The Encourager

The Encourager

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Triumph over Opposition

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Triumph over Opposition

by Jeff Curtis

 

     The confident faith of God’s people often leads them to triumph over worldly opposition. After all of the conflict with the Philistines over wells, Isaac returned to Beersheba, where the earlier Abimelech and Phicol came looking for a non-aggressive treaty with his father Abraham, because they realized God was with him (Genesis 21:22-32). At this point, because the Lord appeared to Isaac to offer confidence that He was with him and would bless and multiply his descendants for the sake of His servant Abraham (Genesis 26:24). Out of gratitude for this divine reassurance, Isaac built an altar and worshiped the Lord.

     Not long after this theophany, Isaac was approached by Abimelech and his men, who wanted to make a treaty with him. The arrival of the Philistines surprise Isaac because he thought that they hated him and had intentionally driven him away to the fringes of their territory (Genesis 26:27). In truth, they had decided Isaac was growing so strong that he posed a real threat to them. They pretended ignorance of any wrongdoing and replied, “We see plainly that the Lord has been with you” (Genesis 26:28). This last statement indicated that the Philistines realized Isaac’s prosperity and strength were due to the God’s blessing him in spite of all that they could do to hinder him. Therefore, they wanted a sworn oath and a mutual nonaggression treaty (covenant), so they could live in peace with this foreigner and his people (Genesis 26:28-29). With the Philistines’ desire expressed, Isaac was obviously relieved. He shared a feast with them, and it concluded with an exchange of covenant oaths. Then the Philistines left and returned to Gerar (Genesis 26:30-31).

     Some might criticize Isaac’s behavior as cowardly with regard to the Philistines, since he didn’t stand up for his rights. Several times, they stopped up his wells or seized wells that his men had recently dug. The natural response might have been to strike back at these Philistines. However, Isaac didn’t retaliate; rather, he turned the other cheek, as was much as was taught by Jesus in Matthew 5:39. By not paying back evil for evil, he actually overcame evil with good (Romans 12:17-21). The wise man affirmed that there is “a time for war and time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:8). Isaac proved that this was definitely not the time for war; his peaceful actions resulted in a treaty that guaranteed him, his people, and his animals the right to the wells and pasture without the Philistines interfering. The Lord blessed them so they could maintain a peaceful existence in the land of Canaan. Because Isaac sought peace, his ways were “pleasing to the Lord,” (Proverbs 16:7). In this way, Isaac’s response to his antagonists was a precursor to the teachings of Jesus and Paul.

 

 

Forgive Without Limits

by Joe R. Price

21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21–22, NKJV)

Repeatedly forgiving one who has sinned against us is not easy. It requires faith to do as Jesus said (limitless forgiveness). He went on to describe God’s forgiveness is driven by compassion, not withheld due to wearisome repetition. Such unceasing forgiveness means our hearts must be filled with the love, mercy, and longsuffering of God. It requires a generous, sympathetic heart toward the sinner and the struggles against sin to repeatedly forgive when wronged. Oh, the magnitude of God’s repeated forgiveness of us and our sins against Him! As God forgives us, we are to forgive others (Matt. 6:12, 14-15; 18:32-35). The numbers Peter proposed were literal. He thought seven was a perfectly generous amount of times to forgive repeat offenders. Jesus used numbers figuratively (“seventy times seven” does not make the four hundred ninety-first sin beyond our need to forgive). In another place Jesus said, “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Luke 17:4). Ready, willing, abundant forgiveness is our task of faith when sinned against. We want and need God’s unending compassion and forgiveness (Matt. 18:23-27). Let us not withhold the same from those who sin against us (Matt. 18:28-35).

The Power of the Gospel

Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Power of the Gospel

By Jeff Curtis

 

     Rome at one time was power-mad, and so is today’s world. We want to be stronger, go faster, and build bigger – but even after almost two thousand years, there is no power comparable to the gospel. The story of the cross is still “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1Corinthians 1:24). James Meadows referred to it as “God’s dynamite to blast sin, tradition, paganism, and helplessness out of men’s hearts.”

 

     The gospel is not only God’s power of forgiveness; it is also God’s constraining power. Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth (on the cross), will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32). The gospel is also God’s remaking power. Multiplied thousands of lives have been changed as men and women have responded to the story of God’s love. Paul stated in 2Corinthians 5:17; “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” The story is told of a man whose life was so altered that one of his employees remarked, “He is not the same man! It’s the same skin, but there’s a new man inside!”

 

     The gospel is so important that we don’t dare “neglect it, ignore it, change it, pervert it, …or refuse to hear it.” Above all, those of us who are Christians dare not “fail to preach it.” It is still God’s power – His only power – to salvation. Today, some are preoccupied with finding new ways “to attract people to church.” Coy Roper stated, “Whatever attracts people to the church, no one will be saved until and unless we preach the gospel and obey it.” The Gospel is still God’s remedy for sin-sick people. If we don’t share it with everyone we know, they will be lost.

 

     Is it possible that, unlike Paul, we are ashamed of the gospel? Most of us would never admit to being ashamed of the gospel, but are we ashamed embarrassed to tell our friends about our faith in Jesus? Are we afraid to try to teach them because we may lose them as friends? In the Contemporary English Bible, Romans 1:16 reads like this; “I am proud of the good news! It is God’s powerful way of saving all people who have faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.” I pray that God will always help us to be proud of the good news – and to act like it.

 

 

Mary Has Chosen the Good Part

by Heath Rogers

“But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:41-42, NASU).

Martha was enjoying a great blessing. The Lord was in her home. He was using it as an opportunity to teach. Her sister Mary was sitting at the Lord’s feet, listening closely to every word spoken by the Lord. Martha was distracted with the responsibilities of being a good hostess. She had invited the Lord into her house, but she felt like she could use some help. Her frustration got the best of her, and she interrupted the Lord’s teaching and asked Him to tell Mary to help her.

Our Lord’s response indicates that Martha and Mary had made two different choices. Martha had chosen to continue serving her guests, while Mary had “chosen the good part” - to sit and listen to Jesus.

Martha’s choice had caused her to become overwhelmed, worried, troubled, and bothered. Mary’s choice was giving her a blessing that would never be taken from her.

Sometimes troubles come from external sources. We can’t help but become distracted by emergencies. However, if we are honest, we are often like Martha in that we bring troubles upon ourselves. We don’t have to overcommit ourselves and take on more responsibilities than we can handle. We don’t have to involve ourselves in every controversy that crosses our path. We don’t have to look for things to take us away from sitting at the Lord’s feet. More often than not, we are worried and bothered because we choose to be worried and bothered.

Instead, let’s choose to keep our attention fixed on the Lord. This will not make our troubles disappear, but it will keep us from being burdened with unnecessary worries.

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