“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised).” (Hebrews 10:23, KJV)
“Hold fast” is not a phrase we often use in this culture. But in the original Greek, hold fast means not only to embrace, but to embrace with force as if someone is trying to take something from you. In other words, you’ve got to have a firm grip or you’re going to lose out! And notice what we are supposed to hold fast to—our profession, our declaration of faith.
I like to think of it sort of like a tug of war. You’re on one end and the enemy is on the other. He’s trying to pull that rope out of your hand. He’s trying to steal your hope and get you to speak negative words of doubt and unbelief. But you’ve got to be determined and stand strong. You’ve got to persevere and hold fast. Don’t let the enemy pull the seed of faith out of your heart! You might need to dig your heels in and get a new grip, but don’t you dare let go! Keep speaking words of faith. Keep speaking words of hope. Keep declaring God’s Word and keep holding fast to the profession of your faith!
“Father, today I choose to hold fast to my profession of faith in You. I know that You are faithful, and I believe that You will complete everything that You’ve started in my life. I bless You and magnify You above all else, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Joel & Victoria Osteen
“But the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9:3)
When Adam and Eve sinned, pain and death entered the world. Some people suffer serious illness or injury, but others grow old with hardly any suffering. When a chronic ailment causes pain for many years, a person often wonders why. Is it judgment from God? Does God punish us for past sins even after we repent? Is the suffering due to sins of past generations?
In today’s reading Jesus said that the man was blind not because someone had sinned, but that the works of God should be manifest in him. Paul prayed three times to have the thorn in his flesh removed. The Lord answered, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness”; and Paul responded, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). It is encouraging to see the sick remain faithful and continue bringing glory to Jesus’ name.
Sins such as smoking, drinking, and drug abuse can cause suffering for the sinner and even his children. Galatians 6:7 says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” But even if we are suffering because of sin, forgiveness and help are available through Jesus. We will be an especially bright light if we have faith that inspires us to glorify God in spite of our suffering.
Revelation 21:4 says, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.” If we glorify God in a suffering earthly body, we will receive a perfect heavenly body someday and will continue to glorify God forever.
By Harold Zimmerman
God’s love does not remove all suffering,
but it does give strength to carry us through suffering.
Today’s Scripture – 3-21-18
“Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered…” (Psalm 68:1, NKJV)
Let God Arise
Let me ask you today, what are you letting arise in your life? In other words, what are you focusing your words, energy and thoughts on? You might say, “Oh, Joel, it’s just so hard right now. My health doesn’t look good.” “Somebody walked out on me.” No, you’re focusing on the wrong things. Why don’t you turn that around and say, “God is still in control. I may be hurting right now, but I know God is the restorer of my soul.” “I know God is my provider. He is supplying all of my needs.”
When you start giving God glory and letting Him arise in your life, you can’t stay defeated. Your enemies will be scattered! They’ll tremble at your words of faith. Begin right now by declaring God’s goodness in your life and let Him arise so that you can move forward in the victory He has for you.
A Prayer for Today
“Father, I repent right now for allowing any negative, self-defeating thoughts or attitudes rise up in my life. You alone are my God, and I put my trust in You. I bless You today and always and choose to look for the good things You have for me, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
By Joel & Victoria Osteen
“Call on Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall honor and glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:15, AMPC)
He Will Deliver You
Are you facing trouble in any area of your life today? God is standing ready to deliver you. He promises in His Word that He is near to all those who call upon His name. No matter what you may be going through, have confidence knowing that God is working behind the scenes on your behalf. He promises to deliver you!
Notice that today’s verse tells us that our part is to honor and glorify Him. In other words, you don’t have to wait until everything is perfect to give Him praise. You can give Him honor and glory right now. You can thank Him for all He’s done in your life so far and what He will do in your future.
Call on Him today and focus on having an attitude of faith and expectancy. Speak His Word and declare His promises over your life. Trust in Him because He will take you places you’ve never dreamed. As you praise Him, He’ll deliver you and take you higher and higher into the good life He has prepared for you!
A Prayer for Today
“Father, today I call upon Your name. I call upon You as my Salvation and my Deliverer. I trust that You are working on my behalf and choose to give You the glory, honor and praise, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
By Joel & Victoria Osteen
Encouragement from James L. Marcum M.D. of Biblical Prescriptions For Life
“Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless…” (Isaiah 58:7)
Many texts in the Bible focus on feeding those who are hungry and meeting needs.
Romans 12:20, for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.
The Bible admonishes each one of us to help relieve suffering. When we meet the needs of others we often can see first-hand how this helps the recipient. How does this benefit the one who gives?
I could not find a study specifically looking at giving on the physiologic changes of those who met needs by giving food. There were studies on giving in general.
A 2013 review evaluating 40 international studies showed that those who gave to others had a reduction in mortality as much as 22 percent. The Psychology of Aging studied those who gave over 200 hours of service a year. Those who gave had lower blood pressures. This study speculated that giving decreases stress physiology. In 2006, Jorge Moll at the NIH showed that giving activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, altruism, and trust.
Other studies have implicated service in helping to increase happiness. Service may be used for the treatment of chronic pain.
We need more studies on this type of physiologic intervention. It only makes sense to me that everything we do has some type of physiologic consequence.
I was recently in Houston attending a conference. My friends, Nelson and Colin Campbell are initiating a plan to feed the hungry especially those in the inner city and in the food deserts of the world. They want to relieve suffering. They not only want to feed the hungry by offering food, but they want to offer plant-based nutrition. This inspired me.
Remember the saying, “better to give than receive.” The physiology of giving and relieving suffering has yet to be determined. The Bible calls us to this task. I can only imagine the short and long-term health benefits.
In addition to meeting physical needs, it is important to present the true source of healing, Christ. This is a need as well. We all have bad genes and need a Savior to relieve our pain. Spreading the gospel by the platform given to us will relieve suffering as well as improve health.
When we give, we receive. When we give, we love. Serving others and meeting needs is a BPFL.
James L. Marcum, M.D. FACC, Author, Biblical Prescriptions for Life
The Most Important Passage In The Whole Of Scripture – Michael J. Kruger – 3-20-18
I have been teaching a weekly Bible study on the book of Romans to women in the Charlotte community. For the last several months, we have been plodding our way through the first three chapters as Paul has laid out his case that all mankind—Jew and Gentile—are sinful and rightly under the judgment of God. Paul finishes this section of his letter with this monumental statement: “For by works of the Law no human being will be justified in his sight” (Rom 3:20).
You can almost hear the gavel fall with a boom.
Thankfully, Paul does not end his letter here. This morning, in the last installment of the women’s study for the Fall term (we will resume in the new year), we will move onto to 3:21 and following. There Paul utters two of the most beautiful words in all of Scripture, “But now….” These two little words provide a great sigh of relief for any sin-wracked soul wondering about his fate.
“But now” tells us that something has been done to solve the problem of our sins.
What is it that solves the problem of our sins? “A righteousness of (from) God has been manifested apart from the law… through faith in Jesus Christ” (3:21–22). Luther referred to these verses as “the center of the whole Bible.” Martin Lloyd Jones called it “the most important and crucial passage in the whole of Scripture.” Leon Morris said it is “possibly the most important single paragraph ever written.”
This passage is the basis for the great Reformation doctrine of sola fide—the idea that we are saved by faith alone and not by the works of the law.
But Paul makes a critical clarification here. He makes it clear that the righteous status we so desperately need comes through faith (v.22), but it is not the faith itself that is the grounds of our justification. The grounds of our justification—the reason God can declare us sinners to be righteous—is because of the righteousness of Christ given to us. He can regard us as righteous because a righteous status has been granted to us.
Thus, faith is merely the instrument or the means by which that righteous status is attained.
This is a critical reminder for Christians today. Whenever our world discusses religion, they will praise the merits of “faith” and laud people who possess it (think Oprah Winfrey). But notice the world never praises the merits of the object of that faith. It doesn’t matter what you believe in (after all, all religions are the same), what matters is that you are sincerely committed.
For our world, then, faith is its own object.
Contrast that to what Paul is saying in Rom 3:21–22. Paul is saying that you are not saved because of faith (as if it were meritorious in itself), but you are saved through and by faith in Christ. The object of the faith is what is definitive.
So, the Reformed doctrine of sola fide does not mean what the world might think it means. For the world, it simply means that all you need is faith. For the Reformers, it meant faith is the sole instrument by which you acquire a righteous status in Christ (and thus not by works).
For those who doubt their faith and find their faith to be weak, this is a great encouragement. Our hope is not in how strong our faith is, but in how strong and righteous our Savior is.
“…We went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” (Psalm 66:12, NIV)
A Place of Abundance
Everyone has times in life when they feel like they are going through the fire, or perhaps, feel overwhelmed with everyday life. If that’s you today, understand that God is going to bring you through those challenges; He’s going to bring you through the fire and the flood into a place of abundance. We serve a God of more than enough, and His heart is to always make sure you have whatever you need to be successful in every area of your life. The Bible says that Jesus came so that we can have life—abundant life! He wants you to have an abundance of resources, an abundance of wisdom, an abundance of peace—everything you need. Open your heart and thank Him for His goodness. Begin to receive His promises by faith. Remember, your praise opens the door for Him to move on your behalf, and He wants to take you to a place of abundance in every area of your life!
A Prayer for Today
“Father, I humbly come to You today, giving You all that I am. Thank You for leading and guiding me into a place of abundance. I give You all the glory and praise, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
By Joel & Victoria Osteen
This was a wonderful day. I celebrated my 75th birthday, and 8 years and 1 week of sobriety. Thank you God!
GOD’S GOOD NEWS
The sanctuary of a church is a big place to a small child. Imagine what it must feel like to be surrounded by silence in such a serious place – the place where grown-ups go. Children can learn to worship God in their own special way and learn about Him as they hear the prayers and songs. It may not seem as if they are listening, and they may not be able to sit quietly the whole time, but they will hear and learn about God. Do you remember what it was like to worship as a child? A child hears with innocent enthusiasm. God is big and wonderful! Take a new look at your house of worship this week; see it through eyes of a child and rejoice in God’s Good News!
Find a worship service at https://chattanoogaareachurches.com/worship-services/
Happy St. Patrick’s Day
May there always be work for your hands to do.
May your purse always hold a coin or two.
May the sun always shine on your windowpane.
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near you.
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.
“For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.” (2 Corinthians 9:10, NLT)
When Jesus sent His disciples out to heal the sick, meet their needs, and share the Gospel, He told them, “Give as freely as you have received” (Matthew 10:8). In other’s words, God has given you everything you need to do what He’s called you to do in this life. He has equipped you to be successful and has empowered you to overcome in this life. He’s given you seed to sow in order to have an abundant harvest in your future. You have what it takes!
God has placed seed in your hand today, but in order for that seed to produce, it has to be planted. It has to be watered. It has to be fertilized. Today, ask God to show you where to plant your seed. Make sure you are sowing in the right ground and tending to the seed He has given you. Remember, God has a good plan for your future. He has plans to bless you and increase you. Today, you have what it takes to move forward and receive the blessing He has prepared for you!
“Father, thank You for equipping me for every good work. Thank You for giving me good seed to sow! I invite You to guide my every step by Your Holy Spirit. Thank You for choosing me to be a part of Your plan, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
By Joel & Victoria Osteen
Q: I’ve heard that the Bible tells us to be thankful about everything that happens to us, but how can I have a thankful attitude when everything seems to be going wrong?
A: The Bible does urge us to be thankful, even when life isn’t going the way we wish it would. This doesn’t mean we’re supposed to shut our eyes to things that are evil or bad and pretend that they’re really good — because they aren’t. Evil is real, and sometimes our lives are invaded by terrible things that we don’t fully understand. Nowhere does the Bible command us to thank God for evil or for the works of the devil — not at all.
The key is to realize that even in hard times, God is still with us — and that should cause us to be thankful. If God weren’t with us, we’d have no reason to have hope for the future or to be thankful, but he is with us, and that makes all the difference. In fact, it’s often in hard times that we realize our need for God’s help and turn to him.
The pre-eminent Christian evangelist of the 20th century was once told in Cleveland, Tenn., according to one story, that he would not amount to much after quitting Bob Jones University.
Billy Graham, who died Wednesday at the age of 99, told the university president he was withdrawing from the then-unaccredited, evangelistic school after about six months there.
Jones, according to a later version of the evangelist’s biography, allegedly told him leaving made him a “quitter” and that he would not be successful. Another version of the story has a not-so-strident Jones telling him that with his mellifluous voice and smooth delivery he still might make something of himself.
By anyone’s standards, Graham, often termed “America’s pastor,” certainly did that.
His messages were heard by hundreds of millions of people across the globe, including 215 million during his more than 400 crusades in 185 countries that began in 1947. Indeed, he preached, according to his evangelistic organization, to more people in live audiences than anyone in history.
Among those, a Chattanooga crusade at Warner Park in 1953 was said to have drawn 300,000 people.
Graham also authored 34 books, and he and his wife, Ruth, received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award Congress can bestow on a private citizen.
The onetime North Carolina farm boy also was listed by Gallup as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men” 61 times, including for 55 consecutive years.
Graham, in addition, was a friend and adviser to presidents and had met or prayed with each one from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.
Former President George W. Bush credited a walk and talk with him at the family’s Kennebunkport, Me., home as a younger man with causing him to quit drinking and become more serious about his faith.
With piercing blue eyes, square jaw and flowing blond, then gray, then white hair, Graham had a commanding presence, a sense of humor and a speaking ability that transcended the Elmer Gantry-ism of tent revivalists and lent an aura of studied knowledge to a simple faith.
When Graham told members of the crowd at the end of his messages to “come forward” and that their “buses will wait,” they believed him and came, as the mass choir sang “Just As I Am, Without One Plea,” many later saying it was their first connection to the Christian faith.
“This is not mass evangelism,” he often said, “but personal evangelism on a mass scale.”
Graham also was accessible to many because, while Southern Baptist with a Reformed Presbyterian background, he didn’t proclaim a hard and fast denominational bent.
In fact, according to the evangelist’s historians, he preached his first sermon while attending Bob Jones University at Charleston (Tenn.) Methodist Church and his second at Antioch Baptist Church on Chattanooga Pike.
Graham also didn’t dwell on the particular red-meat concerns of the day, whether — as the country grew more secular — it was co-habitation, abortion or gay marriage. Instead, he stuck to his calling.
“I’m just going to preach the Gospel and am not going to get off on all these hot-button issues,” he said. “If I get on these other subjects, it divides the audience on an issue that is not the issue I’m promoting. I’m just promoting the Gospel.”
Opposed to segregation before the civil rights era, Graham was praised by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said his own “work in the civil rights movement would not have been as successful as it has been” without Graham.
His 1953 crusade at Warner Park, in fact, often has been cited as the first such intentionally integrated event.
“In Chattanooga, Tennessee, back in 1953, we began insisting that our meetings be purposely mixed,” Graham wrote in his syndicated newspaper column “My Answer” on Feb. 25, 1974. “I took this stand before the Supreme Court decision of 1954 and before I had ever heard the word ‘integration.’” That Supreme Court decision, Brown vs. the Board of Education, declared segregated schools unconstitutional.
According to biographers, the evangelist arrived early at the field house on March 15, 1953, to tear down the ropes that separated the white and black sections. Even when the head usher resigned after the action, he did not back down on his desire to hold an integrated campaign.
“You stay in the stadiums, Billy,” King later told him, according to a 1997 autobiography, “because you will have far more impact on the white establishment there than if you marched in the streets. Besides that, you have a constituency that will listen to you, especially among white people who may not listen so much to me.”
Graham did more than preach the grace and saving power of Jesus Christ, though. He lived it.
Though charismatic as a speaker, he was humble in person and devoted to his wife. He never got caught up in the various scandals that other evangelistic leaders found themselves in, and he was quick to cite his own faults, admitting to not being home enough for his five children when they were growing up, for not doing enough for civil rights and for being unswervingly supportive of former President Richard Nixon during his Watergate misdeeds. “I despise all this attention on me … I’m not trying to bring people to myself,” Graham said, “but I know that God has sent me out as a warrior.”
So a warrior he was, a warrior for God, a warrior who always knew his real place in Creation.
“My home is in Heaven,” Graham once said. “I’m just traveling through this world.”
Editorial by Roger Smith – 2-22-18
The words of academic elites are often overlooked by those of us busy with life. However, there are a number of recent articles from college professors who espouse political perspectives contrary to fundamental American values that should concern all of us.
The first was a recent article in The Wall Street Journal by Harvard psychology professor Steve Pinker. In “The Enlightenment Is Working,” Pinker presents some compelling figures to support his thesis that modern civilization has progressed through science and reason to offer us a world even royalty could not have dreamed of several generations ago. Not only do we have incredible smart phones and comfortably heated and cooled homes, but life spans, infant mortality, the environment, education, freedom, equality and peace are at previously unimaginable levels. Great stuff. Who could disagree?
But he didn’t stop there. People are healthier and happier, Pinker relates, because modern, enlightened world leaders rely on science and reason and courageously discard the shackles of a “father in the sky” (religion) that held humans back for centuries. Pinker severely chastises President Donald Trump for leading the march toward enlightenment backward by praising American exceptionalism and refusing to bow at the altar of liberal global governance.
Never mind that fascist and communist governments guided solely by science and reason killed 26 million people during World War II. Both were outgrowths of enlightened secular societies. Never mind that secular minds gave us weapons of mass destruction, video games that desensitize our youth to the horrors of killing fellow humans, and abortion on demand that snuffs out the lives of millions of the most innocent and unprotected in our nation every year. Science and reason, unchecked by morality and faith, can be every bit as dangerous as they are a blessing.
Next is an article in this paper, “The Complex History of ‘In God We Trust” (last Sunday, page E1), by Temple University professor David Mislin. He argues that the words “In God We Trust” are not reflective of traditional American values.
Mislin quotes President Trump speaking at the recent National Prayer Breakfast: “Our rights are not given to us by man” but “come from our Creator.” Then, Mislin points out that such remarks were previously rejected by Americans. He says Trump is out of touch with American history. He and the GOP are simply embracing a “particular political, economic, and religious perspective” as previous politicians did by placing “In God We Trust” on our money.
Really? How about the Magna Carta, that foundational document of Western culture that states that kings, like all men, are equally answerable to God? Or, consider our Declaration of Independence: All men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Such words clearly imply the existence of a Creator, and one that cares deeply about his creation.
Thomas Jefferson understood the American sentiment and put it into words in our founding document. In fact, he clarified his position later, asking the rhetorical question, “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure, when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of people that their liberties are the gift of God?” Jefferson recognized the relationship between our freedom and our faith in God.
Likewise, our Founding Fathers acknowledged that without faith in a higher power, mankind has no moral compass, and without a moral compass, people become their own little gods, determining good and evil by their own standards. By contrast, “post-modern” educators like Pinker and Mislin espouse the opposite: Men, not God, are the highest authority. In their view, men like Trump (and our Founding Fathers) simply use God as a pretext to advance a political or economic agenda. Perhaps, they would replace “In God We Trust” with “In Government We Trust,” “In Hollywood We Trust,” or even worse, “In Liberal College Professors We Trust.”
Roger Smith, a frequent contributor to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, is the author of “American Spirit: A Story of American Individualism.”
By Billy Graham – His Final Column – Tribune News Service (TNS)
Editor’s note: For more than 60 years, the Rev. Billy Graham wrote a regular column that has appeared in newspapers across the country. The following column, Graham’s last, was written shortly before his death.
Q: Mr. Graham, how would you like to be remembered? — D.F.
A: I hope I will be remembered as someone who was faithful — faithful to God, faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and faithful to the calling God gave me not only as an evangelist, but as a husband, father and friend.
I’m sure I’ve failed in many ways, but I take comfort in Christ’s promise of forgiveness, and I take comfort also in God’s ability to take even our most imperfect efforts and use them for His glory.
By the time you read this, I will be in heaven, and as I write this I’m looking forward with great anticipation to the day when I will be in God’s presence forever.
I’m convinced that heaven is far more glorious than anything we can possibly imagine right now, and I look forward not only to its wonder and peace, but also to the joy of being reunited with those who have gone there before me, especially my dear wife, Ruth. The Bible says, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
But I won’t be in heaven because I’ve preached to large crowds or because I’ve tried to live a good life. I’ll be in heaven for one reason: Many years ago I put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to make our forgiveness possible and rose again from the dead to give us eternal life. Do you know you will go to heaven when you die? You can, by committing your life to Jesus Christ today.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).