Year-End Exhortation (Day 3 of 3)

Day 3 – Enduring and Persevering in the Word

In addition to living in the light of God’s promises and battling against sin, let us plead with God to keep our hearts soft and protect us from becoming blind and calloused toward sin.  We must repent daily, and not allow unconfessed sin to build up in our hearts.  We must constantly ask our Father to open the eyes of our hearts so that we would see His word as good, glorious, and true.  We must read, study, meditate on, and memorize His word.  And this must all be done daily!  Our hearts harden in an instant, we are so prone to wander.  We must hold fast, be attentive, and work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  We must ask God to satisfy us with Himself and to fill us with His joy.  The joy of the Lord is our strength.  All of these things cannot be done in the flesh, only the Holy Spirit can cause these changes in our heart.  So cry out to God for His help.  He is your father and He longs for you to seek after Him.  He will answer you!

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.  -Psa 51:10-12 ESV

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! -Psa 139:23-24 ESV

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. -Psa 119:9-11 ESV

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. -Psa 119:15-16 ESV

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. -Psa 119:18 ESV

Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. -Psa 119:36-37 ESV

I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies! -Psa 119:125 ESV

I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. -Psa 119:146-147 ESV

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. -Heb 2:1 ESV

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. -Heb 4:16 ESV

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, -Heb 6:1 ESV

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. -Heb 12:1-2 ESV

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. -Php 2:12-13 ESV

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. -Rom 10:17 ESV

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. -Psa 90:14 ESV

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. -Psa 86:11 ESV

Let us go before the Throne of Grace and ask God to give us the strength, endurance, and perseverance to fight the fight of faith with greater fervor than ever before.  I pray that God would grow our faith in leaps and bounds in the coming year, that we would fall deeper in love with our Savior; that we would hunger and thirst for righteousness; that we would see Christ as more glorious and sin as more heinous than ever before; that our eyes would be opened to behold wonderful things in His word; that we would be fervent in prayer; that we would love our brothers and sisters in Christ; that we would die to ourselves that we might live!

Praise His great and holy Name for being so gracious to us and freely giving us all things.  To Him be the power, the glory, the honor, and the praise forever.

May God bless you all!

Joel

Day 2 – The Battle Against Sin

In light of all of the truths and promises from yesterday’s post, I encourage everyone (and myself) to get serious, this year, today, right now, about earnestly seeking God’s face and taking sin seriously.  God has shown me more clearly than ever over the past few months that sin must be fought.  Sin in our lives utterly destroys our intimacy with our Father.  We are in a war, a daily war against our flesh and the enemy of our souls, the Devil.  If we are not battling, we are losing ground.  I know many of you are already battling, I have seen it, but let’s excel more!

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. -Rom 8:13 ESV

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. -Col 3:5 ESV

 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. -Gal 5:16-17 ESV

 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. -Eph 6:12 ESV

 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. -1Ti 6:12 ESV

 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. -Php 3:14 ESV

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. -1Co 9:24-27 ESV

May God give us great strength to fight the good fight of faith for His glory and our joy!

Joel

As we approach the end of yet another year, I feel a burning in my heart to encourage and exhort everyone (including myself) for the year to come.  I love our church family greatly, and am so thankful for what God has done and is doing in our midst.  He has been so gracious to us in so many ways and I wait with great anticipation to see what He has for Bethel in 2012. May God grow our faith!

I originally had one huge blog post with a bunch of exhortation in it.  Cassidy wisely advised me that it was too long and nobody would want to read it.  So I’ve split it into three days:

  1. December 29 – The Promises of God for His Children
  2. December 30 – The Battle Against Sin
  3. December 31 – Enduring and Persevering in the Word

 

Day 1 – The Promises of God for His Children

I know that Bethel is a church that loves God and His word, but I want to encourage all of us to excel all the more (myself included).  As we dwell on the promises and exhortations found in God’s word, it grows our faith and awakens in us desires for Him while causing the “things of earth to grow strangely dim”.   God is exceedingly good, merciful, and gracious to us, His promises are true, at his right hand are pleasures forevermore, and as Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”.  For the purpose of encouragement and that we might find great joy in God, I’ve listed just a few of God’s promises to His people.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few that God laid on my heart.

  • He will never leave us or forsake us.

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.”  -Deu 31:6 ESV

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. -Psa 139:7-10 ESV

  • His love never ceases and His mercies are new every morning.

 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. -Lam 3:22-23 ESV

  • He is faithful.

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, -Deu 7:9 ESV

  • At His right hand are pleasures forevermore.

 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. -Psa 16:11 ESV

  • He has dealt bountifully with us.

 Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. -Psa 116:7 ESV 

  • Christ is praying for us.

 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.  -Heb 7:25 ESV

  • Christ is in heaven before the throne on our behalf.

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. -Heb 9:24 ESV

  • We are no longer condemned.

 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. -Rom 8:1 ESV

  • We can confess our sin and be washed and cleansed.

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. -1Jn 1:9 ESV

  • God is always for us.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? -Rom 8:31 ESV

The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The LORD is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. –Psa 118:6-7 

  • He is working all things together for our good.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. -Rom 8:28 ESV

  • He is able to do more than we can imagine.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. -Eph 3:20-21 ESV

  • We have a High Priest who can provide grace and help.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. -Heb 4:14-16 ESV

  • He is our good shepherd

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, -Joh 10:14 ESV

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. -Psa 23:1-6 ESV

  • He will never let us go.

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. -Joh 10:28-29 ESV

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. -Php 1:6 ESV

God Bless!

Joel

The following is a testimony which was given at one of our services by a member of our church:

“Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.  Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen”  1 Peter 5:7-11

For someone very quiet like me, it’s hard to share with others when only a few know my story.  But I’m happy to say I can because you guys are my family and I feel close enough to all of you to open up.  

To begin, I would say that I got saved when I died to myself and began the journey of becoming a follower of Jesus Christ at age 18.  Like most people, I knew of Christ growing up and I even said the sinner’s prayer at age 7 when my uncle died.  Yet the only reason I prayed this prayer was because I heard that he died and was in heaven and I wanted to make sure I got to heaven to be with him.   Sadly, no one explained to me anything about living a life that served Christ and not myself (which I did).  Because I knew Christ, I had the desire to perfectly abide to the law (or what I knew of it), but was overwhelmed with the guilt that arose when I failed to do so.  I tried to be obedient to my parents, I did very well in school, and I was a nice person and never got into a fight.   I never got drunk, never smoked, never touched drugs.   But I was doing all of that for the eyes of man and not for God, therefore guilt and anger was very strong in my heart.  I was 8 years old when I started doing the only thing I thought would help me, which was hurting myself.  I had so much guilt because I couldn’t be perfect.   I would let people down and people would let me down.  It was not much at first, I would scratch my face and arms because life hurt so bad and I didn’t want to feel that kind of mental pain.

As I got older it got progressively worse.  I started using things to hurt myself and by age 12 it was something that had taken over.  I had a demon on my back, for what I was doing was very evil and demonic.   I would find the darkest place, which usually was a bathroom or closet, tears would start, I would lose my breath,  everything would  go black and I would feel  anger rush into my head and then suddenly  the tears would be gone.   I would start coming back to reality and see the blood and just feel the guilt and awfulness.   What I did to get rid of pain would just add more pain in a different way.   I was trying to rid myself of sin in my own way and sadly I made my body my own personal scapegoat. Help was limited because most people did not want to believe what was going on or they didn’t really know how to help.  Of course, not wanting anyone to know, I kept things as hidden as I could.  On one occasion I went to a psychologist who made me sign a letter saying I wouldn’t cut myself anymore.   Of course that never worked, just like writing your name on an” I got saved card” really means you’re saved…no.

I then met the love of my life, Peter, at age 14, and of course he eventually found out and would beg me to stop.   I would try but I just couldn’t.   I needed something more, even though Peter made me feel so happy and perfect.  I was still angry with a heart of stone.  

I knew God was doing something in my heart because I did have the desire to go to church and talk about Him and learn everything I could.   I started going to my uncle and aunt’s house and I would feel God in their home.  Being with them, I began to get better and not hurt myself as much.  I had more control but I still wasn’t healed because I still didn’t have Christ.   I hurt myself less but when I did do it, it was harder because so much shame would come.   I wanted so badly to be perfect!

 My aunt and uncle were helping Peter and I get ready to be married and they were counseling us through a 16 week Precept upon Precept study called “Marriage Without Regrets”.  By the time I had completed the second lesson I said,” I want Christ!”   I now knew that I wanted that life, I was ready and I knew it for sure!   One night when I was very upset , I ran right into my closet into the dark with something sharp to hurt myself with and I heard someone say, “NICHOLE”.  Startled, I immediately froze as the voice continued to say, “Why are you doing this to Me”.   At that moment I knew it was Christ.   I felt this power unexplainable and I was suddenly strong and lifted.  That moment I realized that I no longer live but live through Christ and am joined to Him now.   Christ took my heart of stone and replaced it with a living heart and I now had the Holy Spirit.  

“But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him Flee immorality.  Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”  1 Corinthians 6:17-20. 

 Each cut I realized was a cut in my Lords body.  He took the pain for me I am free from that sin because I am washed not of my own blood but by Christ’s blood that He poured out for me so that I can be forgiven and justified.  I no longer have the guilt or shame.

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord I will put my laws upon their heart, And on their mind I will write them He then says and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.  Now where there is forgiveness of these things there is no longer any offering for sin”.  Heb 10:16-18

 Since then I stopped hurting myself and have continued in studying  God’s Word which continues to make me stronger.  Don’t get me wrong, it is still hard when I’m in the heat of things.  The devil never stops and his whisper is always there saying,” just do it”, but my God is greater and He puts His strength in me.  I myself am so weak and would fail, but I don’t with Him.  I just cry out to the Lord because I know now that I have a perfect Redeemer.  He never fails me so I never have to find a different way to help with the pain or hurt.  I will tell you each step of my life is hanging on the arm of Christ and I know I would be right back into it if I didn’t have Him.  I know my Lord will never let go of me so I’m not in fear of hurting myself again.  I’m no longer in the middle of the ocean drowning because God didn’t just give me a floater to hang on to; He put me in a life jacket!  I’m not using any of my own strength by hanging on, I’m in Christ in His strength where I can’t let go.  He will not let me sink. 

I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
-Psalm 119:11

“There is no substitute for Scripture memorization”
At the men’s prayer meeting Monday night, Kevin strongly encouraged us to commit to memorizing Scripture. To paraphrase his words, there is no substitute for Scripture memorization.  Kevin asked me to post the memorization method which he and others at Bethel have used with alot of success.  It was created by Andy Davis and the methodology in its entirety can be found here.  Below is an excerpt.

  1. Day one: Read Ephesians 1:1 out loud ten times, looking at each word as if photographing it with your eyes.  Be sure to include the verse number. Then cover the page and recite it ten times. You’re done for the day.
  2. Day two: Yesterday’s verse first!! Recite yesterday’s verse, Ephesians 1:1 ten times, being sure to include the verse number. Look in the Bible if you need to, just to refresh your memory. Now, do your new verse. Read Ephesians 1:2 out loud ten times, looking at each word as if photographing it with your eyes. Be sure to include the verse number. Then cover the page and recite it ten times. You’re done for the day.
  3. Day three: Yesterday’s verse first!! Recite yesterday’s verse, Ephesians 1:2 ten times, being sure to include the verse number. Again, you should look in the Bible if you need to, just to refresh your memory. Old verses next, altogether: Recite Ephesians 1:1-2 together once, being sure to include the verse numbers. Now, do your new verse. Read Ephesians 1:3 out loud ten times, looking at each word as if photographing it with your eyes. Be sure to include the verse number. Then cover the page and recite it ten times. You’re done for the day.
  4. Day four: Yesterday’s verse first!! Recite yesterday’s verse, Ephesians 1:3 ten times, being sure to include the verse number. Again, you should look in the Bible if you need to, just to refresh your memory. Old verses next, altogether: Recite Ephesians 1:1-3 together once, being sure to include the verse numbers. Now, do your new verse. Read Ephesians 1:4 out loud ten times, looking at each word as if photographing it with your eyes. Be sure to include the verse number. Then cover the page and recite it ten times. You’re done for the day.

This cycle would continue through the entire book. Obviously, the “old verses altogether” stage will soon swell to take the most time of all. That’s exactly the way it should be. The entire book of Ephesians can be read at a reasonable rate in less than fifteen minutes. Therefore, the “old verses altogether” stage of your review should not take longer than that on any given day. Do it with the Bible ready at hand, in case you draw a blank or get stuck… there’s no shame in looking, and it actually helps to nail down troublesome verses so they will never be trouble again.Therefore, your 60thday should look like this:

Day sixty: (eight days off in that span means you’re on your 52nd new verse, which would be Ephesians 3:7) Yesterday’s verse first!! Recite yesterday’s verse, Ephesians 3:6 ten times, being sure to include the verse number. Again, you should look in the Bible if you need to, just to refresh your memory. Old verses next, altogether: Recite Ephesians 1:1-3:6 together once, being sure to include the verse numbers. LOOK IN THE BIBLE IF YOU NEED TO, SO THIS PROCESS WON’T TAKE TOO LONG!!! Now, do your new verse. Read Ephesians 3:7 out loud ten times, looking at each word as if photographing it with your eyes. Be sure to include the verse number. Then cover the page and recite it ten times. You’re done for the day.

May God grant us the perseverance, diligence, and strength to find great joy in memorizing His word!

Joel