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Thread: In step

  1. #1541
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    The divine - human partnership

    For reading & meditation: Colossians 1:15-29

    "To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me." (v.29)

    We spend another day focusing on the question: Does self-surrender mean that we become passive and acquiescent? At first sight, it seems to be so - we surrender to Another. Do we resign ourselves to whatever comes, letting this "Another" do everything for us?

    We talked a few days ago about John Dewey's suggestion that "science" encourages control, while "religion" encourages acquiescence. Actually, when we surrender to Christ, we experience, not passivity, but a new type of control. Jesus said: "My Father is always at his work ' and I, too, am working" (John 5:17).

    In God's universe, there is always work to do - creative work. But what sort of creative work? Listen to this: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. 8:28, AV). How can that be? We know that all things do not of themselves work together for good.

    The Revised Standard Version puts it like this: "In everything God works for good with those who love him." Note the change - "with those who love him". Not "to", but "with". Can you see the truth underlying this text? Given our consent and co-operation, God is able to retrieve some good out of everything that happens to us.
    Given our consent and co-operation - ah, there's the rub. In order to achieve good out of bad, God requires us to work "with" Him - this is not acquiescence, but control. Look again at the text for today: "I labour, struggling" - the human; "with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me" - the divine. What a picture - the human and the divine working together - in "control".

    Prayer:
    My Father and my God, what can I say? I surrender to You, and the next thing I know is that I am taken into partnership with You. It just seems too good to be true - but too good not to be true. Thank You, Father. Amen.

  2. #1542
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    There's always the "next"

    For reading & meditation: Luke 9:51-62

    "' and they went to another village." (v.56)

    What are we discovering? We are seeing that nothing is lost when we surrender ourselves to God - indeed, everything is gained. When we lose ourselves, we find ourselves. We throw ourselves at Christ's feet, and end up by sitting with Him on His throne, where He invites us to co-operate with Him in turning chaos into cosmos and bringing good out of everything. What a way to live! I wouldn't change it for anything.

    When we fully understand what "dying to self" means, we then face obstacles and opposition in an entirely different frame of mind. We see them in the way Jesus saw them - not as obstacles, but as opportunities. When the Samaritans refused to receive Jesus and His disciples, the account says that, after Jesus had rebuked the disciples for wanting to retaliate, "they went to another village". Life always has "another village".

    If you are opposed in this one, then you pass on to the next. If there is one lesson I have learned in life, it is this: there is always a "next". And that next village was, in fact, nearer Jesus' final goal. He didn't have to go so far the next day.

    He advanced toward His goal by way of the snobbery and fear that He encountered among the Samaritans. Thank God life always has "another village". Is the way ahead strewn with endless obstacles and opposition? Then, providing you have died to your own instinct for self-preservation, you and God are able to team up and make the obstacles into new opportunities. Nothing can frustrate the Christian who has died to himself, and lives out the purposes of Another. Nothing.

    Prayer:
    Lord Jesus, You who were never deterred by the blocking of Your plans, help me to approach life with that same attitude. Show me that when one "village" remains closed to me, there is always the "next". For Your own dear Name's sake. Amen.

  3. #1543
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    Victim - or victor?

    For reading & meditation: Ephesians 1:11-23

    "' the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might '" (vv.19-20, RSV)

    Permit me to ask you: What will the obstacles and opposition you meet do to you today? Will they make you bitter, or will they make you better? The last word is not with them, but with you. If your own concerns and interests are well and truly "dead", and you are committed to pursuing God's purposes, then the issue is not so much what your circumstances will do to you, but what you will do to your circumstances.

    The Christian who understands this has the power to say to life - do your worst, I have the resources to take every negative and turn it into a positive. Nothing successfully opposes the believer whose life is hidden with Christ in God.

    Jesus once faced great opposition in His ministry: "They were filled with madness, and began to discuss with one another what they should do to Jesus" (Luke 6:11, Weymouth). Here was opposition in its most terrifying form.

    What did Jesus do? Listen again to the Weymouth translation: "About that time He went out ' into the hill country to pray" (v.12). Prayer, that powerful means of communicating with God and controlling, not so much the situation as the outcome of the situation, made Jesus, not a victim, but a victor.

    One of the major purposes of God seems to be that of producing character in His children. Not their ease, not their happiness - except as a by-product - but their character. And how is character produced? One way it is produced is through overcoming difficulties. So don't groan at the obstacles and opposition that face you today - grow in them. They help to sharpen your character - and your wits!

    Prayer:
    O God, forgive me that so often I cry to You for tasks equal to my powers. Help me to pray instead for power equal to my tasks. I ask this, not for my sake, but for Yours. Amen.

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    Attacked but not injured

    For reading & meditation: Matthew 10:5-20

    "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (v.16)

    The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only faith that dares to say to its followers: "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves" (AV). It is as if Jesus is saying: "You will have as much chance of escaping difficulties and opposition as sheep have in the midst of wolves."

    If you are a Christian, you can expect people to oppose you - even hurt you. Notice what I say: "hurt" you, but not "harm" you. Sometimes God may not protect us from being hurt, but He will protect us from being harmed. One writer puts that same thought in this way: "At times God may suffer His children to be attacked, but providing they are fully abandoned to Him and His purposes, He will never suffer them to be injured."

    He is using the words "attack" to mean physical or verbal abuse, and "injury" to mean the scarring of the soul. In that sense, no attack from without can injure us; we can only be injured from within by wrong perspectives and wrong choices. Some time ago I quoted a maxim that goes like this: "No man is safe unless he can stand anything that happens to him."

    A young student wrote to me and said: "Then there aren't many people who are 'safe' - are there?" I point you now to another verse to lay alongside our text for today: "For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd" (Rev. 7:17, RSV). Christ's being on the throne is the pledge that we, too - somehow, some way - shall pass out of the midst of the "wolves" of people and things, to victory over both.

    Prayer:
    Lord Jesus, Master of every situation - even on a cross where You dispensed forgiveness to Your crucifiers - give me this mastery over circumstances. Help me to see I am not beaten until I am beaten within. Amen.

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    Stay in the kitchen

    For reading & meditation: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

    "God ' will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but ' will provide the way of escape '" (v.13, NASB)

    We turn now to another sphere of life from which many of us might long to be exempted - the area of strong and unrelenting temptation.

    Most of us, if we are honest, would like to be excused from having to face temptation, but temptation has its uses: it can work in Gods hands to the development of character, and help perfect the image of Christ in our lives.

    Mark Antony was called "the silver-throated orator of Rome", but he had the fatal flaw of not being able to resist a temptation. That indictment, I'm afraid, applies not just to Mark Antony, or to the ranks of the unconverted, but to many in the Church also.

    We all face temptation, and unfortunately far too many of us fall beneath its power. The root meaning of the word "temptation" (Greek, peirasmos) is that of testing. The dictionary defines temptation as the act of enticement to do wrong, by promise of pleasure or gain".

    Charles Swindoll commented: "Temptation motivates you to be bad by promising something good." Isn't that just like the devil? Are you facing a particularly fierce temptation at the moment? Then take heart - you have all the power you need to stand up under the blast.

    Harry S. Truman, a former President of the United States, is famous for saying: "If you don't like the heat, get out of the kitchen." But I've not found anyone who was able to stay strong without spending time in the "kitchen". If you can't stand the heat, stay in the kitchen - and in God's strength, learn to handle it."

    Prayer:
    O Father, show me how to experience continual victory over temptation. And help me, in this area of life also, not to be "a corn of wheat afraid to die" I face the fire in Your strength, knowing that You never allow what You cannot use. Amen.

  6. #1546
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    The original quitters

    For reading & meditation: Psalms 78:1-11

    "They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them." (v.11)

    We ended yesterday with the advice: "If you can't stand the heat, stay in the kitchen - and in God's strength, learn to handle it." The psalm before us today begins by commanding us to listen: "O my people, hear my teaching."

    You have only to read a few verses of this psalm to see that the psalmist Asaph is recalling the disobedience which characterised the Jews during their forty years' wandering in the wilderness. Then a strange verse appears: "The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned back on the day of battle" (v.9).

    These Ephraimites were equipped with all they needed for warfare, but on the day of the battle - that is, the first day of the fray - they "turned back". Although well armed, in the moment of testing they were overcome by fear. Doubtless they paraded well and looked fine as they marched out to battle, but when they came face to face with the enemy, the only weapon they used was a cloud of dust as they retreated en masse - and in a hurry.

    A preacher I once heard referred to the Ephraimites in this verse as "the original quitters". What an indictment. The Ephraimites live on, you know; they are to be found in the rank and file of many a modern-day congregation.

    They look fine in church on Sunday mornings with a hymn book and a Bible in their hands, but let the hot rays of temptation beat upon them - and they run. They surrender to temptation because they have never learned how to surrender to God. As I've said before - when we surrender to God, then we need not surrender to anything else.

    Prayer:
    Lord Jesus, help me clarify to myself whether I am surrendered or not. For I see that if I do not fall at Your feet, then I fall at the feet of things and circumstances. Show me at whose feet I am lying. For Your own Name's sake. Amen.

  7. #1547
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    "No" to self - "Yes" to God

    For reading & meditation: Colossians 3:1-17

    "' seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature '" (vv.9-10, RSV)

    We continue from where we left off yesterday, saying that the reason why many of today's Christians surrender so easily to temptation is because they have never really learned how to surrender to God. Many (not all) of the people who come for counselling are struggling with the fact that they have never understood how to die to their own purposes and live for God's purposes.

    Time and time again in counselling, it has been my experience to watch a person slowly recognise that his problem is due, not so much to what is happening to him as his reactions to what is happening to him - and then decide not to do anything about it. I am saddened by the trend to treat biblical principles as optional rather than obligatory.

    It is amazing to notice the casualness with which so many approach Scripture and say: "I suppose I shouldn't really be living like this; I had better try to change - if I can." When that attitude is present, there is little hope of change. You see, if there is no experienced death, there can be no experienced life.

    When a person does not see the importance of recognising, albeit painfully, that God's way is the way of obedience, irrespective of whether we feel like it or not, and involves death to wrong patterns of thinking and wrong patterns of behaving, there will be no victory and no change. Putting on the new nature requires first putting off the old nature by asserting, with all the conviction possible, that one is going to go God's way no matter how much the carnal nature argues to the contrary.

    Prayer:
    O Father, help me shout a thunderous "No" to anything that is contrary to You, and a mighty "Yes" to all You want to do in my life. And when my carnal nature argues back, help me to put it in its place - under my feet. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.

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    When I say that 'I am a Christian', I am not shouting that 'I am clean living.
    I'm whispering 'I was lost, but now I'm found and forgiven.'

    When I say 'I am a Christian', I don't speak of this with pride.
    I'm confessing that I stumble and need Christ to be my guide.

    When I say 'I am a Christian', I'm not trying to be strong.
    I'm professing that I'm weak and need His strength to carry on.

    When I say 'I am a Christian', I'm not bragging of success.
    I'm admitting I have failed and need God to clean my mess.

    When I say 'I am a Christian', I'm not claiming to be perfect.
    My flaws are far too visible, but God believes I am worth it.

    When I say 'I am a Christian', I still feel the sting of pain.
    I have my share of heartaches, so I call upon His name.

    When I say 'I am a Christian', I'm not holier than thou,
    I'm just a simple sinner who received God's grace.

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    Be a nonconformist

    For reading & meditation: Romans 12:1-13

    "Dont let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould '" (v.2, Phillips)

    We must spend some more time focusing on the fact that many of today's Christians are like the Ephraimites we spoke of a few days ago - good at parading, but not so good in battle. They cry out for help with their problems, but when confronted with the demands of Scripture, one of which is to die to self, they scurry like rats down the first bolthole they can find.

    They want a medicine man with a quick cure, not direct advice about how to repent of their egocentricity. I sometimes wonder to myself whether this trend in todays Church is the result of our being brain-washed by an age that tends to make quitting a way of life.

    Anna Sklar, in her book Runaway Wives, uncovered an incredible statistic of American life when she said that a decade ago, for every woman who walked away from her home and family responsibility, 600 husbands and fathers did so. Today, for each man who does that, two women do.

    My purpose in making this statement is not to take sides with either group, but simply to point out that, more and more, the modern trend is to choose the way of escape as the method of dealing with problems.

    Things that were once viewed by society as a stigma are now accepted without the flicker of an eyelid. "Let's just quit" are almost household words. A marriage gets shaky, hits a few rough patches and the solution is: "Let's get a divorce." How much of today's worldly patterns are affecting our thinking, I wonder? And how much are we letting the world squeeze us into its own mould?

    Prayer:
    Father, make me a nonconformist - not in a denominational sense, but in a dynamic sense. Forgive me if I have allowed the world to squeeze me into its own mould. Change my way of thinking to Your way of thinking. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

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    The greatest temptation

    For reading & meditation: Luke 4:1-13

    "Jesus ' was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil." (vv.1-2)

    I am often asked the question: What is the greatest temptation a Christian faces? My reply is usually this: the temptation to avoid the way of the cross.

    It was temptation that constantly faced our Lord Jesus Christ, and it is one that constantly faces us: It is the way the Master went Should not the servant tread it still?

    There were two outstanding periods in Jesus life when He was greatly tempted to face the sorrow and sin of the world in some way other than the one He took. One such time was the temptation in the desert, and the other was at the coming of the Greeks.

    As we have already looked at the latter incident - and will briefly examine it once more before we conclude - we shall focus our thinking over the next few days on our Lord's temptation in the desert. Following His baptism in the River Jordan, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted (or tested) by the devil.

    He got away from humanity in order to prepare Himself for the ordeal of giving Himself to humanity. In a sense, the temptation began as soon as He entered the desert. What temptation? The testing of His purposes to see whether, being the Son of God, He would also be the Son of Man.

    For to be the Son of Man would mean that He would take upon Himself all that falls on the sons of men. Yet on that issue, He never wavered. The Son of God willingly accepted all that was involved in becoming the Son of Man, so that the sons of men might become the sons of God.

    Prayer:
    Lord Jesus, Son of God and also Son of Man, how can I ever sufficiently thank You for aligning Yourself with this sinful human race? I cannot understand it, but yet I stand upon it - and stand upon it for all eternity. Amen.

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    Feeding on the wrong bread

    For reading & meditation: Hebrews 10:1-18

    "' I have come to do your will, O God."(v.7)

    We continue looking at Christ's temptation in the desert, but from a slightly different perspective. We are seeing how the temptation was designed to keep Him from identifying Himself with the sons of men.

    We saw yesterday how, He withdrew from men in order that He might give Himself to men. The issue was not so much whether He was the Son of God - He had heard that confirmed quite clearly at His baptism - but whether, being the Son of God, He would also be the Son of Man.

    Once Jesus feels that His period of fasting is over, He prepares to return to feed His weakened body, but the tempter intervenes and tempts Him to turn the stones of the desert into bread. In doing this, is he really saying to Jesus: "Why go back to men? Stay here and feed Yourself. You are the Son of God, isn't that enough"?

    We cannot be sure, of course, but seen in this light, it is a possibility. In all spiritual work, there is always the temptation to withdraw, to feed ourselves apart, to rejoice in the fact that we are sons of God and feast upon it. Many Christians down the ages have fallen for this, and have opted for an "escape mentality" in which they attempt to avoid the issue of death via a cross by isolating themselves from it.

    Mark this and mark it well: a similar temptation will come to you - the temptation to avoid the challenge of going down into the death of your self-life, by focusing on the fact that you are already a son of God, and that there is no need for any further humiliation or pain.

    Prayer:
    Gracious and loving heavenly Father, help me, as You did Your Son, to resist every temptation that tries to keep me from coming to grips with my own personal Calvary. Abide with me, and then I can abide with anything. Amen.

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    The divine end

    For reading & meditation: Philippians 3:1-14

    "' that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings '" (v.10, RSV)

    If the first temptation contained elements designed to prevent Christ from returning to humanity as the Son of Man, then the second temptation might be seen as an attempt to get Him to take a different attitude to men.

    Was the devil saying: "If you must go back, then do not take the attitude You took when You began. Don't stand alongside man, but stand on the pinnacle of the Temple. Be worshipped, be honoured and respected. Your place is up there, not down among those wretched multitudes"?

    A similar temptation will come to you, too. Satan will say: "Stay above all this talk of going down into death; escape the pain by remaining above it. You can descend to help men and women, but then let the angels carry you back to your exalted position."

    Then came the subtle third temptation, which seemed to suggest this: "If You are determined to be the Son of Man and to be one with men, then adopt humanity's methods - fall down and worship me. If You are going to be like them, be like them in everything, and take a similar attitude to those who obey me."

    Jesus refused this way too. He would be the Son of Man and let everything that falls on men fall on Him. But there would be this difference - He would reach the divine end only by means of the divine method, and by doing the will of His Father in heaven. At that point, He put His feet upon the way that He knew would lead ultimately to the cross. No temptation would divert Him from that. And no temptation must divert you and me either.

    Prayer:
    O Father, help me to do with temptation what Jesus did with it - to use it to reinforce my readiness to do Your will. I am so thankful that Your tests are not meant to catch me out, but to spur me on. Help me to meet every test - triumphantly. Amen.

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    A second look

    For reading & meditation: John 12:20-36

    "Jesus replied, The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.' " (v.23)

    Having experienced the principle that life is always preceded by death, we return now to focus again on the incident which launched us into this study the coming of the Greeks to Jesus. I firmly believe that this incident has been greatly overlooked by Bible expositors and commentators.

    We usually take the text, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus" (v.21), and leave it at that. But this is one of the most momentous events in the life of our Lord - an event that is next in importance, in my judgement, to His temptation in the wilderness.

    In many ways, it was more subtle than the wilderness experience, for the wilderness represents the temptation that comes at the beginning of one's ministry, while the coming of the Greeks represents the temptation that comes as one gets close to the end. It is often as one gets close to one's goal that the temptation to compromise, or to take an easier way becomes more acute.

    Just as, in the desert, there was a pull to get Jesus to take another way, so here we see a similar situation. As I said at the beginning of our study, we cannot be at all sure that the Greeks arrived with the intention of enticing Christ to come to Athens, but it is significant that their arrival threw Him into a spiritual crisis.

    Assuming that to be so, the issue before Him was acceptance in Athens or rejection in Jerusalem. A philosopher's chair, or a grisly cross. A similar issue confronts those of us who are His followers. Do we go the way of the cross, or do we go the way of the crowds?

    Prayer:
    Father, my mind is made up - I want to go Your way. Help me to come out clearly on Your side - for You and against everything that is against You. This I pray in Jesus' Name. Amen.

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    Living by the heartbeat

    For reading & meditation: John 5:16-30

    "' the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing '" (v.19)

    Although we do not know exactly why the Greeks came to Jesus, it is clear that their arrival aroused powerful emotions. He soliloquises: "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24, RSV).

    Some commentators think that although there is no record of the Greeks having actually conversed with Christ, they might have sent a message via Andrew and Philip to the effect that He could have a long and fruitful life if He brought His message to their shores.

    Was this so? We will never know - at least, not this side of eternity. But if it was, this was His answer: life comes through giving life, and fruitfulness through falling into the ground and dying.

    Jesus did not live by the hourglass, but by the heartbeat. He knew that when we remain alone by ourselves - when we are like the "corn of wheat afraid to die" - we will find life shallow and fruitless. A refusal to pay the ultimate price - the price of giving ourselves - is to find ourselves paying the price of the deadness of life itself.

    Again we hear Him cry: "The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world [as I must do] will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25). If the Greeks were coming to ask Him to love His life and save it - and thus save others - they were asking Him to bless without bleeding. Jesus knew that could not be done. There is no life without death, no gain without pain, no crown without a cross, and no victory except through surrender.

    Prayer:
    My Father and my God, soon I will leave this theme and focus on another. If I have not yet settled this issue of where my allegiance lies - with myself or with You - then help me to settle it today. For Your own dear Name's sake. Amen.

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    The hour of decision

    For reading & meditation: 2 Corinthians 6

    "I tell you, now is the time of God's favour, now is the day of salvation." (v.2)

    Listen to Jesus as He receives the news that the Greeks have come to interview Him: "Now is my heart troubled '" (John 12:27). The Greek word used here for "troubled" is tarasso, which implies extreme agitation.

    And well might He be troubled, for being human as well as divine, our Lord would have felt as keenly as you and I the horror of impending death. Some of us are not troubled at this point because we fall in with the spirit of the age, and choose acceptance rather than rejection - the plaudits of men rather than the nails of a cross.

    We are afraid to die, and thus live on to experience only shallowness. Again our Lord cries: "And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour' " (John 12:27). Would He ask to be excused, from paying the supreme price? Some of us may be asking that at this very moment. We are asking to be "saved from this hour".

    Listen to how Jesus meets this moment: "No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour" (John 12:27). Can you see what He is saying? "All the ages have matched me against this moment, all the yearnings of men have brought me face to face with this crisis.

    I cannot fail now, for I would fail both God and them." Can you sense in your own heart right now that God has been working to bring you to this crisis point? For some of you, particularly those of you who have not yet fully surrendered your lives to God's purposes, this is a moment of destiny. Someone has brought you to this hour - that Someone is God.

    Prayer:
    O Father, what can I say? I feel a struggle going on inside me - the struggle concerning who is to be my soul's rightful Lord. Help me to make the final surrender. I do it now, fully and finally. In Jesus' worthy and wonderful Name. Amen.

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    It thundered

    For reading & meditation: 1 Corinthians 2

    "The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one." (v.15, RSV)

    The final words of our Lord in the incident we are considering are these: "Father, glorify thy name" (John 12:28, RSV). What a decision! What a moment! "Father, do not think of what it costs me - only glorify Your name." At that moment, He gave God a blank cheque, blank save that it was signed in His own blood.

    It is a great moment in our life, too, when we hand God a blank cheque, signed in our own blood, and invite Him to call on us for all we have and all we are. One person described this moment as "the great renunciation".

    If that is so, then the moment of great renunciation is followed by a great annunciation. Listen: "Then a voice came from heaven, 'I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again' " (John 12:28, RSV). The moment Jesus made the final response, then heaven spoke.

    Many of us who complain we are living under a silent heaven would find it vocal with the voice of God if we would choose the Calvary way. Of course, the bystanders missed what was really going on and "said that it had thundered" (John 12:29).

    To them, it was the impersonal voice of nature. Others came a little closer to reality, and said: "An angel had spoken to him." To them, it was a little more than the impersonal voice of nature, and yet something less than the voice of God. Anyone who stands on the edges of life as a bystander is bound to give a shallow interpretation of what God is doing. It is only those who have faced the alternatives - to die or not to die - who are really involved.

    Prayer:
    My Father, I don't want to be a bystander. I want to be in the centre of all You are saying and all You are doing. Heres my cheque - signed with my own blood. Fill it in for everything You want from me. I do it willingly, gladly, happily. Amen.

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    The last word is life

    For reading & meditation: John 10:7-18

    "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (v.10)



    At the close of our meditations we look at the results of the momentous choice Jesus made when the Greeks said: "Sir, we would like to see Jesus." Our Lord saw that three things would happen: first, the judgment of this world (John 12:31). What did choosing the cross have to do with that? This - the cross is the judgment seat of the world.

    I confess that the Man on the cross judges me, convicts me, challenges me. His Spirit of facing the world's sin and suffering makes my spirit tremble like a magnetic needle in a storm. At the cross, His love judges my hate, my selfishness, my desire to live only for myself. His self-sacrifice inspires my self-sacrifice.

    The second thing our Lord saw would happen was the overpowering of Satan: "Now shall the ruler of this world be cast out" (John 12:31, RSV). He would overthrow Satan, not by breaking his head, but by letting him break His heart.

    Third, He would make the cross the magnet by which He would draw all people to Himself: "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32). His choice was made - and hopefully, ours is also.

    No longer will we lie on the edge of life's furrow - "a corn of wheat afraid to die" - but willingly roll over into the dark channel of death, knowing, as we do, that from our death will come a life that is well-pleasing to God - fruitful, profitable and productive. Afraid to die? No - afraid to live. For life that is not preceded by death is a life not worth living.

    Prayer:
    O Father, burn the message into my heart that when I try to save my life, I succeed only in losing it. And help me never to forget that the last word is not death, but life. Thank You, Father. Amen.

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    Default Re: In step

    The eight points of testing

    2 Corinthians 2:12

    "... thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ ..." (v.14)

    Some of the characteristics of faithfulness are honesty, reliability and a deep concern for truth. Another characteristic is the quality of carrying through on all God's commands to us -- keeping faith to the end.

    To help us come through the times of testing everyone has to face at some time, the Holy Spirit builds into us the ability to see things through to the end. One writer has listed the eight fiercest tests a Christian faces in this world in this order:

    (1) Humiliation -- a savage and plausible attack on our reputation.

    (2) Suffering -- physical, mental or spiritual.

    (3) Bereavement -- especially in relation to a loved one whose death was "untimely."

    (4) Estrangement or treachery from one's family and friends.

    (5) Doubt -- deep, dark and awful.

    (6) Failure -- the breaking up of one's life work.

    (7) Dereliction -- the sense of being forsaken by God. (8) A slow, painful and unillumined death.

    Not all of us have all of them to meet, but meeting any one of them can be a strong and severe test. How does a Christian triumph in the midst of such fierce testings as are listed above? Any triumph we experience at such times is the triumph of the Holy Spirit. He dwells in us, not just for the pleasure of inhabiting our beings, but to lead us to victory over all our problems.

    Perhaps you are being called to face one or more of these eight points of testing this very moment. Then take courage -- the Holy Spirit is with you and in you to take you through the fire and bring you out triumphant.

    Prayer: Father, I am grateful that Your Spirit dwells within me to lead me through to victory. Even in my darkest trials You are there, inspiring me and causing me to triumph in all things. Thank You, Father. Amen.
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    20-01-2016, 07:58 AM #1006 RiverOL's Avatar RiverOL RiverOL is online now
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    Default Re: In step
    Faithfulness and perseverance

    For reading & meditation -- Luke 8:4-15

    "... those ... who hear the word ... and by perseverance produce a crop." (v.15)

    Our text for today in Moffatt's translation reads: "As for the seed in the good soil, that means those who hear and hold fast the word in a good, sound heart, and so bear fruit steadfastly."

    Note -- "so bear fruit steadfastly" -- only the steadfast are finally fruitful.The minister of a large church, when asked what was the outstanding need of his congregation, said: "Faithfulness.

    Fifty per cent of church members are hangers-on, getting a free ride, contributing nothing from purse or person; twenty-five per cent promise to do something and then, after a few stabs at it, drop out. They lack fidelity.

    The life of this church is carried on by the remaining twenty-five per cent." D. L. Moody, the great American preacher, said: "If we could get people who put their hand to the plow and never draw back no matter what the wind or weather, we would have a growing and powerful church."How many of us, I wonder, have loose ends, broken promises, half-fulfilled tasks cluttering up our lives? Whose fault is it?

    It cannot be the fault of the Holy Spirit, for He dwells in us to provide the power to see things through -- if we let Him. Success in this area of the Christian life, as in all areas, is letting go and letting God -- letting go of self-effort and surrendering to the power of the Spirit who is resident in us.

    As someone once put it -- the Christian life is not my responsibility, but my response to His ability. I tell you, never does the Holy Spirit appear more wonderful than when He appears in the fruit of faithfulness.

    Prayer:
    Father, I recognize yet again that the fruit of the Spirit can only develop in me to the extent that I am surrendered. Help me go more deeply into You, this day and every day. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.
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    21-01-2016, 07:31 AM #1007 RiverOL's Avatar RiverOL RiverOL is online now
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    "A virtue not greatly praised"

    Matthew 11:20-30

    "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart ..." (v.29, NKJV)

    We come now to the eighth fruit of the Spirit -- meekness or gentleness. The original Greek word, prautes, is translated in various ways in different translations of the New Testament.

    One version uses the word "tolerance," another "forbearance" and another "adaptability."The original Greek word has no exact synonym in English and after examining the various words used in the different translations of Galatians 5:22, my personal opinion is that the Good News Bible gets closest to it when it uses the word "humility."

    The words humility" and "meekness" are often seen together in the New Testament, as for example, in our text for today: "I am meek and lowly in heart." (Other examples are Eph. 4:2 and Col. 3:12.)

    The Christian in whom the Spirit dwells is a person who is meek, gentle and humble. It has been said that apart from love, nothing is more characteristic of a Christian, and nothing more caricatured and misunderstood than humility.

    The world has never had much time for humility. "Throughout time," says one writer, "it is a virtue that has not been greatly praised -- except by a few."To understand humility calls for a piercing spiritual perception which is given only to those who know God.

    A lady came up to me at the end of a Bible study I had given on humility and said: "I do love to hear a preacher expound on the subject of humility.

    You see, it is one of the greatest qualities, and I want to know as much as I can about it." I felt that somehow, in seeking to walk the path of humility, she had lost her way.

    Prayer:
    Lord Jesus Christ, my Savior and my Redeemer, I long so much to be like You -- meek, gentle and humble. And as I seek to walk the path of humility, help me not to lose my way. In Your dear Name I ask it. Amen.
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    22-01-2016, 07:37 AM #1008 RiverOL's Avatar RiverOL RiverOL is online now
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    Default Re: In step
    Self-effacement -- to gain face

    Philippians 2

    "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." (v.5)

    We said yesterday that humility has not been praised -- except by a few -- in any age. Ancient writers regarded the quality of humility as a "servile, grovelling spirit."

    People today seem to view it in the same way and place it alongside the cringing spirit of Uriah Heep -- "I am so very 'umble, Master Copperfield." Perhaps it was this confusion that led to Gladstone, one of Britain's past Prime Ministers, to say: "Humility as a sovereign grace is the creation of Christianity."

    In choosing "humility" as the best translation of the Greek word used in the list of the fruit of the Spirit, we must be careful not to miss the thought that is contained in some of the other words used by translators, such as gentleness, meekness, forbearance, adaptability and tolerance.

    Threading them all together, we have a picture of this fruit of the Spirit as a gentle spirit of lowliness and humility with no arrogance but a joyous desire to serve.

    Humility is not only misunderstood by the world; it is also largely misunderstood by the Christian Church. Some confuse it, for example, with self-belittlement. They think that by denigrating themselves or putting themselves down they are acting in humility. But by deliberately setting out to make themselves small, they are really trying to make themselves great. Self-effacement is their way of gaining face.

    They take the lowest place in order to be invited to go up higher. They express derogatory opinions of themselves in the hope that they will be contradicted. This is not real humility -- this is feigned humility: an unworthy substitute.

    Prayer:
    O Father, clarify my understanding so that I can discern between true humility and feigned humility. Help me to have a mind that is open to Your mind so that I comprehend all things clearly. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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    23-01-2016, 08:18 AM #1009 RiverOL's Avatar RiverOL RiverOL is online now
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    Default Re: In step
    A sane view of oneself

    Romans 12

    "... Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment ..." (v.3)
    We continue trying to clear up the misunderstandings that surround the word "humility." Humility has often been confused with that sad state which we describe as an "inferiority complex."

    But however much humility and an inferiority complex resemble each other -- and one has to admit that superficially they do look alike -- humility is deeply different.

    Humility is not the result of being badly mishandled in childhood, nor is it a nervous illness. Neither is it derived from a foolish comparison with other people. Humility is a true and absorbing view of oneself seen from God's point of view. Paul urges us in our passage today not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, "but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith" (v.3, NKJV).

    These verses are sometimes interpreted as meaning that we should have a low opinion of ourselves, but look again at what the apostle is saying: "... not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly." We should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought, but by the same token, we should not think of ourselves more lowly than we ought.

    We must have a sane and balanced estimate of ourselves -- one that is not too high and not too low. Humility, as we said yesterday, flows from a correct viewof God, but it also flows from a correct view of ourselves.

    These two facts need overhauling and emphasizing in today's Church, for I am convinced that a large percentage of Christians have neither a correct view of God nor a correct view of themselves.

    Prayer:
    My Father and my God, I pray once again that You will help me come to a clear understanding of this issue. Help me get my perspectives right -- my perspective on You and my perspective on myself. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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    24-01-2016, 10:26 AM #1010 RiverOL's Avatar RiverOL RiverOL is online now
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    Default Re: In step
    Humility is a teachable spirit

    James 1:17-27

    "... and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." (v.21)

    Some Christians confuse humility with lack of ambition, but here, too, they are mistaken. The Christian in whom the "harvest of the Spirit" is being reaped may lack worldly ambition, but in the spiritual area of life, he is the most ambitious person alive. Titles,honors, distinctions, money ... his heart is not set on them but on God.

    If these things are placed in his hands, they are seen as a trust; they are not, however, the things that he deeply covets. For the true Christian, life comes to fulfilment, not in things but in God.

    Having spent a few days focusing on what humility is not, it is time now to focus on what it is. "Humility," says William Barclay, "is a gentle, gracious and submissive spirit." He suggests that in order properly to understand humility, we need to look at five significant passages of Scripture.

    When we have looked at all five, we shall then get a composite picture of this beautiful virtue which the Holy Spirit seeks to bring to fruition in our lives.

    The first is James 1:21: "Humbly accept the message that God has planted in your hearts, and which can save your souls" (J. B. Phillips). Humility is a teachable spirit -- an attitude that recognizes one's own ignorance and a humble acceptance of the fact that without God's help, one cannot understand the depths or profundities of truth.

    Every Christian who has a good understanding of Scripturewill, to some degree, be humble, for those who approach the Bible with a proud and know-all attitude will find it will shut like a clam and reveal nothing to them.

    Prayer:
    O Father, give me a teachable spirit -- especially in relation to Scripture. Help me to lay aside my own ideas when I come to Your Word, so that I might be able to absorb Your ideas. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.
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    25-01-2016, 08:48 AM #1011 RiverOL's Avatar RiverOL RiverOL is online now
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    Default Re: In step
    A means to hope

    Micah 6

    "... what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (v. 8)

    Another passage we must look at if we are to understand the deep meaning of humility is Galatians 6:1 -- "If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently" (NIV). Paul's advice is that if someone is overtaken in a fault, he must be corrected in a spirit of humility.

    Correction can be given in a way which discourages or in a way which sets a person on his or her feet with the determination to do better. Humility is the spirit which makes correction a stimulant and not a depressant, a means to hope and not a cause of despair.
    The third passage is 2 Timothy 2:25: "Those who oppose him he must gently instruct."

    Paul is saying here that when we meet up with those who disagree with us, and whom we think to be mistaken, we must not attempt to bludgeon them into changing their minds, but treat them with the utmost gentleness and respect.

    Suppose we go into a room on a bitterly cold day and find the windows are frozen on the inside -- there are two things we can do. One is to try to rub away the ice on the inside of the window panes, or we may light a fire in the grate and allow the window to clear itself.


    Heat does quickly what rubbing may take a long time to do. When dealing with those whom you believe to be in error ormistaken, always remember that gentle humility will accomplish what no amount of bludgeoning or battering could ever do. The sun can get a man's coat off his back much more quickly than a fierce wind.

    Prayer:
    O God, I sense that the ways You teach me through Your Word are also written in me. I am only at my best as I follow Your best. Help me, dear Lord, always to follow You in the path of humility. Amen.
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    26-01-2016, 09:17 AM #1012 RiverOL's Avatar RiverOL RiverOL is online now
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    Default Re: In step
    The drawing power of humility

    Proverbs 18

    "Before his downfall a man's heart is proud, but humility comes before honor" (v.12)

    In 1 Peter 3:15 we read: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you ... But do this with gentleness and respect." Real Christian witness always has a gracious gentleness about it which is far more effective than the aggressive approach which tries to ram the Gospel down people's throats.

    As someone has put it: "To win some you must be winsome."A final text we explore is James 3:13 -- "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom." The real ornament of life which is precious in the sight of God is a meek and quiet spirit.

    Those who think they are not gifted by temperament to relate to people in this way need not despair. The Spirit who dwells in you will, if you allow Him, transform your temperament into the image of Christ.

    Paul's spiritual progress may be measured by the fact that in 1 Corinthians 15:9, he says: "I am the least of the apostles," and writing later to the Ephesians (3:8), he says he is less than the least -- not now of the apostles -- but "of all God's people." Still later, when writing to Timothy (1 Tim. 1:15), he says that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners -- "of whom I am the worst."

    Oh, the wonder of humility. God said through Isaiah: "I dwell ... with him who has a contrite and humble spirit" (57:15, NKJV). James said, "God resists the proud" -- He repels their advances. The haughty He knows only from afar: it is the humble whom the Almighty respects.

    Prayer:
    Lord Jesus, I can have too much of many things but I cannot have too much of You. I cannot be too much like You or have too much of Your Spirit. Fill me to overflowing so that I become more and more like You. Amen.
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    27-01-2016, 08:12 AM #1013 RiverOL's Avatar RiverOL RiverOL is online now
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    Default Re: In step
    Christ-control

    PProverbs 16:20-44

    "Better ... a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city."(v.32)

    We come now to the last of the nine fruits of the Spirit -- self-control. The King James Version uses the word "temperance" but in most translations the Greek word (enkrateia) is rendered as self-control. Underlying the word is the idea of self-restraint, a fine mastery of one's personality, a controlled and disciplined nature. It is noteworthy that Paul puts self-control last.

    Most systems of thought, both ancient and modern, would put it first. Consider the various philosophies that have fascinated man over past centuries, and what do you find?

    They all seek to produce a happy and contented person through self-control. Some advocate thought control, some breath control, others will-control. The Christian way is different -- it produces happy and contented people, not primarily by thought control or even will-control, but by Christ-control.

    The Christian is a self-controlled person, but he becomes that, not by self-effort alone but by the gracious supply of the Holy Spirit who indwells him. You do not gain God, Christ or the Holy Spirit through self-control: you gain self-control through God, Christ and the Holy Spirit.

    You see, if you begin with self-control, then you are the center -- you are controlling yourself. But if you begin, as Paul does, with love, then the spring of action is outgoing and you are released from yourself and from self-preoccupation.

    When you begin with love, you end with self-control. But it is not a nervous, anxious, tied-up self-control; it is a control that is natural and unstrained -- hence beautiful.

    Prayer:
    Gracious Father, help me grasp the thought that self-control is not really myself in control, but Christ in control of myself. I put You in control and You then put me in control. It is indeed beautiful. Thank You, dear Father. Amen.
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    28-01-2016, 08:39 AM #1014 RiverOL's Avatar RiverOL RiverOL is online now
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    Default Re: In step
    Choose your "cause"

    Matthew 6:24-34

    "... seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (v.33, NKJV)

    Some people attempt to come into the Christian life at the level of self-control rather than at the level of love, and quickly discover that it does not work. I tried to come into Christianity this way.

    There was a time in my teens when I was greatly attracted to Christianity, but not willing to make the full surrender which it so clearly demands. Every day I would start out with the thought and purpose that I would do everything in my power to keep myself from sin -- and every night I fell into bed feeling a failure.

    How could a diseased will heal a diseased soul?Then I surrendered my life to Christ and something wonderful happened -- His love flowed into my heart and as I began to love Him, all lesser loves soon dropped away.

    A university professor, writing on the subject of loyalty, says an interesting thing: "There is only one way to be an ethical individual and that is to choose your cause and then to serve it. This central loyalty to a cause puts other loyalties in their place as subordinate. Then life as a whole is coordinated because all lesser loyalties are subordinated."Translate his thinking into New Testament language and you find an interesting similarity.

    The "cause" we choose is Christ and His Kingdom, and when we seek them first, then all other things, including self-control, are added to us.

    This does not mean, of course, that once we become Christians we automatically become people of supreme self-control. We have the potential for that, but it becomes a reality only as we continually surrender and submit to Christ's control.

    Prayer:
    O Father, I am so thankful that when I threw my will on Your side, You threw Your will on my side. I am controlled because I am under control. Amen.
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    29-01-2016, 10:25 AM #1015 RiverOL's Avatar RiverOL RiverOL is online now
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    Default Re: In step
    Danger areas of life

    Proverbs 15

    "The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit." (v.4)
    What are some of the areas of life in which we need to have self-control? Let me select what I consider to be the three most important. The first is the area of sex.

    Controlled sex is creative; uncontrolled sex is chaotic. I need hardly say that sex outside of marriage is clearly forbidden by Scripture and those who engage in it will find it leads not to fulfilment but to disintegration of the personality. That disintegration may not come right away, but given time -- come it will.

    Within the marriage relationship also there is need for self-control. If one's partner becomes the means of self-gratification, instead of a person to be loved and respected, then again, disintegration sets in. You cannot use another without abusing yourself. Your attitudes toward another become your attitudes toward yourself. If you use another for sex purposes, then sex uses you.

    Sex is a dedication or it is a desecration, and when it becomes desecration, it becomes degradation. Another area of life in which we need the self-control which the Spirit provides is that of the tongue. James points out that the tongue is an important indicator of how well we control ourselves (James 3:2).

    There are three stages, we are told, in verbal communication -- impulse, consideration, speech. Many omit the second and jump from impulse to speech. The person who has self-control pauses between impulse and speech and gives himself to consideration. The Holy Spirit -- if we let Him -- comes to our aid to help us be sure that what we say is what we want to say.

    Prayer:
    O God, help me to be a disciplined person in thought, word and deed -- especially in thought. And help me to hold my tongue when I should and speak when I should. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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    30-01-2016, 10:28 AM #1016 RiverOL's Avatar RiverOL RiverOL is online now
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    Default Re: In step
    Bodily indulgence

    1 Corinthians 9:19-27

    "I beat my body and make it my slave so that ... I myself will not be disqualified ..." (v.27)

    A third area of life in which we need self-control is that which has to do with bodily indulgence. The body, by its very nature, is comfort-loving and too much comfort is debilitating to the soul. The mother of John Wesley is reported to have said: "Whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, however innocent it may be in itself -- that thing is sin to you."

    David Hill puts it this way: "There is before each one of us an altar of sacrifice, unseen but real and present; and on this altar we are called to offer ourselves.

    There is some crucifixion of the flesh, some physical self-sacrifice, the abandonment of some bodily indulgence which the spirit of man knows that he is called to make."What are some of the things our bodies clamor for? One is food -- and generally speaking, we eat far more than is good for us. Another thing the body clamors for is sleep.

    People differ in the amount of sleep that they need, but we must watch that we do not spend more time in bed than is good for us. How delighted, too, the body becomes with the luxuries of life. It has been said that the luxuries of one generation become the bare necessities of the next.

    We must not go too far and see the body as an enemy that has to be continuously afflicted. Self-control helps the Christian to offer to God an obedient personality which is not cloyed by comfort or sluggish from indulgence, but sensitive to guidance and ready for all His perfect will.

    Prayer:
    O Father, once again I ask that You dwell deep within me by Your Spirit and help me to be free from the clamoring desires that would cancel out my effectiveness. I ask this in and through Your peerless and precious Name. Amen.
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    31-01-2016, 10:16 AM #1017 RiverOL's Avatar RiverOL RiverOL is online now
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    Default Re: In step
    No Fixed Rate

    2 Peter 3

    "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (v. 18)

    We are going to consider the things we need to know and do in order to gain a deeper and more intimate relationship with God. One of the questions put to me most frequently during the years in which I have been a minister and a counselor is this: "Why does one person seem to have a closer relationship with God than another, even though both have been on the Christian way for the same length of time?"

    Even the most casual observer of the Christian life cannot help but notice that people do not travel along the road leading to deeper knowledge of God at the same rate. We grow old at the same rate. But progress in spiritual things is not made at a fixed rate. From time to time I meet people who have fewer years of Christian experience than I do, yet they seem to know God more profoundly.


    They leave me feeling seriously challenged and humbled. You have come across this yourself, haven't you?

    Surely you have met people who, though younger than you in terms of discipleship, are able to forgive injuries more readily than you, seem to be free of the nasty censoriousness you sometimes struggle with, and are swift to praise others whom they see doing more effectively the things they want to do themselves.

    Why? This is the issue which over the coming weeks we must make plain. Lovers of Scripture will have no doubt that God wants to move closer to us. The question we have to decide is: Do we want to move closer to Him?

    Prayer:
    Father, make this time in my life a time of vision and venture in the things of God. May it become a time of spiritual advancement to a degree I have never before known. I ask all this in Christ's Name. Amen.
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    01-02-2016, 08:37 AM #1018 RiverOL's Avatar RiverOL RiverOL is online now
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    Default Re: In step
    A Crucial Element
    Acts 17:16-34

    "... but now [God] commands all people everywhere to repent." (v. 30)

    There are, of course, many reasons why some people move along the path of discipleship at a snail's pace, while others appear to cover twice the distance in half the time. It has much to do with the way we enter the Christian life.

    Those who have studied the manner in which people become Christians tell us there are two main ways of coming to faith in Christ. One is through a dramatic conversion, whereby a person confronted with the claims of Christ yields to Him in a single moment.

    The other is when a person moves more slowly into faith, and sometimes cannot even pinpoint the exact moment when he or she made the great surrender. What must be remembered is that both experiences are valid. The best evidence that we are alive is not our birth certificate but the fact we are going about our daily lives as living, breathing people.

    I myself find no problem when individuals say they do not know the day or hour when they committed themselves to Christ, providing they show evidence that they belong to Him by such proofs as a desire to be alone with Him in prayer, a longing to know Him better through His Word, and an eagerness to meet and have fellowship with other believers.

    But no matter how one enters the Christian life -- suddenly or slowly -- the most essential element is repentance. I have no hesitation in saying that if we do not understand what is involved in living repentant lives, then regardless of how we start the Christian life there will be no successful continuance.

    Prayer:
    My Father and my God, if repentance is so important -- and I see that it is -- then help me understand it more deeply. I am at Your feet. Teach me, dear Lord. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.
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    02-02-2016, 07:35 AM #1019 RiverOL's Avatar RiverOL RiverOL is online now
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    A Change of Mind

    2 Timothy 1:1-12

    "... your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice ..." (v. 5)

    Yesterday we said that there are two types of entry into the Christian life -- sudden and gradual. Paul the apostle had one of the most sudden and dramatic conversions in Christian history, yet Paul's disciple Timothy does not seem to have had a similar experience.

    We cannot tell for sure, but Timothy's coming to faith, a process apparently greatly influenced by his grandmother and mother, seems to have been much more prolonged. We said also (and some may have found this surprising) that without a clear understanding of repentance, and all that it entails, there can be no successful continuance in the Christian life.

    So what is repentance and why is it vitally important? The Greek word for repentance, metanoia, means "a change of mind." But a change of mind about what? About where life is found. Prior to coming to Christ our minds are shot through with the idea that life depends on such things as self-sufficiency, self-management, and ego-building.

    The Bible confronts this self-centered approach to living and says that for our lives to work the way God designed them, the ego must be marginal and not central. In other words, Christ must be central, and the ego revolves around Him just as the planets revolve around the sun.

    This is quite a radical thought for any mind to grapple with, but be sure of this -- if there is no acceptance of it, the soul will not go on to experience a deep and developing relationship with God. No change of mind about where life is to be found -- no spiritual progress. It is as simple as that.

    Prayer:
    O Father, help me examine my heart and decide just who is central in my life -- You or me. Show me even more clearly how I can be more Christ-centered and less ego-centered. In the Name of Your Son I ask it. Amen.
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    02-02-2016, 08:43 PM #1020 RiverOL's Avatar RiverOL RiverOL is online now
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    How Kind of God

    Romans 2

    "... not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" (v. 4)

    One of the places where Christianity parts company with modern-day psychology is over the matter of our ego. The ego is that part of us which contains our sense of individuality -- our self-esteem. Secular psychology says the stronger our ego and the more central it is, the better equipped we are to handle life and to live it to the full.

    Christianity sees the ego as important and does not (as some critics might suggest) seek to demolish it; rather, it puts it in its proper place -- at the feet of Christ. On August 12, 1973, Charles Colson, President Nixon's right-hand man, was feeling deeply disturbed by the events in which he was involved.

    He went to see a friend who read to him from C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. Later that evening, he began to sob so deeply that he became quite alarmed. He realized that something spiritual was happening to him and cried out to God: "Take me, take me." That night was the beginning of the period during which this strong, ego-centered man found a new focus for his life -- the Lord Jesus Christ.

    That is what repentance is all about: it is a change of mind as to where life is to be found -- brought about in conjunction with the Holy Spirit. Real life is not to be found in the pursuit of self-centered goals, but in living out God's will and purposes for one's life. Charles Colson is one of Christ's most powerful modern disciples. He appears to have continued the way he began -- with a mindset that puts Christ first and himself second.

    Prayer:
    O God, may I have this same mindset too-- a mindset that puts Your will ahead of my own. Teach me more of what is involved in the act of repentance for I see that without an understanding of it I can make no real spiritual progress. In Christ's Name. Amen.
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    Wise up and live

    For reading & meditation: Proverbs 1:1-19

    "For attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight" (v.2)

    We set out to explore some of the great and thrilling themes of the book of Proverbs. I have no hesitation in saying that, as far as practical matters are concerned, it has influenced my thinking and colored my judgments more than any other book of the Bible.

    I shall never forget my pastor taking my aside just after I had been converted and saying, "I am going to teach you to steal, to drink, to lie and to swear." Seeing my astonishment, he quickly went on to add, "I want to teach you how to steal time out of every day to read something from the book of Proverbs.

    And then I want to teach you how to drink from its clear, refreshing waters, to lie on your bed at night and meditate on its great themes and to swear that by the grace of God you will put into practice its wonderful teaching."

    We begin with the question: What is the purpose of Proverbs? Our text for today gives us the clue. Listen to how the Living Bible paraphrases it: "He [Solomon] wrote them to teach his people how to live - how to act in every circumstance" (1:2).

    This then is what Proverbs is all about - wisdom for living. Multitudes know how to make a living but they do not know how to live. They know everything about life except how to live it. I tell you, the more you understand the book of Proverbs, and the more you put its truths and principles into practice, the more effective will be your living. I guarantee it.

    Prayer:
    O Father, help me come to grips with the wisdom that enables me not just to live, but to live abundantly. I want to know what I need to do as a person to get on in life. Through the ancient but inspired words of Proverbs teach me how. In Jesus' Name. Amen

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    Wisdom personified

    For reading & meditation: Proverbs 1:20-33

    "But whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm." (v.33)

    Before settling down to focus on our theme, which is the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, it will be helpful if we acquaint ourselves with some of the background material to the book - hence, these opening days will be more introductory than expository.

    You can't get far into Proverbs before you begin to notice a peculiar thing - wisdom and its opposite, foolishness, are personified as women, Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly, each of whom attempts to persuade people to follow her ways.

    This personification of wisdom and folly is a literary device which the writer uses to add punch and power to his points. We use a similar form of expression when we personify natural laws and refer to them as "Mother Nature."

    For example, we may hear people say "Mother Nature is bringing out the spring flowers," or, "Mother Nature is doing her thing." It is a poetic and colorful way of referring to the principles and laws which guide and govern our universe.

    Notice how wisdom is personified in these words taken from the passage before us today: "Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech" (1:20-21).

    Later on in Proverbs you will see how similar language is used of Lady Folly. The purpose of this personification is to make the reader vividly aware that over and against the fatal attraction of folly, wisdom brings true delight. Wisdom is the soul's true bride, true counselor and true hostess. Wisdom is good for us; it is what our personalities were designed for.

    Prayer:
    O Father, help me to grasp the truth that I am made for a certain way of living - Your way - and when I try to live against that way, then I am nothing but a fool. Make me wise, dear Lord, with the wisdom that comes from You. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen

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