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The inescapable spiritual need each of us has is the need to sign the death certificate of our sin nature. I must take my emotional opinions and intellectual beliefs and be willing to turn them into a moral verdict against the nature of sin; that is, against any claim I have to my right to myself. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ….” He did not say, “I have made a determination to imitate Jesus Christ,” or, “I will really make an effort to follow Him” —but— “I have been identified with Him in His death.” Once I reach this moral decision and act on it, all that Christ accomplished for me on the Cross is accomplished in me. My unrestrained commitment of myself to God gives the Holy Spirit the opportunity to grant to me the holiness of Jesus Christ.

“…it is no longer I who live….” My individuality remains, but my primary motivation for living and the nature that rules me are radically changed. I have the same human body, but the old satanic right to myself has been destroyed.

“…and the life which I now live in the flesh,” not the life which I long to live or even pray that I live, but the life I now live in my mortal flesh— the life which others can see, “I live by faith in the Son of God….” This faith was not Paul’s own faith in Jesus Christ, but the faith the Son God had given to him (see Ephesians 2:8). It is no longer a faith in faith, but a faith that transcends all imaginable limits— a faith that comes only from the Son of God.

WISDOM FROM OSWALD CHAMBERS

Jesus Christ reveals, not an embarrassed God, not a confused God, not a God who stands apart from the problems, but One who stands in the thick of the whole thing with man.  Disciples Indeed, 388 L

Refreshing Spring Rains

He will come to us like the . . . spring rains that water the earth. Hosea 6:3

Needing a break, I went for a walk in the nearby park. As I headed down the path, a burst of green caught my attention. Out of the mud appeared shoots of life that in a few weeks would be cheerful daffodils, heralding spring and the warmth to come. We had made it through another winter!

As we read through the book of Hosea, it can feel in parts like an unrelenting winter. For the Lord gave this prophet the unenviable task of marrying an unfaithful woman as a picture of the Creator’s love for His people Israel (1:2–3). Hosea’s wife, Gomer, broke their wedding vows, but Hosea welcomed her back, yearning that she would love him devotedly (3:1–3). So too the Lord desires that we love Him with a strength and commitment that won’t evaporate like the morning mist.

Though we may be unfaithful to God, He will never turn from us.

How do we relate to God? Do we seek Him mainly in times of trouble, searching for answers in our distress but ignoring Him during our seasons of celebration? Are we like the Israelites, easily swayed by the idols of our age, including such things as busyness, success, and influence?

Today, may we recommit ourselves to the Lord, who loves us as surely as the flowers bud in the spring.

Lord Jesus, You gave Yourself that we might be free. Help us to love You wholeheartedly.

Though we may be unfaithful to God, He will never turn from us.

INSIGHT:The message of the prophet Hosea is as powerful as it is persistent. His book is situated first among the Minor Prophets and is one of the oldest books in this section of the Scriptures. Hosea lived and ministered in the northern kingdom about a generation before the Assyrian captivity in 722 bc. The message of Hosea mirrors the message of the entire Bible. By commanding Hosea to marry a prostitute, endure her unfaithfulness, and buy her back out of her life of prostitution, God illustrates for Israel His message of love, mercy, and forgiveness. God’s offer of redemption despite our waywardness permeates all of Scripture. How does knowing that God offers redemption despite our sin encourage you? Discover how Hosea’s life mirrored God’s message to His people. Listen to discovertheword.org/2012/05/23/discover-how-hoseas-life-mirrored-gods-message-to-his-people.

 

Inadequacy as a Barrier

Ephesians 3:14-21

Do you ever feel unequal to the task God has set in front of you? At times, all of us struggle with such feelings because certain responsibilities appear to be bigger than one human being is able to accomplish. Problems can develop when we wear inadequacy like a cloak in order to protect ourselves from doing the Lord’s work. We sometimes try to convince ourselves that a task is too great or that God expects too much.

When this is the case, we might be tempted to turn away from some tremendous God-given opportunities. For example, sometimes the Lord provides a situation that is just right for sharing the good news of Christ with a coworker, family member, or acquaintance. But how often do we back off and end up squandering such opportune moments because we’re afraid we won’t know what to say?

Inadequacy grows out of fear—specifically, fear of failure and of not meeting people’s expectations. No matter how unqualified we feel, apprehension is not an acceptable excuse for avoiding responsibility. The truth is, even if a Christian feels incapable of accomplishing some of the awesome tasks God calls him to do, the Holy Spirit is more than adequate! As believers, we do not have to possess perfect qualifications or skills; we need only to be willing.

What have you refused to do for the Lord because you feel inadequate? 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that God has given us a spirit of power, not one of timidity. All the believer has to do is step out in faith; the Holy Spirit’s strength and courage will be there to meet us.

By Any Means

“And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west.” (Acts 27:12)

This seemingly insignificant phrase “by any means” (Greek ei pos) is actually used to express the urgency of attaining some object sought, along with the means for its attainment. It occurs just four times in the New Testament, and it is interesting that these four occurrences seem to follow a significant order.

The first of them is in our text above and expresses a search for physical comfort, as the mariners, transporting Paul to Rome, sought by any means to find a convenient place to spend the winter.

The second expresses Paul’s search for spiritual ministry. When Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, he told them of his constant prayers: “Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established” (Romans 1:10-11).

Thirdly, there was his search for conversion of others. “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them” (Romans 11:13-14).

Finally, and most importantly, there was Paul’s (and, Lord willing, may it be ours also!) search for a Christ-centered life. “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). HMM

“Stand still, see the salvation of the Lord.”

Exodus 13:17, 18, 20-22

Exodus 13:18

The Lord is mindful of the infirmities of his people. He meant them to see many wars hereafter, but as yet they were all unused to fighting, and therefore were to be led by a quieter though a longer road. Blessed be God, our troubles shall not be ready for us till we are ready for them.

Exodus 13:20-22

The pillar was their infallible conductor; it also screened them by day and lit up the camp by night. God’s mercies are many-sided. We can only do one thing well at a time, but the Lord accomplishes many devices at one stroke.

Exodus 14:1-5, 8-14

Exodus 14:1-2

This seemed a strange direction, but Moses obeyed it without question. Let us go where the Lord bids us though the way be perilous.

Exodus 14:8

God’s plagues had not changed the King’s rebellious nature. When he saw that he had lost his valuable slaves, his greed made him rush after them.

Exodus 14:12

This unbelief was both unjust and cruel. Had they not seen the Lord’s works in the great plagues? Could they not believe that he who had wrought such marvels could and would deliver them? They were smitten with panic, and were willing to return to bondage; whereas true freemen never debate which of the two to choose, slavery or death.

Exodus 14:13, 14

This meekest of men answered the people meekly and believingly, for prayer enabled him to conquer his own spirit.

 

Forward! but whither shall we go?

The desert is on either side,

Behind us the Egyptian foe,

Before, the interposing tide!

 

Yet while we thy command obey,

Our road impassable pursue,

The ocean yields an open way,

And lets thy ransomed people through.

 

Doing Things Decently and in Order

1 Corinthians 14:40

How does God want us to worship Him? This is a question that has been asked by different denominations throughout the centuries.

In the church I grew up in, I remember what we thought of any church that had “wild” church services. We deemed those people “incorrect” because their services weren’t conducted “decently and in order”—at least not according to our perspective.

But over the years, I have come to learn that “decently and in order” can mean different things to different people. What is acceptable to one group may be outrageous and offensive to another group. What is deemed holy, sweet, and touching by one group might be viewed as dead and dull to another. Everyone has his or her own opinions about what is appropriate or inappropriate in worship.

The Body of Christ is composed of too many different groups to list them all here, such as Catholics, Orthodox, Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists, Pentecostals, and Charismatics. It therefore shouldn’t surprise us that Christians have differing opinions about the right and wrong way to worship God. It also shouldn’t surprise us that most people assume that their form of worship is the most scriptural.

So who is right and who is wrong? Is there only one correct form of worship? Could there possibly be room for a variety of different expressions of worship in the Kingdom of God? And are we ready to honestly ask ourselves, Are my opinions about worship influenced only by the Bible, or am I also influenced by my culture and upbringing? What are the guidelines set forth in Scripture?

You may personally believe that praise and worship with instruments, clapping, dancing, and all kinds of celebration is the right approach to worship. Or you may be a person who loves a quieter, more structured form of worship with hymns and organ music. Either way, you may have a host of scriptures to back up your conviction and support your view of what worship ought to be.

However, the New Testament basically gives us only one rule to follow in regard to this question of what is acceptable and appropriate in worship. That rule is found in First Corinthians 14:40, where the apostle Paul tells us, “Let all things be done decently and in order.”

The word “decently” is the Greek word euschemonos. Other than this verse, the word euschemonos is only found two other times in the New Testament—in Romans 13:13 and in First Thessalonians 4:12. In both of these places, it is translated to do something honestly or to walk honestly. It carries the notion of something that is done properly as opposed to improperly. It has to do with intent and motivation more than outward action, although such a good intention always results in right actions.

The word “order” is the Greek word taksis. It carries the idea of something done in a fitting way or something done according to order. The Jewish historian Josephus used the word taksis when he recorded the orderly way in which the Roman army erected their camps—indicating their camps were orderly, organized, and well-planned. The commanders didn’t engage in last-minute planning. Their camps were not hastily thrown together but rather set up in an organized and thoughtful manner.

Josephus also uses the word taksis to describe the way the Essene Jews were respectful of others. These Jews would wait until others were finished speaking before they’d take their turn and speak out. In Josephus’ depiction of this behavior among the Essenes, he used the word taksis to picture people who were respectful, deferential, courteous, accommodating, well-mannered, and polite.

 

Taking these meanings into account, First Corinthians 14:40 could be translated:

“Let everything be done in a fitting and proper manner that is organized, well-planned, respectful, well-mannered, and polite.”

This throws open the door to all kinds of worship! It can be quiet, loud, soft, or bold. The important thing is that the time of worship would not be something thrown together at the last minute with no thought or organization. After all, we’re talking about believers coming together to worship the Almighty God! Therefore, when we plan corporate worship, it should be well thought out and organized. Additionally, our time of worship together should be well-mannered, respectful, and polite.

A group of believers can be bold, loud, and well-mannered all at the same time. They can also be soft and quiet while at the same time rude and offensive. The style, use of instruments, and volume level are not the biggest questions in God’s mind. The big question in His mind is this: What is their intent and motivation? If the group’s intent and motivation is correct, their worship will be accompanied by an attitude that reflects the character of Jesus Christ.

So don’t get upset if others worship a little differently from how you are accustomed to worshiping. Jesus is listening to their hearts. He is watching to see how much energy and forethought they put into the plan before they enter into His Presence. Their form of worship may be different than yours, but if they are worshiping God from a pure heart and with their entire being, you can rest assured that their worship is acceptable to Him!

The truth is, God is more interested in the condition of your heart than the style of worship you use in the format of your church service. So instead of focusing on who has the best form of worship, concentrate on whether YOU have an open, pure heart before God!

MY PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, I want to have an appreciation for the entire Body of Christ and not hold others in judgment because they worship differently than I do. Please forgive me for the times I’ve been so judgmental, narrow-minded, and closed to anyone who does things differently than what I am accustomed to doing. Help me see the wonderful flavors You have placed in Your Church and to learn to appreciate and enjoy the wonderful blend and varieties that exist in Your family!

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY

I confess that I am tolerant and nonjudgmental toward those who worship God differently than my friends and I. As long as they worship Jesus and do it with all their hearts, I thank God for them. I choose to do everything within my power to show respect for and to honor the way others feel most comfortable in their worship of God. If God sees their hearts and receives their worship, I am in no position to judge or condemn. For the rest of my life, I will no longer take a contentious position against those who represent parts of the Church that are different from mine.

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  1. Have you been opinionated and judgmental about other people’s forms of worship?
  2. After reading today’s Sparkling Gem, what attitude do you think is right for you to have toward other people’s different forms of worship?
  3. According to First Corinthians 14:40, what is the most important thing for you to be concerned about in the way a church worships God?

 

Satan Is An Opportunist With Your Soul

After loosing the battle to tempt Christ into sin, the Devil departs “until an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13)

 

AN “OPPORTUNE TIME” – That is what the Enemy of our soul is soliciting from you as he “prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

 

Let me suggest five “opportune times” when Satan is most likely to strike:

 

1. During periods of strength and success –

 

But when (Uzziah) became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and was unfaithful to the Lord… ” (2 Chronicles 26:16a).

 

2. When you choose to live by wrong priorities –

 

David, while at the pinnacle of his career got into trouble with Bathsheba because he was lounging when he should have been fighting (See 2 Samuel 11).

 

3. When you decide to go against godly counsel –

 

Jehoshaphat, who for years had followed God in an exemplary fashion, chose to discount a prophet’s warning not to go to war. It cost him his life (See 2 Chronicles 18).

 

4. When you, in your pride, think that you are capable of winning over Satan’s “stratagems” –”Put on the full armor of Godto stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11, 13).

 

5. During times of stress and fatigue –

 

Elijah hit a devastating low after his victorious but intense encounter with the 450 prophets of Baal, and after traveling a demanding day’s journey (See 1 Kings 18:37-19:4).

 

QUESTION: What steps do you need to be taking now to insure the fact that you are not Satan’s next victim… during an “opportune time?”

 

 

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