What’s Behind Our Moral Decline?

One does not have to be a prude to conclude that our country is suffering a serious moral decline. Our rulers and law enforcement agencies seem powerless to cope with it. Campaigns to check it seem vain. J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI warned us again and again that the alarming rate of this downward trend would spell ruin for America if not checked soon. But what most people fail to realize is that behind this moral decline there is a spiritual decline. America has departed from God and His Word.

Paul’s letter to the Romans tells us how the heathen got that way. Rom. 1:21,22 says: “When they knew God they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise they became fools,” and the verses that follow tell how God finally had to “give them up” to “uncleanness” and “vile affections”–all because “they did not like [wish] to retain God in their knowledge” (Ver. 28).

St. Paul further describes them in Eph. 4:17-19, as walking “in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who being past feeling [conscience] have given themselves over to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” This, sad to say, is an accurate description of increasing numbers in America today. They are throwing off restraint and going after uncleanness “with greediness.”

But this is not liberty, it is enslavement. It is not a sign of strength, but of weakness. It does not indicate superior intelligence, but grossest ignorance, and is the result of alienation from God.

How much better off are those who have come to know God through Christ! Of these the Apostle says:

“And you, who were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled, in the body of His flesh, through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight” (Col. 1:21,22).

source

Posted in Devotionals

Fear Of Death — Is It Necessary?

Most people live in almost constant fear of death. They do not like to think that man’s days are as grass and all his glory as the glory of a fading flower (Psa. 103:15,16). They do not wish to face up to the fact that “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Heb. 9:27).

This is natural, for God’s Word declares that death is “the wages of sin” (Rom. 6:23) and “after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27) and the “second death” (Rev. 20:14). This is why I Cor. 15:56 says that “The sting of death is sin.”

Yet the Psalmist David was not afraid of death. He said: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” — but note the reason: “for Thou art with me” (Psa. 23:4). David had come to know God and had been graciously delivered from the fear of death. But we, today, have an even greater reason to be free from the fear of death, for 1,000 years after David, Saul of Tarsus, the chief of sinners, was saved by grace and was sent forth to proclaim the “gospel [good news] of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

He went forth to tell men how “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3) and robbed Satan of all his claims against us:

“That through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2: 14, 15).

When the Apostle himself neared death, he said: “To die is gain” (Phil. 1:21), “to depart, and to be with Christ… is far better” (Ver. 23), and “the time of my departure is at hand… henceforth there is laid up for me a crown…” (II Tim. 4:6-8). source

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Full Assurance

It is wonderful to have the full assurance of salvation, and it is God’s will that every one of us enjoy this assurance. Toward the close of his life the Apostle John wrote by divine inspiration:

“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life…” (I John 5:13).

There are three bases upon which believers in Christ may enjoy the full assurance of salvation: First, God urges every true believer: “Let us draw near, with a sincere heart, in full assurance of faith…” (Heb. 10:22). This is the full assurance that results from simply believing God; much as a child implicitly believes what his father has said and is absolutely sure that it is true. God says: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (John 3:36). We may simply — and with good reason — believe His Word and enjoy the full assurance of faith.

Second, we may enjoy what Heb. 6:11 calls “the full assurance of hope.” The hope of the Bible, however, must not be confused with wishing. The Christian’s “hope” is “an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast” (Ver. 19). It comes from having proved God. Thus the full assurance of hope is the confidence that results from having accepted God’s Word.

But third, and best of all, is what Col. 2:2 calls “riches of the full assurance of understanding.” This full assurance is God’s reward to Christians who study His Word and His purposes, beginning with His plan of salvation as revealed in “the gospel of the grace of God.” When one not only believes God’s Word, but begins to understand it he cannot but be gripped by its sublime reasonableness, its powerful logic, and its provision for his deepest needs, and thus he comes to enjoy “all [the] riches of the full assurance of understanding.” source

Posted in Devotionals

Dead Faith

Nothing in the Bible is stated more clearly or with greater emphasis than the blessed Pauline revelation of justification by grace, through faith, without works.

“To him that worketh not, but believeth…his faith is counted for righteousness”. Ephesians 2:8,9: “For by grace are ye saved, through faith…it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast”. Titus 3:5: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” Romans 4:5.

Yet James states, just as clearly that “faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone” (Jas.2:17). He challenges professing believers: “Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith BY my works” (Ver.18), and declares that “by works a man is justified and not by faith only” (Ver.24), since “faith without works is dead”.

Some have imagined a contradiction here, while actually there is none. There is a dispensational distinction, for to Paul had been committed “the dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph.3:1,2). His was “the preaching of the cross” (ICor.1:18), offering salvation by grace, through faith alone, to all who would trust Christ as Saviour.

James, on the other hand, was an apostle of the kingdom, proclaiming the kingdom rights of Christ and offering a changed way of life on earth which had already been experienced by the disciples in Judaea (Acts 2:44-47; 4:32-35).

Hence with James the emphasis is on works, not because good works can save or even help to save, but because true faith inevitably bears fruit and we can judge true faith only by the fruit it bears. Our Lord said: “By their fruits ye shall know them”. Hence James’ epistle abounds with such phraseology as, “ye see”, “show me”, “I will show you”, etc.

What we must be careful to remember is that according to both Paul and James, faith comes first, then good works. Faith is the root, good works the fruit. The absence of fruit indicates that the root is dead, that while there may be an intellectual assent, there is no true heart faith, and “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb.11:6).

The source of justification is grace; the basis, Calvary; the means, faith; and the evidence, works. Think this through; accept God’s grace and trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord. He will cause you to produce good fruit. source

Posted in Devotionals

The Time Element In Scripture

How many Scriptural problems would be solved, how many seeming contradictions explained, if we were more careful to note the time element, emphasized so strongly in the Word of God.

In Romans 5:12 we learn that sin entered the human race by Adam. Then later “the law entered” (Ver. 20). But still later the Apostle Paul arose to say: “But now, the righteousness of God without the law is manifested” (Rom. 3:21).

Early in man’s history blood sacrifices were required for acceptance with God (See Gen. 4:4; Heb. 11:4), later circumcision and the Law (Gen. 17:14; Ex. 19:5), and still later, repentance and water baptism (Mark 1:4; Acts 2:38). But not until Paul do we learn of salvation by grace through faith alone, on the basis of Christ’s finished, all-sufficient work of redemption.

This is why the Apostle refers in Gal. 3:23 to “the faith which should afterward be revealed.” This is why he declares that our Lord “gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time”, and adds: “whereunto I am ordained a preacher and an apostle” (I Tim. 2:6,7).

It is only as we recognize the time element in Scripture that we see the difference between “the kingdom of heaven” and “the Body of Christ,” between “the gospel of the kingdom” and “the gospel of the grace of God,” between the “dispensation of law” and “the dispensation of the grace of God.”

A comparison of Romans 3:21 and 26 shows how this time element is emphasized in Scripture. After discussing the function of the Law in Verses 19 and 20, the Apostle Paul declares: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested…” Then, in Ver. 26 he states that it is God’s purpose: “To declare, I say, at this time His [Christ’s] righteousness; that He [God] might be just and the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.” source

Posted in Devotionals

How To Keep Seniors Connected To Church When They Can No Longer Attend Services

Churches have a responsibility to include all members in worship, prayer, and ministry, even if they can no longer attend services. Seniors often fall into this category, and churches need to make every effort to keep them connected even when they cannot physically attend. If your church is struggling with keeping confined seniors connected, there are a few practices you can implement.

Home Visits

There are several ways for churches to conduct home visits to keep seniors connected. First, the pastor can make regular visits. Pastors should work with their immobile and confined senior members to work out a schedule that best suits their needs and then stick to it on a regular basis. During these home visits, the pastor can lead a modified church service, pray with the senior member, and minister in ways that are most appropriate for the senior.

Church members and volunteers also should make home visits to seniors who can no longer attend services, in order to make them feel like a valued member of the church family. These volunteers can stop in to talk with seniors, pray with them, or share joys and concerns from the traditional church services. Church members and volunteers can also send cards from time to time to brighten their day and show that their church family cares for them even though they do not get to see them often.

Home visits also can serve as counseling sessions for senior shut-ins. Perhaps your church has professional Christian counselors on staff who are trained to help seniors work through personal and emotional challenges. If your church does not have Christian counselors on staff, you could enroll in the Stephen Ministry program. Stephen Ministry trains church members to provide one-to-one Christian support to seniors and other congregation members who are having difficulty with emotional, physical, or spiritual issues.

Provide Transportation

Sometimes, keeping seniors connected to church when they can no longer attend services is as simple as providing transportation for those who can no longer drive. Churches often ask for and then coordinate volunteers to transport seniors to church so they can attend services with the rest of the congregation. It’s important to create a network of volunteer drivers so that there are back-up drivers in case someone becomes ill or is unable to provide transportation on his scheduled day.

Deliver Altar Flowers

One of the quickest ways to connect seniors to church when they can no longer attend services is to arrange for church members to deliver the altar flowers to them at the conclusion of worship services. Whether your senior members are confined to their homes or are residents in nursing homes, they will enjoy a brief visit with the church member who delivers the altar flowers to them following the traditional worship service. Church members also may deliver the church bulletin, program, and newsletter to the senior members so that they can read the Bible passages from the service at their leisure and keep up with the news of the church.

Use Technology to Connect Seniors to Church Services

Whether services are streamed in real time or recorded for seniors to watch on-demand, there are various ways to use technology to connect seniors to the church when they can no longer attend services in person. For example, churches can stream sermons directly to seniors in their homes via an online conference call service. They can even record the livestream and distribute it via email or the church website so seniors can watch at a later time.

Church members also may record services on tablets or smart phones and email the video to seniors who can no longer attend. Another option is to record church services and save them to USB flash drives, and then deliver them to seniors so they can watch on their laptops or home computers.

If seniors are unsure of how to use technology, churches can organize technology committees to visit seniors and teach them how to access the services. This is another way to connect seniors to church when they can no longer attend services; they will enjoy learning from their fellow church members and getting to know them, even though they do not attend services with them.

There are several ways to keep seniors connected to church when they can no longer attend services. Church leaders should work to determine the seniors’ needs and then organize committees and volunteers to connect with senior congregation members who cannot attend services in person.

Marie Villeza is the creator of ElderImpact.org. She hopes the site will help seniors add more life to their years and bring young and old generations together. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, hiking, and taking part in her monthly book club.

Posted in Devotionals

How To Deal With Anger

We are living in a day when philosophy says, “express yourself openly,” “tell it like it is,” “open up,” “let it all hang out.” However, the Scriptures counsel us to exercise restraint.

“The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).

As we walk by grace through faith, temperance will enable us to keep our anger under control. But how does this work out in a practical sense? Those who fly off in a fit of rage permit their anger to take control of them. Consequently, the energy emitted from this emotion is usually misdirected at someone or something. Sinful anger tears down. Thus, in the heat of the moment things are often said and done which cause irreparable damage to relationships.

“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil” (Eph. 4:26-27).

Paul adds here in Ephesians, “let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” We should never allow our anger to simmer overnight. This will only cause it to become more deeply seated. “Neither give place to the devil.” You see, if you fail to handle things in the proper and biblical manner, you may well be giving Satan an opportunity to drive a deeper wedge in your relationships with others. Surely, we are not ignorant of his devices. Always remember, Satan is an opportunist.

Prayer

Heavenly Father,

Forgive me for my outbursts of anger. Today I choose to be constrained by your words when I feel that my anger is simmering or rising. I choose to lay down the anger that leads to sin and to walk in the Spirit instead. I choose to overcome evil with good and to be kind to others, tenderhearted, and forgiving, even as God in Christ has forgiven me. Thank You, Father, for Your immeasurable gift of forgiveness and for the truth that leads to wisdom and grace. It’s in Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Posted in Devotionals, Prayers

The Answer To The Problem Of Unanswered Prayer (Part 2 of 2)

Let’s begin part 2 of 2 by looking at how Paul prayed for the Colossian saints:

9 “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

10 “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;” (Col. 1:9-10).

He then continued in prayer that these saints would be “filled with the knowledge of His will” and the result would be that they would be “strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy [powerful!]” (Col. 1:11).

“Patience” here speaks of endurance and perseverance in the face of life’s circumstances, while “longsuffering” speaks of having a “long fuse” on our tempers when faced with unpleasant people and surroundings. And Paul instructs us to do this all with “joy.” God doesn’t promise to take away all our problems, or to answer all our prayers (remember, we don’t even know what to ask for). Instead, He promises to give us the grace and strength that we’ll need to overcome and to do it all with joy.

That is God’s picture of being “strengthened with all might according to His glorious power.” That is real power, and the Lord Jesus says to us today, “My grace is sufficient for you wherever you are, and whatever your problems may be, I’m working it all together for good, and My power is being made perfect. It reaches its greatest expression and demonstration when you are weak, but miraculously, you find that by faith you are `strengthened with all might…for patience and longsuffering with joy.’”

Paul never forgot the lesson that the Lord taught him from his “thorn prayer.” Many years later and from a prison cell, Paul would write to the Philippians:

11 “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:

12 “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11-13).

Paul says that he has learned the secret of contentment, he knows how to abound [to have much], and also how to be abased [to have little]. So Paul writes that everywhere and in all things he has learned how to live, and how to live with joy. And the secret? “I can do all things through Christ who [constantly, daily] strengthens me.” We can almost hear those words from years before still ringing in Paul’s heart, “My strength is made perfect in your weakness” as Paul writes, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Conclusion

Should we pray today? Of course! Listen to Paul encouraging the saints to pray:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thes. 5:16-18).

But we can only rejoice and give thanks always when we understand what the Lord is doing in the dispensation of grace and in our lives today. God’s people are destroyed when they are told that God’s plan is to fix all their problems. The Lord never said made this declaration to the Apostle Paul for us in the dispensation of grace. There can only come disappointment, discouragement, and spiritual ruin when we claim a promise that God never made to us [Replacement Theology]. But what joy and what freedom there is when we begin to learn to hear the Lord’s promises for us today in this wonderful time called the “dispensation of the grace of God!”

“If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward” (Eph 3:2)

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The Answer To The Problem Of Unanswered Prayer (Part 1 of 2)

Let’s begin part 1 of 2 by looking at what the Lord Jesus told Paul about how prayer works today in the dispensation of grace:

26 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

27 “Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:26-28).

For those of us in the dispensation of grace, God never promises that He will give us everything that we ask. You can abundantly prove this by simply reading through the letters written by the Apostle Paul. He wrote thirteen letters, from Romans to Philemon, and we never read a prayer promise like “Whatever you ask,” or “ask what you desire.” Instead we read that “We do not know what to pray for as we ought”(Rom. 8:26).

God has promised to “work all things together for good” in our lives, but He hasn’t revealed HOW He is going to do that. He has promised it, and we take that by faith and believe that He is working all things—even the “tragedies” of life—together for good for us; but we often don’t see it. But as Paul wrote, “We walk by faith and not by seeing.”

Since we don’t know how God is going to work all things for good, we don’t know exactly how to pray. How could God promise us that He will answer all our prayers, if He tells us up front that we don’t even know what to pray for?

Paul’s letters contain many testimonies of unanswered prayers. He knew how to pray in the dispensation of grace, and did not become discouraged his prayers remained unanswered. He believed that his Father in heaven had everything under control and was working all things together for his good. Furthermore, he gives us a great testimony of unanswered prayer in 2 Corinthians 12:

7 “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.

8 “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.

9 “And He said to me, `My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

10 “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

We see in verse 7 that God allowed Paul to suffer with this “thorn in the flesh,” some physical suffering that came from Satan. And even though Paul pleaded repeatedly for the Lord to remove the problem, it was allowed to serve a good purpose in Paul’s life. We know this because of the Lord’s reply to the prayers. He did not say, “Whatever you ask you’ll receive, if you have faith!” No! Not at all. The Lord told Paul that His grace would be enough and that His power will bring spiritual strength in weakness.

It is common to want the Lord to just fix the problems. He wants to show the sufficiency of His grace, and the magnificence of His power working in our lives so that we can bear the fruit of an overcoming life that gives Him glory.

Paul’s entire outlook suffering changed as a result of this prayer experience. He goes on to say that he learned to take “pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

We must learn from the bible that it is not God’s will to take away all of our problems or to fix all of our weaknesses. Instead, it is God’s will that in all the circumstances, He will give us all the grace and strength that we’ll need to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”, “who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil 3:14,21).

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Forgiveness

“WE HAVE REDEMPTION THROUGH [Christ’s] BLOOD, THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS, ACCORDING TO THE RICHES OF HIS GRACE” (Eph.1:7).

The climax of Paul’s first recorded sermon is reached in Verses 38 and 39 of Acts 13, where he declares:

“BE IT KNOWN UNTO YOU THEREFORE, MEN AND BRETHREN, THAT THROUGH THIS MAN IS PREACHED UNTO YOU THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS:

“AND BY HIM ALL THAT BELIEVE ARE JUSTIFIED FROM ALL THINGS, FROM WHICH YE COULD NOT BE JUSTIFIED BY THE LAW OF MOSES.”

Thus God through Christ, forgives and justifies those who believe. Nor is this all that was accomplished for us by the death of Christ at Calvary. There is also reconciliation, baptism by the Spirit into Christ and His Body, a position at God’s right hand in the heavenlies and all spiritual blessings there.

“The forgiveness of sins” must come first, however, and the above passage assures us that in Christ we have this — not barely, but “ACCORDING TO THE RICHES OF HIS GRACE”. Indeed, the next verse continues: “WHEREIN HE HATH ABOUNDED TOWARD US…”

Thus Ephesians 2:2-7 declares that though we were once “the children of disobedience”, and therefore “by nature the children of wrath”, “God, WHO IS RICH IN MERCY, for His GREAT LOVE wherewith He loved us”, has given us life and raised us from the dead, exalting us to “heavenly places in Christ…”

His purpose in all this? “THAT IN THE AGES TO COME HE MIGHT SHOW THE EXCEEDING RICHES OF HIS GRACE IN HIS KINDNESS TOWARD US THROUGH CHRIST JESUS” (Verse 7).

When God forgives us He no longer sees us in our poor selves, BUT IN CHRIST, who took our place, dying for our sins on Calvary’s cross. There He hung in our place that we might now stand in His — “COMPLETE IN HIM” (Col.2:10). source

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Verse for 8/27/2016

For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. — Romans 12:4-5

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