Slap Happy Or What?

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God. And the peace of God, 
which transcends all understanding, 
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)

“… there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Proverbs 18:24 (NIV)

“…and the sheep listen to his voice. 
He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 
When he has brought out all his own,
he goes on ahead of them,
and his sheep follow him because they know his voice…”
John 10:3-4 (NIV)

We all know people who seem to be perpetually happy. Some are downright silly or what we call, “slap happy”. They are a puzzle to many of us and we are uncertain what fuels their giddy personalities. All we know is that we are not like them.

Our text today tells us to rejoice in the Lord at all times. Is this possible? Are we to be happy when life causes us a lot of pain? Can we rejoice when a loved one dies? Are we to be happy when we lose our job? Are we to adapt a giddy attitude in all situations? What is this all about?

In case we think Paul is missing something he repeats his command and tells us a second time to rejoice!! Then Paul makes a remarkable statement that goes a long way in helping us to rejoice. He states a wonderfully precious truth when he writes, “The Lord is near.” Countless times I have whispered this four word statement of fact in the ear of a dying saint. I have also urged the saint who is close to heaven with the words, “Go in peace and walk with God.”

The remarkable truth that our great, loving, sovereign God is closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24) brings peace and joy to the believer’s heart. When visiting a person moments before they go into surgery I always refer them to the words of the Good Shepherd in John 10. There Jesus states that He is always just a step ahead of His sheep. As the orderly is behind the gurney pushing it toward the surgery I tell the patient to focus on the Good Shepherd a step ahead of the gurney leading them into the operating theatre. Such a thought brings peace that goes beyond understanding.

Isaac Watts wonderfully captures the glories of our ever present Saviour in the following words. As we read the following hymn we rejoice with a heartfelt joy that nothing can take from us. No, we are not slap happy, rather we rejoice for all the reasons listed below and more!

Join all the glorious names
Of wisdom, love, and power,
That ever mortals knew,
That angels ever bore:
All are too mean to speak His worth,
To poor to set my Saviour forth.

But O what gentle terms,
What condescending ways,
Doth our Redeemer use
To teach his heavenly grace!
Mine eyes with joy and wonder see
What forms of love He bears for me.

Arrayed in mortal flesh,
He like an angel stands,
And holds the promises
And pardons in His hands;
Commissioned from His Father’s throne
To make His grace to mortals known.

Great Prophet of my God,
My tongue would bless Thy Name,
By Thee the joyful news
Of our salvation came,
The joyful news of sin forgiven
Of hell subdued, and peace with Heaven

Be Thou my Counsellor,
My Pattern, and my Guide,
And through this desert land
Still keep me near thy side:
O let my feet e’er run astray
Nor rove nor seek the crooked way.

I love my Shepherd’s voice,
His watchful eyes shall keep
My wand’ring soul among
The thousands of His sheep:
He feeds His flock, He calls their names,
His bosom bears the tender lambs.

To this dear Surety’s hand
Will I commit my cause;
He answers and fulfils
His Father’s broken laws:
Behold my soul at freedom set!
My Surety paid the dreadful debt.

Jesus, my great High Priest,
Offered His blood, and died;
My guilty conscience seeks
No sacrifice beside:
His powerful blood did once atone,
And now it pleads before the throne.

My Advocate appears
For my defense on high;
The Father bows his ears,
And lays his thunder by:
Not all that hell or sin can say
Shall turn his heart, his love away.

My Saviour and my Lord,
My Conqueror and my King,
Thy scepter and Thy sword,
Thy reigning grace I sing:
Thine is the power; behold I sit
In willing bonds before Thy feet.

Now let my soul arise,
And tread the tempter down;
My Captain leads me forth
To conquest and a crown:
A feeble saint shall win the day,
Though death and hell 
obstruct the way.

Should all the hosts of death,
And powers of hell unknown,
Put their most dreadful forms
Of rage and mischief on,
I shall be safe, for Christ displays
Superior power, and guardian grace.

Is Biblical Repentance Necessary?

“Or those eighteen who died
when the tower in Siloam fell on them—
do you think they were more guilty
than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no!
But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Luke 13:4-5 (NIV)

“For John came to you
to show you the way of righteousness,
and you did not believe him,
but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did.
And even after you saw this,
you did not repent and believe him.”
Matthew 21:32 (NIV)

“…and repentance for the forgiveness of sins
will be preached in his name to all nations, 
beginning at Jerusalem.”
Luke 24:47 (NIV)

Certain Bible teachers enjoy novelty of expression in their teaching. One such teacher insisted that because repentance is not mentioned in the Gospel of John people may become Christians without repenting. But John’s Gospel does not refer to the virgin birth. Can a person deny this truth and yet be a child of God? We need to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture.

When we search the Old Testament for teaching about the Messiah, we start in Genesis 3 where we are told the Promised One will be a man and though wounded will rise victorious. As we progress through Scripture, we learn more and more detail about Messiah such as ancestry, place of birth and so on. Scripture uses what we call “progressive revelation”.

So, we must not try to formulate doctrine by “cherry picking” certain verses but instead craft our doctrine using the entire revelation on the subject in the Bible (Acts 20:27).

Jesus made it clear that we must repent or else die in our sins (Luke 13:4-5). Also, the Gospel message is a message of repentance (Luke 24:47). So, is repentance necessary to become a Christian? Absolutely!! May the words of Cowper’s wonderful hymn be your prayer today.

Oh! for a closer walk with God,
A calm and heavenly frame;
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb!

Where is the blessedness I knew
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
Of Jesus and his word?

What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void,
The world can never fill.

Return, O holy Dove, return!
Sweet the messenger of rest!
I hate the sins that made thee mourn
And drove thee from my breast.

The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from thy throne,
And worship only thee.

So shall my walk be close with God,
Calm and serene my frame;
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads me to the Lamb.

What Is Real Faith?

“Believe in the Lord Jesus,
and you will be saved”
Acts 16:31 (NIV)

“How, then, can they call on the one
they have not believed in?
And how can they believe in the one
of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear
without someone preaching to them?”
Romans 10:14 (NIV)

Mark Twain once said, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t true.” Mark Twain was not a Christian and he was strongly opposed to the Bible and the idea that Christ was God among other Christian doctrines. He ridiculed Christianity regularly in his writings.

The essence of the Christian message is the matter of believing in, into, on or upon Jesus. But what makes up biblical faith? Romans 10:14 has the answer. We need to reverse the order of the thoughts in this verse to define true faith.

1. Comprehension – First up is the fact we must hear the message. Comprehension is primary and this is why the Lord sends preachers and calls on His people to bear witness to the Good Shepherd. Knowledge is the first aspect to biblical faith.

2. Conviction – We must be persuaded that the message about Jesus being the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world is actually true. Tragically many people comprehend and are convinced that Jesus is the true Saviour. But they stop there. We are told that Satan’s demons not only know the Gospel message, they are persuaded the Gospel is true (James 2:19).

3. Commitment – The third part of biblical faith is an action in response to the first two parts. The genuine believer trusts in Jesus as their own Saviour, their own Shepherd, their own resurrected Lord. In his long life of preaching the late Billy Graham was powerful in calling sinners to commit themselves to the Lord Jesus. His weekly radio broadcast was called “The Hour of Decision”. Graham’s magazine was called “Decision Magazine”

All believers need to feed their faith on the Bible regularly. Hence Christians gather weekly to hear the Bible expounded. Believers also read their Bibles daily to hear from the Lord. Thus our faith is strengthened daily as we comprehend its teaching, are convicted of its truth, and commit ourselves to an obedient walk daily toward our eternal home. This is real faith. Sorry Mark Twain, Christians believe what IS true and follow its teaching daily.

Fear Facts Faith

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you”
Psalm 56:3 (NIV)

“I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself,
is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.”
Isaiah 12 :2 (NIV)

“Then Jesus told him, 
‘Because you have seen me, you have believed;
blessed are those who have not seen
and yet have believed.’”
John 20:29 (NIV)

The sequence of the words in the title of today’s devotional is very important. Trials produce fear, then biblical facts are introduced, and finally faith takes over. This is the usual order of events in the lives of most believers.

Fear comes when adversity strikes. There is no denying this fact. As we mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we can recall the chilling hand of fear gripping our hearts. Nothing like this had occurred in north America before. Questions flooded our minds. Who is behind this attack? Were there more attacks coming? What else is coming down the pipe? Each question compounded the fear flooding our minds.

For the believer, when fear invades our space, we need to look to the promises of Scripture and fill our minds and hearts with the wonderful statements from the loving heart of our heavenly Father. These promises, or facts, are freely given to the Lord’s people for our comfort and encouragement to rise above the negative issue and move confidently forward in life.

Faith is built on the solid rock of facts, not on the shifting sand of human opinion. For the first generation of believers most had seen the Lamb of God either before or after the cross and prior to the ascension. Thus, it was easier for them to have confidence, and faith, in the One Who gave Himself for us than for the ones who have never seen Him.

We need to memorize the precious promises of Scripture so we have them to feed our faith in times of trouble. Several parachurch organizations and some study Bibles have good Scripture memorization programs to help us hide God’s Word in our hearts.

May your fear be exposed to wonderful biblical facts (promises) and thus be turned to faith today.

The Right State Of Mind

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic,
love one another, be compassionate and humble”
1 Peter 3:8 (NIV)

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—
of whom I am the worst.”
1 Timothy 1:15 (NIV)

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
James 4:6 (NIV)

In the past couple of decades we have been witnessing some arrogant behaviour on the part of certain people who have risen from obscurity to national or international prominence. This has also come with significant wealth that the person did not have before. This offensive behaviour is often called “entitlement”. Such people think they are above the law. They believe they deserve special treatment.

This warped mindset has even been in Christianity from the time of Jesus on. In the Gospels we read of disciples who had their mother come to Jesus asking that her sons might sit at His right and left sides in His coming kingdom. The sons assured Jesus that they were able to meet any challenge that came their way (Matthew 20:20-22). Such arrogance in Christian leadership persists to this day.

In the Graeco-Roman world of Jesus’ time humility was not a virtue, rather it was seen as a weakness. Hence, when Peter urged his readers to be humble it was an unpopular thing to do.

There is no place in Christianity for proud people who regard themselves as more important than others. Everyone is made in the image of God and should be treated with appropriate respect.

If you find yourself sensing that someone is inferior to you because of education, social status or other measure, it needs to be resisted firmly.

I once visited one of poorest countries in the world. As I witnessed the remarkably contented spirits of the very poor believers, I was rebuked and learned a lot about being content with what I had. After all, I had so much more in material goods than those wonderful believers even dreamed of possessing.

So, a most appropriate admonition comes from Peter,

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand,
that he may lift you up in due time…”
1Peter 5:6 (NIV).

Never forget our Lord’s description of Himself when He said,

“I am gentle and humble in heart”
(Matthew 11:29)

It is enough that the disciple be like their Master.