Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
"And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
Evangelist R. A. Torrey said this about the importance of the Word of God. "You may talk about power; but, if you neglect the one Book that God has given you as the one instrument through which He imparts and exercises His power, you will not have it. You may read many books and go to many conventions and you may have your all-night prayer meetings to pray for the power of the Holy Ghost; but unless you keep in constant and close association with the one Book, the Bible, you will not have power.
"And if you ever had power, you will not maintain it except by the daily, earnest, intense study of that Book. Ninety-nine Christians in every hundred are merely playing at Bible study; and therefore ninety-nine Christians in every hundred are mere weaklings, when they might be giants, both in their Christian life and in their service."
Imagine someone training for an athletic competition by never eating. Picture a solider preparing for battle by skipping all his meals. That would be ridiculous, yet while the Bible tells us that we are in a race and a battle, many Christians ignore their need for the spiritual food found in the pages of the Word of God. It should not come as any surprise that such people find themselves struggling to win their battles—they have cut themselves off from their power supply. It is vital to be part of a good Bible preaching and teaching church, but that is not enough. You must be a student of the Word yourself to become a powerful and victorious Christian.
"And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth."
I read about a pilot who always looked down intently on a certain valley in the Appalachians when the plane passed overhead. One day his co-pilot asked, "What’s so interesting about that spot?" The pilot replied, "See that stream? Well, when I was a kid I used to sit down there on a log and fish. Every time an airplane flew over, I would look up and wish I were flying... Now I look down and wish I were fishing."
An ancient philosopher said that if all of the troubles in the world were placed in one pile so that everyone could see what burdens others bore, each person, given the choice, would take home the same problems with which he arrived.
It is always tempting to think that others have it better than we do, and that if we just had "a little more" everything would be fine. But contentment cannot be achieved by increasing possessions. Nothing will ever be enough.
Covetousness—a driving desire for more and more and more—is a snare that leads many people away from the truth. In fact Paul wrote that covetousness "is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5). When we are not content with what God has given us, we are placing something else on the throne of our heart. While we are too sophisticated to carve idols of wood or stone and bow to them, many in our society worship cars, homes, bank accounts, and clothing. This false worship leads inevitably to disappointment and often to ruin.
"And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away."
One of the heroes of the American Revolution was Marquis de Lafayette. This French officer provided invaluable assistance to George Washington and the struggling American army. After the war was over, he returned to France and resumed his life as a farmer of many estates. In 1783, the harvest was a terrible one, and there were many who suffered as a result. Lafayette’s farms were unaffected by the devastating crop failures. One of his workers offered what seemed to be good advice to Lafayette, "The bad harvest has raised the price of wheat. This is the time to sell." After thinking about the hungry peasants in the surrounding villages, Lafayette disagreed and said, "No, this is the time to give."
God blesses us not just for our own benefit, but also so that we can be a blessing to others in need. The tendency to hoard and try to build up more and more is a dangerous one, and the best antidote to greed is to be a generous giver. There is certainly no shortage of people in need today, and while we cannot meet every need, if we do what we can, God will multiply resources so that it is enough.
A pastor friend told me that when his father was presented with a need, he always gave immediately. He had learned that if he waited, he would be able to talk himself out of giving. So once he found someone who needed help, he reached into his pocket and gave them what he could on the spot. That’s a great example for all of us to follow.
"And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places."
Not too long ago I read about a cult leader in the Philippines named Apollo Quiboloy who calls himself the "Appointed Son of God." Quiboloy claims to have six million followers around the world who are part of his Kingdom of Jesus Christ church. It is no surprise to any student of the Scriptures to see false messiahs arise, for Jesus told us this would happen.
Many people are very interested in the prophetic teaching of the Bible, but some approach the events we see unfolding with fear rather than with confidence. Jesus instructed us that when we see such things, we not allow them to trouble our hearts. Nothing should shake our faith and confidence in Him. Nothing takes God by surprise. Nothing happens that can hinder His plans. He is God of everything, and He is in control.
If we keep this truth in mind, then the news holds no terrors for us. The economy may improve or get worse. Our enemies may attack or be defeated. The world may see an increase in wars and natural disasters. Yet though we may face times of difficulty and even persecution, we still have the promise of the presence of Christ. He said, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5), and we do not face our trials on our own. God is always there no matter what circumstances arise.
"That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
Author David F. Wells wrote, "Today, we are neither rooted nor do we have much sense of belonging. We are in fact the uprooted generations, the disconnected, the drifters, the alone. We are being blown around by the windstorms of modernity. Our roots in families, place, and work have all withered or been cut off." That may be true of our culture, but it does not have to be true of us.
There may be times when we need to relocate for family or work reasons, and sometimes it is God’s will for people to move. However people frequently drift from one place to the next for less compelling reasons. We need to put down deep roots wherever we are. There needs to be a depth of commitment—to family, to God, to church—that is unable to be shaken by anything that occurs.
Psalm 1:3 promises that a believer who loves and meditates in the Scriptures "shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water." This is the key to a stable and productive life. A fruit tree that is moved every year is not going to be a healthy and productive tree because it has no time to take root. Rather than constantly being driven from place to place by changing ideas and circumstances, we need to make the commitment to stand firm.
"And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience."
I read about a lady who called American Airlines and asked the reservation clerk, "How long does it take to get from Dallas-Fort Worth to Frankfort, Germany?" The clerk had to wait a moment for the information to come up on her computer screen, so she said, "Just a minute." The caller responded, "Thanks very much," and hung up! Most of the things that really matter in life do not happen in "just a minute."
It is easy for us to become impatient when God does not work on our timetable. Most of us want to see immediate results, but things don’t usually work that way in our lives. Instead we must go through the process of working and building and developing before we reach the goal. The great pioneer missionary Adoniram Judson labored in Burma for seven years before seeing his first convert. But rather than giving up and looking for an easier place to minister, he remained faithful, and eventually established many churches and saw thousands saved. Judson’s translation of the Bible into the Burmese language is still in use today, touching lives more than 150 years after his death.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote: "The heights by great men reached and kept, were not obtained by sudden flight. But they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night." If we are patient and continue steadfast in the work regardless of whether we see immediate results, we will reap the harvest "in due season" (Galatians 6:9). It is impossible to remain fruitful unless we first remain patiently faithful.
"And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Bethcar. Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us."
1 Samuel 7:10-12
When most people hear the word "Ebenezer" they think of the character of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. But like many names, it is taken from Scripture and holds an important meaning. The Hebrew word means "stone of help." The prophet Samuel set up a stone as a reminder for the children of Israel after God gave them a great victory over their enemies. It is vitally important both for our own lives and for our children and grandchildren that we have reminders of God’s goodness.
In their book Disciplines of a Godly Family, Kent and Barbara Hughes wrote that because of our rootless culture, "Every Christian family [should] take conscious and disciplined measures to cultivate tradition and memory. But there is an even more compelling reason. Namely, God’s Word dramatically recommends that all believing families cultivate both spiritual memory and spiritual traditions to commemorate and celebrate God’s goodness."
Because of our fallen nature, it is easy for us to take credit for the good things that happen rather than thanking and glorifying God. By reminding ourselves of the great things He has done for us, we keep our gratitude and faith strong. This is a vital spiritual discipline not only for our own lives but for the sake of our children as well. The remembrance of what God has done should be a testimony from generation to generation.
"As he spake these words, many believed on him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
We live in a society that seems to be dedicated to tearing down the very concept of truth. Yet because truth is part of God’s fundamental nature and is one of the defining characteristics of the Word of God, it cannot be destroyed. We serve a God who "cannot lie" (Titus 1:2). No matter what man does or chooses to believe, truth never changes. Beliefs may come and go, but truth abides.
Winston Churchill said, "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened." That may be a common response to truth, but it places those who respond thusly on the road to tragedy and destruction. There is no way to love and follow God without loving and following truth. The two cannot be separated.
The concept that all ideas are equal and there are no absolutes is doing as much or more to destroy our culture than anything else. Christians who are committed to the unchanging truth of Scripture are viewed as narrowminded and bigots. Yet those who reject the truth have no foundation. They may spin elaborate philosophical webs to justify their positions, but without a foundation of truth, there really is no way to determine what is acceptable and what is not.
A writer of the past said, "When men stop believing in God they don’t believe in nothing—they will believe in anything." It is true that ideas are gaining acceptance today that fail every basic test of logic and truth. Ground your heart and mind in the Scriptures, and your life will be built on a firm foundation of truth.
"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."
1 Peter 2:2-5
I’ve noticed something about babies—they don’t need to be persuaded to eat. When a child gets to be two or three years of age, that can change. But little babies are very eager for their food. In many ways it is the same with believers. I’ve seen so many new Christians who couldn’t wait to read and study and hear the preaching and teaching of the Word. They desired it with all their hearts. Yet as time passed, rather than wanting to learn more and more, they became "picky eaters" who only wanted the parts of Scripture that tasted good to them. It is a tragedy for any child of God not to love and desire the Word of God.
Robert Chapman wrote, "The great cause of neglecting the Scriptures is not want of time, but want of heart, some idol taking the place of Christ." All of us have more than enough to do to fill our time day after day. How then do we prioritize? What is truly most important to us (not what we say is most important) is what gets done.
If in our heart we truly desire the Word, we will make the time to read and study it. How many Christians have fallen into sin and gone away from God because they allowed their desire for the Word to grow cold? Renew your love for the Book, and you will stay close to the Author.
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
1 Peter 5:8-11
Bernard "Kip" Lagat is a world-class runner from Kenya. During the Sydney Olympics, an interviewer asked him how his country was able to produce so many great distance runners. With clever wit, Lagat told of the Kenyan strategy for motivating success in running. He said, "It's the road signs: 'Beware of Lions.'"
There is a lion stalking every believer every day. It is vitally important that we remain on guard because of the patience and persistence of our enemy. If we win a spiritual battle today, that does not offer us safety for tomorrow. The devil will return with new temptations and challenges. This was true for Jesus even after He decisively defeated Satan when He was tempted in the wilderness. The Bible says that Satan “departed from him for a season” (Luke 4:13). There are no permanent victories in spiritual warfare. As long as life continues, so do the battles.
Victory in this continuing battle requires continuing vigilance. There are no days when you can let down your guard. The devil is looking for those who have grown careless and incautious because he knows they will be easy prey. Think of David remaining at home when it was time to go to battle. He thought he was in a safe place, but in fact he was in far more danger in the palace than he would have been on the front lines of the war.
"Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success."
One college professor put it this way: "Bible memorization is absolutely fundamental to spiritual formation. If I had to choose between all the disciplines of the spiritual life, I would choose Bible memorization, because it is a fundamental way of filling our mind with what it needs. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth. That's where you need it! How does it get in your mouth? Memorization."
Many of our churches have good programs to promote Bible memory for our children and young people, but very few encourage adults to continue to memorize the Scriptures. But the Word of God is not just necessary for children and teens. Adults need to continue to add to the store of Scriptures they have in their hearts and minds. Beyond just reading the Bible, it is important for us to continue to commit it to memory.
We know how important meditation on the Word of God is, but memorizing Scripture is a vital prerequisite for meditation. We cannot "think on these things" (Philippians 4:8) unless we first have them in our minds. It is certainly easier to memorize when we are young, and it is a blessing to have verses we have known for decades in our hearts. But even as we grow older, we need to regularly practice this vital spiritual discipline.
Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.
2 Timothy 4:9-11
One writer noted an interesting reality about human nature: “People today will admit any problem—drugs, divorce, alcoholism—but there’s one admission that people loathe to make, whether they’re a star on television or someone who fixes televisions in a repair shop. It’s just too embarrassing. It penetrates too deeply to the core of who they are. People don’t want to admit that they are (sometimes) lonely. Loneliness is an affliction of losers and misfits. But—to be honest—it also affects respectable people like you and me."
There are so many people who go through life feeling alone. They may be surrounded by family, neighbors, co-workers, and others, but they do not feel that anyone really understands the situation they are in. David knew this feeling. When he was running for his life to escape from Saul he wrote, “…no man cared for my soul” (Psalm 142:4). God created us with a need for companionship and encouragement.
All around you today there are people who are desperately hoping someone will look past the façade they have established and realize that they have a hurting heart. When we take the time to see that need and meet it, lives change. Think of the overwhelming loneliness of the woman at the well whom Jesus met. Because of her past, she was cut off from the normal fellowship of her community. She was drawing water from the well at an odd time because she was not welcome. Yet Jesus reached out to her in love, describing and then meeting her needs and providing her living water.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
For nearly four hundred years, the people of Oberammergau in Bavaria have been putting on a “Passion Play” depicting the events of the last week of the life of Christ. They began the performances after the village was spared from the bubonic plague in the early 1600s. The story is told that an American visitor watching the drama unfold sprang into action when the actor portraying Jesus fell while carrying the cross toward the crucifixion scene.
The tourist was caught up in the emotion of the moment and wanted to lift the cross from the back of “Jesus.” Expecting it to be a prop, he reached down with one hand but found that he could not move the heavy wooden cross. After the play was over, he met with the actor who told him, “I found that I cannot look like Christ without carrying a real cross.”
In another sense, this is true for every one of us. There are no light crosses for the Christian who wishes to truly follow Jesus Christ. The cross is more than just a symbol of Christianity. It is a literal expression of what Jesus demands from those who would follow in His steps. There is no successful model for selfish Christianity. Though there are many selfish Christians, their refusal to take up the cross limits their ability to follow Jesus. Obedience is costly, but so is the prize of hearing the words “well done” when we stand before the Father.
"And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."
In the last year of the reign of Henry VIII in England, a new wave of persecution was launched against believers. One of those caught in the nets of the established church was a young lady named Anne Askew. Just twenty-six years old, she was taken to the Tower of London and tortured in hopes that she would name others who stood for the truth of Scripture. She refused to do so, and she refused the offer of a pardon if she would recant her faith.
Askew was sentenced to death. She had to be carried to the stake to be burned because the torture she had endured left her unable to walk. This courageous young lady was truly faithful unto death. Most of us do not face the threat of death for our beliefs today, although there are believers in many countries who literally take their lives in their hands by making a public stand for Jesus Christ.
Yet in the face of far less severe threats, many times we fail to take the stand we should for Christ. Some never witness for fear they will be rejected. Some go along with friends in doing wrong to avoid taking a stand for right. Be firm today, and you will be prepared for whatever comes tomorrow.
"For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God."
1 Corinthians 1:17-18
There are many things that are important, but there is one thing that is essential. The heartbeat of the mission of Christ, the driving purpose behind His life, death and resurrection was "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Oswald Smith put it this way, "Oh, my friends, we are loaded down with countless church activities, while the real work of the church, that of evangelizing the world and winning the lost, is almost entirely neglected."
Our church is a busy place, and I like it that way. I love that we have programs for fellowship and encouragement and instruction and fun. But I never want us to lose sight of the fact that the primary focus—the most important thing we can do—must be winning the lost to Jesus Christ. There is no greater important priority for us. This is the final command that Jesus left before He returned to Heaven, and we must obey it.
Many times we lose our focus in the busyness of life. There are a thousand things—good things—that can keep us from doing the main thing. And though those things are not bad in and of themselves, they can be used to keep us from doing what matters most. The Bible said of Christ just before He met the woman at the well that He "must needs go through Samaria" (John 4:4). Jews in that day usually travelled around Samaria to avoid the people they looked down on, but Jesus needed to go there—He knew there was a hungry heart who needed a Saviour, and He went where others would not go to reach her.
"I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
One day a lady criticized D.L. Moody for his methods of evangelism in attempting to win people to the Lord. Moody’s reply was “I agree with you. I don’t like the way I do it either. Tell me, how do you do it?” The lady replied, “I don’t do it.” Moody responded, “Then I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.”
Sometimes we fall into the trap of waiting for a perfect opportunity or a perfect plan before we begin doing something for the Lord. It is far better for us to be active than to sit back and critique those who are not doing things exactly as we think they should be done. It’s easy to be a critic, but that does not produce anything for the kingdom of God. I would much rather see someone working hard and trying to do what he can than someone doing nothing. If a person has flaws in his methods or needs instruction to be more effective, that can be provided. As someone said, “It’s easier to steer a ship that’s moving than one that is sitting still.”
The Apostle Paul encouraged the church at Ephesus to be busy for the Lord, "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16). The idea is that we should make the most of every opportunity we have—even more because of the evil that pervades our culture. There are people today that you will have an opportunity to reach. In many cases you are the person best equipped to reach them, despite the fact that you may feel inadequate. Do your best for God, and work while there is still time.
"And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."
2 Corinthians 5:18-20
I read about a barber who had just been gloriously saved in an old-fashioned revival meeting. The next morning at work he wanted to share his new faith and witness to the lost. A customer came in, and the barber began to shave him. He was trying to muster up the right words to say. Finally as he stood with his razor poised over the man's throat he asked, "Are you prepared to meet God?"
You may not always find exactly the right words, but God has given to you and every Christian the task of representing Him to a lost and dying world. For thousands of people, today is their last day before they enter eternity. Of course we don't know who those people are. But we do know that God loves the people whose paths we cross and that He has entrusted to us the most important message they can ever hear. The question is whether we will be faithful to share that message with them.
It is said that D. L. Moody made a commitment to God that he would not go to bed without having witnessed to at least one person. On several occasions he went out late at night to find someone with whom he could share the Gospel. There should be a sense of urgency and passion for the lost that drives and motivates us to be effective ambassadors for Jesus Christ.
"For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth. They continue this day according to thine ordinances: for all are thy servants. Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction."
Not everyone accepts that the Word of God is settled. Many religions teach that rather than being complete, Scripture is still being added in our day. For example, the official position of the Mormon church says, "To the Mormons, God is still a God of continuing revelation. Hence, the LDS canon is open; the Doctrine and Covenants becomes an official, open-ended locus for revelations that affect the whole Church; and revelations continue to come to the living prophets, seers, and revelators of the Church, to be communicated to the members."
The problem with that approach (in addition to being a rejection of what the Bible teaches) is that if the Word is not settled, our faith can never be settled. Those who are looking for additional revelation and a new word from God have no basis to be certain in what they have. Since faith comes from the Bible (Romans 10:17), we must have a Bible that we can trust. And that is exactly what God has given to us.
The Scriptures give us many wonderful promises that allow us to be confident that we have the finished Word of God. Psalm 12:6–7 says, "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever." Rather than looking for new revelation and new words from God, we should be reading and studying and obeying the settled Word of God that has been kept for us by His power and promises.
"For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
While there is a spiritual gift of teaching that God gives to some individuals, there is also a very real sense in which all of us are to be teachers. What we have learned from our walk with God and our own study of the Bible is not just for our benefit. As we have opportunity, we should be sharing that with others to strengthen and encourage them. All of us have people whom we can influence for better, and we have a responsibility to do so. The main requirement for this kind of teaching is not talent but heart.
We received this wonderful testimony from a former student at West Coast Baptist College. "My teachers were interested in more than my grades. They were interested in me. Their investment in teaching me spiritual applications, life lessons, leadership skills, and knowledge allowed me to step into life with a proper confidence in who God made me to be. I went into ministry having seen the example of dedicated, godly teachers who exemplified who I wanted to be. To this day I still call them for advice and help!"
A heart filled with compassion and love for others is ready to share truth and encouragement with them. This spirit, which the Bible calls being "apt to teach" (2 Timothy 2:24), is a vital element of a healthy family and a healthy church.
"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;"
Because sin is part of our world, we have to deal with the reality of death. But for a believer, death is not the end. We have the promise of eternal life if we die before the Lord returns—and the promise of being transformed in a moment if we are alive on that blessed day. This is a hope that we can be sure of, because the promises of God never fail. Others may not keep their promises to us, but He always does—and thus we can be certain of the future.
On a trip to the East Coast, I was able to visit Mt. Vernon. While I was there I saw the tomb in which George and Martha Washington are buried. On the back wall of the open vault, there is a plaque with Jesus’ words inscribed: "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" (John 11:25-26). The "Father of our Nation" found confidence in the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ.
There is no more powerful comfort than the knowledge that we who know Christ have a hope for the future, even after death. When Jesus went to the grave of His friend Lazarus, He declared His power over death in an unmistakable way. This great enemy has already been defeated. We need no longer fear what will come—for our Lord has already faced death and conquered it. And because of His victory, we can have full certainty in our hope for the future.
"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."
1 Peter 1:23-25
At our family farm in Colorado, my uncle and cousins have acres and acres of pinto beans. Once while I was visiting, my uncle explained to me that the crucial element of growing beans is the seed itself. The beans my uncle grows come from especially cultivated and bred seeds that are designed to be fruitful in his particular growing conditions. The agronomists who produced this new variety were incredibly careful to avoid it being contaminated with any other kind of bean. They had dedicated warehouses for the seeds and plants, and would not grow the first plants in a field with any other varieties. All of this was done to ensure the purity of the final product.
God’s Word is completely perfect. As He promised, God has preserved it so that we can have complete confidence in what we hold in our hands—it is His Word. Though it has been challenged and attacked through the centuries, still it stands. It cannot be corrupted by demons or men because it is kept perfect and pure by the power of God Himself.
The seeds my uncle plants have been designed and created to increase production, but despite their purity and potential, left in the barn, the seeds will never produce a harvest. The same is true of the Scripture. We must study and read and hear and memorize the incorruptible seed of the Word of God for it to produce righteousness and fruit in our lives.
"I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building."
1 Corinthians 3:6-9
William Carey, often called the father of modern missions, arrived in India in 1793 with a burden to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who had never heard His name. For seven years he proclaimed the Gospel message faithfully week after week, month after month, with not a single native of India converted to Christ. Carey could have allowed himself to return home defeated and empty-handed.
But he had faith that God would bring the harvest. To his sisters back home in England Carey wrote, "I feel as a farmer does about his crop: sometimes I think the seed is springing, and thus I hope; a little blasts all, and my hopes are gone like a cloud. They were only weeds which appeared; or if a little corn sprung up, it quickly dies, being either choked with weeds, or parched up by the sun of persecution. Yet I still hope in God, and will go forth in His strength, and make mention of His righteousness, even of His only."
Carey established one of the great missionary works in all of history, in great measure because he stayed in the field rather than allowing discouragement to drive him to quit. When we work for the Lord, we will not always see quick results. But just as a farmer remains diligent throughout the spring and summer in hopes of the harvest in the fall, "we shall reap, if we faint not" (Galatians 6:9).
"Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD'S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him."
During the Civil War, someone asked President Abraham Lincoln whether he thought God was on the Union side in the conflict. Lincoln is said to have replied, "Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right." There is only one standard of absolute right and truth, and that is the one set by God in His Word. Many people claim that God is for their efforts, but those claims are only valid when they are in agreement with Scripture.
Each day we are faced with decisions as to whether we will take our stand for what is right. In our world there are many competing visions of truth, and in fact a large number of people today reject the notion that there is any such thing as settled, absolute truth. When we face such an environment, we must be aware of the temptations that attempt to lure us to make "small" compromises in order to fit in better and be accepted. But each time we yield to that impulse, we move further away from being on God’s side.
When the question is raised, "Who is on the Lord’s side?" our answer should be swift and sure. We should be willing to stand up and be counted among those who have chosen His Word and His way. Even if our society completely rejects the standards and truth of God, we do not have to join them. When most of the Israelites were worshipping the golden calf, the sons of Levi were still willing to stand up and publicly declare allegiance to God. We should do the same.
"For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;"
2 Peter 2:4-6
Rick Rescorla was born in England, but moved to the United States as a young man. He served with distinction in the Army during the Vietnam War and received awards for his courage. After his military career ended, he became head of security for Morgan Stanley. He feared the World Trade Center would be the target of a terrorist attack, so he insisted on frequent evacuation drills to teach people how to quickly and safely exit the building.
Many of the people who worked there resented the constant drills and thought it was a waste of time. On the morning of September 11, 2001, when the first World Trade Tower was hit by a terrorist plane, Rescorla ordered the evacuation that had been practiced for so long. Despite the urging of authorities for people to remain in the building, he got virtually every Morgan Stanly employee out, and many others as well, before the second tower was hit. Rescorla was last seen going back into the building attempting to rescue more people just before it collapsed.
You and I have a message from God to sound to the world. There is a coming judgment that must be faced. Many people prefer not to hear that message, wanting to live as they please rather than dealing with a Holy God. But we have a responsibility to tell them the truth whether they listen or not.
"The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars; Whilst their children remember their altars and their groves by the green trees upon the high hills. O my mountain in the field, I will give thy substance and all thy treasures to the spoil, and thy high places for sin, throughout all thy borders. And thou, even thyself, shalt discontinue from thine heritage that I gave thee; and I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not: for ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn for ever."
Diamonds are the hardest natural material known to man. In fact, our word for diamond comes from the Greek word meaning "unbreakable." Though we often associate them with jewelry, diamonds are commonly used for industrial purposes. Their hardness makes them valuable for cutting, etching, and grinding a number of surfaces.
When the Bible speaks of sins being written with diamonds, it is describing the lasting marks that sin leaves on our lives. Though God is merciful and forgiving, His forgiveness does not erase all of the consequences of sin that we experience. The scars of sin are deeply cut like an engraving made with a diamond.
When Satan tempts us to sin, he never shows us the full picture. We see the "pleasures of sin for a season" (Hebrews 11:25), but he attempts to hide the final and awful consequences that come from turning away from God. It is impossible for us to choose or limit the consequences of sin. Once we have chosen the wrong path, "the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 16:25). Resisting temptation protects you and those you love from the ravages of sin.
"Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you."
One of the most important and meaningful days of my life occurred in 1983 when I was ordained as a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. During that service, men of God came and prayed over me as I was appointed to fill the office of ministry to which God had called me. I cherish the memory of that day.
While we have special services to ordain men as pastors and deacons for those offices of the church, there is also a very real sense in which each believer is ordained—especially appointed by God—not for a church office, but to be a fruitful Christian. Many today have fallen into the trap of thinking that “church work” is only the responsibility of full-time Christian workers. In reality, every believer is meant to be a fruitful, productive, active worker in God’s kingdom.
Bearing fruit is God’s calling and purpose for your life according to the words of Jesus. The Lord has appointed each one of us to "bring forth fruit." God has no backup plan for reaching the world—He has entrusted that task to each of us as His children. We must be telling the Good News and helping others come to faith in Christ. No matter what spiritual gifts and abilities you have, they are meant to be used to produce fruit.
"And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them."
Samuel Bringle was a worker with the Salvation Army in Boston many years ago. As he passed by a saloon, some men threw a brick at his head. Their aim was good, and Bringle nearly died. As it was, he spent eighteen months in recovery. During that time he wrote a little book entitled Helps to Holiness. Thousands of copies were published. After he was able to begin preaching again, people would often thank him for the book. He would respond by saying, "If there had been no little brick, there had been no little book." His wife saved the brick and had Genesis 50:20 engraved on it.
The difference between people who trust God even through difficult times and trials and those who do not is found in the way they view those trials. Godly Christians have the same problems, heartbreaks and even tragedies as everyone else. They are not somehow exempt from suffering. But they view their difficult circumstances through the lens of an understanding of God’s love and purpose for their lives.
One preacher said it well, "The only thing an enemy can do to you is to be the unwitting instrument of God’s plan for your life." Of course many things happen that are painful and hard for us to endure. Yet those circumstances do not mean God has forgotten or forsaken us. He makes "all things work together for good" (Romans 8:28). This helps us understand that even the most difficult things we experience are a necessary part of His plan.
"I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
The promises of prayer in the Bible are many, yet if we are honest, we would have to admit that most Christians do not see their prayers answered in a great and powerful way. We know that God never changes from age to ageâ€”His power is as great as it was in the days of Moses, David, Daniel, John, and Paul. The reason we do not see great answers is not found in God but in our own lives.
Charles Spurgeon said, "If you want that splendid power in prayer, you must remain in loving, living, lasting, conscious, practical, abiding union with the Lord Jesus Christ." Sometimes we treat prayer like a fire escape. It remains available but unused, until we have an emergency! Using prayer that way forfeits the close communion and fellowship that our time with God presenting our requests to Him is meant to provide for us.
God certainly does not need us to pray to inform Him of what we need. He already knows not only what we will ask, but whether what we ask is best for us. However, like a loving parent, He still encourages us to come to Him and create a meaningful relationship that includes, in part, prayer. The time that we spend in the Word and in prayer is about far more than just getting our needs met. It is the resulting fellowship that brings abundant joy.
"But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation."
Not far from our church is the Edwards Air Force Base. This storied flight facility has been home to some of the most famous airplanes and pilots in United States history. It was from Edwards that Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 test aircraft in 1947. The geological feature that originally drew the military to Edwards was the presence of the Rogers Dry Lake bed—a flat, hard surface that stretches for miles across the high desert.
While a hard surface makes an ideal location for airplane runways, it makes for a spiritual barrenness when it characterizes our hearts. When our hearts are hard, we are not ready to hear the Word of God and allow it to produce fruit in our lives. There is simply no place for it to take root.
How do our hearts become hard? The Bible tells us that the deceitfulness of sin produces a hard heart. The word deceitfulness indicates that it is the result of a process we may not be fully aware of ourselves. Over time as we allow the allure of sin to tempt us, our hearts grow hard toward the things of God. To become fruitful again, we must do what a farmer does before planting seeds in the field—break up and prepare the ground. As we confess our sins and seek the face of God, we will find our hearts softening and becoming ready once again to hear His Word.
"That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God."
I heard about a farmer who had received abundant rain on his soybean and corn crops. A friend congratulated him on the green state of his fields after the rain and was surprised when the farmer replied, "My crops are especially vulnerable right now. Even a short drought could have a devastating effect." "Why?" the friend asked. The farmer explained that while we see the frequent rains as a benefit, during that time the plants are not required to push roots deeper in search of water. The roots remain near the surface. A drought would find the plants unprepared and quickly kill them.
While we should rejoice in the times where we see an extra measure of the goodness and blessings of God, it is usually in times of struggle and testing of our faith that we develop strength as believers. We need to be putting down our roots, reaching into the Word and spending time with God in prayer so that we have the strength to stand the test.
It is popular today to teach that God's children receive only good things and will live in abundance, but that is not what the Bible says. We find in actuality that we are in a battle–war that will last as long as we live. Prepare to fight and win the battle today by digging deep roots in faith.
"And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful."
One of the most destructive weeds that crop farmers must deal with is the Canadian thistle. It has an extensive root system that makes it extremely difficult to eradicate once it is established. The root structure can reach a depth of fifteen feet, and the roots can also spread out the same distance horizontally. These prolific roots crowd out the plants. Just twenty thistles in one square mile of field can reduce barley yield by a third or alfalfa yield by one half! Canadian thistle is also very damaging to feed crops, as livestock will not graze near it.
In the parable of the sower and the seeds, Jesus described people who are not fruitful because the Word of God that is planted in their heart is choked out by thorns. He gave us specific thorns we must guard against such as the cares of the world; when we succumb to this particular thorn, anxiety and fear can fill our hearts and minds. We live in an uncertain world, and unless we maintain our faith, it will be easy for anxious care to choke out the Word.
Then Jesus explained how money and the desire for things can ruin the fruitful ground of our hearts. While we should be grateful for the good things with which God blesses us, it is vitally important that we not allow our lives to be consumed by the pursuit of possessions. We must remember the caution of Jesus that "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:15). Removing these thorns prepares us to be fruitful and productive in our Christian walk.
"Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
There are many elements of our Christian testimony that are important. It is important that we speak right, look right, and act right. But the most important thing is that we love right. Jesus said this was to be the distinguishing mark of His followers that would convince the world that their belief in Him was genuine. We must not compromise what is true in the name of love, but we must always be characterized by a sincere compassion and concern for others.
Jesus certainly was not accepting of sin, but He was known as a friend of sinners. In fact He was frequently criticized for being willing to talk to those that the Pharisees deemed to be off limits. Jesus had the balance of grace and truth that allowed Him to touch the broken with kindness and love and lead them to salvation.
Such love is not the product of our own efforts or determination, but rather a product of the indwelling Holy Spirit working in our lives. The early American preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards said, â€œAll the fruits of the Spirit which we are to lay weight upon as evidential of grace, are summed up in charity, or Christian love; because this is the sum of all grace.â€ As we walk in the Spirit, we will exhibit the same love toward others that Jesus did, and they will know that we are truly His disciples.
"And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work."
As D. L. Moody walked down a Chicago street one day, he saw a man leaning against a lamppost. The evangelist gently put his hand on the man's shoulder and asked him if he were a Christian. The fellow raised his fists and angrily exclaimed, "Mind your own business!" "I'm sorry if I've offended you," said Moody, "but to be very frank, that is my business!"
Ephesians 2:10 says we are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” There are works that God has planned for you to accomplish today—witnessing, giving, encouraging, loving—and it is vitally important that you are busy doing God’s work while there is still time.
Some weeks after he spoke to the man on the street, Mr. Moody was in bed when he heard a tremendous pounding at his front door. He jumped out of bed and rushed to the door. He thought the house was on fire. He opened the door, and there stood that same man. He said, “Mr. Moody, I have not had a good night’s sleep since that night you spoke to me under the lamppost, and I have come around at this unearthly hour of the night for you to tell me what I have to do to be saved.” If you are faithful to share the Gospel with those you meet, God will use you to bring in the harvest.
"Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work."
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
Dr. Charles Fuller, the well-known radio preacher, knew what it was like to go through difficult days. He suffered great financial reverses during the Great Depression, and his only child was at the point of death twice. Through that time Charles Fuller and his wife struggled with their faith, not understanding why so many things were going wrong. But they found that God was always faithful.
One day on his radio program, Dr. Fuller said, “I pass on to you a little of the comfort wherewith Mrs. Fuller and I have been comforted. We have come to know God in a new way because of the trials we have been going through these past three years. We have known what it is to have much sickness, financial losses, those turn against us and seek to hurt us who we thought were true friends, our only child brought down to death’s door on two occasions. I want to tell you that after going through all this and much more, Mrs. Fuller and I know that God is able—that His promises are true. We never could have known the sweetness of trusting God had we not come to the place where we ourselves could do nothing.”
God brings trials and testing into our lives for a variety of reasons. One of His purposes is so that we can experience His comfort in a powerful and meaningful way. Rather than allowing our difficulties to draw us away from Him, they should encourage us to run to Him, just as a child rushes to a parent for love and reassurance. God is with you today no matter what difficulties you may experience.
"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified."
Following a massive wildfire that ravaged thousands of acres of land in Utah, a volunteer returned to the site of an eagle’s nest that had been burned in the fire. He was expecting to retrieve the band he had earlier placed on a baby golden eagle, fearing that it had been killed in the fire. To his amazement, the two-month-old baby, though badly burned, was still alive although its beak and talons and feathers were all damaged by the blaze. The baby eagle was taken to a wildlife rescue center where it was named Phoenix. The staff believes that after a year of therapy and the natural regrowth of feathers through molting, it will be able to be released into the wild.
When we experience difficult or even devastating events, we may be tempted to wonder if things will ever be right—if we will ever be happy again. But we serve a God who transforms the past, replacing mourning with joy and sadness with praise. There are no circumstances which dictate that we are doomed to a life of regret and emptiness. Instead God promises that as we come to Him, He will replace pain with hope.
In His first sermon preached in Nazareth, Jesus said that He was the fulfillment of the Messianic promise in Isaiah 61. Jesus Himself suffered greatly, enduring the pain of the cross “for the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2). Because of His death and resurrection, we can find freedom from the pain of the past and hope for a beautiful and glorious future.
"And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain they prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away."
1 Kings 19:13-14
The oldest of twelve children, Elizabeth Barrett received a classical education, learning Greek and Latin, and studying writers and poets. A well-received poet in her own right, she is best-remembered for her courtship by and love for another poet, Robert Browning. Barrett’s father did not want any of his children to marry, threatening to disinherit any who did. So Browning and Barrett, who had met only once, carried on their courtship via letters and poems.
Barrett had suffered for a number of years from a lung disease and was generally in poor health. Yet knowing someone loved her strengthened her, and she was well enough to get married the year after their first meeting and move to Italy where she lived for the rest of her life.
There is enormous strength and comfort in the knowledge that we are not alone—that there is someone who loves and cares for us. Isolation, on the other hand, can easily
lead to discouragement and even despair.
When Elijah was running from Jezebel, he left his servant behind and went on alone. This contributed to his feelings of defeat, and he complained to God that he was the only one left who was doing right. God told him, "I have left me seven thousand in Israel" (1 Kings 19:18).
If you are feeling discouraged and lonely in your work for God, remember God’s words to Elijah. Not only is God Himself with you, but you are part of an army of dedicated Christians laboring for the Lord.
"But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send for labourers into his harvest."
George Truett was a tremendously effective pastor for decades in Texas. His heart was broken when he accidentally killed his best friend while they were on a hunting trip. His daughter said that she never heard him laugh after that day. Truett had a radio program, and each day when it came to a close he would say, “Be good to everybody, because everybody is having a tough time.” Because he knew personally what a heavy burden people could be carrying, he encouraged compassion toward them.
Sometimes we cross paths with people who seem to be brusque and not very easy to like. Yet there is usually a reason for their behavior, and often it is because they are hiding a heavy heart. If we take the time to understand what has happened, we may find that while they have a tough outer exterior, inwardly they are desperately wishing for someone to care about them.
When Jesus looked on people, He had compassion on them and wanted to meet their needs. There is no shortage of people we can help if we simply will open our eyes toward them in compassion. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus talked about the priest and the Levite who passed by the injured man without stopping to help. It is a tragedy when we allow the busyness of life to prevent us from taking time to reach out in compassion to those in need. Instead we should stop and do everything we can to help them.
"And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read."
It is right and should be normal for every child of God to be a regular church attender. The Bible describes going to the synagogue as Jesus’ “custom”—it was His habitual practice. We can always come up with excuses for not going to church. Though there are times when sickness or some emergency may require us to be absent from the assembling of God’s people, it should be our normal, routine, habitual practice to go to church.
The great Christian businessman of the past, J. C. Penny, said, “If a man's business requires so much of his time that he cannot attend the services of his church, then that man has more business than God intended him to have.” Church is important. A church that provides sound Bible preaching and teaching is a vital resource for your family and for your own walk with God.
The Bible frequently uses the metaphor of sheep to describe believers. Sheep are herd animals that can usually be found close together. When they do stray from the flock, they often get disoriented and lost and find it hard to make their way back. It is much the same with people. We need to guard our church attendance and beware the many strategies the enemy uses to distract us from regular worship and fellowship with God’s people. No job, no promotion, no salary increase is worth losing the vibrant and vital connection with other believers that comes only from regular church attendance.
"Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God."
1 Thessalonians 1:1-4
When I first came to pastor the Lancaster Baptist Church, I wanted our church to get started right. The first book of the Bible from which I preached was 1 Thessalonians. I challenged our people to have a faith that worked. The church wasn’t very big back then—just a handful of families. But the starting point for every church is the same as the starting point for every individual Christian—an active, working faith.
If a person decides to run a marathon, he doesn’t just wake up one morning and go run twenty-six miles. Instead he begins training, running shorter distances at first and then extending until he is ready to go the distance. The Christian life works the same way. God knows that, when we start out, we are not ready for the big tests and challenges. So He allows circumstances that cause our faith to grow. As we see His faithfulness to us through each situation, we prepare ourselves for greater service to Him.
The challenge for all of us is to have a working faith—to attempt to do more for God than we think we can do in our own strength. Strive to develop your faith through reading, studying, and hearing the Word. And prepare for God to do great things in and through your life.
"Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set."
Of all the things that we have lost in our country, one of the most serious is the appreciation for the overtly Christian nature of our heritage. For example, Yale was founded as an institution dedicated to training preachers for the colonies as a conservative alternative to Harvard, which had begun as a sound institution but had become more liberal. Timothy Dwight, the grandson of Jonathan Edwards, graduated from Yale at just seventeen years of age and entered the ministry.
After a number of years as a pastor, Dwight returned as the president of Yale from 1795–1817. In an address to the graduating class of 1814, Dwight said, “Christ is the only, the true, the living way of access to God. Give up yourselves therefore to him, with a cordial confidence, and the great work of life is done.” Today Yale would laugh at someone making such a claim as it goes against their belief in diversity.
How does such a massive change take place? It begins with small compromises, usually made to be more acceptable to those around us. Of course this wicked transformation is not limited to institutions; individuals must guard against it as well. Think of Lot choosing to live in well-watered lands for his cattle and placing his tent so that it faced toward Sodom. On the day Lot first made that choice, he would have been horrified by his future actions. But little by little he moved closer and closer to Sodom until he was firmly entrenched in that wicked place and lost his family as a result.
The protection we have against ending up in the wrong place is to remain firmly planted in the right one. We do not need new theology or new beliefs. The Word of God never changes, and what was true yesterday is still true today.
"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."
President Ronald Reagan was the oldest man elected to the highest office in the land. He would sometimes take naps during the day, for which he was criticized. Once when a reporter asked about his practice Reagan replied, “They say hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take chances?” Of course in reality he did work hard, and so should we.
The Fourth Commandment is about more than the day of rest. It is also about our work. God created man for a purpose. Even before the Fall when sin entered the world, Adam was given tasks and responsibilities. Work is harder since the curse, but it existed before then. Beyond that, work has a purpose. God told Adam,"cursed is the ground for thy sake" (Genesis 3:17). We should not fear or resent work because it helps build character so that we can resist temptation.
Paul wrote that we are to view our work not just as employees but "as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart" (Ephesians 6:6). When that is our attitude toward our work, we will not find it difficult to be diligent about our tasks. Not every assignment will be pleasant or enjoyable, but each assignment is still important. Give it your whole heart, and you will find that God will reward you even if no one else notices.
"They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."
Every Christian has been given the assignment to take the Gospel to the lost. When we have a real burden and passion for that mission, it is certain that we will see results. The great evangelist D.L. Moody was led to Christ by his Sunday school teacher when he was a teenager. The teacher was burdened for his lost pupil and went to visit him where he worked in a shoe store.
Moody later told the story of his conversion this way: “When I was in Boston I used to attend a Sunday school class, and one day I recollect my teacher came around behind the counter of the shop I was at work in, and put his hand upon my shoulder, and talked to me about Christ and my soul. I had not felt that I had a soul till then. I said to myself, ‘This is a very strange thing. Here is a man who never saw me till lately, and he is weeping over my sins, and I never shed a tear about them.’ But I understand it now, and know what it is to have a passion for men's souls and weep over their sins. I don't remember what he said, but I can still feel the power of that man's hand on my shoulder tonight.”
The concern and tears of a godly teacher resulted in the conversion of a man who saw a million souls saved in his evangelistic campaigns. What a wonderful result! We never know when we witness to someone how God can use that life to build His Kingdom. It is our responsibility to take the precious seed with a burdened and compassionate heart, then trust in God’s promise that we will see an abundant harvest.
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
1 John 2:15-17
Looking at the religious landscape of our country we see that many denominations that once preached and taught truth have traded in their old beliefs in order to be better accepted by society. If what the Bible says rubs people the wrong way, they stop proclaiming what the Bible says and replace it with new interpretations—or simply ignore the Scriptures all together and teach the doctrines of men. Such acceptance comes at a very high cost.
A.W. Tozer said, “Religion today is not transforming the people—it is being transformed by the people. It is not raising the moral level of society—it is descending to society’s own level and congratulating itself that it has scored a victory because society is smiling accepting its surrender.”
Every church and every Christian must make a choice. Will we love the approval and the applause of the world, or will we love God and His Word? If we make the right choice, we can expect to be criticized and condemned. This should not come as any surprise to us. Jesus said, "If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20). When we take a clear stand for what is right, the world will not respond well. But such a stand is never taken alone. Like the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, we will find God walking in our midst.
"But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle."
2 Thessalonians 2:13-15
In 2006, the United States government received a payment of $83,250,000 from the British government. It was the final installment to pay off the loan for the military equipment and supplies furnished by America to our allies through the Lend Lease program to help them in the war against the Germans. England’s Treasury Secretary expressed his appreciation for the help so many years before and said, “It was vital support which helped Britain defeat Nazi Germany and secure peace and prosperity in the post-war period. We honor our commitments to them now as they honored their commitments to us all those years ago.”
The Apostle Paul said he was “bound to give thanks”—that he owed an obligation to be grateful—and this is true of us as well. God has done so many wonderful things for us, and none of them are deserved. Gratitude guards our hearts against pride and selfishness, for if we remember that the good things we enjoy are blessings from God rather than something we are owed, we will remain humble before Him.
It is also important for us to express our gratitude to those who have made investments in our lives. There is an old saying that applies here: “If you see a turtle sitting on a fence post, it’s pretty safe to assume he didn’t get there by himself.” Recognizing that others have helped us get to where we are, it is only right to thank them.
"And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth."
There was a political commentator some years ago who said, “The only thing you find in the middle of the road are yellow stripes and dead opossums.” While there are some who have elevated tolerance and compromise to the highest level, in the end these false paths lead to disaster. That was certainly true of the church at Laodicea. When God sent them a message through John in the book of Revelation, it was a stern rebuke of their accommodating ways.
Church history tells us that the Laodicean church was an accommodating church, more interested in fitting in with their culture than standing for the truth. We see that trend being repeated today as many churches take up causes that are either not in Scripture or are directly in opposition to Scripture. In far too many cases these “middle of the road” religious bodies cloak their betrayal of truth in flowery language that makes them sound very kind. But in truth it is no kindness to coddle sin. Love rebukes and exhorts a change in behavior.
Taking a firm and principled stand is not a recipe for popularity. If we refuse to compromise, we may be called haters and unloving. Yet in remaining steadfast for the truth, we win the most important approval of all—that of our Father in Heaven. It is a shocking statement that God would prefer our being cold than our being lukewarm, and it should remind us of the importance of maintaining our stand for the truth.
"Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."
Some years ago I received a letter from Dr. Curtis Hutson as he was nearing the end of his life. He had served God faithfully and effectively, and knew he would soon be going to Heaven. He wrote: â€œI challenge you to take your place in the long line of independent Baptists who have stood for separation (I speak here of ecclesiastical separation) and soulwinning, and hold that banner high until Jesus comes or God calls you home.â€
It is an honor for a soldier to be tasked with holding a challenging position. Union General Joshua Chamberlain became one of the most noted heroes of the Civil War for leading his men to hold the Union line at Little Round Top during the decisive battle of Gettysburg. There will always be opportunities for us to make concessions to the enemy and give in to temptation. But when faced with those, we must stand firm. Those who have gone before us have set an example that should encourage us to hold our ground.
I recognize that one day I too will reach the end of my ministry when either the Lord returns or my life ends. When that day comes, I want to be known as someone who stood firmly for the truth. May all of us choose today to take our place in the line of those who have stood. Our Lord expects and deserves nothing less than our full devotion.
"Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
God places great value on work. Even before the Fall in the Garden of Eden, Adam was given assignments and responsibilities. It is not a curse to have to work, but a blessing to be able to work. Rather than groaning and complaining when it is time to work, we should approach our jobs with a joyful heart and a determination to bring credit and honor to the Lord by the way we do our work. Jesus approached life with the attitude that work was a necessity, and we should as well.
One preacher said, “The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the clergy who prays—not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”
Work is a holy calling, no matter what field it is in, and as such it is worthy of our very best. A pastor friend of mine observed, “I work for God and get paid by the church. Many of our members work for God and get paid by General Motors.” We should never lose sight of the fact that our ultimate accountability is not to a time clock or a supervisor, but to God. When we work as if He is watching, which of course He always is, we will not find it difficult to be diligent.
"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error."
1 John 4:4-6
The Bible often speaks of the Christian life as a war—a conflict between opposing forces. Yet though there is surely a battle going on, we must never forget that this is a battle which has already been fought and won. The Son of God already triumphed over sin and death, and His Holy Spirit who is in us is greater than any power or opponent that we may face. The victory is not won through our great strength. Instead it is won through reliance on God’s strength at work in our lives.
In the great hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is our God,” Martin Luther wrote: “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing; Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.” Yes, we must fight. But we are not fighting alone, nor are we fighting a battle which cannot be won. While we should never make the mistake of underestimating Satan’s cunning and guile, we do not need to cower before him.
Rather we are told, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). The losses we experience in the battles of life come from our failure to, “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10). To be an overcomer, we must utilize the strength and power that are made available to us as children of God. Then victory is assured.
"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."
In 1954 Roger Bannister became the first person in history to run a mile in under four minutes, breaking a barrier that had withstood challenges for years. Other runners soon began to match his feat, and an Australian runner named John Landry actually broke Bannister’s new world record time later that summer. In August the two met at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver. Though Landry led for most of the race, Bannister surged ahead on the final turn and passed him with a strong finishing kick to win the race.
Just as on the track, there is enormous value to finishing well in life. The temptation is to let up and coast as we near the end. Society promotes this concept with the view of retirement as a time to sit back and take it easy. Yet the Bible instructs us to do more. Of course there may be physical limitations as we age that will restrict what we can do, but there is no reason for a believer not to continue to grow and mature in spiritual matters throughout life.
It is a tragedy when people make the decision to cut back on their involvement with church, with witnessing, with giving, or with being a help and encouragement to others so they can “enjoy more leisure time.” This robs the church of what is meant to be a great source of wisdom and godly leadership. Those who have walked with God for many years have learned things which they can and should pass on to others. Rather than looking forward to the day when we can sit back and do nothing, we should be doing all we can to finish well.
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength: For he bringeth down them that dwell on high; the lofty city, he layeth it low; he layeth it low, even to the ground; he bringeth it even to the dust."
In 1555, Nicholas Ridley was sentenced to be burned at the stake in England because of his witness for Christ. On the night before Ridley's execution, his brother offered to remain with him in the prison chamber to be of assistance and comfort. Nicholas Ridley declined the offer and replied that he meant to go to bed and sleep as quietly as ever he did in his life. Because he knew the peace of God, he could rest in the strength of the everlasting arms of his Lord to meet his need.
Most of us will never face a trial of our faith that is quite that severe, yet all of us go through difficult times. During those times, we have the opportunity to fix our minds on God and receive His peace. Or we can do as Peter did when he was walking on the water. It was when he stopped looking at Jesus and began to focus on the winds and waves that Peter began to sink. One of the lovely things about that story is that even when his lack of faith got him in trouble, Peter still believed enough to cry out for helpâ€”and Jesus rescued Peter from the water.
We do not need perfect circumstances to have perfect peace. Peace is the promise of Almighty God to His children when we trust in Him. He has the power and ability to cause everything that happens to us to work for good. Peace comes from believing that truth.