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Monthly Devotional 8/2/17: You Win

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“Truly my soul waiteth – is silent – upon God: from Him cometh my salvation. My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.” (Psalm 62: 1 & 5)

CHESS GAME - FREE
photo courtesy of free-extras.com

Have you ever played chess?  Or maybe even checkers? Well, even if you haven’t, you’ve, no doubt seen others playing — even if only in a movie or television show. You know that the players — if they are serious about winning — make it a point to focus closely on the board. They are not only watching to see what their opponent’s going to do next, but they are thinking and laying out their own strategy. And most of the time, they are quiet. A lot of conversation or noise disrupts their concentration and can make a difference in their success.

Our scripture this month tells us that there are times when we need to be quiet and focus on God and what He has in mind for us. We sometimes find ourselves in the midst of an attack or a battle, and we knew that we don’t have the solution in ourselves — or in the world and its systems. And the truth is that we are rapidly coming into a time on this earth when the world has become so controlled by evil and demonic forces that all of the systems of the natural world offer us as much danger and possible harm as they do solutions of any kind.

But that’s okay, because we have a God who knows our every situation in detail — and who already had a plan to deliver us long before we got into the trouble. When we find ourselves overwhelmed by these situations, the Word tell us that we can always — always expect God to move on our behalf.  All we need to do is get into His Word, find out what He says about the problem, and focus our eyes and our hearts on Him expectantly, waiting in quietness and peace for Him to act. We wait silently — meaning we are not fuming, fretting, struggling, whining, complaining, or talking to scores of other people trying to figure out what to do. We wait quietly because “our expectation if from Him.”

So whatever problem you’re facing right now, find the promise relating to it in God’s Word and apply it to that problem. We do that by praying and confessing that Word with our own mouths. Then stand your ground, keeping your focus on God alone. Do not give up, no matter how long it’s taking, or how bad it looks, because when we’re in trouble, our God always has one more move to make. And when He makes His move, YOU WIN!

 

 

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What Is This Thing Called Salvation?

We shared this lesson last year on this site, but it is so important that we felt it would be a good idea to give it another bit of attention this year as well.

CROSS - PLAIN, THICK - QUESTS.
“Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature (Greek: new species); the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. … Therefore, we … beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).

“What’s it all about? This “being saved”? This being “born again”? What’s it all about? I just don’t understand it. And I could never get my life straightened out enough and cleaned up enough to fit in with Jesus Christ anyway.”

Ever felt that way? Have you ever felt that you might really like to turn your life over to someone stronger and wiser, who could get it straightened out and make some real sense out of it – give it some lasting purpose and value? But you just don’t think you measure up to God’s standards enough to come to Him?

Well, the good news – shouted loud and strong – in the scripture passage above is that you do not have to measure up to God’s standards – or anyone else’s. You don’t even have to get one little thing about yourself or your life made right before you come to God.

That’s right. I mean what I said. And I can say it with absolute confidence, because God Himself said it first. And He said it over and over again. The passage at the top of this article is just one instance, but, to me, it is one of the most important of those instances. I have two other favorite passages like it in importance: Romans 5:6: “Christ died for the ungodly.” 1 Tim. 1:15: “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

Now, of course, if you don’t think you need a savior – if you believe you are holy enough to live in the presence of the holy God of the universe, nose to nose, eye to eye, breathing the same air He breathes for all eternity, without being cleaned up at all – then I’m not talking to you. But if you realize that you are not on the level of that holy God – that you are not righteous and pure enough by your own merit to live with Him – then I am talking to you – and so is He!

The simple truth is that the work has already been done for you. Jesus did it all. He gave up the privileges of being on the throne of Heaven, came to this earth as a man, and lived a perfect life for you. Then God laid all of the sinful nature (to which you are heir) and all of the rebellion, disobedience, ugliness, and hatefulness of all the sin in the human race on Jesus (2 Cor. 5 21), and put all the punishment for that sin on Him as well. He bore it all for you, and after His death on your behalf, He came up out of the grave – also on your behalf – with eternal life and the right to bestow that new life on you. We have “been crucified with Christ,” (Gal. 2: 19-20) and “even when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ … and raised us up with Him.” (Eph. 2:5-6).

But when we decide we’d like to have that salvation and that new relationship with our Creator, we often hold back because we feel powerless to separate ourselves from sin or the world’s way of life – or even from our own selfish nature. We feel powerless to make ourselves “worthy” of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Well, if you feel that way, rejoice! Because that means you know the truth: We are powerless! But that is okay. Because the work of saving us is His – and His alone! And it’s already been done.

That’s what our beginning scripture is telling us. When God raised Jesus from the dead, He raised Him up as the head of a body – which would be made up of believers – everyone who would believe in that finished work. That’s what the verse in Ephesians means when it says He “raised us up with Him.” And that’s what the passage in 2 Corinthians means when it says that God was – in Christ – reconciling the world to Himself. That word reconcile means to bring back into original or proper position and make the relationship right again. That’s what the Word says God was doing when He crucified Jesus Christ and raised Him up again and seated Him in power and authority forever. He was bringing “the world” back into right relationship with Himself.

Now look at the rest of that verse: “not counting their sins against them.” Who is the pronoun “their” referring to in this verse? The church? The “good” people? The people who call themselves Christians? NO! The only plural noun in that whole verse that the pronoun “their” can refer to is the word “world.” Do you get it? God was – in Christ – not counting the world’s sins against them any longer. God was – in Christ (only in Christ) – forgiving all the people in the whole world for every sin counted against them. Can you grasp that exciting truth? In the mind and heart of God, it is already done. In the mind and heart of God, all of your sins are already forgiven – in Christ!

You see, that’s why there is no other way to salvation and eternity with God. There is no other religion, dogma, or program that has inherent within it the forgiveness of all sin and the eternal life granted by God. That forgiveness and that life are only in Christ – because He’s the only one who paid the horrible price of suffering and separation from God that was complete enough and perfect enough to buy freedom for the whole human race.

So, your next question is probably going to be, “Well if it’s already done, then what is my part?” Our part is believing and receiving. Even before Jesus’ crucifixion, when His disciples asked Him, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus told them, “This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He hath sent.” (John 6:28-29).

Now, I do need to explain that the word “believe” from the original language means much more than mental assent. It means “yielding or surrendering to and obeying.” To truly “believe” means that you give yourself to it completely. But that is the beauty of it all. We do not have to do the work of salvation. We just have to surrender to that work and let it produce its fruit in us. How do we surrender? We simply pour out our hearts to this great, loving Jesus, who has done all the work. We simply tell him in our own words that we know we need what He offers and gladly give Him control in our hearts and our lives. (That’s what it means to make Him our “Lord.”)

Once we totally surrender, Jesus comes to reign on the throne of our hearts. From that position, He can begin to clean up everything else about us that needs cleaning up. You need never fear. Once He has the position of authority, willingly given to him by you, He knows how – and is well able – to do the rest of the work.

So what about that term “born again”? Well, to start with, we must remember that man was created by a spirit God and, therefore, is a spirit being, having a soul and living in a body.  No go back to our original verse: “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature (Greek: new species).” When Jesus Christ comes in, our real man – the spirit man — is literally born again. A brand new species (the God-man species of Jesus Christ) comes in and generates its life in our spirit. Therefore, the Word tells us again and again that, once this happens, we are to be aware of the fact that we have become “children of God.” (Romans 8:16, 1 John 3:2).

Now all of this work is done – finished. In God’s heart and mind it’s a “done deal.” But remember: it is done ONLY IN CHRIST. Therefore, it is only when we make the decision to yield ourselves to Jesus Christ and receive Him into ourselves and our lives that we get the benefit of this finished work. Although it is done, if we choose not to access it, we get no results from it in our personal lives.

You might compare it to the process of getting data from the Internet. You know there is data out there covering the subject about which you need information. But that data will do you absolutely no good at all unless you sit down, turn on your computer, take yourself to that site, open up the channel, and deliberately download that information. So — you must open up yourself to Jesus Christ and all He has done for you, and by believing (yielding, surrendering) download every single bit of it. It’s all yours. It has your name on it. But you have to hit the download (I Believe) button to receive.

So what is salvation? It is the free gift of a loving Father who has paid the deepest, truest, most sacrificial price to restore His rebellious children to Himself. It is the free gift of the brother Jesus, who has given Himself in our place and paid the full price, receiving brand new life to pass on to each one of us. The work of salvation has absolutely nothing to do with us. Our only work is to believe what He has done and surrender to it.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17).     ♥

 

by Sandra Conner

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Monthly Devotional 7/12/17: Making God Happy

“I love those who love Me, and those who seek me diligently will find Me.” (Proverbs 8:17).

“For the Lord takes pleasure in His people.” (Psalm 149:4).

“The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.” (Psalm 147:11).

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There are a lot of religions in this world, and I’ve studied most of them. To my knowledge there is no religion — other than Christianity — that guarantees us an eternity of constant joy, freedom, and peace with our Creator unless we work at it and expend ourselves to earn it. All other religions require man to DO something to acquire the state of eternal bliss that we’d all like to look forward to. Some require more than others, but not one — other than Christianity — offers us that blessed eternity free.

Of course, in actual fact, Christianity is not really a “religion.” It’s simply a Father and His family. And since the eldest Brother of that family (Jesus) was willing to step down from His throne, come to earth and live a perfect life for every one of us, then go to the cross and pay the price for our rebellion and sin, all of the earning of salvation has been completed and is done. We are free to simply accept the finished work of Jesus on our behalf and receive Him as Lord of our lives. We don’t “work” for our salvation. We “accept” it as the free gift that it is. And once Jesus is truly Lord of our lives, suddenly doing the things that please the Father becomes a joy and delight — not an enforced duty.

And when we finally get to know the real God and our hearts yearn to make His heart happy, we find that there is very little on His list of what He’d like to have from us.

Here’s God’s list. Here are the 3 most important things that He wants from us.

1.  Love Him.

2.  Trust Him.

3.  Spend time with Him in conversation and fellowship.


No pain; no strain; just loving our Father and hangin’ out with Him.

Have a happy day making God happy today!

 

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Healing Through Praying in Tongues

 

CROSS & DOVE - GOSPELGIFS 2012 darkerMany people do not realize that the ability to pray in tongues is also a very valuable tool when seeking healing from the Lord. Of course, this gift comes with the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, because so many in the Body of Christ have been taught that the baptism in the Holy Spirit and tongues are not for today, those Christians do not have the opportunity to take advantage of this avenue to health.

It is not the purpose of this book to teach a lesson on tongues, so we will limit the explanation to the following: There are two different categories of tongues spoken of in the Word of God. One is the gift described in 1 Corinthians 12, which includes both tongues for personal prayer and for giving messages from the Lord in public meetings.

When used for giving public messages, the tongues must be accompanied by interpretation, and scripture explains that tongues used in that category are not necessarily available to everyone all the time. The gift of tongues for messages, along with the gift of interpretation are operated, like all the other nine gifts of the Spirit, and they are manifested only as the Spirit wills. The entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 14 gives detailed explanations of how these gifts should be used in public meetings.

However, the second category – tongues for personal use – is given to all believers and, whether or not those believers make use of this gift is entirely up to each person. We must be careful to understand that even if we do not find ourselves used to give public messages in tongues, we have Jesus’ word of promise that we will have access to tongues for personal prayer equally with every other believer. Mark 16:15-17 tells us clearly,

Now, the word translated in English as “tongues” is actually the Greek word which means “languages not learned through natural means.” So, in other words, a totally supernatural gift from the Lord that bypasses our intellect.

The Lord explains, through the words of St. Paul, in Romans 8:2-27, that often “we do not know how to pray as we should.” And, of course, many people, when they are suffering physically, find it hard to pray as effectively as they need to pray. But God has a solution to this problem, and verse 26 tells us that His Holy Spirit helps us pray through utterances too deep for words. (The literal Greek here says “groanings or utterances too deep for articulate speech.”)

St. Paul, through the Holy Spirit, goes on to tell us in 1 Corinthians 14:5 that he wishes we would all pray much in tongues. And he makes clear in verse 14 of that chapter that when we pray in tongues, our minds are not involved – only our spirits. It is true that our minds must make the decision to allow our spirit to be in charge of our prayer, so that we release our tongue to speak the utterances the Holy Spirit gives us, but other than making that decision of the will, the mind has no part to play. As a result of that fact, our own mind, our own lack of understanding of medical conditions, and our own fears are shut out, and our spirit – helped by the Holy Spirit – takes over our prayers.

But possibly one of the most exciting truths in this passage of Scripture is what we learn in verses 2 and 4 of chapter 14. Verse 2 tells us that when we pray in tongues, we speak mysteries to God. He can also speak mysteries back to us because He’s in charge of the language. We must do the actual physical speaking, but He provides what’s being said in the sounds we make. But since we’re speaking mysteries, not only does our un-renewed mind stay out of the picture, but so does the enemy of our souls, because he can’t understand what we’re saying either.

But wait: It still gets better. Verse 4 tells us that the one who prays in tongues edifies himself. Now, most people consider that verse to mean that we build ourselves up spiritually. And, of course, we do, but that’s not the total benefit. The word translated “edify” means “to build or repair the house.” Now, let that sink in: your spirit is praying (with the language provided by the Holy Spirit), and that prayer is building/repairing your spirit’s house. And what is that house? That’s right – it’s your physical body. A number of Christians have learned that healing – especially for seriously troubling or obstinate maladies – can come successfully through praying in tongues. I know of situations where nothing else seemed to bring the desired manifestation, but praying at length in the language given by the Holy Spirit accomplished the work and brought forth the miracle.

As we’ve said each time we’ve discussed one of the means of healing that God prescribes in His Word, these means and these practices are not formulas. They do not work because we follow a list of ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s. They are each an avenue that God has provided to get His healing power into us, and they work successfully when we dig into the Word and prayer and let God lead us to the specific means that is right for each of our situations at that particular time.


* Excerpt from Healing Is For You! by Sandra Pavloff Conner


Graphic: © Jim Sutton @ gospelgifs.com

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Wait Three Days

“Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord.”     (Psalm 27:14)

FLOWERS UNDER UMBRELLAAs Ben left his office in lower Manhattan, he followed the usual pattern for Friday and stopped by the little flower stand on the corner to pick up a bouquet for his wife. The stand was unpretentious, and the lady who operated it a study in contrasts of human nature. Elderly, frail looking, shabbily dressed, and yet, a pleasant personality with a perennial smile.

Although Ben had stopped by the stand of the “flower lady” every Friday for months, he had never taken the time to talk to her beyond making his selection. But this time was different; something prompted him to comment.

“Every time I come by here you seem to be happy.”

“Sure, why not? Everything is good,” she replied.

“Well, you mean you don’t have any troubles?”

“Oh yes, just like that man walking over there, and you, and everybody, I have troubles. But when trouble comes, I just think about Jesus and Good Friday.”

“What do you mean?” Ben asked, somewhat puzzled.

“Jesus was crucified on Good Friday, the worst day in the world. But after three days came the greatest day in the world … Resurrection. Jesus rose from the dead and everything was OK. So, when I have trouble I tell Jesus about it, wait three days, and everything always turns out OK for me too.”

Interesting philosophy … “Tell Jesus then wait three days.”

But there is a dilemma here; we are part of a “want-it-now” society that will not wait any length of time for anything. Even the most elementary student of the Word cannot help but notice that our God is just the opposite. He is organized, deliberate, extremely patient, on time, and always successful. Have you ever wondered about the death and resurrection of Jesus, and why the climax of that earthshaking event had to wait until the third day? He died on Good Friday; why didn’t God the Father bring Him out of the tomb the next morning … or even late Friday night?

We must remember that when Jesus died on the cross, only His physical body experienced the phenomena of death. His Spirit lived on and continued to function in the Father’s business. His Father had much for Him to do during the period described as “three days and three nights.”

He told the repentant thief, “Today, you shall be with me in Paradise.” Here is solid indication that upon His Spirit’s separation from His body, at the instant of death – on that day (today), He traveled to Abraham’s Bosom … Paradise, where all the faithful saints of old were peacefully awaiting that moment of fulfillment. They had believed the prophets and anxiously anticipated the coming of the Anointed One, but fell asleep in death before the appointed time. Can you imagine the excitement among those joyful souls, as they saw with their own eyes the vindication of their faithfulness? Then, the Risen One completely emptied Paradise and escorted all of the jubilant saints to heaven. Just think, they will be seated with us at the great wedding feast.

Now, on to the next job.

In 1 Peter 3:18, we are told that His body (flesh) was put to death, but He was alive in the Spirit and (in the Spirit) went to proclaim His victory to the spirits kept in prison. Those who rejected the message of God’s spokesmen, and (v.20) who thumbed their noses at Noah, as the Creator waited patiently for them to repent. All of the deceased unbelievers, now in Hades – the place of torment — saw the Messiah as He presented Himself as a proclamation of His eternal victory and proof that God’s Word was and is true!

And now, one final detail before Sunday morning. Our Lord faced Satan, himself, toe to toe. Undoubtedly the devil thought he had Him, and probably summoned every demon he had to join him in trying to keep the King of Kings in hell. Now, Satan is not stupid, but he does stupid things, and this act ranks as his dumbest move since his rebellion.

In a flash of divine power, Jesus stripped the evil one of every vestige of authority, and as an act of totally disarming him and his hordes forever, snatched the keys of death and the grave from his grip. Satan and his cast fell back in cringing fear, and could not stop the Messiah as he blasted out of the confines of hell and in a flash, returned to His body in the tomb.

And not a moment too soon, for dawn was about to streak across the Jerusalem sky. The Resurrection power of the Holy Spirit was dispatched by God the Father, and Christ the Anointed One, came forth out of the tomb in His glorified body … the First Fruit of many to follow!

It was the third day!

Hallelujah!

Wait three days …

There is a message here that has eluded us far too long: “Wait three days” or “wait until the third day” are simply metaphors for “waiting upon the Lord.” If Almighty God, Creator of all, had reason to wait three days before He brought His Son forth from the tomb, why can’t we trust Him to answer our prayers regardless of the time span? His Word assures us that He is faithful — that our prayers in faith that line up with His will (His Word) are heard and will be answered.

Sometimes the answer comes immediately. At other times, for reasons only He may know, the answer does not manifest until “the third day.”

Listen to the “flower lady.” In faith, tell Jesus about your situation; then wait three days! He has promised everything will be OK!


by Ted Pavloff

 

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