Anchored to the Distant Shore

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. – Micah 7:18-19

Even as Christians, the greatest storm we face is the sin that rages in us. It crouches at our door, its desire is for us, and its only fruit is destruction. It threatens to sear our consciences, hinder our prayers, and even cause our love for Christ to grow cold. But even when we fail, and some of these things begin to be seen in our lives, let us never forget that our God will have compassion on His children. He delights in mercy, He will turn again to us to subdue our iniquities, and cast’s our sins to the depths of the sea.

Do you see dear believer what hope is found in this Scripture? God is not looking to help you because you have been perfect and you deserve to be helped. He desires to pardon your iniquity. He knows you have sinned and need to be delivered. He has placed the wrath that your sins deserve on Christ your substitution. And though your sinful heart still threatens to toss you where it will, like a lost vessel on an angry sea, our God anchors you with a strong and secure hope.

Grab hold of Christ who is that hope. Like an anchor securing a ship on a stormy sea has plunged beneath the veil of the water and cannot be seen, so Christ has entered within the veil; where he has gone as a forerunner on your behalf (Heb. 6:17). And though we cannot see Him at this moment, the hope he has given us is like a secure chain anchored to the throne of God, which is pulling us home through the tumultuous sea.

As the storms grow stronger, by His grace He strengthens our hold upon this hope, as we learn that nothing else can save us. The tighter we hold to our hope, the more tight the line between us and our true home becomes, until we can feel it pulling us homeward.

Though the storms of sin surround, take heart that your sins have been removed, and you are anchored to the distant shore through Christ. Fear not, for no surer hope has ever been tested, and as your love for this world slowly weakens, you will notice the chain between you and your true home has become that much shorter. When you see this, you will know He has turned to you, and is having compassion upon you, because this is work that only He can do.

Let us end with a short verse by Charles Spurgeon, who inspired most of the content of this devotion.

Let the winds blow, and billows roll,
Hope is the anchor of my soul.
But can I by so slight a tie,
And unseen hope, on God rely?
Steadfast and sure, it cannot fail,
It enters deep within the veil,
It fastens on a land unknown,
And moors me to my Father’s throne.

D. Eaton

The Spiritual Pulse of the Renewed Soul

“Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.” -Lamentations 3:41

Prayer is the spiritual pulse of the renewed soul; its beat indicates the healthy or unhealthy state of the believer. Just as the physician would decide upon the health of the body from the action of the pulse, so would we decide upon the spiritual health of the soul before God, by the estimation in which prayer is held by the believer. If the soul is in a spiritually healthy, growing state, prayer will be vigorous, lively, spiritual, and constant; if, on the contrary, the heart is wandering, and love waxes cold, and faith is decaying, the spirit and the habit of prayer will immediately betray it.

The spirit of prayer may decline in the believer, and he may not at once be sensible of it. The form and the habit of prayer may for a while continue—but the spirit of prayer has evaporated, and all is coldness and dullness—the very torpor and frigidity of death! But of what real worth is the habit of prayer, apart from the spirit of prayer? Just what this planet would be without the sun, or the body without the living, animating, breathing soul—what but a cold, lifeless form? Yes, and a believer may be beguiled into this lamentable state, and not a suspicion of its existence be awakened; he may observe his accustomed habit, and use his empty form, and not suspect that all is cold and breathless as death itself. Oh, it is not the rigidly-observed form that God looks at; nor is it great volubility, and eloquent fluency, and rich sentiment, and splendid imagery, and rounded periods, that God regards: far from this; a man may not be able to give expression to his deep emotion in prayer, his thoughts may find no vehicle of utterance, language may entirely fail him; and yet the spirit of prayer may glow in his breast—and this—the true language of prayer—finds its way to the ear and to the heart of God. Reader, look well to the state of your soul; examine your prayers; see that you have not substituted the cold form for the glowing spirit—the mere body for the soul. Real prayer is the breathing of God’s own Spirit in the heart: have you this? It is communion and fellowship with God: know you what this is? It is brokenness, contrition, confession, and that often springing from an overwhelming sense of His goodness and His love shed abroad in the heart: is this your experience? Again, we repeat it, look well to your prayers; test them, not by the natural or acquired gift which you may possess—this is nothing with God; but test them by the real communion you have with God—the returns they make to your soul.

There should be the searching out and the removal of that which hinders prayer. Many things weaken true prayer: unsubdued sin—unrepented sin—unpardoned sin (we mean the secret sense of it upon the conscience)—worldly-mindedness—light and trifling conversation, vain disputations—much and frequent communion either with unconverted individuals, or cold and formal professors—all these combined, or any single one, will, if suffered to prevail, unfit the mind for converse with God, and cause a decay of the spirit of prayer in the soul. Regard that as injurious which touches the devotional frame of your mind, which abridges the hour of prayer, and removes the fine edge of its holy enjoyment.

-Octavius Winslow (1808-1878)

Barnabas Brothers

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.” – 1 Thess 5:11

Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul wrote this passage for believers living in a land where they were at odds with the sinful culture around them. He implored with them that, at all times and in all places, Christians are to help one another with their burdens and cares as they navigate through the trials of life.

Well before Paul wrote any of his letters, before the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, and even before the major and minor prophets of the Old Testament, God demonstrated his grace in the life of Moses. After leading the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage, Moses was overwhelmed with the quarreling and day-to-day disputes among the people and his expected role as the one who would resolve all conflicts. He was in desperate need of wise and godly counsel.

For Moses, wisdom was given by his father-in-law Jethro, who offered insight to help decrease the burdens Moses was experiencing. And notice that in Exodus 18:21, Jethro mentioned the qualifications of those who were to share in carrying these burdens:
• Capable
• God-fearing
• Trustworthy
• Haters of dishonest profit

We should be people who exhibit these qualifications, and these qualities should also be applied to the people with whom we share our own burdens in today’s world.

Now the question is, how do we go about sharing our concerns?

Many self-described Christians stay away from church, saying there are too many hypocrites inside. But God’s Word tells us that we should not neglect “to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” Church fellowship is more than just a service we attend once a week on Sunday morning. It is a group of people from the larger body of Christ that God has, in His divine providence and mercy, placed directly in our lives to rejoice with, share with, pray with and be encouraged by. This is a gift of fellowship that we need to take advantage of every day as we seek to build one another up in the faith in which we are also being sanctified.

May God encourage all of us to continue in fellowship with our brothers and sisters as we seek Him while being co-laborers in all of our struggles.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. – Gal 6:9-10

______________________

-Written by Dan Seager – Dan is a good friend of mine with a great grasp on Christian truth. He is starting a new blog called Barnabas Brothers. Be sure to check it out. Content coming soon!

Follow Dan on Twitter at @Patriotbone

12 Things God Does for the Believer

Do you love Me?” – John 21:17

Does not Jesus in thus appealing to me, in effect say:

  • For you, I left the realms of glory, and the adoration of ten thousand times ten thousand holy ones!
  • For you, I became incarnate, took on the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.
  • For you, I obeyed the law and wrought a perfect righteousness for your justification.
  • For you, I endured the cross, and despised the shame.
  • For you, I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to those who plucked off the hair.
  • For you, I endured the crown of thorns and gave My hands and My feet to be nailed to the tree.
  • For you, I shed My blood, and laid down My life!
  • I loved you with a love of pity and compassion—when you were dead in trespasses and sins!
  • I opened your eyes, revealed to you your sinfulness and guilt, and awakened your cry for mercy.
  • I sought you in your wanderings—and found you!
  • I brought you up out of the horrible pit, and miry clay—and set your feet upon the rock.
  • I have loved you with an everlasting love—and therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you!

-Unknown Puritan Author-

Distressed Yet Victorious

Distressed Yet VictoriousAnd He took with Him Peter and James and John and began to be very distressed and troubled. – Mark 14:33

If our Lord, who was sinless, had times in which He became distressed, how should we who are sinful expect to escape them? There have been many people who have preached what is called the “Victorious Christian life.” Although this is never actually stated, if you extend the arguments out, what is implied with this type of teaching is that if we walk close enough to the Lord and spend enough time in prayer and devotion, we will attain some kind of abundant life which enables us to walk in victory and be above sin and distress. When trials come, our faith will be stable, and we will feel at perfect rest knowing God is in control, and there are clearly times when we will go through outward trials with this sort of inner success.

However, to imagine that we can reach a point where we will not have times of heaviness and distress is not scriptural. For even our Lord had to face times like this, and He had no sin to remember in His times of trouble. Times of distress will plague us all, but in our grief, we are not to feel like we have failed to reach some spiritual peak, or as if we lack some, “deeper Christian life.” This type of thinking can lead to a spiritual elitism, which can excite pride when times are smooth. In fact, many in the church get so caught up in trying to reach these allusive spiritual peaks, that they have forgotten what pure an undefiled religion is, visiting orphans and widows, helping the poor and the downtrodden, and extending grace to the sinner.

The very phrase “Victorious Christian life” is redundant because to be a Christian is to be victorious. You cannot be a child of God and not have the victory. If you are a child of God, He is your Shepherd, and this Shepherd cannot fail. Though He may bring you through High water, He will be with you. In the dark valley of death, you may tremble, but He will not falter. There will be times where He will forge you over the fires, and all of this is done is to fulfill His purposes in your life. This does not mean the fire will not be hot, or that the hammer will not sting. As one southern preacher said, “When the Lord sends tribulation, He ‘spects us to tribulate.” As Christians, we will share in the sufferings of Christ and this suffering causes pain and distress, if it doesn’t, it’s not suffering.

When trouble and distress are upon us, we are to fight it, not by trying to reach some higher state of spirituality, but by holding on to the truth that He will bring us through every trial victoriously. Nothing, not even death itself can separate us from His love.
Failure and victory are not determined by feelings, but by our actual position in Christ, regardless of what our emotions tell us. Trust Him to lead you through and remember when Christ looks on those who are distressed, He has compassion, and is near to those who call upon Him in prayer. He is doing something through our sorrow, and we must trust Him with it. We must remember that the distress our Lord felt in the scripture above, led to the most significant victory that has ever been won.

My soul at times will not be still,
And tremblings with my heart doth fill
Yet perfect bliss was not His pledge
Nor paradise within His hedge
But every trial will be endured.
The victory has been secured.
And death itself’s a vanquished foe
By resurrection’s mighty blow.

How God Gets Camels Through a Needle’s Eye

Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. – Matthew 19:24

How can God get camels through a needle’s eye, and what exactly is the difficulty to which this metaphor is referring? The context of this passage speaks volumes about the depravity of man and the grace of God. Jesus is talking privately to His disciples about the rich young ruler who walked away because his love for worldly treasures was greater than his love for the things of God. Jesus proceeds by stating that it is easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Matthew Henry makes some interesting observations when he says, “The way to heaven is fitly compared to the needle’s eye, which is hard to hit and hard to get through. Secondly, a rich man is fitly compared to a camel, a beast of burden, for he has riches, as the camel has his load.”

Jesus tells us that the road to heaven is difficult by calling it narrow, and He reiterates it by relating it to the eye of a needle, but we must be careful what we call difficult, because we know we cannot work our way to heaven and our striving cannot add anything to our salvation. So what is the difficulty that is being revealed here? The problem stems from our fallen nature. Our nature at birth is at enmity with God and loves the world. We know that “if any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 Jn. 2:15).” We also know if the love of the Father is in a person, then He has faith and therefore is saved. The difficulty is changing from a person who loves the world to one who loves the Father.

The rich man has twice the difficulty because he not only has to contend with his fallen nature but, like the camel, has heaped upon his back the burden of his riches, which his fallen nature clings to with iron clad shackles. The poor do not escape easily either because the world is full of charms, which our nature is bound to, but with wealth, we have greater means to pursue them.

The disciples are astonished at this teaching and respond with a serious question, “then who can be saved?” Jesus’ response is important because it is the key to salvation. He states, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” The difficulty of turning away from the world and breaking the fetters that bind us cannot be done by anything we do. In fact, because we are attached to the world with such a strong love for it, we do not desire to alter our affections away from it. The love of the world is in us and will never be removed without divine intervention, but, praise God, all things are possible with Him. He is the one who breaks the chains and places in us a love for the Father, and He never fails. Even if this work is being done in a rich man’s life, the love of the world, even with his passion for riches, will be conquered by the work of grace.

Salvation is the gift of God; no man in his fallen nature will ever turn his own heart to faith without God working it in Him. If we find ourselves desiring God over the riches of this world, praise Him because we could have never come to that point had God not wrought it in us. Riches, though not evil in themselves, are bindings that hold many out of the kingdom of God. May God do for us what is impossible for us to do ourselves.

Book Review: Voices From The Past – Puritan Devotional Readings

Book Review_Voices from the Past

A good devotional is like a spiritually-minded friend who turns your eyes away from the things of the world and sets them on things above whenever you spend time with them; both are extremely rare. There are too many devotionals these days that are like poorly made junk food. Not only do they lack nourishment, but they also leave a bad taste in your mouth. Since good devotionals are so limited, when you find one you want to hold onto it for a lifetime.  An obvious example is Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening.

A little over a year ago I received Voices from the Past, edited by Richard Rushing, as a gift, and what a gift it was. This devotion is a collection of writings from great Christian writers like John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, and Thomas Watson et. al. If you are looking for substance in your daily reading, this is the book for you. Rarely will a day go by where you are not given something that spurs you on in godliness. It will comfort you where you need to be comforted, and it will convict you where you need to be convicted.

If you are looking for a new devotional, I highly recommend this one. There is a second volume as well, which I will also be purchasing. If you would like to read a sample entry from this book, click the link below.

How to resist the Devil – William Gurnall

What are your favorite devotionals? Let us know in the comments.

We Are the Lepers

With hearts as black as drossFilled with the obsceneAll paid for on the crossHe_ll there pronounce us clean

Then the priest shall look, and if the leprous disease has covered all his body, he shall pronounce him clean of the disease; it has all turned white, and he is clean. Lev. 13:13

This verse may seem strange to many of today’s readers, but if leprosy had only covered part of the body and not all of the flesh was white, that man would be pronounced unclean. On the other hand, if the disease covered his entire body, the man would be pronounced clean. This is because the flesh that was not yet white was still contagious, but if his flesh was completely white, the disease was no longer transmittable.

As interesting as this is, this text teaches us something much deeper for leprosy in scripture is often a representation of sin. We are the lepers. We are diseased with sin and completely full of guilt, but in our natural state, we strive to deny that truth. We go to great lengths to deny our unworthiness before God, thinking that we can somehow justify ourselves. Even if we admit that we are somewhat sinful, we still tend to think that God owes us something. In that condition, as we stand before the true high priest Jesus Christ, we are pronounced unclean. It is not until we stand before him in complete poverty of spirit, knowing we have nothing to offer Him, admitting that we are completely sinful saying, “you have every right to pour your wrath upon me, but I plead the merits of your sacrifice on the cross,” does Christ say to us, “you are clean.”

Though we have nothing to offer
We must go to the High Priest
To present our empty coffer
With self-righteousness deceased

With hearts as black as dross
Filled with the obscene
All paid for on the cross
He’ll there pronounce us clean

He Stands Between the Mighty and the Weak

He stands between the mighty and the weak!

O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. – 2 Chronicles 14:11

I am weak, oh Lord, and you are mighty. Today, I have been brought low, and in my weakness, I must face the day. The work and responsibilities ahead of me seem daunting. In light of my limited strength, they are mighty, yet You stand between the mighty and the weak. You are my strength.

I know this because the most significant contrast between might and strength that I have experienced was when I stood before You in my sinfulness. The Omnipotent One at enmity against His defiant and foolish creature. The Lord of all of heaven against mere dust.

First, You devastated my defiance by showing me my sinfulness. Then you let me lay prostrate in the mire so that I could see what I rightly deserved from Your hand. In Your justice, your bow was bent, arrows waiting, and I had no defense. Yet even there, You stood between the mighty and the weak by sending Your Son.

Jesus stepped in, and You took the arrows of Your wrath, directed them at Him and without mercy, let them fly. He willingly, without a word took the full brunt of what I deserved; satisfying Your righteousness and justice. With your quiver empty and your bow at rest, You gathered me up and called me Your own. Oh, what manner of love it is that we should be called sons and daughters of God.

Now, as I go out in my weakness to face the full strength of this day, I know all will be well. In my deficiency, You will be my abundance, and the mighty will fall. When the day comes that You allow the mighty to overtake me, it will be because you will be delivering me in the most profound way yet. You will be setting me free from this fallen world to live with You for all eternity.

Faith in College: 7 Ways to Stay Strong

Image result for faith in college

(The following is a quote from Greg L. Bahnsen’s book Pushing the Antithesis)

A busy academic and social schedule in college can easily pull the Christian away from God’s Word. But remember: you cannot defend God and His Word if you are not sanctified (set apart) for Him by means of contact with His Word. Too many Christian Students drift away from the faith in college because they have not been prepared for the spiritual and apologetic battles they will face. Dr. Gary North once wrote an article advertising a Christian college. The article showed a dejected father who had sent his son off to a secular college. It stated: “I spent $40,000 to send my son to hell.”

Seven Practices Christians Must Do in College.

1. Frequently remind yourself of the nature of spiritual warfare. In order to prepare yourself for your college classes, at the beginning of each semester you should re-read the biblical passages that demonstrate the active antagonism of the unbelieving world against your Christian faith. You must not forget the nature of the unbeliever’s challenge to your holistic (all encompassing) faith.

2. Diligently seek to evaluate everything you are being taught from a principled Christian perspective. After classes each day, jot down comments on the contradictions to the Christian faith which you encountered. Keep them in a notebook. Writing things down is the best secret to a good memory. Reflect on biblical answers to these supposed contradictions.

3. Develop small Bible study and accountability groups with other Christian students on campus. A part of defending the faith involves promoting its defense even among believers. As a Christian in fellowship with other Christians, you should urge fellow believers to realize their spiritual obligation to defend the faith before and unbelieving world.

4. Seek out any Christian campus ministries that are strongly committed to the Bible and are developing the Christian life. Attend their meetings and involve yourself in their ministries.

5. Find a good church in the area of your college. Commit yourself to attend church regularly. As Christians, we must not be “forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another” (Heb. 10:25).

6. Where possible use class assignments to present the Christian perspective on issues. We would recommend that you avoid narrow testimonial types of papers. You should rather discretely develop worldview oriented themes that work basic Christian principles into the picture. In-your-face testimonials might be an affront to your professor and may appear to be a challenge to him. But working out your biblical principles might alert him to the philosophical implications of Christianity and will certainly help you flesh out your own understanding. You must be about “making the most of your time” while in college . . . You will certainly not find your professors assigning papers that encourage your Christian faith. But you must seek the opportunities—when they are allowed.

7. As a well-rounded Christian seeking to glorify Christ, you must approach your academic studies in a mature and diligent fashion. Your are both paying hard-earned money for a college education and spending your God-given time in college; make the most of your investment. Do not cut corners in your studies or simply try to “get by.” Christ calls you to excellence. Some students are naturally lazy, others suffer from voluntary inertia. Do not allow your educational experience to inadvertently teach you to be intellectually lazy. Such laziness is disloyalty to Christ.

-Greg L. Bahnsen; Pushing the Antithesis