Why is Giving Thanks so Hard?

Sharing today from Precept Ministries.

Why is Giving Thanks
so Hard?

What are you grateful for? I realize most of us have the same basic answers. We are grateful for Jesus, salvation, family, spouses, and children. If we are really honest a few of us will say we are thankful for coffee, warm beds, comfortable chairs, and chocolate.

But, in this day and time perhaps the question should not be “What are you grateful for?”, but “How in the world can you be grateful?” With so much change, so much uncertainty, and the whole world being turned upside down how can you be truly grateful for anything?

In our world worry, fear, stress, and anxiety seem more natural than thanksgiving. But, worry and fear are the cancer that destroys thankfulness, and at the same time thanksgiving is the cure for worry and fear. What do we do? Where do we find an anchor to hold us so we can look trouble in the eye and still give thanks?

The short answer is Romans 8: 28-39. The longer answer is the whole counsel of the Word of God.

The fundamental truth behind the ability to give thanks in all circumstances is this –

God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him. – Romans 8:28

The simplicity of the statement is a little unnerving.

God causes ALL things…..

All means all. Whatever circumstances you face, God is at work causing those circumstances to work together for your good.

What are you facing? Cancer? Death of a loved one? Financial struggles? Job loss? A child walking in sin before God? Rejection from the one you love? You can trust the Father because all of these things are covered under that little word “all”.

God causes all things to work together for our good.

Did you notice that “things” is plural? All things – each individual thing – are working together for good. The stress and troubles of life are all working in concert together under the direction of the Master Conductor for our good. God is orchestrating the events of life so that they work together for our good.

This happens in such the grand scale of life and it is not necessarily seen in the moment by moment or day to day events. We all know that days, weeks, months, and years can be painful and heart breaking. But, even when I can’t see how God is working I can trust that He is working, and that He is causing all of my pain and suffering to work out for my ultimate good.

It is important to point out here that Paul did not say all things are good. Clearly not everything that happens to us is good. But God is at work

And in this, we can give thanks regardless of what we face.

Read the rest here.

Why Did Jesus Need to Be Baptized?

Sharing today from The Gospel Coalition.

Why Did Jesus Need to Be Baptized?

By 

If we were to compile a catalog of practices that are essential to the Christian faith, what would be included? Among other essentials, baptism would certainly need to be high on the list. Baptism is one of the means by which Jesus commissions his followers to make disciples (Matt. 28:18–20). It’s also central to the preaching of the gospel at the inception of the church at Pentecost (Acts 2:38). In short, the idea that Christians should be baptized—regardless of when or how—is central to the Christian faith. This should come as no surprise.

What may come as a surprise, however, is that Jesus himself was baptized. Baptism wasn’t just something Jesus commanded his followers to do, but an experience he also underwent. As familiar as we may be with the Gospel accounts, the fact that Jesus submitted himself to baptism may still strike us as odd.

The plot thickens even more when we consider that the baptism Jesus submitted himself to was John’s baptism, which is described as (1) accompanying “repentance” (Matt. 3:2); (2) in conjunction with people “confessing their sins” (Matt. 3:6); and (3) as the means by which to “flee from the coming wrath” (Matt. 3:7).

It doesn’t take much pondering to realize that this doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of what the New Testament says about Jesus—that he was God’s virgin-born (Matt. 1:19–25), sinless (2 Cor. 5:21Heb. 4:15), perfectly obedient Son (Heb. 5:8–9John 17:4), fully pleasing to the Father (Matt. 3:17), who pre-existed as divine but laid aside his glory to take on flesh (Phil. 2:5–8). Nonetheless, Jesus says it is fitting and appropriate that he be baptized (Matt. 3:15).

All this leads to an important question: Why did Jesus need to be baptized?

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

Both Mark and Luke record this story but don’t raise the question (Mark 1:9–11Luke 3:21–22). John’s Gospel doesn’t give us the events of Jesus’s baptism but emphasizes the same effect as the other Gospels—that the Spirit of God descended on Jesus, anointing him as the Son of God (John 1:32–34). Only Matthew raises the issue by including a piece of the story that the other Gospel writers don’t—John himself was hesitant to baptize Jesus. John, aware that Jesus wasn’t just another person coming to repent and confess his sins, protests: “I need to be baptized by you, but you are coming to me?” (Matt. 3:14).

Jesus’s answer to John’s reluctance is instructive, both in answering our question and also in revealing an important aspect of Matthew’s theology. Jesus said, “Let it be so, for it is fitting in this way for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). This is a weighty answer, containing two words—“fulfill” and “righteousness”—that are central ideas in Matthew’s Gospel. Something important is going on here.

Nonetheless, Jesus’s response to John remains a bit esoteric for most readers today. So allow me to offer the following paraphrase: Jesus is fulfilling his role as the obedient Son of God by practicing the required righteousness of submitting to God’s will to repent (i.e., to live in the world wholeheartedly devoted to God).

Read the rest here.

Jesus Is Enough

Today I am sharing an excellent Bible Study by Anne Graham Lotz that appeared in the November 2018 issue of Decision Magazine.

Anne Graham Lotz
Bible Study:
Jesus Is Enough

Thanksgiving is one of my very favorite days of the year! We celebrate it with lots of food, family and football. But woven throughout all that we do is an attitude of abundant gratitude for the blessings God has given us. After our family gathers for a meal, we go around the table and give each family member an opportunity to thank God for at least one blessing received since the last Thanksgiving.

What are some of the blessings that are on your list to thank God for this year? Your physical health … or His faithfulness to see you through sickness? Your financial health … or His wisdom to help you navigate financial disaster? Your family and friends who have stayed with you through good times and bad … or His comfort to ease the pain of those who have abandoned you?

As I think through the things for which I am truly thankful, I sometimes wonder if my list of thanks is superseded by my list of wants. Just walking through the mall can deceive me into thinking that I don’t have enough. In the world of consumerism in which we live, I need to guard against becoming discontented with what I have. I don’t want to become someone who is hard to satisfy … who thinks that I never have enough.

As a child of God, I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. My cancer has underscored the fact I have been fully blessed with the things that truly matter from Heaven’s perspective. Jesus is all I need. Jesus is enough.

Read Genesis 1 and Colossians 1:15-23

I. ENOUGH IN HIS DEITY

       Colossians 1:15

  • Who is God, according to: Genesis 1:1, 27? Isaiah 40:28; 44:24? John 4:24? 1 Timothy 4:10?
  • Give characteristics that reveal He is a living person, from Genesis 2:7, 16, 21-22; 3:8; 4:16; 6:6; 11:5 (example: He breathes, Genesis 2:7).
  • How many gods are there in the universe? See 1 Corinthians 8:6.
  • According to John 4:12, has anyone ever seen God?
  • Through Whom has He revealed Himself? See Hebrews 1:1-3; John 1:18; 14:8-9; Colossians 1:15.
  • Comparing 1 John 4:12, John 1:18 and Colossians 2:9, when Bible characters claimed to have “seen” God, Whom were they actually seeing?
  • Can a person worship God without honoring Jesus Christ as His unique Son? Give key phrases from John 5:19-23.
  • If Jesus is God—and He is—what problem are you facing that you think is greater than He can solve?

II. ENOUGH IN HIS AUTHORITY

       Colossians 1:16

  • Who is the Creator, and name one thing He did not create. Read Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 3:9 and Revelation 4:11.
  • What two “agents” of power does God use in Creation that He still uses today? Compare Genesis 1:2 with Acts 1:8; Genesis 1:3 with Hebrews 4:12 and Revelation 1:16.
  • How many times does the phrase and God said, or the equivalent, occur in Genesis 1? List the verses.
  • Was and God said more than just a phrase of language? What explanation does John 1:1-3, 14 give?
  • What preparation has to take place before the power of God’s Word can bring about change? See Genesis 1:2; Acts 1:8 and John 3:5-8.
  • Is there anyone in the universe with greater authority? Give phrases from Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:22-23 and John 17:2.
  • If Jesus is the Creator of all things—and He is—what person, culture or force do you think is beyond His reach or outside of His jurisdiction?

Read the rest here.

The Faithfulness of Christ in the Little Things

Sharing today from Tabletalk Magazine.

The Faithfulness of Christ
in the Little Things

by Sinclair B. Ferguson

It is a principle in Christ’s kingdom that “one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much” (Luke 16:10). But in that kingdom, the Lord Jesus also practiced what He preached. His whole life illustrated “little-things faithfulness.” The theme merits book-length treatment, and this brief essay is intended simply to encourage us all to notice some of the little things we may have tended to overlook in the life of the Savior. Here are five of them.

1. Jesus was an Exodus 20:12 boy: He observed the command to “honor your father and your mother.” We know this was already true of Him when He was only twelve, as we see in Luke 2:41–52. When Joseph and Mary took Him to the Jerusalem Passover feast that year, they actually “lost” Him. “And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it . . . but then they began to search for him” (vv. 43–45). When they eventually found Him in the temple, Mary’s frayed nerves snapped a little: “Why have you treated us so? . . . Your father and I . . .” (a phrase most boys recognize as a hefty rebuke). She blamed Jesus even though He was their responsibility (v. 48). But watch Jesus: He gently explained that He had gone to the one place in the city they should have known where to find Him (“Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”). And then notice what Luke adds: “He went down with them . . . and was submissive to them” (vv. 49–51). Yes, although they had wrongly blamed Him, Jesus honored His Father’s fifth commandment in obeying His earthly parents. Indeed, He paid detailed attention to all His Father’s commandments.

Our Lord’s faithfulness in little things was simply the reflection of the perfect beauty He saw in the face of His Father.

2. Jesus was also a Deuteronomy 8:3 man: He lived “not . . . by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (see Matt. 4:4). Every word. Jesus believed not only in “verbal plenary inspiration” but in obedient “verbal plenary feeding.” Each word of His Bible was vital to Him. He took a delight in detailed faithfulness—He wanted to know, love, and obey every single word God had breathed out.

Read the rest here.

Old Testament vs. New Testament – What are the differences?

Sharing today from Got Questions?

bible-cropped-amp

Old Testament vs.
New Testament-
What are the differences?

Answer: While the Bible is a unified book, there are differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In many ways, they are complementary. The Old Testament is foundational; the New Testament builds on that foundation with further revelation from God. The Old Testament establishes principles that are seen to be illustrative of New Testament truths. The Old Testament contains many prophecies that are fulfilled in the New. The Old Testament provides the history of a people; the New Testament focus is on a Person. The Old Testament shows the wrath of God against sin (with glimpses of His grace); the New Testament shows the grace of God toward sinners (with glimpses of His wrath).

The Old Testament predicts a Messiah (see Isaiah 53), and the New Testament reveals who the Messiah is (John 4:25–26). The Old Testament records the giving of God’s Law, and the New Testament shows how Jesus the Messiah fulfilled that Law (Matthew 5:17Hebrews 10:9). In the Old Testament, God’s dealings are mainly with His chosen people, the Jews; in the New Testament, God’s dealings are mainly with His church (Matthew 16:18). Physical blessings promised under the Old Covenant (Deuteronomy 29:9) give way to spiritual blessings under the New Covenant (Ephesians 1:3).

Read the rest here.

The Bible: The Word of God

This article was originally written in 1951 and was republished in the March 2019 issue of Decision Magazine.

The Bible: The Word of God

By Billy Graham

This article was originally written in 1951.

The Bible is being discussed today more than ever before. Some people want to get rid of it completely. Some want to keep it just as literature. And many, believing it to be God’s Word, want to live by it. Does the Bible have anything to say to us?

THE CONSTITUTION OF OUR FAITH

The United States has a constitutional form of government. A number of men, after long argument and debate, drew up the Constitution and submitted it to the 13 Federated States for ratification. The presupposition of these framers of the Constitution was that law was absolute.

People in the United States were to be free, for they were to know what the law required and also what the law could not do. They were to know their rights, their privileges and their limitations. No judge was to be unfair but was to judge cases as the law required.

People found that if they knew the law and kept it, they would be truly free. They knew where they stood, for constitutional law made it clear.

The Bible is the constitution of Christianity. Just as the United States Constitution is not of any private interpretation, neither is the Bible of any private interpretation. Just as the Constitution includes all who live under its stated domain, without exception, so the Bible includes all who live under its stated domain, without exception.

God’s laws for the spiritual world are found in the Bible. Whatever else there may be that tells us of God, it is more clearly told in the Bible.

Nature in her laws tells of God, but the message tells us nothing of the love and grace of God. Conscience, in our inmost being, tells us of God, but the message is fragmented. The only place we can find a clear, unmistakable message is in the Word of God, which we call the Bible. 

True Christianity finds all of its doctrines in the Bible; true Christianity does not deny any part of the Bible; true Christianity does not add anything to the Bible. For many centuries the Bible has been the most available book on the earth. It has no hidden purpose. It cannot be destroyed.

The Bible has a magnificent heritage. It has 66 books, written over a period of 1,600 years by more than 30 writers, and yet the message is the same throughout—so clearly that the 66 books are actually one book.

The message, in every part, is straightforward. No writer changed his message to put his friends in a better light. The sins of small and great alike are frankly admitted, and life is presented as it actually is.

THE CENTER OF CONTROVERSY

The Bible has been the anvil upon which the critics have worn out their hammers. Critics claim the Bible is full of forgery, fiction and unfulfilled prophecy, but the findings of archaeology have corroborated rather than denied the Biblical data.

Our faith, which is not dependent upon human knowledge and scientific advance, has nevertheless presented a magnificent case at the “bar of knowledge.”

How many times we have heard someone say, “Why, the Bible contradicts itself!” Very few who make that statement have used the family Bible for more than a storage place for pressed flowers.

The first requirement placed upon critics is that they read carefully every chapter of the Bible. They ought also to know something about how we got our Bible, the miracle of its writing. Biblical history is fascinating and makes us appreciate the Book that has been preserved for us to this day.

If you are setting yourself up as a critic, it is your responsibility to read and know both sides of the question. It is significant that very few Bible critics have bothered themselves to read the literature available on the defense of the Bible, much less the Bible itself.

The Bible will always be the center of controversy.

Read the rest here.

Who Was the Apostle Paul?

Today I’m sharing from Overview Bible.

Who Was the Apostle Paul?

By

The Apostle Paul was one of the most influential leaders of the early Christian church. He played a crucial role in spreading the gospel to the Gentiles (non-Jews) during the first century, and his missionary journeys took him all throughout the Roman empire.

Paul started more than a dozen churches, and he’s traditionally considered the author of 13 books of the Biblemore than any other biblical writer. For this reason, Saint Paul is often considered one of the most influential people in history. He had a greater impact on the world’s religious landscape than any other person besides Jesus, and perhaps Muhammad.

But before he was known as a tireless champion of Christianity, Paul was actually known for persecuting Christians. The Book of Acts tells us that Paul was even present at the death of the first Christian martyr—where he “approved the stoning of Stephen” (Acts 8:1).

Over the last two millennia, countless books have been written about Paul and his teachings. In this beginner’s guide, we’ll explore the basics of what we know—and don’t know—about this important biblical figure.

Read the rest here.