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Archive for April, 2018

Be Encouraged to Persevere

Life in this sin cursed world can be downright difficult at times. One of my favorite go-to verses on these occasions is Psalm 42:11, “Why are you in despair O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” “Hope in God for I shall yet praise Him” are words to cling too! There will, in the future, be cause to rejoice even though my soul is, at the moment, grieved to the point of despair. The last part of the verse says:  the help of my countenance and my God” – the God who gives us hope even helps our countenance!

When you were a child, did you ever play with those colorful magnetic letters? I did. I decided to put them to use again when I became a mom. Growing up my dad used to remind me, on a regular basis, that I needed to preach to myself. We are blessed, as a church, to have a pastor and elders who do the same thing for us. Our emotions can’t be trusted, they are so easily effected by our circumstances, but God’s word can be trusted!  It needs to be our focus, our meditation, our trust, and our confidence so we can persevere. “Persevere” is a word I have on my refrigerator, written in magnetic letters, as a reminder that I must keep pressing on and “keep believing” as Pastor Tim so often reminds us. “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not grow weary (Galatians 6:9). Verse 10 goes on to say…”so then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith”(Galatians 6:10). When we are doing good things for others, especially our fellow believers, it helps us take our eyes off our circumstances. This in turn reminds us that it is the Lord Christ we serve (Colossians 3:24) and in serving others we serve Him.

As Christians we are engaged in a battle. Paul reminds us of whose strength we fight in, of our armor and the importance of prayer in Ephesians 6:10-18:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of the wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”

Paul then reminds us of what prayer can accomplish in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, “for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  Our battle is waged in the mind! In Romans 8:6 we are told, “the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” and in the book of Isaiah 26:3-4 we see that “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, for in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock.”

I find singing and meditating on hymns that contain sound doctrine is another way to focus my mind on the truth of God’s word. Two of my favorites are Solid Rock by Edward Mote and He Giveth More Grace by Annie Johnson Flint. The second verse of He Giveth More Grace says…”When we have exhausted our store of endurance, when our strength has failed ere the day is half done, when we reach the end of our hoarded resources, our Fathers full giving is only begun.”

Let us keep our minds fixed on the white part of the rope which extends throughout eternity and not the small red part which represents our short life here on earth. (In case you missed it, check out Pastor Tim’s Easter Sunday sermon on Sermon Audio)., so that we can one day say with the Apostle Paul:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

“Now may the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in Hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” Romans 15:13.

 

Jackie Rebiger is a member of FCC.  She and her husband, Scott, have ten children and five grandchildren.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling, Christian Living

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Excerpt from Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

Morning, April 24

“And because of all this we make a sure covenant.”

Nehemiah 9:38

There are many occasions in our experience when we may very rightly, and with benefit, renew our covenant with God. After recovery from sickness when, like Hezekiah, we have had a new term of years added to our life, we may fitly do it. After any deliverance from trouble, when our joys bud forth anew, let us again visit the foot of the cross, and renew our consecration. Especially, let us do this after any sin which has grieved the Holy Spirit, or brought dishonour upon the cause of God; let us then look to that blood which can make us whiter than snow, and again offer ourselves unto the Lord. We should not only let our troubles confirm our dedication to God, but our prosperity should do the same. If we ever meet with occasions which deserve to be called “crowning mercies” then, surely, if he hath crowned us, we ought also to crown our God; let us bring forth anew all the jewels of the divine regalia which have been stored in the jewel-closet of our heart, and let our God sit upon the throne of our love, arrayed in royal apparel. If we would learn to profit by our prosperity, we should not need so much adversity. If we would gather from a kiss all the good it might confer upon us, we should not so often smart under the rod. Have we lately received some blessing which we little expected? Has the Lord put our feet in a large room? Can we sing of mercies multiplied? Then this is the day to put our hand upon the horns of the altar, and say, “Bind me here, my God; bind me here with cords, even forever.” Inasmuch as we need the fulfilment of new promises from God, let us offer renewed prayers that our old vows may not be dishonoured. Let us this morning make with him a sure covenant, because of the pains of Jesus which for the last month we have been considering with gratitude.

~

Evening, April 24

“The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”

Song of Solomon 2:12

Sweet is the season of spring: the long and dreary winter helps us appreciate its genial warmth, and its promise of summer enhances its present delights. After periods of depression of spirit, it is delightful to behold again the light of the Sun of Righteousness; then our slumbering graces rise from their lethargy, like the crocus and the daffodil from their beds of earth; then is our heart made merry with delicious notes of gratitude, far more melodious than the warbling of birds–and the comforting assurance of peace, infinitely more delightful than the turtle’s note, is heard within the soul. Now is the time for the soul to seek communion with her Beloved; now must she rise from her native sordidness, and come away from her old associations. If we do not hoist the sail when the breeze is favourable, we shall be blameworthy: times of refreshing ought not to pass over us unimproved. When Jesus himself visits us in tenderness, and entreats us to arise, can we be so base as to refuse his request? He has himself risen that he may draw us after him: he now by his Holy Spirit has revived us that we may, in newness of life, ascend into the heavenlies, and hold communion with himself. Let our wintry state suffice us for coldness and indifference; when the Lord creates a spring within, let our sap flow with vigour, and our branch blossom with high resolve. O Lord, if it be not spring time in my chilly heart, I pray thee make it so, for I am heartily weary of living at a distance from thee. Oh! the long and dreary winter, when wilt thou bring it to an end? Come, Holy Spirit, and renew my soul! quicken thou me! restore me, and have mercy on me! This very night I would earnestly implore the Lord to take pity upon his servant, and send me a happy revival of spiritual life!

Public Domain, Published on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Posted in: Bible study

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Brother

Will you sit with me in the ashes?

Can you wait it out; be silent,
As I wonder what comes next?

Will you hold my hand and squeeze it,
Fearless of the tears that come?
Will you hold me up and ceaseless pray
Until this day is done?

Will you dress my wounds with Scripture,
Doing all you do in love;
Taking my hand gently to help me stand back up?

Will you sit with me in the ashes?
And proclaim God’s character to me;
Remind me of His endless grace
And boundless love for me?

Will you stand firm beside me, and not grow weary or lose heart;
Encourage and point me to the One, who knows my walk is hard?

Will you sit with me in the ashes?
Until this day is through,
And my God has brought me through this,
Using all that you did do?

Svea Goertzen

Amidst trial, I sought solace in the book of Job. I ultimately landed on these verses in Job 2. . .

11 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. 12 And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. 13 And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.

. . . and I ultimately landed at the same campground that Job found himself when his friends showed up to comfort him. I was struck by the fact that Job’s friends were just that—friends. They cared about him; came to comfort him; wept for him; and, finally sat down with him on the ground silently, “for they saw that his suffering was very great.” Then, each, in turn, opened his mouth and put his foot right in. It occurred to me that, like the Israelites, they can become easy targets—it’s easy to point a finger and judge these men who ultimately failed their friend with their words, but, just as quickly, I find myself doing the same thing. I guess what drives this home is just the sort of trial where a longsuffering friend sits down beside me in the ashes.

So, I set about to prepare a litmus test (for me too), of what a suffering brother or sister in Christ needs from me—according to what I saw in the verses above. The words I wrote above are a pleading for that kind of friend; an exhortation to be that kind of friend; and, finally, a grateful heart—for there are brothers and sisters in Christ who are uniquely qualified to be that kind of friend—and they are a dear provision from God.

 

Svea Goertzen is a member of FCC and works for Faith Christian Academy. She and her husband, Steve, have two daughters.

Posted in: Poetry

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“A Slave-Trader Who Wrote Christian Lyrics” from The Story of Our Hymns

By Ernest Edwin Ryden – Public Domain

The Name above All Names, John Newton, 1779

How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
‘Tis Manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary Rest.

Dear Name! the Rock on which I build,
My Shield and Hiding-place;
My never-failing Treasury, filled
With boundless stores of grace.

By Thee my prayers acceptance gain,
Although with sin defiled:
Satan accuses me in vain,
And I am owned a child.

Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I’ll praise Thee as I ought.

Till then I would Thy love proclaim
With every fleeting breath;
And may the music of Thy Name
Refresh my soul in death.

~

In one of England’s famous old churches there is a tablet marking the last resting-place of one of its rectors, and on the tablet this epitaph:

“John Newton, clerk, once an Infidel and Libertine, a servant of slavers in Africa,
was, by the rich Mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored,
pardoned, and appointed to preach the Faith he had long labored to destroy.”

This inscription, written by Newton himself before his death, tells the strange story of the life of the man who wrote “How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds,” and scores of other beautiful hymns.

Newton was born in London, July 24, 1725. His father was a sea captain.His mother, a deeply pious woman, though frail in health, found her greatest joy in teaching her boy Scripture passages and hymns. When he was only four years old he was able to read the Catechism.

The faithful mother often expressed the hope to her son that he might become a minister. However, when the lad was only seven years of age, the mother died, and he was left to shift largely for himself. On his 11th birthday he joined his father at sea, and made five voyages to the Mediterranean. Through the influence of evil companions and the reading of infidel literature, he began to live a godless and abandoned life.

Being pressed into the navy when a war seemed imminent, young Newton deserted. He was captured, however, and flogged at the mast, after which he was degraded.

At this point his life teems with reckless adventures and strange escapes. Falling into the hands of an unscrupulous slave-dealer in Africa, he himself was reduced practically to the abject condition of a slave. In his misery he gave himself up to nameless sins. The memory of his mother, however, and the religious truths which she had implanted in his soul as a child gave his conscience no peace.

The reading of “The Imitation of Christ,” by Thomas à Kempis, also exerted a profound influence over him, and a terrifying experience in a storm at sea, together with his deliverance from a malignant fever in Africa, served to bring the prodigal as a penitent to the throne of mercy.

After six years as the captain of a slaveship, during which time Newton passed through many severe struggles in trying to find peace with God through the observance of a strict moral life, he met on his last voyage a pious captain who helped to bring him to a truer and deeper faith in Christ.

For nine years at Liverpool he was closely associated with Whitefield and the Wesleys, studying the Scriptures in Hebrew and Greek, and occasionally preaching at religious gatherings of the dissenters. In 1764 he was ordained as curate of Olney, where he formed the famous friendship with the poet William Cowper that gave to the world so many beautiful hymns.

It was at Newton’s suggestion that the two undertook to write a hymn-book. The famous collection known as “The Olney Hymns,” was the result of this endeavor. Of the 349 hymns in this book, Cowper is credited with sixty-six, while Newton wrote the remainder. “How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds” appeared for the first time in this collection. It is a hymn of surpassing tenderness, and ranks among the finest in the English language.

Other notable hymns, by Newton are: “Come, my soul, thy suit prepare,” “Approach, my soul, the mercy-seat,” “While with ceaseless course the sun,” “One there is above all others,” “For a season called to part,” “Safely through another week,” “On what has now been sown,” “May the grace of Christ our Saviour,” “Though troubles assail us, and dangers affright,” “Day of judgment, day of wonders,” and “Glorious things of thee are spoken.”

Newton’s life came to a close in London in 1807, after he had served for twenty-eight years as rector of St. Mary Woolnoth. Among his converts were numbered Claudius Buchanan, missionary to the East Indies, and Thomas Scott, the Bible commentator. In 1805, when his eyesight began to fail and he could no longer read his text, his friends advised him to cease preaching. His answer was: “What! shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak?”

When he was nearly eighty years old it was necessary for a helper to stand in the pulpit to help him read his manuscript sermons. One Sunday Newton had twice read the words, “Jesus Christ is precious.” “You have already said that twice,” whispered his helper; “go on.” “John,” said Newton, turning to his assistant in the pulpit, “I said that twice, and I am going to say it again.” Then the rafters rang as the old preacher shouted, “Jesus Christ is precious!”

Newton’s whole life may be said to be summed up in the words of one of his appealing hymns:

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found–
Was blind, but now I see.

Posted in: Biography

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Orchestrated Ironing

An Original Poem

Who is the one with loving care,
that watches o’er us everywhere?

The one with understanding eyes
that lifts our burdens to the skies.

Whose hands create our very lives
and ears can hear our fervent cries.

For peace on earth and peace of mind,
for open hearts and eyes not blind.

Who is this body hung up by nails,
where at his feet a woman wails.

The one that’s mocked and crucified
by those He loves, for whom He dies.

Who is this man so plain, so pure,
He is the Son of God, I’m sure

– Autumn, 1964

Several weeks prior to writing the verses above, I had come home from a long day at work and was eager to get changed into comfortable clothes and relax.

As I reached into the closet for my favorite snuggly sweater, I noticed a small basket of laundry still needing to be ironed. I thought to myself, “I am just too tired to tackle this tonight.” However, as I was closing the closet door, I noticed one of the items in the basket was a blouse I had intended to wear to work the next day. I paused for a moment, gave a sigh and then decided if I could find an interesting TV program to watch, surely I could endure ironing my blouse and a few other items.

I turned on the television, set up my ironing board and went to the kitchen. When I returned, the program being televised featured a choir singing beautiful hymns. I felt refreshed by the music and the ironing was no longer a task.

After the choir finished singing, a very young Billy Graham stepped up to the podium to pray before delivering his message for the evening. His opening statement said he would be preaching on the blood of Christ. He proceeded to explain why it was necessary for Jesus, the sinless Lamb of God, to shed his innocent blood as an atonement for man’s sin: without the shedding blood, there could be no atonement.

Never before had I heard a message on the necessity of Christ’s blood being shed in order for man’s sin’s to be forgiven. This was a pivotal point in my life and a prelude to my salvation.

I am overwhelmed by God’s immense love, patience and great mercy. God is omnipotent, having ultimate power and influence. That fall evening in 1964, I believe the Lord orchestrated “an evening of ironing” for me. It was the exact right time and place for me to hear one of God’s servant messengers enlighten the eyes of my understanding: man’s sin could only be atoned for by Christ’s blood being shed on the cross.

I am so very thankful for all the individuals, family members and various ministries throughout the years who have invested in my life and prayed for me.

My prayer for myself, my family and others is this: may we learn to align our will with God’s and live our lives in His priorities.

Lord God – I am most thankful to you for shedding your precious Blood for me, forgiving my sins and saving my soul.

Sharon Feiser is a member of FCC.

Posted in: Christian Living

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The Face of Faith

Years ago, while on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, I noticed something that I have often thought about since.  How is it that we communicate so much non-verbally?  Most have heard that non-verbal communication plays a large part in the way humans communicate, the face being of primary importance. While in a country that speaks a different language, this becomes evident.

My two friends, one after the other, were sharing their testimonies of God’s work in their lives at a church service.  There was a translator that would repeat each phrase in Spanish after my friends each would say a phrase in English.  What struck me was the look on each of their faces as they were sharing.  The glow of the Holy Spirit shone through as they were speaking and waiting for translation.  I remember thinking that the testimony of their faces was so convincing of changed lives from darkness to light and that the words being interpreted were just to give the details.  The look on their faces needed no interpretation!

I have mentioned that to others as we go on mission trips around the world. The look on our faces will communicate volumes to those we meet and interact with.

As we look at scripture related to this, I see a couple of things. First, there is a look on a face that communicates evil.  Regarding the wicked kings of Israel, Isaiah 3:9 says: “The expression of their faces bears witness against them, and they display their sin like Sodom; They do not even conceal it.”  Other emotions can come across on your face as well, including fear, anger, irritation, disinterestedness, surprise, and many others.  The second look on a face in the Bible that catches my attention and reminds me of my friends on the mission trip, is the look on Stephen’s face as he was being stoned for his faith.  Acts 6:15 says, they “saw his face like the face of an angel.”  This glowing face reminds us of Moses as he would come down the mountain after being in the presence of God.  Now in the new covenant, having the Spirit of God living in us, as believers, our faces are affected – or at least should be!

There is a transformation that occurs as we behold the glory of the Lord, and we are being changed or sanctified as we live this life in Christ.  1Cor 4:6 says that “God has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of glory of God in the face of Christ.”

May the Lord’s face shine through us as we interact with one another and with a lost world – with faces of faith!

 

Dr. Brent Evers is an Elder at FCC. He and his wife, Cari, have three children.

Posted in: Christian Living

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Three “No, but…” answers to our “Are we there, yet?” Questions

Now approaching his 97th birthday, my grandfather reminisces a lot. Many years ago, he built a lake house with his own hands. Lately, he’s been reminiscing about all the summertime trips he made with my sister and I. I think only God could keep track of the number of times we made that drive. As a kid, the dreadful length of the trip weighted on me every time. My sister and I alternated our pesky questions on an infinite loop: “Are we there yet?” “How much longer?” “Are we there yet?” …. (I will spare you. You get the picture.)

I recently found myself in the driver’s seat hearing those indicators of anxious impatience from someone else for the first time. My nephew piped up on a ten-hour drive: “This is why I hate driving to Michigan. It takes forever! Why can’t we fly?” As he said this, each word got longer than one before it. He intuitively used every vocal resource he had to indicate how the trip seemed to keep stretching on and on. He’s four.

A few moments of impatience notwithstanding, my nephew handled our trip very well. (So well, in fact, he’s decided I should play chauffeur on the next long family adventure!) But he reminded me how hard waiting on the Lord in our sojourning can be, especially when: 1) We know the Lord could move faster if He wanted to and 2) We don’t know how long or how hard (or how good, for that matter!) the journey will be. If the hardest part about waiting is waiting without answers we know the Lord could give, then the second hardest part about waiting must be receiving a different answer than the one we were hoping for. This was familiar ground for Christ’s disciples just before His ascension in Acts 1:6-9:

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

I can almost hear my nephew’s tone (even my own!) in the disciples’ voices when they ask Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” What did the disciples want to know? Quite simply, “Are we there now? Are You ready yet? Will you restore the Kingdom now, Lord?” I love Christ’s answer. At first blush, it seems he says something like, “No, and it’s none of your business…” But Jesus didn’t say, “No.” He told them the details of the timing were not for them to know, but then He answered a question they weren’t asking. He told them how He would restore the Kingdom. But first they would have to…. (You guessed it!)… wait on the Holy Spirit. They would be waiting for the Spirit to give them power to bring about the very thing they want to see accomplished, albeit at a much different pace and without a violent overthrow to Caesar’s government. Their view of the restoration was simply incomplete and short-sighted. God’s plan was far more glorious. By God’s design, the restoration would essentially happen one gospel conversation at a time.

Taking this as my first cue, here are three hope-filled “No, but…” answers we can glean from Scripture that speak to our spiritual “Are we there yet?” questions.

  1. No, but we have a commission while we wait (Matthew 28:16-20). I don’t know about you, but often my desire for the Lord to act more quickly is based on selfish desires that seem to multiply anytime I take my eyes off Him. When we keep our eyes fixed on Christ, the Great Commission is ever before us, ever occupying our minds and even our hands. This doesn’t mean we never plead with the Lord to quickly answer us in our need. It does mean that we are, by His grace, able to be found faithful when He does grant that long-awaited answer. “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready…” (Luke 12:35-48).
  2. No, but God hears our “Are we there yet,” prayers as a gracious and patient Heavenly Father. Although grumbling and complaining is something we need to repent of, the Lord has flung His door wide open to receive earnest prayer along the lines of “How long, O Lord?” He’s flung it so wide, in fact, that we have prayers in the Psalms we can pray when the wait is too much for us. See Psalm 13 for just one example.
  3. No, but we can worship while we wait. See one example of an eager wait turning to worship here in  Psalm 130:5-7. Even when we face the bleakest of circumstances, the greatness of our God is not diminished (Habakkuk 3:16-19). His nature is not tarnished. His goodness has not run out. What would happen if we fought our temptations to mumble in impatience with worship? Here’s a small sample worship resources available to help get us started worshipping the God of perfect timing in our waiting seasons:

 

I pray the Lord will answer you quickly when you call to Him. But if, in His providence, you find yourself lingering in the middle of a long, hard, wait, I pray He’ll bring to your mind scriptural truths that strengthen and comfort you. May we wait on the Lord “more than watchmen for the morning,” and more than four-year-olds who are ready to go swimming on vacation!

 

  BJ Rathbun works as an analyst. Her liberal arts education has given her an eclectic work background and a multitude of stories. She most enjoys spending time with her family, church family, and friends.

Posted in: Christian Living

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God Can Change How We Hear

Does this scenario sound familiar? You get out of bed. You shuffle over to the kitchen and make a bee-line for the coffee maker. Once you have your coffee, you head to the couch or kitchen table, and you pick up your Bible. You do this, because it’s what you do every morning. In your early morning stupor, you manage to mutter a few words in prayer, then you open up you Bible, because it’s what you do every morning. You take a few sips of coffee to wake yourself up a bit, and you start to read. Again, you do this every morning. But this morning, the words on the page seem to have the same effect on you as words on a billboard, or one of those inspirational posters. Nothing much more than, “That’s interesting. Time to go on with my day.” Or maybe it isn’t even interesting to you. It’s just nothing.

But maybe you don’t read your Bible in the morning, or your schedule doesn’t allow for a daily devotional time. Fair enough. Consider this scenario then: It’s a Sunday morning, and as you do every Sunday morning, you pile your family into the car and drive to church. You manage to find enough empty chairs to seat your family together. The music starts to play, you read the words on the screen, and you start to sing them, like you do every Sunday morning. You open your Bible to the passage being preached on. Pastor Tim is preaching his heart out. You hear his voice rise with intensity at the glorious truth that he is proclaiming. But the message simply doesn’t stir you nearly as much as he is being stirred. You know you probably should feel something, but you can’t feel anything.

Those are scary seasons. They are scary because the Bible warns about this. I have been reading in Luke about the effect the Gospel message has on its hearers. In chapter 8, Luke describes Jesus traveling with the accompaniment of his apostles and some women, and he is preaching about the kingdom of God everywhere he goes (Luke 8:1-4). Then Luke describes a parable that Jesus tells to a crowd of people, the familiar parable of the sower. The parable should be referred to as the parable of the soils. The seed gets scattered everywhere, but depending on the soil on which it lands, it yields different results (Luke 8:4-8). Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that the parable itself is intended to either impart revelation or harden the hearts of the hearers (Luke 8:9-10). And the content of the parable describes four different kinds of people who hear God’s word. The first kind doesn’t really “hear” anything, because the devil prevents them from hearing it. The second kind craves emotional experiences and get excited about the word of God at first, but then stop believing it when they realize that it brings unexpected trials into their lives. The third kind hear the Word, but it has no effect on them because their hearts are set on other things. And the fourth kind hear the Word, and it has a transformative effect on their lives, wherein they love God’s glory more, they love people more, and become more instrumental in the kingdom of God (Luke 8:11-15).

Jesus then tells them about the purpose of a lamp. No one lights a lamp just to hide it away. It’s put out in the open so that the whole house is illuminated (Luke 8:16-17). Many people use that illustration to encourage Christians to be more involved in evangelism and representing Christ. While that is a valid application of that text, I think that the primary purpose is to illustrate what God is doing. God’s message, His revelation to the world, is not something He is keeping hidden. His intention is to make the good news of the kingdom publicly known. That’s why Jesus says, “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away” (Luke 8:18). God has given direct revelation of himself in a very public way. So in light of having received that revelation, we are to be cognizant of how we “hear,” because we will be held accountable to how we respond to the truth we have received. The person who “has,” that is, who has a receptive, open-hearted, submissive attitude to God’s word, and an eagerness to hear it and respond to it… That person will bear fruit for God and experience an increasing amount of joy in Him. But the person who has a dead, cold, stubborn attitude towards the Word will become harder and harder the more they hear His Word.

Luke next describes the attempts of Jesus’ earthly family to get to him while he is teaching. And Jesus gives this response: “My mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:21). The sign of having the closest, deepest, most intimate relationship with Jesus is in submitting to God’s word and allowing it to change you.

The way we hear the word of God is of utmost importance. If you can relate to the scenarios described at the beginning of this blog post, know that you are not alone. Some of the godliest people I know have experienced that at some point in their life. But also realize that you can’t afford to sit in this and “wait it out.” This isn’t “just a season.” It is up to you to make an intentional effort to get out of that state of mind. Your soul depends on it.

But you might be wondering, what can I do? How can I get myself out of this? And the short answer is that you can’t do anything. But God can. Once you have recognized the danger of your situation, and you’ve been shaken to the realization that you need help, start by asking God to reveal any unknown sin in your life. The Psalmist cries out, “See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:24) For example, there is a good chance that you have unknowingly elevated someone or something into a place of worship in your heart, where an idol has taken the place of God as the thing you look to for satisfaction and joy. Ask God to cleanse your heart from idolatry.

The Psalmist also cries out, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things in your law” (Psalm 119:18). If you can’t see wonderful things in the word of God, then this is what you need to ask God for. Ask that the Holy Spirit would open the eyes of your heart to the Word of God. Ask Him to bring your heart a fresh sense of awe and amazement in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

And most importantly, be grateful for what God has done for you in Christ. Jesus died on the cross for your unbelief and idolatry. Jesus has set you free from the penalty of sin, but remember, he has also set you free from present enslavement to that sin. Lift your eyes to Him and live, love, and rejoice as someone who is free! And the next time you open your Bible in the morning, or come to church on Sunday, remember what it cost God to redeem you. Remember the love He chose to set on you before you were born. Remember who you are. And hopefully, maybe, there will be something, even if it’s just a flicker, when God’s Word is delivered to you.

 

Zach Ilten is a member of Faith Community Church. He is working on his M. Div. at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the grateful husband to Becca and dad to Lucy and Micah.

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Old and New

If you were asked to compile a list of things that are old, what would be on your list?  Perhaps an old friend, an old book, or an old memory come to mind.  On the flipside, what if your list needed to have things that are new upon it?  A new job, a crisp new dollar bill, or a new baby?  (Clearly, these are not in any order of importance!)

It is safe to say to that things that are old can be precious, and things that are new can be precious.  A couple that has grown old together throughout the years is a wonder.  A fresh new start can be exciting and adventurous.  Both “old” and “new” in a variety of contexts can be appreciated for their uniqueness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 states, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”  These verses struck me with the thought that God’s “new mercies” are evidence of His “old faithfulness.”

Each and every day God pours new mercies into my life.  Sometimes those mercies look like a well-timed encouraging email or text from a friend or the unexpected kindness and generosity of a stranger; other times those mercies can be painful, like removing something from our lives that we are very certain we truly need.  Years ago, I was in a situation where I found it hard to believe that God had taken something away from me.  When I would share even small slices of the story with others, the overwhelming counsel that I received time and time again was that I had “dodged a bullet.”  Dodging that bullet was not in my plans and was not something I considered mercy at the time.  Rather, I felt like God was giving me the opposite of mercy.  However (to use a hospital analogy) in the operating room sometimes the most merciful action a surgeon can take is to cut away the illness or disease, and so it was in my case.  God’s mercies are purposeful even when they are painful.

God is good at being merciful to us.  Sometimes his mercies come in unexpected packages; sometimes we want the same mercies from yesterday to be His mercies for today.  Today, as you go throughout your day, try to look for those “new mercies” in your life.  And then tomorrow, when you wake up, do the same thing.  And the day after that, do the same thing.   May we be encouraged that His ever-changing new mercies in our lives are ever present evidence of His old faithfulness.

 

Meagan Cargill is an educator for surgical and anesthesia staff at a local hospital in Kansas City. She previously worked as a nurse in the Neurosurgical ICU.

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