Posts Tagged ‘J.C. Ryle’

‘Benefits’ Of Assurance

30 June 19

The insurance industry has a policy with a feature that allows access to one’s equity before they die—it’s called “Living Benefits.” Are there any other aspects of one’s life that they can be assured ‘BENEFITS’?

Last month I mentioned that we live in very unstable, uncertain times, and that’s why we ‘hedge our bets’ against that uncertainty by buying an insurance policy—primarily health and life insurance.

Relatively recently, an insurance policy called “Permanent Life” (or “Whole Life”) has offered more than just death benefits—it has what is called “Living Benefits.” As you pay the premiums, the policy builds equity, also known as “cash value.” This cash value grows tax-deferred, and becomes a source of money you can access—at any age and for any reason.

You can use this cash value to cover the cost of an unexpected emergency, pay for a child’s education, supplement your retirement income, make a down payment on a second home, or maybe even use it as the ‘seed’ money to start a new business or grow an existing one. It is something guaranteed to increase in ‘value’, provide financial ‘security’, and something you can ‘COUNT ON’ for your entire life!

[ Link to the specific spot in the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPGZXsV9Zps&feature=youtu.be&t=51 ].

 
Last month I also discussed how a follower of Jesus can have ABSOLUTE ‘ASSURANCE’ that they are ‘true’ believer—forgiven of their sins and accepted by God as one of His ‘children’—and be guaranteed that they are headed for Heaven and eternal life.

I also mentioned that assurance gives a true believer confidence, peace, and hope—ultimately freedom from worry—that following God’s ‘leading’ in their lives will assure them that things will work out the best for them here on earth, as well as how it will ‘work out’ even better for them after they die—eternity in Heaven!

 

A few months ago I discussed “The Pilgrim’s Progress” book. In it, “Old Honest” describes the passage across the River of Death. “The river at that time overflowed its banks in some places; but Mr. Honest, in his life-time, had spoken to one, ‘Good Conscience,’ to meet him there: the which he also did, and lent him his hand, and so helped him over.”

Even though a ‘good’ conscience will not ‘save’ anyone, ‘wash away’ any sin, nor will it help one get to Heaven, it does help the believer have ‘PEACE OF MIND’ and see the ‘BENEFITS’ of the assurance of their salvation. Unfaltering confidence in their assurance increases a believer’s faith!

All believers should covet these ‘benefits’ (gifts), and not be content with anything less! However, many believers miss the fullness of the blessedness the Gospel was meant to convey. Many believers keep their souls in a ‘starved’ condition, while God is ‘saying’, “Eat and drink abundantly in My love. Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (Song of Songs 5:1; John 16:24).

In this post, I will present the major ‘benefits’ of a believer’s assurance of their salvation.

 

INCREASED MERCIES
The primary ‘benefit’ for the increased mercies from God is that, since the believer has been “born again” and has been ‘given’ eternal salvation by God, He withholds the just punishment for the believer’s sin and then grants them His daily providential care, special compassions, and lovingkindness (Psalm 136:1).

The Puritan preacher Thomas Watson said this well: “Mercy sweetens all God’s other attributes…When the water was bitter, and Israel could not drink, Moses cast a tree into the waters, and then they were made sweet. How bitter and dreadful were the other attributes of God, did not mercy sweeten them! Mercy sets God’s power [at] work to help us; it makes His justice become our friend; it shall avenge our quarrels.”

 

The very fact that God even permits people to live at all—because of their sinfulness—speaks tremendously of His mercy: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” [ Lamentations 3:22-23 ].

The very reality of new mercies from God each morning means that the believer shouldn’t be discouraged by barely making it through a day. Lamentations 3:22–24 reminds those who are ‘in’ Christ, that God will be faithful to be there every morning with enough new mercy to get them through that day’s troubles, sin, and pain—the sufficient, powerful, present, and faithful care of God for each one of His ‘children’.

Just think of it, God feeds every bird of the air and clothes all the lilies of the field, and His care for us supersedes by far His care for nature (Matthew 6:25–34), so the believer can be assured that God will be there with them every morning until the moment they fall asleep that night—and He won’t leave them or neglect them, even while they enjoy His good ‘gift’ of sleep (Psalm 4:8).

 

Now, many days leave the believer broken, beat-up, and barely hoping—but that’s okay. The believer is ‘promised’ that there will be enough mercy for that day, and that there will be just enough for tomorrow—the next morning! So, the Bible tells the believer to fix their eyes upon Jesus, and cast their burdens on Him (1 Peter 5:6–7). He can handle their burdens better than they ever could!

The believer is then instructed go to the Word of God in prayer, each day, to ask God to help them ‘believe’ His promises. They are to ask Him to give them the grace they need for that day in all of their upcoming ‘circumstances’. It would be good for the believer to heed the words of the Apostle Paul: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” [ Philippians 4:6–7 ].

God is with the believer ‘through’ Christ and, ‘by’ the Holy Spirit. His promises for new mercies are as real and trustworthy today as they were yesterday (and they were sufficient, right?). So, go to God often, cast your cares honestly, and trust Him for the peace that far surpasses our limited understanding and that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

 

No matter what a believer’s situation is, God’s mercy is MORE than sufficient for them (Psalm 108:4). So, be encouraged and praise God for the great mercies He bestows EVERY DAY!

Every mercy from God, on this side Heaven, makes every ‘bitter’ thing sweeter, and every sweet thing even more sweet. (Exodus 15:23-25). “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” [ Psalm 23:6 ]. What a ‘benefit’!

 

TRUST/EMBOLDENED FAITH
The primary ‘benefit’ of God ‘emboldening’ a believer’s faith is to create unwavering confidence—replacing fear and doubt with assurance and certainty. Although some believers fear that trials and persecutions only ‘rob’ them of their joy, the Apostle Peter taught just the opposite. In fact, he said that joy came not ‘in spite of’ trouble, but ‘because of’ trouble! When a believer’s faith has been tested and ‘proven’ to be genuine, doubts will disappear, and be replaced with much joy!

Every trial the believer faces is designed to test and perfect their faith—and God carefully ‘controls’ the parameters to accomplish that purpose. “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” [ 1 Peter 1:6-7 ].

So, believers don’t fear trials. They welcome them as opportunities to strengthen their faith and prove that it is ‘real’! “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” [ 1 Peter 5:10 ].

 

Doubt about one’s own state of salvation is the ‘mother’ of all evils. Being continually perplexed with doubts often produces a wavering ‘walk’ in following Jesus. The Devil ‘whispers’, “Perhaps, after all, you are only a hypocrite: what right have you to take a decided course? Wait till you are really a Christian.” This ‘whisper’ too often leads some Christians into miserable compromise, or ‘conformity’ to the world.

When one doesn’t have assurance, they feel hesitant to ‘break’ with the world, since they are not quite confident they have ‘put on’ the “new man” (Ephesians 4:24), and halt between two opinions. However, when a believer finally decides that, “Know that the LORD, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture” [ Psalm 100:3 ], the ‘course’ of their life becomes very clear (1 Kings 18:39).

 

Boldness comes from experiential knowledge—a precious ‘byproduct’ of abiding ‘in’ Christ. [ For more details about being ‘in’ Christ, read this previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts post: https://markbesh.wordpress.com/new-identity-v220/ ]. “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him” [ 1 John 2:28-29 ].

The ‘true’ believer (see last month’s post for the “tests” to determine if you are one) can be ASSURED that “I give unto My sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand” [ John 10:28 ]. The believer can have this boldness before God because they KNOW that the wages of their sins were ‘reckoned’ to Jesus and, as a result, there is no more judicial ‘reckoning’—EVER! So, the believer needs to be more ‘venturesome’ in their faith—to dare like the Apostle Peter did when he walked on the sea!

Now, I don’t advise any believer actually try doing that—neither did Jesus ‘advise’ Peter to do so—but the believer would do well enough if they ‘walked uprightly’ on land! Just remember that, if God ‘bids’ you do something, you can be assured that you could go through any ‘fire’ and not be burned, or through any ‘flood’ and not be drowned. Might such a fearless, conquering faith be working within the believer! Remember, if your life is ‘hidden’ in Jesus, your previous ‘bad’ life will never be rediscovered!

Assurance ‘emboldens’ the believer! “Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” [ Hebrews 10:22 ]. Such full assurance fills the ‘sails’ of the soul, and give ‘wings’ to one’s faith—making one humbly bold for God. Rest in this ‘benefit’!

 

BEING ‘ACTIVE’ EVANGELISTICALLY
The primary ‘benefit’ for God instilling in the believer the desire for evangelism is to tell the world what God has done by sending His Son, Jesus, to the earth to be the ‘propitiation’ for their sins, and how to have a ‘relationship’ with Him now, on earth, and forever in Heaven.

Just imagine how great an honor it would be for you to be an ambassador of the United States, representing this country to another country. Well, the believer in Jesus has an even greater honor—to represent the living God to EVERYONE in the world!

The believer has been specifically ‘selected’ to proclaim the excellencies of the God of the Bible. They have the incredible privilege to tell others what God has done for them and His ‘children’—how He “called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” [ 1 Peter 2:9e ].

Because the believer is ‘in’ Christ, they also have glorious privileges that include a ‘union’ with God (the Holy Spirit ‘living in’ them), ‘access’ to God the Father, eternal security, affection, illumination (of the Bible), and compassion ‘poured out’ upon them. What greater honor can there be for the believer than to proclaim the excellencies of the One who has granted them such marvelous privileges?

 

However, a believer who lacks assurance will spend much of their time searching ‘inward’ about their own state—full of their own ailments, doubts, questionings, conflicts, and corruptions that they have little time to ‘work’ for God.

Those who enjoy the fullest confidence of ‘entrance’ into Heaven, want others to know the same assurance—and like the Apostle Paul, are free from these harassing distractions.

An illustration might help explain what I’m trying to say here. Suppose two men are both given 160 acres of land as part of the “Homestead Act” in the 1860’s to settle the West in America. Each were to clear and cultivate the land. Both tracts were of the same quality, and they were both given ‘official’ government deeds that they owned the land.

Now, one of the men, wanting to get the land ready for his family to join him, worked the land day after day, sunrise to sunset, without letting up. The other man, however, continually left his work to repeatedly go to the deeds office to check whether or not the land was really his, worrying that there might be some mistake in the legal documents.

The one never doubted his deed was legit, and made great progress being daily diligent. The other, however, spent half of his time with needless inquiries at the deeds office.

 

Now, which of these two men would you say made the most progress after a year’s time? Yep, that’s a no brainer—the one that didn’t doubt. “Undivided attention will always attain the greatest success” (J.C. Ryle).

It is much the same for the ‘deed’ the believer has been given for their “mansion in Heaven,” and is not distracted by unbelieving hesitations. King David said, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” [ Psalm 51:12 ]—and God has promised to do that for the believer.

 

We can also take the example of the apostles, as they seemed to live to ‘labor’ for Jesus day by day. They did not count their lives ‘dear’ to themselves, and spent their days refusing ease and worldly comfort, because of their assurance.

Assurance will make a believer ‘active’, full of action, and ‘on fire’ for Jesus—always busy at the “Great Commission” with passion, and encouraging other believers to do so, too—both ‘benefitting’ from this!

[ For more details on the “Great Commission” (and evangelism), view this previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post: https://markbesh.wordpress.com/go-tell-all-the-world-v234/ ].

 

DESIRE TO BE ‘HOLY’
The primary ‘benefit’ for God putting the desire to be ‘holy’ into the believer is to begin to prepare them for living in Heaven with Him (who is perfectly holy), and learning how to reverence, honor, esteem, value, and treasure Him while we are on this earth.

Believers that have assurance of their salvation feel that it is a ‘privilege’ to have it, and fear ‘messing’ it up! (though the ‘true’ believer can’t lose their salvation). Therefore, they desire to become increasingly holy—wanting to fully enjoy God’s reconciled countenance, and jealously fearful of doing anything to grieve the Holy Spirit. Personal holiness comes with a delight, and a passion—an ‘attraction’ to God’s holiness.

To be sure, biblical terms translated “holy” or “holiness” [ Hebrew: “qadosh” Greek: “hagios” ] carry a strong secondary connotation of moral purity. But moral purity is not, first and foremost, what Scripture is talking about. Instead, the most basic meaning of the word is to be “set apart” or “dedicated” to God—to ‘belong’ to God. “I will be your God, and you will be my people” (Leviticus 26:12; Hebrews 8:10).

Within every person there is a ‘hunger’ and ‘thirst’ that only God can satisfy. That’s why Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” [ John 6:35 ]. Only Jesus can satisfy one’s deepest needs!

Those who ‘know’ and love God pursue holiness, which includes shunning worldliness and knowing the satisfaction that comes from pleasing Him. That’s one of the main points of the Sermon on the Mount: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” [ Matthew 6:33 ].

 

So, if we read the biblical understanding of holiness through the lens of our relationship to God, Jesus, as the unique revelation of God, becomes preeminent. Too often, our notions of holiness are lifted from the Old Testament without understanding them in light of God’s ‘self-revelation’ in the Person of Jesus.

As was mentioned previously, those who have responded in faith to Jesus have been ‘united’ with Him—in and through the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” [ Galatians 2:20 ]. Elsewhere, Paul tells us that our lives are “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3) and that we have been “seated with [God] in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).

Passages like these convey the mysterious, yet utterly real fact that, by virtue of our union with Jesus, we ‘participate’ in the life of God: He ‘dwells’ in us, and we ‘dwell’ in Him. As such, we can say that in Christ, God’s holiness is our holiness—something the believer ‘benefits’ tremendously from!

 

COMPANIONSHIP DURING TRIBULATIONS
Just like in a great marriage, each spouse is ‘there’ to do whatever is necessary for the other when they are ‘going through’ something. Well, that’s similar to a believer’s relationship with God—He is ‘there’ to help them through their trials.

Although a mystery beyond our comprehension, Jesus (and the Holy Spirit) are always ‘present’ in the believer’s life. They share the believer’s hardship such that the believer can overcome it.

Even though tribulations will not be eliminated for the believer—and they might actually increase, since they are now a ‘target’ of the Devil—the benefit for the believer is God’s companionship ‘through’ the trial, being right there ‘next’ to you. King David tells us how assurance ‘operates’: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” [ Psalm 23:4 ].

[ This is exactly what “Christian” (in “The Pilgrim’s Progress”) heard coming from in front of him when he was going through the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” (it was his friend “Faithful” saying that to him) ].

 

Although God may allow Satan to persecute and accuse us, He places limitations on the enemy’s actions. Satan does not have free access to our lives.

In the case of Job, notice that God limited what Satan could do. He gave Satan strict instructions to spare Job’s life (Job 2:6), and the enemy had to comply—just as he complies today with God’s limitations on the amount of adversity, suffering, and sorrow we experience.

 

In times of difficulty, God will be the believer’s immovable strength (Proverbs 18:10), and He has promised never to abandon them. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” [ Deuteronomy 31:6 ].

The Apostle Paul writes, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” [ 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 ]. God will not allow the enemy to destroy us; therefore, we must continue to trust God and resist the Devil, even when we’re weary (Galatians 6:9).

What good news this is! God will not only limit our trials and tribulations, He will draw us deeper into relationship with Himself and work everything out for our good (Romans 8:28). Certainly, this is a good reason to praise Him!

 

God has promised that He will support His ‘children’ under the heaviest of loses and tribulations—assist them to feel “It is well with my soul” (Psalm 46:1-3). An assured believer can say: “Though beloved ones are taken from me, yet Jesus is the same, and is alive for evermore. Though my house be not as flesh and blood could wish, yet I have an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure” (2 Kings 4:26; Hebrews 13:8; 2 Samuel 23:5).

Assurance will enable a believer be thankful in the midst of tribulation—even in a prison, like Paul and Silas at Philippi—being able to ‘sing’ even in the darkest night, and have ‘joy’ when all things seem going against him. (Job 2:10; Psalm 42:8).

Assurance will enable a believer to meet violent persecutions and/or a painful death without fear, as Stephen did in the beginning of Christ’s ‘Church’, the Apostles Peter, James, Matthew, Mark, and Paul, then Thomas, and Luke back in the first century—and many more since (i.e. Polycarp, Justin Martyr, John Wycliffe, John Huss, Joan of Arc, Martin Luther, William Tyndale, John Calvin, Thomas Cranmer, John Wesley, Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, and MANY, MANY others!) It will bring to the believer’s heart, “Be not afraid of them which kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do” [ Luke 12:4 ]. It will remind the believer that he may “rejoice and be exceeding glad” (Matthew 5:12), and that there is in Heaven an exceeding “weight of glory” that shall make amends for all (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Assurance will make the believer’s darkest day brighter, and enable them to have ‘joy’ in their salvation (Habakkuk 3:17-19). Assurance will sweeten both sickness and health, wants and abundance, and both disgrace and honor (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

The believer must remember that the earth is not their ‘home’ and that their lives are but “a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” [ James 4:14 ].

When we ‘know’ that we have eternal life, we do not ‘fret’ about the trials of this passing life. Assurance makes heavy afflictions light, long afflictions short, and bitter afflictions sweet (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). What a ‘benefit’!

 

PERSEVERANCE/STEADFASTNESS
Perseverance is a ‘gift’ from God that accompanies one’s salvation. It is not the ‘root’ of our salvation, but the ‘fruit’ of it. “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him” [ James 1:12 ].

Jesus taught a parable that addresses this specifically:

“In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to His elect, who cry to Him day and night? Will He delay long over them? I tell you, He will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” [ Luke 18:2-8 ].

Jesus directs His disciple not to faint or to lose heart—and if they are continually vigilant and remain constant in prayer, God will see that they receive justice. Despite facing great adversity, this widow never gave up. She kept trying. She kept bringing her petition forth, and finally, she was heard—and so it is with the believer!

 

As we look at our own lives, perseverance is a very important trait of the true believer. Consider again the widow. If she had not continually come to the judge, but only every so often whenever she got around to it, would the judge have found her presence so bothersome that he would give have given justice? It is rather unlikely.

Likewise, the believer who only takes his commitment to God seriously occasionally will not be the light of the earth they are called to be (Matthew 5:13-16). The believer must be constantly diligent, constantly persevering, if they will be found pleasing to God. Paul emphasizes this when he describes the need to take up the “whole armor” of God, twice establishing the need to stand firm “that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-13).

[ For more details on the “armor of God,” read this previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post: https://markbesh.wordpress.com/ready-for-battle-v235/ ].

 

Assurance makes a believer “stand fast in the faith, and be courageous like a good soldier of Christ” (Galatians 5:1; 2 Timothy 2:3.; 2 Peter 2:3). “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” [ Ephesians 6:12-13 ].

When the believer does not persevere in the faith, they give Satan an opportunity to accuse them, and the people of the world have reason to revile them (1 Peter 5:8, 1 Peter 2:11-12). Jesus considers those who do not persevere are as “salt that has lost its flavor and is good only for being trampled upon by men” (Matthew 5:13).

So, after telling the parable of the persistent widow, Jesus says that when the “Son of Man” returns (Jesus), “will He find faith on the earth?” Will He find people persevering despite trials and tribulations, persevering in promoting the Gospel to those with whom they come in contact, and steadfastly encouraging fellow saints in the faith?

While it is not for us to know the precise time that the Lord will return, we can certainly ask this question of ourselves. If Jesus returned right now, would He find faith in you? Would Jesus see that you have been like the widow?—having continually, with vigilance, made every petition to God? Will we have taken strength in God and His might and have persevered in the face of temptation, and have done all we could to bring others to the faith? Or will Jesus see that you had lost heart and given up before we should have? Consider yourself today (2 Corinthians 13:5), and commit yourself to persevere before the Lord!

[ Might I suggest you keep a firm ‘grip’ on the blessed doctrine of the perseverance of the Saints! (The “”P” in the “Five Points of Calvinism” acronym “T.U.L.I.P.”). For more detail, click this link: https://www.ligonier.org/blog/tulip-and-reformed-theology-perseverance-saints/ ].

 

Resilience should be the biblical norm for a believer, and the Bible contains many admonitions about pressing on (Philippians 3:13–15), overcoming hardship and temptation (Romans 12:21), and persevering in the face of trials (James 1:12). “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” [ 2 Corinthians 4:8–9 ]. The key to resiliency is faith in the Lord: “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand” [ Psalm 37:23–24 ].

The ‘benefit’ for the believer is that the transcendent purpose of life is not anchored in the transient and the destructible, but in the eternal promise of Creator God who is their refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1), and from whom they receive the strength to overcome (Philippians 4:13) all sufferings that pale in comparison with the future glory awaiting believers (Romans 8:18). Jesus Himself assures His followers that “in the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world” [ John 16:33b ].

The Apostle Paul reminds believers that the secret to triumphant living under these promises is to be transformed by the constant renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2), giving the Holy Spirit the dominion over their will and action: “For I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” [ Romans 8:18 ].

Perseverance will give every believer with a ‘crown’ that will last forever! “Be faithful to the death, and I will give you a crown of life” [ Revelation 2:10 ]. What a crowning ‘benefit’!

 

COMFORT/PEACE
The primary ‘benefit’ that should give the believer incredible comfort, peace, and joy is that when they contemplate their eternal inheritance, they realize that it transcends any temporal ‘circumstance’.

Joy is the special privilege of every believer, regardless of their circumstances. Even if they suffer untold heartache and persecution for their faith, God will give them peace: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” [ Philippians 4:7 ].

The Apostle Peter identifies five ‘elements’ (1 Peter 1:6-9) of the believer’s life that should bring them comfort and peace in the midst of trials. The first is their ‘protected’ inheritance: “In this you greatly rejoice” (v6). The other ‘elements’ include “proven faith” (v7), a “promised honor” (v7d), a “personal fellowship” (v8), and a “present deliverance” (v9).

The Greek word Peter used that is translated “greatly rejoice” is a more expressive and ‘intense’ word that speaks of one who is happy in a profound ‘spiritual’ sense rather than in a temporal, ‘circumstantial’ sense. That’s the quality of joy God grants the believer who look ‘beyond’ their temporary trials to the glory of their eternal inheritance.

 

Assurance goes far to enable the believer to feel that the great ‘business’ of life is ‘settled’: their great ‘debt’ paid, their great ‘disease’ healed, and the great ‘work’ finished—and all other business, diseases, debts, and works, are then comparatively small.

Assurance makes one calm in tribulation, unmoved in sorrow, and content in every situation—for it gives them a ‘resolved’ heart. It makes them always feel that they have something solid beneath their feet, something firm in their hands, a sure friend by their side, and a sure way ‘home’ at the end of their life (Heaven).

Here are three ways the believer receives comfort from God: His Word, His ‘Arms’, and His Love.

When the believer is overwhelmed about things in life, the Book of Psalms seems to ‘read our minds’. In Psalm 103, the psalmist writes, that “as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear Him” [ Psalm 103:11 ]. His steadfast love means that, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” [ Psalm 103:12 ]. He is compassionate and tender with the believer because, “He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” [ Psalm 103:14 ], and in our personal relationship with Him, it is “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him” [ Psalm 103:13 ]. When a believer is wearied by life and circumstances, they should ‘run’ to the Word and ‘camp out’ in the Psalms. They will be comforted by God.

Of course, God is a Spirit (John 4:24), and He doesn’t have arms, legs, or any other human body parts, but the Bible does use these words to describe what God does for the believer. Just before Moses was about to die and pass on the leadership to Joshua, the people must have been anxious—tremendously for Joshua—so God inspired Moses to tell the people of Israel, “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms” [ Deuteronomy 33:27 ]. God is the believer’s refuge, their shelter, and their dwelling place—and since they are ‘in’ Christ, they are already in the everlasting ‘arms’ of God. Thankfully, that embrace does not depend on our perfect behavior, lest they would lose it. But, it’s based upon God’s promise that He will never leave them or forsake them (Hebrews 13:5). Moses writes of this loving ‘embrace’: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” [ Deuteronomy 31:6 ].

Primarily, God’s love is expressed through His Son, Jesus, being the ‘propitiation’ for the believer’s sins. The Apostle John tells us that “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him” [ 1 John 4:16 ]. However, John isn’t describing love as a feeling, but “the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him” [ 1 John 4:9 ]. The love of God was displayed, not by words, but by actions…at the Cross. Love is a verb, it is what one does, and Jesus did the most ‘anyone’ could have done, by dying for the believer while still ‘enemies’ of God (Romans 5:10). What a radical love that is! I just can’t fathom the depths of such love!

Thankfully for the believer, there is no more ‘condemnation’, but only peace with God (Romans 5:1, 8:1). However, no one can have the peace ‘OF’ God unless they are at peace ‘WITH’ God, and that peace with God comes only through Jesus Christ. There is simply no other way to the Father (John 6:44; Acts 4:12).

[ For more details about having the peace ‘of’ God, and peace ‘with’ God, read this previous “Life’s Deep Thoughts” post: https://markbesh.wordpress.com/know-peace-v201/ ].

 

God has promised to assure His people that “none can pluck you out of your Father’s hand” [ John 10:29 ] and that they are “kept,” as in a garrison, or as with a guard, “by the power of God through faith unto salvation” [ 1 Peter 1:5 ].

Assurance of your salvation will bring you “the peace of God, which passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). If you know that you are truly saved, you can be ‘peaceful’ in poverty, or in sickness, or under slander, and feel perfectly content! Freedom from fear is a great benefit of assurance (1 John 4:18).

 

Assurance is the apex of a Christian’s ‘happiness’ in this life. It is usually attended with the strongest joy, with the sweetest comforts, and with the greatest peace. What a great ‘benefit’ of the true believer’s salvation!

 

DELIGHTFUL ‘COMMUNION’ WITH GOD
Most believers generally define communion as the celebration of the Lord’s Supper—and that’s one of the things a believer can do but, in the New Testament, this word has broader applications. The Greek term “koinonia” is often translated as “fellowship” and “sharing.”

Although we usually think of fellowship as a close relationship with other believers based on our ‘union’ in Christ, Scripture clearly tells us that our fellowship is, first and foremost, with God the Father, His Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit—the “Trinity” (1 John 1:3, 2 Corinthians 13:14). But since we’re unable to physically see, hear, or touch God, what does it mean to have ‘communion’ with them? Well, this is done primarily through reading Scripture and through prayer.

Knowing ‘about’ God, however, isn’t the same as ‘knowing’ Him. While gaining information about God’s ways and attributes is important, communion is far more than collecting facts about Him; it starts with coming to Him in what some call “alert expectation” of experiencing His presence, and culminates in ‘partaking’ of His very life. In that way, we become ‘vessels’ both containing God’s life and expressing it to others. What makes the difference is approaching Him in an attitude of submission—a readiness to obey whatever He ‘tells’ us.

Ideally, our initial connection with the Lord will turn into an ‘open-ended’ conversation that continues throughout the day—sharing our hopes, struggles, and concerns with Him, and then ‘listening’ for His input. Then, when He ‘nudges’ us in a certain direction, obey, and then remember to thank Him for His loving care and guidance.

 

One example of this might be a marriage. Communion raises a believer’s fellowship with God (1 John 3:2), just like the wife’s assurance of her husband’s interest in her sweetens and heightens her ‘communion’ with him. However, neglect can create just the opposite!

A negligent husband may still be ‘united’ to his wife in marriage, but that does not mean their relationship is flourishing. Their legal union does not mean that life-giving ‘communion’ is taking place. The benefits meant to be experienced out of that union are not fully enjoyed when such disregard is occurring. Husbands who neglect communication with, attentiveness to, and care of their wives do not only hurt their spouses, but they hurt themselves as well.

Similarly, believers who are careless in their communion with God are like spouses who ignore the one they claim to love. God invites us not only to be secure in our salvation, but to flourish in our relationship with Him.

The believer don’t need to read extensive theological treatises in order to enjoy communion with God. What they do need is to learn to savor the love, grace, and fellowship of their triune God (2 Corinthians 13:14). As they meditate on the love and mercy of God the Father, they are overcome by the transforming grace of the Son, and are made more Christ-like by the counsel, leading, and fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

 

So, how does a believer develop their ‘communion’ with God? Well, here’s a few practical suggestions.

First, cultivate a ‘hunger’ for the Scriptures. Meditate on them, for here the believer can be confident that they discover the truth about their God and what it means to be in relationship with Him (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2).

From Genesis to Revelation, God’s words and God’s deeds reveal God Himself for the believer’s knowledge and enjoyment. Of course, it is possible to read the Bible without enjoying communion with God. The believer must seek to understand the Bible’s meaning, and they must pause to contemplate what they understand and, by the Spirit, to feel and express the appropriate response of their heart.

God communicates with the believer in many ways through the Bible and seeks the response of their communion with Him.

– If God indicts us (2 Corinthians 7:8–10), we respond to Him with sorrow and repentance
– If He commends us (Psalm 18:19–20), we respond to Him with humble gratitude and joy
– If He commands us to do something (Matthew 28:19–20), we look to Him for strength and resolve to obey with His help
– If He makes a promise (Hebrews 13:5–6), we marvel at His grace and trust Him to do what He says
– If He warns us of some danger (Luke 21:34), we take Him seriously and watch with a thankful sense of His presence and protection
– If He describes something about Himself (Isaiah 46:9–11), His Son (Mark 1:11), or His Holy Spirit (John 16:13–14), we affirm it and admire it and pray for clearer eyes to see and enjoy His greatness and beauty

 

Secondly, the believer should seek ‘refuge’ in God through times of prayer. Adopted by God, the believer can confidently approach the Father because he has “sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:3–6).

God then blesses His people with an unspeakable ‘gift’ of communication that is a kind of a ‘red phone’ or direct connection to Him through prayer. He grants to the believer the privilege and solace of crying out to Him, anytime (something granted only to His ‘children’ – Proverbs 15:29). The believer’s prayers ascend directly into the very “throne room” of God, and they can boldly speak into His ‘ear’ (Hebrews 4:16). God assures the believer that He is listening to their prayers (1 John 5:14; Psalm 66:19; John 9:31; 1 Peter 3:12; and 1 John 5:15; Jeremiah 29:12), and that He WILL answer their prayers (Matthew 7:7; John 16:24; James 1:5; Psalm 91:15; John 14:14).

Jesus also ‘hears’ our prayers, and as the believer’s ‘Advocate’ in front of the Father says, “These are mine, the price has been paid, the Law has been fulfilled, My blood has been shed, and My righteousness belongs to them. Mercy has been purchased, and forgiveness is theirs. They have asked in My name believing. May Your will be done unto them (John 15:7). Wow, what a ‘benefit’!

Think of a healthy relationship that you have been in or one that you have observed between others. The things that mark that strong relationship likely include care and attentiveness, time together, communication, mutual understanding, and shared joy. Human beings were created for such life-giving relationships, and they are the ‘fuel’ of our souls. As a believer, you are secure in your union with Christ, and this union makes communion with God a joyful possibility. Be assured of your union with Christ and go flourish and gain strength in communion with Him!

Our prayers (or lack of prayers) do MAKE A ‘REAL’ DIFFERENCE for our enjoyment of and fellowship with God. He desires communion with us so much that He died in order to make it possible (Romans 5:6–8). Being in communion with God and with others is the key to human flourishing (Ephesians 4:32–5:1) and how the believer is drawn into a life-giving relationship with God Himself (Deuteronomy 6:4–5; 7:7–9; Leviticus 19:34; 1 John 4:19).

 

Now, all that said, there are ‘conditions’ for God to respond to the believer. The prophet Jeremiah said, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” [ Jeremiah 29:13 ]. One must seek God with ALL THEIR HEART—not just ‘haphazardly’.

Just after Solomon had dedicated the temple, God ‘appeared’ to him and said: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” [ 2 Chronicles 7:14 ]. In this verse, the ‘conditions’ are those who are “called” (believers), to be humble, seeking, and repenting of sin.

James wrote that, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” [ James 5:16 ]. However, the ‘conditions’ for this to happen are: contrition, wholeheartedness, faith, obedience, righteousness, holiness.

I think author Jill Briscoe said it well in a poem she wrote:

“Ask Him to do it, but don’t tell Him how;
Ask Him to answer, but don’t tell him now.
Ask Him to give you the strength for the task,
and thank Him for giving much more than you ask.
Ask Him to cleanse you, whenever you pray;
be honest with God at the end of the day.
Ask for the power and faith it will take,
to say to this mountain, go jump in the lake!”

 

It’s sad to say that many believers have reduced prayer to a means of ‘self-fulfillment’. The ‘true’ believer allows God to meet their needs in whatever way He chooses. “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” [ Philippians 4:19 ]. It’s an ENORMOUS PRIVILEGE to be able to approach the infinite God and request His gracious provisions!

Since the believer is free from the fear of punishment, and knows that nothing will separate them from the love of God (Romans 8:31-39), they can ‘drop their guard’ and live in close communion with their Great High Priest (Hebrews 7:25). What a FANTASTIC ‘benefit’ of assurance!

 

BLESSED HOPE
Even when faith falters, hope comes to the ‘rescue’! It is the long ‘rope’ that keeps the believer ‘linked’ to the sovereignty and power of God.

The believer’s hope is a “living hope” because God is a ‘living’ God. No matter how bleak a situation may seem, God is, ‘behind-the-scenes’, working to accomplish His purposes, and ultimately making ‘bad’ things good for those who call Him “Father” (Romans 8:28).

A true story about a dog who was abandoned at the airport of a large city might be a good illustration of a believer’s hope in God. For over five years the dog stayed in the exact spot that he last saw his master. People at the airport fed and cared for him, but he refused to leave—hoping that his master would come back to get him.

If a dog’s love for his master can produce that kind of hope, how much more should the believer’s love for God produce an abiding hope?

 

Biblical hope has as its foundational faith in God. The word “hope” in English often conveys doubt. For instance, “I hope it will not rain tomorrow.” In addition, the word “so” often follows the word hope. This is the answer that some may give when asked if they think that they will go to Heaven when they die. They say, “I hope so.” However, that is NOT the meaning of the words usually translated “hope” in the Bible.

The Hebrew word “batah” and its ‘ancestors’ has the meaning of confidence, security, and being without care (the Greek “elpis”/”elpizo” has a similar meaning)—signifying a very vehement intention, both of body and mind, a stretching forth of the spirit or mind, in waiting for a desired good. (Proverbs 24:14; Psalm 33:22; Psalm 42:11; Psalm 43:5; Psalm 71:5; Psalm 119:81, 114; Psalm 130:5). Hope makes the soul ‘quiet’ and the believer patient until it comes to possess what is hoped for: “But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” [ Romans 8:25 ]. Divine hope ‘settles’ the heart by maintaining patience—as fuel maintains a fire.

Therefore, the concept of doubt is not part of this word. Biblical hope is a confident expectation or assurance based upon a sure ‘foundation’ for which the believer waits with joy and full confidence. In other words, there is NO DOUBT about that they are going to Heaven to be with God eternally!

Biblical hope is a ‘REALITY’ and not a ‘feeling’—a sure foundation upon which we base our lives that God ALWAYS keeps His promises—with the greatest hope being, “He who believes on Me has everlasting life” [ John 6:47 ].

 

The last ‘enemy’, death, is a strong foe, and when the believer’s soul is departing earth there is no cordial like the strong ‘wine’ of assurance. ‘True’ hope enables a believer to sleep peacefully through the entire night with the full prospect of death the next day—like Peter in Herod’s dungeon (Acts 12:5-25)—and they will be able to say, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” [ Psalm 4:8 ]. THIS is the kind of hope that God gives the believer!

The comfort assurance can give in the hour of death is of great importance. The believer will never think that assurance is so precious as when it comes your turn to die (As it did for “Christian” and “Hopeful” as they crossed the “River of Death” at the end of the book “The Pilgrim’s Progress”).

In that awful hour, there are few believers who do not find out the value and privilege of an “assured hope,” whatever they may have thought about it during their lives. General “hopes” and “trusts” are all very well to live upon—while the sun shines, and the body is strong—but when you come to die, you will want to be able to say, “I KNOW!” (See last month’s post for details on this assurance.)

 

Now, even though assurance actually entices a believer to ‘long’ for death—so they can be in Heaven—it is something that they have to ‘trust’ God for the timing. The Apostle Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” [ Philippians 1:20–23 ].

[ I AM NOT condoning suicide, even for the believer with tremendous health ‘issues’! Consider what Joni Eareckson Tada has gone through after she was left a quadriplegic at the age of 17 (she is now 70!). Now THAT is an example of a BLESSED HOPE!: https://www.joniandfriends.org/about/our-history/ ]

 

It made the martyrs desire lions, dared to ‘tire out’ their persecutors preaching the Gospel, and ‘clapping’ their hands in the flames (as “Faithful” did in “The Pilgrim’s Progress” after he was found “guilty” by the judge in “Vanity Fair” for “disrupting the peace”).

They will serenely face death in the firm conviction that they will have a ‘house’ not made with hands, provided by God. They rejoice in the assurance that the day of their death is but the ‘birthday’ to a better life—and looking back upon their past life and forward to their eternal home, they join with the Apostle Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but to all them that have loved His appearing” [ 2 Timothy 4:7-8 ].

 

The assured believer knows that death shall be the ‘funeral’ for all their sins, sorrows, afflictions, temptations, desertions, and oppositions—and the resurrection of their joys and constant enjoyment of God…forever! “O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?” [ 1 Corinthians 15:55 ]. [ One of the verses I want at my funeral ]. Death is more desirable than life—just so, they can ‘be’ with Jesus. They care not that they go in a fiery chariot, says the assured believer (“Faithful” in “The Pilgrim’s Progress” was given this privilege to go to Heaven this way). If you know that you have eternal life, you are prepared to live as God blesses, and equally prepared to die for His glory! (Philippians 1:21).

 

A hope like this is not a natural affection for people. Hope is given from above, formed in the soul of the believer by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a specific grace of God only for the believer, whereby they can expect only good to come it (Romans 8:28).

God’s promises are the ‘ladder’ by which hope gets up to Heaven. Promises that will support distressed souls, settle perplexed souls, comfort dejected souls, recover wandering souls, confirm staggering souls, and save undone souls. The believer’s hope is grounded upon the firmest of ‘foundations’, namely, the promises of God (Proverbs 10:28). Divine hope lives in sweet anticipation of what it possesses by faith (Matthew 6:20-21; Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:1).

Hope can see light through darkness, life through death, smiles through frowns, and glory through misery. Hope holds life and soul together. Hope makes a believer able to stand and triumph over all afflictions, oppositions, and temptations. (Hebrews 11:10, 14, 16, 25, 32). Hope keeps the soul from dashing upon the ‘rocks’, because its ‘anchor’ is in Heaven!

It is called a “living hope,” because it brings life and comfort into the soul—flowing from living causes, namely, the Holy Spirit, and now the believer can live in great expectation (1 Peter 1:3). God can fill you with hope and He can drive away the dreadful feelings of doom and discouragement!

As it would be termed in the insurance industry, the believer has a “guaranteed death benefit”—Heaven and eternal life! WHAT a ‘benefit’!

 

WRAP-UP
The benefits of the assurance of our salvation are many, but I would say primarily it’s the ability to ‘INTERACT’ with the Creator of the universe on a ‘personal’ level, be ‘led’ through this life on the BEST ‘PATH’, and be promised that ALL OUR ’NEEDS’ will be supplied!

Specifically, I talked a bit about the following:

Increased Mercies
The primary ‘benefit’ for the increased mercies from God is that, since the believer has been “born again” and has been ‘given’ eternal salvation by God, He withholds the just punishment for the believer’s sin and then grants them His daily providential care, special compassions, and lovingkindness (Psalm 136:1).

Increased Trust/Emboldened Faith
The primary ‘benefit’ of God emboldening a believer’s faith is to create unwavering confidence—replacing fear and doubt with assurance and certainty. Although some believers fear that trials and persecutions only ‘rob’ them of their joy, the Apostle Peter taught just the opposite. In fact, he said that joy comes not ‘in spite of’ trouble, but ‘because of’ trouble! When a believer’s faith has been tested and ‘proven’ to be genuine, doubts will disappear, and be replaced with much joy.

Being ‘Active’ Evangelistically
The primary ‘benefit’ for God instilling in the believer the desire for evangelism is to tell the world what God has done by sending His Son, Jesus, to the earth to be the ‘propitiation’ for their sins, and how to have a ‘relationship’ with Him now, on earth, and forever in Heaven.

Desire to be Holy
The primary ‘benefit’ for God putting the desire to be ‘holy’ into the believer is to begin to prepare them for living in Heaven with Him (who is perfectly holy), and learning how to reverence, honor, esteem, value, and treasure Him while we are on this earth.

Companionship During Tribulations
The ‘benefit’ of all this is that the believer ‘knows’ that they have eternal life, so they do not have to ‘fret’ about the trials of this passing life. Assurance makes heavy afflictions light, long afflictions short, and bitter afflictions sweet (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Perseverance/Steadfastness
The ‘benefit’ of steadfastness is resilience—becoming stronger to overcome hardship and temptation (Romans 12:21)—and to persevere in the face of great trials (James 1:12). “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand” (Psalm 37:23–24).

Comfort/Peace
The primary ‘benefit’ that should give the believer incredible comfort, peace, and joy is that when they contemplate their eternal inheritance, they realize that it transcends any temporal ‘circumstance’.

Delightful ‘Communion’ With God
The primary ‘benefit’ of ‘communion’ with God for the believer is getting a foretaste of Heaven now, and getting to know His character ‘personally’. This is done essentially by reading His Word (the Bible) and by fervent and ‘bold’ prayer (“Then shalt thou have boldness before the Lord, looking up cheerfully to heaven” – Job 22:26). The believer will have ever increasing freedom in prayer (“Delighting in God will help a Christian to tell all his mind to Him” – Job 22:27).

Blessed Hope
Even when faith falters, hope comes to the ‘rescue’! It is the long ‘rope’ that keeps the believer ‘linked’ to the sovereignty and power of God.

The believer’s hope is a “living hope” because God is a ‘living’ God. No matter how bleak a situation may seem, God is, ‘behind-the-scenes’, working to accomplish His purposes and ultimately making ‘bad’ things good for those who call Him “Father” (Romans 8:28).

 

Unfortunately, many Christians are content to have salvation, but have little joy or enjoyment of that salvation.

Someone with millions in the bank may have the assurance that they are rich, and may have the security of knowing that their deposit is safe, but if they never spend a dime and are content to live a pauper’s life, one can hardly say they are ‘enjoying’ their riches. Objectively speaking they are rich, but practically speaking they have nothing!

This is the condition of many Christians today. They are saved, but in their daily life, they have little experience of the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8). However, God’s intention is that we not only have Christ, but that we enjoy Him, even to the uttermost (John 10:10; Phil. 4:4). The normal condition of a Christian is to “exult with joy that is unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).

 

Our salvation is like an immovable rock, but the joy of our salvation is like a delicate flower, easily moved by a little breeze. Therefore, it is something we must cultivate and nourish: confess our sins (1 John 1:7, 9), read God’s Word (Matt. 4:4), and pour out of our heart in prayer, “Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be made full” [ John 16:24 ].

 

As has been said previously, the primary ‘benefits of a believer assurance of their salvation is their confidence of being a “sheep” (instead of a “goat”) in the Day of Judgment, “By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world” [ 1 John 4:17 ], and an indescribable freedom from fear, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” [ 1 John 4:18 ].

 

God is ‘glorified’ when He meets the needs of the believer—and He promises to provide all of their ‘basic’ necessities. The believer should NEVER, EVER take God’s provisions for granted! They should receive His good gifts with a thankful heart—because He actually WANTS TO provide and bless His ‘children’!

 

So, God’s blessings to the believer are for them to in turn tell others about how He has blessed them, but ultimately, they are for His glory! “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God” [ 2 Corinthians 4:15 ].

 

A believer is guaranteed that their relationship with God will increase in ‘VALUE’, give them the ‘SECURITY’ of being accepted by Him and know they are going to Heaven, and most importantly, that they can ‘COUNT ON’ God to grant them the many ‘benefits’ associated with the assurance of their salvation—for eternity!

 

Are you experiencing these ‘benefits’? If not, why?

 

[ Excerpts from: Charles Spurgeon; Thomas Brooks; John MacArthur; J.C. Ryle; Louis Berkhof; Watchman Nee; Kevin DeYoung; John Piper; Jay Wegter; Charles Stanley; Tony Reinke ]

 

RELATED POSTS:

Knowing ‘Assurance’”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/knowing-assurance-v243/

Leaving A ‘Legacy’”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/leaving-a-legacy-v242/

Ready for ‘Battle’?”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/ready-for-battle-v235/

Go ‘Tell’ All The World”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/go-tell-all-the-world-v234/

New ‘Identity’”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/new-identity-v220/

The Purpose of ‘Tests’?”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/the-purpose-of-tests-v213/

Know ‘Peace’”:
https://markbesh.wordpress.com/know-peace-v201/

 

‘PRAYER’ OF REPENTANCE
In the Bible, there is a parable that Jesus told about a Pharisee and a tax collector praying in the Temple. He notes that the tax collector didn’t even dare to lift his eyes toward Heaven as he prayed. Instead he “beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner’”—and Jesus said that the tax collector “went home justified,” he had been “born again” and ‘reconciled’ by God. (Luke 18:9-14).

If you are ‘sensing’ something like that right now, let me strongly encourage you to HUMBLE YOURSELF, CRY OUT to God, and PLEAD for Him to mercifully ‘SAVE’ YOU! None of us have a ‘claim’ on our salvation, nor do we have any ‘works’ that would cause us to deserve it or earn it—it is purely a gift of Divine grace—and all any of us can do is ask. So, CONFESS YOUR SINS and acknowledge to God that you have no hope for Heaven apart from what He provides through Jesus.

There is no ‘formula’ or certain words for this. So just talk to God, in your own words—He knows your ‘heart’. If you are genuinely sincere, and God does respond to your plea, one will usually have a sense of joy and peace.

Jesus said, “He that comes to Me, I will not cast out” [ John 6:37 ].

[ NOTE: If you have ‘tasted the kindness of the Lord’, please e-mail me—I would love to CELEBRATE with you, and help you get started on your ‘journey’ with Jesus! ].

 

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RESOURCES:

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Safe in the Shepherd’s Arms: Hope and Encouragement from Psalm 23
By: Max Lucado

Words of comfort and inspiration from Psalm 23 provide readers with hope to persevere through life’s daily challenges.

In today’s world it can be difficult to feel safe and secure. That’s why in this revised and updated Safe in the Shepard’s Arms, which has sold more than 475,000 units,Max Lucado offers a 30-day devotional as a reliable source of safety and security from the 23rd Psalm. He describes this psalm as “written by a shepherd who became a king–because He wanted us to know about a King who became a shepherd.” With Psalm 23 as our guide, we can release our burdens, throw off our fears, and rest safely in the Shepherd’s arms.

—————-
Assurance: How to know you are a Christian
By: J. C. Ryle

It is right to have confidence in your Christian life, if that confidence stems from God’s saving power. J.C. Ryle shows us that assurance is something every Christian should desire. There are steps we can take in our search for that goal; these are clearly marked out for us by Ryle. Do you know that you are part of God’s family?

https://www.amazon.com/Assurance-How-know-you-Christian/dp/1871676053

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Heaven on Earth
By: Thomas Brooks

The subject of assurance is one of the most important elements in Christian experience. There is no higher privilege than to be a child of God and to know it, for assurance brings joy to worship and prayer, and provides strength and boldness to our witness. Correspondingly, failure and weakness in all these areas can often be traced back to a lack of assurance, or even false assurance. This work of Thomas Brooks, first published in 1654, deals with all of these aspects of assurance in a way that is both biblical and pastoral. Brooks ‘scatters stars with both his hands’ wrote C.H. Spurgeon. His teaching is clear, thorough and greatly needed in the present spiritual climate. Brooks both explains what true assurance is and guides the reader in how it may be fully experienced.

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The Assurance of Faith
By: Louis Berkhof

In this work Louis Berkhof explores the the history and theology of assurance of salvation through faith, showing how a Christian should be assured of their salvation through trusting Christ. This is a phenomenal book to read if you are doubting your faith.

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Assured by God: Living in the Fullness of God’s Grace
By: Burk Parsons

Nothing stimulates Christian service more than the humble assurance of God’s saving grace. Many of us are immobilized by lingering doubts about our salvation or, worse, by a false security.

Is assurance of salvation reserved for the super-spiritual? Is it a sure sign of presumption? What are the benefits of assurance and the dangers of an unsure faith? Separating truth from error, and viewing assurance in relation to its larger family of biblical doctrines, the contributors to this volume demonstrate its significance for grateful, productive Christian living. Contributors include:
—Burk Parsons: Our Sure Foundation
—Philip Graham Ryken: Assured from Beginning to End
—R. Albert Mohler Jr.: Guarded through Faith
—Richard D. Phillips: Assured in Christ
—Sinclair B. Ferguson: Assurance Justified
—Joel R. Beeke: The Fullness of Grace
—John MacArthur: The Glory of True Repentance
—Keith A. Mathison: God’s Means of Assurance
—Jerry Bridges: The Blessing of Discipline
—R. C. Sproul: The Anatomy of Doubt and Assurance
Each author writes with a pastoral desire to help Christians understand God’s promises and live in the fullness of his grace.

https://www.amazon.com/Assured-God-Living-Fullness-Grace/dp/1596381019/

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Heaven on Earth: Experiencing the Kingdom of God in the Here and Now
By: R. Alan Streett

The future hope of heaven is pulled into the here-and-now in this illuminating description of the kingdom of God.

Popular teacher and author R. Alan Streett exposes half-truths about the kingdom that many believers have unwittingly accepted. He contrasts these with the testimony of Scripture:

– Jesus inaugurated the kingdom of God on the earth―it has already begun. As ambassadors of the kingdom, we are to fulfill our responsibilities and enjoy its benefits here and now.
– Salvation does not culminate with the soul escaping the body and living forever in heaven. Our bodies will eventually be transformed, and we will live with God on a restored earth.
– The church is like an embassy of heaven in a foreign country. In their life together, believers demonstrate kingdom realities to the world.

Readers will find hope and direction in this fresh presentation of the historic teaching on the kingdom.

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Communion with God: Of Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
By: John Owen

John Owen believed that communion with God lies at the heart of the Christian life. With Paul he recognized that through the Son we have access by the Spirit to the Father. He never lost the sense of amazement expressed by John: ‘Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ’. In this outstanding book he explains the nature of this communion and describes the many privileges it brings.

Communion with God was written in a day, like our own, when the doctrine of the Trinity was under attack and the Christian faith was being reduced either to rationalism on the one hand or mysticism on the other. His exposition shows that nothing is more vital to spiritual well-being than a practical knowledge of what this doctrine means.

Until now, Communion With God has been read by only small numbers of Christians with access to the 275 closely-printed pages in The Works of John Owen. Now Dr. R.J.K. Law has produced a splendidly readable abridgment of one of the greatest Christian classics of all time, bringing Owen’s rich teaching to a much wider readership.

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Reading the Bible in Prayer and Communion with God
(The following essay is excerpted from the contents of the ESV Study Bible).
By: John Piper

Communion with God is a staggering thought. God created billions of galaxies and calls every star by name (Isa. 40:26; 42:5). He never had a beginning and will never end (Ps. 90:2). His ways are inscrutable and his judgments unsearchable (Rom. 11:33). His thoughts are as different from ours as the heavens are high above the earth (Isa. 55:8). “The nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales” (Isa. 40:15). [more…]

https://jeremyoddy.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/reading-the-bible-in-prayer-and-communion-with-god-_esv-study-bible_.pdf

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Wrestling Prayer: A Passionate Communion with God
By: Eric and Leslie Ludy

Eric and Leslie Ludy have a strong platform among 20-to-40-year-olds—because their lives show that “Christian ideals,” when practically lived out, become realities that make the lives of Christians the most satisfying and challenging on earth.

In Wrestling Prayer, readers who hunger for this pattern of living will see that a great prayer life is more than a nice-sounding concept—it’s down-to-earth and attainable. Eric and Leslie urge transformation—

– from doubting God’s power to expecting His supernatural intervention
– from distance from God to connection with Him
– from the sense of falling short to the strength of victory
– from “bless this food” prayers to world-changing intercession
– from feeling defeated to setting people free

Readers whose concept of prayer has fallen into disrepair will newly desire to pray and bring God’s purposes to bear on earth. Wrestling Prayer will light a soul-fire that can burn bright and hot for years to come.

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The Ultimate Conversation: Talking with God Through Prayer
By: Charles F. Stanley

LEARNING TO HEAR HIS VOICE Through prayer, you can know God better. You can learn to hear His voice above all the distracting noise of the world, and you can experience His wisdom, comfort, power, guidance, and love as you face difficult challenges and trials. When you finish reading this book, you will know… How to discern God’s voice above all others Why you can trust God’s character What might hinder you from hearing Him How the Holy Spirit helps you pray How to win your battles on your knees How to pray for others God’s ultimate goal in speaking with you You will most certainly be blessed as you read this book by growing deeper in your personal relationship with God.

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Have you ever considered what it means to talk to God? Is it really possible to communicate with the Creator of all that exists and be able to understand His plans and purposes for your life?

Perhaps there are questions you desperately need answered. Maybe you are facing a trial that is too large or difficult to face on your own and you yearn for divine direction. Or it could be you are simply curious about what He would say to you.

In The Ultimate Conversation, which is based on a lifetime of walking with the Father and fifty-five years of ministry founded on prayer, Dr. Charles Stanley not only teaches the disciplines of intercession but also explains how to fight life’s battles through intimate communion with the Lord. Dr. Stanley discusses how to truly know God through communication with Him. He explores topics such as:

Learning to recognize the sound of the Father’s voice

How your perception of God shapes your prayer life

Winning your battles through prayer

Finding true peace and joy through intimacy with the Lord

No matter what confounding questions, perplexing circumstances, or seemingly insurmountable barriers you are facing today, the solution to them is absolutely obvious to God. He has the most profound knowledge and understanding of every topic in the universe—including your personal situation—and He longs to share His answers with you. He also has the power and wisdom necessary to help you overcome your deepest issues and experience your most rewarding successes.

Draw closer to the Father. Get to know God by engaging with Him in The Ultimate Conversation.

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A Method for Prayer and Directions for Daily Communion with God
By: Matthew Henry

In the first of the two works included in this volume, Matthew Henry teaches the elements of prayer using exclusively Bible phrases. The reader will draw spiritual nourishment from the copious examples of prayer under the headings of adoration, confession, petition, thanksgiving, intercession, and the conclusion of prayer. The first work also includes a reflection on the Lord’s Prayer, again drawing on Scriptural expressions, plus Biblical prayers for use on particular occasions. The second work reveals the importance of being with God throughout the day, from beginning to end. This edition features King James English with modern spellings and without footnotes. Prayers are printed in bold type for ease of use. Matthew Henry was born in Wales. After being admitted to Gray’s Inn, he was ordained presbyterian minister of a church in Chester. His most famous work is his six-volume Commentary on the Whole Bible, work on which he interrupted to compile this volume of Bible-based prayers.

https://www.amazon.com/Method-Prayer-Directions-Daily-Communion/dp/1926777085/

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Talking with My Father: Jesus Teaches on Prayer
By: Ray C. Stedman

You’ll explore the question of why and how you should pray, as well as the true nature of prayer. Talking with My Father reminds you that Jesus lived in constant communion with God.

Jesus never taught His disciples how to preach, but how to talk to God―to enter into a spiritual conversation! For Jesus, prayer was as necessary as breathing―the very breath of life itself. In the same way, Christ calls you to a life of spiritual intimacy and offers the life-giving secrets of prayer.

https://www.amazon.com/Talking-My-Father-Teaches-Prayer/dp/1572930276/

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The 5 R’s: Plan a Daily Appointment with God
By: The Navigators

REFOCUS your heart and mind through confession and praise. Before coming into God’s presence, consider any sins to confess. If you’re anxious, quickly record your anxious thoughts on a piece of paper and ask God to help you focus on Him. Review the previous 24 hours and thank Him for His goodness toward you. Be as specific as possible.

READ a passage from the Scriptures. Select a passage ahead of time. You might begin by reading through one of the Gospels, focusing on Jesus. Many like to read a psalm a day or a chapter in Proverbs. A daily reading program, to read the Bible in an entire year, can be a good place to start.

REFLECT and think about what you’re reading. Bible meditation helps us get below the surface of the text. Ask some questions of the passage or verse using who, what, why, when, where, how. Spend a few minutes answering some of the questions.

RECORD your discoveries in a small notebook. Ask the Holy Spirit to give a new insight from His Word daily. Record one take-away thought from your time of Bible meditation to reflect on during the day.

RESPOND to the Father in simple, practical obedience to what you’ve read. Take time to imagine what your life would be like if you applied this new discovery today. Pray over your schedule, committing the day’s events to His glory.

Website: https://www.navigators.org/resource/5-rs-plan-daily-appointment-god/

Also: https://www.navigators.org/resource/daily-quiet-time/

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Our Daily Bread

Helping you connect with God. Every day. Every way.

Join our growing community for daily devotions, prayer requests, ministry updates, upcoming events, and much more.

Availability: Print (Free); Facebook; Instagram; App

https://odb.org/

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Active Evangelism: Putting the Evangelism of Acts into Practice
By: Derek Prime

New theories come and go about methods of evangelism involving psychological concepts, social theory, marketing models, church growth strategy and obscure texts applied more widely than intended. The irony is that we have a model for evangelism staring us in the face in the story of the early church told by Luke through the book of Acts.

So, it’s time to realign your thoughts on evangelism in tune to what God has to say. It’s time for ACTive Evangelism.

Derek Prime guides us through the book of Acts giving very practical examples of how to do evangelism in the workplace, with our neighbours, to our families, as a church and individually. In each chapter Prime looks at the context the disciples were ministering in, the challenges they would have faced, the methods they used, and then applies it to our situation today.

https://www.amazon.com/Active-Evangelism-Putting-Acts-Practice/dp/1857928806/

 

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THE SEARCH FOR MEANINGWEBSITE

This site presents discussions on the 12 most commonly asked questions about the Christian faith.

The 12 discussions are accessed by the “tabs” at the bottom of the page. The tabs are numbered 1-12. Roll your mouse over them and you will see the question displayed at the right. Click on the number to select that question.

Within each question (i.e. tabs 1-12), there are subtopics (or dialogues) to select that appear as smaller tabs underneath the numbered tabs. Roll your mouse over them and the title of these topics is also displayed to the right. Click on the open rectangle to select that dialogue.

For each question (1-12), a link to related resources and an optional flowchart is provided. To access this material, click on the respective words, “Related Resources” or “Options Flowchart.”

To play a more detailed discussion of the subject, between two people, select the desired dialogue and click on “Play Audio Dialogue.”

In the upper right-hand corner of the page, there is an icon that looks like binoculars looking at a question mark. Click on this icon to return to the homepage.

In the upper right-hand corner of a “Related Resources” page, there is an icon that looks like some books. Click on this icon to get to an “overview” page that has links to all of the resources for all of the questions. There also are additional “appendices” for most of the questions.

In the upper right-hand corner of a “Flowchart” page, there is an icon that looks like an Org chart. Click on this icon to get to an “overview” page that has links to all of the flowcharts.

http://4vis.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q1_d1_1of10.html

[ Content by: Bill Kraftson and Lamar Smith; Website by Mark Besh ]

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“FRUITS OF THE BEATITUDES” WEB SITE
(The ATTITUDES of Jesus that produce the CHARACTER of Jesus)

CLICK ON THE LINK to view:
http://fruitsofthebeatitudes.org/

FACEBOOK PAGE:
https://www.facebook.com/FruitsOfTheBeatitudes/

[ Mark Besh ]

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[ P.S.: If you would like to investigate further about how to be sure your have eternal life, and will not lose it, visit the following link:
http://www.4vis.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q11_d1_1of10.html ].

 

ARTICLES:

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Life Insurance Living Benefits

When you think about protecting the people you love, life insurance is one way to make sure they’re taken care of after you’re gone. Both term and permanent life insurance provide benefits to your loved ones—to pay bills or take care of other financial obligations in the event of your death. But did you know permanent life insurance can also provide for you and your family while you’re living? Here’s how. As you pay premiums, the policy builds equity—also known as cash value. This cash value, including any potential dividends, grows, tax deferred, and becomes a source of money you can access at any age, for any reason.

You can use this cash value to cover the costs of an unexpected emergency. Pay for a child’s education. Supplement your retirement income. Make a down payment on a second home. Maybe even use it as the seed money to start a new business or grow an existing one. After all, the great opportunities in life often take money to get off the ground.

So if an opportunity or a need arises, you can access the cash value of your permanent life insurance policy immediately. You can take a policy loan against the cash value. Use the policy as collateral for a bank loan. Take a portion of the cash value outright. Or take all the cash value and terminate the policy.

It’s a flexible financial asset you can use however you like and can count on for life. That’s because the cash value of a permanent life insurance policy increases every year, guaranteed. It will never go down in value. It also offers conservative, steady growth that’s not subject to the ups and downs of the market.

But, not all companies provide the same long-term value. So when considering permanent life insurance, be sure to work with a company that understands the important role it plays in your financial security, that has paid out dividends for more than 100 years, has the highest financial strength ratings awarded to any insurer, and will be there when you and your family need it most.

[ Northwestern Mutual ]

https://www.lifeinsurance.com/explainer-video-script

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Living Benefits Life Insurance

Most people who buy life insurance do so to provide financial security to a beneficiary when they die. But oftentimes traditional life insurance doesn’t cover the burdensome costs involved when a chronic, critical, or terminal illness strikes.

There is a solution, though — one that provides relief from the financial demands of such an illness. Some term life insurance policies offer an add-on called “living benefits.” In the event of a long-term, catastrophic, or terminal illness, these benefits can be accessed while the policy holder is still alive. Here’s what you need to know about living benefits and how they might help.

Are You Prepared for an Unexpected Illness?
According to the American Cancer Society, there will be an estimated 1.7 million new cancer cases diagnosed and more than half a million cancer deaths in the U.S. this year.

The American Heart Association reports that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death globally, accounting for more than 17.3 million deaths per year. By 2030, that number is expected to exceed 23.6 million.

Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says the average cost for long-term care in the U.S. exceeds $6,000 per month for a semi-private room in a nursing home and $3,000 per month for care in an assisted living facility.

Many people simply are not prepared for a chronic, critical, or terminal illness. They think that just because they have a health insurance or disability plan, they’ll be sufficiently covered in case of a sudden or serious health problem, such as a heart attack, stroke, or cancer diagnosis. The fact is that’s probably not true.

A great health insurance plan might cover a large part of the medical costs associated with such an illness, but there could be deductibles, copayments, and out-of-pocket expenses to deal with first. Plus, a health insurance plan won’t help you with lost income while you’re sick or recovering from your illness. A disability plan might help your financial situation while you’re away from work, but even the best of those can cover only about half of your lost wages.

Regardless of how old you are, how much money you make, or what kind of health coverage you have, two things are inevitable in the case of an unexpected illness: Your expenses will go up, and your income will go down — resulting in debt that could leave you paralyzed financially.

According to a study by Harvard researchers, over 60% of all personal bankruptcies in the U.S. are a direct result of medical problems. What’s even worse is that nearly 80% of the people included in this study who were suffering from a critical condition had health insurance at the start of their illness. This clearly demonstrates that additional protection is needed — more than what many of the health and/or disability plans are able to provide.

That’s where life insurance with living benefits — also known as an accelerated death benefit rider — can help you when you need it most.

Dealing With a Critical, Chronic, or Terminal Illness
Let’s say you develop a chronic illness that’s going to require a long-term approach to getting better. Or, you have a heart attack or a stroke, or you find out you have cancer. In each of these cases, there’s a good chance that you could recover and continue to live a full and meaningful life — if you’re able to afford the cost of proper treatment and care.

Unfortunately, your health insurance coverage will likely offer only a partial solution. Wouldn’t it be helpful if you could access your death benefit to help pay for costs related to your care, rather than digging into your savings account?

According to a USA Today report, one in four cancer patients or their families said they spent all or most of their savings to pay for treatment. And, one in eight people with advanced cancer turned down recommended care because of the costs involved.

“Growing numbers of people simply can’t afford to get the care we know they need,” said John Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society. “We hear about a growing number of people turning down treatment.”

Some insurance companies will accelerate most of your death benefit if you qualify as terminally ill, but that seems like more of a death benefit for a death sentence. With living benefits added to your life insurance, you can be covered in three separate areas:

Critical illness. Typically pays one lump sum if you have a serious illness such as cancer, or a heart attack or stroke.

Chronic illness. Typically pays a monthly benefit if you’ve been diagnosed as chronically ill and you are unable to perform two activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, or eating. This benefit could pay up to a quarter of the amount of your death benefit annually.

Terminal illness. Typically pays a benefit if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness and are told that your life expectancy is 12 to 24 months. These funds can be used for experimental medicine, preparing for final expenses, or any other purpose you deem necessary.

Some restrictions may apply. Please contact a licensed True Blue Life Insurance to discuss the details of adding living benefits to your life insurance coverage.

What Happens When You Have Life Insurance With Living Benefits?
If you were to experience a qualifying critical, chronic, or terminal illness — such as a heart attack, a stroke, or cancer, to name a few — you would have the option to collect part of your death benefit to help pay for expenses associated with your illness.

Of course, the amount of money your beneficiary would receive as part of your death benefit would be reduced by that amount. But, having the option to accelerate your death benefit funds could be a critically important step in helping you and your family through an unexpected health crisis. It might even be the saving grace that helps you enjoy a long and healthy life after your illness.

[ True Blue Insurance ]

https://www.truebluelifeinsurance.com/living-benefits-life-insurance/

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What Are the Pros and Cons of the Living Benefits Rider?

If you’ve done any financial planning, you likely already understand the importance of life insurance. You have a general idea of how much coverage you need, whether to choose term or a whole life policy, and who your beneficiaries will be. But there’s one aspect you may not have considered: the living benefits rider.

A living benefits rider (LBR) is an add-on available for many life insurance policies. It allows you to access funds while you’re still living under certain conditions. But do you really need this optional benefit, and how might it help your family?

What Is A Living Benefits Rider?
A living benefits rider is also referred to as accelerated death benefits or a living needs benefit rider, depending on the insurance company providing it. It’s an optional piece of coverage that you can add on to your new life insurance plan with many providers. Some providers will allow you to add it on to existing policies, though this can often involve a fee.

The purpose of the living benefits rider is to allow the policy owner the opportunity to use his or her life insurance benefits early in the case of serious injury, terminal illness, or other debilitating medical condition. Serious illnesses and injuries could affect your ability to earn an income. The LBR is allows a policyholder to offset this issue by accessing life insurance benefits prior to death.

Benefits are occasionally unrestricted, too. This means that with some insurance companies, you can receive your benefit before you pass away. You could use these funds for things like adult daycare, home modifications (such as a wheelchair ramp or other equipment that your health insurance may not cover), or nursing home care. With certain companies, you can even use it for expenses that improve your quality of life. Such as taking that trip you and your spouse always dreamed of.

Check with your insurance company to see if any restrictions apply, and what proof is necessary before utilizing your benefits.

Who Can Use It?
As mentioned, the living benefits rider is reserved for policyholders who encounter a dramatic change in their health. Most often the insurer requires that the injury or illness result in a life expectancy of between six and 24 months. Again, the life expectancy requirement varies between policy providers, so be sure to check what your own insurance company requires.

All insurers also require proof of your medical condition, injury, or diagnosis before you can take advantage of your accelerated death benefits. Check the fine print for what type of proof is required.

How Much Do You Get in Advance?
Typically, a living benefits rider will pay the policyholder somewhere between 24 and 100 percent of the life insurance policy’s total death benefit. But many of these also involve a set dollar limit. So if you have a substantial death benefit, you may max out at the dollar limit before you reach your maximum percentage.

Again, be sure to check your own policy to see how much the insurance company will pay out. And remember, you can only use this benefit once. Once you’ve used the living benefit, the insurer will terminate this particular rider. This information can help you decide whether taking the benefit is in your family’s best interest.

What if your policy pays out a living benefit of less than 100 percent of the death benefit? In this case, the insurer will issue the remaining amount to your beneficiaries upon your passing. So, if your policy allows you to take 50% in an accelerated death benefit, your family will still receive the remaining 50% when you die.

After you take advantage of the living benefit, the insurer will often update your policy to reflect the remaining death benefit. This revised policy remains active until you pass away, as long as you continue to pay premiums. But your premium payments will be adjusted to suit the new death benefit amount.

Are These Benefits Taxable?
Changing when and why your insurance company pays out on a policy has the ability to trigger some taxes.

Luckily, if you need (or want) to take advantage of an accelerated death benefit, the proceeds are not taxable, according to the federal government. This applies to all payouts received after January 1, 1997.

However, depending on where you live, you may be subject to taxation at a state level. Before opting in on a living benefits rider, check with a tax advisor and see what the implications may be.

Are There Fees Involved?
Life insurance companies aren’t only offering these living benefits out of the kindness of their hearts. Yes, there is a buck to be made on their end, too.

With some companies, the rider is included on all policies, free of charge. For others, it’s an optional service you can add to your policy. This add-on is sometimes free or may also involve a one-time fee when you first sign up. You usually need to opt in for the rider when you first purchase your life insurance policy, but some companies will allow you to add it later. Just note, if you add it at a later date, there is often a holding period during which you can’t use the benefit.

If you end up actually utilizing the rider and accepting benefits early, there are often fees involved. These can be a percentage of the payout amount or a flat administrative fee. Some insurance companies will take it out of the benefits that you receive. Meaning you will receive slightly less than you were anticipating. Others will apply any fees to the remaining death benefit. Which means your beneficiaries will receive less than they were expecting.

With so many variables in play, it’s important to ask as many questions as possible before signing on the dotted line. Be sure to get clear answers in writing as to whether accelerated death benefits are available, how much the rider costs, what the restrictions are, the fees involved if you use the benefit, and any other stipulations involved.

You should also consult with your tax advisor to see if there are any state tax obligations involved with the rider, should you choose to use it.

A living benefits rider is an incredibly valuable tool if you’re faced with a terminal illness. Is it right for you?

[ Stephanie Colestock ]

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Permanent Life Insurance

What is Permanent Life Insurance
Permanent life insurance is an umbrella term for life insurance plans that do not expire, unlike term life insurance, which promises payment of a specified death benefit within a specific period of years.

Typically, permanent life insurance combines a death benefit with a savings portion, allowing policies to build a cash value, against which the policy owner can borrow funds or, in some instances, withdraw cash to help meet needs such as paying for a child’s college education or covering medical expenses.

The two primary types of permanent life insurance are whole and universal life insurance policies. Whole life insurance offers coverage for the full lifetime of the insured and its savings can grow at a guaranteed rate. Universal life insurance also offers a savings element in addition to a death benefit, but offers different types of premium structures and earns based on market performance.

With permanent life insurance, there is often a waiting period after the purchase of policy, allowing for sufficient cash value to accumulate, before borrowing against the savings portion of the policy is allowed.

Further, if the amount of the total unpaid interest on a loan plus the outstanding loan balance, exceeds the amount of your policy’s cash value, the insurance policy and all coverage will terminate.

Permanent life insurance policies enjoy favorable tax treatment. The growth of cash value is generally on a tax-deferred basis, meaning that the policyholder pay no taxes on any earnings as long as the policy remains active.

As long as certain premium limits are adhered to, money can be taken out of the policy without being subject to taxes, since policy loans generally are not considered taxable income. Generally, withdrawals up to the amount of premiums paid can be taken without being taxed.

Permanent Life Insurance in Addition to Term
Different people have different insurance needs at different periods of their lives. Term life insurance is popular for its lower premiums, but usually will expire well before the end of a policyholder’s life.

While the aim is to have paid off most debt and other financial obligations by that time, while also accruing sufficient savings to make life insurance unnecessary, some people may find that they’d prefer ongoing coverage and savings opportunities, and so might want a new permanent policy.

For this reason, many term life policies offer the option to convert to permanent policies later, often without the need to take medical exams or otherwise re-qualify. That might make it appealing for someone with medical issues that could make a new policy prohibitively expensive, for instance, or with chronic conditions that require ongoing expenses that could be drawn from the savings portion.

While the premiums for permanent life insurance are much more expensive than those for term coverage, often those who would sign up for such policies have earned enough by that stage of life to afford them. With the added opportunity for savings, they can also use it as a tax-favorable investment vehicle to cover the needs of lifelong dependents, for example, or set aside savings to cover eventual estate tax bills.

[ Julia Kagan (Investopedia) ]

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The Benefits of Salvation

The gospel is first and foremost the good news about the resurrected Christ. Through union with the resurrected Christ believers receive justification, adoption, sanctification, and all other benefits which either flow from or accompany them. In this video, Dr. Lane G. Tipton describes these benefits and how they relate to one another.

[ Dr. Lane G. Tipton ]

Illustration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYlKMwKxSBg

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The 7 Blessings of Salvation

In this sermon, Mike enumerates and explains the benefits that believers receive and experience as ‘saved’ people. (Romans 5:1-11)

[ Mike Mazzalongo ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhjzVD_2IdE

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God’s Mercies

Come, My Mercies Are Never Consumed

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’ The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him” (Lamentations 3:22-25).

Through overwhelming tragedies and prevailing circumstances, Jeremiah felt as though his prayers were blocked, encased in hewn stone. Pierced to the depths of his soul, filled with bitterness, broken, bowed down in ashes and ridiculed by his people, he cried out as his strength and hope perished. Then He remembered Me. He remembered My mercies. He remembered My compassions fail not. He recalled these things to mind, acknowledging My great faithfulness. He knew when all else failed, or abandoned him, I remain. He depended on My goodness and in all humbleness, waited for the salvation he knew I would surely bring. He came with a heart of repentance and positioned himself before Me. You see, I am faithful when you are faithful and when you are faithless (2 Timothy 2:13).

Therefore, have hope in Me, and await my salvation in your circumstances. Be like Jeremiah, and remember the Father’s mercies are never consumed (John 1:2, Lamentations 3:22-25). The very fact that My life was laid down for you verifies this. My mercies are endless for you, My beloved. With complete trust in the character and mercy of My Father, I endured, carried with steadfast, unwavering hope the entire weight of sin for the hope which sat before Me: you (Hebrews 12:2).

Come quietly, and sit with Me awhile, and let Me encourage you today. All is not lost; all is not hopeless. In humbleness, confess all your failures to Me (1 John 1:9). I already know what you think and how you feel. Nothing you say will take Me by surprise. I am here to alleviate your load; exchange your heavy yoke for Mine (Matthew 11:30).

Oh, how I love you, My beloved. I am your portion and your faithfulness. Goodness is My nature, My character. I change not. Even if I wanted to change, which I don’t, I couldn’t (Hebrews 13:8). You can take this to the bank and cash it in. It is a check without limits in your life. I am your portion. Therefore, wait and hope in Me. Wait at My feet; pour your penitent heart out to My merciful one until you hear the words, “Arise and shine, My glorious one” (Isaiah 60:1).

Prayer
Lord, I receive Your great mercies as I trust in Your faithfulness, Your goodness. You are the delight of my soul in the land of the living. I surrender all my circumstances this day into Your capable hands. I confess my tendency to let my circumstances prevail, therefore, robbing my joy and hope. Jesus, You are my Hope, my Strong Tower, my Deliverer in whom I trust. Thank You for giving Your life that I might live and have abundant life, not a hopeless one. I give myself to Your encouragement.

Let me know in the deepest parts of my being that You remain when everything else I have trusted in departs. You stick closer than a brother. You are an ever-present help in times of affliction. I return Your love by trusting You. My hope is in You, Lord, my Everlasting Rock. I love You. I wait upon You this day for wisdom, guidance, hope, and enduring love. I love You. Amen.

Reflect and Journal
What circumstances seem overwhelming in your life?
When Jeremiah was distressed, he reflected on previous mercies. Remember and record the mercies of God in prior situations. They are your well of faith. Draw from this well and be encouraged.
Confess any doubt and unbelief.
Now that you have confessed, take burdens you have been bearing and exchange them for His rest. Trust Him! He is faithful.
And as always, journal the things He speaks to your heart.

[ AllAboutPrayer.org ]

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Emboldened

“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd…” Acts 2:14

As soon as the Holy Spirit came to believers at Pentecost, there was a marked change in the eleven apostles. It began as Peter stood and preached the gospel to those in Jerusalem. He ended his sermon with an astounding statement: “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah”(Acts 2:36). Hey everyone, that teacher that you just had killed? Yes, He is the Lord and the Messiah. The result of that message was the birth of the early Church—3,000 were saved that day.

The power that Peter spoke with was not his own, but rather given to him through the Holy Spirit. With the Holy Spirit, he became emboldened to preach the truth. Read his sermon in Acts 2 and you’ll see the first post-resurrection account of the gospel. Peter brilliantly ties in the Old Testament prophecies of the messiah and plainly states that Jesus Christ fulfilled them. With just a few words of difference it is exactly the same message that we preach today.

That same Holy Spirit lives in each believer today. And what shall we preach to our generation? In Acts 2:40, we read, “With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’”How amazing that 2,000 years ago Peter himself preached a message that is perfectly at home in our lives today. Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.

Do we as believers today have the courage to preach it? Often we see the Church weaving herself in and out of the culture, trying to be cool, looking for the magnet of attraction that will draw the eye of our media-savvy friends and families. Perhaps we should instead be emboldened, reminded by the Holy Spirit inside us to preach the gospel, and to warn our neighbors that our generation is corrupt, unjust, godless, and we are in need of a Savior. As you flavor your conversations with your faith this week, let your sentences be bold with the mention of the Jesus Who saved you from your sins.

God, thank You for saving me. Give me opportunities this week to share my faith with others. Let conversations naturally lead to the ideas and actions of faith in Jesus. May the Holy Spirit make me bold in my speech, and give me confidence in the gospel as Peter had in Acts 2. Help me to keep my mind on the gospel, and to share it at every opportunity. In Jesus’ name, amen.

[ James Merritt ]

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The Deepest Desire of the Christian Heart

Since I was 22 years old, all my Bible reading, all my journaling, all my counseling and writing and preaching and thinking, has circled back to this: “Hallowed be your name.” I have come back again and again to the prayer, the longing, the pursuit, that God would make his name supremely treasured as holy — first in my life, and then in all the world.

I want you to join me in this passion.

How could I not? That is what the prayer means! “Hallowed be your name” means I am asking God to cause you (and me) to treasure his name above all else. If I pray it honestly, I must want it — for you, for everyone. (This is why Desiring God exists!)

First and Ultimate
The plea, “Hallowed be your name,” is the only petition in the Lord’s Prayer where an explicit act of the human heart is named. The act of hallowing. All the other petitions serve this. The kingdom comes for this. God’s will is done for this. Daily bread is for this. Forgiveness is for this. Escape from temptation and evil is for this.

“Hallowing” involves reverencing, honoring, esteeming, admiring, valuing, and treasuring God’s name above all things. This is the first and ultimate desire of the Christian heart. (Ask him to make it so!) That’s why Jesus told us to seek it first — to pray for it. First. Foremost. It is to be our supreme passion in life.

Passions like this are awakened by hearing the voice of God — God himself, not a mere man — declare pervasively in his speech that the hallowing of his name is his main goal in history. This is why all things exist.

The Pervasive Theme
Give your ear — and your heart — to this:

He seeks the hallowing of his name in saving us.
“Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power” (Psalms 106:8).

He seeks the hallowing of his name in pardoning and forgiving us.
“For your name’s sake, O Lᴏʀᴅ , pardon my guilt, for it is great” (Psalms 25:11).

“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake” (1 John 2:12).

He seeks the hallowing of his name in restraining his anger.
“For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you” (Isaiah 48:9).

He seeks the hallowing of his name in not forsaking us or spurning us.
“The Lᴏʀᴅ will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake” (1 Samuel 12:22).

“Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake; do not dishonor your glorious throne” (Jeremiah 14:21).

He seeks the hallowing of his name in leading us in righteousness.
“He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalms 23:3; 31:3).

He seeks the hallowing of his name in helping, delivering, atoning.
“Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!” (Psalms 79:9).

He seeks the hallowing of his name in preserving our lives.
“For your name’s sake, O Lᴏʀᴅ, preserve my life! (Psalms 143:11).

He seeks the hallowing of his name in gathering, cleansing, and renewing his people.
“I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, declares the Lord Gᴏᴅ, . . . when I gather you from all the countries . . . and sprinkle clean water on you, . . . and give you a new heart, and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 36:23–26).

That is a small sample of God’s passion for the hallowing of his name. But if you ponder this, I believe the Holy Spirit (whose mission is to move our hearts to hallow the name of Jesus, John 16:14) will give you an unshakable joy in this unshakable reality: God does all for the hallowing of his all-satisfying name.

I am praying for you (Ephesians 6:18).

[ John Piper ]

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Our Faithful Friend and Companion

What is friendship without companionship? The chief benefit of a friend is that he is our companion too.

What a delicate thing is companionship, in the full meaning of the word — the companionship of heart and mind! It is not to be bought with gold, nor to be secured by any outward circumstances whatever. Men may belong to the same family — and not be companions. They may work together for years in the same profession, and at the very same desk — they may walk together, travel together, sleep in the same room — and yet not be companions. Who can tell how heart is knit to heart, and mind to mind — how spirit finds congeniality in spirit — to make companionship? It is beyond all common rules — independent of all outward similarity, nay even of all mental likeness. It often follows the very rule of contraries. Human companionship is a very capricious thing, after all.

Companionship means that men are much in one another’s company — that it is one of their chief pleasures to be much together. The more they are, by choice, together — the more may they be called companions. “There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24. This applies most chiefly to Jesus; but it is descriptive of companionship in general, as of that which comes most near to the man in the fellowship of life. There may be, in human companionship, a friend that sticks closer than a brother, or a sister. But there is no human companionship so sweet, or yet so close, as when we have a brother, or sister, friend, and companion, all in one.

Jesus is, in very deed, the companion of His people — born to be, fitted to be, the companion of them — each and every one. Human companionship has its limits, and that of a very narrow description. No man can have many companions; but Jesus is the true companion of the millions of millions of the redeemed. There is not a saint on earth, however poor in his circumstances — however much he may be despised by the world, or however little known to the Church; however much he may be oppressed in body, or troubled in experience — that may not claim as his Companion, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. Oh Believer, do you repose on the companionship of Jesus?

Men are often separated from their choicest companions. Circumstances may arise to set them thousands of miles apart. Even under ordinary circumstances they may be weeks, or months, without seeing each other. But not so Jesus and His people. True, there may be clouds, to cause an apparent separation — but Jesus still is there — He cannot be far away. Says He, “Truly, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world!” Matthew 28:20.

Human companions are often absent from us at the time when we most require their presence — in the day of sickness, or the hour of trial. But the Companion of companions has said, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine! When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!” Isaiah 43:1-3. “I am with you to deliver you.” Jeremiah 1:8.

Human companions cannot accompany us when we leave the world. But one has said of the great Companion, “Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil — for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4. Oh Believer, is there any moment when you may not rely on the presence of your faithful Friend?

Human companionship has its limits in the degree of nearness, to which one heart can draw near to another. There are bounds, which no human fellowship can pass. Community of thought and feeling must stop somewhere. You cannot possibly make two hearts, one heart; nor two minds, one mind. The fondest earthly companions must still be separate in their existence — you cannot make two human persons, one. How different it is with the companionship of Jesus!” He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” 1 Corinthians 6:17.

Jesus moves in the inner man of the heart. He is at home there. It is His habitation. He is one with the renewed soul, which is of the very essence of the divine nature. Believers are the temples of the Holy Spirit — their new heart is one with the Spirit. The Spirit is one with Christ, and Christ is one with the spirit. How, then, can the saints fail to be one with Christ in all holy companionship!

No man can be born a companion to another — for companionship is a thing of the heart. But every child of God is, at the time of his conversion, born a companion of Jesus. It cannot be otherwise, for he is born one with Christ — his new heart being a very portion of the heart of Jesus — his new mind a portion of the mind of Jesus. He is new-born into a community of thought and purpose, of interest and home — a perfect community with Jesus. Is not Jesus, then, the natural, the inevitable companion of the new-born soul?

How sweet to feel the heart-and-soul-companionship of Jesus! To feel that Christ and we are not twain, but one! To feel that our heart, and the heart of Jesus are melted into one! Earthly companions cannot know each other’s minds, except they tell them. But Jesus moves in the very heart. Our very springs of thought are deep laid in the companionship of Jesus. There is not a spiritual perception that flits across the mind, but it is the common property, as it is the joint sensation, of the great Companion of our hearts. The companionship of Jesus and the saints is the sweet, and inevitable consequence of their unity with each other.

Believer, may you not repose on the companionship of Jesus? May you not be sure that He loves your company? The needle is not more surely drawn to the magnet, than the heart of Jesus is to yours. He cannot do otherwise than love to be with you — to be always with you — never to be absent from you. There is a holy, a loving necessity, on the part of Jesus, to be ever in your company. You are a very portion of Himself — how can He but flow to you? You are of His very nature — how can he but assimilate with you? It were violence to the heart of Jesus to be separated from you; to have this companionship dissolved would be to undo the law of the kingdom — to subvert the principle of the divine nature. Then, Christian reader, may you and I repose upon Jesus as a faithful Companion!

[ George Mylne – Grace Gems ]

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Christian Steadfastness

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord!” 1 Corinthians 15:58

The design of the Apostle is to establish the doctrine of the resurrection. His arguments are cogent and invincible; his description is sublime and enrapturing. Some people in the Corinthian Church called in question the leading principles of the Gospel, alleging that they were too mysterious for belief, and that they could not admit what they could not comprehend. Too much of the same spirit prevails now. The resurrection of the body is a glorious doctrine in the estimation of the Christian; it affords a powerful motive to diligence and perseverance in the work of the Lord.

I. The Character of the People Addressed: “Beloved brethren.”

1. They were believers. They had heard, received, and believed the Gospel, and were saved, verse 1, 2.

2. They were brethren. The same faith which united them to Christ, united them also to one another. “They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.” 2 Corinthians 8:5. They are called “the Church of God, the sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints,” ch. 1:2. They had been chosen by the same heavenly father, believed in the same Jesus, had been regenerated by the same Spirit, etc. etc.

3. They were beloved brethren. “Therefore, my beloved brethren.” Beloved especially by Christ, being a part of his flock purchased by his blood and they are, if true believers, dear to each other, and they love as brethren.

II. The Advice Given to Them: “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”

1. The advice refers to the doctrines of the Gospel: the divinity, sacrifice, and resurrection, of Christ, as stated, verse 1-8, and the resurrection of the saints, and their immortal happiness, verse 12, etc. These doctrines were opposed, and will ever be opposed by the carnal mind.

(1.) The Apostle advises them to be steadfast. The truths of the Gospel are to be steadfastly maintained. “Be steadfast.” Be fully established in your own minds; be rooted and grounded in the truth. Well-built upon the true foundation. Recognize the vital importance of those truths ardently love them.

(2.) They must be steadfastly defended. “Be able to give a reason of the hope that is in you.” Labor to understand them, to feel their power. “Contend earnestly for the faith.” Be not overcome or silenced by the sophistry, carnal policy, and mere declamation of your antagonists.

(3.) Steadfastly exemplify their practical influence. Glory in your alliance to Christ and his people. It is most honorable. Let your light shine. In the family, in your calling, in your associations, in the Church, in the world — show by your behavior that you are a Christian — that you are not ashamed of Christ, his cause, and his people. Thus be a “faithful servant,” and “be faithful to death.”

2. In maintaining these doctrines, Christians are to be “immovable;” that is, they should persevere in their steadfastness. To be “immovable” is to have continued stability. Christians “should not be moved away from the hope of the gospel.” Colossians 1:23. “For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord,” 1 Thessalonians 3:8. “Standing fast” is a military term, like that in 1 Corinthians 16:13. Saints are here compared to an army, liable to attack, and standing firm against the enemy. The object of Satan is to divide and scatter them, in order to accomplish their defeat.

Many are movable. They soon surrender the doctrines of the cross and renounce their profession. Do not be moved . . .
by persecution,
by worldly temptations,
by the wiles of Satan,
by the desertions of others from the truth.

As a motive to invincible adherence to the truth, think how Christ, the Apostles, the martyrs, and others, resisted unto blood. Hebrews 11.

3. Christians are to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord.” The “work of the Lord” is that holy employment in which all his servants are engaged, the design of which is to advance his kingdom, and diffuse his glory in the world. It is the work of saving souls from death.

To abound in this work is to consecrate all our talents to his service. Some preach, exhort, pray, advise; some employ their influence, some their property, etc. Whatever contributes to promote the cause of Christ, that is the work of the Lord, and it is to be the business of our lives.

In this work Christians are to abound. Preachers are to be instant in season, and out of season, to rebuke and exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. Those who hear are to take heed how they hear, etc. Those who pray are to pray always, without ceasing, with all prayer and supplication. People having influence, property, talents, of any kind, are to employ them as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Romans 12:6-11. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up!” Galatians 6:9

III. The Powerful Motive Assigned. “Knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord!”

1. You know it from various promises. “For at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them!” Hebrews 6:10

2. “It shall not be in vain.” God will bless your efforts. Sinners shall be converted, or left without excuse.

3. The work shall be followed with an infinite reward. The resurrection to eternal life insures this, and a blessed immortality is before us, Matthew 19:28, 29. If we serve him, if we suffer with him — we shall also reign with him. For, observe,

4. The certainty of this reward is founded on the resurrection of Christ, verse 5-8. As sure as Christ arose, so shall his servants come forth to the resurrection of eternal life to be then honorably and publicly rewarded.

[ William Nicholson – Grace Gems ]

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What Does it Mean That God is the God of All Comfort?

Answer: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4).

The idea of “comfort” implies at least two parties: one who gives the comfort and one who receives it. It also implies a need—one that Scripture speaks of exclusively for humans. Animals have no capacity to receive spiritual comfort. The holy angels have no need for comfort. Satan and his demons are eternally beyond it (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:9, 12; 20:10). Only humans—higher than the animals, lower than the angels, and composed of body, soul, and spirit—were created with the capacity to receive and give comfort, and we live in a world where we need it.

Bound in time like animals, yet with a sense of our own eternity like angels (Ecclesiastes 3:11), we humans suffer distress in a unique “three-dimensional” way—past, present and future. We remember previous distresses and are filled with grief or regrets (Genesis 37:35; Matthew 26:75). We face each day’s troubles and worry (Matthew 6:25–32). We reflect on these things and dread what may come next (verse 34). And beyond these worldly matters is that most distressing sensation of all, the guilt for having deeply, inexcusably offended our good and righteous Creator and Judge (James 2:10–11; Revelation 6:16).

Believers in Christ have a comfort from God that includes a true freedom from guilt. For Christians, our righteous Judge is also our loving Savior (John 3:16–17)—a sharp contrast with the terrifying assortment of distant, cruel, or unappeasable deities of the ancient world into which Paul brought the good news of free, complete and irrevocable forgiveness, reconciliation, and adoption (Romans 3:23–25; 2 Corinthians 5:11–21; 1 John 3:1–2).

In 2 Corinthians 1:3, God is called the “Father of compassion” and the “God of all comfort.” In His mercy and love, God is eager to provide comfort to His children in any and all circumstances. Whatever the trial we face, our Heavenly Father knows the situation and offers comfort as needed. The fact that He is the God of all comfort teaches that all comfort ultimately comes from Him. He is our source of peace and happiness and blessing.

The comfort we Christians receive flows through us to others “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4). Like grace, comfort is an active, powerful gift to be not merely received but actively shared with others, supernaturally multiplied to advance God’s kingdom (Matthew 25:14–30). And so the Bible commends those who are simply with people in trouble, such as those who are sick or in prison, whether or not we can change their circumstances (Matthew 25:36–40). In bringing comfort to those in trouble, we glorify God by giving a glimpse of how He comforts those who are in distress.

All three Persons of the Trinity participate in comforting us just by being with us. That is enough. The Father is always with us, as He was with Moses (Exodus 3:12) and the nation of Israel (Deuteronomy 31:6–8). So, too, are the Son (Matthew 28:20; John 14:18) and the Spirit (John 14:16–17). Hence, Paul confidently ends his letter to the Corinthians with the beautiful blessing: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

The Spirit—the Parakletos, rendered “Comforter,” “Counselor,” or “Helper” in different translations—is how Jesus keeps His promise to always be with us as the God of all comfort. One meaning of the Greek root word para is “close beside.” All three Persons of the Trinity live with and in believers (John 14:17, 22)—very close indeed! As a result, no past, present, or future distress can separate us from God and His love for us in Christ (Romans 8:35). We are not only comforted in our troubles, but we are “more than conquerors” in them (verses 30–39). When we turn our worries into prayers, “the God of peace will be with [us]” (Philippians 4:6–9).

In the end, when we finally leave the temporary troubles of this life and enter the permanent joy of the next, our Heavenly Father will forever comfort each one of us, wiping away every tear (Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 21:4), welcoming us into a world where comfort is no longer needed because there is “no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). We will enjoy the God of all comfort forever.

[ Got Questions ]

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Enjoying Communion with God

When the disciples walked the road to Emmaus twenty centuries ago, Jesus concealed His identity so that they didn’t recognize the “stranger” at their side. These men were not in a garden. There were no roses covered with dew. But they walked and talked with the risen Christ. What was their experience like? When their eyes were finally opened and they recognized Jesus, He suddenly vanished and they said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32, NASB).

That is the normal human reaction to the immediate presence of Christ—“hearts burning within us.” My heart would be scorched to a cinder if I could hear His voice. My soul would explode in joy if I could walk with Him and talk with Him. I would travel the world to find a garden where He was visibly present.

But the truth is that I can’t see God. I can’t even see His shadow. He leaves no footprints in the sand, no fingerprints on the doorknob, no lingering aroma of aftershave in the breeze. He is invisible because He is immaterial.

What I crave is a relationship with God that is both intimate and personal. The great barrier to intimacy is God’s invisibility. Because I cannot see Him, I tend to doubt His presence. But He is there and promises communion and fellowship with Him. The tool He provides to overcome the barrier is the tool of prayer.

Prayer offers us a link to intimate fellowship with God. Here is where we find what the saints call “mystic sweet communion.” One need not be a mystic to enjoy this sweet communion. Prayer is access to God. He hears what I say to Him in prayer. He responds, though not audibly or with a vision of Himself. When we move beyond speaking our requests or placing our petitions before Him, we enter into the arena of sweet communion. Here we penetrate the invisible and delight in the glory of His presence.

[ Ligonier Ministries ]

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The Hope of Assurance

For many years, I had two excellent Christian women in my congregation who had very different experiences regarding their assurance. One had the strongest assurance of faith that I have known. She could never sing some hymns of William Cowper and could not understand how others could sing them. Lyrics such as “Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord?” were quite alien to her own heart’s conviction. On the other hand, Frances Crosby’s “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine” she could sing from her heart. She worked with the young people, wrote weekly letters to her children when they went to college, never missed a prayer meeting, took her place humbly when the means of grace were dispensed, and never overwhelmed others with her personal convictions of her safety in Jesus. In her seventies, she contracted cancer, and when she drank that cup that God had given her, she said, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” She died with the same peace and anticipation that she had shown all her life.

The other woman had little assurance. Those sermons I preached that were aimed at awakening and warning the careless she took as delivered to her personally. She expressed to her husband her feeling that she was not a true Christian. He asked me to tone down or balance my preaching. So it was for many years, but more recently she has experienced more hope in the Lord, that He is her Savior, and one day she will be with Him.

In the more than forty years that I have known her, she has labored for the Lord and His people. She is exceedingly zealous in the things of God. She is full of good works. There is not a person in the church who falls sick who does not get a card from her with suitable sentiments and verses. She makes cake and food for needy people. She never hurries away from church meetings. She is exceedingly supportive of me as her pastor. It has been a blessing to be prayed for and encouraged by her for so long. And yet, for decades, she lacked the joys of full of assurance of faith.

Two women, so very different in the degree of assurance that they have possessed. And yet, the one who lacked that assurance excelled almost everyone else in the congregation in her work of faith, labors of love, and patient hope in Jesus Christ. What does that tell us? We must beware of using our lack of assurance as the reason we are remiss in speaking and praying and working in the church for our Savior.

How can God expect me to be active for Him when there are periods when I do not feel that I have Him? we sometimes ask. The second woman has learned the great lesson that her feelings are not to be the touchstone of her duties. She works zealously for God because that is God’s will for her and for every Christian. “Let fancies fly away . . . I’ll labor night and day to be a Christian,” John Bunyan wrote. That is essential in the Christian life. There is never an excuse for becoming lukewarm, especially in pleading a lack of assurance. That is unbelief. We are to strive always to do the will of God our Creator and Judge. If you have some trembling hope, then do it for Him who gave His life for you. Love so amazing, so divine, demands your soul, your life, your all. In obeying God, assurance revives and faith is strengthened.

Again, we learn that though the comforts of the absence of full assurance must not and may not prevent us from living the Christlike life we should be living, this lack is a deficiency when troubles and doubts overcome our duty to be rejoicing in the Lord always. How can we rejoice when we are not sure if we have Him as our Savior? Then we must confront our feelings with the foundational truths of grace. Not our feelings, not our attainments, and not our understanding will be the reason why we enter the place of bliss, but only because of the life and achievements of another, namely, the Lord Christ. He makes us acceptable. The best that Christians have done, even in the person you most admire who is full of faith and peace, is all imperfect and needs to be washed and cleansed in the atonement of Golgotha. That is the only way. We look to Him and we say, “Whatever my spiritual state, my only hope is in the Redeemer.”

I have often said to the second lady and to the congregation, “Do you say, ‘I don’t know if I have Him, but I know that if I had Him then I’d be safe’?” Then know this: only a Christian thinks like that. You are a Christian if you have that conviction. The hope of assurance is found in Christ alone.

[ Geoffrey Thomas ]

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The Full Assurance of Hope

Though we speak thus, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things that belong to salvation. For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end.

Last week we focused on verse 10 and noticed four things:

We saw that serving the saints (loving each other, caring for each other, encouraging each other, supporting each other, being there for each other) is a way of expressing love toward the name of God (” . . . love which you showed toward his name in serving the saints . . . “).
We saw that God will never forget love shown to his name in the service of his people. He will remember it and reward it. “God . . . [will not] overlook [or forget] the love you showed toward his name in serving the saints.” The smallest things done for the sake of his name and for the good of others will be remembered by God even when no one else does.

We saw that God’s commitment to remember your love for his name and your service to his people is based on his unimpeachable justice. “God is not unjust so as to forget the love you showed to his name.”

We saw that the reason his justice is the foundation of this commitment to remember your love for his name is that God’s justice is his unswerving allegiance to uphold the worth and honor of his name. So when you love his name, and when you serve the saints out of love for God’s name, you show the worth and honor of his name. And God would therefore be unjust, unrighteous, to forget your work.

The upshot is this: if we want to serve people in the most helpful way, and if we want God to remember us with the greatest possible blessing, then we should devote ourselves above all things to loving his name. Because verse 10 teaches us that love toward the name of God is the source of genuine service and love toward his name is the means of being remembered by God with blessing.

Keeping First Things First
The inter-relationships of these three things (being remembered, loving God, serving people) are very important. It would be wrong to go away from verse 10, or from last Sunday’s message, and say, “Well I better work harder on serving the saints so that I can get God to remember me with blessing.” The reason that is wrong is not that the desire for blessing is wrong. The reason it’s wrong is that the first step is left out, namely, falling in love with the name of God.

Trying to serve the saints without being satisfied first with the beauty of God—his grace and power and wisdom and truth and goodness and justice—is like setting out to cross the desert in search of paradise without any water bottles and with no guide and with no assurance that there are oases to replenish you.

The Right Response to Verse 10
The right response to verse 10, or to last Sunday’s message, is to put first things first—to devote yourself first to knowing and loving the name of God. Without that, service becomes servility, and the quest for reward becomes mercenary. Service stops being the fruit of the Spirit and becomes the works of the flesh. And the quest for reward stops being a spiritual hunger for more of God, and becomes a merely carnal desire to escape the pain and get pleasure—God or no God. That’s the great danger if you don’t keep first things first, namely, love for God’s name.

Another way to put it would be to say: the right response to verse 10 and to last Sunday’s message is verses 11 and 12.

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
How Are We to Attain the Goals of Hebrews 6:11–12?

There are several goals here:

– the goal of inheriting the promises,
– the goal of imitating the lives of those who have lived in faith and patience, and
– the goal of not to get sluggish or dull or weary in all this.

But now notice carefully that the effort to attain these goals (which are mentioned in verse 12) is not an effort focused directly on not becoming sluggish, or directly on imitation, or directly on inheriting the promises. Where is the effort focused directly? The effort, the earnest pursuit, is focused directly on realizing the full assurance of hope (v. 11).

Notice the Relationship Between Verses 11 and 12

Now notice: just as in verse 10, it is all important to see the inter-relationships of these things. Look how the writer connects verse 11 and verse 12. Most of the versions (not the NIV!) bring out the crucial relationship between verses 11 and 12. Verse 11 is the means to the end of verse 12. And that is brought out by the word “that” or “so that” or “in order that.”

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Not being sluggish is a goal, but you aim at it by realizing the full assurance of hope. Imitating the faithful is a goal, but you aim at it by realizing the full assurance of hope. Inheriting the promises is a goal, but you aim at it by realizing the full assurance of faith.

This is the same approach to the Christian life that we saw in verse 10 last week. One goal was to serve the saints, but the way to aim at the goal is to aim at loving the name of God. Another goal was that the Lord would remember our work and love, but the way to aim at the goal was to aim at loving the name of the Lord.

The Fight to Maintain the Full Assurance of Hope
This is the main thing I want to get across in these two weeks. There is a fight to be fought in the Christian life. There is a kind of effort and earnestness. Laziness and sluggishness are not the way to live. But the direct focus of the fight is not first on serving or first working or first on patient endurance. The direct focus of the fight is to maintain the full assurance of hope and to love the name of the Lord. And the rest results from that.

Verse 11: “We desire you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope to the end SO THAT . . . ” the other aims will come. If you want not to be sluggish—if you want to imitate the patient and faithful saints, if you want to inherit the promises—then earnestly fight to maintain the assurance of hope. Don’t get the focus wrong.

“Show the Same Earnestness”

The clearest link between verses 10 and 11 is the word “same.” “We desire you to show the same earnestness . . . ” The same as what? The key is noticing the word “show” in both verses. “Show” the same earnestness (in verse 11) as what you “showed” (in verse 10). And what you showed in verse 10 was love to the name of God: “God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you showed toward his name . . . ” Now “show” the same earnestness in verse 11.

So the thought goes like this: You showed love toward the name of God and it came out in serving the saints. Now show the same earnestness toward the full assurance of hope, and it will come out in the imitation of the faithful and persevering saints.

Loving God and Hoping in God

These are not really two separate focuses: loving God and hoping in God. Loving the name of God means being satisfied more and more with who God is now. Having the full assurance of hope means being satisfied with what God will be for us and do for us in the future. They are not really separate things. What they are saying together is this: the first business of the Christian life is to find God satisfying—because of who he is now (that’s called loving him), and because of what he will be for you in the future (that’s called hoping in him).

A Fundamental Aspect of the Christian Life
So here in these verses we have one of the most basic things to learn about living the Christian life: the way to be a servant of others, the way to be patient, the way not to be sluggish, the way to inherit the promises, the way to be remembered by God, is to show great earnestness—zeal, diligence—in being satisfied with God, loving who he is and hoping fully in what he will be for you in the future.

The most fundamental fight of the Christian life is to keep on being satisfied with God. When you look up, to keep on feeling love for the glory of his name. When you look forward, to keep on feeling hope in the greatness of his promises.

Is there a diligence in the Christian life? Is there an earnestness? Is there a fight and a struggle and a zeal and a passion? Yes. But the direct focus of that earnestness is not first on certain behaviors but on God—maintaining the assurance of hope in God and the sweetness of love for his name. All other obedience is a second commandment. And if second things become first things, we may have a rigorous religion, but we will not have evangelical, God-centered, biblical Christianity.

Go Back to the Spring
Pause for a minute here with me and dwell on this. I don’t have time to say much more. I want this to grip you the way it has gripped me more deeply these past two days than in a long time. It is possible for Christians—even those who have drunk for decades at the spring of God’s grace—to slowly wander away from the fountain of life. It is possible even in the ministry—the water-carrying business—to stop going back to the spring and settle for pools and puddles down the hill.

This morning I think there are many of us who need to hear the simple, loving exhortation: let us go back up the stream and get down and drink until you are satisfied with God.

How many of us are trying to serve the saints? How many of us are trying to be remembered for our work? How many of us are trying to imitate some great saint? How many of us are trying to be longsuffering in some hard situation? And it isn’t flowing from a heart satisfied with God?

We need to go back up to the spring that overflows with God and there simply come to love him again for who he is, and find the assurance of hope again for what he promises to be for us in the future.

And I don’t mean go to him to get healthy or to get a job or to get a spouse or to get your marriage fixed or to get your bills paid. I mean go to him and dwell with him. Look upon him (Hebrews 3:1) until he becomes your heart’s satisfaction. Until you love him for what he is for you now, and until you have a full assurance of hope in what he will be for you in the future.

That is what many of us need above all things this morning. I invite you to be earnest and to go back up to God and be with him until you love him and hope fully in him.

[ John Piper ]

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God’s Plan: Hope for the Present, Assurance for the Future

When the nomadic, recently-enslaved Jews were following Moses to a Promised Land none of them had ever seen, who would have imagined that they would become one of the most significant races in the world? For example, Jews constitute around two percent of the American population, but make up thirty-seven percent of all our Nobel Prize winners.

No nation has been more persecuted in human history. But no nation has been more pivotal to human history.

Divine retribution and reward are often obscured by present circumstances. For instance, when David was celebrating the ark’s arrival in Jerusalem, Saul’s daughter Michal ridiculed him for dancing and rejoicing in public (2 Samuel 6:20). With this result: “And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death” (v. 23). However, her judgment was not apparent at the time it was provoked.

In Ezekiel 25, the prophet was told to pronounce God’s judgment against Ammon, Moab, Seir, Edom, and Philistia for their persecutions of Israel. None of these judgments came to pass immediately.

In Revelation 1, we find the Apostle John exiled on Patmos. There the risen Christ appeared to John and gave him the Revelation. At the time, no one in Rome knew that it would outlive the Empire by millennia and encourage Christians to the end of time.

Last football season, I was traveling during a Dallas Cowboys game, so I recorded it. My intention was to avoid all news of the game until I watched it at home. However, a TV monitor I happened to see in the airport broadcast the score of the Cowboys’ victory. I still watched the game, but with no anxiety. I knew the opposing team would score, but that my team would emerge victorious. And I remembered a college professor’s claim that he could summarize Revelation in two words: “We win.”

In a post-Christian culture, believers who stand for Jesus will pay a price. When you choose integrity, those who don’t will ridicule your position rather than admit their own failings. When you make your faith public, those who reject God will reject you as his servant. But remember how the story ends. And know that God redeems present persecution with present grace and eternal reward.

A Holocaust survivor saw these lines scratched into a wall at Auschwitz: “I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining. I believe in love even when I don’t feel it. I believe in God even when he is silent.”

[ Jim Denison ]

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Psalm 67

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—
so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.

May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples with equity
and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.

The land yields its harvest;
God, our God, blesses us.
May God bless us still,
so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.

—————

Analysis:
Grace (v1); Guidance (v4); Gladness (vs. 3, 5); Harvest (v6)
[ You can plow the grown and plant the seed, but only God can give the harvest ]

But ultimately, God’s blessings to us is for His glory! (v7)

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The Blessing of Full Assurance

A Sermon (No. 2023) delivered on Lord’s-day morning, May 13th, 1888, by Charles H. Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

Focus Verse:
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” [ 1 John 5:13 ].

[ Charles Spurgeon ]

http://www.romans45.org/spurgeon/sermons/2023.htm

Sermon (Audio): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNBfoozaw-M

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A Christian‘s Benefit Package

In the Old Testament I came across Psalm 103 that describes the kind of benefit package that God provides to everyone who trusts in Him, and serves Him faithfully.

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rA5a2Ed7QVo

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The Benefits of Being a Christian

In the next two weeks, ActiveChristianity will focus on some of the advantages of being a Christian. Our editor introduces the theme in this short video.

https://activechristianity.org/tag/the-benefits-of-being-a-christian/

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Topics on Assurance

Calvin on Assurance: Justification not to be confused with Sanctification
“…he who imagines that in order to obtain justification he must bring any degree of works whatever, cannot fix any mode or limit, but makes himself debtor to the whole law. Therefore, laying aside all mention of the law, and all idea of works, we must in the matter of justification have recourse to the mercy of God only; turning away our regard from ourselves, we must look only to Christ. For the question is, not how we may be righteous, but how, though unworthy and unrighteous, we may be regarded as righteous. If consciences would obtain any assurance of this, they must give no place to the law. Still it cannot be rightly inferred from this that believers have no need of the law. It ceases not to teach, exhort, and urge them to good, although it is not recognized by their consciences before the judgment-seat of God. The two things are very different, and should be well and carefully distinguished. The whole lives of Christians ought to be a kind of aspiration after piety, seeing they are called unto holiness (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:5). The office of the law is to excite them to the study of purity and holiness, by reminding them of their duty. For when the conscience feels anxious as to how it may have the favor of God, as to the answer it could give, and the confidence it would feel, if brought to his judgment-seat, in such a case the requirements of the law are not to be brought forward, but Christ, who surpasses all the perfection of the law, is alone to be held forth for righteousness.” – John Calvin, Institutes III, xix, 2–3.

[ Monergism.com ]

https://www.monergism.com/topics/assurance

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“Assurance of Salvation”
By: John Newton

July 11, 1795

We may easily conceive of a tree without fruit—but the idea of fruit is naturally connected with that of some tree which produces it. In this sense, assurance is the essence of faith; that is—it springs from true faith, and can grow upon no other root. Faith likewise is the measure of assurance. While faith is weak, (our Lord compares it, in its first principle, to a grain of mustard seed,) assurance cannot be strong.

Jesus Christ the Lord is a complete all-sufficient Savior. His invitation to the weary and heavy-laden is general, without exception, condition, or limitation. He has said, him who comes unto me, I will never cast out. God not only permits—but commands us to believe in the Son of his love. The apostle affirms that he is able to save to the uttermost, all who come unto God by him. When Moses raised the brazen serpent in the wilderness, the direction to the wounded Israelites was very short and simple—it was only, Look, and live! Thus the gospel addresses the sinner, Only believe, and you shall be saved.

Why then does not every sinner who is awakened to a sense of his guilt, danger, and helplessness; and whose desires are drawn towards the Savior—believe with full confidence, even upon his first application for mercy? Is not the remedy fully adequate to the malady? Is not the blood of Jesus able to cleanse from all sin? Is not the Word of the God of truth worthy of entire credit? Yet with such a Savior exhibited before the eyes of his mind, and with such promises sounding in his ears—he continues to hesitate and fluctuate between hope and fear. Could he rely as firmly on the Word of God, as he can on the word of a man, whom, he thinks, means what he says, and is able to make good his promises—he would immediately be filled with joy and peace in believing. But experience and observation may convince us, that, however rational and easy this assurance may seem in theory, it is ordinarily unattainable in practice—without passing through a train of previous exercises and conflicts.

It is true, young converts are often favored with comfortable impressions, which lead them to hope that their doubts and difficulties are already ended—when perhaps they are but just entering upon their warfare. They are brought, as it were, into a new world; a strong and lively sense of divine things engrosses their attention; the world and its fascinations sink into nothing in their esteem; the evil propensities which discourage them are overpowered for a season, and they hope they are quite subdued, and will trouble them no more. Their love, gratitude, praise, and admiration, are in vigorous exercise.

An aged, experienced Christian may recollect, with a pleasing regret, many sweet sensations of this kind, in the early stages of his profession, which he cannot recall. But he now knows that the strong confidence he felt in these golden hours was not the assurance of faith—it was temporary and transient; it was founded upon what we call a good frame. Though his comforts were strong, his faith was weak—for, when the good frame subsided, his fears returned, his hope declined, and he was at his wits’ end. Then, perhaps, he wondered at his own presumption, for daring to hope that such a creature as himself could have any right to the privileges of a believer. And if, in the warmth of his heart, he had spoken to others of what God had done for his soul, he afterwards charged himself with being a hypocrite, and a false witness both to God and man. Thus, when the Israelites saw the Egyptians, (who had pursued and terrified them,) cast up dead upon the shore of the Red Sea, they praised the Lord, and believed. They were little aware of the wilderness they had to pass through, and the trials they were to meet with—before they could enter the promised land!

But strong faith, and the effect of it, an abiding persuasion of our acceptance in the Beloved, and of our final perseverance in grace—are not necessarily connected with sensible comfort. A strong faith can trust God in the dark, and say with Job, “Though he slays me—yet will I trust in him.” Yet it is not to be maintained without a diligent use of the instituted means of grace, and a conscientious attention to the precepts of the gospel. For mere notions of truth, destitute of power—will not keep the heart in peace. But this power depends upon the influence of the Holy Spirit; and if he is grieved by the willful commission of sin, or the willful neglect of the precepts—he hides his face, suspends his influence, and then confidence must proportionable decline, until he is pleased to return and revive it.

There are likewise bodily disorders, which, by depressing the physical spirits, darken and discolor the medium of our perceptions. If the enemy is permitted to take advantage of these seasons, he can pour in a flood of temptations, sufficient to fill the most assured believer with terror and dismay. But, ordinarily, those who endeavor to walk closely and conscientiously with God, attain, in due time, an assurance of hope to the end, which is not easily nor often shaken, though it is not absolutely perfect, nor can be, while so much sin and imperfection remain in us.

If it be inquired—WHY we cannot attain to this state of composure at first, since the object of faith and the promises of God are always the same? Several reasons may be assigned.

Unbelief is the primary cause of all our inquietude, from the moment that our hearts are drawn to seek salvation by Jesus. This inability to take God at his Word, should not be merely lamented as an infirmity—but watched, and prayed, and fought against as a great sin. A great sin indeed it is; the very root of our apostasy, from which every other sin proceeds. Unbelief often deceives us under the guise of humility, as though it would be presumption, in such sinners as we are, to believe the declarations of the God of truth. Many serious people, who are burdened with a sense of other sins, leave this radical evil, unbelief, out of their list of sin. They rather indulge it, and think they ought not to believe, until they can find a warrant from marks and evidences within themselves. But this is an affront to the wisdom and goodness of God, who points out to us the Son of his love—as our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, without any regard to what we have been, or to what we are, excepting that broken and contrite spirit—which only himself can create in us. And this broken spirit, though unbelief perverts it to our discouragement, is the very temper in which the Lord delights, and a surer evidence of true grace, than those which we are apt to contrive for ourselves. It is written, He who believes not the record which God has given of his Son, makes him a liar. Why do we not startle with horror—at the workings of unbelief, as we should do at a suggestion to commit murder, or the grossest outward enormity?

Again, our natural pride is a great hindrance to true faith. If we acknowledge ourselves to be sinners, and are sensible of our need of mercy—we are not easily brought to see that we are so totally depraved, so exceedingly vile, so utterly destitute of all good, as the Word of God describes us to be. A secret dependence upon our prayers, tears, resolutions, repentance and endeavors, prevents us from looking solely and simply to the Savior, so as to ground our whole hope for acceptance upon his obedience unto death, and his whole mediation.

A true believer will doubtless repent and pray, and forsake his former evil ways—but he is not accepted upon the account of what he does or feels—but because Jesus lived and died, and rose and reigns on the behalf of sinners, and because he is enabled by grace to trust in him for salvation.

Further, pride leads us into that spirit of vain reasoning, which is contrary to the simplicity of living by faith. Until this is renounced, until we become in some measure like little children, and receive the doctrines of Scripture implicitly, because they are from God, requiring no further proof of any point than a Thus says the Lord—we cannot be established in our hope. Naaman was very desirous to be healed of his leprosy; but, if the Lord had not mercifully overruled his prejudices, he would have returned a leper—just as he came. Before he went to Elisha, he had considered in his own mind, how the prophet ought to treat him; and not having the immediate attention paid to him that he expected, he was upon the point of going away; for his reason told him, that, if washing could effect his cure, the waters of Syria were as good as those of Jordan. “It seems,” to use the words of a late ingenious writer, “that the gospel is too good to be believed, and too plain to be understood, until our pride is abased.”

It is difficult to determine, by the eye, the precise moment of day-break, but the light advances from early dawn, and the sun arises at the appointed hour. Such is the progress of divine light in the mind—the first streaks of the dawn are seldom perceived; but, by degrees, objects, until then unthought of, are revealed. The evil of sin, the danger of the soul, the reality and importance of eternal things—are apprehended, and a hope of mercy through a Savior is discovered, which prevents the sinner from sinking into absolute despair. But for a time—all is indistinct and confused.

In this state of mind, many things are anxiously sought for as pre-requisites to believing—but they are sought in vain, for it is only by believing that they can be obtained. But the light increases, the sun arises, the glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ shines in upon the soul. As the sun can only be seen by its own light, and diffuses that light by which other objects are clearly perceived; so Christ crucified is the sun in the system of revealed truth; and the right knowledge of the doctrine of his cross satisfies the inquiring mind, proves itself to be the one thing needful, and the only thing necessary to silence the objections of unbelief and pride, and to afford a sure ground for solid and abiding hope.

Once more—we cannot be safely trusted with assurance—until we have that knowledge of the evil and deceitfulness of our hearts, which can be acquired only by painful, repeated experience. The young convert, in his brighter hours, when his heart is full of joys, and he thinks his mountain stands too strong to be removed, may be compared to a ship with much sail spread, and but little ballast. She goes on well while the weather is fair—but is not prepared for a storm. When Peter said, “You have the words of eternal life—we believe and are sure that you are the Christ,” and when he protested, “Though all men should forsake you—yet will not I,” he undoubtedly spoke honestly; but the event showed that he did not know himself! His resolution was soon and sorely shaken in the hall of the high-priest, so that he denied his Lord with oaths and imprecations. He was left to fall—that he might learn he did not stand by his own strength.

The parable of the prodigal may be accommodated for an illustration of this point. The Scripture says, “Then shall you know—if you follow on to know the Lord.” But we often want to know at first, and at once; and suppose— If I was but sure that I am right, and accepted in the Beloved, I could go on with more spirit and success. Many rejoice greatly when they seem to obtain this desire—but their joy is short-lived. They soon resemble the prodigal; they become vain, rash, and careless; they forsake their Father’s house; their attention to the means of grace is slackened; they venture upon smaller deviations from the prescribed rule, which, in time, lead them to greater. Thus their stock of grace and comfort is quickly exhausted. They begin to be in need; and, after having been feasted with the bread of life, are reduced to feed upon such husks as the world can afford them. Happy, if at length they are brought to their right minds!

But, oh, with what pungent shame and humiliation do they come back to their Father! He, indeed, is always ready to receive and forgive backsliders; but surely they cannot easily forgive themselves for their ingratitude and folly! When he has healed their broken bones, and restored peace to their souls, it may be expected that they will walk softly and humbly to the end of their days, and not open their mouths any more, either to boast, or to censure, or to complain!

For, a man who possesses a Scriptural and well-grounded assurance in himself—will evidence it to others by suitable fruits. He will be meek, sincere and gentle in his conduct before men—because he is humbled and abased before God. Because he lives upon much God’s forgiveness to himself—he will be ready to forgive others. The prospect of that blessed hope assuredly laid up for him in heaven—will make him patient under all his appointed trials in the present life, wean him from an attachment to the world, and preserve him from being much affected either by the smiles or the frowns of mortals. To hear people talk much of their ‘assurance’, and that they are freed from all doubts and fears—while they habitually indulge proud, angry, resentful, discontented tempers, or while they are eagerly grasping after the world, like those who seek their whole portion in it—is painful and disgusting to a serious Christian! Let us pity them, and pray for them; for we have great reason to fear that they do not understand what they say, nor what they affirm!

—–

[ Excerpt From “The Letters of John Newton” ]

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Assurance of Salvation in Romans 8

Summarized by Steve Irons from Romans, An Interpretive Outline, by David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas.

The justified, though plagued with sin and affliction while in this world, are nevertheless secure “in Christ”. To all who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit salvation is certain, for the Spirit’s work in them is proof of their having been predestined to eternal glory – nothing can separate them from God’s love, Romans 8:1-39.

A. Through their identification with Christ, believers (though sinful in themselves) have been freed from the law and therefore cannot be condemned. Hence their salvation is certain, Rom 8:1-4:

1. There is “no condemnation” for those who are “in Christ Jesus” (joined to him by faith).

2. The reason there is no condemnation for those “in Christ” is that they have been freed (Greek, “justified”) from the law of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Hodge interprets verses 1 and 2 as follows: “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ, because they have been freed in Him by the gospel of the life-giving Spirit from the Law which, although good in itself, is, through our corruption, the source of sin and death.”

3. In order to free believers from the guilt or condemnation of sin, God sent His own Son into the world (in a nature like man’s sinful nature, but not itself sinful). Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice for sin, and thereby legally put sin away and thus freed His people from its guilt.

4. As a result of Christ’s sacrificial work, the just requirement (demand) of the law has been fulfilled (fully met) in those who are joined to Him. This of course is because of the fact that what Christ did, He did as their substitute or representative, and it is therefore counted (imputed) to them as if they themselves did it.

B. Believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit ,who has regenerated them, who is sanctifying them, and who in the last day will resurrect them, 8:5-11. The Holy Spirit’s work in the Christian has a threefold aspect – past, present, and future. Through regeneration, the Holy Spirit made the unbeliever spiritually alive and caused him to believe in Jesus Christ. The Spirit continues His work through the process of sanctification by which He imparts spiritual strength and guidance to the believer. Sanctification begins at regeneration and does not end until death. In the resurrection the Spirit will give life to the saint’s mortal body when He raises him from the dead.

1. Those who “walk according to” vs. 4; “live according to” v. 5; and “set their minds on” v. 6, the flesh are dead spiritually and therefore hostile to God and His law, v. 7 and 8. The term “flesh” is used to denote man’s fallen sinful nature. Although the Christian is still influenced by the flesh (his fallen nature), the “flesh” no longer dominates him. It does not characterize his life as it did before he was made alive and energized by the Holy Spirit.

2. The believer “walks” and “lives” according to the Spirit, v. 4, 5, 6, 9-11. The saved man does not live by the standards and dictates of the flesh, but his life is regulated or influenced by the Holy Spirit who dwells within him and who is the dominant ruler of the “inner man.” He is still troubled by indwelling sin, but he is not ruled by it as he was before regeneration. Though his body is dead by reason of sin and guilt, his spirit is alive because of the righteousness which has been imputed to him.

C. Believers (through adoption) are, in their present state, the children of God and therefore heirs with Christ, Rom 8:12-17 By the Spirit, believers are to put to death the deeds of the body (i.e. the works of the flesh, see Gal. 5:16-24). Only those who resist sin, who are led by the Spirit, and who suffer with Christ are true believers. v. 13, 14, 17.

D. Believers, though they must suffer various afflictions while in this life, are sustained through them all by the encouragement and help that comes from God, Rom 8:18-28

E. Believers are assured of final salvation, for they have been predestined to eternal glory, Rom 8:29,30. Each individual who has been called by God’s Spirit and justified by faith can be assured that he was loved by God before the foundation of the world and marked out (ordained) for everlasting life. For as Romans 8:29, 30 show, being “called” and “justified” are the result and therefore the evidence of one’s having been predestined to eternal glory.

Believers have been predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. This conformity (being made like Christ) will take place when the saints are glorified in the resurrection, at Christ’s second coming. (Compare Romans 8:17-23; I Cor. 15:49, 51-57; Phil. 3:20,21; I John 3:2.) They have been predestined to this end so that Christ “might be the first-born among many brethren.” See Heb. 2:10-17. Compare also Col 1:15,18; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 1:5.

Note the chain of events:

1. Those whom God knew or fixed His heart upon in ages past (foreloved),

2. He marked out or ordained, and

3. In time He called (effectually – He calls outwardly by the gospel and inwardly by His Spirit thus giving them life and faith)and

4. He justified – declares them righteous on the ground of Christ’s work, and

5. He glorified – He will glorify them in the resurrection at the last day.

So indissoluble is the chain that the last link is here viewed as an accomplished fact because the first links are so. The exact number known by God before the world began shall be glorified, no more, no less, and all of them must and will pass through each of these five steps. To illustrate: Suppose God foreknew 100 individuals, then He predestined 100, He called 100, He justified 100, and He glorified 100 individuals. God will bring to salvation each individual whom He set His heart on (loved) before the world began.

F. God is for believers – no one can effectually be against them, Rom 8:31-34.

1.That God is for believers is undeniably true since He has already given His own Son to die for their sins. Certainly, God would not give His most precious possession for His elect and then withhold from them blessings of a lesser nature.

2.God’s people have been cleared in His court of justice from all of their sins. Since God’s justice has been completely satisfied, who is there to charge or condemn believers? Would Christ Jesus condemn the very people He loved and gave Himself for, was raised for, and even now intercedes for?

G. God’s love for His people is infinite and unchangeable, and nothing in all creation can separate believers from it, Rom 8:35-39

This is the last step in the climax of the apostle’s argument; the very summit of the mount of confidence, whence he looks down on his enemies as powerless, and forward and upward with full assurance of a final and abundant triumph. No one can accuse, no one can condemn, no one can separate us from the love of Christ.

In the contemplation of himself as a sinner, he mournfully exclaims, ‘O wretched man that I am!’ In the contemplation of himself as justified in Christ, he boldly demands, ‘Who shall lay anything to my charge? Who is he that condemns?’ Well may the man who loves God defy the universe to separate him from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus his Lord. Although at present the whole creation groans and travails in pain together, although even he himself groans within himself, yet all things are working together for his good.

1. The Holy Spirit is interceding for him in his heart;

2. Jesus Christ is interceding for him before the throne;

3. God the Father has chosen him from eternity, has called him, has justified him, and will finally crown him with glory.

The Apostle had begun this chapter by declaring that there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus; he concludes it with the triumphant assurance that there is no separation from His love. The salvation of believers is complete in Christ, and their union with Him indissoluble.

[ Steve Irons ]

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Communion with God Through Prayer

This blog is excerpted from a five-day devotional I wrote for Sports Spectrum, available on YouVersion. Each day’s entry features video reflections from NFL stars, including Drew Brees, Ryan Tannehill, Matthew Slater, Matt Forte, and Demario Davis. They discuss topics such as the daily refreshment of God’s Word, prayer, salvation, baptism and the courage to tell others about Jesus. Below each video, I share some additional reflections.

Here are some insightful reflections from NFL quarterback Ryan Tannehill about prayer and our relationship with God.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zf36HuatU4

Randy again:

I confess to struggling to maintain long periods of prayer. However, over the years God has graciously taught me about praying and depending on Him continuously. As I hear requests, I often pray immediately so I don’t forget. My wife Nanci and I pray together, sometimes on the phone, as we hear about needs throughout the day.

I ask God to give me divine appointments wherever I go, and prompt me to see needs I can meet. I want prayer to be an adventure in which I enter God’s presence and become absorbed with Him. Just as we need to hear from God in His Word, we need to talk to Him, so communication is two-way.

Ryan put it so well: “Prayer plays a crucial role in any relationship with God…it’s your life-line. Once you have that tight feeling with God, you don’t want to feel anything else. He’s such a fulfilling God, a loving, giving Father that we don’t deserve…when you get a taste of it, you just want more!”

Sometimes when I’m praying, I pull out a chair and imagine Jesus sitting in it (He not only sat in chairs; He also built them!). Then I talk to Him. I’m not pretending Jesus is with me; I’m believing His promise that He really is with me. Contemplate the reality of your Father in Heaven, Christ your Savior, and the Holy Spirit your Comforter and Teacher, and you’ll find rich meaning in the phrase “spending time with God.”

No matter how busy I was, my kids were always welcome to come and talk with me. It’s the same with my grandkids today. A king’s advisers hesitate to interrupt him, but his children have unlimited access. Since our King is all-knowing, He can hear each prayer as if you or I were the only ones praying in the whole world. “Whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help” (Hebrews 4:16, CEV).

The more conscious our dependence on Christ, the more we’ll “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18). We can’t spend time with many of the world’s famous people, and I think they’d disappoint us if we could. We can, however, spend time with God daily. He loves us so much that He gives us constant access and always listens with genuine interest. To “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) isn’t an impossible chore but an ongoing delight.

[ Randy Alcorn ]

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Communion with God: What, Why, How?

“Communion” is a good word. What do you think when you hear it? Maybe an ordinance of the church? Perhaps an archaic way saying relationship? Or even some mystical ambiguity connected to transcendence?

Communion is one of the few words in the English language that has a general meaning but maintains a sanctified use. “To speak a little of it in general,” John Owen writes, “Communion relates to things and persons. A joint participation in any thing whatever, good or evil, duty or enjoyment, nature or actions. . . . (Works.II.7). In other words, communion most bascially is what’s happening when we cheer on our favorite team with a group of friends.

But that’s not the way we really use the word. We call those parties. And notwithstanding the joy aspect of parties, communion is about God — the one, true, personal God in three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit.

Communion What?
Communion is God’s communication to us coupled with our response to him — all in such a way that he’s glorified and we’re glad. Communion hopefully does happen when we do the Lord’s Supper, but it’s not limited to that event.

In his essay from Crossway’s new Understanding Scripture, John Piper explains,

Communion refers to God’s communication and presentation of himself to us, together with our proper response to him with joy. We say “with joy” because it would not be communion if God revealed himself in total wrath and we were simply terrified. That would be true revelation and a proper response, but it would not be communion.

Communion assumes that God comes to us in love and that we respond joyfully to the beauty of his perfections and the offer of his fellowship. He may sometimes come with a rod of discipline. But even in our tears, we can rejoice in the Father’s loving discipline (Hebrews 12:6–11). Communion with God may lay us in ashes or make us leap. But it never destroys our joy. It is our joy (Psalm 43:3). (46)

Communion Why?
So if this is what communion is, what about why it is? What’s the purpose behind it? Pastor John writes,

Communion with God is the end for which we were created. The Bible says that we were created for the glory of God (Isaiah 43:7). Yet glorifying God is not something we do after communing with him, but by communing with him. Many human deeds magnify the glory of God’s goodness, but only if they flow from our contentment in communion with him. (46)

Communion How?
But how? Communion is this glorious fellowship with God that fulfills the purpose of our existence. Yet how is it possible? Owen once more, “By nature, since the entrance of sin, no man hath any communion with God. He is light, we are darkness; and what communion hath light with darkness?” (6). The disparity here is incalculable. Consider us: sinners; and God: infinitely holy. How in the world might we commune with him?

Pastor John:
The answer of the Bible is that God himself took the initiative to be reconciled to his enemies. He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place and bear the curse that we deserved from God. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). So the wrath of God that we deserved fell on Christ (Isaiah 53:4–6, 10). Because God gave Christ as our substitute, we can be reconciled to God and enjoy peaceful communion with him. (47)

[ Jonathan Parnell ]

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Sunday to Sunday: How to Connect With God

What stops you from spending time with God?

God’s always available and if the Bible shows us one thing, it’s that He goes to incredible lengths to connect with us.

So if He wants to connect with us and we want to connect with Him, what’s the problem?

Many of us answer that question the same way: our lives are busy and hurried and we have forgotten how to connect with God consistently.

Work, school, relationships and everything else that happens daily crowd out our “God time”.

But trying to succeed in any of those areas without God is like saying we don’t need Him at all. We don’t think that, do we?

No, we believe that God is the source of our strength, identity and purpose in life. And we express that by making Him our first priority. For some of us that literally means making time with God the first thing we do each day.

And if that means getting up earlier, and maybe even going to bed earlier, it’s worth it.

What we do with our time and what we do with our money usually reveal what we value most.
God wants to deepen your experience of Him but He can’t do that without your participation.

So how do we set ourselves up to succeed in making time for God every day?

3 Essentials for Connecting With God
Choose a time.
Choose a place.
Have a plan.
1. Choose a time.

Jesus took time with God early in the morning, before the distractions of the day began.

God will meet you wherever and whenever, but beginning your day like this helps you shape your day, rather than your day shaping you.

If you choose another time of day, just stick to it.

2. Choose a place.

Make where you have your time with God a place of minimal distraction. Turn off media devices and plant yourself somewhere you can focus.

3. Have a plan.

Ask God for guidance in designing your time together. Knowing more about how your personality connects you with God could help in your planning.

What difference can I expect to see in my life?
By prioritizing our schedules around God, we develop the habit of connecting with Him.

These moments are essential to sustaining a dynamic, intimate relationship with Jesus.

Any healthy relationship between two people involves commitment and time for that connection to develop.

Our relationships with God need the same things.

If Jesus, God in the flesh, felt the need to stop and focus on His Father without interruptions, shouldn’t we too?

How does communicating with God work?
It’s not as complicated as you might think. You talk, He listens. He talks, you listen. Prayer is simply conversation between God and you.

He talks, you listen.
Let God speak to you through the Bible. It’s no use saying He never talks to you, if you’re not giving Him the opportunity to speak to you in the way He has chosen, through His written word.

Read a passage of Scripture, highlight or write down whatever speaks to you through the verses. Then trust that the Holy Spirit is drawing your attention to something intended for you, and ask yourself why. Let God speak to you through His Word and be teachable to the truth.

You talk, He listens.
If you find that difficult to believe God is actually listening to you, ask yourself why? Do you think God is too busy for you? Do you think you’re not worth His time? Do you think God doesn’t speak to anyone anymore?

If any of those things feel true, that’s okay, just begin your conversation by telling God that’s how you feel and invite Him to give you truth that will help you overcome those doubts. He will help you.

Be completely open and honest with Him as you pray. Share your hopes, your failures, your worries.

Most importantly, praise Him for who He is and thank Him for what He’s done.
Remember, God wants us to experience Him personally. He’s not playing hide and seek.
Just as a good Father chooses to do different activities with each of His children, He wants the two of you to discover your unique way of spending time together every day.

If this article was helpful, you might also enjoy How to Spend a Day with God.

https://www.cru.org/us/en/train-and-grow/spiritual-growth/devotionals/a-daily-time-with-the-lord.html

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The Greatest of All Protestant Heresies?

Let us begin with a church history exam question. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621) was a figure not to be taken lightly. He was Pope Clement VIII’s personal theologian and one of the most able figures in the Counter-Reformation movement within sixteenth-century Roman Catholicism. On one occasion, he wrote: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is _______ .” Complete, explain, and discuss Bellarmine’s statement.

How would you answer? What is the greatest of all Protestant heresies? Perhaps justification by faith? Perhaps Scripture alone, or one of the other Reformation watchwords?

Those answers make logical sense. But none of them completes Bellarmine’s sentence. What he wrote was: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is assurance.”

A moment’s reflection explains why. If justification is not by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone — if faith needs to be completed by works; if Christ’s work is somehow repeated; if grace is not free and sovereign, then something always needs to be done, to be “added” for final justification to be ours. That is exactly the problem. If final justification is dependent on something we have to complete it is not possible to enjoy assurance of salvation. For then, theologically, final justification is contingent and uncertain, and it is impossible for anyone (apart from special revelation, Rome conceded) to be sure of salvation. But if Christ has done everything, if justification is by grace, without contributory works; it is received by faith’s empty hands — then assurance, even “full assurance” is possible for every believer.

No wonder Bellarmine thought full, free, unfettered grace was dangerous! No wonder the Reformers loved the letter to the Hebrews!

This is why, as the author of Hebrews pauses for breath at the climax of his exposition of Christ’s work (Heb. 10:18), he continues his argument with a Paul-like “therefore” (Heb. 10:19). He then urges us to “draw near … in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22). We do not need to re-read the whole letter to see the logical power of his “therefore.” Christ is our High Priest; our hearts have been sprinkled clean from an evil conscience just as our bodies have been washed with pure water (v.22).

Christ has once-for-all become the sacrifice for our sins, and has been raised and vindicated in the power of an indestructible life as our representative priest. By faith in Him, we are as righteous before the throne of God as He is righteous. For we are justified in His righteousness, His justification alone is ours! And we can no more lose this justification than He can fall from heaven. Thus our justification does not need to be completed any more than does Christ’s!

With this in view, the author says, “by one offering He has perfected for all time those who come to God by him” (Heb. 10:14). The reason we can stand before God in full assurance is because we now experience our “hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and … bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22).

“Ah,” retorted Cardinal Bellarmine’s Rome, “teach this and those who believe it will live in license and antinomianism.” But listen instead to the logic of Hebrews. Enjoying this assurance leads to four things: First, an unwavering faithfulness to our confession of faith in Jesus Christ alone as our hope (v.23); second, a careful consideration of how we can encourage each other to “love and good works” (v.24); third, an ongoing communion with other Christians in worship and every aspect of our fellowship (v.25a); fourth, a life in which we exhort one another to keep looking to Christ and to be faithful to him, as the time of his return draws ever nearer (25b).

It is the good tree that produces good fruit, not the other way round. We are not saved by works; we are saved for works. In fact we are God’s workmanship at work (Eph. 2:9–10)! Thus, rather than lead to a life of moral and spiritual indifference, the once-for-all work of Jesus Christ and the full-assurance faith it produces, provides believers with the most powerful impetus to live for God’s glory and pleasure. Furthermore, this full assurance is rooted in the fact that God Himself has done all this for us. He has revealed His heart to us in Christ. The Father does not require the death of Christ to persuade Him to love us. Christ died because the Father loves us (John 3:16). He does not lurk behind His Son with sinister intent wishing He could do us ill — were it not for the sacrifice his Son had made! No, a thousand times no! — the Father Himself loves us in the love of the Son and the love of the Spirit.

Those who enjoy such assurance do not go to the saints or to Mary. Those who look only to Jesus need look nowhere else. In Him we enjoy full assurance of salvation. The greatest of all heresies? If heresy, let me enjoy this most blessed of “heresies”! For it is God’s own truth and grace!

[ Sinclair Ferguson ]

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Understanding God’s Mercies

The Bible tells us that God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. It also tells us God is rich in mercy. What does it mean when we say that “God is merciful”? Since God loves us and will be merciful to us, does this mean that we can live as we wish? Watch this video to learn more about what we mean when we say “God is merciful”.

Illustration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hd0bzkkh-eg

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Bold Faith (After the Resurrection)

The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life make it clear that He had things to accomplish in the forty-day window between His resurrection and ascension to heaven. A significant part of His ministry during that time was to give hope and encouragement to His closest friends, who were disheartened after His death. Pastor Allen shows Scripture’s promises that God is just as close to the brokenhearted today and reminds us that we have the same Source of bold faith Jesus’ friends had.

[ Allen Jackson ]

Sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQeFFx7KCxY

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God Bless Us Everyone

The greatest blessing any of us can ever receive is God Himself. The reality that the creator of the universe loves us and wants a relationship with us could never be matched. He loves us enough to guide us and give us joy, regardless of what we face. When we follow Him and bask in the fulness of this love, He is glorified in the way we confess with our mouths and live out our obedience to Him.

Sermon: https://vimeo.com/341347745

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Holiness

In this video, we explore the paradox that God’s holiness presents to human beings. God is the unique and set-apart Creator of all reality and the author of all goodness. However, that goodness can become dangerous to humans who are mortal and morally corrupt. Ultimately, this paradox is resolved by Jesus, who embodies God’s holiness that comes to heal His creation.

[ The Bible Project ]

Illustration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9vn5UvsHvM

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Where Is Heaven on Earth?

Once in college I went to a prayer meeting put on by a small evangelical denomination in the rural South. It was the kind of denomination that has a string of adjectives before the word “Baptist” — the kind that you might expect to handle snakes or something.

This particular prayer meeting was at a church member’s home, and I was attending because the objective was to pray for a relative who had recently been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. For most of the evening, the whole thing was a sweet display of the church being the church — we were believing God, loving one another, and begging for a miracle. But then the prayer time ended, and as we looked up at one another, huddled together in this living room, we all felt the awkwardness of trying to transition into regular conversation.

Apparently, though, some felt the awkwardness more than others. Before the little conversations could begin that would subtly dismiss us, a woman, somewhat nervously, addressed the residing pastor with a question. She spoke loudly enough that it sort of required everyone to stay put and listen in. That’s when things changed.

This sister told a story about her daughter seeing an angel sitting in the top of a tree. The encounter had just happened a few days before. They were driving home from school; the little girl was staring outside the car window; the mom asked what she was looking at; the little girl said she saw an angel in a tree — which all crescendoed with the question: Pastor, why do children see angels in trees?

Do you know why? How would you have responded? The pastor wasn’t sure what to say. I certainly didn’t know the answer.

Our Real Question
Before you dismiss the whole question as backwater, let me remind you, first, that this is not an impossible scene. We are talking about angels here, not leprechauns. Angels are real, and they can, I suppose, if they want, sit in treetops.

Secondly, the real question behind the angel-in-tree question wasn’t born in the boondocks, but is actually as pop-culture as it gets — primetime television popular. It’s a topic that, if you claim to have insider knowledge, creates a surge of fascination. The real question, one that we’ve all wondered, is about how heaven relates to this earth.

We all want to know, from here, what is that place like? Can we get glimpses of it? Is there more going on around us than crusty, world-enthralled adults can see? How spiritual is everyday reality?

We all have our angel-in-the-tree questions, all of them proxies for the deeper pondering of our hearts. If there is a heaven, what does it have to do with me here?

Yes, Heaven Matters
Let’s get two things clear. Heaven is real, and it’s as relevant to people now as ever. In fact, we might say that it’s actually more relevant now. We’re all looking for a heaven somewhere, and perhaps we’re looking harder today than at any other time.

The very fact that we humans have an incredible capacity for joy, and a simultaneous passion to lasso it, beckons us to dig deep for what it all means. We all want to be happy, but we’re not all sure why? As C.S. Lewis would tell us, which I think bears out after serious investigation, it’s because we were made for another world. We were made for a better world, and we would like to get back there.

But there’s more to our hunt for heaven. We’re all looking for it, but we’ve been told over and over again it’s a myth. The sociological description of this is secularism. It’s that recent phenomenon, according to philosopher Charles Taylor, when Western thought decided to lop off the idea of transcendence in our popular consciousness. We have this carnivorous craving for depth, for meaning, but we’re told that we’d better find it in the things around us or nowhere at all. As one artist captures it, We are, we are, we are gonna live tonight, like there’s no tomorrow, ‘cause we’re the afterlife. Tragically, this just leaves us to climb the highest mountains, to run through some fields, to throw ourselves headfirst into everything this world has to offer, and still, we haven’t found what we’re looking for.

We might not call it heaven, but that’s what we want. To be sure, we’re a refined people. We’ve got a modern culture here, full of philharmonic orchestras and wearable technology. But when it gets down to the gut of things, we are as primitive as that tribe in the Amazon who talks to the stars at night. Heaven matters to us — always has, always will.

What Is Heaven?
So heaven is real, and heaven is relevant, but before we know what it has to do with us, we should have a better idea of what it actually is.

Sunday School simplicities may have misled us. We don’t actually “go to heaven” bodily — because heaven isn’t like our typical “place” you can go. No spaceship can take you there. Perhaps heaven is better understood as a dimension of reality. The Hebrew imagery of heaven as the sky is a beautiful illustration of something we hardly have categories to describe, and it is just that: imagery.

“God is in the heavens” (Psalm 115:3) doesn’t literally mean that God is in the sky bodily. That is how we try to wrap our words around the fact that God is real and involved, but not here visibly. He is out there, or up there, and by that, we mean that he resides in a dimension of reality outside our own, or something like that.

So much of this has to do with how we conceive of space and time. Theoretical physicists say that there are at least ten dimensions in the universe, possibly eleven. We can perceive three. And the way all these dimensions relate to one another isn’t so much in miles and distance, but in space-time overlap.

We can see a clue of this in the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1–8). Recall how it works. Jesus doesn’t take Peter, James, and John to a faraway galaxy light years out of sight. They just walk up on a mountain, and here on this earth, Moses and Elijah stepped in to talk to Jesus in his glorified form. For that moment, the curtain was pulled back, as it were, and the heavenly dimension that overlaps with our reality was seen.

As Tim Chester and Jonny Woodrow contend, some of us may need to flip around the way we have conceived of heaven. Rather than think that heaven is the “place” — like all our places — where God stays, we should think of it this way: Wherever the risen Christ is, that is heaven. That is why John’s vision in Revelation has heaven coming here, heralded as, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man” (Revelation 21:1–3). Jesus is now the one who makes “heaven” heaven. He is the one who makes it good and beautiful and desirable. He is the one we want.

Heaven Came Down
So then how does heaven relate to this earth? How does that dimension of reality in which God dwells impact our dimension of reality here? That is the question. That is what we are looking for when we see angels in trees.

Jesus is the answer, first. And then, Christian, you are the answer.

When the Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood (John 1:14), God climatically stepped foot into our dimension of reality. He humbled himself to a body like ours and to the little three dimensions we call normal. God, in the person of Jesus, came into our world, and when he rose from the dead, he sparked the beginning of the day when our world will become his own. That resurrection morning dawned the new creation light that will overcome everything as we know. If heaven and earth overlap as dimensions, on that day, heaven reached its hand into our world and puts its foot in the door. Heaven came then, and eventually it’ll be clear — as clear as a big tree in a garden with birds on its branches (Matthew 13:32).

In the meantime, there is you and me.

There Is Here
After his resurrection, Jesus ascended and took his seat on the heavenly throne. Right now, those who are united to Jesus by faith are spiritually raised and seated with him (Ephesians 2:6). Spiritually speaking, because of our union with Jesus, we inhabit the dimension of reality in which he reigns. We are, in that sense, in heaven with him. And at the same time, we are here. We are breathing the air of this world, listening to the music of this culture, eating the food of this place. So he has sent us his Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is for the church Jesus’s own empowering presence. In a very real sense, we are there with him in heaven, and in a very real sense, he is here with us on earth.

We are physically here, and spiritually — in terms of our true destiny — there. Jesus is physically there, and presently — by his Spirit — here. There is an overlap of heaven and earth in terms of dimensions and history, and Christians are called to live right in the tension.

We are “ambassadors for Christ” — his new-creation representatives in this old-creation world (2 Corinthians 5:20). And when we pray the way he taught us, that God’s kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9–10), we know that it must first happen in our own lives — and then through our own lives.

And it’s not as spectacular as we might think.

While so many are looking for that rare moment, for that bedazzling glimpse of the other world, the truth is that the other world, in part, is already here. The real miracle isn’t angels in the tops of trees — it’s the miracle of new life at work in us. Until the reality of God’s new creation overwhelms this old one, the way that heaven touches this world now is through his people — by his Spirit, through his people . . . people like you and me.

[ Jonathan Parnell ]

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You Can See Heaven On Earth If You Know Where To Look?

Did you know that you can see heaven on earth?

No, I’ve never had a near-death experience. I’ve never seen a bright light at the end of a tunnel, never seen my body from above, and will never write a best-selling book about my experiences in heaven.

But I don’t need to go to heaven to have a clear idea of what it’s like.

I can already see heaven on earth, and you can too if you know where to look.

I realize this all sounds a bit weird and mystical. It sounds like I’ve been experimenting with odd psychological drugs.

But I haven’t. I’ve just been reading the Bible. And keeping my eyes open.

Randy Alcorn said:

In the truest sense, Christian pilgrims have the best of both worlds. We have joy whenever this world reminds us of the next, and we take solace whenever it does not.

Do you want the joy of being reminded of the heaven that is to come? Here are 4 simple, yet profound ways you can see heaven on earth…today.

1. Heaven On Earth Is Redeemed People
When a person is saved and places their faith in Christ, that is a taste of heaven on earth. We are getting a tiny glimpse, a small sample of God’s massive redemptive work that will be on full display in heaven.

Heaven will be a glorious, massive raucously joyful gathering of men and women who have been purchased by the blood of Christ.

In Revelation 5:9-10, the curtain of heaven is opened and we hear the song that will be sung for all eternity:

Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.

The redemptive work of Christ is so powerful, so glorious, so comprehensive, that people from every tribe, tongue, and language experience its blessings.

And, the redeemed people are priests to God and will reign when God creates a new heaven and earth.

When a person is rescued from their sins, we are getting a visual reminder that heaven will be a gathering of diverse redeemed people. There is no “color blindness” in heaven. The glory of the gospel is that it spans every culture throughout time.

Heaven on earth is seen in millions and millions of people being rescued from their sins through the single, final, sacrificial death of Christ.

2. Heaven On Earth Is The Gathered Saints
Every Sunday, we get a taste of heaven on earth. When we gather with God’s redeemed people to worship God and learn about his glory, we are being given a tiny taste, a sample spoon if you will, of the worship that’s coming.

When we join our voices in song, lifting our loud singing in praise of God and his glorious works on our behalf, we are hearing the distant strains of the beautiful, loud chorus that fills heaven.

When we take the Lord’s Supper, we are looking forward to the day when we will all eat the Feast of the Lamb with Christ.

When we fellowship together, we are reminded that a time is coming when sin will be destroyed and all our relationships will be whole.

Churches are like little outposts of the kingdom that’s to come. They are places where we see the kingdom of God breaking into the here and now, and they are reminders that we live in the already/not yet.

Heaven on earth is seen in the gathered saints.

3. Heaven On Earth Is Communion With God
Every day, I get to commune with God through his word, through prayer, and through the created world. I can bring my requests to my good Father. I can hear him speak to me through his sacred word. I experience fellowship with God as I behold his creation which boldly proclaims his glory.

This communion with God is heaven on earth. Right now my communion with God is limited. I am not in his presence in the same way as I will be in heaven and in the new heavens and earth.

Revelation 21:3 reminds us of how we will experience God when he creates a new heaven and earth:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

In Eden, God walked with his people. They had direct access to his manifest presence. Sin severed that.

Now, we do have access to God’s presence, but in some ways that presence is limited. We don’t have the full experience of God’s presence.

When Christ returns, everything changes. Eden will be restored and God will be amidst his people again.

Heaven on earth is communion with God.

4. Heaven On Earth Is Miracles
On occasion, we have the privilege of seeing God do miraculous things. My grandmother was miraculously healed of arthritis after 20 years. My friend’s wife was healed of stage 4 cancer. Another woman in my church was healed of cancer, which led to several of her children becoming believers.

These miracles are the life that is to come in the here and now. When Christ returns, there will be no more sickness, no more sorrow, no more grief, no more tears. Sin and its grievous effects will be banished, and life and light will reign.

When we see miracles, it’s a preview of what’s coming. It’s a preview of the restoration of all things and the reversal of the curse. It’s a preview of coming attractions.

Heaven on earth is the miraculous.

Heaven Is For Real
I don’t need a book to tell me that heaven is real. I don’t need a near-death experience or a bright white light.

I know heaven is real because the Bible tells me so.

And I know heaven is real because I see it everywhere.

[ Stephen Altrogge ]

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Heaven on Earth

It does the Christian good to consider heaven. It does the Christian good to consider what awaits us when we at last succumb to death. It has been the subject of countless books but, interestingly, few that have remained in circulation for very long. For that reason we are served well by new works on the subject. I was glad, then, to find a copy of Derek Thomas’s Heaven on Earth: What the Bible Teaches about the Life to Come in my mailbox.

Here is how he begins:

For all the skepticism that abounds in our time, people still want to know what happens after death. Books and movies suggesting “post-mortem” experiences of “heaven” are wildly popular. Christians who should know better often cite these sources with approval, despite the often bizarre aspects of what they relate.

And what exactly do we mean when we talk about “heaven?” Are we talking about a conscious existence ten seconds after we are declared dead? Are we talking about what theologians refer to as “the intermediate state?” Or, are we talking about the final state of things, post-resurrection and all the other events that may or may not occur before or after the Second Coming, what the bible refers to as “the new heaven and new earth?” These are two different places. I am persuaded that I shall be in heaven when I die; but I shall not spend eternity in this heaven. At the Resurrection, I shall live in the new heaven and new earth, with the emphasis on new earth.

He continues to explain what the Bible teaches about heaven through a series of expositions:

– We Die … Then What?
– Are You Ready?
– Fall Asleep
– The Trumpet Shall Sound
– The New Heaven and New Earth
– What Will Heaven Be Like?
– Like the Angels

As Thomas proceeds, he brings Scripture where so many rely on experience, he brings clarity where so many are confused, he offers hope where so many are downcast. Best of all, he preaches gospel where so many rely on works. “To be assured of heaven, you must first believe the gospel, and commit to it here and now before we pass from this world into the next. It is my prayer, therefore, that readers of this book–whoever you may be–will ensure that they get right with God, before it is too late. Only then can heaven be entertained as an assurance and certainty.”

Heaven on Earth had its genesis in a series of sermons. Now, sermons make some of the best and some of the worst Christian books—it turns out that it is not all that easy to convert a book from one medium (spoken sermons) to another (written chapters). I’m glad to say this book makes the transition well, and maintains the earnestness of a pastor preaching to the people he loves. It is an excellent little volume worthy of a place in any library.

[ Tim Challies ]

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A List of God’s Promises of Blessing if You Stay Committed to His Calling
(Selected ones)

Here’s a list of God’s promises of blessing if you stay committed to his calling:

We don’t deserve God’s blessings. “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” John 1:16 (NIV)

But God enjoys blessing his children and wants to bless you! “I will enjoy blessing them. With all my heart and soul I will faithfully plant them in this land.” Jeremiah 32:41 (GW)

“You will experience all these blessings IF you obey the Lord your God: You will be blessed in your towns and in the country. You will be blessed with many children and productive fields. You will be blessed with fertile herds and flocks. You will be blessed with baskets overflowing with fruit, and with kneading bowls filled with bread. You will be blessed wherever you go, both in coming and in going. The Lord will conquer your enemies when they attack you… And the Lord will bless everything you do and will fill your storehouses with grain.” Deuteronomy 28:2-8 (NLT)

God blesses you so you can be a blessing to others! “I will cause my people and their homes around my holy hill to BE a blessing. And I will send showers, showers of blessings, which will come just when they are needed.” Ezekiel 34:26 (NLT)

God promises to bless my life IF I help others in need, especially the poor. “God blesses those who are kind to the poor and helpless. He helps them out of their own troubles. He protects them and keeps them alive; he publicly honors them and destroys the power of their enemies.” Psalm 41:1-2

“A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.” Proverbs 22:9

God promises to bless my life IF I share the Good News. “I pray you will be active in sharing your faith, so that you will fully understand every blessing we have in Christ.” Philemon 1:6

God promises to bless my life IF I participate in fellowship with other believers. “I’m eager to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. In this way, each of us will be a blessing to the other.” Romans 1:12

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed IF you DO them.” John 13:17

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12 (NIV)

“Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.” Psalm 40:4 (NIV)

“Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways.” Psalm 128:1 (NIV)

“Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the Lord delivers him in times of trouble. The Lord will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.” Psalm 41:1-2 (NIV)

“Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.” Psalm 112:1-2 (NIV)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:3-11 (NIV)

“Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” Luke 11:28 (NIV)

“Jesus said, ‘Blessed are those who have not seen me and yet have believed.”’ John 20:29 (NIV)

“Obey the Lord your God so that all these blessings will come and stay with you: You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. Your children will be blessed, as well as your crops; your herds will be blessed with calves and your flocks with lambs. Your basket and your kitchen will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and when you go out. The Lord will help you defeat the enemies that come to fight you. They will attack you from one direction, but they will run from you in seven directions. The Lord will bless you with full barns, and he will bless everything you do.” Deuteronomy 28:2-8 (NCV)

“Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. Good will comes to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice. Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever. He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes. He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be lifted high in honor.” Psalm 112:1-9 (NIV)

“Give freely without begrudging it, and the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some among you who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share your resources freely with the poor and with others in need.” Deuteronomy 15:10-11 (NLT)

“Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the Lord delivers him in his times of trouble. The Lord will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.” Psalm 41:1-2 (NIV)

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed IF you DO them.” John 13:17

[ Rick Warren ]

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It’s In The Valleys I Grow

Sometimes life seems hard to bear,
Full of sorrow, trouble and woe.
It’s then I have to remember
That it’s in the valleys I grow.

If I always stayed on the mountain top
And never experienced pain,
I would never appreciate God’s love
And would be living in vain.

I have so much to learn
And my growth is very slow.
Sometimes I need the mountain tops,
But it’s in the valleys I grow.

I do not always understand
Why things happen as they do.
But I am very sure of one thing.
My Lord will see me through.

My little valleys are nothing
When I picture Christ on the cross.
He went through the valley of death;
His victory was Satan’s loss.

Forgive me Lord, for complaining
When I’m feeling so very low.
Just give me a gentle reminder
That it’s in the valleys I grow.

Continue to strengthen me, Lord
And use my life each day
To share your love with others
And help them find their way.

Thank you for valleys, Lord
For this one thing I know.
The mountain tops are glorious
But it’s in the valleys I grow!

[ Jane Eggleston ]

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Songs of Peace & Comfort // Worship Songs Playlist

The new Songs of Peace & Comfort // Worship Songs Playlist from DonMoenTV features 2 hours of non stop praise, worship and gospel songs that we pray will bring you peace and comfort no matter what situation you may be in today. Be encouraged!

Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rh4qX0jNZc

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Heaven on Earth

I’ve been asleep
Head in the sand
Watching the time just ticking
Clock runs around
Days in and out
Can’t really call it living

Somewhere I let light go dark
But here’s where my new story starts

Take my life and let it be
Set on fire for all to see
Break me down, build me up again
Don’t leave me the way I’ve been
Take my heart into Your hands
Come and finish what You began
‘Til I seek Your kingdom first
‘Til I shine, shine
Like Heaven on earth
Like Heaven on earth

I wanna wake, I wanna see
All of the ways You’re moving
Show me the need
‘Cause I wanna be a part of what You’re doing

In my heart, let Kingdom come
Not my will but Yours be done

Take my life and let it be
Set on fire for all to see
Break me down, build me up again
Don’t leave me the way I’ve been
Take my heart into Your hands
Come and finish what You began
‘Til I seek Your kingdom first
‘Til I shine, shine
Like Heaven on earth
Like Heaven on earth

Help me move when I should move
Help me rest when I should rest
Help me give what I should give
All of me, nothing less
Help me speak with grace and truth
Help me fight for those who can’t
Help me love the way You love
Never holding nothing back (yeah like Heaven on earth)

Take my life and let it be
Set on fire for all to see
Break me down, build me up again
Don’t leave me the way I’ve been
Take my heart into Your hands
Come and finish what You began
‘Til I seek Your kingdom first
‘Til I shine, shine
Like Heaven on earth

Like Heaven on earth
Like Heaven on earth
Like Heaven on earth

[ Stars Go Dim – “Better” album ]

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Peace In The Midst of the Storm

When the world that I’ve been
Living in collapses at my feet
And when my life is all tattered and torn
Though I’m wind-swept, I’ve been battered
I’m gonna cling unto His cross
I’ll find peace in the midst of the storm
(Is that alright?)

There is peace in the midst of the storm-tossed life
There is an Anchor, there is a rock to build my faith upon
Jesus Christ is my vessel so I fear no alarm
He gives me peace in the midst of the storm

In my twenty-four short hours
Years of living are brought to moments
When life’s final picture is taking form
In the dark-room of my suffering
I see a light that’s coming and it’s shining through
(You know what)
He gives me peace in the midst of the storm

Now when my spirit has been broken
Till it’s masked by misery
When the doctor shakes his head and look forlorn
(You know what?)
Jesus comes to make my bedside
A cathedral of faith and love
He’ll give you peace in the midst of the storm

There is peace in the midst of the storm-tossed life
There is an Anchor, there’s a rock to build my faith upon
(Hallelujah, Hallelujah)
Jesus Christ is my vessel so I fear no alarm
Won’t God give you peace in the midst of the storm?
He’ll give you peace in the midst of the storm

[ Alvin Slaughter ]

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Shepherd’s Paradise
(Parody of “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio)

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will not fear for my life — I realize that God’s with me
His rod and staff have been with me so long
He’s been keepin’ me from all the places that I might go wrong
But He’s the shepherd, I’m the lamb and dinner He serves me
Lets me eat it right in front of foes who would hurt me
They better not touch,they watch me, but they can’t touch me
They do and they know that they’ll be fighting with God
He filleth up my cup and it overflows
It’s no joke, come see yourself, see my cup is so … full
I’m the kind of sheep that’s where the grass is always green
Still waters He leads me beside, stayin’ there is a sweet life
The Good Shepherd rules my life
I’m givin’ Him the thanks for Paradise
You can spend eternal life
Livin’ in the Shepherd’s Paradise
Look at the declaration that God is makin’:
“I will give my own life in exchange for the sheep.”
And he’s got it written down in the Good Book
Turn the television off a while and take a look
He’s a shepherd who is good to everybody in His flock
Chapter 10, verse 11 in the Gospel of John
Yes, the Lord’s my shepherd — what could be better?
And my home is a mansion in His house forever (Cool!)
Death ain’t nothin’, so I’ll not be afraid
His lovingkindness with follow us all the way
Psalm 23 tells you all of this but there’s plenty more
You may even know it — I don’t know
Tell me why is He so kind to His sheep
When we wander away so easily?
An hour is a-coming — coming in a while where
He will make divisions — by His mighty power
Shepherd’s gonna come and
Decide between the sheep and the goats
And we’re all gonna listen as final words are spoken
He’ll say you goats deserted me when I was poor and needy
A naked, hungry, stranger — how did you treat me?
I guess they failed, I guess they’re goats, I guess they flunked
That’s why I know I like it in the sheepfold

[ ApologetiX – “Ticket” album ]

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Feels Like First John
(Parody of “Feel Like the First Time” by Foreigner)

I would write an announcement
Rail on gnostic heresy
But back in the late First Century
He wrote out what you need to read
And I guess it’s just the Word of His Truth
That brings out the enemy
I know I can’t help myself
With knowledge and worthless deeds

It feels like in First John
It feels like we’re there in First John
It feels like in First John
It feels like we’re there in First John

And First John 4:2 and 3
He’s God and He’s man, too
Together — it’s a mystery
And I know that trusting the Word of His Truth
It brings life eternally
I know I have that myself
It’s all in 5 verse 13

And it feels like in First John
Like they neeeever met the Lord
It feels like in First John
Like he’d spoken of before
It feels like in First John
Like in chapter three again
7 through 10

It feels like in First John
(It feels like we’re there in First John) Don’t you know it feels
Oh, it feels like in First John
GUITAR

Open up the Book
Won’t you open up the Book?
Yeah

It feels like in First John
It feels like we’re there in First John
It feels like in First John
It feels like we’re there in First John

And it feels like in First John
It feels like we’re there in First John
Oh, it feels
Feels like in First John
Yeah, it feels like in First John
It feels like we’re there in First John

[ ApologetiX – “Zebraic” album ]

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I Feel God
(Parody of “I Feel Good” by James Brown Featuring Sputzy Sparacino)

Whoa!
I feel God – I do that a lot now
I feel God – I do that a lot now
So what? So what?
How ‘bout you?
Whoa!
I feel Christ – His Spirit’s inside
I feel Christ – His Spirit’s inside
For life! For life!
How ‘bout you?
Man, I told you He’s my Lord
You know that I can’t do no more
And when I told you He’s my Lord
The Lord put proof in my heart
And I feel Christ – His Spirit’s inside
I feel Christ – His Spirit’s inside
For life! For life!
How ‘bout you?
Man, I told you He’s my Lord
You know that I can’t do no more
And when I told you He’s my Lord
The Lord put proof in my heart
And I feel Christ – His Spirit’s inside
I feel Christ – His Spirit’s inside
For life! For life!
How ‘bout you?
Whoa!
I feel God – I do that a lot now
I feel God – I do that a lot
So what? So what?
How ‘bout you?
So what? So what?
How ‘bout you?
So what? So what?
How ‘bout you?
Hey!

[ ApologetiX – “Transformed Soul” album ]

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It’s You in Me
(Parody of “Just You ‘N’ Me” by Chicago)

You are the Lord of my life
You are my inspiration
It’s You in me – people can see
Gave me each clever thing I ever dreamed up
Made me Your own precious child
Promised You.d never leave me
It’s You in me – people can see
I’ve been so peaceful since You’re inside me
Come Holy Ghost – shepherd and lead me
Oh, I pray I won’t aggrieve Thee!
Open our hearts, cleanse us from sin
Every sin, every sin, every sin
Help me do right – help me do better and better You know I want perfection
LEAD
It’s You in me – You cheer me on
People can see You love me
You told us, Lord, You loved the world
I want to go and show them Jesus
You are the Lord of my life
You are my inspiration
It’s You in me – people can see
Saved me from everything I’ve been redeemed from

[ Apologetix – “Churchigo” album ]

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80’s Medley (Octagon but not Forgotten)
[ Note: The following are the song ‘snippets’ that relate to subjects I discussed in this post ].

“Read Acts”
(Parody of “Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood)

Read Acts, go through it,
When you’re done, you go do it!
Read Acts, go through it,
Anyone can come.

Read Acts, go through it,
Tell you what, there’s something’ to it
Read Acts, go through it,
Anyone can come!

———

“Psalm Passages at Night”
(Parody of “Sunglasses at Night” by Corey Hart)

I read a Psalm passage at night
So I can, so I can – watch the way they prayed in olden times
And I read my Psalm passage at night
So I can, so I can – keep scraps of Scripture in my mind

I sleep peacefully
‘Cause God’s my security
And He’s got a hold of me
I turn to Him in faith

———

“I Can’t Grow From That (Nor Can You)”
(Parody of “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” by Darryl Hall & John Oates)

Jesus said He’s with me all the time
That doesn’t stop when news is scary and not so fine
You’ve got some problems no one wants, I know
You even prayed about them – they won’t go

Yeah, but I-I-I-I-I cried through many things that He brought me through
Hey, and I-I-I-I-I’d do only pleasant things if I got to choose
Yeah, but I can’t grow from that, no – nor can you
I can’t grow from that, no – nor can you
I can’t grow from that, no – nor can you
I can’t grow from that, can’t grow from that
Can’t grow from that, can’t grow from that

———

“James 1:3”
(Parody of “Take on Me“ performed by A-ha)

Tough things await
I don’t know what – I’m just sayin’
I’ll face them anyway
But James says that they refine you
Trials await – I’ll be coming through them all OK

James 1:3 — They only
Make me strong — They hone me
I’ll see God
Whenever they’re through

[ ApologetiX – “Wise Up and Rock” album ]

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DEEP THOUGHTS:
“Getting life insurance is like making a bet you can’t win. If you live, you don’t get the money. If you die, you don’t get to enjoy the money.”
[ Oliver Gaspirtz ]

“Life Insurance—it’s better to be 5 years too early, than 5 minutes too late.”
[ Author unknown ]

“You don’t life insurance because you are going to die, but because those you love are going to live.”
[ Unknown author ]

“Would you agree that the only person who can take care of the older person you will someday be is the younger person you are now?”
[ Unknown author ]

“There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?”
[ Woody Allen ]

“I called an insurance company to get a quote. They gave me on of Oscar Wilde’s best.”
[ Jarod Kintz]

“What does “friend with benefits” mean? Does he provide her with health insurance?”
[ Sheldon Cooper ]

“The amount of effort involved in resolving anything will always equal the benefits gained.”
[ Steven Redhead ]

“To reproduce your life is to convert it into tangible products for the benefit of humanity. To reproduce your life is to impact the world with it.”
[ Sunday Adelaja ]

“Dear young aspiring leader, one day you will be in a position of power. That should not let you enslave nor look down upon others, but aim to influence change for the benefit of future generations.”
[ Gift Gugu Mona ]

“Delayed gratification the ability to control yourself or restrain yourself from getting an instant benefit.”
[ Sunday Adelaja ]

“Sometimes expecting the benefit is not beneficial without analyzing the benefit we are providing to others. Benefit remains a benefit when both the parties get benefited from it.”
[ Shahenshah Hafeez Khan ]

“You will need an evidence to show the world that you didn’t waste your time here on earth. Generations to come should benefit from the products of your time converted.”
[ Sunday Adelaja ]

“Gratefulness leads to a widely opened heart. You cannot receive anything great in life with a closed heart. Be grateful and reap the benefits!”
[ Assegid Habtewold ]

“Begin to lay hold of every minute of your life and convert it into something of value to benefit the world. Never allow any of your time to be wasted on the frivolities of life.”
[ Sunday Adelaja ]

 

RELATED SCRIPTURE VERSES:

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” [ 2 Corinthians 4:18 ].

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and in God” [ Psalm 42:5 ].

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
[ Philippians 4:19 ]

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
[ James 1:17 ]

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
[ Isaiah 41:10 ]

“Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.”
[ John 1:16 ]

“and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,”
[ Genesis 22:16-17 ]

“May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness— an abundance of grain and new wine. 29 May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”
[ Genesis 27:28-29 ]

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. 3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.”
[ Psalm 1:1-3 ]

“The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
[ Psalm 23:1-4 ]

“my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior— from violent people you save me. “I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies.”
[ 2 Samuel 22:3-4 ]

“We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.”
[ 1 John 5:18 ]

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me.”
[ Psalm 138:7 ]

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
[ 2 Corinthians 9:8 ]

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
[ Philippians 4:7 ]

=======

What does the Bible say about God Wants To Bless Us

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Psalm 37:4
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Malachi 3:10
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

Matthew 6:33
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Philippians 4:19
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 1:1-6
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; …

Ephesians 1:3
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

Galatians 5:22
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

Romans 5:8
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Isaiah 54:5
For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.

Psalm 35:27
Let those who delight in my righteousness shout for joy and be glad and say evermore, “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant!”

Romans 8:38-39
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Proverbs 10:22
The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Psalm 37:1-40
Of David. Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. …

Deuteronomy 28:8
The Lord will command the blessing on you in your barns and in all that you undertake. And he will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

John 3:16
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Genesis 1:26
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Psalm 103:17
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,

1 Peter 5:7
Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Jeremiah 31:3
The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

Psalm 145:9
The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.

1 Chronicles 16:11
Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!

Joshua 1:8
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

1 Timothy 6:10
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Romans 8:37-39
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Psalm 103:13
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

Deuteronomy 8:18
You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

John 17:26
I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Matthew 5:8
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Micah 6:8
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Proverbs 21:1
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.

Psalm 19:7
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;

1 John 4:4
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

1 Corinthians 11:1
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Acts 17:28
For “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Matthew 6:11
Give us this day our daily bread,

Numbers 6:24-26
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

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“A quick summary of the Christian “Gospel”:
JESUS’ PROPITIATION made our SINS FORGIVEN and IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS to us so that we have GOD’S ACCEPTANCE into His Heaven and ETERNAL LIFE.”
[ Mark Besh ]

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Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with! Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

 

FOCUS VERSES:

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
[ Philippians 4:7 ]

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
[ Psalm 136:1 ]

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self[a] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
[ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ]

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
[ James 1:12 ]

“Then shalt thou have boldness before the Lord, looking up cheerfully to heaven.”
[ Job 22:26 ]

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”
[ Psalm 37:23–24 ]

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”
[ Psalm 23:6 ]

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
[ 1 Peter 5:10 ]

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
[ John 6:35 ]

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
[ Matthew 6:33 ]

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
[ Deuteronomy 31:6 ]

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”
[ Psalm 37:23–24 ].

“Be faithful to the death, and I will give you a crown of life.”
[ Revelation 2:10 ]

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
[ James 5:16 ]

“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
[ Jeremiah 29:13 ]

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
[ Philippians 4:19 ]

Mark

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If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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