Monthly Archives: October 2014

Overcoming Discouragement


Dealing with discouragement wide t nv

Have you ever felt discouraged, perhaps to the point of bordering on depression?  It may surprise you to know that you are not alone.  At one time or another we all face this problem.  

William Ward graphically described discouragement when he wrote: 

“Discouragement is dissatisfaction with the past, distaste for the present, and distrust of the future.
It is ingratitude for the blessings of yesterday, indifference to the opportunities of today, and insecurity regarding strength for tomorrow.
It is unawareness of the presence of beauty, unconcern for the needs of our fellowman, and unbelief in the promises of old.
It is impatience with time, immaturity of thought, and impoliteness to God.”

Amy Carmicheal was a single missionary lady who served in India for over 50 years.  She wrote a book entitled, “Learning of God.”  Consider her comments on discouragement in the life of a Christian:

“Everywhere the perpetual endeavor of the enemy of souls is to discourage. If he can get the soul “under the weather,” he wins. It is not really what we go through that matters, it is what we go under that breaks us. We can bear anything if only we are kept inwardly victorious…

If God can make His birds to whistle in drenched and stormy darkness, if He can make His butterflies able to bear up under rain, what can He not do for the heart that trusts Him?”

Each of us battle with this “demon of discouragement” at one time or another.  Let us learn from Scripture how to deal with the problem and how to overcome it for God’s glory. 

2Cor. 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

The Attack Continues…


truth how do you know_wide_t_nv

The Pharisees therefore said to Him, “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.”

Why does John keep talking about the opposition to Christ?

By the time you get to Chapter 8 this continued attacks on Jesus seems monotonous until you realize what the Pharisees are doing.

When a guilty party (Pharisees) wants to remove the influence of a witness (Christ) against them, there are three options they can resort to discredit him:

  1. They can kill the witness. (Attempted in chapter 7)
  2. They can discredit the witness. (Attempted in chapter 8:1-11)
  3. They can have the witness thrown out on a technicality. This is their plan in today’s text.

So what were the Pharisees referring to when they claimed Christ’s witness of Himself was invalid?

They were referring to Deuteronomy 19:15 “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.”

This law was specifically designed for cases where one person had something against another.  Over the years however, this law had been interpreted by the Jews to mean that no testimony anywhere could be trusted unless two or three people agreed to it.

Many times people discount Christ’s statement that He is God because it does not line up with their way of thinking.

The methods  the world uses to evaluates truth, truth can never be known.  They have no basis for making a decision. Many end up becoming agnostic. An Agnostic concludes that if there is a God He is unknown and unknowable.

Christ’s answer for the source of His authority is vitally important for all of us. Christ answers in three ways:

Christ’s testimony is authoritative. (14)

John 8:14 Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going.

Only God can testify of Himself, no man is an authority on God. We can know nothing about God that we are not told in the Word (Heb. 1:1).
Christ has revealed enough for us to believe Him in faith. What we need to know in heaven will be revealed there. But we will never know all as God does.

Christ’s testimony is impartial. (15-16)

John 8:15–16 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me.

The Pharisees based their decisions on the flesh, the things that make a man – reason, intellect, logic.

  • These are often flawed.
  • These are often sinful.

Christ’s judgments are based on something much higher
His judgements are always right. They are always sinless.

Christ’s testimony was verified (17-18)

God the Father gives the following witnesses:

  • John the Baptist (5:33-34)
  • Christ’s signs (5:36)
  • OT Scriptures (5:39-47)

Christ changes the wording of the law from “witnesses” (Deut. 19:15) to “man” (17) emphasizing again God’s eternal viewpoint vs. man’s earthly view.

No one has the knowledge to challenge the testimony of Christ. He speaks what He knows!  We must either trust and follow Him or distrust and try and figure it out with our own limited knowledge.

So what does all this mean to us?

We cannot trust our own judgement of spiritual things. We don’t know enough. We can’t attempt to compare our finite minds to His infinite mind.

Proverbs 3:5–6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

Consider what these verses are saying to us:

  • Lean – rest, depend
  • own understanding – what we would trust if not Christ
  • all your ways – everything now has a new purpose
  • acknowledge Him – He is in control
  • direct your paths – note it begins with trust, then direction (it cannot work the other way around).

Trust Christ’s word completely – for who He says He is. There will be things we don’t understand. There will be things we may not agree with. There may be things we wish we could change, but if Christ is God, He is the One who knows what is best.

2 Corinthians 10:5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,

If His word is true, we must acknowledge our own sinfulness, accept the salvation He offers, and follow Him as Lord.

R.A. Torrey once challenged an agnostic (a person who does not know if God exists) to make an honest search to see if Jesus was the Son of God.  If confirmed Torrey challenged the man to accept Him. Torrey told him he would need to pray and ask God to help him find the truth (in case God did exist). In addition, because Jn. 20:31 said there was proof that Christ was God, this man needed to read the proof from John as part of his search. The man agreed, but was confident that he would now be convinced. When Torrey came back from traveling a few weeks later, the man had been convinced and wondered how he had ever believed anything different. (Boice)

Where are you? Are you caught in the middle of a decision about Christ?

Are you wondering if God exists? Do you really want to know?

Honestly pray and ask to be shown. Read and understand John’s account. This can be your story if you will honestly examine the evidence.

Blessed To Be A Blessing


Blessed To Be A Blessing 001
 
Have you been blessed by God?  
 
If you are a Christian and think for a moment I’m sure your answer to that question would have to be “yes.”  
 
Did you know that you were blessed to be a blessing?  Recently I read again of God’s call to Abraham to leave his hometown, his familiar life and family and travel to a land where God would show him.  Abraham moved out at the promise of God and headed for what would be the land of Canaan (See Genesis 12).  He would never again live in a beautiful city but would finish out his days in a tent. 
 
Abraham believed the promise of God that He would bless him with a land and make of him a great nation.
 
But God blessed Abraham so that he in turn would be a blessing to others.  In fact God’s blessing was not only for Abraham but through Abraham came Jesus Christ our Savior.  Even you and I some 5000 years after Abraham are still reaping the benefits of God’s blessing on Abraham. 
 
Isn’t that the way it is to be in our lives?  
 
God blesses us with His protection, His power, His possessions, His presence, His talents and gifts… not so that we can hoard these things for only our own enjoyment, but so that we might be a blessing to others.
 
Remember, we are blessed to be a blessing!  Are you living to be a blessing to others?  

The Compassionate Forgiver


forgiveness_wide_t_nv

In our text John 8:1-12 we read of a woman caught in an adulterous relationship who is dragged to Christ.  Through this story we see Christ revealed as the Compassionate Forgiver!

We all need to  receive that forgiveness that only He can offer.

In these verses we will discover five attitudes that unlock for us God’s response to man’s sin, and man’s response to Christ!

The attitude of Christ toward the people teaches us that Christ will gladly teach those who desire to learn. (1)

Christ got up early in the morning to go to the temple to teach people who wanted to learn.   All those who want to learn the truth will be instructed by Christ.  If you come to Him with an open heart, Christ will instruct you too!

The attitude of the people to Christ teaches us that Believers show a genuine hunger for more truth despite the world’s opinions. (2)

The people who wanted to learn came to HIm. If we would learn, we must do the same. Blessings await those who desire God.

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
John 7:37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.

We can illustrate the truth this way: You may say that you trust a chair will hold you up, but that faith is not real until you act upon it by actually sitting in the chair. Trust is to put your entire weight upon it!

Matthew 11:28–30  Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

To come and sit at the feet of Christ and willingly obey means you have made a choice to trust Him.

Here is an illustration that helps us understand what we are talking about:  In India, when a wild elephant needs to be trained, it is yoked to a bigger trained elephant. The wild elephant learns what is expected because of the yoke. When we enter the yoke with Christ, He will teach us. Our part is to enter the yoke and follow His lead.  He will take the load we are pulling.

The Attitude of the Jews toward Christ teaches us that unbelievers attack the truth when they choose not to trust it. (3-6)

The Pharisees set out to entrap this woman, so that they could trap Jesus.  Their question was a set-up! While Jesus is spending the night on the Mount of Olives praying, the Pharisees are “peeping through keyholes” trying to find someone they could use to trap Jesus!  These religious leaders are not the kind of people you want to rely upon for compassionate forgiveness!

The OT Law demanded stoning as the punishment for an engaged person who is unfaithful with another person before marriage.  The punishment is same for both the man and the woman, but where here the Pharisees do not bring the offending man, only the woman. This punishment wis wha Joseph wanted to avoid when he determined to put Mary away privately (when she was carrying Christ (Matt. 1:19).

It is clear that these religious leaders did not desire justice, they only wanted to see Christ discredited. If Christ refused to affirm the law of Moses, He would be discredited. If He upheld the Law, he would be in direct violation of the law of ruling Roman government (Jn. 18:31).

Under Rabbinic law it was nearly impossible to secure a death penalty in a case of adultery. There had to be witnesses — two or three of them — and these witnesses had to observe, not merely a compromising situation but the very act of adultery. Moreover, in their testimony they had all must agree about every particular.

The reaction these Pharisees had toward Christ is also seen today in the way people reject Christ by reacting against His image in believers.

Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

The attitude of Christ toward the Pharisees teaches us that Christ focuses on the heart. (6-9)

According to the OT Law, the witnesses must cast the first stone (Deut. 17:2-7). This response of Christ forced these men to consider their own hearts!  Sinful actions are wrong, but all sins of action come from a heart dominated by sin. That is Christ’s focus here! The accusers were no more righteous than the woman they were accussing.  This did not make her sin less sinful, but it did convict them that they too were guilty!

Matthew 15:18–20 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man.

The Attitude of Christ toward the Woman teaches us that Christ offers compassionate forgiveness to those who acknowledge their failure. (10-11)

A man was walking on the road in the dark and a passing car splashed water all over him. When he reached the streetlight he was able to see what a mess he was and knew he could not continue on. He chose instead to go home and change clothes. Next week we will see Christ as the Light of the World. He is the “streetlight”! His light reveals the conditionhearts. Our problem is that we don’t have any other “clothes,” no good nature of our own at “home.”

The woman knew she did not have a solution! The Pharisees on the other hand thought they did. She stayed to get help. They left relying on their own righteousness. She received help, they remained lost in sin.  Which one are you?

“Jesus’ attitude provided both the motivation and the assurance she needed.”

The Attitude of the Woman to Christ teaches us that respectful obedience must characterize our response to Christ’s compassionate forgiveness. (11)

She called Christ “Lord,” the relationship of slave to Master. What He told her to do, she did. “The Son of God refused to press the issue. Her sin was not just set aside; soon Jesus would pay the penalty for both the woman and her accusers.”

“Forgiveness rests upon the Lord’s grace. Salvation does not come from suffering; it comes from grace — from the suffering and death of Jesus on our behalf.”

This same Jesus offers forgiveness today to whose sins equal that of the woman or that of the Pharisees. And not only forgiveness for initial salvation but also for daily sins of anger, disobedience, envy, greed, and the judgmental character shown by the Pharisees which gave birth to this episode.

Click the link for a pdf download of Compassionate Forgiver

Sources:

Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (p. 608). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Tenney, M. C. (1981). John. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John and Acts (Vol. 9, p. 91). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Gangel, K. O. (2000). John (Vol. 4, p. 160). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

The Pleasure of Thorns


Pleasure of Thorns.001

In my devotions this morning I came across notes I had written in the margin some time ago that challenged and encouraged me.  I wanted to give them to you in writing for your personal meditation.

In 2 Corinthians 12.7-10 Paul writes this concerning what he refers to as a thorn in the flesh:

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “ My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul had a problem, He referred to it as a thorn in the flesh (7)

Paul had a problem and it was painful!

Was it a physical problem? Probably!  But it was more than that. Paul’s problem was most certainly spiritual as well.  It was something used by Satan to beat him up.  Does this not speak of Satan bringing spiritual discouragement to Paul?

Paul came to God with a petition – Remove the thorn (8)

Paul pleads with God earnestly in prayer on multiple occasions to remove this thorn.  He wanted to get away from it.  He longed to not have to deal with it any longer, so he came to God.  It was too much, the pain ran too deep!  Paul longed for relief and felt that the relief he needed was to have the painful situation removed by God.

Paul would experience spiritual power – Because of the thorn (9)

God reminded Paul that His grace was abundantly sufficient for him in the midst of the pain!  Imagine a little mouse at the base of Victoria Falls wringing his little paws as he frets that there might not be enough water for him and his little friends.  You can hear the roar of Victoria Falls saying, “Drink your fill little mouse, my water is sufficient for you!”

God also revealed to Paul that it was because of the thorn that God allowed to remain in his flesh that the power of God could fully rest upon Him.  It was  through the thorn that the power of God would rest upon His ministry.

Only when Paul understood God’s purpose could he take pleasure – In the thorn (10)

With God’s perspective Paul’s praying changed!  Paul’s outlook changed!  He could take pleasure in the thorn that had caused him such pain!

Paul came to understand that it was through this weakness that he would experience God’s strength.

Paul’s circumstances did not change from verse7 to verse 10.  What changed was Paul’s understanding of God’s purposes and thus Paul’s relationship to those circumstances also changed.

Your thorn is of God’s own choosing and is different for each one of us.  Those who would be greatly used of God and remain humble must bear some type of thorn.

God keeps us weak so that His strength and power might be fully poured out in us and through us.  As you understand God’s greater purpose you can embrace your thorn with joy that the power of God may rest upon you!

Christian, remember that God’s grace is sufficient for you in whatever painful circumstance you are facing today!  Lean hard into Christ and draw from Him that all-sufficient grace!

Christ is God


Believe.001

In John chapter 7 John submits evidence again that Christ is God by showing the connection between Christ and God’s plan, God’s message, God’s work, and God’s answer to man’s need.

Our stage for the scene recorded in John 7 is Jerusalem. Six months have passed since Jesus multiplied the little boy’s lunch and fed the 5000. It is the Feast of Tabernacles, a celebration that all Jewish males were required to keep.

As we read this chapter it is clear that a major theme is the efforts of the Jewish leaders to kill Jesus.  They were not successful at this time and I believe that one reason John records these events in chapter seven is to show that when Christ did enter Jerusalem to die in chapter 12, it was an intentional act on Christ’s part.

Christ followed God’s plan. (3-8)

God’s ways are not our ways.

It made logical sense to the brothers to encourage Christ to get more exposure. They thought Christ was trying to expand His influence, though they did not believe His message. They missed Christ’s overall purpose: to redeem man from sin.

  • It was not time for Christ to die by publicly entering Jerusalem.
  • He obeyed the Mosaic law and went, but without the publicity.
  • The world hates Christ because He reveals where they are wrong.

Only when a person accepts that Christ is God do they acknowledge that He has the right to tell them what is wrong with the way they live. Either people acknowledge Christ is God or they deny Him. People either they admit He has the right to say what is right and wrong about life, or they reject his right to make this decision.

It is not Christ’s actions that stop belief, it is rejection of who He is.
The use of Christ’s “time,” referring to the time of His death, is used 5 times in John (cf. 2:4; 8:20, 59; 10:39; 12:36). Christ had an appointed time to die, the timing of the deaths of everyone else is not restricted like Christ’s was. Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,

No matter what the world said, no matter what family said, Christ put God and His plan above all of that. We must do the same.

Christ spoke God’s message (11-19)

The Jewish leaders were waiting to arrest Christ but could not find Him. The people reacted as they believed, though they feared the leaders (11-12).

Christ openly taught in the temple (14-16). Fear did not control Christ’s agenda.  One might think that Christ was afraid of the Jews because He did not travel with His family. His reason for not traveling with His family was that He was following God’s plan not conforming to the expectations of others.

Desire determines understanding, “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine” (17).

Jewish doctrine was careful to make sure that no one used their own authority. Though Christ could have used His own authority, being God, He pointed back to His Father that the people claimed to believe in.

Self-seeking discredits the message (18-19).  The Jews were silent at this rebuke, in fact they do not speak to Christ again in this chapter.

Christ did God’s Work (20-36)

Ignorance of the situation (20-24)

He speaks to the people to remind them of why the Jewish leaders wanted to kill him: the healing of the lame man in chapter 5.

He clarifies the issue for people who are afraid of the Jewish leaders – vs. 13

The people confused the truth with tradition. The tradition was that the Messiah would appear and no one would know where He came from. The truth in the Scriptures was much different.

He declared again He was coming on behalf of God.  We don’t know what it looked like when people tried to take Him and could not, but the people could not touch Him because He was in control – He is God.

Some believe because they saw the significance of the signs. Finally someone is thinking and realize that the signs point to the origin of the power.

When the Jews sent people to arrest Jesus, He responds to those attempting to take Him (33-34),  Christ was to die about six months later, but this was not God’s time.  There is an indication from John that there will be a time when those who refused to believe will be looking for him but they won’t be able to find Him, they cannot get to Him.

The same is true today!  “Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6)

Christ is God’s Answer (37-44)

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. (John 7:37)

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price. (Isaiah 55:1)

“In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.” (Zechariah 13:1)

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” (John 7:38-40 )

Some had come to the wrong conclusion (40)

Some had embraced the truth (41)

Some were distracted from the truth by wrong information (41)

Which one of these categories do you fall into?

Christ is God (45-53)

Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why have you not brought Him?”  The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this Man!”  Then the Pharisees answered them, “Are you also deceived?  Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him?  But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” (John 7:45-49)

Even Christ’s enemies knew He was God (45-46)

The pride of the Pharisees kept them from believing (47-49)

Anyone speaking the truth was also rejected (50-53)

Christ works out God’s plan, He speaks God’s message, He does God’s work, He is God’s Answer, all because Jesus Christ is God! Believing in Him gives eternal life. (Jn. 20:31)

Download pdf notes for Christ is God