Guest Post: Do Not Be Like the Gentiles

I touched on this topic when teaching in Romans 8:

Romans 8:26-27 In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Note how this couplet starts out – in the same way the Spirit also joins to help. In what same way does the Spirit help us? In verse 26 we read that He helps us when we are too weak and ignorant to know how to pray. This opening phrase must refer to what was just previously written, so we can rightly conclude that the Spirit of God helps to wait eagerly with patience. If we think we can do those things, we think too highly of ourselves and forget the flat teaching of Jesus – that apart from Him we can do NOTHING. There is no wiggle room in that statement. This goes hand-in-hand with the familiar verse in Philippians 2:13 – for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
As the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness to eagerly look for the return of Christ while waiting patiently for Him, He helps us pray – because we do not know what to pray for as we should. There are various translations of this phrase and the most agreement is that we do not what we should pray for – we lack the wisdom to know what we should pray for. Now I submit that far too often we are simply lazy. I tell you it grieves my soul that so many churches pray for one another in trite ways (bless those on the prayer list for you know their needs) for many secondary things (99% of all prayers are for physical needs). It is NOT wrong to pray for another’s physical needs, but are there no spiritual needs in the lives of God’s children? Have we all arrived and have no impatience or rebellion in our hearts? Do we not care enough for people we know who are suffering in myriad ways to actually go before God with their names on our lips? These are things about which we know to pray. The Spirit helps with what we do not know. And when we are truly at the end of ourselves and know not what to pray, then the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with unspoken groaning that we do not comprehend. There will always be times we know not what to pray for, we will always be dependent upon God for grace in this age. When are we not faced with the infinite distance between us and God?

This brother sheds more light on the topic. Very good read.

The Domain for Truth

This is a guest post from our dear friend Michael Coughlin.

Matthew 7:1 (and other passages) instructs Christians to judge with righteous judgment and not hypocritically. The essence is this – be careful as you point out sin in another making sure you yourself are not committing the same error.

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When Life Troubles You

The wise king, Solomon, in the Proverbs asks these questions –

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?”

We understand that he is speaking of one who tarries long at the wine and imbibes in strong drink. The warning is decidedly present to avoid that which causes you to lose your self-control.

But did these questions ever come to Solomon’s heart when he simply lived out his life from day to day? Were there days when he gazed upon his face, like his father before him, and wonder why his pillow was wet with his tears through the night?

Yet, there are days when the struggles are so real that you do not know what to say to another. Your heart is pained and the woe and sorrow seems to multiply to the point where you feel as though you would be overwhelmed like the banks of the Jordan during its peak season.

The words of Solomon reflect that these words must have meant more to him when we find him at the end of life’s battles. Listen to the words of The Preacher found in Ecclesiastes 2:3; 5:18, and in 6:12.

“3 I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine–my heart still guiding me with wisdom–and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.”

“18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.”

“12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?”

Can you feel his pain? Here is a man who had anything and everything a human could need or want in life, but it was all vanity. Life was coming to a close for him and he realized that his struggles were very real. How many days and nights must he have recognized strife or seen the redness in his eyes from weeping? Must he have wondered if such struggles were even necessary? Surely, there could have been no thought in his mind that he was the only one who ever faced struggles. But the struggles he had were peculiar to him and the only person who ever fully understood Solomon was the God who created him.

But, were there days he looked deep within his soul and found, as Martin Luther called it, the black dog of depression staring back at him? He faced, just as we do, the face of reality and sometimes it produces wounds that seem as though they are without cause. Ultimately, we know that the wounds are caused because of sin and having to deal with the remnants of the old nature, but that does not make going through them any easier. Human beings are fickle and we like to know we are loved, cared for, and surrounded by others who can understand our struggles.

What of those times when it seems as though the heart will shatter in pieces? Yes, we can even find ourselves not knowing how or what we should pray. At those times, the apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf when there is nothing but groans coming from the heart.

The daily battles are real though. We are forced to deal with people who do not have God at the center of their lives. This becomes painfully apparent when you take the time to listen to the words and music that pours from their lips and the speakers of your workplace. Brothers and sisters, it is mind-numbing. Then, we must gather the pieces of our soul and go home to find a family that wants to be loved. They want to know that you are there to help protect them, but the task can seem overwhelming and even, at times, impossible.

Words and thoughts that are grieving to the Holy Spirit rise unbidden. It is all you can do to swallow the bile in your throat as you realize again and again and again that if it was not for the grace of God that you would be right where others are. Lost, apart from the tender mercies of God, and even more bereft of hope.

The 21st century is a ponderous time, and this is certainly true for those who are true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. We face an uncertain future in a world that hates Christ and His followers. The followers of which I speak are those who have been given the ability to be overcomers as we find in 1 John 5.

True Christians struggle to even find hope in their fellowship with other believers for it has been demeaned to match the pop culture so prevalent in America. Scattered among the heathen found in the pews of Sunday worshipers are those whose hearts wonder if there is more. Is there more to life? Is there more to our worship? Must we engage with the forces of evil all through the week only to have to deal with the same mundane fluff that is called worship every Sunday?

Our churches are to be hospitals for the wounded and dying, but we have reduced them to places where we can get our “God” fix for the next week or two. The ears are filled with the praise of man and not the praise of God. Trivial worship has made for trivial lives. Trivial messages have built the self-esteem of man to the point where we think we are invincible and have little need of God. We are thinking of ourselves so highly that when our world crashes down around us that we first turn inward for truth and find nothing but the sad strain of more woes, strife, and contentions.

Life is a journey of battles and as Job stated, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble (14:1).”

Is there any wonder that we who know Christ long for more than what we find? Our eyes are red because the hope we have in what we thought we could produce or find in life has been nothing but vanity of vanities. The corporate ladder we sought to climb is built with straw rungs. The closeness of family has become little more than a dream as disrespect for parents has been the new calling card of the Millennial generation.

Children of the 21st century think they are owed the world on a platter. Sadly, like Solomon, we may find that we have been raising a Rehoboam, or that we have one who is like an Absalom to his parents.

Sometimes, the fellowship of friendships can drift apart through no reason than that life has gotten in the way. For those who are true believers, we can be assured that God brings people into our lives to be a blessing and so that we can be a blessing to them. But what happens when we depend on the friendship more than we seem to depend on the One Who alone will never leave us or forsake us?

All of these things can cause redness of eyes and wounds to the heart because life is troubling. Life deals out blows and they can even cause us to buckle. But is that such a bad thing? When we have finally come to our senses and realize that the only way we can look is up then we are in the right place. Overcoming wounds of the heart will never be easy in this life, but we can grow stronger through those wounds.

When the wounds are deep and the nights are long, those are the times that we must look to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is upon Him that we must cast our burdens because He is the One Who cares for us. The troubles of life will come and they will go like the tides of the ocean, but we must cry to the Master of the Sea when we feel that our ship is sinking.

My prayer is that these words are an encouragement to needy hearts. You are not alone in this world. Other brothers and sisters face their own battles. The contentions of their life may not be what you struggle with, but they are just as real. However, this life will soon be over and only what is done for Christ will last. If you are down, allow your eyes to gaze upon the sweet face of the Savior. Allow your heart and mind to be lost in the wonder that He loves you with an infinite love and there is nothing that can separate you from that love – EVER!

That last paragraph is enough to help me refocus my thoughts, even when I do not understand what is happening or why it is happening. Ultimately, when I regain my focus on that which is eternal, I will remember the joy that will belong to every believer as one day we bow the knee before the King of all the ages on His throne. We will bow with adoration and simply proclaim that these were but light afflictions.

Who Are The Christians?

The following description of a peculiar people comes from a book written in the second century, entitled, Epistola ad Diognetum. It is quoted by John T. Christian in his History of the Baptists, in a description of what the people of God looked like in their environment. Can it be said of you and I that we are so distinctive in our towns?

The Christians are not distinguished from other men by country, by language, nor by civil institutions. For they neither dwell in cities by themselves, nor use a peculiar tongue, nor lead a singular mode of life. They dwell in the Grecian or barbarian cities, as the case may be; they follow the usages of the country in dress, food, and the other affairs of life. Yet they present a wonderful and confessedly paradoxical conduct They dwell in their own native lands, but as strangers. They take part in all things, as citizens; and they suffer all things, as foreigners. Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every native land is a foreign. They marry, like all others; they have children; but they do not cast away their offsprings. They have the table in common, but not wives. They are in the flesh, but do not live after the flesh. They live upon the earth, but are citizens of heaven. They obey the existing laws, and excel the laws by their lives. They love all, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown, and yet they are condemned. They are killed and made alive. They are poor and make many rich. They lack all things, and in all things abound. They are reproached, and glory in their reproaches. They are calumniated, and are justified. They are cursed, and they bless. They receive scorn, and they give honor. They do good, and are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice, as being made alive. By the Jews they are attacked as aliens, and by the Greeks persecuted; and the cause of the enmity their enemies cannot tell. In short, what the soul is to the body, the Christians are in the world. The soul is diffused through all the members of the body, and the Christians are spread through the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, but it is not of the body; so the Christians dwell in the world, but are not of the world. The soul, invisible, keeps watch in the visible body; so also the Christians are seen to live in the world, for their piety is invisible. The flesh hates and wars against the soul; suffering no wrong from it, but because it resists fleshly pleasures; and the world hates the Christians with no reason, but they resist its pleasures. The soul loves the flesh and members, by which it is hated; so the Christians love their haters. The soul is enclosed in the body. but holds the body together; so the Christians are detained in the world as in a prison; but they contain the world. Immortal, the soul dwells in the mortal body; so the Christians dwell in the corruptible, but look for incorruption in heaven. The soul is the better for restriction in food and drink; and the Christians increase, though daily punished. This lot God has assigned to the Christians in the world; and it cannot be taken from them. 

(Epist. Ad Diognetum, C. 5 and 6 p.69 sq. Otto. Lips., 1852).

Devotional with Charles Spurgeon

February 2

“Without the shedding of blood is no remission.” — Heb 9:22

This is the voice of unalterable truth. In none of the Jewish ceremonies were sins, even typically, removed without blood-shedding. In no case, by no means can sin be pardoned without atonement. It is clear, then, that there is no hope for me out of Christ; for there is no other blood-shedding which is worth a thought as an atonement for sin.

Am I, then, believing in him? Is the blood of his atonement truly applied to my soul? All men are on a level as to their need of him. If we be never so moral, generous, amiable, or patriotic, the rule will not be altered to make an exception for us. Sin will yield to nothing less potent than the blood of him whom God hath set forth as a propitiation. What a blessing that there is the one way of pardon! Why should we seek another?

bloodatonement

Persons of merely formal religion cannot understand how we can rejoice that all our sins are forgiven us for Christ’s sake. Their works, and prayers, and ceremonies, give them very poor comfort; and well may they be uneasy, for they are neglecting the one great salvation, and endeavouring to get remission without blood.

My soul, sit down, and behold the justice of God as bound to punish sin; see that punishment all executed upon thy Lord Jesus, and fall down in humble joy, and kiss the dear feet of him whose blood has made atonement for thee. It is in vain when conscience is aroused to fly to feelings and evidences for comfort: this is a habit which we learned in the Egypt of our legal bondage. The only restorative for a guilty conscience is a sight of Jesus suffering on the cross. “The blood is the life thereof,” says the Levitical law, and let us rest assured that it is the life of faith and joy and every other holy grace.

“Oh! how sweet to view the flowing
Of my Saviour’s precious blood;
With divine assurance knowing
He has made my peace with God.”

The Awe-Full Psalm

A dear friend and brother in Christ wrote this recently. It is a wonderful reminder of how awesome is our God and how much we have to be thankful for, regardless of our station or circumstances in this age.

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My favorite hymn is, “How Sweet and Aweful is the Place” written by Issac Watts. Some modern versions use alternate words like awesome, awe-filled, or sacred, but the word was originally used in a way that literally meant, “full of awe.”

This hymn paints a picture of God’s elect worshipping Him in spirit and in truth, something we also see portrayed in Psalm 118. Take a look at them in parallel:

How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Oh let Israel say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Oh let the house of Aaron say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Oh let those who fear the Lord say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (Psalm 118:1-4)

The everlasting love of God has been shown to His people since Eden. All those who fear the Lord, regardless every generation, find solace in Christ alone.


While all our hearts and all our songs
Join 
to admire the feast,
Each of us 
cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?”

From my distress I called upon the Lord;
The Lord answered me and set me in a large place.
The Lord is for me; I will not fear;
What can man do to me?
The Lord is for me among those who help me;
Therefore I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
Than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
Than to trust in princes. (Psalm 118:5-9)

Dining with rulers is hard enough, but having a seat at the Lord’s table? How much better is that refuge than trusting in man, his princes, or temporal promises?


“Why was I made to hear thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”

All nations surrounded me;
In the name of the 
Lord I will surely cut them off.
They surrounded me, yes, they surrounded me;
In the name of the 
Lord I will surely cut them off.
They surrounded me like bees;
They were extinguished as a fire of thorns;
In the name of the 
Lord I will surely cut them off.
You pushed me violently so that I was falling,
But the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation. (Psalm 118:10-14)

Salvation only comes through the Lord, yet we do not call to Him on our own. We were among the wretched who looked to God’s people with disdain! Why, oh why, did God choose to save us from that state of pure rebellion against Him?


‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.

The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous;
The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
The right hand of the Lord is exalted;
The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
I will not die, but live,
And tell of the works of the Lord.
The Lord has disciplined me severely,
But He has not given me over to death. (Psalm 118:15-18)

The love of God is far greater than any man could tell. He sweetly drew us in, His right hand holds us fast, and we are now destined not to die, but live in His presence forever!


Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I shall enter through them, I shall give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
The righteous will enter through it.
I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me,
And You have become my salvation. (Psalm 118:19-21)

Asking Christ to constrain His arrival seems terrible at first – why delay such a wonderful event? Consider how the gates swung open for us when we did not deserve it. Does this motivate you to ask for more time to share that news?


We long to see thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May, with one voice and heart and soul,
Sing thy redeeming grace.

The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief 
corner stone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day which the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
O Lord, do save, we beseech You;
O Lord, we beseech You, do send prosperity!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord;
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God, and He has given us light;
Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I give thanks to You;
You are my God, I extol You.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting. (Psalm 118:22-29)

Christ was the stone rejected by man, exalted by God. The number of elect God granted Him is entirely the Lord’s doing, which should be marvelous to our eyes. Such everlasting lovingkindness makes us want to sing of that redeeming grace with our fellow believers for all eternity.

Issac Watts did not relate this hymn to Psalm 118 when he penned these beautiful words. Yet, through the same providence he described, we still hear the truths of Scripture burst out of the pages several hundred years later. The message is clear in both texts: God’s plan will succeed, and we must praise Him in response!

Do justly. Love kindness. Walk humbly. Stay tuned.

In Christ,

CK Hicks

“I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you.” (2 Peter 1:12)

If You Love Me

In this day and age we hear all kinds of things about love with most of it not being true love but lust. Movies are shown that depict love as being selfish and demanding or controlling and manipulative.

The reality of love is that it’s unselfish and goes out of its way to help the other person. 1 Corinthians 13. Christ is the true depiction of love. He left His throne in heaven to become a man and die, be buried and rise again for our sins. He didn’t ask for anything in return because there is nothing we could give Him that would pay Him back for all He’s done for us. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

Yet while the Lord was on the earth He made the comment, “If you love Me, keep My commandments!” John 14:15. As we seek to go through daily life do we really show our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that we love Him? What would we have to do to show Him our love?

if-you-love-me

Obedience is such an unusual concept in this day and age. If you watch many parents you will see the children go out of their way to hurt their parents. Granted, some of the parents deserve it because they encourage their children to be disobedient and ungrateful. What about those, though, that are trying to teach their children to be obedient? This is an age where everyone does what is right in their own eyes, many children dishonor their parents, and so many think that no one should be able to tell them what to do.

True believers are expected to obey the Lord, to keep His commandments if we love Him. It doesn’t get any clearer than this. We, who are true believers, are children of the Lord and, that being the case, we must be willing to honor and obey our Heavenly Father. He is first and foremost the One to whom obedience is necessary and, in so doing, we show forth our worship and praise towards Him.

You might say, “I do obey Him. My heart tells me when I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.” No, we can’t go according to what our hearts say as they are “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9. It is important for us to read and obey God’s Word as that is the guideline He gave us to follow. I know I’ve stressed before but it’s worthy of notice within our lives to show forth our obedience and love for the Lord. Do we love Him? If so, then let us keep His commandments in a way that shows Him that we do love Him.

Be Faithful

Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find? The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!   ~Proverbs 20:6-7.

When I was a child, I was amazed at how many adults did not keep their word. They would promise, “One day, I’ll _________” but, alas, that day never came, and I would be disappointed.

When I was a teenager, my mom hired a man to tune our piano. I enjoyed watching him, and he talked to me as he worked. In the course of conversation, I mentioned that I like southern gospel music. He told me he would take me to a concert sometime. At that time, I’d lived long enough to know people often said things they didn’t mean so I didn’t figure I would ever see him again. A short time later, however, he called and asked if he could take my brother and me to a concert. This was over 25 years ago, and I still remember his kindness. He could have gone to the concert by himself, and I would never know, and I probably wouldn’t remember him but he took time to honor his word, which still blesses me today.

promise

It is sad to me how many young people walk away from the Lord or never embrace Christianity, even when they have grown up in church and in Godly homes. I’ve fought to understand why, in order to be able to stop this trend. I believe a big reason for this is due to the hypocrisy they see in their parents and others in the Church. I know this is not the only reason an adult child will rebel but I expect it is the case in many situations. Young people pick up on whether people are real or phony, honest or crafty.

Even as an adult, I want to surround myself with people I can trust. I get so tired of dishonesty, backbiting, double lives, etc. I pray often that God will help me to be faithful. I want to be dependable, loyal, and trustworthy. I want to be faithful to point others to the Lord, not only in word but also by example. I believe if the world saw more faithfulness in God’s people, they would desire to know this God as well.