YE CHRISTIAN HERALDS
Bourne H. Draper, 1775–1843
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)
Many of us are often guilty of taking our pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders for granted. Seldom do we take time to really know them as persons or to let them know how much we appreciate their ministries.
Where would our world be today had there never been any missionaries and ministers of the gospel? Wherever the gospel has been preached, churches, schools, hospitals, social improvements, and advances in civilization have followed. Even in our own local communities it is often the rescue missions and other Christian organizations that are doing the most effective work in meeting the total needs of people. How important it is, then, that we as God’s children support these leaders and organizations with our prayers and financial gifts.
“Ye Christian Heralds” is taken from a seven-verse poem titled “Farewell to Missionaries,” which first appeared in an English newspaper in about 1803. Two years later it was reprinted in a hymnal with the title “On the Departure of the Missionaries.” One of the poem’s omitted verses not found in our hymnals is of interest:
Set up thy throne where Satan reigns, on Africa shores, on India’s plains;
On wilds and continents unknown, and be the universe thine own.
The author of this text, Bourne Draper, was a Baptist minister who served most of his life in the Baptist church in Southampton, England. Although he authored a number of other works, Draper is best known today for this one hymn written as a young man while he was preparing for the Christian ministry.
Ye Christian heralds, go proclaim salvation through Emmanuel’s name;
to distant climes the tidings bear, and plant the Rose of Sharon there.
God shield you with a wall of fire; with holy zeal your hearts inspire;
bid raging winds their fury cease, and calm the tempests into peace.
And when our labors all are o’er, then we shall meet to part no more;
meet with the ransomed throng to fall, and crown our Savior Lord of all!
For Today: Psalm 96; Isaiah 6:8; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; Romans 10:13–15; 1 Corinthians 3:9
Determine to read in the near future a biography of some great missionary statesman. Also write a personal letter to one of your church missionaries. Then let your pastor know how much you appreciate his ministry. Reflect again on this hymn—
October 9: Judgment: It’s Tricky
Ezekiel 19:1–20:49; Revelation 9:1–21; Job 34:31–37
Judgment is both a curse and a blessing. If you judge others, you might be judged yourself—especially if you judge them incorrectly. Yet if you know how to judge right from wrong, you can discern truth from fiction.
Although judgment can be a wretched thing, there is a time for it: When God has confirmed something in your heart, and the Bible verifies your view, you must stand up for it. When Jesus tells us not to judge, He is not declaring that we should be passive (see Matt 7:1–6; see also Matt 7:15–23, where He condemns false prophets and false followers). Instead, Jesus is saying that we should be careful about what we say and do, for we could be the one at fault.
Ezekiel also deals with the very fine line of judgment. Yahweh says to him, “Will you judge them? Will you judge them, son of man?” (Ezek 20:4). This question implies the very point Jesus makes: Is Ezekiel capable of dealing out judgment? Certainly not, but with the power of Yahweh, he can speak the truth. Yahweh goes on, “Make known to them the detestable things of their ancestors” (Ezek 20:4). He follows this with a commentary on “the detestable things” accompanied by a comparison to how Yahweh has treated His people despite their disobedience (Ezek 20:5–8).
Judgment is tricky, but fear of “getting it wrong” should not keep us quiet in the midst of misdeeds and misconduct. Instead, we must speak up—let’s just be sure that we first pray and examine our thoughts in light of the Bible.
What have you previously been quiet about that you should speak up against?
John D. Barry
Welcome to Daily Treasures from the Word of God. Today’s reading is Philippians. Our lesson is from Philippians 1:12–14, “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in [the cause of] Christ has become well known throughout the whole Praetorian Guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.” (NASU)
There are a number of times during our lifetime that we may wonder: how can suffering or vile conditions advance the gospel? Yet as we study today’s text, we can learn three things from Paul’s imprisonment.
First, Paul’s imprisonment advanced the gospel. An amazing thing about the Lord is how He can make adverse conditions be beneficial in moving the Kingdom forward. During those moments of possible trial, the Lord not only builds character in the person or persons but uses it for good.
The fall of Jerusalem and the exile were difficult times for Israel. However, after that period, the nation did not participate in the idolatrous worship of the surrounding nations. Throughout history there have been moments of great persecution yet the Christian community has grown leaps and bounds. Let us not forget that the kingdom of darkness will try all within its powers to debilitate the forward progress of the Church. The comforting thought is that Christ said He would build His Church.
Next, Paul’s imprisonment advanced the gospel throughout the whole Praetorian Guard. The word for Praetorian Guard could also mean the governor’s palace, headquarters or palace guards. Knowing the apostle, the Roman guard and everyone who protected him heard the gospel from Paul’s lips. We know that when he and Silas were in jail, a Philippian jailer and his family came to know the Lord. Paul did not miss an opportunity to preach the gospel no matter the circumstances.
Third, Paul’s imprisonment advanced the preaching of the word by others. To some the apostle may have been foolish but to the believing community he was courageous and a hero. Not that all believers would want to go to jail for preaching the gospel but by Paul continuing to be an example, it supplied someone who was willing to pay whatever price was needed in order to cross cultural and spiritual barriers so that all would know Jesus.
In summary, Paul’s imprisonment advanced the gospel. Paul’s imprisonment advanced the gospel throughout the whole Praetorian Guard. And Paul’s imprisonment advanced the preaching of the word by others.
Take a moment to think about the persecuted Christians throughout the world who are paying a high price for their faith. Pray for them to have the courage and stamina to lead others to Christ.
It has been a pleasure to share with you Daily Treasures from the Word of God. Tomorrow’s Bible reading is Colossians. Let’s not forget the words of the psalmist, “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” Until tomorrow and may God bless you in abundance as you study the Word of God.
|Giving Godly Counsel
“Concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another” (Rom. 15:14).
Scripture is the source of godly counsel.
In recent years the question of who is competent to counsel has become an important issue in the church. Many pastors and other church leaders have curtailed their counseling ministries or stopped them altogether. They’ve been made to feel inadequate for not having formal training in psychological counseling techniques.
Behind this movement away from pastoral counseling is the subtle implication that the Holy Spirit and Scripture are incapable of addressing the deepest needs of the human heart. It is claimed that only secular psychology dispensed by trained analysts can do that.
But the truth is, the heart of man is “more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). No one. That includes humanistic counselors. Verse 10 says, “I the Lord search the heart, I test the mind.” Only God can understand the human heart.
David prayed, “O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me. Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up; Thou dost understand my thought from afar. Thou dost scrutinize my path and my lying down, and art intimately acquainted with all my ways. … Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence?” (Ps. 139:1–3, 7).
Only God knows what’s in a person’s heart. Only His Spirit working through His Word can penetrate one’s deepest thoughts and motives to transform the heart and renew the mind (Heb. 4:12; Rom. 12:2).
Professional psychologists are no substitute for spiritually gifted people who know the Word, possess godly wisdom, are full of goodness, and are available to help others apply divine truth to their lives (Rom. 15:14).
When people come to you for counsel, the best thing you can do is show them what God’s Word says about their problem and how it applies to their situation. But you can’t do that unless you know the Word and are allowing it to do its work in you first. Then you’ll be in a position to counsel others more effectively.
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for the wise and all-sufficient counsel of His Word. ✧ Reaffirm your commitment to share it at every opportunity.
For Further Study: According to Psalm 119:24, on what did the psalmist rely for his counsel?
Enduring to the End
Blessed is the man who endures temptation [trials].
The word endurance in today’s verse speaks of patiently and triumphantly enduring. It connotes passive or even painful survival and focuses on the outcome of being victorious. The person who goes through trials and comes out a winner never gives up his faith or abandons God. He is shown to be the genuine article.
Some people come to church, profess Christ, and even get baptized. Yet when trouble comes into their lives, they’re gone. And they may never come back. Maybe they encountered a broken relationship, the death of a loved one, or some other struggle, and the circumstances were so overpowering that they blamed God and walked away, convinced that Christianity doesn’t work.
As believers, we may experience times of struggle and doubt, but our faith will never be destroyed. We cling to the Lord despite our trials because we love Him. That kind of loving perseverance results in true blessing.
|A Right View of God
“Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Thy sight, so that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak, and blameless when Thou dost judge.”
True confession involves a proper understanding of God.
Today we will see a second element of true confession in David’s prayer in Psalm 51: true confession requires not only a proper view of sin, but also a proper view of God. David gives us an understanding of four essential truths about God.
First, God is holy. Affirming God’s omniscience, David declared, “Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom” (v. 6). David knew that because God is holy, He is never satisfied with mere external behavior.
Second, God is powerful. David prayed, “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness” (vv. 7–8). David believed God had the power to change him—unlike some who think their sinful habits are too strong for Him to overcome.
Third, God will chastise believers for their sins. David pleaded with God, “Let the bones which Thou hast broken rejoice” (v. 8). He alluded to the way shepherds sometimes dealt with wayward sheep. They would take such troublesome sheep and break one of their legs. Then they would set the leg and carry the sheep while the leg healed. Afterwards the sheep would remain close to the shepherd. Through this picturesque metaphor, David described God’s chastisement of him for his sin.
Fourth, God is a forgiving God. “Hide Thy face from my sins,” pleaded David, “and blot out all my iniquities…. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation” (vv. 9, 14). David obviously believed God would forgive his sin or he would never have asked Him for forgiveness. In Isaiah 43:25 God Himself affirmed that He is a forgiving God: “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.”
Does your confession reflect a right view of God?
Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God for His holiness, power, and forgiveness.
For Further Study: Read the prayers of the exiles (Neh. 9:5–38) and Daniel (Dan. 9:4–19). What do those prayers tell you about their views of God?
October 9 – Intimacy with the Father
“Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat.’ But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples were saying to one another, ‘No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work’” (John 4:31–34).
The disciples’ primary concern at this point had been food. That’s why they urged Jesus to eat. Jesus, however, had a higher priority, as His reply to them makes clear: “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” Like the Samaritan woman (4:11), the disciples misunderstood Jesus’ words and began saying doubtfully to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?”
Jesus took advantage of their confusion to teach them an important spiritual lesson. He said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” Doing God’s will by proclaiming the truth to a lost sinner gave the Lord satisfaction and sustenance far surpassing what food could give Him.
Jesus frequently referred to the Father as the One who sent Him. His goal during His earthly ministry was to accomplish His work of salvation. Throughout His ministry, Jesus walked in perfect intimacy with His Father, living in complete accordance with the Father’s will until His cry of triumph from the cross—“It is finished!” (19:30)—marked the accomplishment of His mission on earth. Submitting to the Father was Jesus’ constant devotion, consummate joy, and true sustenance.
How often does food come between you and sweet fellowship with your Father in heaven? In what ways does this legitimate appetite become a tyrannical force that overrules and overrides the greater necessity of daily dependence on God?
From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610, http://www.moodypublishers.com.
Reading for Today:
Jeremiah 3:14 I am married to you. God pictured His covenant relationship with Israel as a marriage and pleaded with mercy for Judah to repent and return. He will take her back. Hosea’s restoration of Gomer was a picture of God taking back His wicked, adulterous people.
Jeremiah 4:4 Circumcise. This surgery (Gen. 17:10–14) was to cut away flesh that could hold disease in its folds and could pass the disease on to wives. It was important for the preservation of God’s people physically. But it was also a symbol of the need for the heart to be cleansed from sin’s deadly disease. The essential surgery needed to happen on the inside, where God calls for taking away fleshly things that keep the heart from being spiritually devoted to Him and from true faith in Him and His will. Jeremiah later expanded on this theme (31:31–34).
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord. Paul’s familiar theme throughout the epistle, which has already been heard in chapters 1 and 2. “In the Lord” signifies the sphere in which the believers’ joy exists—a sphere unrelated to the circumstances of life, but related to an unassailable, unchanging relationship to the sovereign Lord.
Philippians 4:12 abased…abound. Paul knew how to get along with humble means (food, clothing, daily necessities) and how to live in prosperity (“to overflow”). to be full and to be hungry. The Greek word translated “to be full” was used of feeding and fattening animals. Paul knew how to be content when he had plenty to eat and when he was deprived of enough to eat.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things. Paul uses a Greek verb that means “to be strong” or “to have strength” (Acts 19:16, 20; James 5:16). He had strength to withstand “all things” (vv. 11, 12), including both difficulty and prosperity in the material world. through Christ who strengthens me. The Greek word for strengthen means “to put power in.” Because believers are in Christ (Gal. 2:20), He infuses them with His strength to sustain them until they receive some provision (Eph. 3:16–20; 2 Cor. 12:10).
DAY 9: How do we keep the peace of God in our lives?
Paul tells us to “be anxious for nothing” (Phil. 4:6).Fret and worry indicate a lack of trust in God’s wisdom, sovereignty, or power. Delighting in the Lord and meditating on His Word are a great antidote to anxiety (Ps. 1:2). “In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving,…requests.” All difficulties are within God’s purposes. Gratitude to God accompanies all true prayer.
“And the peace of God” (v. 7). Inner calm or tranquility is promised to the believer who has a thankful attitude based on an unwavering confidence that God is able and willing to do what is best for His children (Rom. 8:28). “Which surpasses all understanding.” This refers to the divine origin of peace. It transcends human intellect, analysis, and insight. “Will guard.” A military term meaning “to keep watch over.” God’s peace guards believers from anxiety, doubt, fear, and distress. “Your hearts and minds.” Paul was not making a distinction between the two—he was giving a comprehensive statement referring to the whole inner person. Because of the believer’s union with Christ, He guards his inner being with His peace.
And believers are to think on what is true (v. 8), what is found in God (2 Tim.2:25), in Christ (Eph. 4:20, 21), in the Holy Spirit (John 16:13), and in God’s Word (John 17:17). They are to think on what is “worthy of respect,” whatever is worthy of awe and adoration, i.e., the sacred as opposed to the profane. The believer is to think in harmony with God’s divine standard of holiness and on what is morally clean and undefiled. Believers are to focus on whatever is lovely, “pleasing” or “amiable,” and that which is highly regarded or thought well of. If they follow the truth of God proclaimed, along with the example of that truth lived by Paul before them, “the God of peace will be with [them]” (v. 9). God is peace (Rom. 16:20; Eph. 2:14), makes peace with sinners through Christ (2 Cor. 5:18–20), and gives perfect peace in trouble (v. 7).
From The MacArthur Daily Bible Copyright © 2003. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson Bibles, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc, Nashville, TN 37214, http://www.thomasnelson.com.
Fri, October 09, 2015
Read your New Testament again and you will agree that mediocrity in the Christian life is not the highest that Jesus offers. Certainly, God is not honored by our arrested spiritual development—our permanent halfway spiritual condition. We all know that the Bible tells us that we honor God by going on to full maturity in Christ! Why, then, do we settle for those little pleasures that tickle the saintlets and charm the fancy of the carnal? It is because we once heard a call to take up the cross; but instead of following toward the heights, we bargained with the Lord like a street huckster! We felt an urge to be spent for Christ, but instead of going on, we started asking questions. We began to bicker and bargain with God about His standards for spiritual attainment. This is plain truth, not about unbelieving “liberals” but about those who have been born again and who dare to ask, “Lord, what will it cost me?”
I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal.
1 Corinthians 3:1
Certainly, God is not honored by our arrested spiritual development—our permanent halfway spiritual condition.
Lord, as I die to myself, may I remember that You died for me. May my life bear the fruit that maturity brings.
The Treacherous Creek
Just outside the town in California where I was born is a creek that winds across the country, eventually flowing into the Pajaro River. Many a spot along this creek would make a magnificent swimming hole, but no boys are ever seen there. It is not even necessary for parents to tell their boys not to go near these waters. Were any new boy to suggest a swim, others would quickly tell him that the name of the creek is Salsipuedes; Spanish for “Get out if you can.” There are quicksands in the creek. Legend has it that a man attempted to cross and was caught in the terrible grip of the sand; a Spaniard, coming by, called out to him, “Sal si puedes,” and that is how the creek got its name.Nothing could be more terrible than the locking of that invisible power that catches a man and pulls him down steadily to suffocation and death. This is the picture that God Himself has given us of the force of sin that holds every man and woman in this world until the redemption provided by Christ Jesus has been made effective in their lives.
My son if sinners entice you, do not consent… but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. (Proverbs 1:10,16)
1. What is the “treacherous creek” in your life?
2. According to Proverbs 1 and 2 how can Wisdom help us avoid the dangers of the creek?
The Northern Campaign – Part Five
THEME: Pleasing God
This week’s lessons conclude the account of the southern and northern campaigns, and show us the necessity of committed obedience to God in all things.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:20, “Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.” What He is saying is that if you really are a justified man or woman, if His righteousness really has been imputed to you, if you have been made spiritually alive, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, there will be such a power in you and such a desire to please God that your good deeds will exceed the good deeds of the scribes and Pharisees. One thing that bothers me about the church today is that the church is so much like the world. Where do people turn to believers and say, “There is something different about them”? I don’t mean to say that doesn’t happen. It does. There are many cases where it happens. But to a large extent today, it seems that we really are not radically distinguished by our desire to fully obey Jesus Christ and do the deeds that He did. Can it be said of you as it was said of Joshua, “He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded”?
I give one final application. In the second chapter of Philippians, Paul is talking about working out your salvation with fear and trembling. God has worked salvation in; we are to work salvation out. And then he says towards the end of that, giving the glory to God, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Are you doing everything in your life that you know of to please God? That’s a little bit more, you see, than just doing good deeds. Doing God’s good pleasure has to do with attitudes.
I just have a simple conclusion, and it’s in the nature of an explanation. And the question I raise is this: Why don’t we do these things? Why is it not true of us that we leave nothing undone of all the Lord’s commands? I think the answer is that we haven’t stopped doing a lot of the things that God has commanded us not to do. The Book of Common Prayer expressed this so well in one of its great collects on the confession of sin: “Oh, Lord, we have done those things we ought not to have done. And we have left undone those things which we ought to have done. And there is no health in us.” One of the reasons we don’t do the things we should do is that we are doing the things that we should not be doing. And until we confess the sin, which is a barrier between ourselves and God, we do not find ourselves in that spiritual state that says, “Lord, regardless of what happens, I want to do everything that you command.” May we confess the sin and be blessed as Joshua was.
What are some ways in which the church is acting like the world? How does that impact the church’s witness?
We know that a poor attitude will keep us from doing the things we know we should. But even as we do good works, how might our attitude still not be pleasing to God?
Pray that God would give you opportunities, and also the desire, to minister to the needs of others.
Seek the Lord
Those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.
what does it mean to seek the Lord? It means that we put God first in our lives. A relationship with Him becomes our priority and our foremost desire. No matter what happens to us or around us, we choose to obey God, follow God, and have a daily and intimate relationship with God. To seek the Lord means to want the Lord in your life. Those who seek the Lord are in pursuit of the Lord. They talk to Him, listen to Him, and are eager to consult Him at all times.
An Act of God’s Will
Scripture reading Matthew 28:19–20
Key verse: John 6:27
Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.
Remember how you felt the last time you helped someone? Maybe you helped a stranded motorist. Maybe you joined a neighbor for a home repair job or took on a task that was burdensome and you were glad to eventually complete it.
Whatever the circumstance, you probably were warmed by the fact that you had performed an act of goodwill. But what about doing an act of the Father’s will? Often our deeds are only for temporal benefit. Have you ever considered extending your efforts to eternity?
Our best labor is to accept and honor the words Jesus spoke as He prepared to return to heaven. He commanded us to make disciples of all the nations.
This means whether at home or abroad we are to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can’t all ship off to a distant land, but we can put our arms around a hurting family member, friend, coworker, or stranger and say, “You know, Jesus loves you, and so do I. I’ll pray for you. Is there anything else I can do?”
Jesus commanded all believers to take Him and His Word seriously in our approach with others. When you honor His command, you will honor God. The result of your love and obedience is an inexpressible appreciation of the fruit of the Spirit. People notice when we share the love of Christ.
Give me a heart of compassion, Lord. Help me to reach out to people in need.
October 9 Is There a Flaw in Your Faith?
Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
A flaw in a product can go unnoticed for long periods of time before the defect finally emerges. Likewise, many believers can grow quite rapidly in their faith before a dormant spiritual fault is revealed in a time of testing. It is then that the most common defect is discovered—operating on personal agendas.
The goal of the Christian life is to exalt and worship the person of Jesus Christ. Faith in anything but His will is idolatry. Substituting your plans for His purposes is idolatry. Faith practiced solely for achieving your personal objectives, as noble as they may seem, is idolatry.
Paul’s overwhelming ambition was to know and please Christ, to do everything to His glory. Is that your passion? Do you enter His presence with gratefulness, excitement, and reverence for Him?
It is all right to pray for personal needs and guidance, but all such requests are secondary to faith’s primary aim—experiencing God’s will for your life and personal communion with the Father. If God is accomplishing that purpose in your life, your faith will not be shaken even when the going gets rough. You will depend on God not to grant your every desire but to fulfill His purposes, whatever they may be.
Dear Father, I do not want any flaws in my faith. Create in me a pure faith so that when the going gets rough, my faith will not be shaken. Make the focus of my faith a passion to know and please You.
Scripture reading: Proverbs 3:1–12
Key verses: Proverbs 3:5–6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
As we listen for God’s still small voice to direct and guide us, we find Solomon’s words in Proverbs 3 to be especially meaningful.
When we place our trust in the Lord, we essentially lay down our right to attempt what only God can do—determine the destiny of our lives. One of the reasons we struggle greatly at times is that we resist His intervention.
We brush aside His plan for our lives but not without consequence. In doing so, we often settle for second best. For many, it is easy to accept His love, protection, and salvation but difficult to submit to the conditions surrounding His eternal care.
Is there a war raging within you? Do you fight feelings of jealousy, anger, unforgiveness, and pride? These are the signatures of the flesh that are at constant war with God’s principles and standards. They have nothing to do with the moving of His Spirit and everything to do with what keeps you from becoming all He desires.
The principles of God are timeless, and you never outgrow your need for them. Ask the Lord to open the eyes and ears of your heart so you may know His perfect will.
Help me trust and acknowledge You, Lord, rather than lean to my own understanding. Make my paths straight.
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 6:11–18
Key Verse: Ephesians 6:11
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
It’s late in the evening. You sit down to enjoy God’s Word and pray. But soon after you bow your head, your mind wanders. An evil thought creeps in and won’t go away. Where did that come from? you wonder. You try once more to put your focus on the Lord. As the minutes go by, however, you feel sleepier and sleepier. Before you know it, you’re waking up the next morning.
This scenario is a familiar one, and for good reason. Satan is pleased when your attention is diverted, and you feel like a failure in your prayer life. He knows God can use you most effectively when you pray, and harming your prayer life is the fastest way to short-circuit your ability to serve Him.
That’s why God has given you special prayer protection. The spiritual armor that guards your faith is also designed to keep you firm and strong as you talk to God. The breastplate of righteousness will keep your mind pure; the shield of faith will help you put out “the flaming missiles of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16 nasb).
Ask God to fit you with His armor when you pray. Trust the Lord to guard your time with Him. If you fail, don’t be depressed. God still waits for you. The victory in the battle of prayer is yours.
Almighty God, I claim Your prayer protection—the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the girdle of truth. Victory in the battle of prayer is mine!
The Riches of God’s Grace
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:3–12
Key Verse: Ephesians 1:7
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.
When God bought your salvation, He spared no expense. He provided the costly blood of Christ to purchase your eternal life. Why is it, then, that some believers spend their lives trying to earn what God has already paid for?
Abraham Lincoln surmised that it is because believers fail to recall God’s great grace. Lincoln wrote, “We have forgotten the gracious hand which has preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.”
If believers imagine they have earned salvation through virtue, then when virtue is lacking, they believe they have lost the blessing. However, salvation was never based on human acts of piety. Salvation has its foundation in the sacrificial grace of Christ. His grace covers your sin. It was a great penalty to pay, but Jesus deemed that your salvation was worth the price.
Accept the riches of His grace and invest your life in thankfulness to Him.
Your grace covers my sin. Thank You, Lord! I am so glad You deemed my salvation worth the price.
You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful.
Lord God, You are not slack concerning Your promise, as some count slackness, but are longsuffering toward me, not willing that I should perish but that I should come to repentance. Your longsuffering is salvation.
Paul said that he obtained mercy, so that in him first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Whatever things were written before were written for my learning, that I through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
Lord God, do I despise the riches of Your goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that Your goodness leads me to repentance? I rend my heart, and not my garments; I return to You, Lord God, for You are gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and You relent from doing harm.
Loving people with Your love, Lord, means extending the kind of patience, kindness, forgiveness, and grace that You have extended to me. Enable me to love like that.
Nehemiah 9:17; 2 Peter 3:9; 2 Peter 3:15; 1 Timothy 1:16; Romans 15:4; Romans 2:4; Joel 2:13
Incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding.
Some years ago, I was at a men’s retreat. The speaker issued a challenge to the group, which he said would change our lives: Read one chapter of the Book of Proverbs each day for a year. Since there are thirty-one chapters in Proverbs, reading a chapter a day would equal reading the whole book each month (reading two chapters on one day in the months with only thirty days). Reading the entire Book of Proverbs twelve times in a year, he said, would change our lives.
Well, I accepted his challenge. In fact, I did it more than once. And I remember the incredible impact it had on my life. Almost without fail, I would read a verse in the morning which would have some bearing on an event that took place during that day. The Proverbs of Solomon are the most practical, hands-on truths one could ever hope to find. And to saturate my mind with those truths day after day for a year turned out to be a powerful tonic for my spiritual life.
Anyone who takes seriously the wisdom of the Book of Proverbs will experience these blessings, and many more, as a result.
Come and dine
This morning the voice of the Beloved of our soul is heard giving us His invitation.
“Children,” He asks, “have ye any meat?”
We answer, “No; of ourselves we have nothing but hunger and starvation. O God, we cannot feed ourselves!”
Then it is that His own sweet voice replies, “Come and dine!”
A. Hay Aitken
Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
Or You brought forth the earth and the world,
From everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
You turn men back into dust,
And say, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by
Or like a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:1–4)
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
Pause to express your thoughts of praise and worship.
God fashions the hearts of all
And understands all their works. (Psalm 33:15)
Ask the Spirit to search your heart and reveal any areas of unconfessed sin. Acknowledge these to the Lord and thank Him for His forgiveness.
Has a nation changed its gods
Which were not gods?
But my people have exchanged their Glory
For that which is worthless.
By Your grace may I not forsake You,
The fountain of living waters,
To dig my own cisterns,
Broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:11, 13)
As one who shares in the heavenly calling, may I fix my thoughts on Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of my confession. (Hebrews 3:1)
Pause to add your own prayers for personal renewal.
May I be strong and courageous, being careful to obey Your word; may I not turn from it to the right or to the left, that I may act wisely wherever I go. (Joshua 1:7)
Growth in Wisdom
Developing an eternal perspective
Renewing my mind with truth
Greater skill in each area of life
My activities for this day
May we rejoice, become complete, be of good comfort, be of one mind, and live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with us. (2 Corinthians 13:11)
My immediate family
Emotional and physical concerns
Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I will depart.
The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21)
Godliness with contentment is great gain. For I brought nothing into the world, and I can take nothing out of it. But if I have food and clothing, with these I will be content. (1 Timothy 6:6–8)
Pause to reflect upon these biblical affirmations.
I called to the Lord in my distress,
And He answered me.
From the depths of the grave, I called for help,
And You heard my voice. (Jonah 2:2)
I will exult in the Lord;
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength;
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer
And enables me to go on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:18–19)
Pause to offer your own expressions of thanksgiving.
You are the door; whoever enters through You will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; You have come that we may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:9–10)
Your sheep hear Your voice, and You know them, and they follow You. You give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of Your hand. The Father, who has given them to You, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand. You and the Father are one. (John 10:27–30)
1 Kings 12; Philippians 3; Ezekiel 42; Psalm 94
The description of the temple (Ezek. 41) is followed by a description of rooms reserved for priests (Ezek. 42). But I shall press yesterday’s discussion a little farther and briefly discuss two more of the ways these chapters have been interpreted.
(3) Many older commentators argued that chapters 40–48 are straightforward symbols of what is fulfilled in the Christian church. There is some truth to this view. It is given impetus when one observes, for instance, that John’s vision of the holy city in Revelation is drawn in substantial part from the language of Ezekiel. But the same passages in Revelation spell the weakness of this interpretation. When John uses the language of Ezekiel (or of Daniel or some other Old Testament writer), he regularly transmutes it, or picks up its words and phrases without putting it to exactly the same use. Although John’s description of the holy city leans heavily on Ezekiel, John’s city has no temple, for the Lord God and the Lamb are its temple (Rev. 21:1–22:5). In that sense, Revelation is not a direct and immediate fulfillment of a string of symbols.
(4) It is better, but messier, to take these chapters as belonging to the borderlands of apocalyptic literature and typology. The symbolism includes numerical features; its future-orientation springs not from mere verbal prediction or simplistic symbolism, but from structures of patterns and events that point forward. We have already glimpsed this sort of thing in chapters 38–39, depicting the final battle, when God sovereignly moves to destroy all his foes. Read this way, chapters 40–48 envisage the messianic future, but in the symbolic categories of Ezekiel’s present. The temple is a kind of enactment or incarnation of the presence and blessing of God in the age for which pious Israelites yearned. On this view, the theological themes and pastoral comforts of these chapters include: (a) God’s presence remains continuously as the fount of all blessing. (b) God’s people are perfectly restored, the perfection of his plan and of their experience bound up with the perfection of symmetry in the building. (c) Because God is perfectly present, fullness of life and fruitfulness flow from God’s presence to all the barren places of the earth. This is a transformed universe. (d) The worship of God is central, and undertaken exactly as God demands. (e) Justice and righteousness are the order of the day, seen in the perfect allotment of land and responsibilities.
If this is largely right, the ultimate hope lies at the very end of history—but that end has already invaded history itself, in these last days. The consummation is not yet, but the kingdom has dawned.
1 Kings 12; Philippians 3; Ezekiel 42; Psalm 94
The division of the unified kingdom into two unequal parts—the kingdom of Israel with its ten tribes in the north and the kingdom of Judah with two tribes in the south (1 Kings 12)—once again presents us with a remarkable dynamic between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.
God had already predicted, through Ahijah the prophet, that Jeroboam would take away the ten northern tribes from Solomon’s successor (11:26–40). Jeroboam was explicitly told that if he then remained faithful to the Lord, the Lord would establish a dynasty for him. Yet the first thing that Jeroboam does, once he secures the northern tribes, is erect golden calves at Bethel and Dan, and consecrate non-Levitical priests, because he does not want his people making the trek to the temple in Jerusalem (12:25–33). Doesn’t he realize that if God has the power to give him the ten tribes, and the concern to warn him about disloyalty, he certainly has the power to preserve the integrity of the northern kingdom even if the people go up to Jerusalem for the high festivals? But Jeroboam makes his political judgments, refuses to obey God, and shows himself ungrateful for what has come his way. His only enduring legacy is that throughout the rest of the Old Testament he is designated as “Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin” (e.g., 2 Kings 14:24).
More inexplicable yet is Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. Solomon may have been a skilled administrator of justice, but by the end of his life his enormously expensive projects were wearing down his people. Their representatives assure Rehoboam that they will be loyal to him if only he will lighten their load a little. The elders assure Rehoboam that their request is reasonable: he should adopt the stance of being “a servant to these people and serve them,” for then he will discover that “they will always be your servants” (12:7). With massive insensitivity and piercing stupidity, Rehoboam adopts instead the wretched advice of “young men” full of themselves and their opinions, with no understanding of people generally and of this nation in particular (12:8). So Rehoboam responds harshly, not only rejecting the people’s request but promising more demands and increased brutality. And suddenly the rebellion is underway.
Yet the writer comments, “So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the Lord, to fulfill the word the Lord had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite” (12:15). God’s sovereignty (see, for example, the meditation for June 3) does not excuse or mitigate Rehoboam’s stupidity and Jeroboam’s rebellion; their stupidity and sin do not mean that God has lost control. Such mysteries of providence make it difficult to “read” history; they also prove immensely comforting and make it possible for us to rest in Romans 8:28.
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