Count It All Joy…

Joy

2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2-8)

 

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Why does God allow innocent people to suffer?

suffering

This is one of the most difficult questions for Christians to answer.

The “problem of pain,” as the well-known Christian scholar, C.S. Lewis, once called it, is atheism’s most potent weapon against the Christian faith.

All true science and history, if rightly understood, support the fact of God. This evidence is so strong that, as the Bible says: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

Most atheists, therefore, without any objective evidence on which to base their faith in “no God”, must resort finally to philosophical objections. And this problem of suffering is the greatest of these.

That is, they say, how can a God of love permit such things in His world as war, sickness, pain, and death, especially when their effects often are felt most keenly by those who are apparently innocent? Either He is not a God of love and is indifferent to human suffering, or else He is not a God of power and is therefore helpless to do anything about it. In either case, the Biblical God who is supposedly one of both absolute power and perfect love becomes an impossible anachronism. Or so they claim!

This is a real difficulty, but atheism is certainly not the answer, and neither is agnosticism. While there is much evil in the world, there is even more that is good. This is proved by the mere fact that people normally try to hang on to life as long as they can. Furthermore, everyone instinctively recognizes that “good” is a higher order of truth than “bad”.

We need also to recognize that our very minds were created by God. We can only use these minds to the extent that He allows, and it is, therefore, utterly presumptuous for us to use them to question Him and His motives.

“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).

“Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, why hast Thou made me thus?” (Romans 9:20).

We ourselves do not establish the standards of what is right. Only the Creator of all reality can do that. We need to settle it, in our minds and hearts, whether we understand it or not, that whatever God does is, by definition, right.

Having settled this by faith, we are then free to seek for ways in which we can profit spiritually from the sufferings in life as well as the blessings. As we consider such matters, it is helpful to keep the following great truths continually in our minds.
There is really no such thing as the “innocent” suffering.

Since “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), there is no one who has the right to freedom from God’s wrath on the basis of his own innocence.

As far as babies are concerned, and others who may be incompetent mentally to distinguish right and wrong, it is clear from both Scripture and universal experience that they are sinners by nature and thus will inevitably become sinners by choice as soon as they are able to do so.

The world is now under God’s Curse (Genesis 3:17) because of man’s rebellion against God’s Word.

This “bondage of corruption,” with the “whole world groaning and travailing together in pain” (Romans 8:21, 22), is universal, affecting all men and women and children everywhere. God did not create the world this way, and one day will set all things right again. In that day, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain” (Revelation 21:4).

The Lord Jesus Christ, who was the only truly “innocent” and “righteous” man in all history, nevertheless has suffered more than anyone else who ever lived.

And this He did for us! “Christ died for our sins” (I Corinthians 15:3). He suffered and died, in order that ultimately He might deliver the world from the Curse, and that, even now, He can deliver from sin and its bondage anyone who will receive Him in faith as personal Lord and Savior. This great deliverance from the penalty of inherent sin, as well as of overt sins, very possibly also assures the salvation of those who have died before reaching an age of conscious choice of wrong over right.

With our full faith in God’s goodness and in Christ’s redemption, we can recognize that our present sufferings can be turned to His glory and our good.

The sufferings of unsaved men are often used by the Holy Spirit to cause them to realize their needs of salvation and to turn to Christ in repentance and faith. The sufferings of Christians should always be the means of developing a stronger dependence on God and a more Christ-like character, if they are properly “exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11).

Thus, God is loving and merciful even when, “for the present,” He allows trials and sufferings to come in our lives.

“For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

(ChristianAnswers.net)

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“How should I witness to my coworkers?”

coworkers-watercooler
When we interact with people on a daily basis, we have many opportunities for sharing our faith.

First, be sure you are respectful to your employer and set a good example in your work ethic by working as to the Lord (Colossians 3:23). When others around you grumble and complain, if you have a calm, forgiving, steadfast spirit, it will make an impression. As you respond in a Christlike way to angry coworkers and stressful circumstances, people will see a difference in your life.

Always be friendly and courteous, and show genuine interest in your coworkers lives. Invite them out to lunch to get better acquainted. Share their joys and sorrows by congratulating them in their good times and offering to pray for them in their bad times. Be sure you do pray for them, then follow up by asking them about the situation you prayed for. They will be moved by your concern.

If coworkers are discussing what they did during the previous weekend, you can share your excitement about attending church services or a special church event. Ask others if they have any plans for celebrating Christmas or Easter, be nonjudgmental of their answer, but be ready (if asked) to explain why you celebrate as you do. Displaying a favorite Scripture or a devotional calendar, or reading your Bible during lunchtime may prompt others to inquire about your faith.

Bringing home-baked goods or leaving a small gift with a note on a coworkers desk can sometimes have a greater impact than a thousand eloquent sermons. We can show our faith by our works. Others may not like a tree of righteousness, but they cannot help but like it’s fruit. Pray for opportunities to share the gospel, being careful not to infringe on your boss’s time.

(The Evidence Bible)

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Daily Thought

David&Goliath
It takes courage to go where God leads. He’ll often take you right to the doorstep of your greatest fears, put you face-to-face with someone you can’t stand to be around, or bring a situation into your life that seems impossible to work out. Don’t panic. Those are the times when you can really see God’s power in action.

You were never created to handle tough times alone. Consider David. The only reason he could conquer a giant was because God was with him. You have the same advantage. God is fighting every battle with you, never against you. So take courage. Stand up to the giants in your life. With God’s help, victory is at hand.

Heavenly Father, many situations in life seem to be difficult to handle, but I know that because You are with me, I can have the courage to face anything that comes my way. I commit to stand up to the giants in my life with Your gracious help. Amen.

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Is it normal for a Christian to doubt his or her Salvation? (Short Audio Message)

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How Can I Be Sure of My Salvation?

assurance

There are two important tests in Scripture for a person to determine whether or not he or she is a true believer.

There is first of all an objective test, which asks, “Do I believe?” Ask yourself if you affirm the Scripture’s record of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Do you believe that He is God manifest in the flesh? Do you believe that God saves sinners solely through the merits of Jesus Christ’s obedient life and substitutionary death on the cross?

Second is the subjective or experiential test of assurance in which you ask yourself, “Is my faith real?” The apostle John’s purpose in writing the epistle of 1 John was to give true believers assurance of their salvation (1 John 5:13). In that small epistle John gives several marks to distinguish a true believer.

  • True believers walk in the light (1 John 1:6-7). The light here means both intellectual and moral truth. Ask, “Do I affirm the truths of Scripture, and desire to obey them?”
  • True believers confess their sin (1:8-2:1) Confess here doesn’t mean to recite every wrong that we have ever done. Rather, it means to agree with God about our sin. That means that true believers hate their sin; they don’t love it. They acknowledge they are sinful, and yet they know they are forgiven.
  • True believers keep His commandments (2:3-4; 5:2-3). The term here refers to a watchful, observant obedience. Here the believer desires to obey truths he deems precious. It involves a proactive approach to obedience-the Christian studies Scripture in order to understand and obey it.
  • True believers love the brethren (2:9-11; 3:10, 14-15; 5:2). Ask yourself the question, “Do I love God’s people and desire to be around them?”
  • True believers affirm sound doctrine (2:20-23; 4:2,6). John here teaches that no true believer will fall into any serious, Christ-denying error or heresy.
  • True believers follow after holiness (2:29; 3:3-4, 6-9). These verses certainly aren’t talking about sinless perfection, or even the frequency or duration of sin. The term sin in these verses describes one who lives an immoral, ungodly, unrighteous life as a matter of continual practice, and carries the attitude of hardened hate for God’s righteousness.
  • True believers have the Holy Spirit (4:13; 5:10-11). This is an over-arching test summing up all the others. Is there evidence that the fruit of the Spirit is present in your life (Galatians 5:22-23)?

In summary, one’s assurance of salvation does not need to be based on a past decision or an experience. It should rest first of all on one’s faith in the objective truth of God’s Word, Jesus Christ, and the gospel. Secondly, it should rest on the reality of a changed life marked by obedience, a love for Christ and His righteousness, and a hatred for sin. Take heart if these things are true in your life, and trust God to continue to work out His salvation in your life.

By John MacArthur ~ Grace to You Ministry

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Daily Verse ~ Psalm 112:1

Cross
1 Praise the LORD!

Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
Who delights greatly in His commandments.

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Is Hell a Real Place?

hell
There are two descriptions of hell in the Bible. One is of a burning fire. Jesus often used the word GEHENNA to describe hell. Gehenna was the refuse dump outside Jerusalem that was always on fire. Jesus said hell was a place of worms, maggots, fire, and trouble. From that we get the image of a lake of fire and the concept of perpetual burning. The evil ones there are full of remorse and torment (see Mark 9:43-48).

Jesus also said that hell would be “outer darkness.” He said that some in His day “will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12, see also Matthew 22:13). Here the image is one of terrible loneliness. There will be separation from God and man. Those who are consigned to hell will be put out into the inky blackness of eternity, with nobody to turn to, nobody to talk to, and they will be constantly alone. They will suffer the remorse of knowing they had the opportunity to come into heaven with God but turned it down.

The Bible speaks of a lake of fire reserved for the devil and his angels (see Matthew 25:41). Human beings were never intended to go into hell. But the ones who choose to reject God will one day follow Satan right into hell.

There will be no exit from hell, no way out, no second chance. That is why it is so important in this life to receive the pardon that God extends to all men through the cross of Jesus Christ.

HOW CAN GOD SEND PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER HEARD OF CHRIST TO HELL?

God does not send people to hell because they never heard of Christ. He sends people to hell because they have sinned. The judgment for sin will be in relationship to how much they knew. To phrase it another way, it is action in light of privilege. A person living in America has maximum spiritual privilege. Therefore the spiritual standard for America would be the gospel of Jesus and everything in the Old and New Testaments. But someone who grew up in an uncivilized jungle might be held to account for the fact that something in his conscience told him there is a Creator worthy of his worship. The Bible says his conscience will either accuse him or excuse him on the day of Jesus Christ (see Romans 2:14-16). God is not going to condemn people if their own consciences excuse them. Regretfully, every human being has sinned against his or her own conscience.

God does not judge people for failure to believe in Jesus, but because they are sinners. The problem is that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). For those who have received Jesus Christ as Savior, there will be forgiveness and mercy.

By CBN.com

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What is Heaven Like?

heaven3
Heaven is where God is. He is the light of heaven, the joy of heaven. As you mature in your understanding of the Bible, you realize there is no material concept of heaven that will do it justice. The Bible talks about streets of gold as clear as crystal and walls made out of precious stones (see Revelation 21:18-21). All sorts of images immediately come to mind when we mention heaven. More than anything else, heaven is a spiritual condition where one spiritual being is in touch with another spiritual being, and there is total communication and fellowship.

Whatever we consider to be a joy here on earth will be heightened millions of times beyond anything we can conceive when we get to heaven. The apostle Paul put it this way: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9).

In the Middle Ages philosophers talked about the “ultimate good.” The ultimate good to them was being in the presence of God. That will be the greatest aspect of heaven. Those who are there will be in His immediate presence, in a way no one can possibly know this side of eternity.

Being in God’s presence will bring an intensity of delight that will far exceed anything we could know here on earth. Furthermore, in heaven there will be neither death, nor sorrow, nor sickness, nor poverty.

“He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be nor more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).

The Bible also talks about crowns and thrones in heaven, so we do know that heaven is not just a huge democracy where there is no differentiation of function (see Revelation 4:4-11). There will be different functions and different levels of responsibility assigned to different people. For there will still be levels of order and structure throughout God’s universe.

The Bible says that those human beings who are fortunate enough to enter into heaven will actually judge angels (see I Corinthians 6:3). The fallen angels — or demons — will come before us and we will decide their fates. Perhaps people will be assigned to watch over a planet or two. We do not know for certain what tasks we will be performing in heaven, but there will obviously be an ongoing, functioning universe. We will be God’s messenger-agents in ordering and running it.

There are many things about heaven we do not really know. Will there be animals in heaven? The Bible says that Jesus will be riding on a white horse when He returns to reign on the earth, but we do not know if this is a literal horse (see Revelation 19:11). A white horse represents purity and power, so this may be symbolic. We cannot say for sure if there will be animals of any kind in heaven, but I believe there will be.

We do know that we will be able to recognize our loved ones in heaven, and we will experience great joy over being reunited with them (see Luke 23:42-43, Hebrews 12:22-23). Your real self will live on in heaven, not some shadowy part of you. You will never feel so alive as when you enter into the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem God has prepared for the saints.

There is also going to be an extension of man’s mind beyond anything we could begin to understand now. There will be an opening of understanding into the secrets and mysteries of the universe. Furthermore, in heaven there will be no fear of any kind of evil, and God will provide magnificently for His people.

What is heaven like? It is better than anything any human being could ever imagine when he tries to picture the best thing that could ever happen to him. Beyond that, there is not much else we could say!

By CBN.com

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Jesus’ Selflessness

TheCross

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8

This passage is so rich; we only have space to examine one jewel. It’s the phrase, He “made himself nothing” (v.7a). Notice, Jesus “made Himself.” He didn’t get a memo. He wasn’t pushed out of heaven. He was fully engaged in God’s whole plan!

That phrase there, “made himself nothing,” is actually the basis for a lot of false teaching. Some translations rightly put it, “He emptied Himself.” Then the question becomes, emptied Himself of what? Some falsely suggest that Jesus emptied Himself of Deity and that He literally became a first-century Jewish man; that there was no God, just Jesus, the man. But the Bible teaches the Incarnation of Jesus, 100 percent God; 100 percent man, undiminished Deity dwelling in humanity.

You ask, “Well, what did He empty Himself of then?”

Answer, at least five things:

  • He emptied Himself of glory. In John 17:5, Jesus prayed, “Glorify me…with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” He gave up the adoration of the saints and angels when He came into this world.
  • He emptied Himself of independent authority. In John 5:30, Jesus said, “I can do nothing on My own.” He brought Himself into a different relationship with the Father, where ALL of His activities and actions had to be cleared in that unusual way. Though equal with the Father, now uniquely submissive to Him.
  • He released the voluntary exercise of His divine attributes. Compare John 1:43–51 with Matthew 24:36 to see how Jesus sometimes was omniscient and sometimes not.
  • He gave up eternal riches. I just want you to try to imagine for a moment the treatment that the Son of God, the King of the universe, gets in heaven. Yet 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “…though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
  • He gave up His intimate relationship with the Father. Who can describe the fellowship that exists between the first and second Person of the Trinity? And to hear Jesus on the cross in Matthew 27:46 shouting, “My God, why have You forsaken Me?” He made Himself nothing—for you and me.

James MacDonald

Dr. James MacDonald ~ Pastor

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