for in Christ. God’s love draws us into intimacy with Him. It is when God loves us that we feel safe. It is when God loves us that we feel secure. It is when God loves us that we feel support and encouragement. The love of God covers our sin of unbelief. It is a buttress for our belief. It is the love of the Most High that lifts us when we are at our lowest to continue trusting our sympathizing Savior. He is high and lifted up, so He can lift us up. He looks down on us with compassion. Because He is trustworthy, we trust.

No one is higher than Almighty God. He is the Most High. We have the privilege, the opportunity, and the obligation to go right to the top. The Holy Spirit is God’s gatekeeper. By faith we can trust Him to intercede on our behalf. Our faith may be faltering in our confusion, but Christ clarifies. Do not give up because of the complexities of your current situation. Go to the Most High to unravel the mess in which you find yourself. He is the decision maker. He is your maker. He knows how to guide you through this uncertain process. The Most High has the needed perspective to see you through. It is by faith that we do not completely falter. Trust Him to tell you what you need to know. Persevere.

The fruit of trust is perseverance. The lethal high winds of adversity may attempt to uproot your faith, but you will persevere. You will persevere in your marriage though our culture gives you a pass for divorce. You will persevere in your job even though you have been passed over for someone less qualified. You will persevere as a parent because this may be your time to mature and grow up. You will persevere as a leader because God is not finished spreading your influence. You will persevere as a Christian because you trust God. By God’s grace you will not be moved. Allow Him to grow your character. Stand strong. Allow Him to love you through this time of transition. Trust perseveres.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I trust in You to see me through this hard time at home and at work.

Related Readings1 Corinthians 13:7; Hebrews 10:36, 11:27; James 1:12, 5:11; Revelation 2:3

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~

Jeremiah 2:2
I remember thee.
Let us note that Christ delights to think upon His Church, and to look upon her beauty. As the bird returneth often to its nest, and as the wayfarer hastens to his home, so doth the mind continually pursue the object of its choice. We cannot look too often upon that face which we love; we desire always to have our precious things in our sight. It is even so with our Lord Jesus. From all eternity "His delights were with the sons of men"; His thoughts rolled onward to the time when His elect should be born into the world; He viewed them in the mirror of His foreknowledge. "In Thy book," He says, "all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them" (Ps. 139:16). When the world was set upon its pillars, He was there, and He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. Many a time before His incarnation, He descended to this lower earth in the similitude of a man; on the plains of Mamre (Gen. 18), by the brook of Jabbok (Gen. 32:24-30), beneath the walls of Jericho (Josh. 5:13), and in the fiery furnace of Babylon (Dan. 3:19, 25), the Son of Man visited His people. Because His soul delighted in them, He could not rest away from them, for His heart longed after them. Never were they absent from His heart, for He had written their names upon His hands, and graven them upon His side. As the breastplate containing the names of the tribes of Israel was the most brilliant ornament worn by the high priest, so the names of Christ's elect were His most precious jewels, and glittered on His heart. We may often forget to meditate upon the perfections of our Lord, but He never ceases to remember us. Let us chide ourselves for past forgetfulness, and pray for grace ever to bear Him in fondest remembrance. Lord, paint upon the eyeballs of my soul the image of Thy Son.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. -- Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain. -- Having therefore, ... boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. -- We may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
HEB. 4:16.  Phi. 4:6,7.  Rom. 8:15. Isa. 45:19.  Heb. 10:19,22.  Heb. 13:6.
Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. -- The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. -- If the Son ... shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
Brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. -- Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. -- Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
JOHN 8:32.  II Cor. 3:17.  Rom. 8:2.  John 8:36. Gal. 4:31.  Gal. 2:16. Jas. 1:25. -Gal. 5:1.

~Samuel Bagster~

Getting Established in the Faith

If you are a new believer in Christ, or know someone who is, I want to talk to you today.  I want to share with you four things that will help you get established in your faith.
1. Read your Bible every day. That's food for your spirit. Psalm 119:11 says, Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.  It is vital you spend time in God's Word.
2. Pray every day. Spend time talking to God and then listening in your heart for His answers.  As 1 Thessalonians 5:17 admonishes us, Pray without ceasing.  This is a vital part of your growth and protection as a believer.
3. Fellowship with other believers. Do not get isolated from the church.  Do not get isolated from the rest of the body.  Scripture tells us to not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as is the manner of some (Hebrews 10:25).  In fact, it is important to get integrated into a smaller circle of fellowship.  You need to get connected relationally.  There is a real safety in that.
4. Listen to your spiritual leaders.  Go to church whenever the doors are open, and go expecting God to speak to you through the teaching and preaching.  One translation of Hebrews 13:17 says, Give ear to your spiritual leaders and be willing to do what they say for their work is to watch over your souls. Become a part of a strong Bible-believing fellowship and take heed to what is taught.
If you will do those things:  read your Bible every day, pray every day, get involved in a smaller circle of fellowship and listen to your spiritual leaders, you will be all right. 

~Bayless Conley~

John 10:9
I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
Jesus, the great I AM, is the entrance into the true church, and the way of access to God Himself. He gives to the man who comes to God by Him four choice privileges. 1. He shall be saved. The fugitive manslayer passed the gate of the city of refuge, and was safe. Noah entered the door of the ark, and was secure. None can be lost who take Jesus as the door of faith to their souls. Entrance through Jesus into peace is the guarantee of entrance by the same door into heaven. Jesus is the only door, an open door, a wide door, a safe door; and blessed is he who rests all his hope of admission to glory upon the crucified Redeemer. 2. He shall go in. He shall be privileged to go in among the divine family, sharing the children's bread, and participating in all their honours and enjoyments. He shall go in to the chambers of communion, to the banquets of love, to the treasures of the covenant, to the storehouses of the promises. He shall go in unto the King of kings in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the secret of the Lord shall be with him. 3. He shall go out. This blessing is much forgotten. We go out into the world to labour and suffer, but what a mercy to go in the name and power of Jesus! We are called to bear witness to the truth, to cheer the disconsolate, to warn the careless, to win souls, and to glorify God; and as the angel said to Gideon, "Go in this thy might," even thus the Lord would have us proceed as His messengers in His name and strength. 4. He shall find pasture. He who knows Jesus shall never want. Going in and out shall be alike helpful to him: in fellowship with God he shall grow, and in watering others he shall be watered. Having made Jesus his all, he shall find all in Jesus. His soul shall be as a watered garden, and as a well of water whose waters fail not.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Finding Satisfaction

God has provided us with many things to enjoy. But too often our lives are filled with turmoil instead of contentment. Four practices that create dissatisfaction are . . .
Busyness. We live in a hurry-up society, dashing from one activity to another. Jesus did not rush anywhere, yet He accomplished whatever God gave Him to do. Not once did He tell His followers to move faster. He even praised Mary for choosing to stop her work and spend time with Him (Luke 10:39, 42).
Earthly perspective. Too often we live focused on our circumstances. Our minds think about what happened earlier in the week, what’s on today’s agenda, and the activities occurring next week, month, or year. No wonder enjoyment of life remains elusive. The solution is to have an eternal perspective, which acknowledges that God is in charge and our goal is to please Him.
Self-imposed pressure. We have all experienced the unavoidable burdens of schoolwork, employment, and relationships. But we bring needless pressure on ourselves when we allow unnecessary “musts” and “shoulds” to rule us. The remedy is to turn to God, acknowledge His right to order our days, and ask for His plan.
Unhealthy attitudes. Perfectionism, false guilt, and apathy all undermine our enjoyment of life.
Satisfaction is found in a life that reflects God’s priorities—and time with Him comes first. Reading His Word, we become mindful of the Father’s great love, learn what He views as important, and experience the joy of belonging to Him. When contentment is elusive, it’s time to examine our priorities.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Agreeing With God 

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 
1 John 1:9 

Recommended Reading
Psalm 51:1-6
Confession of sin is multifaceted, but there is a core principle. It is not sorrow, guilt, or shame. It is agreement. The Greek translation for “confess” is made of two words: homos means “same,” and lego means “say or speak.” So, to confess means “to say the same thing as.” As who? As God! We don’t inform God of our sins by confessing them. He already knows what we have done. Our greatest need is to humbly agree with Him: “Father, You call what I did ‘sin’ and I agree with You.”

Consider these words from the General Confession in the Book of Common Prayer: “Almighty God, We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness.” The key word there is “acknowledge.” It suggests that we are simply agreeing with God about our “sins and wickedness.” We aren’t hiding our sins or hiding from God. We enter God’s presence ready to acknowledge (agree with) what God already knows. Such acknowledgement means we humbly accept God’s definition of our actions. We don’t try to call our sins “mistakes.”

If you have sins to confess today, start by agreeing with God. Only what is rightly confessed can be rightly forgiven.

The way to cover our sin is to uncover it by confession.

~David Jeremiah~

Hebrews 12:25-29

(25) See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, (26) whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven." (27) Now this, "Yet once more,"indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. (28) Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. (29) For our God is a consuming fire.
New King James Version   
Listen! Hear Him! Believe what He says!
The author of Hebrews has presented us with the facts that Christ is greater than angels, greater than Moses and greater than Aaron; that the New Covenant is superior in every way to the Old Covenant. He addresses this presentation to Christians who stand, not before a physical mountain in the Sinai, but a spiritual Mount Zion in heaven. Nevertheless, we still have the potential to refuse to hear, even as our spiritual ancestors who had just come out of Egypt did not hear. Now, they knew—they knew—that it was the voice of God that they heard, and they refused to hear because they believed they could not endure what He commanded!
Do we see the parallel?
It is possible for Christians to cherish their own will—which they know to be diametrically opposed to the will and purpose of God—and to stick to their own desires, thus stifling the voice of the Almighty God Himself! And thus, we can wrench ourselves away from the voice because we feel uncomfortable going against our resolve.

~John W. Ritenbaugh~

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