Assurance

My assurance is to be built upon God’s assurance to me. God says, “I will never leave you,” so that then I “may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear’ ” (Hebrews 13:5-6). In other words, I will not be obsessed with apprehension. This does not mean that I will not be tempted to fear, but I will remember God’s words of assurance. I will be full of courage, like a child who strives to reach the standard his father has set for him. The faith of many people begins to falter when apprehensions enter their thinking, and they forget the meaning of God’s assurance— they forget to take a deep spiritual breath. The only way to remove the fear from our lives is to listen to God’s assurance to us.

Blessed Assurance – Story behind the song

Fanny Crosby, America’s most prolific hymn writer, wrote 8,000 Gospel songs and hymns during a lifetime, which spanned nearly a century.

Frances Jane Crosby was born in Putnam County, New York, on March 24, 1820. A poorly trained doctor applied a mustard plaster poultice to her eyes when she was only six weeks old, rendering her totally blind. Even in her childhood, she realized she had a special gift.

She often said, “I have a jewel — content.”

When only 9 years of age, she wrote:

“O what a happy soul am I,

Although I cannot see,

I am resolved that in this world

Contented I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy

That other people don’t.

To weep and sigh because I’m blind,

I cannot, and I won’t.”

During her 15th year, she entered the New York Institute for the Blind. Her record there was such that after graduation, she was asked to teach at the institute. She remained on the faculty for 11 years.

One day in 1873, Fanny was visiting with a friend, Mrs. Joseph Knapp, a musician of sorts and wife of the founder of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. During their visit Mrs. Knapp played a tune on her piano, which she had recently written. She then asked Fanny, “What does this tune say?” After kneeling in prayer for a few moments, she rose and declared, “It says, ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!’”

Fanny began to dictate verses to Mrs. Knapp, who wrote them down, fitting them to the melody just as we hear it sung today.

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!

O what a foretaste of glory divine!

Heir of salvation, purchase of God.

Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Chorus:

This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior, all the day long,

This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior, all the day long.”

Fanny Crosby died Feb. 12, 1915.

“Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.” -Psalm 145:2

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Peaky Blinkers

I have been watching a very violent show called Peaky Blinkers while I was sick. It is very addictive, but also poison to my mind. A great deal of bad language and sexual overtones. I am glad my sick time is almost up. Because I can tell the show has affected me.

You see if we surround ourselves with garbage, we’ll start to be affected by it and put garbage out as well. Our minds are like computers. Just like computers, what we put into our minds is exactly what we get out. It is a basic law of computer programming that a computer cannot output something that it was not programmed to do. In other words, what goes in is what comes out.

So for today I rest from the evil show and spend time with my God and walk with him today. Soaking up his word and praising him.
If the messages you are sending your brain reflect God’s heart, it won’t belong before the fruits of God’s spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control will begin outputting into your life.

The Bible tells us to fill our minds with good things in Philippians 4:8-9. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Consider these words your owner’s manual for your mind. If your wondering if the information you are inputting will create an output that glorifies God, stack it up against these words. If it is garbage, throw it out.

Today’s Prayer is that we fill ourselves with God’s word and that his Spirit fills us with his word. Taking up ever crevice of our being.

God’s Perfect Gift

God’s Perfect Gift
 
Psalm 130;7
 
Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
 
Every year it’s the same: we rush around getting ready, preparing for one day when all our hopes and dream will be realized. What did you wish for this year, dear friends? What special gift were you hoping to find under the treat? Was it there?
 
Once the gifts are unwrapped and the family has dispersed, many people feel disillusioned and depressed. Even when they’ve receive what they thought they wanted, the good feeling rarely lingers. No earthly gift can really change your life — only God’s gift can do that.
 
The Christ Child’s Birth
In our Christmas celebration of merriment and mirth, Let us not forget the miracle of the holy Christ child’s birth. For in our festivities it is easy to lose sight Of the baby in the manger and that holy, silent night. Helen Steiner Rice
 
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Christmas truly is a day to be celebrated – a day when we should brea in song lie the angel who announced Christ’s birth – a day when we should feel joyful and excited – a day we should prepare for with great enthusiasm. But it should not be in anticipation of what we have yet to receive. Rathe it should be in appreciation for what we have already been given – God’s perfect gift, a Redeemer who name is Jesus Christ.

Paul’s Arrival in Jerusalem

 

Acts 21:17-26

When Paul arrived in Jerusalem he was warmly greeted, and the next day he reported to James and the elders of the church about his adventures among the Gentiles. They received his report with joy, and no doubt were also happy to learn that he was not guilty of the things that were being said about him in Jerusalem, for it would seem that many Jewish Christians had been told that Paul was telling Jews in faraway places that they should not observe the Law of Moses.

We know from Paul’s letters that he often spoke highly about the law, we also know that he often spoke harshly about Jews who insisted that Gentile believers be circumcised, and that Paul himself claimed that he was not under the law as a Christian, but that he observed the law when dealing with Jews, and not when dealing only with gentiles. At no point in his letters or recorded remarks does he advise Jewish Christians not to live according to the Law.

As you see, there are some fairly fine lines here, and one might understand how a Jewish Christian might misunderstand Paul’s position… especially when his position was deliberately misrepresented by those who sought to discredit him.

James proposed a solution to this problem: Paul could join in a purification rite which would be a very public demonstration that Paul had not rejected Jewish law or custom; surely this would convince anyone who harbored a genuine misunderstanding about Paul’s teaching that he had not done the things he had been accused of; Paul quickly agreed to this and participated, in accordance with Jewish practice.

What follows demonstrates to us very clearly that there was something much more sinister afoot than a simple misunderstanding…

 

 

 

Saul Meets Jesus

 

Acts 9:1-19

Luke has been telling us about the road trip adventures of Phillip, and now it would seem that Saul is about to hit the road as well. He has continued his persecution of the disciples in Jerusalem, and now he wants to make this outrage part of a road show, so he went to the chief priest for permission and gets it. As he was travelling towards Damascus with his goal more or less in sight, he has an encounter on the road that would change his life entirely, for he runs into none other than the risen Christ (9:1-1-3). Jesus, in a very bright light has a question for old Saul:

He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. (9:4-5)

There is great significance in these verses, for Saul was out persecuting Christians, but Jesus, the risen Savior who sits at God’s right hand, sees things quite differently for in His eyes, Saul is persecuting the very One by whose Word the entire universe is held together. Notice, that Jesus says so here in both verse four and verse five. It was a fact in Saul’s day and it is a fact today, that anyone who persecutes the followers of Christ is persecuting Jesus Himself, and though I can take no real pleasure in saying so, they, will suffer for it.

You all know the story from here; Saul’s companions must lead him by the hand the rest of the way into town, for Saul has lost his sight. There they are to wait at a certain house for further instructions. Those instructions are actually given to a man named Ananias, who receives his instructions with some trepidation:

The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (9:11-16)

 

I think Ananias’ concern was very reasonable, don’t you? Yet Jesus has a plan for this Saul of Tarsus, and Ananias had a vital role in bringing His plan to fruition, and he obeys the Lord immediately, reminding us of the previous account of how Phillip did exactly what he was told to do. Saul’s sight is restored, Ananias baptizes him, and he rests up for what might come next, and we will see what that ends up being next time…

 

 

Author of Acts

Tradition holds that Luke was a physician, and whether this title would have meant quite the same thing in his day as it does today is probably a matter of conjecture, but one thing is certain; whoever Luke was or whatever his profession may have been, he was certainly a well educated man, as evidenced by the quality of his Greek. It is also clear that he was an associate of Paul, as we will see later on in the story, an eyewitness too many of the things he describes here.

The theme and overall context of Acts rings clearly through the ages:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (1:8) Acts has multiple phases and deals with many trials, tribulations… and triumphs, but this will remain the major theme, that they will receive power with the Holy Spirit, power to be the very witnesses of Jesus Christ throughout the world. Thus, we might accurately consider Acts to be the book of Genesis of the Church itself, for what was begun way back in Luke’s day, is an ongoing story from that time until this very day, a story in which both you and I have a part to play.

Maturity in Christ

All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Philippians 3:15-16

Following his great rallying cry of verses 12-14, Paul will make a plea to the Philippians and by extension to us, to continue forward in Christ. He begins with these two verses.  This is a transition into his exhortation for us to follow his example. You can see that by the way he links the two sections with the first sentence, yes; we who are mature should take the view that he has expressed, and if we find ourselves disagreeing on some point, don’t worry for God will sort things out.  I sure wish more Christians in our time would take this view!

Notice he goes on to urge us to live up to what we have already attained, which moves us to his larger exhortation. Before we get to that exhortation, maybe we should ask ourselves what it is that we have attained. By our faith we have entered relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ and received forgiveness of our sins and eternal life. In chapter one he urged us to be “worthy of the gospel” and now he urges us to “live up to what we already attained”.

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Philippians 3:17-21

Here is the exhortation; Paul is urging the people to follow his example, and the example of others who live as he does.  Because of this, it is quite clear that he is talking about the way we all live; follow the example of the way he and certain others live. This is an important distinction, for many say all of the right things and live quite differently.

Pay careful attention to verses 18 and 19: Many live a different kind of life than Paul does a life that leads to destruction.  My first question about this would be, “Just exactly who are we talking about?” My first impulse is to assume that he must be talking about unbelievers, to make a distinction between Christians and non-Christians; some might even want to toss in the concept of phony Christians or fake Christians, or Christians who aren’t “really” saved.  I’d prefer to leave that kind of speculation to others; they are probably much smarter than I am if they can make such judgments. I’ll ‘play it safe’ and stick with the context.  Since Paul is sending this message to Christian believers, I must infer that he thinks it is possible for Christians to follow the wrong path, thus the warning; otherwise the warning is pointless and sent to the wrong people. Are there Christians that we might know of (or be) who live for the things of this world and neglect the heavenly priorities of Christ? If so, we should not follow their example.

Our citizenship is in heaven! Our priorities must be on heavenly things. As citizens of heaven, we must concern ourselves with the mission that Jesus has given us, to love others, to put their interests ahead of our own in true humility, and to share the awesome gospel of Jesus Christ, for this is the way that will lead us to our reward. It is also the reason that Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians.

 

 

Philippians 2:25-30

Verses 25-30 are mostly about E-path-ro-ditus. We gather from these verses, that he was sent to Paul with the most recent news from Philippi. Apparently, while he was with Paul, he became seriously ill, but has now recovered. You might notice the tender way in which Paul speaks of him, and about Paul’s relief that he has recovered. Now, he would like to send E-path-ro-ditus back to Philippi with Timothy so that they can see how much better he is doing.

If we look carefully at these verses, what we will see is that Paul is showing genuine concern for both E-path-ro-ditus and for the Philippians; he is looking out for the interests of Jesus Christ, and thus he is giving us another practical example of this teaching.  Pretty cool, don’t you think?

He humbled Himself and became obedient: Jesus humbled Himself when He became obedient. This was something that Jesus could only experience by coming down from the throne of heaven and becoming a man. When God sits enthroned in heaven’s glory, there is no one He obeys. Jesus had to leave heaven’s glory and be found in appearance as a man in order to become obedient.

 

One key to Jesus’ obedience on earth was the endurance of suffering. This again was something He could only learn by experience after the incarnation. As it is written: though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered (Hebrews 5:8).

Personal Comments

In this section, Paul moves back into some personal comments.  He is talking about two other men who are with him, but who are not prisoners, Timothy and E-path-ro-ditus.  In the first several verses, Paul is telling the Philippians that he is planning to send Timothy back to them so that he can bring more news back to Paul about how the Philippians are doing.  Then comes what is probably the most significant part of the passage from our point of view:

I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.

Philippians 2:20-22

Isn’t it interesting that Paul says he has no one else like Timothy, because he will show “genuine concern” for the Philippians?  He explains what he means by that when he says that everyone “looks out for their own interests” and “not those of Jesus Christ.” Think about that for a moment: Wouldn’t you have expected Paul to say ‘not those of others’ instead? “Everyone looks out for their own interests, but not everyone looks out for the interests of others.” That’s what I would expect him to say here, since what came just before this was Paul’s observation that Timothy would have genuine concern for the Philippians. What’s going on here?

Let’s see if we can solve this little riddle.  Paul has been encouraging the Philippians to live lives “worthy of the gospel” and in the process he has discussed unity in the Body of believers, along with service, humility and putting others first.  Now, he cites Timothy as someone who will show the people genuine concern and who will look out for the interests of Christ.  We must conclude from this that showing genuine concern for one another is looking out for the interests of Jesus Christ. Why would we be concerned about others?  Because we want to serve Jesus by looking out for His people.

This is what Paul is doing by writing this loving letter.  This is what it means to put others first. This is what loving our brothers and sisters is all about, and it results from our love of God.  God loved us, we love Him. God loves our brothers and sisters, so we love them too. Thus, when we love one another and care for one another, we are putting not only the interests of others ahead of our own; we are putting the interests of Jesus Christ first in our lives. This then, is “making disciples”: Caring for others because they are loved by, and important to, our Lord.

Paul’s Self Reflection

Paul engages in a little personal reflection here as he points out that when he meets the Lord it would be obvious that he hadn’t labored in vain, when the Philippians are shining like stars. When he goes on to use the term “poured out like a drink offering” he is telling them that even if he is executed, he will be filled with joy for the work of Christ in them, and urges the Philippians to be filled with joy as well.

Obviously, Paul has brought us back to purpose in saying this.  For the followers of Christ to be pure and blameless children of God and to shine like stars in this dark world, is really not about star children, it’s about their testimony and God’s purpose.  Think again of that contrast: What would we look like to those who have not yet followed Christ?  Some will be irritated and full of criticism, but others will see the love of Christ and want to have some themselves, and it is for these that our testimony is so important. Yes, there is no way around the fact that God’s purpose must always be at the forefront of our thinking as we follow Jesus down the path of life.

“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14-15).