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Scriptures for the Suffering

Scriptures for the Suffering

Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses. He sets the time for sorrow and the time for joy, the time for mourning and the time for dancing. — Ecclesiastes 3:1,4

Trust in God at all times, my people. Tell him all your troubles, for he is our refuge. — Psalm 62:8  

You know how troubled I am; you have kept a record of my tears. Aren’t they listed in your book? — Psalm 56:8  

Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light. — Matthew 11:28-30 

Valley of Vision and Family Worship

Valley of Vision and Family Worship

 

One of the best devotionals available is the collection of Puritan Prayers, Poems and Psalms known as The Valley of Vision.  Previous to a server failure I had reviewed  it (trying to recover that review). This time around, I want to spend a few minutes on incorporating Valley of Vision into your church family, either on Sunday Mornings or during  your weekly family worship time.

Oder from Christian Book Distributors (affiliate link)

To use Valley of Vision on a Sunday morning, the best use would be either to use it as a guide for your corporate prayer time or perhaps as a responsorial reading with your congregation. I have also palyed with the idea of using it as a teaching aid by offering it to candidates for membership.

A black leather version is aviailble (see link above) and it would make a great gift for confirmation (if your faith tradition practices that) or as a gift in celebratiob of Believer’s Baptism.

The most common use that I have gotten from the Valley of Vision is as an aid in family worship. If you are not the type that is inclined to sing hymns, acapella, at home, you will find Valley of Vision to be a most welcome substitue. Depending on the frequesncy of family worship in your home, you will probably get through it a couple times a year.

I, personnaly, use it mostly on Saturdays. I find that it helps me to focus myself and to prepare mentally and spiritually for the Lord’s Day, especially becuase I am in the pulpit and need as much spiritual reinforcement as possible. The selections elevate the mind and heart as they intensify your focous on the Lord. If it were possible to attain to the heights of Heaven, here on Earth, this would be the vehicle that takes you there. The Puritan is one focused on holiness and God’s glory and I can find no book, other than the Bible, that so richly equips the reader for time with Jesus.

It is actually our intent to re-release our Family Worship Guides and we wll be adding a reading guide for the Valley of Vision as part of those worship guides. 

Comfort for the depressed Lesson Notes

Comfort for the depressed Lesson Notes

First, a definition of depression: Depression is a prolonged feeling of despondency or dejection.

Is depression sinful? No, it isn’t. Depression is a warning built into both the body and the spirit to alert you that something is wrong, most likely very wrong. Feelings of depression should never be left unattended as the disease can turn deadly without warning (suicidal thoughts and/or actions)

 

Depression has only two source categories, bio-mechanical error or spiritual error and there are differences in how both should be handled. In either case, wisdom commands that care begins with your doctor to determine if the depression is caused by a physical problem or a spiritual.

 

Physical causes of depression include:

  • Side effects of medication
  • Poor sleep and/or poor respiration during sleep
  • Dietary issues
  • Prolonged physical illnesses such diabetes, cancer, lupus

 

Any or all physical causes of depression can be remedied by your doctor. Spiritual causes of depression, on the other hand, require more sensitivity and care. I want to focus on care of depressed people.

 

Realize that it is not always your fault. Sin separates us from communion with God and sickness is a part of the curse.

 

God is able to comfort the hurting (2 Samuel 22:29-31, Hebrews 4:15) All too often we come to the idea that God does not understand us or how we are feeling. We need to disabuse ourselves of this idea and remember that the 2nd Person of the Trinity, the Divine Son, walked on Earth as a man and is, forever, the God-man in heaven.

 

We remember the words of the Apostle in his letter to the Hebrew Christians telling us that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin.”  In the hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, we are reminded that “Jesus knows our every weakness.”

 

God is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) One of the titles of the Holy Spirit is Comforter. As the Spirit of Christ, He knows all of our cares and sufferings and draws close to minister to us in our times of darkness. The Holy Spirit is the Shepherd of Psalm 23 through Whom we fear no evil. He also illumens the Scripture and hymns to our minds to bring the peace of God into our lives.

 

Abraham had hope when there was no cause for hope (Romans 4:18-22) So also may we have hope when there seems to be no reason for our hope. In the blackest midnight of our sufferings, Christ is our hope. He is our hope of life everlasting, our hope of no more suffering, and our hope of everlasting peace.

 

In the Eternal State, God will wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4) At last, in the Eternal Kingdom, when Jesus,  Himself, is the reward of our suffering, every tear will be wiped away. Every travail will be worth it.

 

This is our hope, that we will be with Christ forever. That hope can sustain us through any darkness and any depression.

 

Renewing Your Mind Lesson Notes

Renewing Your Mind Lesson Notes

Opening Remarks:

This past week we observed World Mental Health Day and that, along with the recent suicide of someone that I know. Prompted me to consider what, if anything, the Bible might have to say about the mind and mental health, which led me to the Apostle Paul’s counsel to the Church at Rome

Romans 12:1-2 (CSB) 

Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.[ 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Paul counsels the Christians at Rome to renew their minds as opposed to being conformed to the pattern of the world. Let us consider: 

12:1 bodies. Not just the physical body but the whole person, with a view to our engaging the world around us living our day to day lives. God’s grace in Christ has made Christians spiritually alive (6:13). true and proper worship. The worship appropriate for thinking creatures who recognize all that God has done for them. This worship is not confined to the Sunday morning worship service; it embraces the whole of life.

12:2 this age. This present evil “age” (Greek aiōn; see Luke 16:8; 1 Cor 2:6,8; 3:18; Gal 1:4; Eph 2:2; 1 Tim 6:17; 2 Tim 4:10) has its own pattern of thinking and living that redeemed believers must avoid. renewing of your mind. The work of God’s Spirit within must reprogram the “depraved mind” (1:28) that characterizes this world (see Eph 4:23).

7 Precepts for Spiritual Renewal (Adapted from New Life)

Seek God and Surrender to Him (Matthew 6:33, 1 Peter 5:6)

We have a tendency to follow in the footsteps of our father Adam and to hide from God when we have sinned or when we think that He is angry with us, such as in times of testing. Yet we are advised by the Apostles Matthew and Peter that we should seek, firstly, the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

In a sense, this is a type of repentance, which is a turning toward Christ and away from our sin. Of course, this seeking of God’s Kingdom and righteousness is the first step toward a healing and wholeness of mind.

See the truth (Psalm 139:1)

What is the truth that we need to see? That God knows everything about us; He searches our innermost thoughts (Jeremiah 17:10) and, as the Lord spoke to Jeremiah, knew us before we were formed in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). Every trouble we face, every time there is a trial, God knew about it and was not surprised by it.

We can echo the words of the Psalmist when he said, “even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil for You are with me.”

Speak the truth (James 5:16)

Many times, but not every time, the darkness we feel can come from sin that has not been dealt with, as indicated by James. There are times when we seem to be in darkness and it is caused by a physical illness or perhaps even as a side effect of medication, This is quite normal and if you think this is the case for you, I would encourage you to see your doctor. Perhaps some changes in your care plan which need to be made.

However, if it is not the case that there is a physical illness, then we must speak the truth that it is a spiritual issue and then call upon the elders of the church to assist us through the resolution of the issue.

Accept responsibility (Galatians 6:5)

In those instances where our troubles are caused by our own sin, we must own up to it. In the well-known 12-Steps, the first step is to admit that we have lost control of our lives and that the addiction has taken over, a prime example of accepting responsibility for our sins.

Grieve, forgive, let go (Matthew 6:14)

       It is natural to give those sins which we have committed or have been committed against us. However, in order to avoid allowing that grief to destroy us, we must lay that grief at the foot of the cross and allow the forgiveness of Christ to flow through us.

 Transform your life (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

       God’s comfort flows through us and as it does so it transforms us. No longer are we held captive to our troubles and sorrows. Instead we become instruments of God’s grace unto others as He has given us His grace both directly and through others.

Preserve your spiritual gains (1 Peter 1:8)

It is always a wise idea to keep a record of the Lord’s goodness to us during our faith-walk. It is a good idea to journal- I, personally, like to use a wide margin Bible although many keep a separate notebook.

How Old Must a Person Be to Receive Communion?

How Old Must a Person Be to Receive Communion?

I was asked, again, today how old a person must be to come to the Lord’s Table. The Scripture does not prescribe a specific age so neither shall I. I will give this counsel though…

Romans 10:9 teaches us to confess that Jesus is Lord and to believe that He was raised from the dead for our salvation from sin. A person who can explain why he needs a savior and also confess that he has yielded his life to Christ should in no wise be refused the Elements.

Upon our salvation, we are commanded to step in to tbe Waters of Baptism to show, symbolically, that the filthiness of our sin is washed away and we arise to the New Life. Immediately (and I mean while the convert is still wet) the Elements may be offered whereby we seal the new believer in fellowship with Christ and in brotherhood with the saints of all the ages.

The Lord’s Table is a sacred privilege enjoyed by ALL Believers. Let none say they are too young. ANY who will confess Christ may eat of the Bread of Life and drink from the Cup of the New Covenant.

What is Dispensational Theology

What is Dispensational Theology

The following is a guest post by James Quiggle:

Theology is the science that seeks to understand God and his interactions with his creation through systematic study of God’s revelation of himself in the Bible.

Dispensationalism is a systematic method of understanding history as a series of God-initiated economies, or “dispensations,” by consistently applying the principles of the grammatical-historical (literal) hermeneutic to all scriptures.

Dispensational theology is that branch of the science of theology that seeks to understand God and his interactions with his creation, as God has revealed himself in the Bible through a series of God-initiated economies, or “dispensations,” by consistently applying the principles of the grammatical-historical (literal) hermeneutic to all scriptures.

Precepts for Spiritual Renewal

Precepts for Spiritual Renewal

On a daily basis, I deal with people who are carrying wounds, some emotional and some phyicial and I deal with others who simply feel like their faith has gone dry/stale/stagnant. One of the most helpful tools that I have come across, as a pastor, is the NIV Spiritual Renewal Bible from New Life Ministries, which offers 7 Precepts for Spiritual Renewal. I would like to share those precepts with you, today, and we will expand upon them as we go.

 

7 Precepts for Spiritual Renewal

  1. Seek God and Surrender to Him (1 Peter 5:6)
  2. See the truth (Psalm 139:1)
  3. Speak the truth (James 5:16
  4. Accept responsibility (Galatians 6:5)
  5. Grieve, forgive, let go (Matthew 6:14)
  6. Transform your life (2 Corinthains 1:3-4)
  7. Preserve your spiritual gains (1 Peter 1:8

 

No matter the wounds you carry nor how dry your faith may seem, these 7 Precepts will help you to refresh your soul and to restore your fellowship with God the Holy Spirit. Everything you could ever need to commune with the Lord is found in your Bible and there is no wound you carry which is too  severe for the Holy Spirit to heal. 

If you are struggling, today, I invite you to trun back to your Bible. There you will find the Holy Spirit waiteing to meet you as you pray over the Scriptures. He will show you HIs ways and restore you to fellowship with Hum. 

Until next time, Grace to you.

 

 

Restoration Principles

Restoration Principles

Many Christians, today, live with brokenness in their relationships with God and others. The Bible is God’s gift to us for our restoration and healing. The content which follows originated with New Life Ministries and is used by permisison. May you be blessed in the reading.

R – Rest and Reflection

This Restoration Principle focuses on taking the time to slow down—to rest and reflect on the life issue, circumstance, or difficult season we face. Through rest and reflection, we gain new insights and perspectives that help foster honesty, admission, responsibility, and a right attitude as we begin our journey toward life restoration.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”

(Matthew 11:28).

E – Eternal Perspective

This Restoration Principle focuses on developing an eternal perspective toward the life issue, circumstance, or difficult season. When we begin to understand who God is, and when we accept and stand on the promises and truths found in God’s Word, we are empowered to walk forward with confidence and hope in our restoration journey.

“For I know the plans I have for you” — this is the Lord’s declaration —“plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope”

(Jeremiah 29:11).

S – Support

This Restoration Principle focuses on having the humility and strength to ask for help and support as we continue on the path toward life restoration. We were never meant to do life alone. Hope, joy, and peace come when we humble ourselves before God, fully surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, and invite others to come alongside us to help us in our journey.

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you”

(Luke 11:9).

T – Thanksgiving and Contentment

This Restoration Principle focuses on being thankful and content with God’s blessings so that we remove any obstacles that may prevent us from being good stewards of those blessings. Thankfulness and contentment bring us joy and peace as we continue this journey of restoration and grow in our relationship with Jesus.

Give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus

(1 Thessalonians 5:18).

O – Other-centeredness

We all have a tendency to be self-centered, particularly in difficult seasons of life. This Restoration Principle focuses on exhibiting the love of Jesus to family, friends, coworkers, and others in need. Letting go of selfish desires and earthly security and choosing instead to focus on others and the truth of God’s Word bring us freedom and joy.

“This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you”

(John 15:12).

R – Relationships

This Restoration Principle focuses on restoring relationships, resolving relational conflicts, and accepting forgiveness from those we may have wronged or giving forgiveness to those who may have wronged us. Life restoration comes through living in community and right relationship with others, so that we may encourage one another, serve one another, keep one another accountable, and experience the harmony and reward of restored relationships.

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts

(Ecclesiastes 4:9).

E – Exercise of Faith

This Restoration Principle focuses on exercising and living out our faith through service to others. This includes trusting God, applying Scripture in our everyday life, helping other Christians grow in their faith, and sharing the good news of the gospel with those who may not know Jesus. Lasting life restoration is found and sustained when we are able to share our restoration story and the hope, joy, and peace we found in God’s Word and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God

(1 Peter 4:10).

 

A 12 Step Program as an Instrument of Discipleship

A 12 Step Program as an Instrument of Discipleship

There are a number of well-intentioned Christians who will tell you that there is no room in Christianity for a 12-Step Program. My response may or may not surprise you: I think they are wrong. It is my long considered opinion that a 12-Step Program is fully suited to being used in discipleship and I say that as someone who has gone through both A.A. and Celebrate Recovery and have been free of alcohol for 14 years. Any kind of addiction is a terrible taskmaster, as any sin is, and unless you have struggled with an addiction you will never really understand it and you may struggle with properly discipling an addict.

Addictions are both medical and spiritual conditions; a 12-Step Program, when properly utilized, will instill a proper discipline in behavior and, paired with the appropriate Scriptures, provide a spiritual foundation as well. How? Let’s look:

Steps 1-5 deal with the human condition and our need for a savior.

STEP 1: We admitted that we were powerless over our dependencies—that our lives had become unmanageable.

“I know that nothing good lives in me. . . . I want to do what is right, but I can’t” (Romans 7:18; see also John 8:31-36; Romans 7:14-25).

STEP 2: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

“God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13; see also Romans 4:6-8; Ephesians 1:6-8; Colossians 1:21-22; Hebrews 11:1-10).

STEP 3: We made a decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God.

“Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable” (Romans 12:1; see also Matthew 11:28-30; Mark 10:14-16; James 4:7-10).

STEP 4: We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

“Let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn back to the LORD(Lamentations 3:40; see also Matthew 7:1-5; 2 Corinthians 7:8-10).

STEP 5: We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16; see also Psalms 32:1-5; 51:1-3; 1 John 1:2-6).

 

Steps 6 & 7 deal with walking humbly with God.

STEP 6: We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor”(James 4:10; see also Romans 6:5-11; Philippians 3:12-14).

STEP 7: We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

“If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9; see also Luke 18:9-14; 1 John 5:13-15).

 Steps 8-10 begin to teach relational holiness and how to restore relationships with those we have sinned against.

STEP 8: We made a list of all the persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

“Do to others as you would like them to do to you” (Luke 6:31; see also Colossians 3:12-15; 1 John 3:10-20). 

STEP 9: We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

“If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar and . . . someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God”(Matthew 5:23-24; see also Luke 19:1-10; 1 Peter 2:21-25).

STEP 10: We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

“If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall”(1 Corinthians 10:12; see also Romans 5:3-6; 2 Timothy 2:1-7; 1 John 1:8-10).

In step 11, we begin to practice the discipline of regular prayer. I would include journaling, here.

STEP 11: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart”(Colossians 4:2; see also Isaiah 40:28-31; 1 Timothy 4:7-8).

Step 12 deals with the Great Commission

STEP 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.“

Matthew 28:16-20

16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! 18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself” (Galatians 6:1; see also Isaiah 61:1-3; Titus 3:3-7; 1 Peter 4:1-5)

It is true that a 12-Step Program is not the most sophisticated discipleship program you will ever encounter but we need to remember that most people who are going through a program either are not Christians or are severely lapsed in their walk with Christ. The idea is to redirect the disciple back to discipline and scripture.

THE TWELVE STEPS AND SCRIPTURE

THE TWELVE STEPS AND SCRIPTURE

The following, excerpted from the NLT Life Rcovery Bible, is offered as a response to those who insist that 12-step programs are incompatible with Holy Scripture. That is quite far from the truth as any discipleship program, and the 12 Steps are certainly that, must be in an orderly and systematic fashio.

The Twelve Steps have long been of great help to people in recovery. Much of their power comes from the fact that they capture principles clearly revealed in the Bible. On this page is a list of the Twelve Steps and the corresponding Scriptures that support them. This will help readers familiar with the Twelve Steps to discover the true source of their wisdom—the very word of God.

STEP 1: We admitted that we were powerless over our dependencies—that our lives had become unmanageable.

“I know that nothing good lives in me. . . . I want to do what is right, but I can’t” (Romans 7:18; see also John 8:31-36; Romans 7:14-25).

STEP 2: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

“God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13; see also Romans 4:6-8; Ephesians 1:6-8; Colossians 1:21-22; Hebrews 11:1-10).

STEP 3: We made a decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God.

“Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable” (Romans 12:1; see also Matthew 11:28-30; Mark 10:14-16; James 4:7-10).

STEP 4: We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

“Let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn back to the LORD(Lamentations 3:40; see also Matthew 7:1-5; 2 Corinthians 7:8-10).

STEP 5: We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16; see also Psalms 32:1-5; 51:1-3; 1 John 1:2-6).

STEP 6: We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor”(James 4:10; see also Romans 6:5-11; Philippians 3:12-14).

STEP 7: We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

“If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9; see also Luke 18:9-14; 1 John 5:13-15).

STEP 8: We made a list of all the persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

“Do to others as you would like them to do to you” (Luke 6:31; see also Colossians 3:12-15; 1 John 3:10-20).

STEP 9: We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

“If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar and . . . someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God”(Matthew 5:23-24; see also Luke 19:1-10; 1 Peter 2:21-25).

STEP 10: We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

“If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall”(1 Corinthians 10:12; see also Romans 5:3-6; 2 Timothy 2:1-7; 1 John 1:8-10).

STEP 11: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart”(Colossians 4:2; see also Isaiah 40:28-31; 1 Timothy 4:7-8).

STEP 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.“

“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself” (Galatians 6:1; see also Isaiah 61:1-3; Titus 3:3-7; 1 Peter 4:1-5).

~NLT Life Recovery Bible Used by permission of Tyndale House  Publuhsers