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If you’re a believer, you have heard the gospel many times in your life. It is the message of salvation; the good news for every soul on earth. It is the seed longing to take root in the soil of the peoples.
How wonderful this news is: Jesus Christ came to earth and lived the perfect life that we could not. He stretched out His arms on a wooden cross, taking the punishment for our sins that should have fallen on our own heads. He then rose from the dead, promising us that death is now powerless, and that we too will wise in the same way. God then announces that there is a “righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” (Romans 3:22) With this new righteousness, the believer can now say, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
This is the gospel; this is the good news.
But where did the gospel go?
It saddens me to think of it, but is there a chance that us believers subconsciously feel that the gospel is only for the ears of unbelievers? When we go from darkness to light, let us not think, “Well, I’m a Christian now. Time to fix my eyes on keeping all of God’s rules.” Don’t get me wrong: discipleship is essential to the Christian life. But have we traded the gospel for it?
I am ashamed to admit how often I switch to a mode of trying to please God on my own strength. I would never admit it at the time, of course, but I do it. I devise elaborate plans to conquer sin without getting down on my knees to ask God for His Spirit to help me. And trying to “be good” on our own strength is not only void of the gospel, but directly opposed to it.
James 2:10 says: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point had become accountable for all of it.” Brothers and sisters, we simply cannot be good enough to earn God’s favour! Are you having a “good” day? Have you been acting “good?” Yet you have sinned, and so God cannot favour and bless you based on your own merit.
This is why we need to be reminded of the gospel every day of our lives! We must humble ourselves, and we must confess our sins – just as we did when we called on Jesus’ name for the first time. Then, as we did back then, we will see God’s grace shining bright.
May this be a challenge to those who have been living on their own strength, and a word of comfort to those who, like me, are prone to forget about the grace of God. As it is said: Preach the gospel to yourself every day.
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all.
I had the opportunity this morning to go to a men’s breakfast. There were men (much older than I!) from three different churches, and three different denominations. It was a time of wonderful fellowship, and some really, really good food.
Besides singling hymns and eating, we also had the opportunity to listen to a great speaker. We were in for an incredible testimony from a man of God who had grown up in Africa at a missions plant. One of the stories he told us blew me away, and I knew I should share it here.
He told of a time when he was six years old. A drought had come upon that region of Africa, and there hadn’t been any rain for a very long time.
One day he walked up to his mother in the field. and with the faith that can often only be found in a child, said, “Mommy, I prayed for rain, and it’s going to come today.” The problem, of course, was that there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky.
Sure enough, later that day, the clouds rolled in, the heavens burst forth with rain, and the earth was replenished.
It’s a story you could guess from the beginning, yet still takes your breath away and leaves you in awe of God’s power. That this man before me prayed during a drought and received rain… it excites me, but it made me sad at first. Why don’t things like this happen in my life?
It’s because I don’t expect them to.
You should not think that these miracles cannot happen today; nor should you think that a spiritual downpour is any less miraculous.
The application is not too deep, but it is practical. What droughts have you come to believe will never end? I know I have mine. Lustful attitudes and anger plague me daily, and win more often than they should. Yet, although I cannot see any clouds, I know that God is the ultimate giver of rain. He is the only one who can end droughts.
It is precisely when we feel that we have failed in an area too many times that we need to renew our hope. So join me in praying for the droughts plaguing us to end. There is much hope, and our God is faithful.
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all.
Although we all hate to admit it, the number of denominations and dividing beliefs in Christianity today is overwhelming. Even worse, the arguments between these sections continue non-stop.
What is the correct way to respond to this truth?
Probably no one struggles with this more than me, who ends up spending a lot of my time doing in-depth studies and listening to sermons online. Yet as soon as I leave my main websites and books, I’m bound to find heated arguments among brothers and sisters in Christ.
Perhaps other people know what to do in these situations, but I don’t. The verse “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers” (2 Tim 2:14) was well-said. I’ll get frustrated and quit for the day.
How should we respond?
Catholics against Protestants; Calvinists against Armenians; liberals against conservatives; premillennials against amillennials… we could go on. It can tear us down, and our personal theology doesn’t always seem to help.
[I read somewhere that it is a sin to have incorrect theology. This sounds great if you are prideful in your knowledge, but it tears you down even further if these arguments are confusing you.]
Ultimately, we must not say, Well, I know I’m right! That thinking is not of the Spirit. I personally know without doubt that I don’t have everything straight; I have much to learn.
“. . . Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
The only true solution is to fall back on the foundation of our faith – Jesus Christ. He is the Author of our faith, and the characters don’t need to worry about the style of writing.
1 Corinthians 2:2 says, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Paul was on to something here. The Corinthians were probably divided in their beliefs, and each group couldn’t wait for Paul to come and tell everyone else they were wrong.
But Paul wouldn’t buy into that, and nor would Christ if He came bodily to this earth today.
Once we realize that Christ wants our trust and love more than our head knowledge, it will become easier for us to overcome these difficult times.
* * *
Let me say that I am not against having a theological persuasion. I love filling my ears with pastors like John Piper and others – even though many disagree with them – because you can see on their face their love for God, and their zeal for His name. But when we’re honest, we have to admit that every side seems to have at least one or two good arguments. And this is when we must fall back on Christ and Him crucified.
That being said, how does this play out? For me, I have to get my mind off of the debate at hand. The next part, the last, is both a fight and an unspeakable joy: I have to work to identify myself with Christ and Him only. This is why we should never say “I am a Calvinist,” or “I am an Armenian.” Really? Was Calvin crucified for you? Were you baptized in Arminius’ name? Hopefully, that brings 1 Corinthians 1:11,12 to mind.
Christ was crucified for our sins, and we were all baptized in His name. If all Christians remembered that, the amount of barriers broken down would be astounding.
Pray to God that you will find peace in Jesus Christ as your Savior. Remember how lost you were when He saved you – you are still just as dependent on Him. He is all you need to be saved. In that moment, strip yourselves of all theological persuasions and fill your mind with Christ alone – this ground, not even Satan can tread upon. This ground is a sanctuary.
Today, make sure you are identified with Christ, and no one else. Again, I am not saying “Don’t study theology; don’t form beliefs about God; Don’t join a denomination.” All I am saying is this: Remember who your true foundation is.
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all.
Some of you reading this are in a dry season in your walk with God right now. It might be days, weeks, months – even years – since you felt God’s presence and love. I know exactly how that feels, and I strongly believe that I have a word for you today.
Others of you may be dealing with depression. Whether it be for medical reasons, problems in life, or a totally unexplainable phenomenon, the fact is that it can be a painful battle to fight for the joy presented to you in the Gospel. As someone who has been diagnosed with depression in the past, I believe I have something to share with you as well.
* * *
The subtitle for this could be “Depression vs. The Joy of the Lord; Part Two.” In the first part, written some time ago, I mainly focused on my experiences with depression, how it disappeared for a while when I came to the Lord, and how I reacted when it came back. Here, I would like to offer you encouragement, though I admit there is no formula herein for defeating depression and dry patches.
The Reality of It All
Ideally, I would say to you, “To end depression and dry seasons, do these three simple steps.” But that isn’t always how it works. Doubtless in many cases you can demolish these things in the moment. Praise, prayer and Scripture citing can defeat depression. Ceasing to give up can lead you out of a dry season. But it doesn’t always work this way.
Just yesterday, I had a battle with depression that lasted from my waking hours to falling asleep at night. I couldn’t overcome it. My dawn devotionals felt empty; I felt hopeless. I prayed, sang, and read Scripture, but to no avail.
But here’s the problem. The only option I gave God was to take that negative feeling away. I was looking for a quick fix for my problems. I never once imagined that perhaps I was meant to struggle through that darkness until it was appointed to be taken away from me.
What if these are the trials we must pass through on our way to the kingdom of heaven? What if we were meant to endure through the night, with no answers, that we might come along side others dealing with the same? Though you may not feel God’s presence, endure – just as Jesus endured for you.
Oh, how great the effect on unbelievers would be if, when they were depressed and defeated, we came alongside them and instead of quoting passages, we put our arm around them and were silent – because we had been there!
* * *
My title for this post is “Seldom are Diamonds Found on Mountaintops,” because we are tempted to see depressing and dry times as futile. In closing, let me tell you what I learned two days ago.
I had just come out of an incredibly long dry season. During my devotion time, I could clearly feel God’s presence. Putting a worship song on, I stumbled across a video. So often had I played this when I felt like there was almost nothing between me and giving up. I had only listened to it when I was depressed and feeling hopeless.
It was then that I realized what victories we win in dry seasons and during depressions without even knowing it. All of Satan’s army is against us during these times, yet we persevere.
The victory is not in being delivered from the trial, but persevering through it by the grace of God.
Satan falls from heaven like lightning when we hang on, praising God when we feel like we can’t. All the while we grow closer and closer to the image of Jesus, who suffered while tempted, yet was without sin. (See Hebrews 4:15) So fight like a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
A quick thank you:
I was keenly made aware this morning of a great amount of supplication having been made for me the night before. So, to everyone that read my post last night and prayed for me: Thank you! Know that every word was heard by our Father in heaven, and He acted speedily.
I have been in quite the dry season lately, spanning perhaps the entire summer. I confess that my faith was becoming rather dry; sin was rearing its ugly head. But something was totally different about this morning – rain! (The spiritual kind, of course.)
Though it was a personal experience, I have to share it out of gratitude. I’m a lazy bum when it comes to getting out of bed, but somehow I was easily able to get up at 5 45. I soon had my worship music going, and I was singing with hands lifted high. The presence of God was unmistakable. The fact that so many people were thinking about me and sharing their heart last night is no coincidence. The lesson to take home?
Christians separated by thousands of miles are brought within touching distance by the Holy Spirit.
What a thing to rejoice in! We can all be encouraged to pray all the more earnestly to our Lord.
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all.
This may sound crazy. Still, if you have been a Christian for a long time, I would love for you to give me feedback and knowledge on this topic. I am confused, and somewhat frightened. This post may not have the poise of a beautifully constructed essay.
Every month or so, I will get a dream that shakes me to the core of my being – I had another one of these last night. In these dreams, unclean spirits attack me, and occasionally loved ones). It is incredibly difficult to explain how it feels (and I do feel it vividly, as real life); I am simply aware of their presence and filled with utter dread.
Last night I feel as though I was attacked as many as ten times throughout the night. What makes these dreams so interesting is that I always use my authourity in Christ in response. Every single time I feel this attack, I declare my position as a child of Christ, and demand the demon, by the blood of Jesus, to leave. Again, these are not simple scenes played out in my head, but lengthy, grueling battles: I am mentally and spiritually exhausted when I awake.
To someone who is not a Christian, I can imagine this sounding like nonsense. And in a way, I wish it was. When I first was saved, I started to read all sorts of “non-fiction” material written by people claiming to have been through demonic experiences. These were over the top, with werewolves and manifestations of Satan. I have since stopped thinking about the authenticity of these stories, but the existence and power of “the rulers . . . the authourities . . . the cosmic powers over this present darkness . . . the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places,” I cannot deny.
Not only do I experience this, but I think I know why I do more so than others. As I have confessed in an earlier post, I struggle greatly with lust and anger. These I have not yet overcome. Another reason is that I am too often alone in my Christian walk. Now I am not saying that I have no Christian community – there are many who care for me, and I am thankful – but it is my own fault that I spend so many troubled hours at home, alone. This is where Satan will attack.
I should stop and verify that I am not blaming my lust and anger on Satan. I’m perfectly capable of committing this blasphemy myself. But I have read, and believe, that when we know the will of God, and willingly go against it, we give the devil legal ground in our lives. This is why when we commit adultery, get drunk, or anything of the sort, we are met with a huge wave of condemnation.
* * * * *
Fortunately, this post does not start with Satan and end in despair. Every night in these dreams, when I am attacked, and actually have incredible difficulty even speaking one word, I shout out, “Don’t you know that I am God’s child? I have been washed by His blood!” It’s slow and hard to speak, but I repeat it as many times as I need to. I don’t even technically “cast it out;” I just affirm my place in God through Jesus Christ.
Thank you for reading this rant of mine. But, please – if you have any knowledge, experience, or even a Scripture passage I could learn from, please share it. Let’s just say I don’t learn about this stuff on the Miracle Channel!
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all.
Often as I pray on my bed, my words feel like they refuse to travel far. In these times, I am quick to take out my journal and write my thoughts to God there. Here, I have tried to express myself through a short story. Don’t interpret everything too literally, but read it for what it is and enjoy. Many thanks for reading!
You always told me never to go out on the lake alone. Not that I would want to. No solitude could prove superiority over father and child sharing hearts as one on a boat for two. And as the last of the sun’s light conquered the clouds and poured its life onto the glistening water, so our company seemed to disperse the darkness in the world around us.
It was perfect, wasn’t it? As we basked in the waning warmth of twilight, I could almost believe that no one had ever hurt or abandoned us before – foolish, I know. There just wasn’t anything that could possibly bring the former things to mind.
The carp would splash ’round about us, but we never took them from their homes. You and I knew full well the feeling. No, we neither fished nor endeavoured to speak much; it was as if our thoughts were already transcribed on the sky above for the other to see. I preferred to hear that low tune you would whistle until the stars came out. It was no merry tune, but you, the maestro, could nearly put me to sleep with it. Every so often you would stop, only to open your lips and softly sing:
Love stays, and oh, it never goes.
Though pressing in the wind blows.
Death’s to feel as eyes ‘r to see,
yet here in my arms you’ll ever be.
Who were you singing for? Unbeknown to me, did an weeping angel watch from behind a fiery star, longing to hold you again? Such a thought brings me pain. What if, as I carelessly soaked in the newly birthed starlight, you wrestled with the pain of a dark past? Let it not be so.
Of course, I wouldn’t stay a small child forever. Soon our old boat would allow me only to sit up in it, and I would take an oar as well. I’ll always remember the night you stopped singing that sweet song. Cold clouds quickly blanketed the startled stars; it saddened you. Yes, that night I saw a tear run down your lonesome face.
I was perhaps old enough to put an arm around you and comfort you, but I couldn’t. Our intimacy had never expressed itself in the finger’s touch, nor in the whisper of a word. My part was to silently bear that burden – whatever is was – right alongside you. So I did.
The nights would only grow shorter, and the clouds would only grow thicker. Even the fish began to prefer the lake’s deep reaches. I began to sing my own song in my heart, but it was not yours of love and embrace. Suppose that’s how life works. Joy may overcome the poor man while anguish besets the rich. Likewise, the fog began to settle where it was not expected.
Maybe you did feel pain. Maybe you had been betrayed more times than I ever had. But what could have possibly caused you to leave me? I knew something was wrong when you rowed away from the shore that one October evening without me. My only option was to cover myself in blankets and wait on the shore for you. But to awake the next morning to a vacant boat drifting far out in the water… why?
You should have said something. You were always a man of silence and serenity, but was it worth this? Was it worth the torture of our very souls? Know this, that there came a time when I could no longer understand what was on your mind. Tormented, I would long for you to open your lips and give me a shred of hope.
No, I don’t think you’re gone forever. Death’s to feel as eyes ‘r to see, yet here in my arms you’ll ever be. Father, I feel alone, but I do not lose hope. And though I can’t feel your presence, I do not doubt your love for me. I may feel fatherless at times, but that doesn’t make me an orphan.
Dad, you wouldn’t guess what happened the other night. I was out on the lake at midnight; the breeze seemed to carry that beautiful tune you used to whistle. I was looking at the stars – yes, there were many, just like when I was small – and I think I saw that angel you would sing to! I only got a mere glimpse, but… it was beautiful beyond words. It reminded me of you, know. Which makes me wonder… could it have been you?