Times of Refreshing

“Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”Isaiah 40:31

 What Israel wanted in captivity, the church of Christ now needs in its present situation—power! We seem to lack the power to do that which we were created to accomplish. Potentially, the church has within itself all that is required to complete the great mission that was handed to her by the Master Himself, but the simple fact is, it seems that either we have failed, or at best we are struggling to carry out our duty. Every church should be a great force for the Gospel and good in the community where she is planted, and every Christian should be a great power for virtue and righteousness in the circle where he moves. We ought to be able to make “the good confession” (1 Tim.6:12-13) for Christ and display power to live an influential and godly life. We ought to have the power to execute a useful and effective ministry for the Lord—but can we say this is the case? Let’s be honest—where is the power?

What is the condition on which this power is given?

Notice the first revelation that we are given is that this secret to the soul’s renewal is open to all. Who are “those that wait”?—all who fulfill this condition. The words “will gain” in the Hebrew mean “to change.” What this means is that experiences like these alter our character and change our convictions.

What does it mean to wait for the Lord? Three facts are involved in waiting:

  1. A patience for the exercise of God’s power on our behalf.
  2. An earnest appeal to Him in believing prayer to fulfill His Word. (Ps.38:15)
  3. A steadfast attention to His Word and His grace (Ps.39:17).

To expect without seeking is presumption; to seek without expecting is unbelief. Both expecting and seeking form the happy ingredients of the Christian who is growing in grace.

What is the result? “They will mount up with wings like eagles” (v.31).

The eagle is the biblical metaphor for strength (Ex.19:4; Deut.32:11). The proper translation of this phrase is “they cause their wings to rise, or lift their wings high, like the eagles.” In other words, those whose course of life is focused on Jehovah are, as it were, “possessed of wings.” We will grow from strength-to-strength and from glory-to-glory (Ps.84:7; 2 Cor.3:18). Running the way of His commandments will not tire us (Ps.119:32). Here is the promise to those who wait upon the Lord:

 

  • Progress is made.
  • Power is felt.
  • Perseverance is granted.

Spiritual Complacency

If you have been a Christian for any length of time, surely you know what it is to feel complacent, cold, sluggish, and even stagnant in your walk with Christ. Pressures of the home or family, the job, and a thousand other things seem to squeeze the life right out of us, or at least crowd out any room for fervent devotion to Jesus. Our first inclination many times is to look at our schedules as the cause of our spiritual stagnation. Perhaps we feel that a vacation is in order to refresh us spiritually. Yet we all know that although vacations can remove us from the routine, they can never remove the routine from us. In other words, whatever you stress over in Phoenix, you’re still going to stress over in Cancun.

I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.Revelation 3:18

Three things are identified as needing to be restored:

  • First, a restoration of spiritual values—This is the “…gold refined by fire so that you may become rich…” True worth comes not from what the world values, but it lies in what Christ offers to those who believe.
  • Second, a restoration of spiritual virtues—This is the acquiring of “…white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed…” What the Christian needs is true righteousness because the world can see right through the pretense of a shallow and unrighteous life.
  • Third, a restoration of spiritual vision—This is the “…eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.” There is a big difference between a carnal person and a worldly person. A carnal person indulges in the things of the flesh like fornication, smoking, drinking, cursing; these are all deeds of the flesh. A worldly person is one who gossips and seeks to keep up appearances for the sake of looking good in others’ eyes. However, both of these categories of sin have one thing in common: they cloud spiritual perception. Whenever you are not seeing spiritual things clearly, you’re in danger of perishing. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov.29:18a KJV).

 

Application

  1. Are you willing to face spiritual issues in your life that Christ exposes by His Word?
  2. Are you willing to change your ways according to His Word?

 

If so, approach Jesus by faith now. Acknowledge your need. Seek grace to do His will. Honestly admit that you have offended Him in your life and ask Him for the power to turn from it. If you are sincere, you will find Him!

Love Me Tender

When the people who feel their spiritual leprosy come to church, they really do not care about the music or the padded pews. What they really want to know deep down and secretly is, “If I go there, will they really love me? Would they love me if they really knew me?” This is a secret question that unbelievers have and, truth be told, it is a question that many believers have as well.

D.L. Moody, the famous 18th century evangelist, once said, “A man may be a good doctor without loving his patients; a good lawyer without loving clients; a good geologist without loving science; but he cannot be a good Christian without love.”[1]

The Meaning of Love
What do these verses teach us about the meaning of true love?

  • Love is the result of justification by faith and the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Rom.5:1-8)
  • Gifts, knowledge, and service are all valueless without love. (1 Cor.13:1-3)
  • Love is the chief Christian virtue. (1 Cor.13:13; Cf. Gal.5:22)
  • God’s love demands allegiance and loyalty. (1 John 2:15-17)
  • Love is a mark of true knowledge of God. (1 John 4:7-11)
  • If you are hating your brother, you cannot be loving God at the same time. (1 John 4:20-21)
  • Faith in Christ and love for believers are inseparable. (1 John 5:1-3)

The Message of Love
What message does a love for the brethren send?

  • Loving one another is the distinguishing quality of being a true follower of Christ. (John 13:35)
  • Loving other believers is the evidence of spiritual life. (1 John 3:14)
  • Love provides conclusive evidence of the Spirit’s indwelling presence. (Gal.5:22)

The Manifestation of Love
Anyone can say he loves Christ and other believers, but how can you tell? How does a true love for the Lord and believers look and how should it express itself?

  • It is to be an unhypocritical (Rom.12:9)
  • It is to be a fervent (1 Pet.4:8)
  • It is to be a serving (Gal.5:13; Cf. Heb.6:10)
  • It is to be a practical (1 John 3:16-18)

 

[1] As quoted by John Blanchard, Gathered Gold, p.389

Starting the New Year Right

Are resolutions bad? No. Most of the time they are just our human way of setting goals. Goal setting or planning is not wrong, but wise when we keep in mind the sovereignty of God and His commanded will (Prov.30:25-28; James 4:13-17). Let me help you by reminding you of some important principles to keep in mind as you plan out the year.

First of all, remember that moving on does not mean you have dealt with something properly. This is a subtle delusion that we fall into, especially if we have experienced something very painful to us. Removing ourselves from a situation or relationship is sometimes necessary, but remember that God has a fool-proof way of dealing with difficulties and pain: by confession (1 John 1:9; James 5:16), confrontation (Rom.12:18; Heb.12:14), and renewing your mind and changing your ways (Eph.4:17-32).

Next, look inward before you look forward. You won’t find the answers inside of you, but many times the thing that keeps us from growing is not something on the outside, rather it’s something on the inside. What can pinpoint the cause of internal hindrances with chilling clarity? The Word of God and the Spirit of God (Heb.4:12). In one flash of inward illumination you can discover the areas in your life that God wants you to deal with, so that this year can be more spiritually fruitful than last year. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov.4:23).

Lastly, look upward before you look backwards. Here is where you can avoid overreacting to the past. Many times we can act impulsively like Moses by looking around and not looking up to the Lord. Because of our sinful flesh we can begin to ambitiously pursue self-centered goals that bring comfort, but do not foster spiritual conviction. We may also pursue pleasures instead of the promotion of the Gospel. Before you act with any decisive plans this year, ask the Lord, “What would You have me to do?” You can find the answer to this question by going to the Bible to discover those areas that are most important to Him.

Here are some key questions to ask yourself:

  • How much of the time that the Lord has given me is actually devoted to getting to know Him through His Word and prayer? Begin by making adjustments in your schedule here first.
  • How am I using my spiritual gifts to seek to build the church and store up rewards in heaven? You don’t want to appear before the judgment seat empty handed. You need to serve somewhere now.
  • How much of all the resources that God placed in my hands last year actually went toward His work? How can we be better stewards—not hoarders, but managers—of what God places in our hands for the sake of the kingdom? Plan now at the start of the year to give more toward the kingdom than you did last year and watch the fulfillment of the principle of Christ, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

In Everything Give Thanks

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”―1 Thessalonians 5:18

In our focal verse, the Apostle calls believers to give thanks to God in all circumstances, not simply when we become the recipients of some blessing from God.

The call is to thank God in every circumstance, whether it is in joy or sorrow, adversity or prosperity, times of peace or times of stress―in everything!

We are also to give thanks for everything. Read Ephesians 5:20 and Colossians 3:17. This does not mean that we thank God for evil―He is not the author of evil―however, even in the midst of what seems to be the most terrible of circumstances, we can always find a reason to thank God for His sovereign hand in our lives.

We are also to thank God in every place: in the house of God and the bed of sickness; as we come in and as we go out; when we are with the people of God and when we are among the unsaved. Thank God!

Thank God in:

  • Private prayer.
  • Personal attitude.
  • Public worship.

Why is it God’s will to be thankful in everything?

  1. It honors Him (Ps.50:23).
  2. It reflects the stability of your faith (Col.2:6-7).
  3. It displays the rule of Christ in your heart (Col.3:15).
  4. It is the fruit of God’s Word dwelling richly in your heart (Col.3:16-17).

Why should we give thanks to the Lord?

  • Because He is good (1 Chr.16:34).
  • Because it is good to give thanks (Ps.92:1). Thanksgiving keeps the heart soft and prevents the hardening of your heart.
  • Because we have received an unshakable kingdom (Heb.12:28).
  • Because of the gift of Christ (2 Cor.9:15).
  • Because of God’s supply of our daily needs (1 Tim.4:3-4).
  • Because of God’s goodness and mercy (Ps.111).
  • Because it is God’s will (1 Thess.5:18).

Matthew Henry, the commentator, was once robbed by a group of thugs who took his bag with several of his personal items. When he arrived home, this is what he wrote in his diary:

“Let me be thankful first, because I was never robbed before; second, because, although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because although they take my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

 What a perspective!

How are we to thank God?

  • Whole-heartedly with our song (Ps.28:7).
  • Continually with our lips (Heb.13:15).
  • Generously with our gifts (Phil.4:17-19).
  • Thoughtfully with our prayers (Eph.1:16; Phil.4:5-7).
  • Reverently with our worship (Ps.95:2, 100:4).

Do You Know Your Mission in Life?

Just the word “mission” sounds adventuresome, doesn’t it? Life is meant to be a wonderful adventure, filled with meaning and purpose, but most people don’t know what their mission is in life. Do you? Practitioners of the soul believe that every human being has “telic” (purpose) questions embedded deep within the hearts. Questions like…

  • Who am I?
  • Who made me?
  • Why am I here?
  • Where am I going?
  • How can I know?

Until you know the true answer to these questions there will always be a void in your heart. It was the great North African bishop Augustine of Hippo who once said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” The good news is that God has answered these telic questions for us in His Word, the Bible. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt.11:28).

The key to finding your mission in life and rest for your soul is simple: you must to come to Jesus. Have you? Will you? I know that some say that at the “right time” and at the “right place,” everyone will have their “come to Jesus” moment. But how do you know if that time has come for you? There is never a “right time” or a “right place”—so the moment you hear the Gospel invitation to come, come, dear friend, at that very moment! How?

Just as [you are], without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me.
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Just as [you are], and waiting not,
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Are You Free?

Galatians 5:13—“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” 

How would you finish this sentence? 

If I want to be a really good Christian, I must…

How you finish that sentence is critical. Finish it incorrectly, as many people do, and you fall into the same trap of the ensnared first-century Christians in Galatia.

What does it mean to be called to freedom? Many wrongly define freedom. Some would say that I am free if no one hinders me or stops me from what I want to do. In other words, if I am not impeded from anything that I desire, I’m free. But is this really true?

Is this statement true on the lips of a crack-addict or a compulsive gambler? Is this statement true on the lips of a workaholic or a thief? I don’t think so! When the Word of God speaks of the believer being “called to freedom,” what does it mean? Mortimer J. Alter wrote a book entitled, The Idea of Freedom. In this book he traced the debate about freedom through centuries of human philosophy. Boiling it down, he said three viewpoints have prevailed among the philosophers of the world:

The first is that freedom is circumstantial: by this he meant that we are free as long as there is no state, institution, or dictator seeking to hinder us from doing what we want to do.

The second is that freedom is natural: this is the viewpoint of the founding document of our country, The Declaration of Independence.

The third is that freedom is acquired: this viewpoint suggests that freedom is inward, in that, if we have a change of mind and character that makes us feel free, then we are free.

Which view do you think best represents God’s viewpoint? Circumstantial, natural, or acquired?

The freedom that Jesus came to give us is not represented by the above three. The freedom believers are called to is a freedom from God’s wrath over us, Satan’s rule below us, and sin’s power within us—for Jesus said, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed(John 8:36).

Are you free?

 

Real Spiritual Success: How do we make spiritual progress?

Count Zinzendorf founded the “Guild of the Grain of Mustard Seed,” and, as a result, the Moravian Church was born. This servant of God proved a fundamental biblical principle—size never determines power! Compared to others, you may or may not have much. However, when the two cardinal virtues of faith and prayer are applied, the condition of real spiritual success and growth are created. Remember, doubt and fear are the twin foes of faith. Faith always involves three clear steps: it asks, it accepts, and it appropriates.

Samuel Ward reminds us that “Faith finds its luster in action, and not just in notion. It enters our hearts and not just our heads. This is the difference between one who reads about pleasant rivers and high mountains and one who travels to visit them. What a difference there is between understanding the notion of sweetness, and actually tasting the honey or sugar…it is possible for a man to have a gift from God and not the use of it. Among all the gifts of God, there is nothing more useful than faith…Allow faith to do her perfect work in you, and to form Christ in your heart. Do not allow yourself to be delayed in the power of fear and doubt.”

Truth Matters: The Importance of Sound Doctrine

Before we can really understand and embrace the importance of sound doctrine, we must know what sound doctrine is. So let’s define it up front: Sound doctrine is the well defined standard of truth set down in the Gospel by our Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles (1 Cor.15:1-3; 1 Tim.1:11; 6:3ff; 2 Tim.1:13). Sound doctrine constitutes what Paul and Jude called “the faith…once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3; 1 Tim.1:2,11,19; 3:9,13; 4:6; 6:21). Sound (literally, healthy) doctrine is said to be healthy because it alone has the intrinsic power to restore genuine spiritual and moral health to those who accept it into their lives.

Another way of viewing sound doctrine is as the throne on which Christ sits. Just as the Gospel is the chief instrument that Christ uses to restore the throne and dominion of God in the souls of men, sound doctrine is the chief instrument by which Christ washes the saved man and fashions him into His likeness. Sanctification is inextricably tied to the doctrine that Christ gives. It is through His truth that He rules the church and sanctifies His people (John 17:17-18). “Doctrines are the shovels and tongs of the altar, while Christ is the sacrifice smoking. Doctrines are Christ’s garments; which smell of myrrh, and cassia, and aloes, but it is not the garments that a man of God cares for, as much as for Christ Himself.” Christ comes to us clothed in the garments, or the doctrines, of the Gospel.

 

Noah and Starting Over

I went to see the movie Noah with my son Joshua, but not for theology or inspirational reasons. In the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to see how the most advanced cinematography in the world would portray the events of the Fall and the Flood. What a disappointment! As a poor substitute for Siskel and Ebert, I would have to give the movie a half-star and two thumbs down! Not only did the producers waste the time of talented actors like Russell Crowe and Anthony Hopkins, but they also perverted the biblical storyline, putting man rather than God at the center of the story—and, what was most disappointing, they missed the main point of the story of Noah.

The story of Noah is not so much about Noah’s courage, as much as it is about God’s saving grace. It’s really a story about how God started over and how you can start over too!

According to the biblical record in Genesis 6:5-13, because the people had become “corrupt and the earth was filled with violence,” God sent the flood in order to destroy mankind. There must always be judgment and death before there can be a new beginning. The ark is a picture of our salvation in Christ (1 Pet.3:18-22).

  • The salvation and the ark were planned by God, not invented by man. There is only one way of salvation and there was only one door in the ark.
  • God invited Noah and his family into the ark (7:1); then once they were in, God shut them in so that they were secure (7:16).
  • The ark saved not only humankind, but also the creatures within it, just as Christ’s death will one day deliver creation from the bondage of sin (Rom.8:18-32).
  • The ark saved Noah and his family from judgment because they believed God’s promise (Heb.11:7); Christ saves us from the wrath to come as we believe Him.
  • Just as Noah was brought safely through the flood; Christ went through the flood of suffering (Ps.42:7) and came out in victory.
  • Noah went out of the ark, the head of a new creation, with his family; and Christ came out of the tomb, the Head of the new creation, and the Father of a new family.

Here is the point: you’ll never truly start over by simply moving your residence, changing your career, or even altering your diet. The true way to start over is to make sure that you take God’s invitation by faith to enter into the ark—the ark of relationship with His Son, one who is better than Noah: the Lord Jesus Christ.