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The Source of Pure Delight

Several years ago I was introduced to the poignant Irish hymn "Be Thou My Vision" for the first time. It quickly became a favorite, especially the stanza that reads: "Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise / Thou mine inheritance, now and always / Thou and Thou only, first in my heart / High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art."

Whenever I hear this verse-and I sing it often-I imagine the glorious, eternal riches of our inheritance in Christ. It is true that on Earth and in heaven, God has by His grace provided for us "one blessing after another" (John 1:16, NIV). Yet without eyes to see Christ as our inheritance and our chief aim, we don't recognize His blessings for what they are. read more

How to Be Baptized in the Holy Spirit

Find out the simple steps you can take to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

When we meet Christ and put our trust in Him, we are "born again" (John 3:3) and we receive the Holy Spirit in our hearts. This is the most important decision we will ever make. This happened to the disciples of Jesus in John 20:22, which says: "[Jesus] breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'"

But before Jesus ascended to heaven He told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the "promise of the Father" had come (Luke 24:49). He told them that if they would wait there they would be "clothed with power from on high." In Acts 1:8 Jesus told His followers that they would receive "power" to be His witnesses. read more

The Fruits of Pride

1 Timothy 6:1-21 One of the reasons we are critical and judgmental of others is because we are walking in pride instead of walking in love. There are two forms of pride—superiority and inferiority. We either think too highly of ourselves, or too lowly of ourselves. When we think too highly of ourselves, we delight in criticizing and putting down others. When we think too lowly of ourselves, we often try to elevate ourselves by putting others down. Whether we think too highly of ourselves or too lowly of ourselves, we are not seeing ourselves as God sees us. Humility is seeing ourselves as God sees us, and when He looks at us He says one thing, "You are worth the death of My own Son." This is the price that was paid for you, and therefore you are seen by God as a precious treasure—a treasure worth dying for, and He did just that. read more

A Great God

Isaiah 48:12-50:11 This passage in Isaiah speaks of God's greatness and His infinite interest in mankind. This very morning I enjoyed a lesson on the "Fear of the Lord" that gave documented facts about the great expanse of our universe. The teacher shared how many light-years it would take for us to travel to a far galaxy, and it was mind boggling. We are just now coming to the understanding of the vastness of our universe. Yet, God says He spans the heavens with His right hand. The span of my own hand is about five inches or less. Think of how big God is who can span the whole universe with His right hand. read more

man

Truly Listening to God

There are two reasons why God has difficulty in getting us to listen to Him.

Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. —1 Samuel 3:9

What can be more important than correct listening? We only worship God to the degree that we hear Him speak. This is why there are injunctions throughout Scripture about hearing and listening. Jesus would frequently end a parable with the words, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

What we are talking about is the ability to recognize and respond to the Spirit's impulse. I consider this to be the highest level of spirituality that exists.

There are two reasons why God has difficulty in getting us to listen to Him. The first is our inability to absorb or take in His counsel. We all overestimate our capacity to grasp and take in things, not realizing that if God were to tell us all there is to know, our minds would snap. God has to deal with us where we are.

The second reason why God has difficulty in getting us to listen to Him is that there is sin within us as a result of not walking in the light. We say, "Lord, speak to me."

God answers, "I did speak, but you wouldn't take it."

We say, "I didn't want that. Lord, speak to me."

"I am speaking."

"No, Lord, speak to me."

God is trying to reach us, and we hear Him to the degree that we are walking in the light. Is it possible that God is trying to speak to you along a certain line, but you are saying, "I know God wouldn't say that to me"?

When we get to the judgment, the Lord could look at us in much the same way and remind us of certain areas of our life, and we will be speechless. It's very important that we should be transparently honest with ourselves. The final tragic result of disobedience, of course, is that God stops speaking to us.

Excerpted from Worshipping God (Hodder & Stoughton, 2004). read more

How to Hear God

Have you ever thought God was saying something to you, but you weren't sure it was really His voice you were hearing? Have you found yourself thinking, How do I know it was really God I heard and not my own imagination—or worse, the enemy?

God's solution is simple: "'If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him'" (James 1:5, NIV). When we need to know if we are hearing God's voice, all we have to do is ask Him!

We can go to God, tell Him what we think we heard Him say, and then ask Him to confirm it or correct our hearing on the matter. God wants to give us an understanding of what He says to us because He wants to communicate with us. He is eager to teach us to correctly hear His voice. read more

power-hand

Tap Into God's Power

Ordinary believers should see God's power demonstrated regularly in their lives. Here's how to make sure you do.

Once when my children, Daniel and Madison, were small, our family visited Los Angeles. Both the kids were acting their age, poking each other in the back seat of our rental car and making accusations such as “Mom, he looked at me!” and “Mom, she breathed on me!”

I pulled into a service station to fill the car with gas before returning it to the car rental agency. As I did, a young man approached—he was wearing a bandana, had a bucket in his hand and started washing my front window. My first reaction was not very spiritual. I was about to tell him to go away when the Holy Spirit intervened. read more

Wisdom for Adversity

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. —Psalm 91:1

An elderly man stood up in a testimony service, waved his handkerchief, and said, "I've been serving the Lord for fifty years, and I want to testify that in that fifty years I have never been down-.-.-.-not one day-.-.-.-not one time."

There was also a young man in that service who had recently given his life to Jesus. He stopped the old man as he was leaving and said, "I don't understand. I gave my life to Jesus, and it seems like all hell broke loose. How can you say you have never been down?"

The old gentleman replied with words of wisdom, "Son, I've never been down, because I have always either been up or getting up."

If you are fighting a little adversity, dance longer, shout louder, and pray harder. Tell the devil you are not giving up; you are enduring to the end. Born-again, Spirit-filled believers may wobble, but they don't fall down. Claim His promise today: "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand" (Psalm 37:23-24).

Lord, whenever I stumble, lift me up by
Your hand. Uphold me in Your arms.
Cover me with Your wings. Shelter me in
the Rock. Amen. read more

I'll Never Become a Christian Because...


People who resist the gospel almost always use one of five generic excuses. Here's how you can respond.

All of us who follow Christ are called to the task of evangelism. Sadly, witnessing to unbelievers about the Christian faith is a scary prospect for many churchgoers.

I often hear their worries expressed like this: "But what if I get into a discussion and don't know the answer?" or "What if they get angry with me?" or "What if I end up looking stupid?"

We all struggle with the fear of being rejected. We also are afraid we will "lose" the argument. But we must understand that evangelism is not arguing.

First Peter 3:15 says: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" (NIV).

In Philemon we are encouraged to "be active in sharing [our] faith, so that [we] will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ" (v.6). Note that both of these verses are intended to be applied within the context of active evangelism--not passive religious discussion or arguing.

Jesus never argued with anybody. He certainly had His differences of opinion with the Pharisees, but He didn't fight with them.

The Bible says we are called to be witnesses--not debators. To be effective in evangelism we must simply learn to rely on the Holy Spirit's power--and be prepared to respond to the questions others have about our faith.

In my many witnessing experiences on college campuses, I've learned to lean on the Holy Spirit for guidance in my conversations. I've also learned that most people have the same common excuses.

But rest assured, God is not looking for expert witnesses who have doctorates in theology. He is looking for faithful witnesses who are willing to share their faith with others. Here are five of the most common objections people will express when you share the gospel with them:

1. Don't all religions teach basically the same things but just use different names for God?

Because of my father's job with the Canadian Embassy, I have traveled to and lived in more than 40 nations. I encountered a number of world religions, philosophies and ideologies in my own search for truth.

Looking beneath the surface similarities, the world's religions are significantly different. One major difference is the contradictory view of the nature of God.

For example, some forms of Buddhism do not teach about God at all. Hinduism teaches that multiple gods exist and that even rocks, trees and animals are part of these gods. Christianity teaches that God exists but that He is separate from all creation.

Because various world religions offer mutually exclusive definitions, they cannot possibly be descriptions of the same God.

Most religions see Jesus as a prophet from God but not as who He claimed to be--the incarnation of God Himself. The Bible describes Jesus in an unprecedented fashion found in no other sacred text--as "the Word became flesh" (John 1:14).

Other religions also deny that Jesus' mission was to give His life on the cross as a payment for our sins. Jesus is unique in that He not only claimed to be God but also proved it through His resurrection.

People who think all religions are the same usually ask, "As long as you are sincere, what difference does it make what you believe?" Consider Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson and Osama bin Laden. Were these men not sincere? Sincerity is never a measure of truth.

And sincerely believing something doesn't make it true. You can be sincere and wrong at the same time.

2. Isn't it narrow-minded for Christians to think they're the only ones who are right?

I hear the "Christians are narrow-minded" argument all the time. Modern pluralists say they want a "tolerant" society that embraces all religions and lifestyles. They want a world where anything goes.

Yet Jesus never talked about tolerance but rather commanded His followers to demonstrate a far higher objective--to show love to all people. Though it is possible to tolerate someone without loving him, the reverse is impossible.

Jesus was not a model of tolerance. He was so intolerant of our lost condition, in fact, that He came to Earth to do something about it! He was intolerant of a number of things, including sin, hypocrisy and selfishness.

The issue is not really with us. It was Jesus Himself who said: "'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me'" (John 14:6, NKJV).

Jesus claimed to be the unique pathway to God and to eternal life. The important question is whether or not we have good reason to accept His position over all the other options.

I say this to people who think Christianity is narrow-minded: "Do you believe that 1+1=2? Do you believe that water boils at 212 F at sea level? If so, should you be considered narrow-minded, or do you have good reason for believing these are the only acceptable answers?"

3. I don't believe the Bible. It is a book of myths and legends put together by pre-scientific men marked by superstitions and fears.

When people bring up this objection, I usually ask them, "Have you ever read the Bible?" Unfortunately, most haven't. If they respond positively, I ask them, "How much of the Bible have you read?" Typically they have read very little.

If they claim to have read the entire Bible I ask them, "What do you believe the central message of the Bible is?" At this point most get it wrong. The vast majority of people who have a negative opinion of the Bible have formulated it before reading the text.

We must remember, however, to be gentle when reminding people of their inconsistencies so that we don't discourage them from further dialogue as we direct them toward the cross.

The Bible stands head and shoulders above any work of antiquity for both trustworthiness and bibliographical accuracy. The New Testament, in particular, offers a greater number of surviving manuscript copies (about 24,000) and a shorter time span between copies (about 50 years) than any other bibliographical work in the world!

Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix comment in A General Introduction to the Bible, "For all practical purposes the modern critical editions of the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible represent, with their footnotes, exactly what the autographs (original documents) contained--line for line, word for word, and even letter for letter."

The Bible tells us that "above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:20-21, NIV). Like most other sacred texts, Scripture claims to be divinely inspired.

The uniqueness of the Bible is that it is the only holy book in the world having substitutionary atonement as its core belief. Jesus satisfied the demands of justice from a holy God, enabling the guilty parties (you and me) to be forgiven and experience true freedom through His death and resurrection.

No other religion in the world can offer you that. As you read the Bible, the Holy Spirit makes the text come alive, giving new understanding and revelation in a personally applicable way.

Because it is divinely inspired it consequently is authoritative to all areas of life. It speaks beyond the intellect to the depths of the heart, empowering us to make positive inner choices (repentance and faith) that produce beneficial lifestyle changes (regeneration and sanctification).

4. If a loving and all-powerful God really exists, why doesn't He do something about the evil in the world?

This is a difficult question. We must come to the realization that evil is not just some vague force that hovers around somewhere; instead it is personal and lives within each of us. If God wanted to get rid of evil, He would have to get rid of us as well!

God created us with a free will because He loves us. We can each choose to love and follow Him or to reject and turn away from Him. Without free will there would be no love.

We all have chosen at various times in our lives to rebel against Him and follow our own inclinations. Realizing we are part of the "evil" that people say God "should do something about" gives us a new and humble perspective.

With free will comes consequences for the things we choose. We live in a culture that cries out for freedom of choice but hates the responsibilities that come with it.

Consider the many lawsuits that have been initiated against fast food restaurants because people chose to eat there but then got fat. This "passing the buck" mentality is symptomatic of our fallen nature (see Gen. 3).

If God were to limit the consequences of evil, our free will would disappear, and moral consequences would become a mere game. Suffering often teaches us life's greatest lessons. In fact, the Bible says that even Jesus learned through what He suffered (see Heb. 5:8).

The Bible does tell us that God is both "just" and "merciful." In His mercy, He is patiently giving us time to turn to Him and receive the forgiveness and life He offers. God also promises that He will put an end to all evil and one day will execute final judgment.

Ironically, the existence of evil should lead us toward belief in God, not away from it. Without God there would be no standard of right and wrong.

The concepts of both "good" and "evil" are moral values or judgments that denote the existence of a moral governor (God). Without God, we would have come into existence by chance, and whatever we do would have no meaning or moral value, positive or negative.

Some people claim to believe this is the case, but their responses to life often reveal inconsistencies in their own convictions. As soon as they complain about some "injustice" or "unfair" situation or claim that someone has "wronged" them, they are making moral judgments about what is "right" and "wrong."

These judgments betray their belief in standards that are ultimately above us all--standards that come not from us but from God.

5. I don't believe in God. What kind of proof can you offer me that He exists?

Science points to the highly complex order in the universe. We also see complexity and order in the human body. Elementary logic tells us that any type of design demands a designer.

At this point another question often arises: Where did God Himself come from?

According to the Bible, God is the uncaused cause of all things. He has always existed.

In the Bible, His existence is considered an axiom (a self-evident truth). Because of the abundant evidence of Him in nature, He in no way attempts to justify that He exists.

But evidence is found in written history. Jewish, Roman, Greek and other sources all support the miraculous events of Jesus' life. Examples include His fulfilling more than 330 specific prophecies recorded hundreds of years earlier and performing numerous miracles.

The single biggest reason I know that God exists is that 23 years ago He changed my life in a way that was humanly impossible. I found that in spite of doing well both academically and athletically, there remained a distinct lack of overall purpose and direction to my life.

The ultimate fulfillment I sought was finally realized when I accepted Christ. His forgiveness and love has completely altered the course of my life. His peace and joy are now a daily reality.

Like me, most Christians have a testimony about the ways in which Jesus has changed their lives. If you learn to share your story effectively and to answer the objections unbelievers may pose, you will find evangelism easy and will bring many souls to faith in Jesus.

Darwin Dewar is associate pastor of Church on 99 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He is also a chaplain at the University of Alberta. read more

Yelling

Talk Your Way Out of Difficulty

The tongue is the red carpet we throw out to Satan to walk right into our lives with his special delivery of troubles.




Psalm 50:1-23 There is one promise of God that will be fulfilled in every life. Jesus said, "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Because we live in a fallen world, there will always be trouble.

This psalm reveals two important responses we should have when trouble comes our way. Verse 15 exhorts us to call upon the Lord in our day of trouble. Verse 23 exhorts us to praise the Lord and to order our conversation aright.



If we will call upon the Lord in the day of trouble, the promise is He will deliver us. If we will praise the Lord and order our conversation aright in the day of trouble, He will show us His salvation.



The moment we enter troublesome times, we should first pray—and then we should be careful about what we say. God will be glorified when we do these two things. If we fail to call upon God in our troubled times, the hope of being delivered through or out of the trouble will be slim.



Preventative medicine is better than a cure. A lot of the trouble we find ourselves in is self-inflicted. We have submitted to fleshly lusts instead of following the Spirit. The preventative medicine to keep us out of trouble is God’s Word and prayer. We can prevent the majority of troubles in our lives if we are not anxious about anything, but instead pray about everything. If we stay in God’s Word daily, chances are we will be able to discern the origin of the thoughts we have throughout the day. Our thoughts usually come from three sources: God, our own flesh or the devil. We will only be able to recognize the counterfeit if we know the Truth, and we find that in God’s Word. We only can take those thoughts captive to Jesus if we recognize who gave us those thoughts.



Another preventative medicine is to be careful about what we speak. There is a proverb that says, “He that keepeth his lips is wise; he keeps his soul from troubles.” We get into trouble many times just because we have not been wise in our speech.

David, when he wrote this psalm, knew that the only way God could be glorified in our lives was if we learned to order our conversations aright. The tongue is the red carpet we throw out to Satan to walk right into our lives with his special delivery of troubles.



Even if we guard our tongues, pray about everything and stay in God’s Word, some troubles will come our way simply because we live in a corrupt world. Tribulation is in the world and always will be until the Lord sets up His kingdom on earth. The moment trouble comes knocking on your door, you need to begin to praise the Lord because you know He is in control. His plan is to work good out of what Satan means for evil.

The moment you begin to praise the Lord, a glory shield is placed around you because you have ordered your conversation aright. You will not be overwhelmed by whatever trial is facing you. You will be at peace and can even experience fullness of joy in the presence of the Lord. read more

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