Our Hope and Comfort in Christ Archives 2011
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  • Life Can Be a Ride in a Basket by Kent Heaton
  • The Christian's Relationship with Christ
  • Be Still and Know That I Am God by Jason Jackson
  • What Faith Does by Warren Berkley
  • It's About God, Not About You by Allan McNabb
  • Birds Don't Build Mansions by Kent Heaton

Life Can Be A Ride In A Basket

Kent Heaton

He could not imagine how different his life would be. Growing up as a Jew in Tarsus in Cilicia, and in Jerusalem at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the exactness of the Law of the fathers (Acts 22:3), Paul was as zealous for God as anyone could be. He was “circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews. As regards the Law, I was a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness in the Law, blameless” (Philippians 3:5-6). Yet now he found himself in the dark of night being let down through a window in a basket. A warrant for his arrest had been issued by Aretas the king (2 Corinthians 11:32). The order had a death warrant attached as the Jews of Damascus intended to kill Paul (Acts 9:23-24).

As Paul bumped along the wall enclosed in the basket, his mind turned to where he had been not many days before. He was a man of position and power with letters from the high priest to take bound any who followed Jesus of Nazareth. He had become a lightning rod for threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord (Acts 9:1). Now he was leaving the city in a basket. His life was in the hands of those he had sought to destroy. As he came to rest on the ground, friends quickly helped him up and they hurriedly ran away.

His escape from the Damascus would become a prelude to the sufferings he would endure for the cause of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:22-33). His life turned out so different than what he thought it would be. The only constant in his life was the devotion to Jehovah God and that devotion would lead him to die for Jesus Christ.

Often we find ourselves in a basket in the middle of the night being let down over a wall. Life takes many different turns. We have dreams and aspirations that are overshadowed by events beyond our control. Plans are disrupted, hope dashed, joys lost and in a moment of time life is never the same. Adam and Eve had a life in paradise that turned tragic in the blink of the eye (Genesis 3). Abraham was 75 years old when he found himself in a “basket” (Genesis 12). At the age of 17 the life of Joseph would never be the same (Genesis 37). David, because of sin, would see his world fall apart (2 Samuel 11-12).

Paul did not let the events of Damascus stop him nor deter his course. He went on to become one of the greatest examples of faith and courage in the Bible. His ride in a basket was not a defeat but a opportunity to learn how to serve the Lord more fully. Peter wrote, “So that the trial of your faith (being much more precious than that of gold that perishes, but being proven through fire) might be found to praise and honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). Baskets can be used to carry bread for life (Mark 8:19-20) and sometimes they carry men who learn humility, dependence and devotion to the cause of Christ.

Some baskets are larger than others. At times the baskets are let down over walls of great height. We have to trust those who hold our lives in their hands like Paul did. But in the dark of the night as he felt the wall press against him, Paul knew his life was in the hands of God. “For this cause I also suffer these things; but I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to guard My deposit unto that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12).

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The Christian's Relationship With Christ 

  • He is crucified with Him! (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 2:20)
  • He is buried with Him! (Rom. 6:4)
  • He is raised up in a new life with Him! (Col. 2:12)
  • He lives with Him! (Rom. 6:8; 2 Tim. 2:11)
  • He reigns with Him! (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 1:56)
  • He is a joint-heir with Him! (Rom. 8:16-17)
  • He suffers with Him! (1 Pet. 4:12-13; 2 Tim. 3:12)
  • He will share glory with Him! (Rom 8:17; Rev. 3:21)

Whit Sassar/"Exhortations and Stuff"

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Be Still and Know that I Am God

By Jason Jackson

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). God’s people are commanded to “be still” in this verse. The imperative gives a solemn duty to those in a covenant relationship with God — Israel in the Old Testament, but today, it is given to Christians (cf. Galatians 3:26-29).

What does it mean when God’s own are commanded to “be still”? The injunction is not given to restrict the mobility of God’s people. The duty represents a spiritual disposition that ought to characterize those to whom God’s unfailing promises have been given.

The word translated “be still” comes from the Hebrew term raphah. This word is found in various forms in the Old Testament, with different shades of meaning. It refers to that which is slack, or to let drop, or in some instances, to be disheartened or weak. When used of a person (as opposed to some inanimate object) it often has a negative connotation.

Interestingly, “be weak” is here commanded. In other contexts, those who let their hands “drop” from work are condemned. Those who are disheartened are commanded to take courage. In contexts where “being still” is condemned, we find that certain obligations were being neglected, and God’s people were admonished to take initiative to fulfill their duties.

Sadly, there are those who are far from “still”; they “do all the work” and give God none of the credit. They believe that by “lifting up their hands” and by “taking courage,” they can survive and thrive by the sweat of their own brow. They can do it all on their own, without any divine dependence.

Here is the irony in this term “be still.” While we must take the initiative to fulfill our responsibilities and live our lives, the uncertainties of living in a world of sin and woe will continually challenge us. Personal initiative is no substitute for reliance upon God (cf. James 4:13-17).

This command — “be still” — forces us to think on two things: that we are finite, and that God is infinite. That being the case, we need to drop our hands, go limp, relax, and “chill out.” Christian people ought to “come, behold the works of Jehovah,” (v. 8) that we may enjoy a calm confidence in him who gave us his Son.

“Shall he not also with him freely give us all things?” Paul reasoned (Romans 8:32). Psalm 46:10 encourages us to reflect on what God can do in the face of what we are unable to do.

Spiritual serenity, the psalmist admits, ought to be cultivated in spite of the shaking mountains and agitated waters (vv. 2-3; i.e., figures for the difficulties we face in life). This spiritual calm, that God commands, does not come from a lack of troubles; it derives from a steady, deep reflection on the ways God has intervened in history on behalf of his people (cf. Romans 15:4).

So as your world crumbles around you, the call from Scripture is: don’t flinch in faith in God. Stand still — not because of a self-made confidence, not because you are the most composed person in the face of disaster, not because “you’ve seen it all.” Be still because of what you know about God.

It is “God’s past” that provides calm for “our future.” Know that he is God! Know it, not merely intellectually, but practically, spiritually, and emotionally. He is your God. He is the ruler of kingdoms of this earth and the all-powerful Creator of the Universe.

If you are the last man or woman standing, be still. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth do change” (Psalm 46:1-2a). Hallelujah!

www.christiancourier.com

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What Faith Does
(Hebrews 11:1)

Warren E. Berkley

I grew up learning Hebrews 11:1 from the American Standard Version:

"Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen."

One way to study this is: This is a statement of what faith does. When you learn what something does, that helps you understand what it is. What does faith do? It assures us of those things we hope for, and convinces us of things we have never seen. Think of this as a statement of what faith does, therefore helpful in understanding what faith is.

Beginning at the end of the verse, think about faith in relation to things not seen. Faith convinces us of things not seen. As you think about this, make a mental list of things you believe, but have not seen: We have not seen God through direct, visual contact; we did not witness creation; we did not observe the sin of Adam and Eve; we have no visual knowledge of the exodus of Israel, or their entrance into the promised land; we did not witness the birth of Christ, we were not with Him on the roads of Galilee; we did not see Him die on the cross, nor witness His resurrection. These are things we believe, but have not seen. When we believe and affirm as truth that which we haven't seen - that's faith. When we know something is true or something happened - on the strength of evidence we have been exposed to - that's faith. Faith convinces us of things not seen. One translation says: "makes us certain of realities we do not see." (See also 2 Cor. 5:7).

Now consider the first phrase of the verse, and focus on - things hoped for. Now we consider faith in relation to the future; that is, things hoped for. This phrase, "things hoped for" does not mean - just anything we want to happen in the future! Perhaps you want a promotion to advance your career; a substantial financial inheritance; the strong desire for some problem in your life to suddenly and forever disappear. These common desires are understandable, but not involved in the specific phrase in Hebrews eleven. "Things hoped for" cannot be applied to just anything we want to happen.

In this regard, one of the modern English translations misses the text completely. The Living Bible has: "What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen... ." That's not even a good paraphrase. The phrase "things hoped for" in Heb. 11:1 is not about the personal wishes of people - it is about the divine promises of God. The earlier context is definitive: "the hope set before us... this hope... the bringing in of a better hope... God providing something better for us," (Heb. 6:17-20; 7:18,19; 11:40). "Things hoped for" in the Hebrew context is not about my carnal wishes; it is about what God has promised to the just, who live by faith. For examples - we look forward to the second coming of Christ, the resurrection and heaven. Faith assures us of those things!

Those things God has promised through the gospel are substantiated in my heart by faith (exposure to evidence resulting in belief, see Jno. 20:30,31; Luke 1:1-4; Rom. 10:17). When we believe God - when we accept His promises as true, and we live by that hope - faith is assuring us of things we hope for.

So, we learn what faith is by considering what faith does: Faith convinces us of things we have never seen; and faith assures us of things we hope for. Do you have the faith described in Hebrews 11:1? Have you acted on that faith? Do you walk by faith? Remember, faith discovers its existence in obedience!

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It's About God, Not About You
Bible study on inner strength.

Allan McNabb

We concluded last Wednesday's Bible class with this thought: It's about God, not about you! If you serve God as instructed in His word, He will give you the strength you need as a Christian.

In this article, I want us to explore this principle in various areas of our walk with God.

Meekness, Inner Strength
Meekness is inner strength (power) that's under control. It includes humility and gentleness, as a result of an "inwrought grace of the soul; and the exercises of it . . . first and chiefly towards God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting" (Vine's).

Our inner strength comes from God. He strengthens us "with power through His Spirit in the inner man" (Eph. 3:16). He's "able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us" (Eph. 3:20).

Meekness is about God, not about you! Although you are responsible for serving God as He commands, God is the one who gives you the inner strength of meekness.

Overcoming Temptation
"No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it" (
1 Cor. 10:13).

God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tempted above what you can bear. And when you are tempted, He'll make sure there's a way to get through it, so you can endure.

Overcoming temptation is about God, it's not about you! God makes sure you have the strength to endure every temptation. He doesn't make you do the right thing, but He gives you the inner strength to do the right thing.

Enduring Trials
Trials are different from temptations. Temptations are internal, and involve sinful lust (
Jas. 1:14). But trials are external, and do not necessarily involve sin.

Trials are things that come upon us and "try" our faith. They can be anything that troubles us. They can be random acts of nature, such as floods or hurricanes. And they can be the stresses of everyday life, as well as the sorrows we experience as humans.

If we handle trials correctly, good comes from them. Paul says, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28).

And James identifies a good thing that comes from every trial. "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (Jas. 1:2-4).

Paul tells us that God strengthens us to endure every trial, rhetorically asking, "If God is for us, who is against us" (Rom. 8:31)?

He continues in Romans, presenting evidence, proving that God will strengthen us to endure every trial. "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us" (Rom. 8:32-34).

Then Paul concludes with the fact that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ; therefore, no trial is too great to overcome. "Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:35-39).

Overcoming trials is about God, not about you! As long as you faithfully serve God, He'll strengthen you to overcome every trial.

This Principle Applies To Everything
No matter what you do in service to God, this principle is applicable: It's about God, not about you!

Jesus is the vine, God is the vinedresser, and you are a branch. Jesus says, "'I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing'" (Jn. 15:5).

As God's child and Jesus' disciple, you can do nothing apart from Jesus. Therefore, everything you do is about God and about Jesus -- it's not about you!

Depend On God
Since it's all about God, you should depend on Him for everything.

Like the old song, Leaning On the Everlasting Arms, says:

What have I to dread, what have I to fear, Leaning on the Everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, Leaning on the everlasting arms.

So remember, trust in God, serve Him faithfully, and don't be afraid or dread the things you must do as a Christian. Just lean on the everlasting arms of Jesus.

It's about God, not about you!

biblestudyguide.org

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Birds Don’t Build Mansions

(Kent Heaton)

There is so much to worry and fret about in life. The pace of day to day pursuits has been likened to a rat race where only the rats are winning. We work hard to gain stuff and the only thing we gain is stuff to worry about. Our barns are never big enough and we tear them down to build bigger ones and after time those are not quite what we need (Luke 12:15-21). Barn building is big business and expends so much of our lives.

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Jesus warned His disciples about tearing barns down and building new ones. “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds” (Luke 12:22-24)? When we stop to smell the roses (and we should) we should watch the birds.

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The lessons we learn from the sparrows and the ravens are eternal. They are not farmers and they do not shop at Wal-Mart. Take note: they do not build barns. There is no need for a barn in their lives because they are not worried about where to put their stuff – they have no stuff. Jesus illustrates through His own creation that birds are cared for by the gracious hand of God. Birds do not have worry lines above their eyebrows. They do not have to visit the doctor to get medicine for anxiety and worry about the stuff of life.

 

Birds teach the lesson penned by the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 6:6-8: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” These creatures of God are content because they trust and rely upon God to feed them. The provisions of life are found in the providential care of a loving Creator. Our contentment must come from being satisfied. The man who tore down his barns in Luke 12:15-21 was never satisfied. He wanted more. Then he wanted more of the more. His definition of “enough” was always a little more than he had.

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“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we may boldly say: "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me” (Hebrews 13:5-6). Have you ever seen a covetousness bird? The only time you will ever see a bird excited about a $100 bill is when he finds one to make wallpaper in his nest with. He knows that the true worth of money is nothing more than paper with dead Presidents (and a few others) on it. He does not worry about money because God takes care of him.

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There is a saying that goes, “God promised to feed the sparrows but He never promised to bring the feed to the nest.” Jesus was not suggesting that man not work because the Lord requires man to work (Ephesians 4:28). Even in the time of Jesus people worried themselves sick about their stuff. We need to learn the lesson about the birds – they do not live in mansions. They are simple creatures who have a simple trust in the real meaning of life. Sadly, birds are creatures of the earth alone. When they die they return to the dust from whence they came. Man however, continues to live on in eternity. The Lord will judge men – not birds. But the Lord will use birds to judge a man when He compares the heart of the man. “But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you” (Luke 12:31)

http://www.trentonchurchofchrist.com