This past week we were able to take a few days and camp at Calaveras Big Trees. As any of you know that have had the privilege of visiting this park, it is a wonderful experience. While we were there we saw the bounty of God’s creation: white headed woodpeckers, Canadian geese, and of course the beautiful trees. We saw various types of pine trees, blooming dogwood, yew cedar, and of course the enormous Sequoiadendron giganteum, better known as the giant redwood. To witness these awesome trees and not acknowledge the seeds, for they came from the mind of God, is beyond my comprehension. Their structure, longevity, and gigantic size boggle the senses. While many facts about these giants are amazing, one fact in particular captured my attention. Instead of the bark growing in a vertical direction, many of the oldest sequoias have a noticeable twisting growth pattern in their bark. Our guidebook stated that, “Trees with spiral growth are more flexible, and therefore better able to withstand wind stress and snow loading.” The twisting seems to be caused in part by strong battering winds and the trees constantly reaching for sunlight. In other words, if the tree withstands adverse conditions, it ultimately will cause the tree to be stronger.
This caused me to think of challenges, persecution, and hard times that come in the lives of Christians. These battering episodes in our lives can at times seem like more than we are able to bear. But James tells us, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) So, when trying conditions come in our lives, maybe God is using it to strengthen us and prepare us for a long life of service in His kingdom. Maybe we should take a lesson from Sequoiadendron giganteum.
The Holy Spirit is one of three everlasting personalities of the Godhead, and as such He possesses all attributes of Deity (cf. Gen. 1:2,26; 1 Cor. 2:11).
The Holy Spirit moved the approximately forty men to write the Bible, breathing out God’s Word so that each writer, though equipped with free will and distinct personality, was guided completely, word for word, in the written message of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:21).
The Holy Spirit has never directly operated upon the heart of man to bring about conversion, and thus He does not do so today (cf. Acts 2:40; 11:14).
The Holy Spirit has never overtaken an individual’s will or overrode one’s free choice, and that is true today, too (Rev. 22:17).
The Holy Spirit does not communicate Divine Revelation apart from Scripture today, as such would either be contradictory or superfluous in light of the written Word (2 Tim. 3:17; Jude 3).
The Holy Spirit provided miraculous gifts to the apostles to confirm the men and the message (Heb. 2:4). Once that message had been faithfully delivered, there was no longer a need for miraculous evidence (John 20:30-21; Jude 3).
The Holy Spirit empowered first-century Christians with miraculous gifts, but these were to pass with the completion of the written Word. Having thus the completed Word, there are no longer miraculous gifts (1 Cor. 13:8-13; Eph. 4:11-13).
The Holy Spirit indwells the Christian. Faithful Christians may be divided as to how, with some saying He does so representatively (through the Word only) and others saying He does so personally and non-miraculously, but either view can be harmonized with Bible truth (Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 3:16; etc.).
The only instances of Holy Spirit baptism were of the apostles (Acts 1:5) and Cornelius’ household (Acts 10:47). The one baptism of Ephesians 4:5 is water baptism, of which there are many examples in the New Testament (Acts 8:38; 1 Pet. 3:21) – Neal Pollard
While at Bear Valley, one of my favorite classes was during my freshman year, the book of John with Dan Owen. I ran across this article so I thought it was perfect to share with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
You Are a God Man: Has God Ever Given You a Guarantee?
My cardiologist had finished examining me during my annual checkup. He then said, “I will see you next year.” I was thankful that my heart seemed to be in good shape. When I entered the hall, I saw several of the ladies who worked in the building, and I said to them, “He said that he would see me next year, but he did not give me a guarantee.” It was then that my doctor walked up behind me, placed his arm around me and said, “You are a God man; has God ever given you a guarantee?” Though my cardiologist is very religious, he is not a Christian. However, since 2001 when he put a stent in a 95 percent blocked artery that was across my heart, he has known that I am a Gospel preacher. That is why he called me a “God man.” I replied that God has not promised me another year to live (James 4:13-14). Yet, God has given to me, as well as to all Christians who endeavor to live faithfully, several guarantees. I have chosen only a few guarantees from God that are mentioned in the inspired writings of the apostle John.
John 10:27-29. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” As long as we listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd and follow Him, there is no power on earth that can remove us from the hands and care of our Heavenly Father.
John 11:25-26. “Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” These words of Jesus Christ give comfort to children of God who trust in Him who died for our sins and was resurrected from the tomb.
1 John 5:11-13. “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life, he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life…” Eternal life for the believer is to be found in the Son of God and what He did for us on the cross of Calvary when He shed His precious blood. If we “walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.” “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7, 9).
Revelation 14:13. “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, say the Spirit, they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”
These are God-given guarantees for Christians who “die in the Lord.” “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God; Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.” - Raymond Elliott
I am no expert on this subject. However, I have read that in our foster-care system today, many young children are left to navigate a maze of court hearings and new schools with little or no help. Through the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program, volunteers take some of this burden on themselves, committing to advocating for the best interests of a vulnerable child (“About Us,” Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children). Those with money and social standing can navigate the court system with relative ease, but foster children face incredibly difficult challenges that no child should ever have to face.
This is the kind of advocate Jesus is. He doesn’t only hear the pleas of one class of people, of the wealthy and so-called “important.” Instead, Jesus came here to this wretched world to be the Mediator of all those who choose to go to Him in obedience. One example of Jesus’ great compassion for His children is in Mark chapter 5. Here we see a woman who was hemorrhaging for twelve years. She had been to many physicians and endured through their supposed care, spending all she had, never to receive any help. Her condition got worse as time passed by. She heard of Jesus and her faith caused her to reach out and touch his cloak. In his busy schedule, as He journeyed through the land, Jesus took the time to acknowledge her and attend to her needs. She was trembling in fear, but Jesus tenderly says to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you” (Mark 5:33-34).
We may never be healed of a physical disability or sickness. However, it is comforting to know we have such an advocate in Jesus who heals the sin-sick souls of those who walk in faith.
In a philosophy class, the professor stood before his students with a large jar. He filled the jar with five large rocks and asked his students if the jar was full. The students said, “yes, it sure is.” He poured pebbles in the jar and lightly shook it until the pebbles filled in all the open areas between the rocks. He asked, “how about now?” The students said it was full. The professor then poured sand into the jar and the sand filled in the tiny spaces between the rocks and the pebbles. See, the jar represents all that is in one’s life. The rocks are the most important things: God, family, health, etc. The pebbles represent the things in life that matter, but we could live without. The pebbles are certainly things that give our lives meaning (hobbies, friendships, etc.); but they are not critical for us to have a meaningful life. These things often come and go, and are not essential to our overall well-being. Finally, the sand represents the remaining tiny things in our lives, such as material possessions, watching television or doing errands. These things don't mean much to our lives as a whole, and are likely only done to waste time or get small tasks accomplished.
So, what happens if we put the sand and pebbles in first? Will we have room for the rocks? No. We cannot fill our lives with all the “pebbles” and “sand’ and expect our lives to have room from all the more important things in life, such as faith, family and good health. In other words, we cannot pursue both God’s will and our own independent will. We have to empty ourselves of one in order to fully embrace the other. When our hearts are surrendered and trusting in God, our desires will align with God’s and our joy will be made full. Psalm 37:4 states, “Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.”
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