Finding Hope in Weakness

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And he [Samson] was sore athirst, and called on the LORD, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised? Judges 15:18

It seems that many times when we have been strengthened by God and have done something great for the Lord, we soon afterward find ourselves confounded by our weakness. That is why this passage about Samson is so encouraging. Here is a man that, by the strength of God, defeated many of the enemies of Israel, and then, moments later, finds himself about to die from the lack of something as simple as water. When God gives us some sort of victory in doing His work, it is easy to begin to see ourselves as stronger than we really are. So the Lord often allows situations to arise that keep us dependent upon Him. We often thank the Lord for His grace in times of triumph, but how often do we forget to thank Him for our times of defeat. If all things actually work for the good of those that love Him, then grace comes in many forms. It comes in strength, but it also comes in defeats by showing us our weaknesses.

When we are on top, it is easy to begin to think that this is where true life and happiness are to be found. We start to crave more of it. Success breeds the desire for more success. Until, if God does not show us our weaknesses, we begin to think that this is what we need to be happy. We start to believe that this is what life is about, and without it, contentment starts to disappear. In weakness, Christ calls out to us and says, don’t find your hope and peace in the good or the bad times, find it in Me, I am your salvation. Experiencing weakness has a way of shaking from our hands many of the earthly things we think we need because, through grace, it causes us to set our eyes on eternity, by realizing that we are not invincible.

I can remember one beautiful summer night we had a barbeque with the family. It was one of those times when you are usually at peace enjoying the cool summer evening. But this particular night I was miserable. I had been suffering from a chronic illness for some time. I didn’t know if I would ever have enjoyment again, but I remember at that moment, a thought came to me about finding my sufficiency in Christ. It didn’t matter if, through suffering, I would ever enjoy another moment of this life. I have Christ! What else do I need? Our real victory is not found in the conditions of this life, even if our victories are Godly. Our victory is found in Christ.

When the Lord opens up the hollow place, like he did to give Samson water, and the truths of Christ’s sufficiency begins to run toward us, we find ourselves revived even when the land is still parched.

D. Eaton

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Prayer: The Forerunner of Mercy – Spurgeon

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“Thus saith the Lord God; I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.” -Ezekiel 36:37

Prayer is the forerunner of mercy. Turn to sacred history, and you will find that scarcely ever did a great mercy come to this world unheralded by supplication. You have found this true in your own personal experience. God has given you many an unsolicited favour, but still great prayer has always been the prelude of great mercy with you. When you first found peace through the blood of the cross, you had been praying much, and earnestly interceding with God that He would remove your doubts, and deliver you from your distresses. Your assurance was the result of prayer. When at any time you have had high and rapturous joys, you have been obliged to look upon them as answers to your prayers. When you have had great deliverances out of sore troubles, and mighty helps in great dangers, you have been able to say, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

Prayer is always the preface to blessing. It goes before the blessing as the blessing’s shadow. When the sunlight of God’s mercies rises upon our necessities, it casts the shadow of prayer far down upon the plain. Or, to use another illustration, when God piles up a hill of mercies, He Himself shines behind them, and He casts on our spirits the shadow of prayer, so that we may rest certain, if we are much in prayer, our pleadings are the shadows of mercy. Prayer is thus connected with the blessing to show us the value of it. If we had the blessings without asking for them, we should think them common things; but prayer makes our mercies more precious than diamonds. The things we ask for are precious, but we do not realize their preciousness until we have sought for them earnestly.

“Prayer makes the darken’d cloud withdraw;

Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw;

Gives exercise to faith and love;

Brings every blessing from above.”

-Charles Spurgeon-

A Shepherd’s Christmas

sheperds-christmasAnd all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. – Luke 2:18

Why did the angels appear to shepherds when their testimony did not count in a court of law, and what would it have been like to hear the shepherd’s witness after the angels appeared and they saw the child? Though we don’t exactly know what they said, it may have been something similar to this:

There we were out in the middle of a pasture, and all the sheep were sleeping. Then, all of the sudden, the sheep began to stir. At first, we didn’t know what was happening. Then we saw them, the angels who had come to tell us that born this day in the city of David, was a child who is Christ the Lord. The long awaited Messiah.

For thousands of years the prophets have been prophesying His coming, but what I find amazing is that, when it happened, the angels came to tell us: shepherds. Why would God announce it to us? We are not the priests or the holy ones of Israel. Most people despise us, and see us as unclean and not worth anything. The only thing I can think is that this Messiah is willing to save anyone, even those like myself, the dirty and despised. God Himself was born today and the angels came to tell us!

What is most humbling is what the prophet Isaiah said. He said, the Messiah will be “wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our sins: and it will be by His stripes that we will be healed.” I’m not sure what all this means, but to think that this little child whom I just saw, is the one who is going to redeem His people and that He has even come to redeem people like myself, only makes me love Him more. His name is Jesus, and He will save His people from their sins. Maybe that’s why when I saw Him, all I could do was bow down in joyful adoration.  Some people may only see a child, but I see my Savior and my King.

Make sure you tell everyone He’s here. The Messiah has come!

D. Eaton

The Pain of Childbirth & the Joy of Christmas

 

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The lights glow softly, the Christmas music plays, and wondrous thoughts of the birth of our Savior fill our minds. What a blessing it is for the believer who still finds childlike joy at this time of year.  Being “grown-up” is a bit over-rated, because being “grown-up,” according to the world, usually entails a constant stiff upper lip and a cynical heart.  Now there are times to be stout, to conceal your emotion, and be a bit guarded, but too often these virtues can be turned into vices. Just as there is a time to be immovable, there is also a time to be moved. There are things should stir our hearts and move us to childlike wonder, and the birth of Jesus is one of those things. Especially when we consider it in light of the curse and the resulting pain of childbirth.

Sin is our greatest enemy, and it has been ever since the fall. In our natural condition, with hard hearts, we are the makers of our own demise. We despise what is good, and we love that which will hurt us; we are prone to our own destruction. What is worse, is that we are continually heaping upon ourselves the wrath of a holy and just God who will not let any sin go unpunished. The thought of such things should cause us to tremble.

If this were where the story ended, there would be no hope for any of us, but as we know, in the garden after the fall, God promised that He was going to provide a seed who would be the remedy for our sin (Gen 3:15). What is often missed is the fact that right after this promise, He also pronounced a curse upon mankind for their sinful act of rebellion. One aspect of that curse was that God Himself was going to cause children to be brought forth in sorrow (Gen. 3:16). Why would God do such a thing after such an incredible promise?  Of all the female creatures upon this earth, it seems that humans have the greatest sorrow during childbirth, but this sorrow is not without hope. Every time a woman grieves during the pain of childbirth, it is to be a reminder of the curse and the seriousness of sin. The same applies when we experience the pain in our work (Gen. 3:17). It is a proclamation of our depraved condition, but that is not all it is. It is also a gesture of God’s love for His people because He does not want us to evade the knowledge of our sinful condition and neglect the promised seed.

As Mary gave birth that night in a dusty stable, she undoubtedly lamented in pain. Any of us who have spent time pondering that night and have thought of the cold ground upon which she lay, without comforts of home, have heard her proclamation of the tyranny of sin. In sorrow she gave birth, but the Child was to be the death of her sorrow, and even the death of death itself. Like Rachel giving birth to Benjamin, she may have had the desire to call Him Benoni, the son of her sorrow, but the Father, God Himself, had already declared Him to be the Son of His Right Hand. His name was to be Jesus, for He was to save His people from their sins.

Christ, God incarnate, had entered our sin-riddled world. From his first breath, He was to be known as the Man of Sorrows, and He would endure it all because of His great love for us. All we like sheep have gone astray, but as Christ suffered the sorrows of this fallen world, He never faltered in His righteousness. He then, like a lamb, went willingly to the slaughter, never once opening His mouth in protest. Without fail, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His stripes, we are healed.

If this Christmas season is passing you by, and the thoughts of our Savior have not yet moved your heart to adoration through the Spirit’s work, may the meditation of our great God and His gospel invigorate our sin embattled hearts and produce once again the childlike wonder of the Christmas season. Through faith, He is the joy of our salvation.  Though sorrow may still be a part of living in this fallen world, you can have joy in the knowledge that any sins over which you mourn, and any sorrows you face, have been conquered by the child who was born in the manger: Jesus Christ the Lord.

Merry Christmas

D. Eaton

 

In Preparation for Christmas

Image result for Christian ChristmasIt is that time again. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and many have already frantically begun to prepare for Christmas. The sales are plentiful, the shoppers are swarming, and the decorations and music add warmth everywhere you visit. The preparation has begun, but none of it can compare to the preparation that took place for that first Christmas. Take a moment to imagine what it would have been like to live during a time when they didn’t know the name of the coming Savior.

In preparing for Christmas, our hearts will be helped by meditating on what it must have been like for those of the household of Israel who had been waiting for the Messiah. It all started immediately after the fall when God told Eve that there would be a seed that would have His heel bruised by the serpent, but that same heel would ultimately crush the serpent’s head. Already, God had promised a remedy for the spiritual death they had brought upon themselves and all subsequent generations, and also for the physical death that was working in their bodies at that very moment.

As time went on, God’s people were taught many things about the future one who was going to redeem them from the wages of sin. To name a few, they were told that He was going to be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2), He would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14), and He would speak in parables (Ps. 78:2-4). Along with that, He would be hated without reason (Ps. 35:19), He would be spat upon and stuck (Is. 50:6), and He would be pierced (Zech. 12:10). He would do it all to save His people by being a substitute for them in order to make atonement for their sins (Is. 53:5). Then in the darkest hour, He would walk victoriously out of the grave (Ps 16:10, Ps 49:15).

The prophecies progressively revealed details regarding the coming Messiah, and although His Children did not fully understand them, they gave them hope, but having the promise of a Messiah who was to redeem you from the grip of sin is not the same comfort as having that redemption finished and calling upon his name. Those among the Hebrews who truly believed must have continually wondered longed to know His name. Jacob wrestled with Him in His pre-incarnate form, yet when Jacob asked Him His name He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name? (Gen. 32:29),”and the mystery continued. Later, Samson’s father Manoah spoke with Him, and though he did not fully understand at the moment with whom he was speaking, he also asked Him His name, and the response was “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful (Judges 13:18). All of these events were shrouded in mystery, for the name was not to be revealed until the fullness of time.

With such wonder, hope, and speculation, they lived for thousands of years, including an approximately 400-year period following the prophet Malachi where God seemed to be silent. That all ended, however, the day an angel of the Lord appeared to young Mary and said, “You will conceive and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.” His name would be Jesus, and He would save His people from their sins! The wait was over. Sinful humanity was to be redeemed, and the one who was to do it was going to be named Jesus!

Oh, how we have sung His name for thousands of years. How long we have known the only name under heaven by which man can be saved. How long it has filled our hearts with joy. We have not only known His name and His teachings, which are an endless supply of light and life, but we have also known Him personally because He is still with us today and will be with us always, even unto the end of the world.

He bore our sorrows and carried our grief. He took upon Himself our sins, thus putting an end to the condemnation that the law demanded, and He imputes to us His righteousness, making us co-heirs in the inheritance that He so rightly deserves, and we most certainly do not. None of the rapturous joys that fill the believer’s heart would be the same, had it not been for His birth in that lowly stable when God himself took on flesh.

It is easy to be swept away by all the trappings of the season, but the believer must not lose the infinite worth found in Christ in all the paltry tin of secular add-ons. As you prepare your home this season, be sure preparation is made to spend time with your Savior through meditation on His word and prayer, for no heart is as full as the heart that is filled with Christ.

May the Lord bless you this Christmas season!

D. Eaton

Tending our Pleasant Plants

Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips: In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow. – Isaiah 17:10-11

The world in which we live is full of distractions that pull us away from our Savior. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life can easily ensnare us causing us to place our focus somewhere other than our Lord. The problem lies in the fact that when we take our eyes off Christ and put them on the things of this world, we find that all or labor and work is in vain.

There are several interesting things pointed out to us in this passage. This first one is that when we forget the God of our salvation and are not mindful of the rock of our strength, what we begin to focus on will, in fact, be pleasant. As this passage indicates, we “plant pleasant plants,” Turning our attention away from our God will always seem pleasant at first. We find something that brings us joy and pleasure, or at least we hope it will bring us joy and pleasure, and we begin to put our time and effort in that direction. We must realize, however, that the slips we plant are strange. Slips in this context were plant cuttings that would be put into the ground to bring forth growth. When the passage calls them strange, it carries with it the idea that they are foreign. Foreign to what God would have us be growing in the soil of our lives.

The passage goes on to say that we shall “make” the plant grow, and the seed to flourish. This shows us that hard work and effort go into tending these plants. Crops that are planted in areas where the climate and soil are not fit for them, will not flourish without special care, and so we begin to place our efforts on growing this crop. As the passage seems to indicate, we may even see some success. Our diligence with these pleasant plants will spring forth a harvest, which may even bring us some temporary satisfaction, but the passage goes on to warn us that it will not last. In the day of grief and of desperate sorrow it will be a heap, offering us nothing of real value.

What is the aim of your life? Where are your hope and strength found? Do you spend all your time taking care of worldly concerns? Are you always focusing on worldly success and the pleasures it can bring, without remembering the God of your salvation?

If so, we have perverted our way, and we are living for earthly things which will end up being a heap that will be destroyed when trouble comes, and trouble will eventually come. Without doing all things for the glory of God, our pleasant plants will leave us empty, and we will cry out “vanity of vanities” when it is all said and done.

Let us serve the living God like those who are willing to suffer affliction with the people of God if necessary, and be done with the passing pleasures of sin (Heb. 11:25). When we do this, we exchange a mirage for a fountain flowing with living water, because in the rock of our strength, we will never be let down in the time of trouble. For nothing we do in Christ will be in vain.

D. Eaton

Fulfill the Ministry

See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord. – Colossians 4:7

“Fulfill the Ministry.”  Paul initially said this to Archippus, but was this a warning or encouragement? Since we do not know much about him, it is hard to tell. Some have suggested that Archippus was the first pastor to the Laodicean’s. He may have been negligent in his duties, to which Paul would have been admonishing him by saying, “Get to work and do what you are supposed to do.” He also may have been faithful to his call but in a difficult place. Paul may have been encouraging him by saying, “press on in your good work, the Lord sees and will reward.”

Regardless as to whether this was a warning or an encouragement, these words apply to every believer. God has called us all to bring Him glory with our lives. This command applies to whatever vocation He has called us, as we live as ambassadors for Him in this fallen world. We are to work heartily as unto the Lord. Never go back to working for riches, popularity, fame, or even personal peace. Fulfill what He has called you to do for the Kingdom of God. Bring Him glory in all of it.

Maybe the Lord is calling you to a particular ministry that you have been resisting. Fulfill the ministry. Perhaps you have been doing what you have been called to do, but the things of the world are starting to catch your eye. Fulfill the ministry. Perhaps the Lord called you to a specific ministry, and you have been diligent in doing it, but now you are growing weary in well doing. Fulfill the ministry.

There is so much more for us than we can see. Never forget that you have been raised with Christ, your life is hidden in Christ, and glory will be experienced at His return. Work heartily as unto the Lord. Remember, we do not live to please men. Christ is preeminent, not them. Live for His glory. Do it heartily, not grudgingly. Know why it is important and work hard to get it done. Whatever you do, redeem the time for the days are evil. Work should be work as unto the Lord, recreation should be recreation unto the Lord, and rest should be rest unto the Lord.

Wherever you may be today, may the Lord use this short devotion to encourage you to press on. May it remind you that this world is fleeting and our time is short. May it remind you to make sure this day is dedicated to your Savior, for tomorrow is promised to no one. Most importantly remember that He is with you and will give you the strength you need to fulfill the ministry.

D. Eaton

Strive Against Spiritual Sluggishness

And while [Lot] lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. Gen. 19:16

Here we find Lot in the final moments before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The warnings had been clear, and Lot had not doubted the truthfulness of those threatenings. Yet in the final moments before the destruction, as Lot is told to escape with his life, he lingers as if unable to move. Calvin says this regarding Lot’s lingering, “His tardiness is truly wonderful, since, though he was certainly persuaded that the angels did not threaten in vain, he could yet be moved by no force of words until he is dragged by their hands out of the city.”

What caused him to linger? Matthew Poole estimates that“He lingered, either through lothness to part with all his estate, or to lose his sons-in-law; or through astonishment and distraction of mind, which made him both listless and impotent.” Whatever it was, Lot was powerless to move on his own, and this seems to be the experience of us all from time to time when the Lord, through his Word, has told us to move. Whether it is a sin with which we hate to part, or God’s leading in a new direction, many times we are sluggish.

God has told us to press on in His word, to be conformed to his image, and to do all He has commanded us. The thunderous warnings of the destruction of everything contrary have rung in our ears as He has told us to flee the wrath to come. Along with the thundering of destruction that pushes us from behind, we have the beauty of Christ before us, compelling us to come, yet so often we sit lifelessly.

As Matthew Henry so aptly put it, “Thus many that are under some convictions about the misery of their spiritual state, and the necessity of a change, yet defer that needful work, and foolishly linger.” But praise God Lot’s story does not end there, and neither does ours, for God was merciful to him as the angels grabbed him by the hand and brought him out of the city to safety.

Are there areas in your life which hinder your growth in the things of the Lord? Do you know the Lord has called you to remedy a certain aspect of your life, yet you sit idle, making no progress in spiritual things? If so, be prepared, for if you are a true child of God who is unmoved even though you have heard His word, He will use other means to get you to move. Whatever inordinate loves keep you motionless may be forcefully removed, forcing you to make steps onward in your journey to the Celestial City. Calvin makes the point clear when he says,

“For so it is often necessary for us to be forcibly drawn away from scenes which we do not willingly leave. If riches, or honors, or any other things of that kind, prove an obstacle to anyone, to render him less free and disengaged from the service of God, when it happens that he is abridged of his fortune, or reduced to a lower rank, let him know that the Lord has laid hold of his hand; because words and exhortations had not sufficiently profited him.”

Let us never forget that even the more forceful means the Lord uses to speed us along to conform to the image of Christ is done in mercy, for it would have been no injustice had He left us in our impotent state to partake in the destruction that we refused to flee. Has the Lord been calling you to surrender some sin? Has he been prompting you by His Holy Spirit to live a life in greater service to Him than the worldly pleasure you now serve? Or is he simply calling you to spend more time in the prayerful study of His Word, which is so often neglected? Whatever it may be, we all have enough sluggishness in us that we should, with all earnestness, strive against it. And may the words of this devotion be the means God uses to move us on, for if mere words are not enough, in His mercy, He will lay his hands on His child.

D. Eaton

Longing for Home

For Your salvation I wait, O LORD. Gen. 49:18

In our text we see Jacob, who is coming to the end of his life, prophesying over his sons; the twelve tribes of Israel. As we read the text, we can see him propped up in bed weak from age, blessing his sons with perfect accuracy as to what God had planned for them. As he finished blessing Dan and was ready to bless Gad, we see a man weary of his travels in this world show his true desire, which was to end his waiting and be with his Lord.

Salvation had been his since God established a covenant with him. After that, there was never any doubt that Jacob had salvation, or that the promise would be fulfilled, but being saved in the land of our sojourn is not the same as reaching the land of promise. No peace on this earth, though it is wonderful at times, will ever compare to having our destination reached and our salvation complete.

Let us learn from Jacob, who at this point in his life was living comfortably in the land of Goshen. Jacob and his family had all they needed as they lived in Egypt’s finest land. This time of peace would have been a needed retirement for a man who, by God’s sovereign decree, had been through many rough waters, but even though he is in a pleasant land, we find his desire is to go home.

Waiting is never easy, even in our lands of Goshen, but God has promised to satisfy our desire. He has promised to complete the work He has started in us, but it is all in His time. What we do not want to do is become so comfortable that we forget we are waiting for something better, or to become so overwhelmed by affliction that we cannot see the Celestial City waiting at the other end of the dark valley.

Though some may have all the comforts of this world, and others may be in times of affliction, together we wait for this one desire to be fulfilled. Let us, in the middle of our God-given work, speak our deepest desire. Let us, whether we are in the land of famine or the land of plenty, make our longing to be with our Father known.

The world in all its pleasure,
Nor pain in all its measure,
Will change my one desire,
His salvation to acquire.

D. Eaton

Christ Jesus is the One


The following is a guest post from Pastor Jeff Saltzmann of Bethel Grace Baptist Church in Bellflower, California.

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. -Romans 8:33-34 (ESV)

This Easter, Bethel Grace Baptist Church celebrated the truth that Jesus Christ saves sinners. Furthermore, He is uniquely qualified, and more than competent, to defend their case against satanic opposition (Rev. 12:10).  Jesus is the one who died, who was raised, and who was exalted to His Father’s right hand in Messianic glory. Christ saves, preserves, and defends his people on the basis of His crucifixion, resurrection, and coronation.

To close the sermon, I posed five questions hoping to drive home the point that we are secure in Christ. Each question has the same glorious answer.  I pray these five questions, by drawing attention to the one recurring answer, will fortify and encourage every believing heart.

  1. When you’re on Satan’s hit list, and that time of spiritual warfare is at hand, who is the one that can be your sure defense? Christ Jesus is the One.
  1. When you’re walking through the shadowed valley, and the storm clouds of the curse gather and life becomes dim, and you feel the heaviness of it all, and unseen spiritual enemies perceive your weakened state and unite to do you harm, who is the one at your side, who can guide you with His staff and protect you with His rod? Christ Jesus is the One.
  1. When that hour of temptation comes when sin entices you, and your flesh wants to give in, who is the one who can provide for you a clear way of escape, giving you the clarity and the perspective that you need to say, “No” to sin and stay on the path of obedience and blessing? Christ Jesus is the One.
  1. When you let your sin get the best of you, and you stumble into transgression, and you, as a Christian, do what your soul hates, and you are discouraged and downtrodden asking yourself “Why have I done that again?” When you despise yourself under this oppression of sin, who is the one who loves you still, who will scatter your accusers, who will lift you back up to your feet, and hold on to you, and prop you up, and see you through, and restore you to that path of blessing and holiness and joy in the Lord? Christ Jesus is the One.
  1. When the time comes, and your body expires, and your soul departs, and you go before the awesome throne of the Living God and find your soul quaking before the majesty and the glory and the immensity of appearing before the pristine purity of God Almighty, who is the one who can present you faultless, sinless, perfect, and righteous in the midst of the sound of mighty shouts of joy? Christ Jesus is the One!

-Pastor Jeff Saltzmann, Bethel Grace Baptist Church

To listen to Pastor Jeff’s powerful full sermon, click the following link and be blessed. Christ Jesus is the One!