JUNE 25

The Renewal of the Mind

Bible Reading: Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:17-24

If your children have ever played with play dough, then you’ve probably seen or used the little play dough press that’s used to make various shapes.  A sliding bar allows the child to choose a circle or a square or a triangle or star.  All you got to do then is press down on the handle and you’ve got play dough formed to the particular shape you’ve chosen. 

That’s analogous to the thought behind the phrase we find in Romans 12:2 where is says: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold’ (J. B. Phillips New Testament).  Did you realize that the world is trying to do that?  Have you noticed how strong the evil forces in this world are working to conform everyone to a certain way of thinking?  To step outside the box of “political correctness,” or any new anti-god way of thinking and living, is to put oneself at risk of being threatened or ostracized in one way or the other.  But for the Christian there’s a bigger concern than that.  It’s necessary to forsake conformity to the world if a person is to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind,” and that’s necessary if we are to live a life of worship and do the will of God.

The transformation spoken of here involves more than just putting off certain behaviors, it is an inside-out, Spirit-wrought, change that happens through the renewal of the mind.  As amazing as the human mind is, it is nonetheless finite and fallen and needs to be renewed by God.  The Spirit of God does that as He works through the Word of God to expose us to the Christ-exalting truths that are found in the Scriptures (John 16:14; 2 Corinthians 3:18).  And that’s another reason why devotion to the Word is so important.  John MacArthur wonderfully illustrated this in a devotional he shared many years ago:

“I remember enjoying the observations of a perceptive man who was gazing at a beautiful garden. First, he saw a butterfly flitting from flower to flower. It spent a few seconds on the edge of each but derived no particular benefit from any of them.

Next, he saw a botanist with large notebook and microscope in hand. As the botanist carefully observed each flower and plant, he made copious entries in his book. But after hours of meticulous study, most of what he learned was shut up in his book. Very little remained in his mind.

Then came a little bee. When it entered a flower, it emerged laden with pollen. It had left the hive that morning empty but would return full.

When it comes to Bible study, some people are like butterflies, going from one favorite verse to another, one seminar to another, or one book to another. They’re very busy and expend much energy but have little to show for their efforts. They remain unchanged in any significant way because they never really delve into the Word wholeheartedly. They’re content to simply flutter around the edges.

Others, like the botanist, may study in great depth but never apply it to their lives. I know of entire commentaries written by unbelievers. In some cases, their grasp of Scripture is exceptional, but they know nothing of true love for God and obedience to biblical truth. What a tragedy! But you don’t have to be a biblical scholar to make that mistake. You need only to fail to apply what you learn to your life.

Rather, strive to be like the bee, spending time in the Word–reading, studying, taking notes, then emerging fuller than when you began. Your mind will be filled with wisdom and biblical insights. Your life will be sweeter and purer because the Word has done its work (1 Cor. 2:13).

Are you a butterfly, a botanist, or a bee?”

Nothing else can do the work the truth does. There is no sanctifying power in human wisdom, intuition, insight, or experience. Iis only in the Word of God.”

John MacArthur

MAY THE MIND OF CHRIST, MY SAVIOR

May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By his love and pow’r controlling
All I do and say.

May the word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through his pow’r.

May the peace of God, my Father,
Rule my life in ev’rything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing

May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea.
Him exalting, self abasing:
This is victory.

May we run the race before us,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As we onward go.

JUNE 24

The Spirit Taught Christian

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:12-13; 1 John 2:26-27

The gift of teaching is amongst the various spiritual gifts God has given to His church.  Pastors and teachers play an important role in the equipping of the saints for the work of service.  I’ve been privileged over the years to sit under some great Bible teachers and hear some wonderful sermons—praise God for all the good and faithful teachers of the Word!  All that being said, we can sometimes lose sight of the fact that there’s One teacher who is infinitely superior to any other.  He is the One teacher none of us can do without.

Only the Holy Spirit can show us spiritual truth.  Any of us can hear people teach and thereby gain an intellectual understanding of the meaning of Scripture, but it is the Spirit alone who can penetrate and work to transform the human heart.  Since every believer is indwelt by the Spirit, it follows that every believer is indwelt by the Divine teacher.  He never departs the Divine classroom of the human heart.  His goal is far bigger than to just make us theologically smarter.  His goal is to make us to be like Christ.  How patient He is with us!  How many times do we fail to grasp or forgotten what He’s taught?  Through the Word, He keeps on with us—teaching, reproving, correcting, training unto righteousness.  Though the Divine classroom of life might be filled with lots of distractions and interruptions which work to draw away our interest and attention, the Divine teacher is never diverted from His task.  Temptations and deceptions come our way, but the Spirit is always there to lead and instruct that we might exercise discernment and turn away.  He is all wise, all loving, and altogether patient in His work!

How wonderful is God’s provision to us of the indwelling Spirit whereby we can understand the truth in a transformative way!  And that should be our goal—to be transformed by the Spirit through the truth of God’s Word.  It’s not enough for any of us to know only what a pastor or teacher or commentator or devotional (like this one) says about any passage or point of doctrinal truth.  Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying—listen well to your pastor and other teachers!  But the point I’m tying to make is this—there’s a need for each of us to be Spirit-taught and for that to happen we’ve got to depend on Him and dig into the Scriptures for ourselves. 

An encouraging aspect of this truth is the reality that in having the Spirit, any believer has that which is necessary to comprehend the Scriptures.  There are advantages, of course, to going to Bible School or reading good commentaries or books that help us to be better equipped to study and know.  But the fact remains, in possessing the Spirit of God, you’ve got the One teacher you absolutely must have to fully comprehend the truth of God’s Word.  He may use others and their gifts, but for Him, there is no substitute.

Vance Havner has commented on this, “If the Bible’s message were so hidden that only scholars and seminary students could find it, most of us believers would be hopelessly in the dark. It is part of the miracle of the Book that God has prepared it so that it unfolds itself to the simplest souls and not merely to intellectual investigation. Of course, academic training should help, and does when rightly combined with other preparation still more valuable. No person need feel discouraged over lack of theological education, for there is an understanding of the Word which is utterly independent of scholarship and open to the unschooled as freely as to the learned. We fill our libraries with books about the Bible, and some of us need to learn the truth expressed by the old colored preacher. He had borrowed a commentary from a white preacher and, upon returning it, was asked what he thought of it. He replied that the Bible certainly did throw a lot of light on it!”

In possessing the Spirit of God, you’ve got the one teacher you absolutely must have to fully comprehend the truth of God’s Word.  He may use others and their gifts, but for Him, there is no substitute.

Jerry Conklin

MORE ABOUT JESUS

More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me.

Refrain:
More, more about Jesus,
More, more about Jesus;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me.

More about Jesus let me learn,
More of His holy will discern;
Spirit of God, my teacher be,
Showing the things of Christ to me. [Refrain]

More about Jesus in His Word,
Holding communion with my Lord;
Hearing His voice in ev’ry line,
Making each faithful saying mine. [Refrain]

More about Jesus on His throne,
Riches in glory all His own;
More of His kingdom’s sure increase;
More of His coming, Prince of peace. [Refrain]

JUNE 23

A Heart to Hear

Bible Reading: Acts 16:11-15

The term heart is used in the Bible to speak of a person’s innermost being, or as Vine’s Expository Dictionary says, “the hidden springs of the personal life.” The Greek term is kardia from which we get the word cardiac. I was on a trip to my dad’s not too long ago when I began to feel ill.  My heart was racing, and my blood pressure was too high, so I drove myself to the emergency room of the nearest hospital.  The ER doctor checked my vital signs and ordered some tests.  They did a blood test and took an ECG and some x-rays to diagnose the condition of my heart.  They let me go after my symptoms improved, and they determined that my heart was fine. Doctors can do such tests to evaluate the condition of a person’s physical heart, but it is God alone, the Great Physician, who can work to diagnose a person’s spiritual heart, and open it up to His life-renewing truth.

God providentially led Paul and his companions to the city of Philippi.  And they spent some days in the city.  On the Sabbath, they went down by the river, supposing that they might find a place of prayer.  They found some women there, including Lydia, who was a “worshipper of God.  It shouldn’t escape our notice that as these women were praying, God was working in directing Paul and his companions to them. Through their prayers, the gospel was brought to an entirely new region! Lydia was from Thyatira.  The people of that region were famous for their skill in the manufacture and use of a purple dye.  She had come to Philippi as a trader.  Since there is no mention of a husband, it may have been that she took over her husband’s business.  She had her own home in Philippi, so she had evidently been there for some time.  So, the group—Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke—were speaking to these women who were assembled.

Paul and his companions were speaking to Lydia.  What were they saying?  No doubt they were sharing the gospel with them.  These were folks who had some understanding of the Scriptures but didn’t know about Jesus.  One would suppose that Paul’s message to them was much the same as when he had spoken in various other places of the death and resurrection of Christ, and the promise of salvation to those who believe. 

“The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14).  This is the necessary order of things.  It reminds us of the true nature of what happens when a sinner is saved by grace.  The Lord opened her heart.  Preceding her response to the gospel, the Lord was at work in opening her heart to the truth.  There can be no salvation of a soul apart from this preparatory work of the Lord.  Jesus said, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44).  God’s work precedes man’s response.  Salvation happens by God’s intervention.  It is God’s work—from start to finish.  1 Corinthians 1:30, “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus.”  Are you in Christ Jesus today?  That happened by God’s doing!  Praise God for it!

The Lord opened her heart.  It is necessary for the heart to be opened to the truth. The message of the gospel must penetrate to the deepest part of a man. The heart is desperately wicked. Apart from God’s intervention, it will hold no interest in the things of God (Jeremiah 17:9).  It will do no good to merely understand the facts of the gospel. Salvation happens when a person confesses with their mouth Jesus as Lord and believes in their heart that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9).  Jesus taught of such things when He spoke of the parable of the Sower.  The Sower sowed the seed.  And it fell on hard ground, and rocky ground, and thorn-infested ground, and finally on good ground.  Only the good soil worked to bear much fruit.  The good soil is representative if soil that is first prepared.  The hard-preparatory work has been done.  As in Lydia’s case. 

Every believer must come to salvation in this same manner.  But God’s design is such that we would remain in this place—in a place where our hearts are always open so that we might pay attention to the truth of God’s Word.  This is the happy and healthy place for us as believers.  And should we find ourselves in any other place, we ought to pray that God might return us to that open-heartedness that He first bestowed in us in the beginning.

So, Lydia believed and was baptized, along with her other dependents and servants.  Paul’s first convert in Europe, she extended hospitality to Paul and his companions, as a church was born in Philippi.  And even after the salvation of the Philippian jailer and his family, it is to her home that they all preceded (Acts 16:40).

When you open your Bible, ask the Author to open your heart.

Anonymous

HEAVEN CAME DOWN

O what a wonderful, wonderful day-
Day I will never forget;
After I’d wandered in darkness away,
Jesus my Savior I met.
O what a tender, compassionate friend-
He met the need of my heart;
Shadows dispelling, With joy I am telling,
He made all the darkness depart!
Heaven came down
and glory filled my soul,
When at the cross
the Savior made me whole;
My sins were washed away
And my night was turned to day-
Heaven came down
and glory filled my soul!

Born of the Spirit with life from above
Into God’s family divine,
Justified fully through Calvary’s love,
O what a standing is mine!
And the transaction so quickly was made
When as a sinner I came,
Took of the offer Of grace He did proffer-
He saved me, O praise His dear name!
Heaven came down
and glory filled my soul,
When at the cross
the Savior made me whole;
My sins were washed away
And my night was turned to day-
Heaven came down
and glory filled my soul!

Now I’ve a hope that will surely endure
After the passing of time;
I have a future in heaven for sure.
There in those mansions sublime.
And its because of that wonderful day
What at the cross I believed;
Riches eternal And blessings supernal
From His precious hand I received.
Heaven came down
and glory filled my soul,
When at the cross
the Savior made me whole;
My sins were washed away
And my night was turned to day-
Heaven came down
and glory filled my soul!

© 1961, renewed 1989 by John W. Peterson Music Company.

JUNE 22

The Gospel of Truth

Bible Reading: Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 2:1-5

There’s a lot of bad news in the news!  Though written almost forty years ago, Anne Murray’s song “A Little Good News” well captures the mood of our day: “One more sad story’s one more than I can stand; Just once how I’d like to see the headline say; ‘Not much to print today, can’t find nothin’ bad to say.’  We sure could use a little good news today.”

Amidst all the bad news we hear, it’s good to remind ourselves that there’s an enduring message of good news that’s of first importance to us all!  But to appreciate the goodness of the good news, we must first come to terms with the badness of the bad!  Bad news prevails because we live in a sin-cursed world.  Adam and Eve sinned against God and unleashed a sin-contagion from which no one is immune (Romans 3:23, 5:12, 6:23).  We were created to know and worship our Creator.  Sin has worked instead to turn us all into death-deserving rebels! Were that the end of the matter, man’s existence on this planet would constitute the ultimate of tragedies.  We’ve all sinned.  We’re all deserving of death.  Eternal separation in a place called hell is what we deserve (2 Thessalonians 1:9).  There is absolutely nothing we can do to rescue ourselves from our plight and avert God’s righteous judgment (Ephesians 2:1-3).

In the midst of this darkness, there is a light that shines in its message of hope and salvation.  That message is the good news (i.e., gospel; 1 Corinthians 15:1).  It is the gospel of God (Romans 1:1), for it is His message to us of salvation through His Son.  It is the gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:12), and it speaks of how Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead to save us.  In fulfillment of the Scriptures, the eternal Son of God became man and dwelt among us (John 1:14; Luke 24:44-46).  In a radical divergent manner of life, He spoke truth, showed love, lived without sin, and purposed “to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 1:15).  His death on the cross was no accident, for He was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23).  “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3).  “He was raised on the third day,” having triumphed over sin, and death, and the devil himself (Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 Corinthians 15:54-56).  Based on Christ’s finished work, salvation—from sin and death to the glory of heaven—has been availed to those who believe.

Like a ray of glorious sunshine beaming through a cloud darkened sky, the gospel is a light to us in this darkness.  The Apostle Paul elsewhere referred to it as “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (1 Timothy 1:11).  The message illumines us to the truth about God.  There is bad news in this world!  Does God care?  Will He, can He, do anything about it?  The message is God’s declarative response.  Does He care?  “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  Can he do anything to rescue us from our plight?  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

That message proclaimed by Paul to the Corinthians two millennia ago has spread from those early days to the four corners of the globe, having worked through the centuries to “save to the uttermost” those who have believed (Hebrews 7:25).  It is a timeless, powerful, and glorious message of truth imparting forgiveness and life eternal to all who believe!  It represents the sole means by which anyone can be saved (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) and is the only answer to any of the problems that beset the sons of Adam.  Someone shared it with you—you believed and were saved.  God made it known to you, that you might pass it on.  There is a lot of bad news in the world, but Christ died for sins and rose from the dead, and that, my friend’s, is a good news that triumphs over all the bad!

How precious is the Book divine, By inspiration giv’n!  Bright as a lamp, its doctrines shine, To guide our souls to heav’n.  Its light, descending from above, Our gloomy world to cheer, Displays a Savior’s boundless love, And brings His glories near.

John Fawcett

MY HOPE IS IN THE LORD

My Hope is in the Lord, who gave Himself for me
And paid the price of all my sin at Calvary

Refrain
For me He died; For me He lives,
And everlasting life and light He freely gives.

No merit of my own His anger to suppress,
My only hope is found in Jesus’ righteousness. Refrain.

And now for me He stands Before the Father’s throne;
He shows His wounded hands and names me as His own. Refrain.

His grace has planned it all, ‘Tis mine but to believe
And recognize His work of love and Christ receive. Refrain.

JUNE 21

Contending for the Truth

Bible Reading: Jude 1

Jude 3, “Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”

The title for Jude’s epistle is taken from his name.  Jude was the brother of James and Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3).  Jude wrote to warn of those who had “crept in unnoticed” into the church to promulgate their false teachings (Jude 4).  These false teachers were “perverting the grace of our God into sensuality” and denying “our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).  For this reason, it was especially important for those who shared in a “common salvation” to contend for the faith.

The word “contend” translates a Greek term meaning to struggle.  It speaks of the intense effort that would be extended in a wrestling match (1 Corinthians 9:25).  The verb is in the present tense, implying a continuous action.  The need to contend arises because a battle for truth exists and has existed since the fall.  Believers are as Christian soldiers enlisted to contend for truth against an onslaught of falsehood.  None can opt-out of this battle because to not contend is to yield ground to the enemy is who ever-working to deceive and destroy. 

“The faith” refers not to faith in the subjective sense, but rather the body of core doctrinal truths on which the church is founded and to which it adheres to even to this day (Ephesians 2:19-20; 4:4-6).  These truths are essential both to the salvation of souls and the spiritual growth and well-being of the church.  The “church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth” forsakes its privileged role to the extent it fails to fight for truth (1 Timothy 3:15).

Jude stressed that this faith has been delivered to the church “once for all” (Jude 3).  It is not subject to revision or change.  False teachers may tout their supposed revelations, but if what they say doesn’t measure up to what has been revealed in the closed canon of Scripture, then it should be quickly and fully rejected as false (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  God has closed the book on His revelation to man (Revelation 22:18-19).  In contending for the faith, the believer in Christ needs to be ever vigilant to sift what he hears through a “what-does-the-Bible-say” filter (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Church history is filled with example of those who have contended for the faith.  Jude himself would have witnessed many such examples.  Peter suffered much in contending for the faith.  Paul did too.  Foxes Book of Martyrs is replete with such stories.  John Frith’s is one of them.  He died contending for the truth that a man is justified by faith alone.  England in the 1530s was a dangerous place for a Bible-believing protestant.  God had raised up men to translate and teach the Bible, but that work faced fierce opposition. King Henry VIII did not hesitate to punish, even by death, those who could no longer be regarded as loyal Catholics.  John Frith studied at Oxford.  He was saved and became one of England’s greatest evangelical scholars.  Sensing his life to be endangered, he fled to Europe, but in 1532 he returned to England knowing full well that his reforming work could lead to his capture and death.  He attempted to keep a low profile but was betrayed and arrested in October 1532.  Imprisoned in the Tower of London, he was subjected to intense pressure from Catholic theologians and bishops to recant his gospel faith.  Instead, while imprisoned, he penned his views on Communion, knowing full well that his own words could be used against him. Frith was tried before many examiners and bishops who produced Frith’s own writings as evidence for his supposed heretical views. He was sentenced to death by fire but offered a pardon if he positively affirmed two questions: Do you believe in purgatory, and do you believe in transubstantiation? He replied that neither purgatory nor transubstantiation could be proven by Holy Scriptures, and thus he was condemned as a heretic and was burned at the stake on 4 July 1533 at Smithfield, London. 

He died, but in contending for the faith, he ignited and bolstered the faith of others (Philippians 1:12-14).  God would have us, His children, to contend for the faith.  People contend for many lesser causes, but to contend for the faith is to fight the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7). Jude 21-22 speaks to how we can be prepared to contend for the faith.  Jude 23-24 speaks to how we can do it.

The truth that is powerful to save and transform lives is a truth worth contending for.

Anonymous

ONCE TO EVERY MAN AND NATION

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble,
When we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit,
And ‘tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses
While the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue
Of the faith they had denied.

By the light of burning martyrs,
Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calvaries ever
With the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties,
Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still and onward,
Who would keep abreast of truth.

Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ‘tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above His own.

JUNE 20

Preaching the Word

Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 4:1-5

Set in the early 1900s, the movie Pollyanna tells the story of a 12-year-old orphaned girl who is brought into the care of her Aunt Polly Harrington.  Things are not okay in the embattled community of Harrington, as Pollyanna’s wealthy aunt runs everything in the town, including the Reverend.  Reverend Ford has a problem.  Each week dire Aunt Polly feeds him with ideas for his upcoming Sunday message.  Her perspective is that he’s only got an hour on Sunday to persuade the people to not sin through the rest of the week.  His wrathful messages are as dire as Aunt Polly’s attitude and the people go home from church with sour stomachs.

Pollyanna is buoyantly optimistic, so much so that her name birthed a word.  According to the dictionary, to be pollyannish is “to be unrealistically optimistic.”  Ultimately, Pollyanna comes to the Reverend’s rescue, encouraging him with her father’s perspective, whereby he’d look for the good in people.  She points him to the happy texts found in the Bible.  His preaching changes and everyone is made happy.

The problem for the fictional Reverend Ford is that he wasn’t to be answering to either Aunt Polly or to Pollyanna.  Paul’s charge to Timothy to preach the word was “in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead” (2 Timothy 4:1).  The preacher of the Word is accountable to none other than God Himself.  His charge is a solemn privilege.  His chief concern is to be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:1-4).  According to Paul’s own example, he is to preach “the whole counsel” of God (Acts 20:27), and preeminently “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).

Kenneth Wuest paraphrases the preacher’s responsibility this way: “make a public proclamation of the Word with such formality, gravity, and authority as must be heeded. Hold yourself in readiness for this proclamation when opportunity presents itself and when it does not; reprove so as to bring forth conviction and confession of guilt; rebuke sharply, severely, and with a suggestion of impending penalty. Pleadingly exhort, doing all this with that utmost self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate a wrong, and accompany this exhortation with the most painstaking instruction.”   

The congregation has its own responsibility.  Their task is to listen.  As we have previously noted, listening is no simple thing.  There is a spiritual aspect to the matter that it sometimes overlooked.  The same Spirit that indwells the preacher indwells the listener.  Preacher and listener both possess the Word.  Assuming the sermon to be Biblically well-founded, the listener needs to prayerfully engage himself.  He needs to listen with “ears to hear” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).

We are warned here of a time that was to come in which “people will not endure sound teaching” (2 Timothy 4:3).  Who are these folks spoken of here?  They cannot be unbelievers since an unbeliever is by definition one who does not accept the truth.  It’s speaking instead of those making a profession of faith.  We live in such a time!  The “big” church has been characterized in recent decades by its turning from sound teaching in preference to that which will “suit their own passions” (2 Timothy 4:3; Isaiah 30:10).  Make note of this.  You’ve a preacher who is careful in his exposition of the Word—praise God for Him; pray for Him!  You’ve got a desire to hear the Word preached accurately and clearly—praise God for that too; and pray that God might protect that in you and use your example to encourage others!

“Christian preaching is the event of God bringing to a congregation a Bible-based, Christ-related life-impacting message of instruction and direction from Himself through the words of a spokesman.”

J. I. Packer

SPEAK, O LORD

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory

Teach us Lord, full obedience
Holy reverence, true humility
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity
Cause our faith to rise, cause our eyes to see
Your majestic love and authority
Words of pow’r that can never fail
Let their truth prevail over unbelief

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity
And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises
And by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us
Speak, O Lord, till Your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory

Songwriters: Keith Getty / Stuart Townend
Speak, O Lord lyrics © Thank You Music Ltd.

JUNE 19

The Truth: Lost and Found

Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 34

Apart from the influence of the Word of God on a person or people, spiritual and moral decline are inevitable.  Wherever and whenever the Word of God is free to exercise its influence, spiritual revival and blessing are assured.

These opposing realities are graphically demonstrated in 2 Chronicles 34.  For half a century, the book of the law of the Lord had been lost to the people of Judah!  Imagine that!  God’s people lost God’s book!  During that time, and under the evil leadership of King Manasseh, the spiritual condition spiraled rapidly downward.  Idolatry, witchcraft, immorality, and violence became the norm.  Things got so bad that the deeds done in Judah were worse than the evil deeds of the pagan nations they had replaced in the land.

Then King Josiah came along.  As a reformer, he got rid of the idols and sought to restore the temple.  In the process of those repairs, the book of the Law was found.  Hilkiah the priest found the book and told Shaphan the scribe.  Shaphan took the book to the King.

We can only speculate as to the disposition of that copy of the Law. We don’t know how, or why, or by whom it was placed there in the temple. I think it is fair to assume that it was not put there by an enemy of the book, but a friend. Manasseh’s reign was so evil that he would have sought to eradicate the influence of the Law from every aspect of Jewish society. Most likely, it was a friend of the book who hid it, understanding its importance, and hoping there’d come a day when God’s people would have a heart to hear.

But though we can’t be certain as to the specific circumstances in which the Law had been placed, we can assert with all confidence that it was God who ultimately worked to preserve it safely.  God providentially led to the discovery and at just the right time.   Josiah had accomplished much.  He had rid the land of idols.  He had begun work on restoring the house of God.  But he didn’t have the Law, and without the Law, his reforms could only go so far.

So, Shaphan brought the Law and read it in the King’s presence (34:18).  In hearing of its contents and the term of God’s covenant with His people, King Josiah tore his clothes (34:19).  How anguished he must have been in hearing of the curses promised for disobedience (34:21)! Josiah sent his servants to inquire of the Lord through Huldah, the prophetess (34:22).  She confirmed the fears of the King.  God was indeed going to bring judgment on Judah and its people according to the curses written in the law, because they had forsaken Him and worshiped other gods (34:24).  But because of Josiah’s sincere and humble response, he would be spared from having to witness the destruction which was to come (34:28).

The King gathered all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem (34:29).  He gathered all the people together, from the greatest to the least (34:30).  He read “in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord” (34:30).

The King reaffirmed, in the presence of all, his intention to walk after the Lord and keep His commandments (34:31).  Jerusalem’s inhabitants lived according to the covenant. The conclusion of the matter: “And Josiah removed all the abominations from all the lands belonging to the sons of Israel and made all who were present in Israel to serve the Lord their God.  Throughout his lifetime they did not turn from following the Lord God of their fathers” (34:33).

For a time, the Law was lost in Judah and evil proceeded from bad to worse.  Then the Law was found, and it worked to restore in amazing fashion!  So, it was.  So, it is.  The future course of a soul or a nation can be ascertained according to what it does with the Word! 

Wherever and whenever the Word of God is set free to exercise its influence on a person or a people, spiritual revival and blessing are assured.

Jerry Conklin

SINCE JESUS CAME INTO MY HEART

What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought
Since Jesus came into my heart!
I have light in my soul for which long I have sought,
Since Jesus came into my heart!

Refrain:
Since Jesus came into my heart,
Since Jesus came into my heart,
Floods of joy o’er my soul like the sea billows roll,
Since Jesus came into my heart.

I have ceased from my wand’ring and going astray,
Since Jesus came into my heart!
And my sins which were many are all washed away,
Since Jesus came into my heart! [Refrain]

I’m possessed of a hope that is steadfast and sure,
Since Jesus came into my heart!
And no dark clouds of doubt now my pathway obscure,
Since Jesus came into my heart! [Refrain]

There’s a light in the valley of death now for me,
Since Jesus came into my heart!
And the gates of the City beyond I can see,
Since Jesus came into my heart! [Refrain]

I shall go there to dwell in that city, I know,
Since Jesus came into my heart!
And I’m happy, so happy, as onward I go,
Since Jesus came into my heart! [Refrain]

JUNE 18

Hungry to Hear

Bible Reading: Nehemiah 8

The Great Awakening mightily worked to influence and transform the English colonies in America during the 1730s and 1740s.  The great British evangelist, George Whitefield, played a huge role in that work.  In one year, Whitefield covered over 5000 miles in America and preached over 350 times.  He preached to common folks, native Americans, and slaves.  Even Benjamin Franklin, a religious skeptic, was captivated by Whitefield’s sermons, and the two became friends.  One day, while at the back of an immense crowd gathered to hear Whitefield in Philadelphia, Franklin walked backwards until he could no longer hear the sermon.  From there, he calculated a semicircle and mathematically deduced the crowd to be as many as 30,000 people.  Imagine that!  Thirty thousand people gathered to listen to a preacher in downtown Philadelphia!  Such was the hunger for truth in that day. My, how things have changed!

History reveals that any revival of soul or souls has been accompanied by a corresponding hunger for truth.  The two go hand in hand.  The opposite likewise holds true. Any downward trend into evil and moral degradation is accompanied by a corresponding apostasy and suppression of the truth (Romans 1:18-32).  As a scribe and writer of the books of Chronicles, Ezra was aware of how the rejection of the Law had worked to Judah’s ruin.  As a priest, standing before the great assembly of returned exiles, Ezra was privileged to lead the people in revival.

In Nehemiah chapter eight, we read of the things that accompany spiritual revival.  The response to the Word is key.  In previous generations, that Word had been disregarded, disobeyed, and discarded.  False prophets and teachers worked to mislead the people.  At one point in Judah’s history, the Law of the Lord was even lost.  But God graciously worked, as He had promised, to return the people to the land.  Whereas Zerubbabel and Nehemiah worked to rebuild the temple and the walls, Ezra led in the spiritual restoration.

The people sought the Word.  “All the people gathered as one man” (Nehemiah 8:1).  It was a group of tens of thousands, yet they were gathered as one man.  Surely God must have been in it!  The people told Ezra to “bring the book!” They were hungry to hear. The people reverenced the Word.  Ezra stood on a wooden platform and opened the book in the sight of the people and all the people stood to their feet.  Ezra led in prayer, and everyone bowed and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. In worshiping God, they reverenced His Word.  The people paid attention to the Word.  What’s the longest sermon you’ve ever heard?  These folks stood and listened to the Law of Moses from early morning until midday.  For six hours, they listened.  Not only did they listen, but they were also attentive (Nehemiah 8:3)!  Remember these folks next time you are tempted to complain about the long length of your pastor’s sermon!  The people sought to understand the Word.  They wanted to understand.  Having grown up in a foreign land, most no longer spoke or read Hebrew.  So, some of the Levites helped the people by reading clearly and giving the sense (Nehemiah 8:8).  The people responded to the Word. They wept in the realization of how their nation had sinned (Nehemiah 8:9). But they rejoiced in having heard from God (Nehemiah 8:12). In obedience, they observed the long-forgotten observance of the Feast of Booths (Nehemiah 8:13-18).  And “day by day (Ezra) read from the Book of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:18).

These are the kinds of things that accompany revival, be that of a single soul or an entire nation. While we can’t control what others do, we can adjust our own attitude towards the Word such that it has the freedom to do its good work in us! “O Lord, send a revival and let it begin in me!”

“The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts.”

George Mueller

O LORD, SEND A REVIVAL

Of self I am weary,
My sin I abhor,
I long to be holy
And pure to the core;
O why do I labor
On husks to be fed,
Or spend my poor money
For what is not bread?

Refrain:
O Lord, send a revival!
Lord, send a revival!
O Lord, send a revival!
And let it begin in me!

Thy church, O my Saviour,
Thy body and bride,
The saints Thou hast ransomed,
For whom Thou hast died—
How cold are we growing
In service and pray’r!
Our love needs rekindling,
Our altars repair. [Refrain]

The world, in its sorrow,
The world needeth Thee;
Revive Thy disciples,
Beginning in me!
Endue us with boldness
The grace to proclaim;
O help us with power
To speak in Thy name. [Refrain]

Thy glorious coming—
We long for the day!
But are we preparing
The holy highway?
Our hand seemeth weakened,
And feeble the knee;
O send a revival,
Beginning in me! [Refrain]

JUNE 17

The Word Implanted

Bible Reading: James 1:19-27; Matthew 13:18-23

I planted a garden this spring–carrots, onions, beets, radishes, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers.  Things are looking pretty good so far, though only the radishes have grown enough to eat.  There’s a lot of work that goes into preparing and maintaining a garden if you expect for it to produce a good crop.  It’s not enough to just throw some seed out in the dirt. The seed needs to be placed at the right depth with the right spacing.  Then there’s the need to water appropriately and keep the weeds out.  But above all else, one can only expect for things to grow if the seed is sown in good, well-prepared soil.

James alluded to such when he spoke of the need to “receive…the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).  In the broader context, the verse speaks to the need to both hear and do the Word.  It is not the forgetful hearer, but “a doer who acts,” who “will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25).

To “receive the implanted word” it is first necessary to “put away filthiness and rampant wickedness” (James 1:21).  Peter spoke likeness of the need to “put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” before receiving the “pure spiritual milk” of the Word (1 Peter 2:1-2).  Warren Wiersbe explained it this way: “The soil of the heart must be prepared to receive the Word. If we have unconfessed sin in our hearts, and bitterness against God because of our trials, then we cannot receive the Word and be blessed by it.”  You’ve got to de-weed the garden before you plant the good seed, lest the weeds hide the sunshine and crowd out the good plants.

Just as seed must be received by prepared soil, the word must be received by a prepared heart. It must be received with meekness.  The term was used in extra-biblical literature to describe a horse that someone had broken and had trained to submit to a bridle. It pictures strength under control, specifically the Holy Spirit’s control. The evidence of this attitude is a deliberate placing of oneself under divine authority.  Meekness equates to having a teachable spirit.  This is an aspect of the study of the Scriptures that is often overlooked.  It is in humility that we acknowledge our need for Jesus and His Word.  Humility is a gift of God in the working of the Spirit, whereby we rightly esteem ourselves to need Him. Just as we need Jesus always, we are always in need of His Word.  We work the soil of a garden, softening the ground and removing rocks and such, with shovels and hoes and rakes.  It is the Spirit who works the soil of our hearts, in ridding us of pride and self-reliance and turning our eyes to Jesus.  Prayer plays an important role.

John Piper described it this way, “But James says receive it with meekness. When you open your Bible, say to God: I trust you, I submit to you, I need you to help me. Incline my heart to love your word. Open my eyes to see the greatness of what is really there. Satisfy my soul with the glory of Christ revealed in all of this book. I bow. I yield to the supreme truth and value of this book. In all meekness and lowliness, I look to you. I wait for you. Come to me through your word, my Savior and my Lord and my God and my friend and my highest treasure. That would be a meek way of receiving the implanted word.”

A heart open to God is soil in which the seed of His Word can flourish.

Anonymous

BREAK THOU THE BREAD OF LIFE

Break now the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
as once you broke the loaves beside the sea.
Beyond the sacred page I seek you, Lord;
my spirit waits for you, O living Word.

Bless your own word of truth, dear Lord, to me,
as when you blessed the bread by Galilee.
Then shall all bondage cease, all fetters fall;
and I shall find my peace, my All in all!

You are the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
your holy word the truth that rescues me.
Give me to eat and live with you above;
teach me to love your truth, for you are love.

O send your Spirit now, dear Lord, to me,
that he may touch my eyes and make me see.
Show me the truth made plain within your Word,
for in your book revealed I see you, Lord.

JUNE 16

Transformed by the Truth

Bible Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5, 2:13

1 Thessalonians 2:13, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”

She’d been on hospice for quite some time, long before I started my job as hospice chaplain.  The hospice team had done a wonderful job of caring for her and her household, but she had not been interested in being visited by the hospice chaplain (me).  So, one of the nurses “negotiated” my first visit.  According to the terms, I could accompany the nurse on a visit and return for subsequent visits only if I met with our patient’s approval.  So, I visited.  We talked.  I listened.  She was concerned about what was going to happen to her when she died.  That first visit led to many more.  She had never attended church and had never read the Bible!  I got her a large print version, but the print wasn’t big enough, so I found one with an extra-large print. After explaining to her some Bible navigation basics, I encouraged her to read through the gospel of John, keeping two questions in mind: 1) Who is Jesus?; and 2) What does He want you to do?  She read the gospel and kept on reading, through Acts and into the epistles.  There were a lot of questions, and we spent a lot of time talking about Jesus and salvation and heaven!  We didn’t know it when she professed her faith in Jesus, but she was soon to leave this world. As with the thief on the cross, salvation came when she was at death’s door.  How important it was for her to accept the Word for “what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). 

The term translated accepted in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 speaks of a deliberate and ready reception of what is offered.  It means to welcome with open arms, even going beyond what is normally expected of a host.  Laura and I stayed with our son in Astoria over the recent Mother’s Day weekend.  He was such a gracious and thoughtful host, seeing to his mom’s every potential need.  He did that because of his love for her.  You might say that he laid out the welcome mat for us.  That’s the idea behind the use of the term.

Have you laid out the welcome mat of your heart to your Bible?  You’d not welcome an intruder into your home.  A solicitor or a stranger would not be readily received.  But your door swings wide open for a best friend or beloved family member.  Likewise, your heart’s door should swing wide open to the Word.  You’ve no better friend.  To be sure, he might sometimes confront you with hard truths, or bring up things you’d rather keep hidden or forget, but he does all that it does in love for you.  No other friend can encourage as he can.  No other friend can speak with such wisdom.  No other friend will always prove true in all he speaks and promises.  To hear from him is to hear truths that are powerful to save and transform.  So where are you at with the word of God?  How do you relate to it?  As a hostile intruder?  A questionable stranger?  A mere acquaintance?  A neglected friend?  Anything less than a beloved and welcomed friend is not good enough.  Devotion to the Word is born out of such a perspective.  And to the extent we welcome the Word and give it free rein in us, it’ll powerfully work to save and transform!

Lay out a welcome mat of your heart to the Word of God, you’ll find no more trustworthy friend.

Jerry Conklin

LOVE DIVINE, ALL LOVES EXCELLING

Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heav’n, to earth come down,
fix in us thy humble dwelling,
all thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art.
Visit us with thy salvation;
enter ev’ry trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit
into ev’ry troubled breast.
Let us all in thee inherit,
let us find the promised rest.
Take away the love of sinning;
Alpha and Omega be.
End of faith, as its beginning,
set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty, to deliver,
let us all thy life receive.
Suddenly return, and never,
nevermore they temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray, and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.

Finish, then, thy new creation;
true and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee.
Changed from glory into glory,
till in heav’n we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love and praise.