Thursday, March 27, 2014

Seeing our Neediness and God's Full Supply in the Gospel ~ Part 2 ~ by Lydia

Secondly, one might wonder - why do we need the gospel? What are the reasons the gospel is just plain necessary for everyday life? There are at least three reasons why.

First, we are forgetful! With all the cares, questions, and quandaries on our minds, we often fail to keep Christ at the forefront of our focus. Even the normal, everyday things we’re busy with can crowd out this much-needed message. We know the gospel, but we forget it easily. After all, the minute we close our Bibles in the morning, a barrage of needs, problems, and things-to-do rushes at us! This is why we desperately NEED to keep refreshing our minds with the gospel. 

How can we help our minds not to forget? I try to think to myself, “Keep the gospel at arms-length.” (Picturing things can often be beneficial!) So I purpose to (figuratively) keep the gospel close by that I might dwell on it during mental “down-time” and have it ready for expected and unexpected encounters! After all, Ephesians 6 compares God’s word to a sword. And where is a sword kept? At our side!

Sadly, I very often fail to keep my mind on Christ and the gospel. But my goal is to grow better at this, by God’s grace! Hebrews 2:1 warns us that “we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.”

Next, we need the gospel to help us fight our battles with sin and self. This goes along with what we just said about keeping the gospel (a sword) close by, as well as what was previously said about the gospel’s necessity for sanctification. Without the gospel, our battles with sin become perfectly powerless. We might try repeatedly to fight sin on our own, and this will be discouraging, because we continue to fail. However, once we realize that Christ has already fought the battle and His death freed us from the enemy, there can be victory over sin.

A final reason that we, as Christians, need the gospel is because of the lies that Satan bombards us with. Everyday actions such as going to school, browsing the internet, reading a book or magazine, listening to music, or just being out and about can expose us the worldly messages and lies from the devil. Now, this doesn’t mean we’re supposed to stay holed up in our bedrooms with only our Bible and a teddy bear! On the contrary, we are called to be bright lights in the world whether we are at home, school, work, or any other place God has us.  We are supposed to engage our culture with the good news. But we do need to be discerning and wise, because there are an abundance of subtle lies that have infiltrated our culture. The media, for instance, propagates many ideas and thoughts that are poisonous to the Christian. We must “consider carefully what is before us” before we partake of what the world has to offer. It takes a firm stance on the word of God to keep us from being swayed in our faith.

So, three reasons we need the gospel are: because of our own forgetfulness, because of the ongoing battle with sin, and because of the constant lies of the devil.
Finally, why do we need the gospel? What is it about the specific gospel message that is so necessary to remember?

The Bible contains a great of information that is helpful, including historical narratives, wisdom literature, poetry, and laws. Since God inspired all of scripture, it is indeed important to be immersed in every part of it, not just a few sections. But the gospel itself (that Jesus Christ came to earth to save sinners, creating a way for us to be right with God apart from any effort on our own) ought to be our main lens through which we read and apply scripture.  The gospel is the “big picture” that helps to illuminate the rest of the God’s word. It puts all the animal sacrifices, ceremonial laws, historical accounts, and everything else into proper perspective.
So, what is this gospel that changes everything? What is this vital message everyone on earth needs to hear? Each of us needs to have a Biblical understanding of the gospel. And the more we read the Bible, the more we learn about God’s incredible plan of salvation and how we can continue to grow in godliness.

The scriptures tell us that, on one side of the picture, we are hopelessly lost and
unable on our own to come to Christ. Spiritually dead, we are slaves to our sin until the moment God shines His light upon our hearts. Although we might seem like nice girls on the outside, God who has fashioned our very hearts knows what is on the inside. Every sin is laid bare before His eyes. This is very sobering because God does not take sin lightly. With sinking realization, we begin to grasp the severity of sin as we consider the fact that God Himself had to transform Himself into a man and die a cruel death solely on account of our sins! Since God took such extreme measures to redeem us, how great must our sinful plight be! How vital it must be have our sins forgiven!

On the other side of the picture, the Bible says, “When we were still without

strength in due time Christ died for the ungodly…” He “demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6,8) Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we are vindicated from the just punishment we deserved from God. Jesus took our place. When we place all our hope and trust in Jesus, He not only saves us from slavery to sin, but makes us alive from the dead and gives us eternal life. One of my favorite gospel verses is 1 Peter 2:24, because it not only describes the incredible sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf, but it tells us how His death and resurrection enables me to live. It states that Jesus “bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed.”
We, as Christians, need the gospel because it is the lens through which we can understand and apply God’s word. We need the gospel because it’s the only thing that can show us our sin and save us!

This message is not merely for Easter, or Christmas, or Sunday, or only for the “good days.” If it did only have significance on those days it wouldn’t be the powerful gospel that it truly is. No – the gospel of Jesus Christ brings to bear its earth-shattering, life-giving message on the darkest of days, and to the neediest of people. When we fully realize our need for the gospel, we run to it in earnest, knowing that it alone can refresh us with vision, hope, and perseverance to the end.
Can we trust in the power of the gospel? Can we turn to it in times of soul-ache and downheartedness, and hold onto its message in faith? As great as our need is, so Christ and His gospel is all the more precious to us. When life around us seems dreary and colorless, may our hearts seek to be satisfied in Him alone.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Jesus Is My One True Constant ~ by Amy Vest

There is a reality that has been so profoundly real and sweet to me this week:

Jesus is our one true constant.

Nothing and no one else in this life is certain:
~ People are precious, but they fail us.
~ Circumstances can change in the blink of an eye.
~ Health can take a turn for the worse.
~ We make mistakes.       
Many of these things have taken place this week.  Yes, some of them very painful, but good in that they have driven me deeply to Jesus - knitting my heart to Him as my unchanging One.

I have seen once again, that anything that drives me to Jesus is a blessing.

“...we know that for those who love God all things work together for good...”  Romans 8:28

Tonight after I said goodbye to one of my best friends who will be moving across the country, I went to my room and knelt before Jesus.  Tears streamed down my face, and in the stillness of His presence that reality was so preciously sweet - so many things can and will happen in life, but one thing is sure - my Jesus is always the same.

I rest in and treasure these promises:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  Hebrews 13:8
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Hebrews 13:5
“I am with you always.”  Matthew 28:20

When Jesus is your rock, you can be secure and satisfied no matter what life brings.
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Psalm 73:26

Tonight as I go to sleep, my heart is secure.

Tomorrow is going to be good - because my rock, hope, and source will be the same tomorrow.

Jesus is my one true constant.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A BRAND NEW Loving the Lord Ministries website!

Announcing the launch of the BRAND NEW Loving the Lord Ministries website!

We are praising the Lord and are so excited for this new gathering place to seek and love Jesus together - including videos, articles, and more!

Please visit us, come back often, and invite your friends to join us -!

Seeing our Neediness and God's Full Supply in the Gospel ~ Part 1 ~ by Lydia

Outside my window, I see only a pallid sky and a wintry landscape made up of brownish-gray and white. It is a bleak sight – dismal, devoid of color, and slightly depressing. Something about it seems to mirror the insides of my soul at this time.
I wanted to sit down one cheery day, in high spirits and with a good grasp on life and everything else, and pen an elegant article on the gospel and its importance in our everyday lives. 

But that day hasn’t come. Maybe that’s a good thing. Don’t we sometimes appreciate the life-giving message of the gospel more when things aren’t going that great? Doesn’t the gospel sparkle just a bit more brightly when we come to grips with our utter inability to please God on our own?

Like the dreary wintry day outside, there are times when I’m discouraged, and worn-down, and zeal-less. Days when every path seems only to lead to a disappointing dead end.  I don’t always have a great “grasp” on life, either. In fact, these days I’m silently pleading with God to give direction and meaning to a life that sometimes seems to lack vision. I know, too, that I’m far from the only one who experiences a disquieted soul at times.

Not a very good time to write about the gospel, is it?

Then again, if the gospel doesn’t apply on our dullest, down-est days, when does it? When should its message be proclaimed – only on the bright, colorful days when there is peace and joy flooding my heart?

It would be strange to think that the marvelous, unparalleled message of Jesus Christ dying in my place, bearing all my sin, in order that I might be imputed with perfect righteousness and be right with God – only works or has impact on the days that I really feel like I need it.

The truth is, I need it all the time. And especially – especially – on days like today. 
I wonder if God allows us to pass through bleak wintry countrysides in our lives to show us that the gospel is what will keep us alive. It is our water and our bread and our very strength. 
It would do us well to ponder the significance of Christ’s gospel, contrasted with our own neediness. So, as I’m writing to myself as well as you, let us consider three separate emphases of a particular question:

Why do we (as Christians) need the gospel?
First, why do we need the gospel? In other words, if we’ve already been saved through trusting Christ alone to save us, repenting of our sins, and yielding our life to Him, why do we as Christians still need to hear the message of Christ crucified? The reason is because the gospel is necessary not only for salvation, but also for sanctification.
Sanctification is the ongoing process of the Holy Spirit helping us to become more and more like Christ. It begins the moment we are saved, and continues till we die. The gospel gives a foundation for sanctification in that it shows us what we’ve been saved from and how we are to live in light of God’s grace. If we don’t focus on the gospel, we may start thinking that our good works are earning us favor from God, when in truth, it is work of Christ alone that gives us favor in God’s eyes.

A veering away from gospel-centered thinking may also cause us to fall into sin. We forget the incredible sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf to deliver us from bondage to sin. The famous first verses of Romans 6 state the absurdity of Christians remaining in the same sinful lifestyles: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” The following arguments for why we are to not “live any longer in it” include a comparison of Christ’s death and resurrection to our spiritual death (baptism) and resurrection (newness of life) by the power of God. This is a return to the message of the gospel. Paul uses the gospel to show us why we ought not continue in sin.

One other reason Christians need the gospel is that is continually reminds
them of their hope laid up in heaven. 1 Peter 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” Here Peter is reminding his readers of the gospel that not only saved them, but also guarantees a hope laid up for them in heaven. Because Jesus died, those who believe in Jesus can live.  

When you and I have our “down days” and feel burdened with the cares of life, the message of the gospel lifts our eyes upward. There is a glorious heavenly inheritance for those who love Jesus!

So, the answer to the question is: Christians need the gospel because it reminds them of what they were saved from, why they should be continuing in godliness, and where their hope is laid up – heaven!

...Part 2 coming soon!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

~ What Love ~

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God..."  
~ 1 John 3:1

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Heart of the Gospel ~ by Ruth

One dark midnight about a year and a half ago, in our home in a small town in Central African Republic, I woke up to find myself bleeding profusely. I had gone through a
miscarriage several weeks earlier, but something further was clearly going wrong now. There was nothing we could do to stop the bleeding. My husband rushed me into town to try to find help, but by that time I didn't have energy left to stand or even sit. So as we waited outside a gate of a French doctor, I was lying on the ground on my back, still bleeding. My hands and legs felt light.

I have often wondered how I'll feel when it comes to the moment of dying. Will I be afraid? Is it possible that at that point, the love of God will overwhelm me and all my fears and doubts will subside? It seems like in normal everyday life it's impossible to shake completely free of worries, doubts, fears. What if this happens? What about that? Many times before, I had wondered how I might feel when really faced with the end of my life on this earth.

Lying on my back under that dark sky, looking up at billions of stars, I realized that this could be it. Miles away from anywhere I could get a blood transfusion. Nobody there who actually could halt what was happening to me. Nobody, humanly speaking.

But I looked up at the stars and thought of Abraham, so long ago, looking up at the stars. About God promising him that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars he gazed at in that vast expanse. I’m one of those children. One of them, looking for a city whose builder and maker is God.

And I remembered a phrase from Psalm 23: even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. 

The French doctor in our small town couldn't do anything to help me. So we headed out to the missionary-run hospital in another town. Many words of comfort came to my mind in the hours that followed, as my husband drove me along the long, bumpy road to the hospital.

The Lord is my Shepherd.
  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish. Neither shall anyone pluck them out of my hands.

And I did not feel afraid. I even felt a strange sense of happiness coming over me as I lay in the back of the truck, looking out the window at the stars all along that road. I knew I was hearing the voice of the good Shepherd, and that I belong to Him. I was at peace. Thank you, Jesus.

So what was it that could give me such deep peace, even joy, at a time when I was facing the possibility of death? That secret lies in the truth of the Gospel. Gospel literally means “good news.” And what is this good news? The entirety of the Bible weaves a story of God’s love which tells us what that “good news” is, but the heart of the Gospel’s “good news” can be summed up in this one beautiful verse:

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9)

Let’s unpack that verse a little to get at the heart of the Gospel:

For God has not destined us for wrath…” We are sinful by our human nature, and furthermore, we have chosen to disobey God’s commands and go our own way. Every one of us deserves eternal separation from God, and deserves His wrath as punishment for our sins. BUT, this wrath is not the destiny God has chosen for us!

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us…” God loved us too much to leave us to a destiny of eternal wrath. He wanted us to be with Him. But for us to be reconciled to Him, God had to make a great sacrifice. He gave Jesus to die, taking the punishment due our sin, so that we could justly receive Jesus’ perfect righteousness and stand before God unashamed. Thanks to God’s loving plan and Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, we can obtain salvation—eternal life with Him—instead of the wrath we deserve.

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.” God’s beautiful destiny for us is that we might belong to Him, and live with Him, forever—both in this earthly life and (in a far greater, richer way!) beyond the grave.

As John described it, “…to all who did receive him [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

By receiving Jesus as your Lord and Savior, yielding your life to Him, and believing on His name, we become children of God. We are His forever. I pray that today you will rest fully on Jesus’ death and life that accomplished salvation on your behalf. You can belong to Him now, and forever. That is the heart of the Gospel—good news indeed!

I am the Lord’s! O joy beyond expression,
  O sweet response to voice of love Divine;
Faith’s joyous “Yes” to the assuring whisper,
  “Fear not! I have redeemed thee; thou art Mine!”