PURIFIED FAITH

Purified Faith
Hebrews 11:32-40

Most Christians would love to have the heroic trust of the men and women mentioned in Hebrews 11. Few of us, however, would willingly undergo the process God uses to develop this kind of dynamic faith. We enjoy reading about the great victories and accomplishments of those who trusted the Lord, but we cringe at their hardships, listed in Hebrews 11:35-38. None of us want to go through suffering, yet adversity is one of the ways God purifies our faith.

Picture the Lord as a master sculptor standing before a block of marble—that slab is you! Envisioning the hidden work of art within, He lovingly and carefully chips away everything that does not fit the masterpiece He is creating.

Character. One of the first areas the Lord deals with is your character. His goal is to shape you into the image of His Son, and there are some traits and attitudes that must be chipped away in order for Him to accomplish the task. His chisel exposes imperfections like pride and selfishness.

Idolatry. When anything or anyone becomes more important to us than the Lord, it is an idol in our life. To protect us, God will sometimes use adversity to strip away everything we have relied upon so that we’ll cling only to Him.

The chisel hurts—it sometimes feels as if the Lord is taking away everything we hold dear. Unless you understand His goal and believe He’s working for your good, you’ll think He’s cruel. But if you trust Him and yield to His shaping tool of adversity, your faith will be purified and strengthened through affliction.

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JESUS OFFERED HIMSELF A SERVANT FOR MANKIND

Jesus offered Himself a servant for Mankind.

Matthew 20:20-28

Believers like to talk about Jesus as Lord, Master, and especially Savior, but rarely is He mentioned as Servant. Yet describing His own mission, Christ said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). He entered the world to offer Himself for the Father’s purpose and mankind’s need.

Because every human being is born enslaved to sin, Jesus came to set us free. He voluntarily exchanged His glory for flesh because only as a human could He die in our place to pay the penalty for our sin. The greatest service He offered was His sacrifice on the cross. He allowed His purity to be violated by our transgressions. In fact, God made Jesus “who knew no sin to
be sin on our behalf” so that we could gain His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Our sinless Savior suddenly and painfully felt the burden of guilt, the vileness of sin, the weight of a tarnished soul, and a wretched separation from His Father. He suffered the injustice of dying for our sins in order that God’s holiness and our imperfection could be reconciled, and we could be shown mercy.

Jesus was the Father’s servant, agreeing to an atonement plan that made Him a sacrifice. And He is your servant as well—He humbly endured the punishment you deserved. To receive the benefit of His sacrifice, you need only believe and call on Him
for the forgiveness of your sins. When you receive Him into your life, then you too will know the Servant, Jesus Christ, as Savior and Lord.

Bible in One Year: Ecclesiastes 9-12

In Christ.

DRIFTING IS DANGEROUS.

Drifting is Dangerous

JULY,5 2018
THURSDAY

Proverbs 14:15-16

It was my best friend’s birthday,so we decided to celebrate her birthday on the beach in a canoe can you imagine that, that was way back in school anyway. We paid for the canoe and the guy who will take us on this risky adventure. On that faithful afternoon of her birthday we took off everyone on board and we drifted downstream talking, joking, having fun and carrying on. I’m not sure how much time passed as we floated aimlessly along, but we knew we were in trouble when a loud roar reached our ears. Up ahead, water was rushing over the stream. The guy paddling the canoe jumped into the water, Panicked, we grabbed the paddles left in the canoe and pulled hard against the current. Funny enough I don’t know how to swim like wise our friends. We all jumped into the water drowning but to God be the glory, we were rescued by some guys who came swimming. What started out as pure fun nearly ended in disaster.

That’s what happens to many people today. What begins as fun and pleasure ends in shipwreck because people drift along, neglecting to think ahead or notice how fast they’re moving away from the safety of the Lord’s plan. According to the prevailing attitude of modern society, God isn’t needed as long as the stream runs smoothly. In other words, when income is good, the family is safe, and health is stable, going with the flow seems fine. But in reality, a drifting man is being swept along by the world’s currents, which are dangerous without Christ.

Today’s passage reveals that the wise look to the future to avoid ruin. Let me put it another way: Drifting is foolish. In countless arenas of life—including marriage, family, vocation, and finances—we need to have a goal and navigation plan if we expect to be successful. Thankfully, God provides both in His Word. (See Prov. 3:6.)

In Christ.

ARE YOU A TRUE FOLLOWER OF JESUS CHRIST?

When Jesus walked this earth, He was often surrounded by a multitude. Such large crowds might give the impression that the entire nation of Israel was committed to Him as their Messiah. But by the end of His ministry, there were only 120 loyal followers gathered in an upper room (Acts 1:12-15).

The majority of those who followed Jesus around were interested only in what He could do for them. They came to be healed or to see the miracles He performed. After the Lord fed about 5,000 people a supernatural meal, they came back in the morning expecting breakfast. John 6:66 tells us that when Jesus refused to work another miracle for them and declared Himself the true bread of life, “many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.”

Temporary Christ-followers are still around today. They want the benefits Jesus can offer but are unwilling to accept hard truths or deny their own will for His. These people are like the seeds that fell on rocky soil in Jesus’ parable. (See Matt. 13:20-21.) They stick around for a while, but if He doesn’t benefit them as they expected, they fall away.

When it comes to true Christ-followers, church rosters don’t give an accurate picture. False gospels promising a better life draw those who are seeking Jesus’ benefits but who remain uninterested in Christ Himself. True followers are more like Simon Peter in John 6:68. When Jesus asked if they too wanted to leave, they replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.”

YOUR PAST DOES NOT DEFINE YOU!

Dear Lovelies,

I want to talk to you about Ruth. She was a Moabitess who grew up on the high plateau south of the Arnon River as part of a nation that worshiped the false god Chemosh. She married into a Hebrew family that came to Moab from Bethlehem to escape a famine. Naomi was Ruth’s mother-in-law.

After the husbands of both Naomi and Ruth died, Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem. Ruth refused to be left behind. She went with Naomi to Bethlehem and began a new life. She worked in the barley fields of Naomi’s relative Boaz, gleaning the edges of the grain field. She eventually won the respect and love of Boaz, who took her as his wife.

She is the only woman in the Bible called a “virtuous woman”.
But in her early years, born and raised in Moab, her past was with a people who did wicked things… involving the sacrifice of young children to Chemosh as an offering (2 Kings 3:27). Ruth was exposed to a perverse culture at a young age. Moab was considered a “cursed place”. Imagine coming from such a past – her upbringing was different from the man she married…

Ruth, who lived under the shadow of death all her life, had encountered even more death. He husband and her sons died… She who had known bitterness and disappointment that are a part of idol worship and now found herself living with a mother-in-law

who was bitter and disappointed.

All of these things must have played a part in making Ruth who she was. They must have had a major impact on her psyche. Do you ever wonder: What impact does our environment have on us? What influence do other people have on us?

But Ruth rose above her past- in light of her past and the events of her present, there was something great about Ruth. She had an ability to say, “I want something better, I want something more!”

Ruth 1:11-18, “Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? … Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.”

You have to recognize your past and say “I want something better, there has to be something more!”
She refused to return to her past. She was saying to Naomi, “I’m going where I’ve never been to create something I’ve never had… because in knowing you, Naomi, I’ve come to love you and your God.”

Many people are where Ruth was in that moment. They each have a past they wish they could forget. You cannot enter your tomorrow as long as you hold on to your past, you must let it go!

Questions:

1. Have you recognized your past is not who you are?

2. How has your environment affected you?

3. Do you know there is greatness in you?

4. Where do you want to go? What is something “better”?

More to come…

In Christ.

WHICH GOD DO YOU SERVE?

A group of seminary students were given the task of organizing the Ten Commandments in their perceived order of importance. Interestingly, these students felt that the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder,” should be number-one on the list. The seventh commandment, “You shall not commit adultery,” was also placed near the top. But the group relegated the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” to the bottom of the list. They didn’t think it was all that important.

In God’s listing, however, it is a different story. He puts this commandment at the top of the list. But why is it the number-one offense to God? It comes down to this: If you have broken this one, then everything else will fall apart.

One day a man came to Jesus and asked Him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” (Mark 12:28 NLT). Jesus responded,

“The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (verse 29, NLT)

With that statement, Jesus essentially summed up the Ten Commandments: Put God in His rightful place. Make Him number-one in your life.

Could this be said of us today? A survey revealed that 76 percent of Americans believed they had been completely faithful to the first commandment. In other words, they might have problems with some of the other commandments, but for them, the first commandment was not a problem. But is that true? It’s hard to say.

You see, everyone has a god. Everyone, including atheists, bows at some altar. We don’t all worship the true God, but we all worship. Everyone has something they believe in, some passion that drives them, something that gives their life meaning and purpose. For some, their god is possessions or money. Others worship their bodies. They worship at the church of the perfect physique. Still others worship success or pleasure or relationships. But we all worship someone or something.

With the first commandment, God was establishing the fact that He is our God and was showing us His place in our lives: “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. You must not have any other god but me” (Exodus 20:2-3 NLT). It is amazing how much can be revealed by a simple little pronoun such as “I.” Only one letter long, it conveys a profound and fundamental truth about who God is. When He said, “I am the Lord,” He was, in effect, refuting all other belief systems, including pantheism, polytheism, deism, and new-age thinking. When God says, “I am,” He is revealing that He is a being, not a mere force of nature. He says, “I am. . . . I feel. I think. I care.”

God is not an impersonal force, as pantheism would teach. Nor is He one of many gods, as polytheism claims. God said, “I am the Lord your God” (emphasis mine). As 1 Timothy 2:5 reminds us, “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity-the man Christ Jesus” (NLT).

In contrast to the teaching of deism, which says that God has no interest in the affairs of men, the first commandment shows us that we have a God who sees and hears and cares. God reminded Israel that He had blessed and protected them up to this point: “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.”

The Bible says that God is a jealous God. By “jealous,” it doesn’t mean that God is one who is controlling and demanding and flies into a rage without the slightest reason or provocation. The jealousy the Bible is speaking of is the jealousy of a loving Father who sees the possibilities and potential of His children and is brokenhearted when those things are not realized, or worse, are wasted and squandered.

Jesus said, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26 NLT). Is God number-one in your life today? Or, are you allowing other gods to crowd Him out?

 
In Christ.

TRUTH FOR CHILDREN

May 4
1 Samuel 17:34-35
A FEARLESS SHEPHERD

One day, while David was taking care of his father’s sheep, a lion carried off one of the lambs. When David struck the lion, it turned on him, so he grabbed it by the throat and beat it to death, saving the little lamb.
At another time a bear came to take one of the lambs. David went after the bear and attacked it, rescuing the helpless lamb.
Why would a shepherd risk his life for a silly sheep?
If you were a sheep, would you feel safe having a shepherd like David? David did not only care about his sheep; he was brave and strong enough to protect them!
A shepherd’s job is to look after a flock of sheep. However, not all shepherds are the same: there is a good shepherd who will do anything to keep his sheep safe, and one who looks after sheep only because he needs money. Someone who is paid to look after sheep does not care when a wolf comes to snatch away one of the sheep. Even if the sheep scatter, he will not risk his life to bring them back.
Jesus said, “I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Because His sheep belong to Him and are precious to Him, Jesus not only risked His life, He gave His life!
Jesus is the only Shepherd who knows every one of His sheep by name (John 10:3-4). When He calls us, we recognize His voice because we have learned to trust Him.
Jesus is also the Gate (John 10:9). Every sheep that goes through the gate is kept safe because thieves cannot come and steal them. But there are other dangers too: the devil prowls around like a roaring lion. Yet, all those who have entered through Jesus the Gate are part of His flock and are perfectly safe!
Verse for today
Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3