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ARE YOU LISTENING?

listening
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19 NLT)

Are you a good listener? Listen to what Pr 18:13 says about listening…

“The one who gives an answer before he listens– that is his folly and his shame.” (NET)

A few thoughts on James 1:19, Pr 18:13 and the lost art of listening –

As Howard Hendricks says, “Marriage is sometimes the dialogue of the deaf.”

The Harvard Business Review says 65 percent of an executive’s time should be spent listening.

So much more so in our most intimate relationships.

When I’m thinking about an answer while others are talking—I’m not listening.

A wise old owl sat in an oak,
The more he heard, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke, the more he heard;
Why aren’t we all like that wise old bird?

Lend a man your ears and you will immediately open a pathway to his heart.

To illustrate the high cost of poor listening, Diana Bonet, listening consultant and author of The Business of Listening, offers this example: A $100,000 error was caused by a dispatcher who routed a fleet of drivers to deliver building materials to the wrong state. The dispatcher heard the city (Portland), but quit listening before he heard the state (Maine). The result: eight trucks, 3,000 miles away in Portland, Oregon.

Better to be silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. – Abraham Lincoln

A closed mouth gathers no foot.

I cried, and from His holy hill
He bowed a listening ear;
I called my Father, and my God,
And He subdued my fear.
—Isaac Watts

Eloquent silence often is better than eloquent speech.

A Way Of Loving – In her book Listening To Others (Hearing their Hearts), Joyce Huggett relates her experiences of listening so that we can respond with wisdom those who are suffering or in difficult situations. She says they often raved about all she had done for them. “On many occasions,” she writes, “I had not ‘done’ anything. I had ‘just listened.’ I quickly came to the conclusion that ‘just listening’ was indeed an effective way of helping others.”

This was the help that Job’s wordy, preachy friends failed to give him. While it is true that they sat with him for 7 days in silence, “for they saw that his grief was very great” (Job 2:13), they didn’t listen when Job started talking. He complained that they were “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2) and was so distraught that he even accused God of not listening. He cried out, “Oh, that I had one to hear me!” (Job 31:35).

• Listening says, “What matters to you matters to me.” Sometimes people do want advice. But often they just want to be listened to by someone who loves and cares about them.
What does active listening accomplish?

• Listening is a way of loving others.

It says, “I want to understand and know you.”

• It comforts the brokenhearted, builds relationships, and encourages faith in God.

• Listening is also a means of learning the facts.

• Solomon, in Proverbs 18:13, warned that it is folly to answer a matter before hearing it.

• Most of all, listening to others should reflect our attentiveness toward God and His Word. God has so much He wants to teach us and tell us.

Listening is hard work, and it takes time. It takes time to listen long enough to hear the other person’s true heart, so that if we do speak, we speak with gentle wisdom.

Oh, Lord, give us a loving heart and a listening ear. Amen

As you take a moment of stillness today and give Him a listening ear, you’ll be better able to listen to the hurting people around you.

A caring heart, a listening ear,
A thoughtful word, a loving tear
Will help to lift the heavy load
Of hurting people on life’s road.
–DJD

You can win more friends with your ears than with your mouth.

Dave Roper on Learning to Listen – Renè Descarte, the sixteenth-century philosopher, said, “I think, therefore I am.” Sarah, our granddaughter, says, “You are, therefore I talk.” Silence has never been golden to Sarah. Some years ago I was sitting in our family room trying to read a Time magazine while, at the same time, Sarah was trying to carry on a conversation with me. To my shame I was paying little attention, responding to her comments with an occasional grunt. Finally in exasperation she crawled into my lap and got in my face. “Papa,” she shouted, “are you listening to me?” “Sarah,” I confessed, putting down my magazine, “I haven’t been listening well. Forgive me. I’ll listen to you now.” My commitment to Sarah is one that I want to keep on other occasions as well. It’s one of the gifts “of what remains” that I can give to others—to talk less and listen better. As Frasier Crane would say, “I’m listening”—or, to be more honest, I’m trying to learn how to listen.

I want to listen well so that when I finish a conversation, others will walk away knowing there’s at least one person in this care-less world who has some inkling of what they’re doing, thinking, and feeling. I want to hear the hushed undertones of their hearts. I want them to know that I care. Listening, however, doesn’t come easy for me. For years I was paid to talk; I was a “word monger” to borrow Augustine’s apt description of a teacher. It comes as a revelation to me that I can do more with my ears now than I can with my mouth. In her book Listening to Others, Joyce Huggett relates her experiences of listening to suffering people. She says they often talk about all she’s done for them. “On many occasions,” she writes, “I have not ‘done’ anything. I have ‘just listened.’ I quickly came to the conclusion that ‘just listening’ was indeed an effective way of helping others.” This was the help Job’s wordy, would-be friends failed to give him. They were “miserable comforters,” he complained. “‘Oh, that I had someone to hear me!’” Job is not alone in his longing. All human beings want to be heard, and listening is one of the best ways in the world to love others. Listening says, “You matter to me.” (Job 16:2; 31:35)

Kenneth Grahame’s Badger in “The Wind in the Willows” knew how to do it.

He sat in his arm-chair at the head of the table, and nodded gravely at intervals as the animals told their story; and he did not seem surprised or shocked at anything, and he never said, “I told you so,” or, “Just what I always said,” or remarked that they ought to have done so-and-so, or ought not to have done something else. The Mole began to feel very friendly towards him.

Listening is a lost art these days. We don’t listen well and we aren’t used to being listened to. Most of our words simply disappear into the air. I have a friend who, when he goes to noisy parties and people ask how he’s doing, on occasion has replied quietly, “My business went belly-up this week, the bank foreclosed on my house, my wife left me, and I have terminal cancer.” “Wonderful!” one man murmured, as he pumped my friend’s hand and moved on. I keep wondering if I’ve done something similar to others.

Some years ago I came across the following advice about listening—which I’m still in the process of learning and applying:

• When I’m thinking about an answer while others are talking—I’m not listening.
• When I give unsolicited advice—I’m not listening. (Unsolicited advice always sounds like criticism.)
• When I suggest they shouldn’t feel the way they do—I’m not listening.
• When I apply a quick fix to their problem—I’m not listening.
• When I fail to acknowledge their feelings—I’m not listening.
• When I fidget, glance at my watch, and appear to be rushed—I’m not listening.
• When I fail to maintain eye contact—I’m not listening.
• When I don’t ask follow-up questions—I’m not listening.
• When I top their story with a bigger, better story of my own—I’m not listening.
• When they share a difficult experience and I counter with one of my own—I’m not listening.

Listening is hard work, and most of us are unwilling to put in the time—and time is the operative word. Listening means setting aside our own timetable and tendency to hurry on to our next destination. It means settling into a relaxed, unhurried, leisurely pace. “Only in the ambiance of leisure,” Eugene Peterson writes, “do persons know they are listened to with absolute seriousness, treated with dignity and importance.” In leisure we regard others’ interests as more important than ours (Php 2:3). In leisure we say, “You are more significant than anything I have to do right now. You are the only one who counts, the one for whom I am willing to forgo my other obligations, appointments, and meetings. I have time for you.” In leisure, we listen long enough to hear the other person’s true heart so that if we do speak, we speak with wisdom. A leisurely pace, a listening ear, a loving heart. May you and I, by God’s grace, acquire them. (From David Roper’s book Teach Us to Number Our Days)

It takes two years to learn to talk and seventy years to learn to keep your mouth shut.

“A wise man will hear and increase in learning” (Pr 1:5)

Be a good listener, but be careful who you listen to.

The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention …. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.

Ray Pritchard’s advice on Listening –
Psychologists talk about “active listening.” That means listening all the way through to the end of a statement. Which is not what most of us do. The reason we don’t hear what the other person is saying is because we are too busy thinking about what we are going to say back to them. Proverbs 18:13 says, “He who answers before listening–that is his folly and shame.” Active listening means you focus on the other person, you listen to the whole statement, you let the meaning of it sink in, then you restate it in your own words.

Here are some tips for active listening:

• Lean toward the person while they are talking to you.
• Look directly at them (instead of letting your eyes wander) while they are speaking.
• Listen with your eyes and ears. Look for non-verbal cues like crossed arms and legs, looking into space, clinched fists, fingers drumming on the table, wide gestures, the forced grin. Those cues usually indicate some level of stress.
• Don’t interrupt. Period. Just don’t do it. Don’t finish someone else’s sentences either.
• Ask clarifying questions. “Could you repeat that? How long have you been feeling that way? What else about that really bothers you? How often do you feel frustrated about the way I act?”
• Don’t plan your response while you are listening to them talk.
When they are finished, say something like, “Let me see if I can put that in my own words.”
• You’ll know you’ve been a successful listener when you can put their thoughts in your words to their satisfaction. After all, the bottom line on listening is not that you think you heard, but that they think you heard.

By the way, did you know that listening is good for your health? Dr. James J. Lynch, a researcher at the University of Maryland, says that “while we speak with words, we also speak with every fiber of our being.” He discovered that blood pressure and heart rate rise rapidly whenever people talk. It also falls rapidly when people listen. For people with a history of hypertension, talking often raises the blood pressure into the danger zone. It happens, he says, because they tend to talk intensely and breathlessly, interrupting and speaking over other people. “They frequently fail to listen; they are on guard, defensive. So their pressure stays up.”

Here is his conclusion: How can we enjoy conversation yet keep blood pressure down? By listening more, by breathing regularly while talking, by alternating between talking and paying attention to what the other person is saying. (Readers Digest, 4/86, p. 124)

A tribute was once paid to a great linguist that he could be silent in seven languages. It’s a wonderful and rare gift. More of us need to use it. Communication begins with listening more.

Father, fill us with Your Spirit so that we might be supernaturally enabled to be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” for the glory of Your Name and in the Name above all names, Christ Jesus. Amen

I’d Rather Have Jesus by SELAH

SPIRITUAL PARADOX IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

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CHRISTIANITY IS A LIFE FILLED WITH PARADOX

paradox is defined as a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement that is actually true. It is a statement that contradicts itself.

In the Bible spiritual paradoxes abound and confound the secular unsaved mind. In fact the wise of this world consider believers to be fools for Christ’s sake.

Paul writes that “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Co 1:25)

Brethren, we are veritable living spiritual paradoxes in this spiritually dead world, a world paradoxically we are IN but not OF “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ Who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” (Php 3:20-21note)

The wise of this world scoff and laugh at God’s answers to questions like…

Do you want to live?

You must die!

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. (Gal 2:20note; cf 2 Co 4: 1011note)

You must lose your life!

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)

Do you want to be strong?

You must boast about your weaknesses!

“Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me… for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Co 12:910note)

Do you want to be rich?

You must become poor in spirit.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:3note)

Do you want to be first?

You must be willing to be last.

And sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.” (Mk 9:35, cp Mt 19:3020:816Mk 10:31Lk 13:30)

You must be willing to be a slave of all. 

Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave (doulos – bondservant) of all. (Mk 10:44)

Do you want to be exalted?

You must be willing to be brought low!

Humble (aorist imperative) yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time (1 Pe 5:6note). (cf Jas 4:6noteJas 4:10– note Mt. 23:12)

Do you wish to be great?

You must be willing to become a servant.

“But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.” (Mk 10:43, cf Mt 23:11)

You must be willing to humble yourself as a little child

“Whoever then humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 18:4NET)

You must be willing to be least.

“Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is LEAST among all of you, this is the one who is GREAT.” (Lk 9:48)

Do you want to rule?

You must be willing to serve.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Mk 10:45, cf Mk 9:35)

Do you want to be fruitful?

You must die.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (Jn 12:24).

A FEW MORE SPIRITUAL PARADOXES

Before we became followers of Christ, we were DEAD IN our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1note) but after salvation, we are ALIVE with Christ (Eph. 2:5note), and DEAD TO SIN (Ro 6:11note).

We were once slaves to sin but now are free from sin, “For when you were SLAVES OF SIN, you were free in regard to righteousness. But now having been FREED FROM SIN and ENSLAVED to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.” (Ro 6:20, 22note) True Freedom is not the right to do as we please, but the power to do as we should, a freedom and power paradoxically found only in enslavement to Christ! Indeed, we are most FREE, when we are most BOUND!

We also see this paradox in our daily growth in Christ-likeness (progressive sanctification). In Phil 2:12note Paul charges us to “WORK OUT our salvation in fear and trembling” and then he explains how this is even possible, writing that “it is God (the indwelling Spirit of Christ continually) WORKING in us, giving us the DESIRE (left to ourselves the desire of our fallen flesh is not to please God) and the (supernatural) POWER to do what pleases God.” (Phil 2:13NLTnote) Are you learning to depend daily on the Spirit of Jesus Who Alone can enable you to live the supernatural, abundant life (Jn 10:10)? As Tony Evans says you need to come to the place where you say to God, “I can’t do this on my own,” (Then) you are ready to say, “But through Your provision (the enabling power of the indwelling Spirit) of that which I lack, I can go out and tear down the strongholds that are defeating me. In Your strength, I can fulfill Your expectations for me.” You have now invited God to do for you what you can’t do for yourself!” (from “The Battle is the Lord’s”)

We see a similar paradoxical dynamic in Paul’s summary of His entire ministry where he says “by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I LABORED even more than all of them, yet NOT I, but God Who was WORKING through me by His grace.” (1 Cor 15:10note paraphrase)

Kent Hughes explains “Unless there is death, the vast possibilities inside us will not be released. We will shrivel and remain alone. We must die. (Ed: compare the similar spiritual principle in Mk 8:34353637Mt 10:3839Lk 9:232425) Those who are beginning the Christian life or are awakening to their spiritual potential must learn that we live by dying. This has been true in my own life.” (John: That You May Believe. Preaching the Word)

The ultimate paradox is…

To live is Christ, to die is gain. (Php 1:21note)

MY LORD JESUS CHRIST….

You are my strength when I am weak
You are the treasure that I seek
You are my all in all.

Play Chris Tomlin’s version of All in All

THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST TURNS FEAR INTO HOPE

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THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST TURNS FEAR INTO HOPE

Jesus Christ “has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10note)

At the southern tip of Africa, a cape jutting out into the ocean once caused sailors great anxiety. Many who attempted to sail around it were lost in the swirling seas. Because adverse weather conditions so often prevailed there, the region was named the Cape of Storms. A Portuguese captain determined to find a safe route through those treacherous waters so his countrymen could reach Cathay and the riches of the East Indies in safety. He succeeded, and the area was renamed the Cape of Good Hope. (And Biblical hope means absolute assurance of future good!)

We all face a great storm called death (Heb 9:27note). But our Lord has already traveled through it safely and has provided a way for us to do the same. (1 Cor 15:55-57) By His crucifixion and resurrection, Christ abolished eternal death for every believer and has permanently established our fellowship with Him in heaven.

Now all who know Christ as Savior can face life’s final voyage with confidence (cf Heb 2:14-15note). Even though the sea may be rough, we will experience no terror as we pass through the “CAPE OF GOOD HOPE” and into heaven’s harbor. The Master Helmsman Himself has assured our safe passage (cf Heb 6:19-20note). —H. G. Bosch

Think of just crossing a river,
Stepping out safe on that shore,
Sadness and suffering over,
Dwelling with Christ evermore!
-Anon

FOR ALL WHO ARE IN THE “ARK” OF CHRIST, HE HAS CHARTED A SAFE COURSE THROUGH THE DARK WATERS OF DEATH!

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Thomas Jefferson was a brilliant man, one of our greatest presidents and a main contributor to the Declaration of Independence, but sadly was also the author of a work known as the “Jefferson Bible.” Congress once issued a special edition of Jefferson’s “Bible” which was simply a copy of our Bible with all references to the supernatural eliminated. Jefferson confined himself solely to the moral teachings of Jesus. The last verse of the last chapter in the Jefferson Bible reads “There laid they Jesus, and rolled a great stone to the mouth of the sepulcher and departed.” Tragically Jefferson ended his “Bible” with Jesus in the tomb with no mention of His victorious resurrection. Praise God that the real Bible does not end that way but in the last book records those comforting words of our Lord “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last, and the Living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” (Revelation 1:17-18note) And so every believer now possesses a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3note)

C H Spurgeon would have strongly disagreed with Jefferson for he once said “The resurrection is a fact better attested than any event recorded in any history, whether ancient or modern.”

J C Ryle echoed this affirmation declaring that “in an age of abounding unbelief and skepticism, we shall find that the RESURRECTION of Christ will bear any weight that we can lay upon it.”

Indeed “the RESURRECTION of Jesus is the Gibraltar of the Christian faith and the Waterloo of infidelity and rationalism.” (R A Torrey)

Our faith is firmly grounded on the certainty of the resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, Christ’s resurrection is the central factor in our salvation because it is the greatest fact in history.

As Paul wrote “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile (useless, worthless) and you are still in your sins!” (1 Corinthians 15:17)

In the early part of this century, a group of lawyers met in England to discuss the Biblical accounts of Jesus’ resurrection. They wanted to see if enough information was available to make a case that would hold up in a court of law. They concluded that Christ’s resurrection was one of the most well-established facts of history!

In his book Countdown, G. B. Hardy offers thought-provoking questions about the resurrection: “There are but two essential requirements: (1) Has anyone cheated death and proved it? (2) Is it available to me? Here is the complete record: Confucius’ tomb—occupied. Buddha’s tomb—occupied. Muhammad’s tomb—occupied. Jesus’ tomb—empty! Argue as you will, there is no point in following a loser.” Historical evidence and countless changed lives testify that the resurrection of Jesus is a fact, not a fable! Have you put your hope in the risen Christ? —D. C. Egner

Christ has risen from the dead and defeated death. “Thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)

George Sweeting recalls that “In the early 1920’s, Nikolai Bukharin was sent from Moscow to Kiev to address a vast anti-God rally. For an hour he ridiculed the Christian faith until it seemed as if the whole structure of belief was in ruins. Questions were invited. A priest of the Orthodox church rose and asked to speak. He faced the crowd and spoke the ancient cry of victory “CHRIST IS RISEN.” (Matthew 28:7) Instantly the vast assembly rose to its feet, and the reply came back like a crash of breakers against a cliff, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!”

If you are skeptical or have friends who are skeptical of the truth of the Resurrection, here is a link to a free online copy of Frank Morrison’s 1930 classic “WHO MOVED THE STONE?” Morrison began his book as an unbeliever seeking to prove the resurrection was a myth, but ended as a believer in the Resurrected Redeemer because he was confronted with the life transforming truth that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was not meaningless myth but a resolute REALITY! God’s Spirit used Morrison’s book to move Lee Strobel from resolute atheism to genuine faith in Christ which Strobel later chronicled in his book “THE CASE FOR CHRIST” which has just been released as major motion picture (April, 2017). You might consider inviting an unbelieving relative or friend to go with you to view the movie and then have desert and discussion afterwards concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the single most important event in all history and all eternity! (See movie trailer and Study Guide on The Case for Christ)

Father, please grant Your children Holy Spirit enabled boldness to encourage skeptical friends and relatives to read Morrison’s book and/or to go check out (or even to take them to see) Lee Strobel’s journey to faith in Christ. In our Risen Redeemer’s Name. Amen

LINK TO FRANK MORRISON’S ONLINE BOOK “WHO MOVED THE STONE?

PLAY CHRIST THE LORD IS RISEN TODAY

Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where’s thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!
— Charles Wesley
_______________________
For many more in depth studies on the Bible including many verse by verse commentaries visit…

preceptaustin.org

THE RESURRECTION: NOT A “HOPE SO” BUT A “HOPE SURE!”

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THE RESURRECTION NOT A “HOPE SO” BUT A “HOPE SURE” BECAUSE OUR REDEEMER LIVES!

Every saint’s great “hope is in the resurrection of the dead!” (Acts 23:6). When Christ arose, death died. The angel rolled away the stone from Jesus’ tomb, not to let the living Lord out but to let the unconvinced outsiders in. And so Christianity is a religion of the open tomb! Indeed, the best news the world has ever heard came from a Jerusalem graveyard!

When Socrates lay dying, he was asked “Shall we live again,” to which he replied “I hope so!” Socrates’ hope was “to want something to happen or be true.” To which Job responds “For what is the hope of the godless when he is cut off, when God requires his life?” (Job 27:8)

In contrast, Biblical hope is not a possibility but a certainty for as Paul wrote we possess “the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago.” (Titus 1:2note) And so Christian hope represents an absolute assurance that God will do good to us in the future! Indeed, for believers the “best is yet to come!”

In a word, the believer’s hope is not a dead hope but “A LIVING HOPE” (1Pe 1:3note), not a “hope so,” but a “hope sure!”

The Egyptian belief in a resurrection from the dead led them to call the mummy case the “chest of the living” and to place a scarab beetle in the corpse’s heart. Why? Because they knew the scarab’s larva buried itself in the earth and later emerged as a mature insect which to them symbolized “resurrection.”

Socrates and the Egyptians held a false hope, but Sir Walter Raleigh held fast to “a hope both sure and steadfast” which served as an anchor for his soul (Heb 6:19note), prompting him to write the following words in his Bible the night before he was beheaded:

“From this earth, this grave, this dust, my God shall raise me up!” Hallelujah!

Jesus said “Because I live, you shall live also.” (Jn 14:19) The resurrection of believers is guaranteed by Christ’s own resurrection. His resurrection is the proof of our reconciliation. Our sure hope is that one day, Jesus will “transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory.” (Php 3:21note)

And when we take our last breath and leave our loved ones, they need “not grieve as do the rest who have no hope,” but can “comfort one another with these words” that “the dead in Christ will rise.” Our GRAVE is but a GATEWAY to His GLORY (1 Th 4:13-18note). For believers death is not a period, but only a comma! “We are more sure to arise out of our graves than out of our beds.” (T. Watson) David believed this truth writing “I will be satisfied with Thy likeness when I awake.” (Ps 17:15) Asaph affirmed “With Thy counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory.” (Ps 73:24) Job believed this truth declaring “Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God.” (Job 19:26) John assures us “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” (1 Jn 3:2note)

Indeed, we shall SEE our REDEEMER because He lives and because He lives, we too will live forever having been “made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:7note)

Spurgeon adds that forever “Christ shall be the object of our eternal vision and we shall we never want any joy beyond that of seeing Him. Think not that this will be a narrow sphere for the mind to dwell in. It is but one Source of delight, but that Source is infinite. All His attributes shall be subjects for contemplation, and as He is infinite under each aspect, there is no fear of exhaustion. His works, His gifts, His love to us, and His glory in all His purposes, and in all His actions, these shall make an eternal theme which will be ever new.”

Let us join Job in affirming “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.” (Job 19:25)

We need to be like the soldier who said “When I die do not sound taps over my grave, but reveille–the morning call, the summons to rise!” Glory! Hallelujah!

In the 1700’s, there lived a man named Samuel Medley who went off to sea with the British Navy and was wounded in battle. During his recovery, he read a sermon by Isaac Watts and was converted. He later became a British pastor and a hymnist and wrote these words based on Job 19:25:

I know that my Redeemer lives!
What joy the blest assurance gives!
He lives, he lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my everlasting Head!

He lives to bless me with His love,
He lives to plead for me above.
He lives my hungry soul to feed,
He lives to help in time of need.

He lives triumphant from the grave,
He lives eternally to save,
He lives all glorious in the sky,
He lives exalted there on high.

He lives to grant me rich supply,
He lives to guide me with His eye,
He lives to comfort me when faint,
He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.

He lives to silence all my fears,
He lives to wipe away my tears
He lives to calm my troubled heart,
He lives all blessings to impart.

He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly Friend,
He lives and loves me to the end;
He lives, and while He lives, I’ll sing;
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.

He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death:
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He lives to bring me safely there.

He lives, all glory to His Name!
He lives, my Jesus, still the same.
Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives,
I know that my Redeemer lives!
–Samuel Medley

Play My Redeemer Lives by Nicole Mullen

THE GREATNESS OF GOD & HIS WORD

BIBLE - PIX
MEDITATION ON THE GREATNESS OF OUR GOD AND HIS WORD

In Psalm 111:2 the psalmist writes…

Great are the works of the LORD.
They are studied (searched carefully) by all who delight in them.

I fear too often in the morning I speed read the Bible more like a Martha who “was distracted with all her preparations” than like a Mary who “was listening to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet.” (Lk 10:39-40) And so I was convicted when I read the Puritan writer John Flavel’s (1627–1691) exhortation on Psalm 111:2

“Let your meditation be as intensively full as may be. Do not let your thoughts swim like feathers upon the surface of the waters, but sink like lead to the bottom. Not that I think it feasible to sound the depth of divine providence by our short line: “Your way was in the sea and Your paths in the mighty waters, and Your footprints may not be known.” (Ps. 77:19), but it is our duty to dive as far as we can; and to admire the depth, when we cannot touch the bottom. It is in our viewing His providences as it was with Elijah’s servant, when he looked out for rain (1 Kings 18:44). He went out once and viewed the heavens, and saw nothing, but the prophet bid him to go again and again, and look upon the face of heaven seven times; and when he had done so, what now, says the prophet? “O now,” says he: “I see a cloud rising like a man’s hand”; and then, keeping his eye intently upon it, he sees the whole face of heaven covered with clouds. So you may look upon some divine providences in His Word once and again, and see little or nothing in them; but look “seven times’, that is, meditate often upon them, and you will see their increasing glory, like that increasing cloud!”

O Lord, by Thy sweet Spirit, transform our hearts to be less and less like Martha who was “worried and bothered about so many things” and more and more like Mary who understood that “only a few things are necessary, really only one” so that we like Mary might chose “the good part, which shall not be taken away from” us in time or eternity…in Jesus’ great Name. Amen (Luke 10:41-42)

How blessed is the man….
Who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season,
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
Psalm 1:1-3note

Listen to this old song from the 90’s by Kim Hill on Psalm 1

Our Deliverer is Coming

deliverer

Mary’s words in her “Magnificat” gripped me this morning and I think they are words for all of us as we walk through the fiery trials of life.

Mary said…

And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. Luke 1:47

My Savior in Greek is Soter which is synonymous with 

  1. My Rescuer
  2. My Deliverer
  3. My Preserver
  4. My Protector
  5. My Healer!

May you take a moment to lift your hands and heart in praise to Our great Deliverer...below is Rich Mullins’ song I had never heard until this morning…I began to weep and praise and lift my hands as I pondered Mary’s words in Luke 1:47 with Mullins’ words of praise in the song…

Waiting for our Jesus Who “rescues us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thessalonians 1:10note)

Praise “His holy Name Jesus, for it is He Who will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). Amen

TEACH US TO NUMBER OUR DAYS

clockIn Paul’s last words (last words always carry added weight!) to the Ephesian elders he said:

“And now I commend you (like a bank deposit) to God (entrusting you to His protection and care) and to the Word of His grace, which is continually (daily) able (inherently powerful) to build you up and to give you (your rightful) inheritance among all those who are sanctified (are holy, are set apart in and for Christ Jesus our Lord).” (Acts 20:32note)

Paul’s encouraging words beg the question – Who is it Who builds us up? Is this not God the Holy Spirit, Who (so to speak) is the “Chief Operating Officer” (COO) of the Trinity, the One Who uses our daily intake (cf Mt 4:4, Ps 1:2note) of the Word of His grace and thereby miraculously, supernaturally transforms us from glory to glory into the image of God’s Son, Christ Jesus (2 Cor 3:18note)? I think indeed this is the sweet Spirit Who is the “Construction Superintendent” in charge of our daily, progressive sanctification into greater degrees of Christ-likeness (1 Peter 1:2note, cf Ro 12:2note). This begs an important application question – Am I daily seeking to be filled with the Spirit of grace (Heb 10:29bnote, Eph 5:18note) and the Word of His grace, allowing it to dwell in me richly (Col 3:16note) so that the Spirit might have His way with me throughout my busy day, using even the problems and pressures to conform me to the image of His Son (Ro 8:29note)? If not, I am missing the “opportunity of a lifetime!” May each of us beg God’s Spirit to TEACH US TO NUMBER OUR DAYS (not our years) so that when all is said and done we might be enabled to present to Jesus at the Bema Seat (2 Cor 5:10note) a heart that has walked wisely in this world (Ps 90:12note), during the days of our life whether they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years (Ps 90:10).

LORD PLEASE TEACH US TO NUMBER OUR DAYS THAT WE MAY PRESENT TO YOU A HEART OF WISDOM for Your glory. Amen

Play this simple song Teach Us to Number Our Days

Watching and Waiting

sunrise-shibui-2

WATCHING AND WAITING – This thought would give me hope, and through my struggle I would eagerly wait until my change comes. I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God. And so my soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning; indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. So I will wait for the LORD Who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob. I will even look eagerly for Him. I will watch expectantly for the LORD. I will wait for the God of my salvation, waiting expectantly for God’s Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, Who delivers us from the wrath to come. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait (in great anticipation and patience) for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ Who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. We shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. For we through (the enabling power of) the Spirit, by faith, are waiting eagerly for the hope (absolute certainty) of righteousness, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ (Who promised) “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.” Maranatha. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen. (Job 14:14, 19:26, 27, Ps 130:6, Titus 2:13-14, Isaiah 8:17, Micah 7:7, 1 Th 1:10, Phil 3:19-20, 1 Cor 15:51-52, 1 John 3:2, Gal 5:5, 1 Cor 1:7, Rev 22:12, 1 Cor 16:22-24)

MARANATHA!
OUR LORD,
COME QUICKLY!

Loving Obedience-Obedient Love

Mountain-ValleyBEEN THINKING ABOUT NEW TESTAMENT COMMANDS – It is clear that our Father places considerable emphasis on Commands in Scripture, for there are at least 1642 commands in the New Testament alone.

As followers of Jesus Christ, our obedience to God’s commands is one tangible way to say “We love you Lord!” Jesus repeatedly stated this principle – “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments….If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word…He who does not love Me does not keep My words.” (John 14:15, 23, 24)

Beloved, we dare not miss Jesus’ point! Love is not a sentimental emotion, as often portrayed in modern day Christianity. Adrian Rogers once quipped “Now, folks, when people truly love God, you don’t see it just when they stand in the congregation and sing “Oh How I Love Jesus,” but they obey Him.” Yes, God is love (1 Jn 4:8, 16), but God is also Light (1 Jn 1:5). Love and Light counterbalance one another. We cannot say we love God and choose to walk in the darkness! John says “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth, but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 Jn 1:6-7) The way we live our life, the choices we make each day, will ring forth loudly in heaven either as “I love You Lord” or “I don’t love You Lord”! There is no middle ground regarding love of Jesus and love of the world (1 John 2:15), of walking in the light versus walking in the darkness.

But praise God, Jesus knows that our old “Adamic” flesh nature (still present in all believers) continues to tempt us, on one hand, to run from God’s commands (thus leading to licentiousness) or, on the other hand, to attempt to carry them out in our own fleshly strength (which leads to legalism and frustration). But “thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:57) for He has given us the Helper, “the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Php 1:19b, Jn 14:16, 26) Who indwells every believer (Romans 8:9) and Who provides us with both the DESIRE and the POWER (cf Php 2:13NLT = “giving you the DESIRE to obey Him and the POWER”) to walk in His Spirit and to not carry out the desire of the flesh (Gal 5:16). Our part, our responsibility under grace not law (Ro 6:14), is to daily work out our “salvation with fear and trembling,” making choices that are pleasing to God (Php 2:12). Notice that even the DESIRE for such “holy” choices must be “energized” or enabled by the Spirit. Or to say it another way, every commandment of God includes the enablement by His Spirit. As Spurgeon said “Love is a practical thing; love without obedience is a mere pretense. True love shows itself by seeking to please the one who is loved. May God the Holy Spirit work in us perfect obedience to the commands of God, that we may prove that we really do love Him! The obedience which God’s children yield to Him must be loving obedience. Do not go about the service of God as slaves to their taskmaster’s toil, but run in the way of His commands because it is your Father’s way. Yield your bodies as instruments of righteousness, because righteousness is your Father’s will, and His will should be the will of His child.” And as an aside, the best way to know God’s will is to say “I will” to God.

In addition to His Spirit, the love of Christ compels (urges, impels) us (2 Cor 5:14) to choose to obey His commands, “for this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments and His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3). And Oh what a reward Jesus promises us in John 14:21 declaring that “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose (manifest) Myself to him.” Adrian Rogers explains “disclose Himself to us” by asking “Aren’t we talking about the manifest presence of God? Do you see how the Bible links the manifest presence of God with keeping the commandments of God? Because, when we disobey God, we grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30); we quench the Holy Spirit (1Th 5:19). The Holy Spirit of God is in us to make God real to us…Can you say: “And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own,  And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known?” Do you know why Jesus is not real to many of us? We’re just not obeying His word. Do you want Him to manifest Himself to you? Would you like for Jesus to be real? There’s no way apart from obedience!”

When we obey we partake of Jesus’ promise that “If you keep My commandments, you will abide (dwell, live experientially) in My love.” (Jn 15:10) “We must keep our Lord’s command if we would bask in His love. If we live in sin, we cannot live in the love of Christ. Without the holiness which pleases God, we cannot please Jesus. He who cares nothing for holiness knows nothing of the love of Jesus. Conscious enjoyment of our Lord’s love is a delicate thing. It is far more sensitive to sin and holiness than mercury is to cold and heat. When we are tender of heart and careful in thought, lip, and life to honor our Lord Jesus, then we receive tokens of His love without number. If we desire to perpetuate such bliss, we must perpetuate holiness. The Lord Jesus will not hide His face from us unless we hide our face from Him. Sin makes the cloud which darkens our Sun: if we will be watchfully obedient and completely consecrated, we may walk in the light, as God is in the light, and have as sure an abiding in the love of Jesus as Jesus has in the love of the Father. Here is a sweet promise with a solemn “if.” Lord, let me have this “if” in my hand; for as a key it opens this casket.” (Spurgeon) Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey!

The highest motive for obeying Christ is to obey because we love Him. As Spurgeon said “Obedience must have love for its mother, nurse, and food. The essence of obedience lies in the hearty love which prompts the deed rather than in the deed itself.” A working mother returned home one wintry day to discover the driveway cleared of snow, the rugs vacuumed, and the dishes washed and put away. This was far more effort than the list of chores had required. “What got into you?” the amazed mother asked her children. “We just wanted to show you we love you, Mom,” was their answer. Obeying out of love takes the burden out of doing what God requires. And so we see that love and obedience are intimately intertwined — Obedient love and loving obedience! As our obedience expresses our love for God, it enables us to experience His love for us.

Master, speak, and make me ready,
When Thy voice is truly heard,
With (loving) obedience glad and steady,
Still to follow every word.
—Havergal

One final thought — EVERY encounter with each of the more 1600 NT commands is an opportunity to jettison self-reliance and to yield to the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. Supernatural commands from the supernatural God can only be carried out with reliance on His supernatural power! The Spirit is called the Helper, but don’t let His Name mislead you. To say that we need His “help” is to imply we have some ability of our own to obey and are in need of just a little “spiritual push” so to speak. It is better to say that we need Him to “enable” us to obey divine commands, for the word “enable” indicates that without His power we cannot obey (cp this same principle in Jn 15:5, 6:63). Webster says “enable” means “to supply with power, physical or moral, to furnish with sufficient power or ability!” In Philippians 2:12-13, Paul describes the incomprehensible, mysterious synergism between man’s free will and God’s sovereign provision of His Spirit! To say it another way followers of Jesus are 100% dependent on His Spirit (Php 2:13), while at the same time are 100% responsible to obey (Php 2:12)! We’ll discuss this “100/100 principle” in greater detail in a future post.

Lord, with my lips I say “I love You,” but with my life I behave as if I don’t. When these two are in conflict, I know that it is my life that is speaking the truth. I don’t want this conflict, Lord. By learning to depend on the Spirit’s enabling power, I desire to prove with my life that I am speaking the truth when I say, “I love You Lord.”

We love You, Lord Jesus,” we often will say,
But are we as ready His will to obey?
Let’s heed what God’s Spirit would have us to do—
That’s how we show Him a love that is true.
—D. De Haan

To love God is to obey God.

How much we are willing to obey is the measure of our love.

Does my life say “I love You Lord?”

O The Deep, Deep Love of God

SPIRIT-FILLED BELIEVERS

river-flow

SPIRIT-FILLED BELIEVERS – Have you ever thought of yourself as an “artesian well” for Jesus? Probably not. But if you are obeying Paul’s command to continually “be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18note), you are functioning spiritually much like an artesian well functions geophysically! How so? Paul reminded Timothy “You have not been given a spirit of fear but of power and love and sound mind.” (2 Ti 1:7note). The word for “power” is dunamis which gives us our English words dynamo, dynamic, etc. Dunamis speaks of power which is residing in believers by virtue of our new nature – new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17note). The “effecting Agent” of that power is of course the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8note) Who dwells in us now and forever throughout eternity! (1 Cor 3:16, John 14:16) Hallelujah! Paul was telling Timothy in essence “you are to live this new life in Christ not in dependence on your own natural strength, but in dependence on the power (dunamis) provided by the Spirit Who dwells in you!”

C H Spurgeon put it this way regarding our power versus God’s power:

Power in the creature is like water in the cistern.
Power in the Creator is like water in the fountain.

Spurgeon’s comment reminds me of the geophysical dynamics which give power to an artesian well (see diagram below). The artesian well flows freely because of the power of pressure from water at higher levels. What a practical picture of the power of the Holy Spirit flowing to us and through us “with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49).

What does an artesian well have to do in order to function effectively?

TWO THINGS:

(1) Stay low! Spiritually this is not even subtle – “God is opposed to (“stiff arms”) the proud, but gives grace (cp “Spirit of grace” in Heb 10:29note) to the humble.” (James 4:6note). So the message is “Stay humble!” Understand that in order to daily experience His power to live a supernatural life (e.g., to break the chains of addiction – Ro 6:11-note, Ro 7:6-note, Ro 8:13-note, to love our wife continually as Christ loved the Church – Eph 5:25-note, to continually let no unwholesome word proceed from our mouth – Eph 4:29-note, etc, etc), we have to continually humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God (1 Peter 5:6-note).

(2) Stay “open!” We have to allow the flow of the Spirit to keep flowing. Sin impedes the flow of the Spirit (grieves Him – Eph 4:30note, quenches Him – 1Thes 5:19note), so we need to be sensitive when we have offended Him by our thoughts, words or deeds, and we need to confess and repent (1John 1:9note). Proverbs 28:13note says “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes (~”repents of”) them will find compassion.”

AND WHAT IS THE RESULT?

Amazing grace flows down from on high and as our Lord Jesus Christ promised, from our “innermost being shall flow rivers of living water” as the Spirit’s flow of power is unimpeded and unhindered! ( Jn 7:37-39note).

Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, affirmed this axiomatic truth declaring

“Depend upon it. God’s work done in God’s way will never lack supplies. All God’s giants have been weak men (and women) who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them. God uses men (and women) who are weak and feeble enough to lean on Him.” (cp 2 Cor 12:9-10note)

THIS BEGS TWO QUESTIONS:

(1) Am I daily leaning on Him, humbling myself before God, yielding myself to Him as a living and holy sacrifice (Romans 12:1note), fully cognizant that it is not by my power or my might, but by His Spirit (Zech 4:6), that I will be enabled to live a supernatural, abundant life in Christ? (John 10:10)

(2) Am I “keeping short accounts?” We all sin daily, and just as we need to bathe daily to cleanse the dirt from our body, we need to confess daily to cleanse the sin from our soul. (cp John 13:10)

John promises that “if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7note) Thank You Jesus!

Oh Father, our simple prayer is “let the river flow” through Your children so that we might experience the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, our blessed Fountain of Living Water (Jer 2:13, John 4:10). Amen

We have not because we ask not (James 4:2)…

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in light of the growing spiritual darkness in America, the Church of Jesus Christ needs to experience a flowing river of Biblical Holy Spirit power!

So take a few minutes to allow God to move and ask Him in song to “Let the River Flow.”

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)

Recommendation: Check out our newly rebuilt website – Preceptaustin.org – which has the equivalent of over 50,000 “8 x 11 sized” pages of conservative, “Bibliocentric” resources (commentaries, sermons, verse by verse exposition, sermon illustrations, devotionals, etc).