Willing to Be Used by God

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength
But sometimes I wonder what He can do through me

These words penned by Steven Curtis Chapman echo my sentiment most of the time. I can relate to Gideon who referred to himself as “the least in my father’s house” (Judges 6:15). I’m thankful that God does not limit Himself to using the good looking, the smart, or even the greatly talented. He simply looks for those who are willing to say, “Here am I. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

In God’s Kingdom, there are no competitions. God simply desires faithfulness, those who will run this race called life with endurance, never stopping until we cross the finish line.

It’s easy to compare ourselves with others but Scripture tells us that is unwise (2 Corinthians 10:12). If I had every gift and talent I would like to have, I would probably be pretty proud. If I look at it that way, my limitations are a blessing.

To me, the wonder is not in the fact that God can use me but that He does. I trust He is using you as well. You may not see it but rest in it. If you are shining with the light of Jesus, people can’t help but notice. Don’t beat yourself up with how imperfect you are but get up each morning, talk to the Father, read His Word, and tell Him you are willing to be used however He would like to use you each day. Then thank Him for the work He is doing in and through you. He is so faithful!

Morning Devotional With Charles Spurgeon

January 19

“I sought him, but I found him not.” — Song of Solomon 3:1

Tell me where you lost the company of a Christ, and I will tell you the most likely place to find him. Have you lost Christ in the closet by restraining prayer? Then it is there you must seek and find him. Did you lose Christ by sin? You will find Christ in no other way but by the giving up of the sin, and seeking by the Holy Spirit to mortify the member in which the lust doth dwell.

Did you lose Christ by neglecting the Scriptures? You must find Christ in the Scriptures. It is a true proverb, “Look for a thing where you dropped it, it is there.” So look for Christ where you lost him, for he has not gone away. But it is hard work to go back for Christ. Bunyan tells us, the pilgrim found the piece of the road back to the Arbour of Ease, where he lost his roll, the hardest he had ever travelled. Twenty miles onward is easier than to go one mile back for the lost evidence.

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Take care, then, when you find your Master, to cling close to him. But how is it you have lost him? One would have thought you would never have parted with such a precious friend, whose presence is so sweet, whose words are so comforting, and whose company is so dear to you! How is it that you did not watch him every moment for fear of losing sight of him?

Yet, since you have let him go, what a mercy that you are seeking him, even though you mournfully groan, “O that I knew where I might find him!” Go on seeking, for it is dangerous to be without thy Lord. Without Christ you are like a sheep without its shepherd; like a tree without water at its roots; like a sere leaf in the tempest-not bound to the tree of life. With thine whole heart seek him, and he will be found of thee: only give thyself thoroughly up to the search, and verily, thou shalt yet discover him to thy joy and gladness.

Walk in Unity

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! … For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore” (Psalm 133: 1, 3b).

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:1-4).

Unity. One of the things Jesus prayed for His followers (John 17:11) but one thing I don’t see a lot of today. Since the time of Jesus, God’s children have fought over everything from the core doctrines of the faith to the very petty disagreements. Churches have split over the proper way to baptize or how often to take communion, and what kind of bread and drink should be used when doing so. I really don’t think this is what God intended. Jesus would confront sin but He would not debate people to try to convince them of His views. He didn’t cast off His disciples every time they did something stupid. He understood that God gave Him those followers, and He spent His life teaching them and walking with them.

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Today, we often treat each other as easy come, easy go. Relationships just aren’t that important to us, which I think is very sad since people are the only thing we are taking to Heaven with us.

I realize there are times when you must separate from others but the only time Scripture tells us to cut off others is for immorality. There are also times when you may need to leave a church but there is a Godly way to do it, and it’s not by taking half the church with you.

We need to learn to recognize those whom God has put in our lives and, when we find them, determine to work things out and not let them go. We cannot receive the rebukes and exhortations and, yes, even occasional necessary rebukes if we aren’t in fellowship with others.

If you have cut off a friend over a small disagreement or have left a church with an attitude that affected more than just yourself, you need to repent. If you were part of a singing group that you feel mistreated you and you promptly slandered them upon your departure, you need to go back to those you have talked to and acknowledge your wrongdoing. It’s no wonder that people aren’t flocking to know God when they see His children fighting amongst themselves and tearing each other down. Satan doesn’t have to destroy the Church when the Church is doing a good job of destroying itself.

Dementia – Fighting for Joy

The Gospel Coalition posted this week some thoughts on dementia that I would highly recommend you read. I understand the heartbreak that many go through as they seek to care for their loved ones. As the disease takes hold, the mind of the loved one disappears into an ether that will never return. Some good friends are struggling with this at present with a family member and the sorrow they feel brings back some painful memories.

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I recall vividly, when my wife and I lived in England, having to watch my grandmother disappear before our eyes. In a very short timespan, I went from being her grandson, to her son, to her brother, and then one painful day, she no longer recognized me. This was a lady who loved the Lord and who had long sung the songs of Zion. Her face had changed little. The pain continued to course through her frail body but she rarely complained in the last months of her life. Even when my own dear mother came to visit us in England, we took her to visit her mom but there was not even a flicker of recognition for her daughter. What a painful experience and another sobering reality of what this life can bring to those we dearly love.

However, there is an unexplainable joy that comes to our hearts when we realize that for those who know Christ, they are kept secure in His care. Nothing can separate them from the love of Christ – not even dementia. For those who are left behind, appreciate what you have because one day it will be too late.

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We deal with these things because of the curse and sin that has passed from Adam to all of his descendants. Praise the Lord though that one day all of sin and death will be totally swallowed up. There will be no pain, no suffering, no tears, and no diseases of any kind. “What a day that will be when our Jesus we shall see!” This is the encouragement that is provided by the truth of Scripture.  For those who have a family member going through this, still show your love to those who cannot remember you. Many times, in our younger years, they loved us when we did not understand. It is our responsibility and our privilege to care for those who will go before we do to the other side of eternity.

Do not lose heart, dear friends and readers, at what you see before you. Trust the Lord for His wisdom, strength, and guidance as you give loving care even to those who no longer know who you are.

Taste and See!

Taste and See!

A review by Stuart Brogden

Barry Cooper has written a short but most excellent book, entitled Can I really trust the Bible? And other questions about Scripture, truth and how God speaks. While many very good and expansive apologetics books have been written, this small volume provides the reader an accessible wealth of information and insight as to the nature of the collection we call the Bible. Cooper gives us 5 short chapters, answering three questions, “Does the Bible claim to be God’s word?”, “Does the Bible seem to be God’s word?”, and “Does the Bible prove to be God’s word?” from 5 different perspectives:

  1. The world, the word, and what Jesus thought of the Bible.
  2. The word, the Word, and the rightness of writing.
  3. Consistency, conspiracies and corruptions.
  4. Canon, contradictions and criticisms.
  5. Tasting, seeing, and the sweetness of Scripture.

Our author introduces his book with a short look back at Winnie the Pooh and his penchant for honey – and how Pooh proved honey. The jar had a label claiming it was honey, but could the label be trusted? The contents looked like honey, but you can’t tell for sure by looking. The only way to be sure the jar contained honey was to taste it and see!

In explaining how the Bible is trustworthy, Cooper reminds us that the Bible does not claim to contain all knowledge about God – but that it contains all we need to know about God. And, still in chapter one, he points out Jesus’ attitude towards Scripture – He does not differentiate between the words of God and the word He caused men to write. The inspired word is trustworthy – not all any human author of Scripture wrote is inspired, only that which God intended and caused to be included in the canon of Scripture. In explaining the need we have of God’s written word, our author explains that giving it to us in writing allows God’s people to be sure and definite of knowing God’s word. If someone comes along claiming to speak for God, God’s word tells us how to respond – as the Bereans did, by searching the Scriptures to see if things are true; to test all things and cling to that which is good. Having God’s word in writing provides us this defense.

And since the Bible is the word of God, it is reasonable that He provided for its protection, preservation, and its identity as His word. The Roman Catholic Church claims that it decided what was in the canon of Scripture. Some evangelicals have been put off or discouraged by these claims. But Cooper rightly points out that the early church (hundreds of years before anything recognizable as the Roman Catholic Church) “didn’t willfully “declare” certain books to be from God; they could only recognize what was already apparent.” If God is God, sovereign over all He created, why should we be surprised when He uses His creation to produce, preserve, publish, and declare His word?

In chapter 4, Cooper gives us 7 quick arguments to refute claims that the Bible has errors:

  1. It’s not an error if it’s not in the original documents. There are scribal errors in every translation, but the enormous number of copies across the ages allows us to know what the autograph said.
  2. It’s not an error if we misunderstand the author’s intention. The Bible contains several genres of literature and literary customs of the authors’ eras. We cannot understand the Bible if we do not try to comprehend the historical and literary context of each passage.
  3. It’s not an error if it’s a paraphrase. Biblical authors often sum up accounts to provide something easy to listen to or read – same as when you summarize a movie you’ve seen.
  4. It’s not an error if it’s “phenomenological language”. When people describe things from their perspective, rather than objectively reporting facts, that phenomenological language. Cooper observes that a weatherman who talks about the sun rising is not called a liar – his audience knows what he means. He is using a literary custom of our day and telling it from his and our perspective.
  5. It’s not an error if someone else says it. This is when the Bible records someone telling a lie – the Bible is not in error. It is accurate in that it reports the lie. The liar is in error.
  6. It’s not an error if the Bible doesn’t speak definitively or exhaustively on every subject. Scripture doesn’t cover every topic, but it is authoritative on everything it does cover.
  7. It’s not an error if it ain’t written proper. Unlearned men speaking in sentence fragments are not errors. The issue is truthfulness – not passing a journalism exam.

Lastly, our author exhorts us to taste the Scriptures, to see if they are sweet to our souls as honey is to our tongues. Since the Spirit of God is the Author of Scripture, and since He lives in everyone who has been born of God, He will work in each child of God to develop our taste buds and give us understanding as we read and ponder the Word of God. Cooper warns us, the Bible “hasn’t been given to us so that we can know about God. It has been given to us so that we can know God.” He then quotes A.W. Tozer:

The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.

This, dear reader, is the bottom line: Those who have been made alive in Christ will experience what Cooper and Tozer wrote about. Those who have not been born again will not be able to. Our goal is not to convince unbelievers the Bible is true. Our goal is to know the Bible is true by our our knowledge of the Word Himself – and make noise about Him and His gospel to those who are not of His sheepfold, trusting that He will bring all the sheep home that the Father has given Him. This is what His word tells us – and His word is trustworthy.

Solid Food for God’s Children

Bible Revival

A review by Stuart Brogden41UQyMEDWAL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

There are so many bad Christian books on the market these days that there is a good reason to shout PRAISE THE LORD! when one comes across a good Christian book. Such is the case with Kenneth Berding’s very good book, Bible Revival. This is a small book, in format and length – coming in at just over 100 pages. The premise of Berding’s jewel of a book is that we have a plethora of Bibles, with multiple good translations and formats in paper and digital so that we can have God’s Word with us virtually everywhere, all the time. And yet so many professing Christians are ignorant of and apathetic towards the Scriptures. Poor substitutes (there can be no other kind of substitute for the very Word of God) are things easily assimilated, such as mystical experience or religious video; not much thought or personal discipline required.

This too-short book is divided up into 6 chapters:

 

  1. A Revival of Learning the Word
  2. A Revival of Valuing the Word
  3. A Revival of Understanding the Word
  4. A Revival of Applying the Word
  5. A Revival of Obeying the Word
  6. A Revival of Speaking the Word

 

Each of these chapters does a very good job of stepping on the toes of the reader – for whom of us has any one of these critical traits properly developed and practiced? Each chapter has a section for digging deeper; this is where we are led to drink deeply of the Word.

 

In the opening chapter, Berding tells us what we know but would rather not acknowledge – we don’t learn the Word of God because we have other stuff we would rather learn. In days gone by, before the Internet and cheap books, people of God knew the Bible. Schools used it to teach children how to read and churches used it as teaching material as well as preaching material – long before programs replaced both in too many churches. Our author tells us of a time when Israel was under God’s judgment and His written word was withheld from them (Amos 8:11-12). He says, “In Amos they want it, but are not permitted it. In our case, although we have unlimited access, we often don’t want it. The irony is intense.” Massive understatement! He rebukes those who say since we don’t practice all we currently understand of the Bible that we should not read and study the Scriptures until we are fully in line. This pathetic perspective fails from the start because it assumes a perfection that we will be able to attain during this age. Our minds and our bodies are unable to practice all we know and the insight into the character of both God and ourselves contained in the Bible are beyond our finding out completely. And we commanded in Scripture to never stop growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus (2 Peter 3:18 is on-going process, not a one-time academic accomplishment). When we read and regard the Bible in the same way we do a newspaper (are those still printed?) or novel, we reveal something ugly of our priorities. We reveal that God’s Word is no more valuable than a cheap novel and His wisdom is no more useful than Doctor Phil’s – and that speaks louder than Oprah. Contrary to this common, unspoken perspective, the Bible is the revelation from Creator God about His redemptive plan for sinners – what is more important?

 

In the 4th chapter, about applying the Word of God, our author gives us a short list of questions to guide us in applying Scripture rightly.

 

  1. What does this passage illustrate about the character of God? (Rom 15:4-6)
  2. How does this passage point out sin? (Rom 3:20; 7:7)
  3. How does this passage lead to Christ? (Gal 3:24)
  4. Are there any other biblical themes this passage illustrates? (Matt 23:23)

 

In the “digging deeper” of this chapter, Berding advises, “The Bible itself holds out hope that there will be a transformation and renewal of our minds as we saturate ourselves in the things of God (Rom 8:5-8; 12:2). It is true that our interests affect how we approach the Bible, but we need to allow the Scripture itself to renovate our concerns so that our special interests become more and more like the interests found in the Bible.” (Italics mine) This insightful idea warrants our close attention – our “special interests” ought to reflect the Word of God, not the system of the world. This is a prime battleground for every Christian, for as the Spirit of God Who dwells within each of us never sleeps nor rests, neither does the evil trinity of our flesh, Satan, and the system of this world. We do not battle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers and spiritual forces of evil. The Word of God, with illumination by its Author is our only defense. While men will mislead us and lie to us, the Spirit of the Living God will never guide us contrary to God’s will or His special revelation given to us in the Scriptures. We are limited and warped by sin – the Bible is not nor is its Author!

 

In discussing our obedience to the Bible, we read, “If no evidence exists in your life that your faith is showing itself in your actions – that unforgiveness is increasingly being displaced by forgiveness, that anger is being out by love, that passivity toward the Scriptures is being replaced by a love and commitment to the Scripture – then you probably don’t know Him.” And He likely “never knew you.” Ouch! He goes on – “Passivity toward the Word of God is a serious spiritual matter.” Amen! Let us comfort no professing Christian who displays a greater love for the world than for the Word of God, even if that person is loved one, even if it that person is self.

 

Lastly, we are encouraged to teach the Bible. “Don’t worry if you don’t feel like you know the Bible very well. … Besides, there is no quicker way to learn the Bible than to teach it to someone else!” (This is in the context of parents teaching their children.) In talking about our conversation in the world, Berding encourages us to be purposeful in talking to other about Jesus rather than trusting our behavior to draw them into asking us. Further, our public walk must line up (with the inevitable failures to be acknowledged humbly and contritely) with the Gospel we are proclaiming. He debunks the apocryphal notion attributed to Francis of Assisi, that one should witness at times, using words when required. This is an unbiblical perspective because the Gospel is a verbal proclamation of what Jesus has done to redeem sinners – it cannot be communicated by our actions. But our actions (and speech) must not contradict the godly message we should be telling to people who are perishing.

 

This book started its life as sermon series on the need to have a Bible revival. While only the Lord can bring revival, our dear brother Kenneth Berding has done us good by bringing this volume into our hands. It can be grasped by people of all ages and reading abilities. It is solid food for God’s people. And we should thank Him.

John MacArthur on James 2:20.

The following is a question regarding James 2:20, and John MacArthur’s answer.

Question

Please explain James 2:20, “…that faith without works is dead.”

Answer

“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” What does this mean: “Faith without works is dead”? Does this mean that to be saved we have to do works? Well let’s find out.

Back up, verse 14. We have got to get the context. “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?”

Now what he is saying, James, that’s why Marten Luther said that the Book of James was a right strawy [something of little value] epistle, he didn’t like it, because it kind of fouled up his doctrine of justification by faith. But that is only because he didn’t study it in deep detail to see what was really being said.

What does the Bible teach about salvation? Abraham was justified by works? Romans four, is that what it says? “Abraham was justified by what…? “Faith.” Abraham was not justified by works. Romans chapter three says, “No man is justified by works. By the deeds of the law shall…” what? “No flesh be justified,” none. There is no way that we can be justified. In Romans 3:28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Salvation is by faith, not by works. Galatians chapter three tells us the same thing, that you cannot be justified by works, you cannot be saved by what you do, in terms of deeds. He says, “…they that are of faith,” Galatians 3:9, “are blessed with faithful Abraham.” It’s all a matter of faith. The man that is justified, he says in verse 11, “But no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, … The just shall live by faith.” Now the Bible teaches that you are saved by faith, well you say that what in the world is James saying?

Can faith save him? James is looking at this from the stand point of evaluation. He is looking at a man who says, “I have faith!” And he is saying, all right if you have true saving faith then I ought to see some evidence of it, right? “By their fruits you shall…” what? “…know them.”

He is simply saying, if your faith is genuine then it’s going to manifest itself. “If any man be in Christ he is a new creation, old thing are passed away and behold all things become…” what? “…new.” There is going to be a manifestation. And so he says, what kind of faith have you got my friend, I don’t see any evidence?

For example, he says, “If a brother or sister be naked and destitute of daily food and one of you who claims to have saving faith says depart in peace be warm and filled.” Just what he needs. Condolence. Hope you feel better, hope you find some food. But you don’t give him the things needful to the body, what kind of faith is that? If you’re really saved it’s going to be a working kind of salvation that will bear fruit. That’s all he’s saying. So, in verse seventeen, “…so faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead, because it’s alone.” So it’s a dead faith not a living faith. If “a man may say, thou hast faith, and I have works; show me your faith without your works, and I’ll show you my faith by my works.” And he contrasts two kinds of faith.

One kind of faith is the faith that doesn’t have any works and it is dead faith and the other faith is the faith that produces something and its living faith. One saves and one doesn’t. That’s what he is saying, “Oh,” but he says “I believe, I believe,” “Yeah,” he says, “The devils believe and they tremble.” It’s not enough to believe unless that believing results in an act of commitment to Christ that results in a changed life that bears fruit. That’s his whole point.