September 21, 2010 – Begg

Holy Anxiety

Do not sweep my soul away with sinners.

Psalms 26:9

Fear made David pray like this, for something whispered, “Perhaps, after all, you may be swept away with sinners.” That fear springs mainly from holy anxiety, arising from the recollection of past sin. Even the pardoned man will inquire, “What if at the end my sins should be remembered, and I should be left out of the company of the saved?” He thinks about his present condition—so little grace, so little love, so little holiness; and looking forward to the future, he considers his weakness and the many temptations that surround him, and he fears that he may fall and become a prey to the enemy. A sense of sin and present evil and his prevailing corruptions compel him to pray, in fear and trembling, “Do not sweep my soul away with sinners.”

Reader, if you have prayed this prayer, and if your character is correctly described in the Psalm from which it is taken, you need not be afraid that you will be swept away with sinners. Do you have the two virtues that David had—the outward walking in integrity and the inward trusting in the Lord? Are you resting upon Christ’s sacrifice, and can you approach the altar of God with humble hope? If so, rest assured, you will never be swept away with sinners, for that calamity is impossible. At the judgment the command will be given, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”1

If, then, you are like God’s people, you will be with God’s people. You cannot be swept away with sinners, for you have been purchased at too high a price. Redeemed by the blood of Christ, you are His forever, and where He is, there His people must be. You are loved too much to be swept away with reprobates. Will one who is dear to Christ perish? Impossible! Hell cannot hold you! Heaven claims you! Trust in Christ, and do not fear!

1Matthew 13:30

September 20, 2010 – Stanley

The Secret of Contentment PHILIPPIANS 4:10-13

After his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul had much to learn about salvation and following Christ. Throughout his life, the apostle shared what he was discovering. In his letter to the church at Philippi, he wrote about a very important life lesson—the secret of being content.

What kind of life do you think brings contentment? You might assume it is one with few troubles or great success. You may want good health, financial security, and a loving family. Paul’s life was not at all like this. He was in danger from both his own countryman and the opposition (2 Cor. 11:23-26). Sometimes the people listened, but more often, they were hostile to his message. He also had a “thorn in the flesh” which God refused to remove (2 Cor. 12:7-9). And Paul even spent considerable time in prison, chained to a guard. Yet he boldly wrote, ” I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Phil. 4:12 NIV). The secret he discovered was to live on the basis of his position in the Lord, not his feelings. As God’s child, Paul knew he was spiritually rich—”blessed . . . with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3) because he had a loving Father and the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Contentment in our media-driven age is hard to find and harder to keep. There’s always something newer, bigger, or better to buy and someone else who has what you want. When you feel unsatisfied, try basing your response on your position as a co-heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17) rather than feelings.

September 20, 2010 – Begg

Reflections on the Evening

At evening withhold not your hand.

Ecclesiastes 11:6

In the evening of the day opportunities are plentiful: Men return from their work, and the zealous soul-winner finds time to share widely the love of Jesus. Do I have no evening work for Jesus? If I have not, let me no longer withhold my hand from a service that requires wholehearted endeavor. Sinners are perishing for lack of knowledge; he who loiters may find his shoes red with the blood of souls. Jesus gave both His hands to the nails. How can I keep back one of mine from His blessed work? Night and day He toiled and prayed for me. How can I give a single hour to the pampering of my body with luxurious ease? Up, lazy heart; stretch out your hand to work, or lift it up to pray. Heaven and hell are serious; so must I be, and this evening I should sow good seed for the Lord my God.

The evening of life also has its calls. Life is so short that a morning of manhood’s strength and an evening of decay make up the whole of it. To some it seems long, but a dollar is a great sum of money to a poor man. Life is so brief that no man can afford to lose a day. It has been well said that if a great king were to bring us a great heap of gold and bid us take as much as we could count in a day, we would make a long day of it; we would begin early in the morning, and in the evening we would not withhold our hand.

Winning souls is far nobler work; so how is it that we quit so soon? Some are spared to a long evening of green old age; if such is my case, let me use any talents I still retain and serve my blessed and faithful Lord to the final hour. By His grace I will die with my boots on and lay down my commission only when I lay down my body. Age may instruct the young, cheer the faint, and encourage the despondent. If evening has less stifling heat, it should have more calm wisdom; therefore in the evening I will not withhold my hand.

September 18, 2010 – Stanley

Wait Upon the Lord PSALM 40:1

Practicing patience is hard work! This is especially true when we are waiting upon the Lord, who keeps to His own timetable. But believers who trust God to deliver are richly rewarded with the desires of their heart.

A person’s willingness to wait reveals the value of what he or she desires. Imagine, for example, a young woman who yearns for a husband. She must decide whether to place greater importance upon a) getting married or b) waiting patiently for a mate chosen by God. If her priority is the former, she may accept an offer that is less than the Lord’s best for her. The fellow in question might be a good Christian but not a man suited for this particular young lady.

No one goes wrong waiting for the Lord to send His best in His perfect timing. Of course, believers don’t receive everything they request. At times God simply says no. In other cases, He adjusts our desire to match His own. In our humanness, we can’t possibly know all the details of a situation. So we ask for what we think we need, based on our limited information. A submissive heart accepts the omnipotent Father’s gentle redirection. When the awaited object of desire comes, it may not look like what the believer originally requested, but it will be exactly what he or she needs.

Waiting patiently on the Lord is an awesome witness. When He responds, others see the reality of God, His faithfulness, and the wisdom of our commitment. In addition, our own faith is strengthened. Fools rush to seize their prize. But wise believers know that blessing will come in God’s good time.

September 18, 2010 – Begg

A Right to Lead

And they follow me.

John 10:27

We should follow our Lord as unhesitatingly as sheep follow their shepherd, for He has a right to lead us wherever He pleases. We are not our own, we are bought with a price—let us recognize the rights of the redeeming blood. The soldier follows his captain, the servant obeys his master, and so we must follow our Redeemer, to whom we are a purchased possession. We are not true to our profession of being Christians if we question the summons of our Leader and Commander.

Submission is our duty; quibbling is our folly. Our Lord may say to us what he said to Peter, “What is that to you? You follow Me!”1 Wherever Jesus may lead us, He goes before us. If we do not know where we go, we know with whom we go. With such a companion, who will dread the dangers of the journey? The road may be long, but His everlasting arms will carry us to the end. The presence of Jesus is the assurance of eternal salvation; because He lives, we will live also. We should follow Christ in simplicity and faith, because the paths in which He leads us all end in glory and immortality. It is true that they may not be smooth paths—they may be covered with sharp, flinty trials; but they lead to “the city that has foundations, whose designer and maker is God.”2 All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to those who keep His covenant.

Let us put our complete trust in our Leader, since we know that in prosperity or adversity, sickness or health, popularity or contempt, His purpose will be worked out, and that purpose will be pure, unmingled good to every heir of mercy. We will find it sweet to go up the bleak side of the hill with Christ; and when rain and snow blow into our faces, His dear love will make us far more blessed than those who sit at home and warm their hands at the world’s fire. When Jesus draws us, we will run after Him. No matter where He leads us, we follow the Shepherd.

1John 21:22 2Hebrews 11:10

September 17, 2010 – Stanley

God Acts On Our Behalf PHILIPPIANS 4:6-7

We have become so accustomed to this hurried world that we’ve begun to demand speed in our spiritual life too. However, God “acts on behalf of those who wait for him” (Isa. 64:4 NIV). Wise believers endure until the fruits of His labor appear.

In this devotion, we’ll look at three reasons believers are called upon to wait. First, God may be preparing us to receive His blessings. Perhaps we need new skills or greater maturity. Sometimes people require fresh spiritual insight before their hands are ready to hold what their hearts desire. For example, David waited years to sit on his appointed throne. But when he did, he was a wise, strong, and battle-tested king.

Second, the Father is often teaching His children to have confidence in Him. How would believers ever learn faith if God immediately fulfilled their every request? In my own life, the Lord has often said two words: “Trust Me.” And He has never been late to meet my needs. No matter how we justify rushing ahead of God, doing so amounts to saying, “I don’t trust You.”

Finally, the Lord will at times withhold blessing to protect us from harm we can’t see. We may never find out what caused the delay. But be assured that God examines the object of our desire closely before placing it in our hands.

Waiting is rarely easy, particularly in this instant-everything world. But rushing ahead of the Lord short-circuits His plan. Believers who do are left unsatisfied, and they often must live with terrible consequences. Be patient while the Lord works out details. His best is on the way.

September 17, 2010 – Begg

No Unnecessary Miracles

Encourage him.

Deuteronomy 1:38

God employs His people to encourage one another. He did not say to an angel, “Gabriel, My servant Joshua is about to lead My people into Canaan—go, encourage him.” God never performs unnecessary miracles. If His purposes can be accomplished by ordinary means, He will not use miraculous agencies. Gabriel would not have been half so well fitted for the work as Moses. A brother’s sympathy is more precious than an angel’s prestige. The swift-winged angel knew more about the Master’s desires than he did about the people’s needs. An angel had never experienced the difficult journey, nor faced the fiery serpents, nor had he led the stiff-necked multitude in the wilderness as Moses had done. We should be glad that God usually works for man by man. This forms a bond of brotherhood, and being mutually dependent on one another, we are united more completely into one family.

Brethren, take the text as God’s message to you. Work at helping others, and especially strive to encourage them. Talk warmly to the young and anxious inquirer; lovingly try to remove stumbling blocks out of his way. When you find a spark of grace in the heart, kneel down and blow it into a flame. Leave the young believer to discover the roughness of the road by stages, but tell him of the strength that is found in God, of the certainty of the promise, and of the benefits of communion with Christ.

Aim to comfort the sorrowful and to encourage the despondent. Speak a fitting word to the weary, and lift the spirits of those who are fearful to go on their way with gladness. God encourages you by His promises; Christ encourages you as He points to the heaven He has won for you; and the Spirit encourages you as He works in you to will and to do of His own purpose and pleasure. Imitate divine wisdom, and encourage others according to the Word this evening

September 16, 2010 – Stanley

A Lesson in Listening LUKE 6:46-49

Early in life, I learned to listen to the Lord, and this most important lesson is the foundation of my confidence in God. Moreover, because I pay attention to the Father, He has given me courage in my convictions, strength in times of trouble, and unspeakable joy.

I opened my spiritual ears because of my grandfather’s words to me. Oh, he didn’t say, “Now Charles, you’ve got to listen.” Instead, he described what the Lord was saying to him and how He was speaking. The powerful evidence of Grandfather’s faith gave me a burning desire to hear the Lord too.

No person can hear without actively listening. God taught me how, and it is this important lesson that I pass on to you. Heeding the Lord begins when I meditate upon His Word. I listen prayerfully for what He is saying to me through the passage, and I am expectant. The Lord is not secretive. He clarifies Scripture to those who desire to know its meaning and are willing to abide by it. Often I have to be patient. God reveals His truth when a believer is ready to hear. I continually return to a portion of the Bible until His message to me is clear. Sometimes that means going over the same passage for days at a time.

God will speak with clarity to anyone who listens prayerfully and submissively. He wants to speak to you! His great desire is for you to know Him as intimately as did Moses, David, Paul, and others like them. Dig into the Bible every day, and listen to the words the Lord impresses upon your heart.

September 16, 2010 – Begg

More Rebellious than the Sea

Am I the sea, or a sea monster, that you set a guard over me?

Job 7:12

This was a strange question for Job to ask the Lord. He felt himself to be too insignificant to be so strictly watched and chastened, and he hoped that he was not so unruly as to need to be restrained. The inquiry was natural from one surrounded by such miseries, but after all, it is capable of a very humbling answer.

It is true that man is not the sea, but he is even more troublesome and unruly. The sea obediently respects its boundary, and it does not overleap the limit, even though it is just a belt of sand. Mighty as it is, it hears the divine “thus far,” and when raging with tempest it still respects the word. Self-willed man, however, defies heaven and oppresses earth, and there is no end to his rebellious rage. The sea, obedient to the moon, ebbs and flows with ceaseless regularity and so renders an active as well as a passive obedience; but man, restless beyond his sphere, sleeps within the lines of duty, lazy where he should be active. He neither comes nor goes at the divine command but sullenly prefers to do what he should not and to leave undone what is required of him. Every drop in the ocean, every beaded bubble, and every yeasty foam-flake, every shell and pebble, feel the power of law and yield or move at once.

If only our nature were but one thousandth as much conformed to the will of God! We call the sea fickle and false, but how constant it is! Since our fathers’ days, and even before, the sea is where it was, beating on the same cliffs to the same tune. We know where to find it; it never hides, and its ceaseless pounding never fades; but where is man, fickle man? Can the wise man guess by what folly he will next be seduced from his obedience? We need more watching than the billowy sea and are far more rebellious. Lord, rule us for Your own glory. Amen.

September 15, 2010 – Stanley

Listening to God JAMES 1:22-25

Learning to listen to God is an essential part of following His will. The Lord regularly speaks to His followers through four resources:

1. The Bible. Scripture is God’s guidebook to His thoughts and actions. It is the primary source for His followers to consult about everything in their life. This means that we ought to aim for more than just reading a bit every day. Our goal is to absorb the message—listening for God to offer instructions on how and where to apply His Word.

2. Prayer. Like all real friends, the Lord desires give and take in His relationships. Therefore, prayer is not complete when I’m done talking. I must quiet my mouth and thoughts so that my spiritual ears can open.

3. Circumstances. The Lord often revealed His ways to the biblical saints through their circumstances. He still works that way today. Situations differ but God does not. He uses everyday life to reveal errors in thinking, open or close doors of opportunity, and prove His promises true.

4. Others. Pastors, friends, and mentors can all speak truth into a person’s life. The Lord placed believers in community so they could be supported and helped by those nearby. He doesn’t hesitate to send a message from the mouth of someone we know.

God does not use just one or two of these methods to reach a believer. He speaks through all of them. We need to attune our spiritual ears, always remembering that a message from the Lord must agree with His holy Word. God is talking to you. Are you listening?

September 15, 2010 – Begg

Proximity to God

. . . For the people of Israel who are near to him.

Psalms 148:14

Distance and separation were marks of the old covenant. When God appeared even to His servant Moses, He said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet”;1 and when He revealed Himself on Mount Sinai to His own chosen and separated people, one of the first commands was, “You shall set limits for the people all around.”2 In the sacred worship of the tabernacle and the temple, the thought of distance was always prominent. The majority of the people did not even enter the outer court. Into the inner court none but the priests might dare to intrude, while into the innermost place, or the holy of holies, the high priest entered but only once in the year. It was as if the Lord in those early ages was teaching man that sin was so utterly loathsome to Him that He must treat men as lepers put outside the camp; and when He came closest to them, He still made them feel the extent of the separation between a holy God and an impure sinner.

When the Gospel came, we were placed on quite another footing. The word “Go” was replaced with “Come”; distance was replaced with nearness, and we who previously were far away were brought near by the blood of Jesus Christ. Incarnate Deity has no fire wall around it. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”3 is the joyful proclamation of God as He appears in human flesh. He no longer teaches the leper his leprosy by setting him at a distance, but by Himself suffering the penalty of the leper’s defilement.

What a state of safety and privilege is this proximity to God through Jesus! Do you know it by experience? If you know it, are you living in the power of it? This closeness is wonderful, and yet it is to be followed by a greater nearness still, when it shall be said, “The dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people.”4 Lord, haste the day!

1Exodus 3:5 2Exodus 19:12 3Matthew 11:28 4Revelation 21:3

September 14, 2010 – Stanley

The Abiding Life JOHN 15:1-5

Yesterday I shared with you about the time when God reminded me, “You are not the vine, Charles. I am the vine.” For years I tried to accomplish by myself what Jesus Christ wanted to achieve through me—in other words, I attempted to produce fruit by doing good works. My desire was to impress God and earn His approval. His goal, on the other hand, was for me to act like the branch that I am and just abide.

The Holy Spirit’s job is to live the life of Christ through us. This process is known by a variety of names, including the exchanged life, the Spirit-filled life, and the abiding life. All of these monikers describe the joyful existence Paul spoke of in Galatians 2:20: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” The apostle meant those words literally.

Seen from the outside, a branch does not appear to be doing anything. But don’t get the idea that the abiding life is passive. Jesus was the perfect example of a Spirit-filled life, and He certainly didn’t sit around! He worked hard out of a reservoir of divine energy (John 8:28). All of Christ’s wisdom, knowledge, and courage was drawn from God through the Holy Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit does not pop out of believers through effort; Christians bear fruit through surrender. We “take root” in the Lord by meditating on His Word, praying, and serving. We reserve nothing for ourselves to control but fully rely upon Him. That’s not passive living; it’s an abiding life.

September 14, 2010 – Begg

Grieving Sin

I acknowledged my sin unto you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

Psalms 32:5

David’s grief for sin was bitter. Its effects were visible on his outward frame: His bones wasted away; his strength dried up like the drought of summer. He was unable to find a remedy until he made a full confession before the throne of heavenly grace. He tells us that for a time he kept silent, and his heart was filled with grief and his lips with groaning: Like a mountain stream that is blocked, his soul was swollen with torrents of sorrow. He created excuses, he tried to divert his thoughts, but it was all to no purpose; like a festering sore his anguish gathered, and, unwilling to use the scalpel of confession, his spirit was tormented and knew no peace.

At last it came to this, that he must return to God in humble penitence or die outright; so he hurried to the mercy-seat and there unrolled the volume of his iniquities before the all-seeing God, acknowledging all the evil of his ways in the terms of the Fifty-first and other penitential Psalms. Having confessed, a task so simple and yet so hard for the proud, he immediately received the token of divine forgiveness; the bones that had been wasted were made to rejoice, and he emerged from his prayers to sing the joyful songs of the one whose transgression is forgiven.

Do you see the value of this grace-led confession of sin? It is to be prized above everything, for in every case where there is a genuine, gracious confession, mercy is freely given—not because the repentance and confession deserve mercy, but for Christ’s sake. May God be praised, there is always healing for the broken heart; the fountain is ever flowing to cleanse us from our sins. Truly, O Lord, You are a God “ready to forgive.”1 Therefore will we humbly acknowledge our iniquities.

1Nehemiah 9:17

September 13, 2010 – Stanley

The Spirit-Filled Life 1 JOHN 2:3-6

There was a time when I was so disheartened that it made me wonder whether I should remain in the ministry. How could I tell people that Jesus would give them peace and joy when I felt discouraged by my own failure to be godly? I understood what “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23) meant but was never sure which of those qualities, if any, would be apparent in me from day to day.

God let me stew in my anxiety until I was fully committed to finding out if His Word was true or not. I encountered my answer in a biography of Hudson Taylor, the founder of China Inland Missions. For a long time he, too, felt that his efforts fell short of the Lord’s expectations. Then Taylor discovered that God wanted believers to take His promises literally. So when Jesus said to abide in Him, He meant that His followers were to stop striving and struggling. Instead they were to trust Him to subdue their flesh.

As a child, I was taught that a person got saved and then went to work for God. You did the best you could to act godly, think right, and speak wisely. When your best wasn’t good enough, well, you tried harder. Such an impossible expectation was wearing me out. This idea of letting Jesus Christ work through me sounded both biblical and liberating.

A grape branch doesn’t bear fruit because of its determined efforts to get sunshine; rather, it simply abides in the vine, and fruit appears. The vine does all the work. In the same way, believers are to be in union with their Savior so that spiritual fruit can grow in their life.

September 13, 2010 – Begg

This Man

This man receives sinners.

Luke 15:2

Observe the condescension of this fact. Jesus, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, who towers above all other men—this Man receives sinners. This Man, who is no other than the eternal God, before whom angels veil their faces—this Man receives sinners. It requires an angel’s tongue to describe such a mighty stoop of love. That any of us would be willing to reach the lost is nothing wonderful—they are, after all, our own race; but that He, the offended God, against whom the transgression has been committed, should take upon Himself the form of a servant and bear the sin of many and be willing to receive the worst of sinners—this is marvelous.

“This man receives sinners”; not in order for them to remain sinners, but He receives them in order that He may pardon their sins, justify their persons, cleanse their hearts by His purifying word, preserve their souls by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and enable them to serve Him, show forth His praise, and have communion with Him. Into His heart’s love He receives sinners; He takes them from the refuse pile and wears them as jewels in His crown; He snatches them like branches from the fire and preserves them as costly monuments to His mercy. None are so precious in Jesus’ sight as the sinners for whom He died.

When Jesus receives sinners, He does not have an outdoor reception, no public square where He charitably entertains them in the way men treat passing beggars, but He opens the golden gates of His royal heart and receives the sinner right into Himself. He admits the humble penitent into personal union and makes Him a member of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. There was never such a reception as this! This fact is certain. Even this evening, He is still receiving sinners: It is our prayer that sinners will receive Him.

September 11, 2010 – Begg

Add No Stumbling Blocks

Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies.

Psalms 5:8

The enmity of the world is bitter in its assault against the people of Christ. Men will forgive a thousand faults in others, but they will magnify the most trivial offense in the followers of Jesus. Instead of vainly regretting this, let us make it work for us, and since so many are watching for our collapse, let it be a special motive for walking very carefully before God. If we live carelessly, the watching world will soon see it, and multiple tongues will spread the story, exaggerated and emblazoned by the zeal of slander.

They will shout triumphantly, “See! See how these Christians act! They are hypocrites to everyone.” And so great damage will be done to the cause of Christ, and His name will be greatly maligned. The cross of Christ is in itself an offense to the world; let us take care that we add no offense of our own. It is “a stumbling block to Jews”1: Let us ensure that we put no stumbling blocks where there are enough already. “Folly to Gentiles”: let us not add our folly to give apparent reason for the scorn with which the worldly deride the Gospel. How concerned we should be with ourselves! How rigid with our consciences!

In the presence of adversaries who will misrepresent our best deeds and impugn our motives if they cannot censure our actions, we should be circumspect! Like pilgrims we travel under suspicion through Vanity Fair. Not only are we under surveillance, but there are more spies than we imagine, at home and at work. If we fall into the enemies’ hands, we may sooner expect generosity from a wolf or mercy from a fiend than anything like patience with our infirmities from those who spice their infidelity toward God with scandals against His people. Lord, lead us always; do not allow our enemies to trip us up!

11 Corinthians 1:23

September 10, 2010 – Stanley

Our Needs PHILIPPIANS 4:19

Jim saved for a long time to take an Alaskan cruise. At last he was on board with two carefully packed suitcases. The first evening, when he heard “Dinner is served” announced over the loudspeaker, he took peanut butter crackers from his suitcase and sat at the table in his small cabin. Every day at mealtime, he repeated the ritual. It wasn’t that Jim didn’t like the ship’s tasty banquets. He simply didn’t know that his meals were included in the price of the ticket. For two weeks he enjoyed beautiful scenery off the decks but ate dry, stale food in his cabin.

This sad story is a metaphor for how some believers live the Christian life. God has promised to meet every need of His children—His riches are included in the price Christ paid for their salvation (Eph. 1:18). Yet many folks are trying to live out of their own resources. They don’t know that the wealth of God’s love, power, and provision is on their menu.

A believer’s relationship with the Lord is one of complete unity. Jesus is our life. His Spirit lives through us. Therefore, everything that is available to Him is also available to the brothers and sisters in Christ—all power, strength, and endurance, as well as whatever is required to fulfill physical and emotional needs.

Jim didn’t know he had the right to satisfy his hunger in an extravagant way. Learn from this exaggerated example. Read your Bible to learn what riches you are entitled to through faith. God offers believers everything required for living well and wisely. Trust Him for all your needs.

September 10, 2010 – Begg

The Danger of the Evening Wolf

Evening wolves.

Habakkuk 1:8

While preparing the present volume, this particular expression recurred to me so frequently that in order to be rid of its constant demand I determined to give a page to it. The evening wolf, infuriated by a day of hunger, was fiercer and more ravenous than he would have been in the morning. This furious creature may promise a picture of our doubts and fears after a day of distraction of mind, losses in business, and perhaps ungenerous tauntings from our fellowmen.

How our thoughts howl in our ears: “Where is your God now?” How voracious and greedy they are, swallowing up all suggestions of comfort and remaining as hungry as ever. Great Shepherd, slay these evening wolves, and bid Your sheep lie down in green pastures, undisturbed by unbelief. The fiends of hell seen just like evening wolves, for when the flock of Christ are in a cloudy and dark day, and their sun seems to be going down, they arrive to tear and to devour. They will scarcely attack the Christian in the daylight of faith, but in the gloomy night of the soul they fall upon him. O Lord who laid down Your life for the sheep, preserve them from the fangs of the wolf.

False teachers who craftily and industriously hunt for precious life, devouring men by their falsehoods, are as dangerous and detestable as evening wolves. Darkness is their element; deceit is their character; destruction is their end. They pose the greatest threat to our safety when they wear the sheep’s skin. Blessed is he who is kept from them, for thousands become the prey of grievous wolves that enter within the fold of the church.

What a wonder of grace it is when fierce persecutors are converted, for then the wolf lives with the lamb, and men of cruel, ungovernable dispositions become gentle and teachable. O Lord, convert many like this: For this we will pray tonight

September 9, 2010 – Stanley

The Source of Our Strength TITUS 3:4-7

The Christian life is just that—a life, not a lifestyle. Sadly, a lot of churches preach Christianity as a list of dos and don’ts. Then faith looks like a formula: JESUS’ SAVING GRACE PLUS DOING GOOD THINGS MINUS DOING BAD THINGS = RIGHTEOUSNESS. Most of us have enough problems without worrying about whether we’re following the extra-biblical rules of one church.

A man-made formula for righteousness runs counter to scriptural teaching. In fact, Jesus condemned the Pharisees for such heavy-handed religion (Matt. 23:1-4). He, on the other hand, offered liberty through grace. Neither keeping God’s Law by self-effort nor adhering to extra rules makes a person free. Legalistic believers are in bondage and growing ever weaker.

When a person accepts the saving grace of Jesus, he or she receives a new life (Rom. 6:4). This is not an uptight lifestyle of doing good works. A believer is a changed person—same body but a transformed mind and heart. Christ lives through you. His Holy Spirit flows into your spirit as sap runs in a grapevine. It’s like getting a spiritual blood transfusion! Strength pumps into places where weakness once prevailed. Why rely upon your frail self when the courage and power to follow God’s will is available through Christ?

I know what it feels like to burn out from trying to do good in my own strength. My desire for you is that you’ll surrender to the Lord. Depend upon Him to change you from the inside out, and trust that He will. Jesus is your life. He will never get tired of transforming you.

September 9, 2010 – Begg

Near the Throne

Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments.

Revelation 4:4

These representatives of the saints in heaven are said to be “around the throne.” In the passage in Solomon’s Song where he sings of the King sitting at his table, some render it “a round table.” From this, some expositors—I think, without straining the text—have said, “There is an equality among the saints.” That idea is conveyed by the equal nearness of the twenty-four elders.

The condition of glorified spirits in heaven is that of nearness to Christ, clear vision of His glory, constant access to His court, and familiar fellowship with His person. There is no difference in this respect between one saint and another, but all the people of God—apostles, martyrs, ministers, or private and obscure Christians—will all be seated near the throne, where they shall have a perfect view of their exalted Lord and be satisfied with His love. They will all be near Christ, all satisfied with His love, all eating and drinking at the same table with Him, all equally loved as His favorites and friends even if not all equally rewarded as His servants.

Believers on earth should imitate the saints in heaven in their nearness to Christ. We should be like the elders in heaven, sitting around the throne. Christ should be the object of our thoughts and the center of our lives. How can we endure to live at such a distance from Him? Lord Jesus, draw us nearer to Yourself. Say to us, “Abide in Me, and I in you”; and let us sing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

O lift me higher, nearer Thee,
And as I rise more pure and fit,
O let my soul’s humility
Make me lie lower at Thy feet;
Less trusting self, the more I prove
The blessed comfort of Thy love

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