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Archive for May, 2018

If You Love Me…

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15 (NIV)

The Lord expects us to display our love for Him, and it is to be a daily demonstration in the life of the Christian.

Those who believe Jesus is the Christ are born of God, and those people will love God and love their fellow believers. It is impossible for an unbeliever to truly love God, because they are not capable of it.

One of the displays of our love and affection toward God comes in the form of obedience. Obedience is one of the things God commands of His children. We know it is important because the command to obey the Lord and His Word appears more than 30 times in the New Testament alone! When we love Him we will obey His commands to respond in love toward Him and also to love others.

If you are like me, you struggle with obedience. I have a really hard time obeying in every incidence, even when I know I should. I suspect there are times I allow my emotions to rule over my theological understanding, and so I decide to do what I want to do, rather than following the Scriptures. Those are decisions and choices I think we face multiple times a day! In fact, there are times when disobedience becomes habitual and my heart becomes calloused in a particular area. It is for this reason that regular self-examination is needed.

There is nothing like a time of self-examination to bring humility into my life. Sitting with the Lord and asking Him to open my heart before Him as David did:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. Psalm 139:23-24 (NASB)

Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind Psalm 26:2 (NASB)

I also take time to consider my interactions with others; has a friend commented on something I said or did as not being very Christ-like? Did I react or did I respond with gracious consideration? I am bound by my love for God to consider if those who rebuke or correct me are acting as “Nathan’s” in my life (2 Samuel 12). Are they God’s mouthpiece in those moments?

If you are unsure if someone has pointed out sin or their preference, go to the Word for clarification. It is important to note that we are not bound to obey someone’s extra-biblical expectation, but to obey God’s clearly laid out commands in the Bible.

Perhaps your conviction is heavy by this point in your reading. I don’t mean to add to your burden, but to reveal it and to help you to lighten your load (Galatians 6:1-2). It is so important that we confess our sin to God, and that our known sin is confessed prior to partaking in the communion elements. We must not make light of the sacrifice of the Lord’s sacrifice (1 Corinthians 11:27-30), so agree with Him where sin is present in your life. Take that opportunity to move forward in the grace that He provides.

All of these are disciplines of the Christian life and should be a regular part of your sanctification journey. If you are having a “dry spell” in your spiritual life, you are slipping into old behavior patterns as a result or if the fires are burning low, ask the Lord to examine your heart for disobedience.

With confession and repentance, you will find you have a renewed desire to love, serve, and obey the Lord. You may experience a passionate ignition for the Word and for righteousness as a result. He is faithful to reward those who seek Him.  Spend some time today in self-examination, and remember to express your love for Him.

Finding Hope in Hopeless Situations

My daily meetings with women make it clear that many of you are living with circumstances that you believe are beyond your ability to tolerate.

My goal is to give you hope. Hope is at the center of the gospel story! Hope is found in the resurrection. We must always remember to give hope to people in desperate circumstances. A lack of hope is the reason people commit suicide. They can see no way out, and no change looms on the horizon, so they choose a permanent solution to what they do not understand is truly a temporary situation. I am not being insensitive here, but suicide is not God’s will or His way of handling any situation, no matter how hopeless it appears.

We face many things that feel hopeless; abuse, rape, drunkenness, and so on. Even in these horrible circumstances, hope can be found. One woman told me that her sexual assault was what brought her to Christ, another said her family history of drunkenness and being shuffled to relatives all around the country is what exposed her to the gospel.

Last week I wrote an article about how means all things for the good of the Christian. He allows things for the purpose of our being conformed to the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-29). What a source of hope and security these two verses are! No matter what challenge, pain, or hurt we face along the way, we can be confident that God is using it to prosper us in some way. It is for this reason that I can say with confidence that God is concerned with how we go through things. This is an anchor in the storms of life to know that God is at work for our ultimate good and the fulfillment of His good promises.

When we find security in the God we know and love, we also see with eyes of faith beyond the sorrow and suffering we are experiencing.  We can see the Father who never forgets His child, His plan, or His purposes.

When we take our eyes off the Lord and focus on the present hurt or circumstance, the result is insecurity. We forget the big picture of sanctification and are swallowed up by the fears and fantasies of our minds. This brings hopelessness and even panic. We lose sight of the God of the universe as sovereign and omnipotent, and we begin to think of Him as confused and impotent!

If you have lost your focus begin by returning to the Word and diligent prayer. Suffering and hardship cannot bring our lives to a grinding halt; we must adjust and move on. We must take the initiative and do whatever we can do humanly speaking as well, and then leave the rest to the Lord.

As you read the Word, you will begin to think as He thinks. You will begin to desire what He desires and this will lead you to Christ-like responses.

If this seems impossible to you, I would ask you to consider the type of input that may be affecting your attitude. If you spend more time watching television and reading books and only a few minutes (or no minutes) reading the Bible, you will not see God’s purpose or plan for you. It’s just not possible to respond with a godly response when you have little to no godly input.

Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday… Psalm 37:4-6 (NASB)

Commit your life to Him, not only on Sunday or when it is convenient; do it every day of your life. Trust God to take over your world, your home, your children, job, and anything else that you have and do. When you actively and joyfully do this, He will direct your thoughts, plans, and dreams for the day. Yield to Him all that He has graciously allowed you to have and be a steward over. He is completely trustworthy, and loves you deeply.

Yielding also means being flexible. Pray, and submit your plan to God for His approval. Remember that He is the Author of your days, and if He changes your plans seek to see His hand in the new plan and submit to His will. It is not important why God does this, just graciously submit to His will with thanksgiving.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NASB)

Julie is the Director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center and a member of FCC.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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That He May Silence The Enemy

Psalm 8:2

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants

You have ordained strength,

Because of Your enemies

That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.

In God’s plan to conquer the world — you do know that He has placed all things under the authority of His Son Jesus, and that one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, right? It’s in the Bible 🙂 — in His plan to conquer the world, the humble and weak exult over the arrogant and strong. The enemy and the avenger, those who prey on the weak, who are proud and have no fear of God, are shut up by the praise of little children. This is true and absolute victory, and it is as sure as the Word of God.

May, 2018. There have been two recent news stories from out of the UK regarding small children with grave deformities who, though their parents wished to take them out of the UK to countries where physicians were willing to treat the children, the parents were nonetheless barred by the British High Court from moving their children elsewhere to seek treatment. If you wish to research these events, the children’s names were Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans. Charlie Gard died on July 28, 2017. Alfie Evans died April 28, 2018.

The details of their stories are heart-crushing and infuriating, and this is not only an English Single-Payer Socialized Medicine problem. Neglect and euthanasia may be technically against the law in Kansas and Missouri, but don’t doubt for a second that it happens in secret, with the knowledge, if not the active participation, of doctors, nurses, insurance companies, and politicians. Terri Schiavo was starved to death at the order of an American judge in Florida, though her parents wished to keep caring for her. This is an American sin, too.

As with all sin, not only is the murder and abandonment of the weak a despicable wickedness and injustice in its own right, but it tells a lie about God. When parents murder their unborn children in abortion, they are telling a lie about the fatherhood of God. When governments execute the innocent under their jurisdiction, they are telling a lie about the justice of God.

In Justin Clark’s Sunday School class on the early church, he took us through The Letter To Diognetus, an early apologetic defense of Christianity to the Romans. In it, the author observes that Christians “marry, and have children, but do not destroy their offspring,” that is, in contrast with the Greco-Roman practices of abortion and child exposure. Child exposure was simply taking a baby out to the wilderness, and leaving him to die, by starvation, predation, or by heat or cold exposure. Other early A.D. writings attest to the Christian practice of rescuing the children abandoned to the elements.

This set the early Christians apart. By this they bore witness to the God who loves the weak.

For us here at FCC, in Kansas City, Middle America, I want to zero in on five things we can do to bear witness for God in the face of these horrors, and stand with the great cloud of Christian witnesses who went before us:

(1) If you have participated in abortion or in the abandonment of someone who was frail and helpless, repent. Name your sin, confess it, without any self-justification or rationalization agree with God that it is heinous, and receive God’s forgiveness in the name of Jesus.

(2) Prepare to be deliverers of the weak.

1 Timothy 5:8 reads:

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.

Christian men, this is part of our duty to provide for our families: preparation. Think through the scenarios of caring for your families should they need exceptional medical care. Make sure your medical providers also uphold the dignity of life, and affirm with you that starving, suffocating, or euthanizing the infirm is murder. Be on the lookout for these dangers, before they come.

(3) Pray imprecatory Psalms.

If you’re not already regularly praying Scripture as a practice, please do! Praying Scripture will shape your love for God, will shape your desires to be in accordance with His will, and will help Scripture take root in your soul.

In the face of abortion, abandonment, needless and unjust violence, how many thousands of times have you felt helpless. It’s in these circumstances we should turn to the imprecatory Psalms, and pray God’s vengeance against the darkness. Imprecation means “cursing,” and the Psalms are full of imprecation against God’s enemies. The most widely recognized imprecatory Psalms are Pss 5, 10, 17, 35, 58, 59, 69, 70, 79, 83, 109, 129, 137, 140.

Both Jesus and Paul appeal to the imprecatory Psalm 69 (see John 2:17, 15:25; Romans 11:9-10, 15:3). The Apostles turned to the imprecatory Psalm 109:8 to guide them in replacing Judas (Acts 1:20).

Plead with God to arise in His anger to deliver the helpless (Psalm 7:6), to make the oppressor quake with fear and feel the indignation of God (Psalm 69: 23), to put to shame and confusion those who pursue the innocent (Psalm 70:2), to bring to ruin and swift judgment those who persecute the innocent (Psalm 109).

This does not preclude wishing for the repentance of the wicked. Pray for that too. But as with Church Discipline, when we have come to the place of seeing only hardness of heart and arrogant defiance against the God of Heaven, we ask God to ride to war to defend His name as the God of righteousness, the protector of the orphan and widow.

(4) Stand with Stand With Faith.

Proverbs 24:11-12 reads:

Deliver those who are drawn toward death,

And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.

If you say, “Surely we did not know this,”

Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it?

He who keeps your soul, does He not know it?

And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?

Every month members from FCC gather outside Planned Parenthood and bear witness to the Good News that God has come to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, to forgive sins, and to defend the helpless. We cannot run in and save the babies being murdered, but we can stand as witnesses to the truth. Come out and stand, pray, evangelize, and witness.

(5) Give to the benevolence fund.

If Americans continue to devalue human life even further, the institutions we as Americans have relied upon to care for the disabled and infirm – social welfare and medical insurance programs, public and private homes for the disabled, etc. – will officially and openly begin to abandon and murder those who need extraordinary intervention. We, together as a church, will have to come together to support each other financially as we obey God in caring for the poor and the weak.

Let not any of us say, “I didn’t know.” Let us bear witness to the truth, and let us do what we can to rescue those being carried off to the slaughter. And let the enemy and avenger be shut up by the praise of infants and nursing babes.

Joe Bancks is a member of FCC. Joe is Kate’s husband, and father of four. 

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When Fear Overtakes You

The first time my husband went to Africa a few years ago, it was pretty horrible here without him. He believes Satan was attacking each of the four people on the trip weeks before they left, but especially while they were gone. I ran our family business while he was gone and there was a car accident in a snowstorm among other problems while he was away. I was terribly sick while trying to work full time and still keep up our home with our four kids (including school work, meals, etc). We also received the news that my mother in law’s cancer had spread to her brain. So when he told me that he was asked to go back this past winter, my first thought was to wonder what could go wrong with this trip.

We began praying more intentionally for this trip and for all 3 team members who were going this time. We also set up an agreement with one another so that I would not send him bad news until we were able to establish voice contact with each other. The first trip was not only hard on me, but on him since he was getting messages, but not able to communicate back for several days

Fortunately, communication technology was much improved this trip.For the first part of the trip we were able to talk each day. I looked forward to hearing what work was being accomplished there and he was grateful to hear things were going smoothly here. We didn’t have many problems at home this trip either, which we accounted to God’s goodness and answers to many praying for us.The first Saturday he was there, he was able to contact me a second time. He had checked in at bedtime like he has been doing each day and then again when he was awoken in the middle of the night by a huge cockroach crawling across his hand. He was unable to sleep after that so he could talk an extra time that day.

Then, at 3:30 am Kansas City time, my phone rang with a What’sApp call from my husband. I wasn’t sure what time it was there, but I figured it would have to be early morning by then. I answered by saying “Hello” and then said,“John, are you there?” Trying not to wake anyone else up, I went to our living room repeatedly saying, “John are you there? Is everything okay?” I just kept hearing banging; like things being thrown around the room. Lots of noise here and there, but no talking. I finally said, “John, can you talk? You’re scaring me. Is someone there?” Still nothing. All of a sudden I heard John say “I smell gas” in a really low voice. I freaked out and started crying. I have never been this frightened before in my life. I had this picture in my mind. The group all hiding under a table or something while some armed people were robbing them all while threatening to catch the place on fire after. It was horrible. I did not know what to do. I kept saying, “Please just say you’re okay and tell me why I have to listen to this. I did not know what to do.”

So then I did a selfish thing – I went downstairs and woke up my 17-year old daughter. Remember this is 3:40 am and I am sobbing and shaking. I told her something was wrong in Africa and that her dad had said he smelled gas and that he was not saying anything since that. We sat there listening to more loud noises, like metal hitting the floor over and over. I was thankful for the cockroach that woke him up so we could say that we loved each other earlier. She suggested we stop and pray together. Thank you Lord for giving me this child who reminded me what was most important in my time of need. We prayed out loud and cried harder. Then through the phone we heard liquid pouring and I lost it. I decided I should try to call another friend in Africa to go and check on them. Right when Ashlyn agreed that was a good idea, the phone call ended. I lost it again! I don’t think I have ever felt this kind of sadness before. Nothing can compare to the helplessness I felt. I couldn’t figure out why he would have me listen to this and just not say anything but “I smell gas.” Why would God allow this to be the last time I heard his voice?

About a minute later, my husband called and asked if I had called him. He sounded completely normal.How could this be? I told him that he had called me and explained why I was crying so hard. He couldn’t believe it. He said that his phone had been in the kitchen on the counter far from where he was standing and that he was trying to get the gas stove to work. Yes, he spoke out loud to himself and said, “I can smell gas” in the process, but he had no idea I was on the phone listening. He asked if the sound I heard was a specific loud banging he could reproduce. Yes, it was the same noise we had been listening to over and over, it was just the door to the kitchen! He was also clicking the stove over and over which makes a loud noise too. The worst part was that he was making hot tea so when he poured the water into a kettle near the phone, it made a liquid pouring sound! Yep, the part I had envisioned as gas being poured all over the house was just tea. I couldn’t believe it. They were making breakfast before church where he was going to preach and everything was fine. I kept crying and was able to talk to him for about 10 minutes which was the longest time since he has been gone. I left my daughter to fall back asleep and then went back to bed to try to sleep (which was impossible). Why did this all happen? How could I imagine something that seemed so real?And how did I not once think that he accidentally called me?

When fear begins to creep in and all the “what-if” situations begin to consume our minds, there are several things we need to remember:

  1. God’s truth. Is what I’m thinking about really happening? Or is it just my imagination running wild? Paul reminds us to dwell on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. (Phil 4:8)
  2. God’s presence. We can be comforted remembering that we are not alone. God is with us. “In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed; In Your righteousness deliver me. Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; be to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me. For You are my rock and my fortress; for Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me. You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, for You are my strength. (Psalm 31:1-4)
  3. God’s sovereignty. God is in control over every situation in our lives.“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.”(Eph 1:11-12)
  4. God’s trustworthiness. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4)
  5. God’s grace. God promises to provide us with his all-sufficient grace for every trial that comes our way. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” Jesus told Paul. And therefore, with Paul, we can “boast all the more gladly of [our] weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon [us.]” (2 Cor 12:9)

Prepare yourself for battle before your fear happens. Don’t let the enemy use fear to seize you and take you captive. Fight him off with the promises of God’s word and His unchanging character. And remember these things in your moment of fear!

 

Deanna Hanson is a member of FCC and helps with our website. She and her husband, John, have four children and own a small business in North Kansas City.

 

 

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The Gospel Cordial

An excerpt from a sermon entitled “The Gospel Cordial,” delivered by C.H. Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington on Lord’s Day Evening, September 20th, 1863. Available for free from the Christians Classics Etheral Library: https://www.ccel.org/ccel/spurgeon/proverbs.xlv.html

Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more. —Proverbs 31:6, 7.

[T]here is most comforting cordial in the Gospel. Dr. Watts truly sings—

Salvation! oh, the joyful sound!
‘Tis pleasure to our ears;
A sovereign balm for every wound,
A cordial for our fears.

I will take first, the case of a true believer in Jesus who is sorely tried with cares and losses and crosses. I will suppose that you have come in here to-night dreading what may happen to you to-morrow. Perhaps your trouble my brother, is that your business is failing and that want is staring you in the face. Possibly you, my sister, are sorrowing over that dear child who lies in her little coffin in the quiet room upstairs at home. Or it may be that you, my friend, have a sick wife, and day by day you see fresh signs and tokens of the great loss that is surely awaiting you. I cannot mention all the causes of sad heart in the believing members of this great assembly, but my Master has sent me here with his own blessed cordial, which is more than sufficient to comfort every sorrowing saint here.

Remember beloved, that all that happens to you comes in the course of divine providence. Your loving heavenly Father has foreseen, foreknown, and I venture to say, foreordained it all. The medicine you have to drink is very bitter, but the unerring Physician measured all the ingredients drop by drop, and then mixed them in the very way in which they could best work for your highest good. Nothing in this world happens by chance. That great God – who sitteth upon the circle of the heavens, to whom all things that he hath made are but as the small dust of the balance, who maketh the clouds his chariot, and rideth upon the wings of the wind – that same God careth for you with such special care that he has even numbered the very hairs of your head and put your tears in his bottle. You may therefore rest assured that even those experiences which are causing you so much sorrow are all in accordance with his eternal counsel and decree. Doth not this divine cordial make you forget your poverty and remember your misery no more?

I might keep on all night trying thus to comfort tried saints, but I must content myself by giving them just one more sip of this divine cordial, and that shall be this – remember how soon all these trials will be over. Be of good courage, weary pilgrim; the heavenly mansion where thou art to rest for ever is almost in sight; and thou mayest well sing—

My Father’s house on high,
Home of my soul! how near,
At times, to faith’s foreseeing eye,
Thy golden gates appear!

How fast the years fly by, and our trials and troubles are flying just as fast. Beloved, Paul truly wrote concerning “our light affliction which is but for a moment;” for after all, our afflictions are only like a troubled dream, a little starting in the sleep of life, and then we wake to sleep no more for ever. This world is, to the believer, like a country inn by the wayside, where there are many constantly coming and going, and there are such disturbing noises that no one can rest. Well, never mind, thou art only tarrying there for one short night, and then thou shalt be up and away to thine eternal home, to go no more out for ever. Will not this divine cordial make thee forget thy poverty and remember thy misery no more?

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