VIDEO Sweet Hour of Prayer

How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? Psalm 13:2

Why is life so hard? Why all the disappointments, fears, and frustrations? And the uncertainty! No one knows what tomorrow will bring. In Psalm 13, David processed his problems through prayer, and by the end he was ready to say, “I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me” (verse 6).

Some of the reasons for our troubles are mysteries for now. But this we know—God uses each tribulation to teach us more about prayer. We’re unable to solve all the problems we face, but God’s power is unlimited and His hand is near. When we don’t know what to do, He promises to guide us. When weakness comes, we can ask for His strength. When worried about others, we can entrust them to Him.

Whenever we face turmoil, we have a direct line to our Father—through prayer. He will never abandon us when our troubles overwhelm us. The hymnist said: “In seasons of distress and grief, my soul has often found relief, / and oft escaped the tempter’s snare by thy return, sweet hour of prayer.”

Prayer is the delight of the saint, the armor of the soldier, and the supplier of the servant. Robert G. Lee


Trusting God in the Dark

Overcoming Envy

Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands. 1 Samuel 18:7

In the film Amadeus, aging composer Antonio Salieri plays some of his music on the piano for a visiting priest. The embarrassed priest confesses he doesn’t recognize the tunes. “What about this one?” Salieri says, playing an instantly familiar melody. “I didn’t know you wrote that,” the priest says. “I didn’t,” Salieri replies. “That was Mozart!” As viewers discover, Mozart’s success had caused deep envy in Salieri—even leading him to play a part in Mozart’s death.

A song lies at the heart of another envy story. After David’s victory over Goliath, the Israelites heartily sing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). The comparison doesn’t sit well with King Saul. Envious of David’s success and afraid of losing his throne (vv. 8–9), Saul begins a prolonged pursuit of David, trying to take his life.

Like Salieri with music or Saul with power, we’re usually tempted to envy those with similar but greater gifts than we possess. And whether it’s picking fault with their work or belittling their success, we too can seek to damage our “rivals.”

Saul had been divinely chosen for his task (10:6–7, 24), a status that should’ve fostered security in him rather than envy. Since we each have unique callings too (Ephesians 2:10), maybe the best way to overcome envy is to quit comparing ourselves. Let’s celebrate each other’s successes instead.

By:  Sheridan Voysey

Reflect & Pray

Whom are you most tempted to envy? How can you celebrate their success?

Loving God, I thank You for my friends’ and colleagues’ successes.

When We’re Tempted to Quit

James 1:2-12

Have you ever thought, I can’t take this anymore or I give up? These phrases have the power to change the direction of our life. Let’s look at three things that could cause these sentiments.

1. Satan and his angels. Through their involvement, we can be tempted to stop waiting on God for solutions and instead seek our own way out. Or the enemy may try to redirect our focus away from Jesus and onto our negative emotions. If he can make us feel helpless and hopeless, then he is successfully distracting us from God. 

2. The world. Ungodly people are always ready to give believers advice. We need God’s wisdom to set ourselves apart from their thinking and yet stay connected enough to share God’s message of hope with them.

3. Our own flesh. We have a tendency to do what feels good and benefits us, but God’s way is always best and the most fulfilling.

If you have ever wanted to give up, you’ve probably been influenced by one or more of these factors. But God has good purpose for the trials He allows in our life: They produce perseverance that helps to mature us as Christians. When we look at things from that perspective, we can actually “consider it all joy” to have struggles (James 1:2-4).

The Voice of the Lord

“The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.” (Psalm 29:3-4)

When did you last consider the majesty of God and the power of His voice? From creation to consummation, Scripture proclaims the power of God’s voice. His Word begins with His speaking everything into existence (Genesis 1), and He completes His Word with eternal declarations (Revelation 21:5-8).

Today’s psalm draws our eyes to God’s power over the natural world. Think about mighty, rolling ocean waves and booming thunder during the fiercest storm. Many would describe them as powerful. While that is a good description for our finite minds to comprehend, as believers we ultimately don’t ascribe power to nature itself (e.g., Mother Nature or natural selection). We choose to give praise to the Lord Jesus Christ, who created and sustains each element of creation (Colossian 1:16-17).

Spurgeon expounded, “The thunder is not only poetically but instructively called ‘the voice of God,’ since it peals from on high; it surpasses all other sounds, it inspires awe, it is entirely independent of man, and has been used on some occasions as the grand accompaniment of God’s speech to Adam’s sons.”

The book of Job also portrays God’s powerful voice. “After it a voice roareth: he thundereth with the voice of his excellency; and he will not stay them when his voice is heard. God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend” (Job 37:4-5). “Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him?” (Job 40:9).

The voice of the Lord is unique. His voice alone can create and control. Let us use our words to praise His name and proclaim His wondrous deeds! MH

The Gospel Summary

Luke 24:44-49

IN Luke 24:44-49 our Lord gave to His disciples, just before He ascended to the Father, a precious summary of gospel truth.

He began: “These are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms concerning Me.” Here is the fulfillment of prophecy, and notice how He includes the whole of the Old Testament Scriptures: the Law, the Psalms, the Prophets. For a right view of the gospel, we must start with Genesis. After He said this, we read that “then opened He their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures.” “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” and our Lord is the true key to the Scriptures.

He said next, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day.” The gospel begins with “It is written”—it is a revelation of God and is built upon recorded facts in His Word. And the twin gospel facts are the death and resurrection of our Lord—so Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. So it is declared in Romans 4:25: “Delivered for our offences and raised for our justification.” And so does baptism set forth the twin facts of our death with Christ to sin and our resurrection to walk in newness of life. Calvary and the open tomb must always go together.

With these two glorious facts to proclaim, our Lord said next “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Remission of sins is made possible through His shed blood, but before it can become effectually ours there must be repentance—a change of mind about sin, self and the Savior—and a turning from darkness to light. The “repentance” note has been left out of much of our preaching. It is elemental to point out the blessed grace of God, with pardon offered freely to all, but God commands all men everywhere to repent, and we dare not do less.

“And ye are witnesses of these things.” Witnesses of His death and resurrection. The disciples had seen Him die, but all who believe are witnesses of these things in experience. He also said that we are witnesses unto Him, but before we can witness to we must be witnesses of these facts in our own lives. We cannot witness to something we know not of. That is the tragedy of much preaching today; it is a speaking about these facts without a warm personal experience of them.

But the weakness in much testimony is implied in our Lord’s next word here: “And, behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high.” It is not enough even to be witnesses of these facts if we speak them without the power which must accompany them. The early church had the facts, but had to wait for the fire. We today need not wait for Pentecost to come, but we do need to tarry in order to get right with God and yielded to Him. It is not that He must be coaxed; it is not His reluctance, but our rebellion, that hinders the blessing.

Putting all these words together, we have the gospel summary: prophecy fulfilled, the Word written; Calvary and the resurrection; repentance and remission; witnessing and the power of the Spirit.

Can a Lie Be Justified?

A false witness will not go unpunished, and one who utters lies will not escape.—Proverbs 19:5

Will the universe sustain a lie? Today the church is being inundated with a philosophy called “situational ethics,” which would have us believe that sometimes a lie can be right. I think that is a deadly and diabolical doctrine. A lie is never right—no matter what attempts we might make to justify it. “God is not a man who lies,” says the Scripture in Numbers 23:19, and in 1 John 2:21 we read, “No lie comes from the truth.” God cannot lie, and He will never delegate to you the task of lying for Him. When we take dishonesties into our lives we take fire into our lives—here and hereafter: “All liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur” (Rv 21:8).

“Situational ethics” proponents come up with all kinds of possible scenarios, such as: “What if someone came to your house to murder a member of your family and asked if that person was in. Would it not be right to lie in those circumstances?” Can you see the thrust of this question? It is the argument, “This is what we ought to do because it makes sense.” But once we view sin as an “ought,” it is magically turned into something that is “good.”

The Bible does not teach that anyone in any situation ought to sin. First Corinthians 10:13 teaches that because God is faithful, we will never find ourselves in a situation where we must sin, but there will always be a way of escape. God never calls upon us to break one of His laws in order to keep another.

Prayer

O Father, in a world that seems to be always looking for excuses and exceptions, help me to steer my life by the clear statements of Your revealed will. I don’t want to measure up to exceptions; I want to conform to the rules—Your rules. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Further Study

Jn 8:31-47; Col 3:9; Rv 21:8

Who did Jesus say is the source of lies?

What was Paul’s exhortation to the Colossians?

Living By the Spirit

Galatians 5:25

This is the age of the Holy Spirit for the church. The energizing purpose of the Holy Spirit is continued under the New Covenant. With the baptism of the Holy Spirit, God promises and provides power (Acts 1:8). He is not satisfied with Christians who are weaklings.

Gifts are bestowed “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12). The Holy Spirit comes for the practical purpose of preparing men to be useful to God.

But, in a marked sense, He comes for the ethical purpose of developing Christlikeness, of cleansing, of baptizing the heart with love, of maturing character.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19). The Holy Spirit comes to, and is now present with, all believers. As Paul expressed to the church in Rome, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9). This is not surprising since the Holy Spirit, as the Administrator of the Godhead, has actively dealt with the person in bringing him to Christ.

There is a difference between the Holy Spirit being present with the believer and His filling him. God wants His temple filled! What does this say to the Church and to the individual Christian? It says that this sanctifying act of the Spirit is still today a blood-bought privilege, to them that ask, that Christ yearns to bestow the same experience of sanctification, that surely He even now continues His prayer before the Father for His children: “Sanctify them!”

Since we “live by the Spirit,” we are exhorted also to practice a life of ordered holiness by the Spirit’s very presence and power—”Let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25 RSV).

Believing in Christ for sanctification as well as for regeneration through the work of the Holy Spirit introduces one into a life of power and victory. Thus, to “walk by the Spirit” is to live one’s whole life in accordance with the mind of Christ. Walking by the Spirit calls for a fellowship on the cross with Christ, a crucifixion of self. “May I never boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

Milton S. Agnew, The Holy Spirit: Friend and Counselor