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Monthly Archives: August 2013

  • My New Normal

    Leah

    "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 (NIV)

    Growing up, I never liked change. To be honest, I would try to avoid it if possible. But sometimes that wasn't easy to do.

    I still remember the fear as I made the transition from being homeschooled to attending public high school. My first day as a new student at a new school with new teachers and new classmates was a terrifying experience. The days that followed weren't much better. I'd lie in bed at night and spend hours crafting a plan that would take me back to my old life. My old normal.

    Although I've grown since then, the fear of change can creep back in during certain situations. The unknown taunts me to remain in my comfort zone.

    Recently, I felt it'd be wise to distance myself from a friendship that was a huge part of my life. Out of respect for my friend, I can't go in to the details, but I can say I'd been asked to do things that weren't in line with Scripture. There were too many dangers that threatened to take me away from God if my friend and I remained close. The Lord was tugging at my heart, asking me to step away from this relationship.

    I agonized over that decision. Fear rolled in. We hung out all the time. Talked every day. Ran in the same crowd. My friend was part of my 'normal.' Letting go of this one friend would mean letting go of the normal group of friends we were part of, and not going to the normal places we all hung out. I wanted to convince myself it was okay to stay in this friendship the way it was. After all, it was comfortable. And I really didn't like change.

    But for my own good ... for the good of my relationship with God ... it was time to redefine what 'normal' looked like. This required me to embrace everyday life without the familiarity of my friend. So I stepped out in obedience, despite the uncertainty.

    There were times after making that hard decision when I yearned for my old life, with old friends. I wanted to run from my new normal because there was comfort in what had once been familiar.

    But here's a truth I've learned since my days as the new kid on the block-although my circumstances can change, I have a God who never does. In times of change, I find strength in James 1:17, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

    My new normal is a solid place with a foundation rooted in my unchanging God-not in the shifting shadows cast by the fear of change that used to loom over me. The way He's leading me is truly a gift: it is trustworthy and is full of His joy. God's transforming my circumstances and relationships to work for my good and His glory.

    God is faithful. He has blessed me with the gift of life-giving relationships and community that I never would have experienced had I not obeyed Him and stepped outside of my comfort zone.

    And I know that no matter what you're facing, no matter what changes may be coming your way, He can do the same for you. Listen to God's prompting and trust that He has a gift for you too: His faithfulness, hope and encouragement. Embrace your new normal.

    Dear Lord, change and uncertainty can be scary, but I'm choosing to trust You. Help me walk confidently in my new normal, knowing it has been perfectly arranged by You. I love You, Lord. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    What Happens When Young Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst and Hope TerKeurst

    Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst

    Reflect and Respond: Has God been speaking to you about a change that needs to happen in your life?

    Commit to spending time praying, fasting and listening closely for God's instruction. As you enter into a season of change, hold fast to His promises and truths about His unchanging character by memorizing the Power Verses below.

    Power Verses: Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (NIV)

    Deuteronomy 32:4, "He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he." (NIV)

    Malachi 3:6a, "For I am the Lord, I change not." (KJV)

    © 2013 by Leah Kimenhour. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Grandparent’s Blessing

    Boyd

    “They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father. Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.”    Genesis 48:9

    God’s gift to grandchildren is their grandparents’ blessing. It is significant for grandsons and granddaughters to receive this grand blessing. Grandchildren are certainly a blessing; who can argue this? Their smiles bless. So does their laughter. Their creative and passionate conversations bless. Their infant coos and twinkling eyes, their honesty and love, their trust and imagination all bless. Grandchildren are a blessing without a whole lot of effort. The minute they showed up, they blessed.  Grandchildren are a grand gift from God, but there is more to the grand blessing of grandchildren. They are created by God to be blessed by their grandparents, so not only are they a blessing to their grandparents, they are to be blessed by their grandparents.

    That blessing is critical to the spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being of children. There is a greater family purpose beyond their immediate relationship with mom and dad. This is more easily understood in an agrarian society where the family is close and connected. They are close in proximity and have aligned passions around work, play, home, and church. Grandparents are nearby to bless with kind words and understanding ears. They model good money management and teach their grandchildren everything from how to whittle rough sticks of wood into smooth works of art, to how to eat peanuts from a soft drink bottle. They bless you without your even knowing that you’re being blessed. Therefore, position your family to interact and engage with their grandparents. Visit them often. Invite them over at holidays and on the spur of the moment. Create environments for your children in which they can be blessed by their grandparents. They are not competition, but agents of Almighty God. Do not deny them the opportunity to be blessed and to bless.

    The blessings of confidence, courage, and candor come from being around grandparents who care. The few grandparents who couldn’t care less may eventually come around because God created them to care. Don’t give up on them, but keep praying for their care to awaken from its selfish slumber. Give them a chance, for Christ created grandkids to be objects of their grandparents’ affection and blessing. Encourage your children to visit the home of your parents, and trust God to unleash His blessing through your parents. Their unconditional love makes your child a better son or daughter and you, a better parent.

    Grandparents, bless your grandchildren with a legacy of love for God and people. Do not become the center of attention; instead lead them to fall in love with Jesus. God will live in your grandbabies beyond your life. Bless them with Bible reading and prayer. Bless them with worship at church. Bless them with stories and adventure. Bless them with generosity. Bless them with obedience to God. Bless them with a life worth emulating. Grandchildren are not complete without the blessing of their grandparents. You invest in eternity when you bless your grandchildren.

    The Bible says, “The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old” (Proverbs 20:29).

    Post/Tweet: Create environments for your children in which they can be blessed by their grandparents. #grandparentsblessing

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved. Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Join God

    Boyd

    “God is with us; he is our leader. His priests with their trumpets will sound the battle cry against you. Men of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your fathers, for you will not succeed” (2 Chronicles 13:12).

    I am either for God or against God. There is no in-between. If I ignore God, I am against Him. If my words honor God but my actions do not follow, I am against Him. If I am against those whom God is with, I am against God. Resisting God is not a smart place to be. It is much wiser to join God than to resist God. Joining Jesus brings joy!

    We prayerfully discover where God is working and join Him. We resign ourselves from resistance to God and instead align with His will. There is no better place than to be partnered with God and His people. He is the pilot, and we are the co-pilots. He is the owner, and we are the managers. He is the King, and we are His servants. He is our heavenly Father, and we are His children. He is with us as He sends us out on His behalf.

    “After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:10).

    Join Him at church and worship Him with his people. Saints and sinners alike will welcome you. We are all fellow strugglers on a joint mission with Jesus. Join Him in your marriage. No marriage has ever regretted placing Christ as the focal point. He is the stabilizer and perspective needed for a husband, wife, and child to flourish.

    Join Him while you are stretching your mind in college. As you love Him with your mind, His wisdom will impregnate your thinking with good, pure, and productive thoughts. You will be wise beyond your years for His purposes. Join Him in your business pursuits. You will be surprised how He can lead you to the right deal and help you craft and execute the perfect plan. Join Him in a vision much bigger than yourself. Pray for a vision that, unless God pulls it off, it certainly will not happen. Joint venture with Jesus.

    Stop meddling with mediocre projects that man can pull off without the Lord. Ask instead, “Where is He working?” Join Him. By faith you can ride the wave of His wonder. Wake up and do not waste His precious time. You may be fighting a battle He has already won. Or you may be laboring in a field He has already left. Boldly go where no man has gone but where God is gathering a critical mass of like-minded disciples.

    Our prayer is not for God to be on our side but for us to be on His. He is working in ways far beyond what we could envision, imagine, or figure out. Through intense prayer and with His faithful followers, let’s join together and watch Him work. Otherwise, we are sleeping with the enemy and messing around biding our time. Seek out divine endeavors, join Him and hang on for the ride. There is nothing like the Lord’s leverage—one hundred fold who can influence an entire world for Jesus Christ. So by faith join Him today!

    “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you” (Zechariah 2:11).

    Prayer: Where is the Lord calling me to leave my comfort zone for Christ’s sake and join Him?

    Related Readings: 1 Chronicles 16:10–11; Matthew 8:22; Acts 12:8; 1 Timothy 1:3

    Post/Tweet: Go where God is gathering a critical mass of like-minded disciples. Join Jesus where He is working. #joinGod

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved. Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Give God Guilt

    Boyd

    My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. Psalm 38:4

    When we feel like we have come to nothing, our Lord Jesus is ready to make us into something. Guilt can cause our good deeds to grind to a halt or it can drive us to try to make up for lost time with frantic activity for God. Guilt motivated behavior is not sustainable, because like a scuba diver’s weight belt it weighs us down with sin and shame. We drift deeper into the murky waters of fear until we are unable to see the forgiveness and grace of God. Guilt overwhelms our heart.

    The blood of Jesus Christ is the only remedy for sin’s guilt. Other pseudo solutions like drugs, alcohol, sex, work and play only mess with our emotions and leave us longing for real relief. Guilt is a warning light on the dashboard of our life that flashes when we are close to losing our peace and joy. It is a protector of joy not a killer of joy. Guilt drives us to God for freedom from mental or emotional pain. Confess to Christ, release your guilt and accept His total forgiveness.

    For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. James 2:10

    Beware of those who intentionally or unintentionally attempt to put you on a guilt trip. It could be they are shifting blame to you from their irresponsible behavior. Their own shame feels the need to shame those in their path. Avoid chronic carriers of guilt, they hurt innocent bystanders who stand near their exposed emotional wounds. Guilt is like a grenade whose pin is pulled, its insensitive shrapnel injures everyone in its path. Yes, be a righteous resolver of unresolved guilt.

    Do you hold unrealistic expectations over the head of a loved one? Do you demand of others more than the Lord expects of them? If so, guilt can easily drive a wedge in between your relationships. A friend or family member bound up in their own shame and guilt need God’s grace and your gracious response. Your forgiveness frees the guilty. Once you have been freed from guilt by God’s grace, you can lead others to receive the Lord’s love. He frees the guilty!

    They will be forgiven for any of the things they did that made them guilty. Leviticus 6:7

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, free me from the guilt of my past, so I can free friends from guilt in the present.

    Related Readings: Numbers 11:14, 14:18; Ezra 9:6; Luke 11:46; Hebrews 10:22

    Post/Tweet today: Guilt is a warning light on life’s dashboard that flashes when we are close to losing our peace and joy. #guilt

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved. Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Letting Go

    Amy

    "He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands." Psalm 78:5-7 (NIV)

    Each year I take out one memory-soaked treasure after another from the boxes containing our family's Christmas and winter decorations. There's one I anticipate unpacking more than all the others. It's a framed photograph of my two little boys in brightly colored jackets sitting on a sled surrounded by fresh snow. Their heads thrown back with delight and laughter give testament to the joy of speed and a rare North Carolina snowfall.

    It's amazing how that one picture captures the childhood of my sons. Thinking about it makes my heart ache for days gone by. I reminisce about hours of playing with blocks and little arms wrapped around my neck.

    I never wanted those toddler hugs to end, but today, my once-little-boys tower over me, their deep voices filling our home. Gone are childish giggles, Play-Doh and picture books. Those things are replaced with teenaged practical jokes, car keys and college texts. The boys have turned into young men, and they've let go of juvenile ways. Now, if only their mama could let go!

    My oldest, Anson, is getting ready to head back to college for his sophomore year, and God's Word comforts me in this challenging transition. To parents who are watching their children sprout wings of independence, God gives strong direction followed by a powerful promise.

    Strong Direction ... our job as parents is to teach.

    There are several different scriptures that command us to teach:

    "Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them" (Deut. 4:9 NIV).

    "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up" (Deut. 11:18-19 NIV).

    Followed by a promise ... as we let go, trust our children will hang on to God.

    "Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it" (Proverbs 22:6 NLT).

    Teach and then trust.

    Parenting is a divine partnership, with God as the controlling partner. Our acts of obedience to teach our kids merge powerfully with His promises to carry them through to the end.

    My husband and I have faithfully and lovingly taught God's Word to our sons. Now we are trusting God to finish the work He has begun in them. The work may not be evident immediately and there will be bumps in the road, but teaching and then trusting helps this mama's heart to let go.

    Dear Lord, help me to faithfully teach Your Word and Your ways to my children and then trust You to set their paths. I let go of control and trust Your work in them. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources: Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions by Lysa TerKeurst

    Reflect and Respond: Are there biblical lessons you feel you haven't yet taught your child? Make a plan to do that before they leave your home.

    Ask your older child today how you're doing in the letting go process. Discuss freedoms he would like to have and how those freedoms can be earned.

    Power Verses: Isaiah 44:3, "For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Live by Faith

    Boyd

    And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Hebrews 10:38-39

    Saving faith is a Christian’s starting point and sustaining faith is what carries them forward. Followers of Jesus are saved by grace through faith and they grow by grace through faith. Faith in Christ is the key that unlocks the human heart to God’s imagination. The Holy Spirit looks for a humble spirit to spread around His spiritual security. He draws those full of faith in the fullness of His Spirit. Faith emboldens believers to begin each day better, because they started with Jesus.

    Has fear or suffering caused you to shrink back? Are you frustrated by the feeling of two steps forward and one step back? Be encouraged since you are moving along the Lord’s path, though maybe not at the speedy pace you desire. Your Master Jesus takes pleasure in your perseverance when you press forward by faith in the face of frustration. Jesus is your biggest cheerleader. Your little bit of faith in Christ creates enough confidence for today. So, live by faith in God’s son!

    I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 Furthermore it is the faith of Jesus that gives our faith spiritual fortitude. Similar to the fishes and loaves, when we surrendered to Jesus He multiplied our faith by His faith. Because Christ is our life, His faith grows our faith exponentially. Our capacity for belief is only limited by the Lord’s capacity for belief. So, by faith we are called to let Jesus loose with our lips and life. Daily we die to our small thinking and engage in God’s big thinking. Yes, we live by the faith of Jesus for Jesus!

    You may start the day on your knees in doubt, but once you leave your concerns at the feet of Christ in prayer, you will stand to your feet to live by faith. You know you live by faith when you’ve cast your cares on your caregiver Jesus Christ. You know you live by faith when your Heavenly Father gives you peace to proceed. You know you live by faith when the Holy Spirit reminds you to give God the glory for your successes. Live by faith in the One who died for you.

    "Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith. Galatians 3:11

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, lead me to love motivated by Your gracious and giving love.

    Related Readings: Habbakuk 2:3-4; Romans 1:17, 8:10; Hebrews 11:13-16; 1 Peter 4:2

    Post/Tweet today: Saving faith is a Christian’s starting point and sustaining faith is what carries them forward. #livebyfaith

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved. Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com

  • What Did Daniel Pray?

    Lysa

    "Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before." Daniel 6:10b (NIV)

    Have you ever been in a pit? Recently, I was. And you know what pits make me feel besides frustrated and down? Hungry.

    Usually my pit comes when circumstances roll into my life that I can't control.

    Circumstances that affect me, but that are beyond my control, make me want to find comfort in things I can control. And eating sure does feel like an easy way to get comfort.

    But in these situations, what feels comforting going in my mouth doesn't settle well in my heart.

    Overindulging in junk food makes me feel guilty. And once guilty joins me in my pit, it only compounds my issues. So, if we can't eat our way out of a pit with junk food, what can we do?

    If I'm truly hungry, I can grab a healthy option. Then, I intentionally look for something for which to be thankful and get my mouth busy praising God.

    Even though I may not feel like praising God in the midst of my pit, something starts to shift in my heart and in my attitude when I see blessings in the midst of burdens. Each thing for which I verbalize my thankfulness is like a stepping stone out of the pit.

    And this isn't just my idea. It's biblical. Look what happened when Daniel took this approach to the pit he found himself in.

    In Daniel 6:10, Daniel had just learned that if anyone was caught praying to anyone else besides King Darius, they would be thrown into the lion's den. That's a serious pit! But Daniel's reaction is amazing.

    He went home, threw his windows open, and prayed anyway. I'm not thinking he did this because he felt good. I'm imagining he felt like anyone would feel in overwhelming circumstances. But he rose above his feelings to make a choice.

    And do you know what he chose to pray?

    "God, save me!"

    "God, it's not fair!"

    "God, this is too much!"

    "God, smite my enemies and wipe them out!"

    "God, You know I can't handle this without extreme doses of chocolate!"

    No. None of the above.

    What Daniel prayed is a powerful lesson for me.

    Daniel 6:10b tells us that Daniel spoke prayers of gratitude. "Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before."

    Since Daniel's response is so opposite of the way most of us would react, it makes me stop and ponder. Our initial responses are usually a by-product of the rituals we've established in our life. Daniel had made it his habit to be thankful.

    Since Daniel was a thankful man, God's nature and how He provides was front and center in Daniel's heart—even in the midst of uncontrollable circumstances.

    I am challenged and inspired by Daniel's response. It makes me ask questions like: where do I run when life presses in on me? Who or what am I really dependent on? Do I have a habit of inviting guilt to join me in my pit? What might happen if I stopped grabbing for comfort and instead embraced the perspective changer of thanksgiving?

    Life will be full of pits. But, that doesn't mean I have to be a pit dweller. Or a pit eater.

    Dear Lord, I know I will sometimes find myself in a pit. But I don't have to stay there and I don't have to try to eat my way out. Thank You for providing Your timeless Word to point to the way, the truth and the life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources: Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions by Lysa TerKeurst

    Reflect and Respond: Ask yourself these 3 questions:

    Where do I run when life presses in on me? Who or what am I really dependent on? Do I have a habit of inviting guilt to join me in my pit?

    Power Verses: Hebrews 12:28, "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe." (NIV)

    Colossians 3:15, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Motivated By Love

    Boyd

    And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

    Love is the highest and best motivation. Like beauty pageant contestants, faith and hope accompany love as the top three finalists, but love is crowned the winner. It reigns because it brings out the very best in the lover and the one being loved. Similar to an invisible force field, love protects us from ourselves and compels us to give ourselves to others. It generates goodwill and garners trust. Yes, love is the pinnacle of the Lord’s expectations because it points to Christ.

    Love is loyal when most are disloyal. Love steps up when some step away. Love believes the best and doesn’t think to assume the worse. Love looks out for the interests of loved ones above its own needs. Love loves when unloved, love loves when lonely and love loves when loved. Love loves the unlovely, the unconcerned and the underutilized. Love looks for potential where impatience sees disappointment. Love is the Lord’s lubricant causing relations to run smoothly.

    The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6

    What is your primary reason for relating to people? Is it to be loved or to love? Fortunately, when we are free to love without expecting anything in return, we are fulfilled by love’s fruit. Indeed, the glorious grace of God does not stand still when you run to love one starved of compassion. Hallelujah, your gift of love invites the Holy Spirit to shed His love across the landscape of your heart and soul. Like kudzu the seeds of love grow in places we cannot fathom.

    Furthermore, make sure your motivation for love is inspired out of your intimacy with your Heavenly Father, as you commune with Christ. The more consistent your love relationship with Jesus, the more capacity you have to love. To the extent you are loved well by the Lord, you will love well. The world’s noise drowns out the gentle words of Jesus, “I love you,” but in your daily quiet time you hear and feel His presence. God’s love motivates you to love with intentionality!

    Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, lead me to love motivated by Your gracious and giving love.

    Related Readings: John 15:12; Romans 5:8, 10; 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 3:6; 1 John 4:7-21

    Post/Tweet today: The more consistent our love relationship with Jesus, the more capacity we have to love. #motivatedbylove

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved. Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com

  • John MacArthur's Call to the Church - Beware of Strange Fire

    John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, as well as an author, conference speaker, president of The Master’s College and Seminary, and featured teacher with the Grace to You media ministry.

    In 1969, after graduating from Talbot Theological Seminary, John came to Grace Community Church. The emphasis of his pulpit ministry is the careful study and verse-by-verse exposition of the Bible, with special attention devoted to the historical and grammatical background behind each passage. Under John’s leadership, Grace Community Church's two morning worship services fill the 3,500-seat auditorium to capacity. Several thousand members participate every week in dozens of fellowship groups and training programs, most led by lay leaders and each dedicated to equipping members for ministry on local, national, and international levels.

    John and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California and have four adult children: Matt, Marcy, Mark, and Melinda. They also enjoy the enthusiastic company of their fifteen grandchildren.

    John is type of author that evokes emotion in the reader. Some try to avoid his books and others can't stop reading them. His prayer would be that emotion would drive one to a specific place - the foot of the cross. Or, simply put, the Gospel of Jesus.

    In his new book, Strange Fire, John lays out a call for the Church to repent of it's "casual" approach to worship. After reading Strange Fire, one can understand that worship is a serious matter. God is to be enjoyed for sure, but in the direction that He gives.

    In our recent conversation, I asked Dr. MacArthur about his new book and what I found is a man still living under conviction. While in his mid 70's, there is a fire that burns in this man. Strange it is not. For it's a passion for the glory of God.

    John, I am curious, when you set out to write a book, who do you write your books for? Are you writing for a particular group of people? Are you writing for your church? Or are you just writing for the evangelical community altogether?

    John M.: Yeah, primarily, I'm writing for the broader evangelical community; in particular, the pastors and leaders and influencers. When I write a book, particularly a political or issue-oriented book, I do that for the benefit of the church: to make a truth clear to the church, to warn the church. So the audience is typically the broader evangelical community with a focus on those in leadership to help them understand the issues and the impact that they're having on the church.

    John: So, would you say that you're writing in response to something that's happening in church culture, or are you kind of thinking, "Hey, maybe this is what could be happening in church culture, so it needs to be addressed…"?

    John M.: You know more often than not, John, I react. I look at my books, or many of them anyway, as kind of a correction, a clarification, some discernment applied to an issue in the church that the church needs to be aware of. That might be more frequently my motivation but not exclusively. There are times when I think the church just needs clarity on a doctrine or an issue, and so I’ll write more from a positive affirmation side. That would be the lesser of the common motive, though, as usually I'm looking at the church feeling concerned about the direction, the lack of understanding or the church's exposure to something that is dangerous--something the church needs to understand more clearly to fulfill its ministry. So, I'm usually coming off of something that I think needs clarity or needs correction.

    John: Before we jump into your new book, "Strange Fire," I'm curious, John, have you ever written anything that you wish you would not have written? Have you ever changed a viewpoint on something that you would have liked to go back and refute?

    John M.: I would say no. I've never written anything that I would like to get back. I think the Lord really prepared me through my training and upbringing with a sound framework of theology so I kind of have the borders pretty much in mind for the truth and sound doctrine. Obviously, I've understood things in a clearer way. There are certain verses I would interpret differently now. There are some details maybe in handling the word of God that I might express differently. There's been a lot of refinement and a lot more clarification, but there's really nothing through the years that I would say would reach the level of "I wish I'd never written that."

    John: So, you have a new book coming out called, "Strange Fire.” I am curious, is this a follow-up to "Charismatic Chaos"?

    John M.: It is definitely in the same category and the same genre. It is addressing the charismatic movement, but it isn't that book. It isn't like that book, "Charismatic Chaos," which by the way is still in print--I just received the final word on the publication of that book in Chinese. So that book has been consistently in print since it first came out. But it addresses the same movement; only it addresses that movement in its current form. The "Charismatic Chaos" book is ... I don't know how many years old, but it's 15 years old or more, and the movement has morphed and changed and gained momentum on a global level. So while the same issue is addressed, which is the charismatic movement, this is a completely independent book that has nothing to do with the prior book. This one addresses the movement in a way that is consistent with its present form and, of course, since the time that I wrote that book, the prosperity gospel has just gone like a wildfire and so that's an element, and there are other elements as well that have changed.

    John: "Charismatic Chaos" was and is a fantastic book, and I have recommended it many times to many of my friends and I'm sure you have seen many comments by people who are being challenged by it. So hopefully we will see the same thing with "Strange Fire" as well.

    John M.: I will say this John, the book through the years has had an amazing ministry in helping people come out of that movement, and I would say that is the manifest impact of that book, letters upon letters, tens of thousands of them through the years coming to our ministry, the people in multiple languages reading that book, and coming out of that movement. This book is directed more at the leaders of that movement, the purveyors of that system, false miracles, false prosperity gospel, misrepresentation of gifts and all of that kind of stuff. This book really goes at the leadership and exposes the movement at that level, as well as its aberrations on a popular level. So, I'm praying that it will be an indictment whereas the "Charismatic Chaos" book was not so much an indictment of the leadership, but that it will also at the same help people to come out of that movement to the truth.

    John: You start "Strange Fire" with a story, the fantastic story of Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron. They are both priests, as you know, part of Israel. They, as you clearly point out, understood the teachings of God, were highly regarded, etc., and then the unbelievable happened, they went within this context of worship for them to present a, in a sense, sacrifice to God, and they did it in a wrong manner. God responded by sending fire and consumed both of them, both of these brothers. My question John is, do you think to some extent, the greater evangelical community, or at least maybe the charismatic community is in danger of doing the same thing?

    John M.: I think the charismatic community does the same thing. I think it offers strange fire, that's the point I make. In the ninth chapter in that same context, an offering was given to God appropriately and rightly, and God burned up the offering, and immediately after that, the offering was made inappropriately and God burned up the offers, and what that does tell us is that God feels very strongly, even judgmentally, against false worship. That is, worship which dishonors him; and I think the charismatic movement is filled with that.

    Now, I understand, we're not living in Old Testament times. God doesn't open up the ground and swallow up false prophets. God doesn't send a bear out of the woods to shred young men who mock a prophet. Obviously, God doesn't bring judgment the way he brought judgment in the Old Testament era; but he has the same attitude, and while judgment may not come in a temporal way, it will come, because God feels exactly the same about unacceptable worship. In fact, if you go back to the Ten Commandments, the first commandment and the second commandment are about no other God and how we come to God, how we approach God. The Old Testament is clear that we are to fear God and that we are to worship Him in a way that is consistent with His decree and His will and His commands.

    So, I just think--and it's a sad thing--that these charismatic churches and charismatic groups are full of people who do not understand that they can't play fast and loose with this kind of supposed worship. They can't say the Holy Spirit is doing something He's not doing, or saying something He's not saying. They can't ascribe to God fake miracles or fake revelations and make up things and say that God said them and the Holy Spirit said them.

    This is the most serious kind of conduct, negatively speaking, that any human being can commit. It is to blaspheme God, it’s an affront to God. I say in the introduction of the book that Jesus said the leaders of Israel had attributed the works of the Holy Spirit to Satan, and I draw a parallel, kind of an inverse parallel, that the modern charismatic movement attributes the works of Satan to the Holy Spirit. There are so many things that are obviously not of God at all that are being attributed to the Holy Spirit. This is very, very serious, and that's why the book doesn't hold back because the seriousness of dishonoring approaches to God demands a serious confrontation.

    John: So my mind goes in a couple of different directions here and there based on what you just said. Is God adhering to His forbearance then, as He approaches the Christian community, the charismatic community?

    John M.: Well, first of all, yeah, we have to understand that God is always forbearing, and He doesn't give us what we deserve when we deserve it. We are all alive because of His grace, and God by nature as Savior, even temporally, He withholds his judgment, He is merciful, He is gracious. I think many of these people aren't Christians, they're false teachers, false prophets, charlatans and frauds, and many of the people that follow them are nonbelievers who are deceived and duped, and certainly the Lord withholds judgment on them. Obviously, their judgment is the judgment of eternal condemnation when it does come.

    But even among believers, you know, there are many sins that believers can commit and do commit, and there are many unfaithful believers who don't have the ground open up and swallow them or who aren't struck down by God, although that can happen because we know from the New Testament, there is a sin of the death and there can be a sin in the life of the believer that will cause the Lord to take him home.

    But I think that's correct; I think God is patient even toward his own, and that's one of the functions of pastors. Paul, you remember, said to the church in Acts 20, "I have not ceased for three years to warn you with tears and to warn you that of your own selves perverse men will rise up, will lead you astray and from the outside wolves will come in with deceptive teaching." Paul writes his letters to churches and continually talks about error, and he said to the Galatians, "Having begun in the Spirit, are you perfected in the flesh? Please don't fall into legalism." All of those epistles have warning sections. Thessalonians, you know, warns about misunderstanding the second coming and believing lies. That's just part of ministry.

    So, we would say that while the Lord is forbearing with His own people who truly belong to him, it is the role and duty of pastors and leaders of the church to expose the false teachers, to expose the false doctrine and to preach sound doctrine. In fact, you shouldn't even be a leader in the church unless you are capable of exposing error. According to Paul's standards for leadership, 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, you have to be able to recognize error, expose it for error, and teach sound doctrine. That's part of being a leader in the church. It's not necessarily popular in this kind of environment where everybody calls for tolerance and acceptance. And nobody has screamed louder for that than the charismatics, because they have to have that in order to succeed. They have gotten what they wanted, but it's true that the Lord is patient, especially with His church. But that raises the importance of those who are leading His church to speak the truth and warn the people.

    John: In the book, you suggest a few questions to help test the authenticity of true works of the Spirit. You ask the readers to ask five questions. One, does it exalt the true Christ? Two, does it oppose worldliness? Three, does it point people to Scripture? Four, does it elevate the truth? And five, does it produce love for God and for others?

    Now, when I am reading those questions, my thought is, to some extent, we could have a pastor or a leader within the charismatic movement, being asked those questions on one side and John MacArthur being asked those questions on one side and both of them and looking at the acts of what's happening in the charismatic movement would answer those questions in the affirmative. Does it exalt the true Christ? They would answer yes. Does it oppose worldliness? They would say yes. How does someone within a Christian community approach then these two conflicting viewpoints and say, "Well, wait a second here, you both can't be right. I hear someone on TV telling me that what they're doing is truly of God, and yet I have MacArthur on one side telling me no, what they're doing is not of God, it's of the devil." How do we reconcile that, John?

    John M.: Those five questions basically came from Jonathan Edwards, and he was using those five things to evaluate the legitimacy or illegitimacy of certain things that were happening in the great awakening, and in every case it all depends on how you define the terms. If I ask the question, "Does it honor Christ?" the guy can say, "Of course, it honors Christ." A Mormon can say Mormonism honors Christ, A Jehovah's Witness can say Jehovah's Witness ministers honor Christ, but that begs a definition of Christ. Who is Christ? And what does honor Christ? That is the compelling issue.

    For example, when Kenneth Copeland says that Jesus on the cross became a sinner, died and went to hell, and was punished for three days, that's heresy. He may ask somebody, do charismatics honor Christ? Does Kenneth Copeland honor Christ? Sure, off the top of their head, they would say, “Yes,” but when you look more deeply, to say that Christ became a sinner and went to hell to pay for sin for three days and then God raised him, that does not honor Christ.

    So, all those questions then have to be defined. The terms in all those questions have to be defined. Before you can answer the question, "Does it honor Christ?" you have to show who Christ is, what Christ has done, and what the Bible says honors Christ, and then see if based upon the biblical definition of honoring Christ, they are honoring Christ; so in every case, a superficial answer, we expect that. We expect them to say, "Oh yeah, this demonstrates love for God, this demonstrates love for others." But upon closer examination, when you compare how the Bible defines those terms and what the charismatics do, it is not hard to answer the question.

    John: So, context defines the meaning here.

    John M.: Context and definition is everything. Sure, you could say to a Muslim, "Do you love God?" and he could say, "Yes," but he better talk about who you're talking about, what God you’re talking about and what you mean by love. So yeah, all those words beg for explanation, and in the book, those questions have a very carefully laid out biblical context in which they have to be answered.

    John: Yeah, they do, they do.

    John, the question was asked once of a TV preacher, "Why do amazing miracles like people being raise from the dead, blind eyes being opened, lame people walking again happen with greater frequency in places like Africa, and not here in the U.S.? So now I'm asking you John, would you agree with that statement, and then how would you answer that question?

    John M.: I would answer it by saying who said that and based on what evidence? I have absolutely never seen any legitimate evidence of anything like that going on anywhere in the world. People being raised from the dead claims, sure. People have made the claim that that has happened, that they have seen that happen, but there is literally no evidence, no genuine evidence for things like that. You have near-death situations where people come near to death and maybe are revived, we would all understand that, but nobody goes to a funeral and raises somebody out of the casket after they have been embalmed.

    So, you know, those kinds of claims are basically meaningless. They’re as meaningless as all of these claims about people going to heaven and seeing Jesus and seeing the Holy Spirit as a blue fog and Jesus riding a rainbow horse. That's why Paul said to the Corinthians, "I was caught up to the third heaven," but it's not profitable to talk about that, because it's not verifiable. They love the unverifiable. They love to make claims that no one can ever substantiate. People have done vast studies trying to track down the supposed miracles of well-known healers and all the evidence has come in through the years that there's just nothing there.

    John: What do you hope happens? I mean you kind of answered this at the beginning, but what do you hope happens as this book launches, as it goes out into the Christian community? Just what do you hope the response is going to be?

    John M.: First, I hope that those people who are sitting in these environments and know something is wrong but have been intimidated, that they have open minds and know this isn't right. That they know they're dying of cancer, they've got heart disease, they're going through a divorce, they're struggling with sin, they're not getting rich, and they're questioning why the guy at the top of the Ponzi scheme pile has a jet and two Mercedes and they can barely exist—or even can't exist. I hope those people who are full of anxiety and doubt will find reason to run and reason to flee the error and see and expose it for what it is.

    Secondly, I hope people will understand the danger of the influences that they're under. When Jesus was denouncing the Pharisees, he said they produce sons of hell. It’s an amazing indictment of those that the populous of Israel felt was representative of God, and what Jesus said is they don't produce sons of heaven, they produce sons of hell. I think it was more on Jesus' mind at the end of his ministry, in the final discussion he had before the cross with the disciples and the populous of Jerusalem that they flee from false teachers because they have such deadly influence. So, I hope people will see the corruption. If you start with Charles Parham from whom the movement came and see that he was arrested for sodomy and you just progress through the scandals of the movement, I hope it exposes the corruption that's at the top of the movement.

    The third thing that I would hope and pray for is that the movement would receive such a blow that it finds it difficult to recruit. And that's asking a lot because it's a big wide world and most of the Christian world doesn't even know I exist, but I would love to have this book slow down the growth and then obviously I would hope that even those that are fully convinced in the movement and fully convinced leaders in the movement, God might see fit to rescue them from it.

    John: We're going to jump off of topic of the book here. The tagline for "Grace to You" is Unleashing God's truth, One Verse at a Time. You have been a proponent for expository preaching, obviously for a long time. I'm curious, do you believe that's the only way to proclaim Scripture?

    John M.: Well, I believe initially the only way to proclaim anything from the Scripture is to interpret it correctly. So let's just say that however the sermon comes out, whether it's a theological sermon, or a sort of exhortational sermon, or an exposition of a given passage, or whether you're dealing with a biblical theme, the end product of what you preach has to come from rightly dividing the word of God. So, it's not that every sermon has to be a sort of word-by-word, verse-by-verse exposition, certainly as tight and as defined maybe as I would do it, but when you say this is what Scripture teaches, you can't truly say that unless you've rightly divided the truth.

    So, even when I preach, say, a message on a theological theme, a biblical theme, a doctrine of Scripture or give an overview, the message at the end of the day has to reflect the Scripture rightly interpreted. So, in that sense, all preaching has to be expositional. Sound theology is the product of accurate exposition. I prefer Bible exposition. I think it's the right way to preach because it's the only way that covers everything, and I don't think God simply gave us big ideas. I think He gave us truth down to the very smallest phrases and words, and if you're going to get the full richness of Scripture, that's the way you're going to get it.

    John: Do you think to some extent by avoiding expository preaching, it has allowed growth for the charismatic movement? I mean, do you think that's why to some extent everything that "Strange Fire," the reason why you wrote that book is because of the fact that expository preaching has not been held in high regard?

    John M.: If expository preaching dominated the church, and if that expository preaching was accurate interpretation of Scripture, the movement couldn't survive. That's absolutely correct. All false doctrine survives in an environment of ignorance or tolerance, and in evangelicalism in our day, you have a lot of ignorance, a lot of people who just think about church growth and whatever, and not about the truth in its detail. And you certainly have the personal kind of movement in Christianity, which conveys the idea, “What does the Bible mean to me?” and whatever I think it means and feel it means, and whatever the Lord shows me it means, that's what it means.

    So you not only have no exposition of Scripture based upon a scientific pattern, but you don't even have Hermeneutics, you don't even have rules for interpretation. If the Lord shows you what this means intuitively, like a pain in your stomach or a notion that pops into your head, now you've got an alien approach to Scripture. So, whether you have the Bible interpreted intuitively or interpreted personally or not interpreted at all, of course then anything and everything flourishes.

    Interested in reading John's new book? Click here for more information.

  • Moments Like These

    Wendy

    "Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name." Hebrews 13:15 (ESV)

    My eyes caught hers as I was leaving the room. The somber look on her face revealed her heavy heart. I gave her a questioning look to which she simply shook her head "no." We'd been praying for her to receive some good news, a "yes" to an opportunity she'd been working hard to get. The call had come; she'd been denied.

    I recognized her pain. Its name: rejection. Like my friend, I waited for a similar call, only to be turned down too.

    Perhaps you have met the unwelcome intruder, rejection, as well.

    You work hard to earn a promotion, only to be over-looked. You aim to be a loving wife, yet your husband still leaves. Well-intended friends assure us with words like, "God's plans and timing are perfect." With great compassion they tell us, "Keep trusting God." But sometimes, when rejection hits hard, we need a boost to our trust. We need something when we're in the pit. Moments like these are made for praise.

    Praise heals brokenness in a way words alone cannot. When we praise through our pain, God supernaturally empowers us to do what seems impossible: rise above our circumstances. Our praise redirects our focus on Him rather than our rejection, and reminds us that God always welcomes us into His presence.

    Praising God is easy when life is full of happiness and success. However, when we're dealing with rejection, praising God can be difficult; it can feel like a sacrifice. It's not necessarily easy to offer a heart of thanks when we feel like we don't have much to be grateful for. However, the writer of Hebrews advises us to "continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips" (Hebrews 13:15b). Just like fruit is sweet and pleasing to our taste, praise is sweet and pleasing to the Lord.

    Praising through the pain (and if we're honest, sometimes through the self-pity) seems to take strength we don't have to give. But the author of Hebrews 13:15 tells us our ability to praise in hard moments comes through Jesus.

    As we tap into His power, our sacrifice of praise will generate more strength to praise, which will generate more praise. It is a beautiful cycle! Praise lifts our eyes from the rejection and sets it on all we have in Jesus: peace, comfort and acceptance.

    Later that week I texted my friend to see how she was doing. She'd taken time alone for praise and the pain of my friend's rejection had begun to ease. Did her troubles disappear? Was her rejection turned into acceptance? No. But her sorrow was turned to joy as she focused on praise, that was sweet and pleasing to her Lord.

    Dear Lord, thank You for supplying all I need all the time. You even give me strength to praise. What an awesome God You are! Help me to remember the truth I learned today when rejection comes. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources: Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions by Lysa TerKeurst

    Reflect and Respond: What is your typical response when dealing with rejection?

    Today, sit alone and praise the LORD. Praise until praise generates more praise.

    Power Verses: Psalm 7:17, "I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High."

    Psalm 21:13, "Be exalted, O LORD, in Your strength! We will sing and praise Your power."

    © 2013 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

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