Michael Boling – A Form of Godliness: Fasting, Social Justice and the Sabbath: An Exposition of Isaiah 58:1-14

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Exposition of the Text

Introduction
The pericope of Isaiah 58:1-14 is an exhortation-laden oracle denouncing Israel’s lack of spiritual perspicuity and their penchant to acquiesce to pagan cultic rituals as a method to coerce God into action. Through the prophet Isaiah, God declared that a complete dénouement to such behavior was a precursor to the renewal of a covenant relationship with their Creator. If Israel was to experience the benefits and blessings of the covenant, a cessation of a form of godliness was in order. True godliness, according to Isaiah 58, must evince a concern for the poor and downtrodden, a rejection of selfish motives, and a delight in the original intent of the Sabbath. Isaiah 58 evinces the need for the people of God to reevaluate their relationship with both God and their fellow man. Additionally, it reiterates an ongoing message in Isaiah’s prophetic discourse; God desires obedience rather than sacrifice.

Matthew 22:37-40 states the entirety of the Law and the Prophets hinges on loving God and loving others. The Isaiah 58:1-14 pericope reveals that attempts to manipulate God through selfishly motivated acts of piety, while having the appearance of probity, are repulsive to God. As noted by John Walton, the Israelite’s attempts at godliness were “selfish and oppressive. Instead of their religion making them a blessing to those around them, as God intended it made them a curse.” As such, their devotion was nothing more than a verisimilitude preventing God from pouring out his justice and mercy on them. Ironically, it was God’s blessings which Israel hoped to acquire through means of their cultic expressions. In order for Israel to experience the covenant blessings and thus enjoy Sabbath rest, a paradigm shift was required. But wait, there’s more!

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Simon Turpin – The Enduring Authority of Scripture, Really?

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Introduction

Because of the attack on the authority of Scripture over the last few decades, a new 1,248-page book, The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures, edited by New Testament scholar D.A. Carson, was recently released with the aim of defending the authority of the Scriptures. While there are many positive aspects about the book, the chapter on Science and Scripture ironically undermines the very purpose of the book: defending the authority of Scripture.

The chapter on science was written by a theistic evolutionist, Dr. Kirsten Birkett. This article critiques several of the arguments used against young-earth creation as well as those used to establish Birkett’s own position that the consensus view of origins among scientists is compatible with the authority of Scripture.

Science and Scripture

Birkett opens her chapter by asking a good question:

What do we do with knowledge from outside of Scripture? How should we best understand the discoveries that Christians or non-Christians are making about the world around us?

This is an important question because we all need to consider what to make of scientific discoveries. However, over the last few centuries the discoveries that scientists find in nature have been primarily interpreted according to the framework of naturalism. As Christians, we must keep in mind that sin has affected how we view discoveries in nature (i.e., general revelation). Theologian Louis Berkhof states that “since the entrance of sin into the world, man can gather true knowledge about God from His general revelation only if he studies it in the light of Scripture” — that is, general revelation in light of special revelation. This does not mean that we can learn nothing from studying nature. Rather, our interpretations of the discoveries made in nature must be consistent with the special revelation found in Scripture.

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Michael Boling – Wise Financial Living: Removing the Heavy Burden of Debt

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A focus in my home for 2016 is that of getting out of debt. Now we are not drowning in the throes of piles of unpayable debts; however, things such as car payments, credit card payments, and other bills of that nature are becoming continuous “ankle-biters” we have determined need to be addressed. The reasons are numerous. First, we are tired of making “payments” into perpetuity which of course is one of the allures of credit, namely the ability to stretch out payments far into the future to accommodate a purchase in the present. Second, dealing with these bills obviously will free up funds for other things such as paying off our mortgage much earlier, saving for retirement, saving for college tuition for our daughter, or the many other wise financial preparations necessary these days.

Moving in this direction takes a conscious and concerted effort. Each purchase encounters a bit more extra scrutiny along the lines of “Do we really need that at this time and can it wait.” Impulse purchase become few and far between. Now mind you, I earn a good living and I have a very steady job so getting out of debt is not based on financial inabilities or the fear of losing income. It really is based on what I believe to be the need for holiness when it comes to matters in the financial realm. Let me explain why I made that last statement.

The statistics for credit card debt alone for the average family is truly staggering. A July 2014 article I ran across recently states the following:

– $7,087: Average household credit card debt.
– $15,191: Average balance for households that have any credit card debt.

Now remember that is the average which means there are many who are below those amounts and many who are above those amounts. Furthermore, this merely reflects average credit card debts and does not reflect car payments, student loans, mortgage loans, or any number of other commonly held consumer debt.

When it comes to car loan debt, statistics show that the average American household has a car loan debt of right around $17K. Add to that an average mortgage debt of $155K and you come up with a grand total average debt of just these three typical loans of $179K of indebtedness again for the average American household. Those with student loan debts can add another $33K to that amount and you have quickly surpassed being $200K in debt. Essentially the average American has knowingly been sold into the slavery of debt for the “pleasure” of a new car, fleeting possessions, and that American of all dreams – the joy of home ownership.

Now I am certainly not opposed to having things and I do not affirm the poverty gospel. On the other hand, I most certainly do not affirm the prosperity gospel. I affirm THE gospel which is sharing the good news of redemption, salvation, relationship which is also rooted in the need for holiness in all aspects of our life to include how we approach and use the funds God blesses us with.

In my home, we have come to a realization that indebtedness not only hampers sound financial decisions, it also hampers our ability to spread the gospel and to love God and love others. When the focus of the entirety of your money is directed at paying on debts for things that rust and destroy and where thieves could easily break in and steal, then the question has to be asked if you are really laying up treasure for more eternal matters. The answer for many, at least according to the financial numbers is a resounding NO! I am going to go out on a short limb and state I believe God is not pleased with our approach to finances, especially in a country such as the United States where people are blessed beyond measure with money, at least compared to the rest of the world.

I would like to share with you a few methods to begin digging yourself out of the miry pit of debt, at least methods that have shown to be fruitful in my home.

1. Develop a comprehensive budget and stick with it. What I mean by a comprehensive budget is something far more than chicken scratch on a paper napkin. A budget of this nature involves sitting down, identifying your income each month, your recurring bills/expenses, and then listing separately your debts. I would highly recommend developing a budget for at least the period of a year out in advance. This will allow you to visually see your income, your bills, and where you can apply extra funds towards paying off debt. There is software, often free, available to create a budget; however, sometimes creating a MS Excel spreadsheet does the trick.

2. Pay off debt. The best approach to paying off debt seems to be the “debt snowball” methodology promoted by Dave Ramsey. The way this works is you take your smallest debt, focus any extra funds on paying that debt off first while paying the minimum payment on all other debt. Once that smallest debt is paid off, you then move on to the next smallest debt, applying the funds you were paying for the previous debt along with the savings from having paid off that previous debt to this new debt. You continue to follow that procedure until all debts are paid. One thing I have learned is applying money across the board to all debts above and beyond the minimum payment takes too long and of course paying just the minimum payment will result in decades of bills and interest charges.

3. Create an immediate reserve fund. I have seen varying amounts suggested for the creation of a reserve fund. The point is to set aside some amount of money in a savings account for emergencies. This allows you to access that account for those emergencies instead of whipping out the credit card or incurring additional debt.

4. Have an honest family discussion concerning expenses. This would involve deciding what bills can be reduced and what things can be cut out as recurring expenses. For example, can you live without cable or satellite television or can you at least reduce the package you are paying for? My wife and I made the decision to cut out the cable/satellite bill completely. We went down to Wal-Mart, purchased an indoor antenna and are enjoying all the major network television channels along with some other channels that quite honestly provide a better variety of wholesome programming. Can you decrease what is covered in your cell phone plan? Can you take advantage of using coupons and eating more at home? These are just a few examples of where cost savings can be found.

5. Get out of debt not to accumulate worldly wealth, but to be able to help others. Paying off debt will inevitably result in more disposable income in your budget. You certainly should look at ways to increase contributions to your retirement plan, save for your children’s college fund, and other very wise financial approaches. However, never forget the ultimate focus is not building worldly wealth. Look for every opportunity to bless those in need, whether that is in your local church, your local community, your major metropolitan area, state, country, or places around the world. Never forget that pure and undefiled religion is noted in James 1:27 as “to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Keeping yourself unstained from the world in part involves not falling into the debt trap that has stained far too many of us over the years.

I leave you with this challenge. Get out of debt! Make it a goal this year to move smartly and purposefully in that direction. If you do not live by a budget, not is the time to start. If you have no idea where your money is going, now is the time to wrap your head around such things. We are called by God to be wise stewards of that which He has provided to us. Being frivolous with your money and continuing to live under the burden of what really is a ridiculous amount of debt is not God honoring and thus does not fall under the umbrella of holy and righteous living. The time for change in this area is today so I urge you to honor God with your finances.

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Nathan Busenitz – Speaking the Truth in Love

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We live in a world where people love to talk. Studies suggest that the average American adult speaks approximately 16,000 words per day. Multiply that by a lifespan of 70 years, for a total of nearly 409 million words, and suddenly Christ’s warning in Matthew 12:36 takes on new significance: “I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.”

Of course, actual vocalization is only part of how people communicate. The Internet, in particular, has given rise to many other ways in which to speak. A study in 2010 estimated that, worldwide, some 294 billion emails are sent every day. The birth of social media has added to that constant stream of communication. Consider that Facebook averages 55 million status updates daily, along with Twitter’s 340 million tweets, and you can begin to appreciate the magnitude of unending chatter that characterizes modern society.

The Internet did not exist when the Bible was written. But the biblical principles for Christian communication apply to online interactions just as they govern real-life interpersonal relationships and face-to-face conversations. Whether we are speaking in person, on the phone, in a letter, or online, Scripture provides us with God-honoring parameters for how we are to communicate with others.

One important passage in this regard is Ephesians 4:14–15, where the Apostle Paul tells his readers: “We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” Rather than succumbing to the sin-saturated thinking of the world around them, Paul’s readers are to reject falsehood and instead speak the truth to one another in love.

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Michael Boling – The Feasts of the Lord: The Fullfillment of the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost)

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(Jeremiah 31:31-34)
“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah — not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

(Acts 2:1-21)
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”

Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.”

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.’

In our first post on the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost), we looked at the agricultural and marital background associated with the remembrance and celebration of this important event. In part two, we examined how the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai is also a vital aspect of the Feast of Shavuot as it symbolizes the betrothal marriage between God and Israel. In this final post on the Feast of Shavuot, we are going to look at how Shavuot was fulfilled in large part in Acts 2 and what it means for us today. Some common assumptions will also be examined for their validity based on the background we have established for what the Feast of Shavuot was all about, most importantly, a time when God and His people exchanged wedding vows.

The prophecy found in Jeremiah 31:31-34 carries great significance for the Feast of Shavuot, specifically as we get to exploring the events found in Acts 2. As we noted in the previous post, celebrating the giving of the law is a major function of the Feast of Shavuot. Additionally, the law was the marriage contract or ketubah between God and His people noting the relational expectations that constituted the manner in which God expected His bride to adhere to. Essentially, the giving of the law was the “I do’s” of the betrothal ceremony. Notice how in Jeremiah 31:32, God describes Himself as a husband further noting the way His bride (Israel), broke the terms of the ketubah. Despite their unfaithfulness, God promised something very important, that of renewing His marriage covenant with Israel and Judah so that the terms of the marriage contract would be written on their hearts in order that they might be a light to the Gentiles. But wait, there’s more!

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Michael Boling – The Feasts of the Lord: The Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) (Part 2)

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The Feast of Shavuot (The Later First Fruits/Weeks/Pentecost) Part 2

“and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field;” (Exodus 23:16)

“And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest,” (Exodus 34:22)

15 ‘And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. 16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD. 17 You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD. 18 And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the LORD. 19 Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. 20 The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. 21 And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. (Leviticus 23:15-21)

26 ‘Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the LORD at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work. 27 You shall present a burnt offering as a sweet aroma to the LORD: two young bulls, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, 28 with their grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for each bull, two-tenths for the one ram, 29 and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs; 30 also one kid of the goats, to make atonement for you. 31 Be sure they are without blemish. You shall present them with their drink offerings, besides the regular burnt offering with its grain offering. (Numbers 28:26-31)

9 “You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. 10 Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you. 11 You shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your gates, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are among you, at the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. 12 And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes. (Deuteronomy 16:9-12)

In the previous post, we explored the ceremonial aspects of the Feast of Shavuot specifically focusing on the agricultural and betrothal elements found in this important holiday. As promised, in this post we will focus on the rather significant aspect of the Feast of Shavuot, namely the remembrance and celebration of the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.

The counting of the omer up to the beginning of Shavuot represented the time from the crossing by Israel of the Red Sea to the day when Israel received the commands of God at Mt. Sinai. Thus, Shavuot “is called the season of the giving of the Torah (Z’man Matan Toraseinu) in Hebrew because this is the literal day that God revealed Himself to the people of Israel as they stood at base of Mt. Sinai.”[1] One may argue that Scripture does not specifically state this was the exact day God revealed the Torah to Israel, however, the significance of this event in the course of Israel and for that matter, all believers, cannot be overlooked. As such, the great Jewish philosopher Maimonides noted, “just as one who is expecting the most faithful of his friends is wont to count the days and hours to his arrival, so we also count from the omer of the day of our Exodus from Egypt to that of the giving of the law, which was the object of our Exodus, as it is said: ‘I bare you on eagle’s wings, and brought you unto Myself.” And because this great manifestation did not last more than one day, therefore we annually commemorate it only one day.” [2] But wait, there’s more!

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Michael Boling – The Feasts of the Lord: The Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost)

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The Feast of Shavuot (The Later First Fruits/Weeks/Pentecost)

“and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field;” (Exodus 23:16)

“And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest,” (Exodus 34:22)

15 ‘And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. 16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD. 17 You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD. 18 And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the LORD. 19 Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. 20 The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. 21 And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. (Leviticus 23:15-21)

26 ‘Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the LORD at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work. 27 You shall present a burnt offering as a sweet aroma to the LORD: two young bulls, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, 28 with their grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for each bull, two-tenths for the one ram, 29 and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs; 30 also one kid of the goats, to make atonement for you. 31 Be sure they are without blemish. You shall present them with their drink offerings, besides the regular burnt offering with its grain offering. (Numbers 28:26-31)

9 “You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. 10 Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you. 11 You shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your gates, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are among you, at the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. 12 And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes. (Deuteronomy 16:9-12) But wait, there’s more!

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Michael Boling – Calgon Take Me Away?: Scriptures To Help Deal With Stressful Situations

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There are quite frankly some weeks you would rather forget. Often those type of weeks are a result of a rough patch at work, squabbles at home, or any number of other factors. When such difficult times occur, it most always produces that nasty “s” word – Stress. I write this article because I experienced a great deal of stress this past week at work and I admittedly did not deal with that inordinate level of stress in a way I should have.

What happens to most of us when we become stressed? I would submit at a minimum we get snippy and impatient with others and at a maximum we completely fly off the handle in a fit of rage. Neither end of that spectrum demonstrates a godly response to stress. Additionally, there is no amount of Calgon that will magically solve the situation that is causing the stress like some magical elixir of peace. If you do not know what Calgon is then you clearly did not grow up in the 1980s like I did. The video below explains the supposed magic of Calgon:

I am quite sure we would all love to sprinkle a little bath soap into the tub, fill it with hot water so that the stress of life melts away to be experienced no more. Well we can all fantasize as much as we want; however, that particular fantasy is just not going to come to pass this side of heaven.

Does this mean we are doomed to deal with stress and to fly off the handle or to be snippy with those we love for the rest of our lives? While stress will always be a part of daily life due to the sheer demands we all face at work, home, and elsewhere, we can begin to do a much better job of dealing with that stress in a way that brings glory to God and that does not harm our relationships with others. Let’s take a look at what the God’s Word says about dealing with stress.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

Seriously? We are to consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds? Absolutely and for the explicit reason that this testing of our faith produces endurance. This means that stressful events are a good opportunity to strengthen our faith.

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. (Psalm 94:19)

King David certainly experienced a great many stressful events in his life. For instance, King Saul pursued him, desiring to kill him. I would submit that qualifies as being under stress. Anxiety and stress are kinfolk with one often leading to the other. What this verse is telling us is when a multitude of thoughts (i.e. stress) comes out way, the place of solace in those situations is found in the arms of God. He is the one who brings joy to us when stress comes calling.
Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands are my delight. (Psalm 119:143)

Here is another beautiful verse from the Psalms again directing us to where peace in the midst of the storm can be found. The Psalmist declares that when distress (i.e. stress) comes upon him, he finds his delight in the commands of God. These commandments are a reference to God’s Word. When we meditate on the Word of God, we will find peace for His Word shines a needed light in the midst of dark and stressful times. When God’s Word permeates us, we are better prepared to deal properly with stress. Instead of yelling, screaming, becoming angry, and the like, we will instead remember the truths found in Scripture, namely as noted earlier that such testing is often an opportunity for spiritual growth.

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. (Psalm 55:2)

I hope you are seeing a pattern developing here. The Psalmist once again notes that our sustainment during times of trouble (i.e. stress) comes from the Lord. When we cast our cares upon Him, He will lift us up and will be the rock we can stand upon. This does not mean we just throw up our hands and not deal properly with the situation at hand as it things will magically disappear. We will always have to deal positively and biblically with difficult situations. We are able to deal with those situations properly when and only when our lives are rooted in God and His Word.

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” (Romans 16:20)

Now before we go calling our boss Satan hoping God will crush him or her under His feet, let’s remember what this passage is speaking about. We live in a world that has stress because of the weight of sin that bears down upon us. We look forward to a day when sin is no more and all this worry, anxiety, strife, and stress are done away with, a time when the peace of God washes across the universe as Satan and his minions are dealt with for all eternity. Knowing and trusting in this future state helps place our focus in the proper perspective.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

I will end with this verse which about as clearly as can possibly be said lays out what we are to do when anxiety and stress rear their ugly heads. On top of rooting ourselves in the Word of God, we should be a people devoted to prayer, not just in times of stress, but at all times. If you are having a difficult time at work as I was this past week and likely in the foreseeable future, tell God about what you are going through. He knows what is taking place and He longs to hear from you. When you tell God about your difficulties, we are told the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. This means that when we are tempted to lash out, stop and pray. When you have that urge to tell your boss or upper management what you truly think about them, stop and pray.

Remember that Calgon will not save you from stress. It may provide a nice warm bathing experience, but only God can help us in the midst of life’s raging storms. So when you are stressed, when you feel like giving up, when you have that urge to scream, curse, and yell at anyone who will listen within a 100 mile radius, stop and meditate on the verses we just read and discussed. We will not always get it right and there will be times when we do not deal properly with stress. However, when we throw ourselves in the arms of the One who loves us, cares for us, and is watching out for us, we will be better equipped to deal with that “s” word.

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John Piper – A Peculiar Glory

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Introduction

Is the Bible true? I am not asking if there is truth in it, say, the way there is truth in Moby Dick, or Plato’s Republic, or The Lord of the Rings. Aspects of truth can be found virtually everywhere. What I am asking is this: Is the Bible completely true? All of it. Is it so trustworthy in all that it teaches that it can function as the test of all other claims to truth? This book is about how the Bible gives good grounds for the answer yes. The Bible is completely true.

There is a story behind every book. That is certainly true here. This introduction is not that story; my story comes in chapter 1. But I think it will be helpful to signal immediately why glory figures so largely in this book. My seven decades of experience with the Bible have not been mainly a battle to hold on. They have been a blessing of being held on to, namely, by beauty—that is, by glory.

I have stood in front of this window all these years, not to protect it from being broken, or because the owner of the chalet told me to, but because of the glory of the Alps on the other side. I am a captive of the glory of God revealed in Scripture. There are reasons deeper than my experience for focusing on the glory of God. But I cannot deny what I have seen and the power it has had.

Vastly more important than one man’s experience is the reality itself. The glory of God is the ground of faith. It is a solid ground. It is objective, outside ourselves. It is the ground of faith in Christ and in the Christian Scriptures. Faith is not a heroic step through the door of the unknown; it is a humble, happy sight of God’s self-authenticating glory. Consider the following biblical examples of how the glory of God becomes the ground of knowledge. The fourth example is the focus of this book.

The Heavens

First, how are all human beings supposed to know that God exists and that he is powerful and beneficent and should be glorified and thanked? David, the king of Israel, answered in Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (v. 1).

But there are many people who do not see the glory of God when they look at the heavens. Nevertheless, the apostle Paul says that we should see it and that we are without excuse if we don’t, because

what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him. (Rom. 1:19–21)

God has shown everyone the glory of his power and deity and beneficence. If we do not see God’s glory, we are still responsible to see it, treasure it as glorious, and give God thanks. If we don’t, we are “without excuse.”

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Jason Helopoulos – Worth It

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When individuals embark upon a life of discipleship in Christ, they commence a life of sacrifice. Our Lord said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). This fills some with hesitation. Yet, what we forsake is mere trifles compared to the treasure we receive. The treasure and joy we gain in the present–and which awaits us in eternity–far surpasses all that we may lose in this life. Christians, no less than unbelievers who are hesitant to yield their life to Christ, do well to remind themselves of this sure promise.

CS Lewis once famously said:

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.1

No matter how difficult this life of discipleship may be, it is worth it. Our Lord Jesus makes this very point in the parables of Matthew 13. A man unexpectedly discovers in a field a great treasure. A merchant finds a pearl of great worth. The man in the field sells all he has to purchase one thing. The merchant sells all that he has to purchase just one thing. They value this one thing above all else. More than that, they value this one thing more than all other things combined. The Kingdom of God is exactly like that, said Christ. It is worth it.

This may strike us as extreme. What loss comes from following Christ. Interestingly, Jesus tells us that the man went away from the field with joy, not with sorrow (Matthew 13:44-46). That detail is not a mistake made by either Mattew or Christ. He purposefully attributes this affection to the man. Because great joy is found in the Kingdom. Any sacrifice made it for it is worth it. We all need this reminder throughout our lives. It is worth yielding ourselves to the King and His Kingdom, not just in the moment of saving faith, but in all of life. It is worth being a living sacrifice unto the Lord (Romans 12:1-2). Whether you eat or drink or whatever we do, doing it unto the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:31). It is worth it. The more invested we are in the Kingdom here, the more we enjoy it here and in the life to come. The more we yield ourselves to this King, the more we know of Him and all His benefits.

My friends, we will never regret the time that we spend sacrificing for others for the sake of the Kingdom. We will never regret the effort employed in fighting sin for the sake of the Kingdom. We will never regret the energy spent seeking righteousness for the sake of the Kingdom. Whatever we give for the Kingdom we will never regret. I dare say, we will never want a refund, never want to exchange this Kingdom for something else, never want a redo, because its value far surpasses all that we would so-call sacrifice in the here and now. I am no prophet, but I would give you this guarantee, if you invest in the Kingdom you will never walk away disappointed. Never.

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