The Irreplaceable Holy Spirit

Sharing today from Decision Magazine.

The Irreplaceable Holy Spirit

By F.B. Meyer

Nothing can compensate the church, or the individual Christian, for the lack of the Holy Spirit. What the full stream is to the mill wheel, the Holy Spirit is to the church. What the principle of life is to the body, the Holy Spirit is to the individual. We shall stand powerless and abashed in the presence of our difficulties and our foes until we learn what He can be, as a mighty tide of love and power in the hearts of His saints.

By analogies drawn from the Word of God, may we not reverently say that the ministry of our blessed Lord owed much of its marvelous power to that moment when, although filled with the Holy Spirit from His birth, He was afresh anointed at the waters of baptism? With marked emphasis it was said he was filled with the Spirit (Luke 4:1), and returned in the power of the Spirit unto Galilee (Luke 4:14), and stood up in the synagogue of His native town, claiming the ancient prophecy, and declaring that the Spirit of God was upon Him (Luke 4:18). His wondrous words and works are directly traced to the marvelous operation of the Holy Ghost upon His human life (Acts 10:38).

My Friend Sammy

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My Friend Sammy

By Pat Knight

Our four-year-old grandson informed his mother he was sure he was a boy because “girls have square heads and mine is round.” And how did he discover this morsel of childhood truth? “Because Sammy told me!” Of course, the logic of childhood has conquered another subject.

In allotting some of my thought to this physical inequity between boy and girl, it did occur to me that a square head might be useful. The brain could occupy the main part of the box-shaped head. Then, tucked away in the corners could be all those important dates and lifelong trivia we long to recall instantly. No longer would I forget birthdays. The dates would be squeezed into a corner, perhaps attached by a sticky note on a permanent brain corkboard. Appointment dates for the entire family at times require a filing system all their own. There would be another head corner available for those remembrances. It is a daunting task to remember clothing sizes for everyone in a growing family. The shoe and sock sizes, shirts and jackets, pants and gloves, hats (square) and boots; all could be neatly catalogued in another corner of the square skull. The remaining corner could be delegated to lists, those aggravating necessities of daily living. What a possibility for superior organization and efficiency, with every thought and job catalogued in corners of our boxy heads!

The square head might be a little top heavy with all of the informative corners assigned.  Perhaps it would be wise if we kept the original mold, after all. God knew how to configure people for optimum function and fulfillment. There are parts of our brain used exclusively for empowering the body with its mechanical prowess. All of our senses are neatly provided a unique section. Reasoning, learning, memorization, problem solving, wisdom; all have been compartmentalized.

God designed us long ago with His plan that has never outdated. The human body and mind must be one of only a few items in this world that have not been altered or improved over time. God alone possesses the pattern for creation of Homo sapiens and He is not likely to release it. We are children of God, made in His image. Who would want to tamper with that relationship? “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Notice the triple repetition of being made in God’s image, a fact He doesn’t want us to take lightly.

With the reasoning minds God constructed, we are capable of grasping the enormous gift of fellowship with Him. God could have built the most palatial residence in heaven for His abiding place. After all, He is the One, Exalted, Supreme God of the universe, mighty in power and riches. God could live anywhere He chooses, but miraculously, He has chosen our hearts! God will reside in each individual heart and mind of the person who invites Him inside.

God not only created us, but He knows every intimate detail of our lives. He didn’t leave us to our own fickle devices. As our heavenly Father, Lord, and Savior, He is deeply involved in our lives and lifestyles. “You preserve my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways” (Psalm 139:2-3).

Adam and Eve tried hiding from God in the Garden of Eden after they deliberately disobeyed His command. They recognized their perilous error which they had been warned was punishable by death. Imagine hearing God’s voice call to you as He did to Adam and Eve after they hid among the trees. They were afraid, embarrassed, and for the first time, guilty. But God was merciful and spared their lives, just as He has saves us from our sins and the required death to atone for them.

God also stands ready to protect us. “‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him. I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him’” (Psalm 91:14-15). God loves His creations, taking personal responsibility for us, as our earthly fathers have learned to do.  God is a loving, sensitive Father who provides for all of our needs.

Many are the times God protects us from harm, times of which we are unaware. When we complain because our plans are interrupted or detained, God may be protecting us from danger. His plans and timing are always perfect. God maintains personal peace in each of our lives.

Our Lord also offers comfort and healing from suffering. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). God cares for our total being, physically and emotionally. He responds to our cries for help. “So we can say with confidence, “‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’ ” (Hebrews 13:6).

In His mercy, God daily pours out His love for us. In place of death, God provides for our eternal life. To adjust for the sins we commit, God continually forgives when we confess. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Who can even speak of God’s eternal and faithful love? It is impossible to comprehend His love completely unless He reveals it in small portions. In faith we accept it; in trust we rely upon it; in obedience we share. “ ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ ” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

 From the beginning God created us in His image. We have evidence from when Jesus’ lived on earth that His physical attributes resemble ours. That tells us something about the square head theory—let boys be boys and let girls have the same shaped head!

The Red Sea in Front of Me – Reaching for God in Despair

Today I’m sharing from Set Apart.

The Red Sea in Front of Me –
Reaching for God in Despair

By

There is no escaping the painful realities that surround my family. Our own Red Sea looms before us while the relentless enemies of physical and mental illness, financial strain, layered losses, and temptations to lose heart, pursue us from all sides.

While crushing circumstances involving physical and mental health, finances, marital pressures, and loss have been sufficient to defeat us; it’s the inner turmoil and constant temptation to sin against God by doubting his goodness and wisdom that make me plead most for my heavenly home.

In recent suffering, the Lord brought to mind the Israelites, who I imagine felt similarly as they stood before the Red Sea. Not long after the Lord had miraculously delivered them from Egypt they found themselves facing imminent death, walled in by an impassable Sea and enemies closing in behind them. I resonate all too much with their response to Moses:

Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: “Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?” For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness. (Exodus 14:11–12)

Though their response was irrational, portraying a distorted view of the reality of slavery, they spoke out of a very real sense of fear and helplessness. They wondered, Why would God free us from Egypt, only to lead us to our deaths? At that point, even slavery sounded better.

Why Was I Led Here?

Much like the Israelites stood terrified before the Red Sea, I have wrestled with similar thoughts. Why would a God who loved me enough to save me lead me into such awful and seemingly never-ending circumstances? I cannot save myself. I cannot save my family.

And as much as I wish I could say that my response has continually reflected Moses’s words to this complaining people — “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord” — I admit that it often has not. Rather, fearing our pain will never end; I have stumbled, pounded my fists in anguish and wondered if God is still fighting for us.

As followers of Christ, we all must face the reality that we are helpless to save ourselves. Whether it’s merely a traffic jam that makes us late for a job interview, or a life filled with inescapable pain, God mercifully brings us to impassable seas to help us see our need for him.

So how do we respond when we see no way out, no hope this side of heaven? We need to see, stand, and trust.

Read the rest here.

The Blessing of the Gift of Prayer

Sharing today from Gospel Relevance.

The Blessing of the Gift of Prayer

by 

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the benefits of being a Christian. There are so many that I hardly know where to start. I can easily write about the gifts of justification, sanctification, or adoption (and many others similar to it). But in this post, I want to keep it simple. I want to focus on a blessing that we may sometimes overlook — the blessing of the gift of prayer.

Isn’t it amazing that the God of the Bible allows his people to communicate with him through prayer?

I think sometimes we take for granted this access we have to God. But if you pause and think about the various dimensions of prayer and just how beneficial this access to God is, it will bless your soul.

The Blessing of the Gift of Prayer

When I think about prayer being a blessing, here are some things that come to mind:

We have 24/7 access to God.

There have been times when I couldn’t fall asleep because I felt restless. During these times, it’s almost impossible to cast your burdens on anyone else since they are likely asleep. And yet, even in the middle of the night when everyone else is unavailable, God is up, ready and willing to hear your prayer.

This is amazing. You might have close family, friends, mentors, and other such relationships where people are helpful to you in many ways. But they cannot always be there for you because they are not always available. But God is incessantly accessible.

The Lord doesn’t need sleep. He’s always awake. You can always go to him — at 2:00 am when your screaming baby can’t sleep, at 6:30 am when you’re anxious and scared about facing the day, at noon when the day isn’t going how you planned. This 24/7, 365 access to God we have in prayer is truly astounding.

We don’t need to use physical words when we pray.

I once led a small group with someone. I told this person I was praying for our group at work, to which the response I received was something like, “God loves cubicles prayers, too!”

It’s true: because God is omniscient (all-knowing), he can understand what you pray in your mind with 100% accuracy, every single time. Yes, using words and praying out loud is essential. Soundless prayers should not summarize the entirety of our prayer lives. But sometimes words aren’t possible, and God gets your thoughts.

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.

The Greatest Archaeological Discovery of the 20th Century

Sharing today from The Gospel Coalition.

The Greatest Archaeological Discovery of the 20th Century:

An Interview with a Renowned Expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls

By Justin Taylor

Since 1991Weston W. Fields (PhD, Hebrew University) has been the executive director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation as well as the director of Dead Sea Scrolls Publications. Brill has published his 600-page monograph, The Dead Seas Scrolls: A Full History, along with his The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Short HistorySince 1999 he has traveled throughout the Middle East, Europe, and the United States, interviewing all of the first generation of Dead Sea Scroll scholars who were then still alive, including those who discovered scrolls in the 1950s or were the first to examine and reconstruct them.

The following interview is adapted with permission from an article he wrote for the Dead Sea Scroll Foundation website.


How significant was the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls?

The Dead Sea Scrolls are considered by many to be the single most important archaeological manuscript find of the 20th century.

How many documents are we talking about?

They represent more than 1,400 original documents, some complete or nearly complete (such as the Great Isaiah Scroll), but many quite fragmentary. There are about 100,000 fragments in all.

How big did the scrolls get?

Some of the larger scrolls stretch as long as 30 feet. The Isaiah scroll is approximately seven meters long (23 feet) and is made up of 17 parchment sheets, sewn end to end.

Read the rest here.

No Good, No More

No Good, No More  

 By Pat Knight

It is a familiar sight during the spring clean-up season in Maine to observe small trailers bumping and squeaking along behind personal vehicles, transporting fallen tree and yard debris to the local compactor site. From the monumental piles of deteriorating natural matter, gardeners will eventually back their trailers up for a load of rich, composted material to be used as organic fertilizer. 

In our disposable world-view, there is little that has not been discarded for a superior model. Vehicles, houses, and large equipment depreciate with time until they are trashed, torn down, or sold for scrap metal. Although most communities have embraced a vigorous recycling program, it will take many more decades of reduce/recycle/reuse efforts to clean our environment and find beneficial solutions for all cast away materials. 

To believe unborn humans are disposable is undefendable. God creates each person in His own image, setting the birth and death dates in advance. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2). Men have chosen to disregard their Creator’s authority by promoting abortion and physician-assisted suicide.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me where written in your book before they came to be” (Psalm 139:13, 15- 16). The combination of facts is not happenstance. God alone sovereignly creates and perpetuates our lives.

That which God has revered, man has despised. God appoints the length of each person’s life; mankind has struggled to capture the decision-making. As humans place a stranglehold on determining life span, we are rejecting God’s omnipotence; ignoring God’s supreme power and authority. God knows all things before they happen. He knew us before we were born; all our days were ordained before conception.

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you;
before you were born I set you apart”
(Jeremiah 1:5).

God creates all life on earth. From one cell to a complex organism equipped to maintain life independently, God oversees our growth and development. He establishes physical and emotional life and breathes a soul into our being. When a life is devalued and destroyed by man before birth, there is rarely justification for the action. God grieves when His children are cast aside or thrown away. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). We are God’s dwelling place where He resides in our hearts as an integral part of our lives. To destroy life is an offense that is punishable by God.

“You, Lord, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked, who freely strut about when what is vile is honored by the human race” (Psalm 12:7-8). God clearly calls men wicked who distort His laws and purposes. “Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8b). Our lives are not our own; we are children of the living, loving God. “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’  They are corrupt, their deeds are vile. Do these evildoers know nothing? They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on the Lord” (Psalm 14:1, 4). It is unconscionable to disdain the exalted.

Oh, how depraved the human heart that guides hands to scrape a fetus from inside its protected, warm, life-sustaining womb, tossing the body parts aside with an arrogant attitude toward God who has assigned life! “Your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:14).

The growing perceived need to legally allow suffering people to end their lives prematurely is a dangerous movement. God is actively involved in every aspect of our lives, desiring what is best for us. He loves us beyond measure. He promises safety and protection for believers, but nowhere in God’s Word is the believer promised an easy life. We are told to expect hardship, suffering, and persecution. At times God allows us to experience trials to teach us to lean upon Him for strength; silencing our motors of everyday activity; setting us aside for a period of time so we can best hear His voice and focus on a closer walk with Him. 

Eliminating a life to assuage pain is not the answer to physical or emotional agony. God promises His presence, His help, and His comfort. Jude tells us that there are “‘Ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 4). Wickedness prevails where God does not reside in hearts.

We will face no affliction that Jesus did not experience when He ministered on earth. Our Savior prayed so earnestly and agonized so completely the night before His crucifixion that “His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). An angel appeared from heaven to lavish Jesus with the strength to suffer humiliation, abuse, and pain to redeem mankind on the cross. Now our Savior advocates for us during our trials.

Just as God sent an angel to empower Jesus, He promises to exchange our weakness for His strength, interceding for us in the same manner in which He did for His Son. Unlimited power and strength are available simply by asking. A call to God for help brings answers every time. His angels still minister to us today.

Though it will require a collaborative effort to clean up the environment by recycling disposables, the human body need not be among them. In spite of pain or inconvenience we may experience, we serve a God who loves and cares for us, who promises to provide spiritual victory to comfort suffering. “He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone” (Lamentations 3:32-33). What a resource and a safety net for us when we are hurting! Pray for God’s help, for He will always provide that which He promises.