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Humble Confidence

Pray this confident in what Christ as done for you. (From The Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers)…

O God, you are very great,

My lot is to approach you with godly fear and humble confidence, for your condescension equals your grandeur, and your goodness is your glory.

I am unworthy, but you do welcome; guilty but you are merciful; indigent, but your riches are unsearchable.

You have shown boundless compassion towards me by not sparing your Son, and by giving me freely all things in him. This is the fountain of my hope, the refuge of my safety, the new and living way to you, the means of that conviction of sin, brokenness of heart, and self-despair, which will endear me to the gospel.

Happy are they who are Christ’s, in him at peace with you, justified from all things, delivered from coming wrath, made heirs of future glory.

Give me such deadness to the world, such love for the Savior, such attachment to his church, such devotion to his service, as proves me a subject of his salvation.

May every part of my character and conduct make a serious and amiable impression on others, and impel them to ask the way to the Master.

Let no incident of life, pleasing or painful, injure the prosperity of my soul, but rather increase it.

Send me your help, for your appointments are not meant to make me independent of you, and the best means will be vain without super-added blessings.

Amen.

Warring Through Worship

Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD. (2 Chronicles 20:18 ESV)

The enemy is marching in–three mighty armies. A great horde is harassing Jehoshaphat and his people. After his honest prayer of remembering God’s character and God’s work, and begging God to intercede, he leads his people in a worship service! It’s easy to worship when things are good. It’s easy to sing God’s songs when our bills are paid, our families are healthy, and our work is prosperous.

How do you worship instead of worry?

And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” (2 Chronicles 20:20 ESV)

If you want to worship God when the enemy is marching in, you have to believe. Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established. The writer of Hebrews described faith as the assurance of things hoped for, conviction of things not seen. Faith is convinced of God’s faithfulness in the face of life’s hopelessness. Faith rests in God’s presence in the midst of life’s difficulties.

And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.” (2 Chronicles 20:21 ESV)

They sang. With the enemy marching in, they sang. They didn’t have all the answers. The diagnosis was grim, the prognosis was worse. They sang anyway. They sang the character of God. They didn’t sing because God answered the way they wanted him to. They sang before God answered them. They sang.

This weekend at Grace Community Church, we are spending 48 hours in prayer. As you pray, worship. Worship God for who he is, not what he can do. As you march into battle this weekend, make war through worship.

The Battle is Not Yours

Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s…You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:15-17 ESV)

What a scene. Dads and moms holding children in their arms listening to king Jehoshaphat pray while the soldiers’ chants and horses’ stampede roar in the background.

Then God speaks. What God said to Judah is his message to you today. God gave two resounding negative commands:

Do not be afraid. Twice God tells his people not to be afraid. The word afraid here means to be in awe of, to revere, to respect. God is telling them not to give the enemy too much credit. This great horde is not so great after all. How can God’s people do this? For the battle is not yours but God’s. In other words, give God more credit than you give your enemy. Whatever you’re facing isn’t bigger than God!

Do not be dismayed. To be dismayed means to be broken, shattered, devastated. Dismay is fear gone viral, fear run amuck. Dismay is panic on steroids. Dismay happens when your mind devises the worst possible scenario for the challenge you’re facing.

Notice God’s message to his people: You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf. God’s answer for their fear and dismay is his power.  Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you. God’s answer for their fear and dismay is his presence.

Why are you fighting a cosmic battle with human weapons. Your predicaments do not threaten God’s power nor thwart His presence.

We Don’t Know What To Do

Last night Adam, Rachel, Greg and Jackie (Rachel’s parents) and I spent some time in the Word together. Here’s what God taught us…and I wanted to share it with you today. What follows is the simple prayer Jehoshaphat prayed when he received word that three armies were advancing against him–they were less than 30 miles away! From Jehoshaphat’s prayer we learn these simple, yet profound principles for praying during difficult times. His prayer opened with these words:

“O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. (2 Chronicles 20:6 ESV)

Pray the character of God. Jehoshaphat was praying in the presence of all of Judah. They needed to be reminded of God’s great character. God, in heaven, has a perspective you and I will never have. He knows the end from the beginning. For Jehoshaphat, it was important to remember that God ruled over all the kingdoms of the nations. Do you believe that God rules over whatever you’re facing? He continued to pray:

Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ (2 Chronicles 20:7-9 ESV)

Pray the works of God. God doesn’t need to be reminded of what he has done in the past–we do. Jehoshaphat, in the hearing of his people, prayed God’s mighty works. What has God done for you? What mighty works has he performed? As Christians, we need only go back to the agonizing cross and the empty tomb to see God’s greatest work for us.

And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy—behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:10-12 ESV)

Pray your personal problems. Jehoshaphat named them–men of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir. What are you facing today that seemingly has a stranglehold on you? Name it. Ask for God’s help. Be real. We do not know what to do. What hard words for a king to pray in front of his people!

But our eyes are on you. Turn your eyes on Him today.

And God Is Able

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (Romans 9:8, ESV)

And God is able. These four words must be imprinted on the hearts of every believer. These four words must be etched into the mind of every believer. And God is able.

When Abraham was told to leave the comforts of Mesopotamia and travel to the unknown land around the Dead Sea, his attitude was and God is able.

When Joseph was thrown into the pit, framed by Potiphar’s wife, and forgotten by Pharaoh’s butler his attitude was and God is able.

When Moses stood with more than a million of God’s people facing the Red Sea before him and Pharaoh’s army behind him, his response was and God is able

When Joshua saw the towering walls of Jericho and an untrained army he led called the people of Israel his message to them was and God is able.

When David faced the taunts of the 9 foot giant Goliath, his words to him were and God is able.

When Daniel was dealt the unfair choice of praying to God or dying for his God, he chose to pray because he believed and God is able.

When young Mary was approached by the angel Gabriel announcing she would be the mother of the Son of God, her attitude was and God is able.

When Jesus was placed in the tomb, Satan danced, the disciples ran, the Pharisees celebrated and Rome gloated…but three days later the resounding message was and God is able.

Whatever you face today, whatever lies in front of you that you know about…and whatever you will face that you had no idea was coming…and God is able.

Scriptural Convictions

From The Valley of Vision (page 350-351)…a prayer thanking God for His word…

O God of Love

I approach you with encouragements derived from your character, for I am not left to feel after you in the darkness of my nature, nor to worship you as the unknown God. I cannot find out your perfections, but I know you are good, ready to forgive, plenteous in mercy.

You have displayed your wisdom, power and goodness in all your works, and have revealed your will in the Scripture of truth. You have caused it to be preserved, translated, published, multiplied, so that all men may possess it and find you in it.

Here I see your greatness and your grace, your pity and your rectitude, your mercy and your truth, your being and men’s hearts; through it you have magnified your name, and favored mankind with the gospel.

Have mercy on me, for I have ungratefully received your benefits, little improved my privileges, made light of spiritual things, disregarded your messages, contended with examples of the good, rebukes of conscience, admonitions of friends, leadings of providence.

I deserve that your kingdom be taken away from me.

Lord, I confess my sin with feeling, lamentation, a broken heart, a contrite spirit, self-abhorrence, self-condemnation, self-despair.

Give me relief by Jesus my hope, faith in his name of Savior, forgiveness by his blood, strength by his presence, holiness by his Spirit: and let me love you with all my heart.

…most of whom are still alive

My first semester of undergrad I was taking the introduction class for a degree in communication studies. The professor of this class was a highly educated man who spoke convincingly. He had the ability to teach and communicate ideas unlike any I had ever heard.

Unknown to me at the time of my class he was also a secular humanist with no belief or regard for God and His Word. Throughout the semester he would teach and toss out these highly educated reasons for why humans have the innate ability to achieve anything we would like to and how we have lost the need for God in our society. He concluded that the Bible is unnecessary especially because he presented it as a fabricated book of myths that have evolved over the centuries.

Needless to say, at first I disagreed. I had been raised to believe the Bible was God’s Word and entirely true, but no one had ever told me why. On the other hand my professor had many reasons as to why he believed Scripture was not truly the words of Almighty God. Over the course of the semester and many personal conversations, my trust in the validity and accuracy of the Bible began to disintegrate one class period at a time.

For a several months I battled with the notion of the inaccuracy of scripture. If Scripture is inaccurate I thought, then how could the story of Jesus be true? And if I can’t trust the story of Jesus to be true, my faith is gone. As a college student battling with whether or not to believe the words of Scripture, God opened my eyes in a gloriously transformative way. Around the end of the semester I was reading in 1 Corinthians 15 (also known as the resurrection chapter), and I remember reading the first 11 verses when I came across something. Paul wrote,

Christ died for our sins in accordance to the scriptures, he was buried and raised in accordance with the scriptures, and he appeared to Cephas, then to the 12, then to over 500 brothers, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

Later in the passage Paul says Jesus appeared to him also. I remember thinking, “If Paul is writing to the Corinthians regarding the resurrection of Christ, and some doubt that it happened, he gives the doubters unbelievable confirmation of his word.” You see, when Paul said that Jesus appeared to him, anyone could say, “Oh it was just your imagination, you made that up.”  But when Paul said that Jesus appeared to over 500 brothers, “most of whom are still alive” Paul was saying that if you do not believe what I’m saying, go ask other people who have experienced the same thing and they will tell you likewise. Therefore this confirmed Paul’s word that Jesus is alive “according to the Scriptures.”

Paul couldn’t be making up the story of the resurrection because if he was doing so, there were over 500 people to dispute him. He therefore puts himself on the line by saying, ‘If my testimony is untrue I’ll be called a liar; but what I’m saying is so true that I give you permission to go check me on it!’ It was in that moment where God restored my faith in His Word. Not only did Jesus come to earth, live, die, and raise from the dead according to the Old Testament; Paul could not have been lying because people would have called him out on it. God used the simple but intentional phrase, ‘most of whom are still alive’ to confirm in me the validity and truth of His Word.

I want to encourage you in two ways:

  • If you struggle to believe the validity of God’s Word, ask Him to show you how true it really is.
  • The Bible is so intentional that God wants His people to know the truth of His Word; He went to great lengths to ensure that you and I can trust Holy Scripture.

Charging Hell with a Water Pistol

I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. (Psalm 16:8 ESV)

I work out with a crazy crew of guys. My legs are aching right now from Monday’s workout! Psalm 16:8 is our verse to memorize this week. I know I said yesterday in the blog that I would talk about canonization today. However, I know God is going to speak powerfully through this verse to so many of you.

In this short verse, the Lord is both before David and beside him. To set the Lord always before you is to have Him in the front of your mind. How do you do that? Through His word. God’s word reveals His character, His ways, His dealings with people. When you get into God’s Word, God’s Word gets into you.

Because he is at my right hand. To be on someone’s right hand is to be ready to assist them in their time of greatest need. Consider these verses:

For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save him from those who condemn his soul to death. (Psalm 109:31 ESV)

The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. (Psalm 110:5 ESV)

The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. (Psalm 121:5 ESV)

God ultimately saved you, the needy one, from those who would condemn your soul to death when he sent his son Jesus to die in your place for your sins. If God will meet your greatest need (salvation), will he not meet all your lesser needs.

What’s shaking you? Worrying you? Causing you to wonder if you’re going to make it through today? Look to your right. You will discover a God who is ready to save you. You will discover a God who will shatter kings on the day of wrath! You will encounter a God who provides shade from the scorching trials assailing you.

Why are you shaking? Put your hand in His.

With him you can charge Hell with a water pistol!

How We Got the Bible

deadsea
Dead Sea Scrolls, Oldest Copy of Scriptures Available, Discovered in 1947

Questions abound as to how we arrived with the 66 books of the Bible we have today. These are legitimate questions that deserve an answer. Because of human involvement often skeptics stumble over the accuracy and trustworthiness of Scripture. Wayne Grudem, in his condensed theology, Christian Beliefs (edited by his son Elliott) gives five steps in how God gave, and we receive, His Word.

Revelation, Inspiration, Preservation, Interpretation, Illumination

In revelation, God reveals Himself. If God were to choose not to reveal Himself we would know little of him. There are two kinds of revelation: general and special revelation. In general revelation, God reveals himself through creation.  In Romans 1:20, Paul writes, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (ESV);

Through inspiration, God the Holy Spirit moves through men to write God’s revelation of Himself down. This is special revelation–words that describe and reveal God.  Peter writes: For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21 ESV) Paul adds:  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

Preservation is the process by which God protects His written message and enables it to be passed down from Moses (author of the first five books of the Bible) to John (author of Revelation). God worked faithfully to preserve a written record of his dealings with man. Preservation involves the process of canonization which we will deal with tomorrow in great detail. Peter explains:  And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. (2 Peter 1:19-20 ESV) Peter’s point is that Scripture wasn’t contrived–it was engineered by God Himself. Jesus came as the fulfillment (day dawns and the morning star) of the Old Testament prophecy.

Interpretation gets the Bible into our own language. There are three kinds of copies of Scripture available today: literal, dynamic equivalent and paraphrases. Literal translations are word-for-word (KJV, NKJV, NAS, ESV). Dynamic equivalent translations are thought for thought translations, making them easier to read (NIV, NLT). Paraphrases are not considered to be translations and heavily depend on someone’s interpretation (The Living Bible, The Message).

When you read and study Scripture, the Holy Spirit illuminates it, enabling you to understand. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible which includes a reference to Scripture in every verse, has this prayer:  Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. (Psalm 119:18 ESV) Unless the Holy Spirit illuminates God’s Word we will be blind  and void of understanding.

What should you do with all of this information? Simply put, read God’s Word! Take time today to jump into this precious gift called the Word of God.

God’s Powerful Word

Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. (Psalm 19:12-13 ESV)

Psalm 19 explains the essence and the effect of God’s Word. God’s word is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean and true. Verses 12-13 show how God’s word has a laser like effect on our hearts. We are prone to deceive ourselves, to convince ourselves that what we’re doing is okay.

David asks the question: Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults? The writer of Hebrews answers that question in 4:12-13:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13 ESV)

God’s word unveils and reveals two kinds of sin: hidden faults and presumptuous sins. Hidden faults are those things we easily miss, sins of attitude that work beneath the surface. God’s Word pierces to the division of soul and spirit and judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart. God’s word also addresses presumptuous sins–the sins we commit and we know we’re doing them. David writes: keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins.

How do you practically confront hidden and obvious sins? David answers that in Psalm 119:11:

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11 ESV)

This week we’ll look at different ways to get God’s Word into you…and none of them will work if you don’t get yourself into God’s Word. I can’t wait to see how God is going to rock your world!