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5 Encouragements for the Spiritual Desert Wanderer

In your daily “quiet times,” do you ever feel like Moses and the Israelites just wandering around the desert waiting for Promise Land?  

You might think that having graduated seminary means that my daily time with the Lord in the morning is full of His Shekinah Glory every time I open my Bible and close my eyes in prayer. 

Let me assure you, it’s not. In fact, if anything, having been in seminary made my times with the Lord dryer and more difficult. I did not expect that this was going to happen in seminary. Yet, I found myself in quite the barren spiritual desert 6 months ago and I had been wandering for a long time. Knowing (some) Greek didn’t help. Knowing the cultural background and context of the text didn’t help. Honestly, it made it worse. I couldn’t just enjoy God’s Word for what it is: His Word! The Bible had become another textbook I had to read. 

Can you relate to this at all? Maybe it’s not because of seminary, but have you ever felt like the Bible was something that you “had to read” and not something that you have the joy and privilege of reading? Have you ever felt like you were in a spiritual desert and your Bible reading and prayer weren’t helping? Are you in that desert now? 

Whether you have been, you are, (or will be someday), in a similar place, let me give you five encouragements that I pray bless you in those times: 

1. You’re not alone. I can’t say for certain, but I think that ALL Christians go through this at some point in their journey with the Lord. Take heart! The spiritual desert you find yourself in has been traveled before and others have made it through. Therefore, you will too. But… 

2. Just because you don’t “feel” close to God in your Bible and prayer time doesn’t mean that you should abandon it. I know many people who simply stop reading and praying during desert times and you know what? It doesn’t help. What would happen if I stopped talking to my wife every time I didn’t “feel” love towards her? If I did this, waiting for the morning where all of a sudden the lights came on, I’d be in the dark for a long time waiting to “feel” love for her. How do I “feel” love for my wife? I spend time with her. I talk to her. I share my heart with her. Spending more time, not less, stirs my affections for her. I believe that’s how it is with God. It’s a relationship after all, right? To put it another way: a sailboat won’t move unless the wind blows the sails. Therefore, raise the sails of your spiritual life (read and pray) and wait for the wind (the Spirit) to blow.  

3. I’ve been using John Piper’s IOUS acronym daily for the last 5 months and it has helped a ton: 

  • I—Incline “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain.” (Psalm 119:36) 
  • O—Open “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18) 
  • U—Unite “Unite my heart to fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11) 
  • S—Satisfy “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:14) 

4. Repent. Is there sin in your life that you need to repent of? Could there be some sin that is stifling your walk with God? I don’t know. Only you and God know. But if there is, then I urge you to repent and turn from your sin. Often, this is all it takes.  

5. Beg God to grow your affections for Him. Ask Him to give you the desire to even want to read and pray. Pray this daily, even if you’re in a good spot. This is a request our heavenly Father wants to answer. 

There’s more to be said here, but I’ll leave it at those five encouragements for now.

Everyone is different and everyone’s walk with the Lord is different. I’ve just laid out what I have learned and what has helped me. If this doesn’t encourage you, then go find someone whose Bible-Prayer life is one you want to have for yourself ask them how they do it. Then, go and do the same! 

It’s okay to be in a spiritual desert. It’s not okay to stay there.  

Here’s the really good news though… spiritual desert or not, if you’re in Christ, then Jesus loves you just the same. So take heart, beloved brother or sister.  

 

Gabriel Pech is married to Hannah and they have 3 beautiful children. They have been members at FCC since April 2017. He graduated from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with his M.Div. in May, 2018. The Pech family now lives in Kaiserslautern, Germany, where they are missionaries to the 80,000+ Americans/military members and their families who are stationed there.  

 

 

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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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You Are Never Boxed In!

By Garet Halbert

All believers battle sin. We all struggle to be and do as we ought in Christ because the desires of the old nature still linger in deepest recesses of our inner being. Whether you have been a Christian for a day or five decades, the Christian life of holiness is always a battle (though it does get easier the longer you’ve been fighting).

So in this struggle with sin, there will be times when we fall short of the desires and expectations He has for us. And in those low moments of sin, we tend to dwell on the causes of our sin. Often when we fall into sin and are either confronted by a fellow church member or convicted by the Spirit of God, the first thing we do is we justify what happened. What I mean by this is that we explain the events leading up to the sin and justify that our actions were caused by those circumstances. Maybe you are struggling with a porn addiction and you are thinking “I wouldn’t look at porn if I was (married, my spouse wasn’t so distant, or whatever your circumstance might be).” Maybe you are struggling with bitterness and covetousness towards others. “ I wouldn’t be so bitter if she would just admit she’s wrong” or “I wouldn’t be so covetous if I could find a job that pays more.” Whatever your struggle might be, the problem that we have is that we justify our sins.  Often we are more concerned with the circumstance than the sin itself. In a word, we act as though our sin happened because we were boxed in and had no other option than to do what we did (or maybe what we are doing even now).

Jay Adams, in his book Competent to Counsel, tells a story of a woman who has an irresponsible husband, struggles as a mother, and ongoing financial stress. In her struggle, she essentially shuts herself off and begins to neglect her responsibilities as a wife and mother. In counseling, the woman says, “ I can’t go on; I can’t take it any longer—I’m in a box and I can’t get out.” Here we see a woman heavy ladened with familial struggles, and she goes numb to her family because she feels she’s “in a box” and has no other choice and cannot go on. Though a tragic situation, the truth is she’s justifying what she’s doing by the circumstance she’s in. Maybe you are just like this woman. “I was boxed in…I wouldn’t have made that choice if weren’t for ________(fill it the blank).” We’ve all been there.

The problem with this thinking, as Christians, is that we are never boxed in. 1 Corinthians 10:13 reads, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” [emphasis added]. As Christians, one of the greatest promises God has given us concerning temptation is that there will always be a way of escape.

Brothers and Sisters, we are never boxed in! As Jay Adams said, “she needed to understand that God provides ‘a way of escape’ with every trial.” And he went on to say, “Christians are never in a box. God can make the walls of the box fall flat like the walls of Jericho; he can open the lid and reach down with his mighty hand and support one through the test; or he can make the bottom fall out. Whatever way of escape God may provide…we may trust that the way out will come as surely as the problem itself.”

What Dr. Adams said in this counseling session is something we all need to hear in light of our struggles. We can be sure temptation will come, but we can also be sure that the way of escape will be there too.

Now to some, telling a struggling wife and mother that she shouldn’t be acting the way she was regardless of her circumstances, is not the right way to address her. That by correcting her you are going to discourage her. There is some truth to that. There is a good chance the woman would be discouraged at this correction, but in all honesty, to confront her wrong thinking by telling her she is never boxed in as a believer is more encouraging than anything else you could tell her! Though the words “we shouldn’t let our circumstances dictate our actions” might seem like cow prods, in truth, they are the most healing words you could ever hear. You are not controlled by the things around you! You don’t have to sin when you are in those situations! Christian, you are never boxed in!

So next time when you are struggling and you think you have no other choice than to sin, remember that way of escape is as sure as the temptation itself. Your God is faithful and He will provide for you, that you may endure whatever comes your way. There is much hope in the fact that as Christians, we are never boxed in when it comes to struggles and temptations. Let the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13 be with you next time you feel boxed in by your circumstances, for as Christians we never truly are.

Garet Halbert is a member of FCC and serves as an Elder in Training. He and his wife, Heidi, have two little girls, Selah and Sophia.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling, Christian Living

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One Small Butterfly, Two Big Lessons

by BJ Rathburn

I don’t know about you, but I love God’s creatures, especially those in the animal kingdom. I like to look for spiritual analogies and Scriptural truths illustrated in the creature before me and how God made it. As I’ve reflected on what I might share with you, I remember a certain encounter with one of God’s small creatures and two important lessons it taught me. I share them here in hopes it will encourage you in some way.

It was late in the afternoon on a late Spring day. I had been walking through some hard things for a while that would eventually result in marital separation. In the moment, things seemed to be piling up on me. Can you relate? The Psalmist knew this well when he cried out to the Lord in Ps. 25:17, “The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.” Well, the troubles of my heart were most certainly enlarged that day. Something had happened and I didn’t have anyone to share it with but the Lord. I was overwhelmed, confused, frightened, anxious, hurt, angry, lonely, and had no earthly idea of what to do. I walked the short walk to a little clearing at a nearby trailhead, sheltered from public view, with an arbor and some benches on the edge of a scrubby mesquite forest. No sooner did I sit down when the tears just flooded out.

I was trying to mentally articulate a prayer of some kind to ask God for help By Wikipedia: User: Umbris (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commonswith the turmoil in my heart when through my tears I saw something move at my feet. Scorpions, tarantulas, colonies of fire ants, and other nasty things inhabited my neck of the woods in Dallas, so the first thing I did was instinctively yank my feet up onto the bench. But when I looked more carefully, I saw a beautiful butterfly, (probably a Cassius Blue), blending in perfectly with the background beneath me. It appeared to be sunning itself, but periodically closed its wings so I got a good view of its defense mechanism patterning. For a fleeting moment, the beauty of the winged thing at my feet displaced my self-pity.

Lesson One: When You Need God to Change the Course of History, He did.

My initial reaction of gratitude (that the creature at my feet was not venomous) quickly morphed into a spirit that questioned the Lord. “Lord! I wish you would come down and straighten this out! I wish you would come down and make your presence known! I wish you would come down and interrupt all this and fix it forever! I wish you would come down and show me what to do! I want to be able to see You as clearly as the butterfly at my feet. I wish You would do something! Anything!”

The Lord used the tenor of my impetuous grumbling to take me to Isiah 64-65, which opens, “Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down…” And no sooner did I read that, when I knew God was using His Word to tell me that He did. He did rend the Heavens and the curtain to the Holy of Holies, too! He did come down. He sent His Son into the world to live an obscure life full of hardship, to suffer at the hands of the persecutors He came to save, and to die that I, among many, could receive forgiveness for my sins and an eternity in Heaven free of all the pain and sorrow and death that sin delivers on earth. In my selfishness, I had been whining to God that my momentary troubles were bigger than His solution. But I was wrong. And in my selfishness, I didn’t really want this reminder at first. It seemed that God was minimizing my pain with the “good” news. But God chastened me and then encouraged me that when His incarnate Son came down, His solution to sin and sin sickness, His solution to brokenness, His solution to pain – was a once-and-forever, bigger than all evil solution that couldn’t be revoked, overturned, repealed, undone, or even diminished. It didn’t minimize evil or heartache (though I have sometimes blown things out of proportion). Rather, Jesus on the cross and Jesus in His glory simply dwarfs the most monumental suffering.

I don’t know about you, but as a woman, I sometimes unwittingly use my emotions as an excuse to ignore truth. I give myself an emotional hardship pass as though getting out of sound doctrine were the same as a “get out of jail free” card in Monopoly. But this path only exacerbates the problems underlying raw and unruly emotions. When I follow God’s way of dealing with the underlying problems, I am on the path to peace and healing even when the trouble doesn’t go away – even when the trouble gets worse for a while. And so it was that day.

Lesson Two: Most vulnerable with God is safest.

As God gently but firmly corrected my upside-down theology, I was free to see a second lesson in the butterfly. When its wings were up, it could launch into flight a fraction of a second faster. And the “eyes” on the underside of its wings, meant to scare off or confuse predators, were in plain view. So when its wings were up, its guard was up. Its defenses were at the ready. But where it rested at my feet, it was better camouflaged with its wings down, sunning itself. In that setting, at that time, being more vulnerable offered it more protection.

By leppyone (Cassius Blue) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsWhen I saw that, I marveled, and the Lord reminded me that “…whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25). So here’s my second confession: I know God wants me to guard my heart. But sometimes I use the language of biblically guarding my heart to cover up a selfish desire to protect my heart from pain. I can quickly erect an invisible shrine to all things that help me avoid pain, sprinkle some Bible verses on it and tell myself I’m doing well, when all I’m really doing is trying to save my life my way, apart from Christ, and losing it in the process. When I let God protect me from pain, I’m not passively subjecting myself to evil or going around hunting for pain by any means! But I’m able to follow Jesus into difficult, even painful situations and simultaneously experience joy, freedom, and peace because I’m following Him and He is protecting me. God used the butterfly that day to show me that my heart only wanted to follow God if He led me out of trouble, away from pain, towards momentary happiness. And that in the process, I was forfeiting the blessings of following Him where He leads, experiencing the peace that surpasses all understanding, and watching Him provide protection for me in ways that added no sorrow.

I pray that if you’re going through something hard right now, God will gently but inescapably show you that when you need Him to change the course of your life, He did. And when you most need protection, resting at His feet in vulnerable submission to and humble dependence on Him is the safest place you can ever be.

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Freedom from Bondage

By Julie Ganschow

The Members of Your Body

“And do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13, NASB).

Offering the members of our body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness takes many forms. Anytime we indulge the flesh to the point of “addictions,” we become a slave to whatever we are worshiping.

My Story

For example, I used to worship the idea of being thin, and so I abused my body to make it that way. I thought I was in control of the situation, but I quickly learned that if I wanted to be thin I was going to have to play by the “thin rules.” Those rules included not eating or not eating much beyond diet soda and popcorn, not cooking, not making foods I knew others would enjoy because I would eat them too and that would violate the “thin rules.”

I thought I was exercising control over my life, and in actuality, I became a voluntary slave to being thin. My days and activities were constantly dominated by “don’t.” Don’t eat this or that, don’t go here or there because they could have food. Don’t go out to lunch with your friends because you will eat. You can’t eat because then you won’t be thin!

This way of life took over my life. I had no freedom or control because what I once controlled was now controlling me!

Our Story

The person who wakes up on their face in the driveway one morning, all foggy-brained from the drunk or high they went on the night before may not understand their slavery. The young woman who rushes to the bathroom many times a day to vomit up her food intake does not understand her slavery either. The young man who clicks on pornography in his bedroom in the dark, seeking harder and harder porn thinks he is only looking for the next thrill. The man or woman who takes the house payment to the casino for one last try at making it rich doesn’t understand what drives them, or that they are no longer having “fun” at this anymore.

Each of these people is real. They are our friends and neighbors, family or co-workers. Maybe one of them is you.

God’s Story

There is only One who can free us from such bondage. We bring His message of hope and truth to the hurting people surrounding us.

The reality about sin is that the Lord is not going to swoop in and take away all our sinful desires. It is going to take the hard work of a changed heart to bring about the changed life we so deeply desire.

At some point, we are going to have to be willing to knock whatever we worship off the altar. Be forewarned: knocking it down will be painful. We cannot expect to claim it in Jesus’ Name and walk away healed and free; that is foolishness. We have built a system of belief and a system of worship around this thing and it colors and influences how we “do” life.

While there are no “easy steps,” there are biblical principles we each must pursue.

  • We must begin with prayerful determination to no longer be a slave to whatever has us bound (Romans 6).
  • We must enlist the help of those around us and make ourselves accountable to them for change (Galatians 6:1-2).
  • We must learn where our pitfalls are, what sets us off, what makes us run to that old comfortable idol.
  • We must make a plan to run somewhere else—like into the throne room of the Almighty God (Hebrews 4:16). It is there that we will find grace to help in our time of need.

There is a reason that Ephesians 4:22 tells us to throw off our old fleshy selves, our old desires, our old objects of worship. It is because they capture us, enslave us, and they grow more and more powerful in our lives. They corrupt us further and further until we believe we are beyond hope.

But we do not have to go back to the grave. In and through Christ we have been set free!

How can God’s story of being set free in Christ empower you to find Christ’s victory over the things that enslave you?

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

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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Children Of The Heavenly Father

Words: Karolina W. Sandell-Berg, Andeliga daggdroppar, 1858 (Tryggare kan ingen vara); translated from Swedish to English by Ernst W. Olson in The Hymnal, 1925.

Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in Heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given.

God His own doth tend and nourish;
In His holy courts they flourish;
From all evil things He spares them;
In His mighty arms He bears them.

Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord His children sever;
Unto them His grace He showeth,
And their sorrows all He knoweth.

Though He giveth or He taketh,
God His children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.

Lo, their very hairs He numbers,
And no daily care encumbers
Them that share His ev’ry blessing
And His help in woes distressing.

Praise the Lord in joyful numbers:
Your Protector never slumbers.
At the will of your Defender
Ev’ry foeman must surrender.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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On The Passing Of My Daddy

One day sooner than I want to think about, I’m going to hear the words, “Your daddy died today.” But I don’t want to think of it that way. You see, my daddy always taught me that I needed to have the right perspective that comes from the Word of God. God’s Word says that those who die in Christ are alive with Him, raised to newness of life. Their bodies may be temporarily laid aside but that is not the true man. It is man’s spirit that is the true man, not his body.  We, Christ’s followers, worship Him in spirit and in truth.

My daddy is still worshipping Him in spirit because the spirit of man does not die. The Bible says that it is Christ’s Spirit that bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, those who believe on His Name. The Bible also says that on the last day, Christ will raise our bodies from the dead and the corruptible will be exchanged for the incorruptible; but the spirit of man is either separated or united with Christ. That is why my daddy always liked to quote, “We cannot grieve as those who have no hope.”

James Tissot [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

James Tissot, “Jesus Wept”

My daddy was one of the called out ones, chosen before the foundation of the world to be one of His sheep. He always loved how the Bible referred to us as sheep [we are His people, the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3)]. It says we who are His sheep know His voice (John 10:27). My daddy knew his Master’s voice and when Christ the Good Shepherd called him, he followed.

Daddy believed the Gospel. He knew he was a sinner and that when Christ died and rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures, it was for his sins.  He believed that Christ’s righteousness was credited to John Worley’s account and that when God looked at John Worley He did not see his sins. They were covered by Christ’s blood—not by any righteous acts that he had done, they were seen as filthy rags­(Isaiah 64:6)­—but only by Christ’s sacrifice. Christ’s blood covered it all and made John Worley blameless before his Holy God! Christ was my daddy’s Anchor that kept and keeps his soul!

My daddy was a pastor for many years but even when he left the pastorate, he did not leave his role of caring for Christ’s sheep. He planted himself in Faith Community Church and kept on caring. I believe that he saw that as his calling. Christ asked Peter if he loved Him. When Peter told Him that he did, Christ told Peter to feed His lambs and tend and feed His sheep (John 21:17).

That’s my dad’s legacy. He fed lambs and tended and fed Christ’s sheep. He gave people God’s Word, the only food that nourishes, and challenged them to follow after it and obey it.

Many people brought him their struggles and he always pointed them to God’s Word because he truly believed that it would not return empty or void (Isaiah 55:11) and would accomplish in the lives of others all that God desired. He believed in the power of prayer and made his requests known to God. He prayed for so many people. He prayed for me a lot. My daddy always taught me that I could give in to my emotions or hold on to the truth of God’s Word and keep preaching it to myself. I’ve always had to preach to myself a lot, and now even more!

God also gave my daddy the gift of giving. All my life he has been an example to me of giving to others, not just material things, but he gave of himself. He purposed to make time for people, even in his pain. He took on the role of a servant, looking out for and meeting the pressing needs of others. I praise God for giving him the strength to do all that he did and for the example to imitate. He was modeling for me what it means to persevere.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsWhen people die there is always something within us that wants to do something. I know what my dad would want you to do. Ask yourself, “Is Christ my anchor? Does He keep my soul?” If the answer is “yes,” then cling to Him no matter what comes in this life. Take it as from His hand, in which you are held secure. Live with hopeful expectation of Christ’s glorious appearing, when we who are called by His name will for all eternity be united with Christ! With one voice we will all proclaim, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for His judgments are true and just . . . Hallelujah for the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us exult and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage supper of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and pure” (Rev. 19, 1,6-8 excerpts). For if we live it is for Christ and if we die it is our gain, because Christ is our life. Live to please and honor Him in everything you do. Make it your life’s goal to be found in Him to be a good and faithful servant.

If your answer is, “No, He is not my anchor” then believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved! Repent of your sins and follow after Him. Apart from Christ you have no hope. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1). Surrender your life to His keeping. Are you being kept by Him? My daddy is experiencing the fullness of joy that comes from being in the presence of Christ right now, and he will be forever. Today I can rejoice for my daddy because he is counted among the redeemed of the Lord! Christ is my anchor!

Jackie Rebiger is a member of FCC. Her father John Worley III was an elder at FCC from 1996-2016. John went home to be with the Lord in 2016.

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Are You The One?

BY JOE BANCKS

One of the most earthy, human, and moving passages of the New Testament is Luke 7:18-35 (read it HERE).

John the Baptizer, in prison for his opposition to Herod’s unlawful marriage, sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the One?” Jesus, one must imagine, broken-hearted for his cousin and for the righteousness of God He had come to accomplish, replies with simultaneous understatement and glory: “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” In His answer to John, Jesus appeals to Isaiah, beckoning John’s heart to God’s Word, to see the fulfillment of God’s promises. If your Bible has cross-references (a very, very useful tool for understanding how all Scripture fits together!), you might see cross-references to Isaiah chapters 35 and 61 (read them HERE and HERE), foreseeing the Messiah who preaches good tidings to the poor and heals he sick, and this is exactly what is happening in real-time.

Oberzell Alte Kirche Decke Johannes im Kerker.jpg

John the Baptist in prison, by Josef Anton Hafner, 1750. Public Domain.

I think it goes deeper. Often a NT author (and in this case, Jesus) calls our attention to an OT passage without quoting the whole thing, but the omitted portions are just as “referenced” as the explicitly quoted parts.

That’s a little esoteric, so maybe an analogy will help. Suppose you and I share an affinity for the Rolling Stones. If you ask me, some day, “How’s your day?” and I reply simply, “You can’t always get what you want,” you would understand that the next line, the lyric I did not say, is the answer to your question: “But sometimes you get what you need.” I’m saying that this day is not what I wanted, but in God’s providence I have hope that it is what I need. Because you and I have a common lyrical lexicon, in the oblique reference I made, we are sharing more than information: we are sharing solidarity, we are enjoying fellowship.

So Jesus stops His answer with “the poor have good news preached to them.” But Isaiah 61:1 goes on to say something else: that God’s promised Messiah would bring liberty to captives, and opened prisons to those who are bound.

Captives, like Jesus’ cousin John.

What a strong, tender, empathetic response to the prisoner of hope.

Joe Bancks is a member of FCC.

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