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Entering Into the Presence of God

     Some people call it a “Quiet Time.” Others refer to it as “Devotions” or “a time in the Word,” or “Prayer Time.” I believe it is important to reframe the time that we spend with the Lord, so that we don’t miss the point of reading the Bible, prayer, and meditation. In many ways, we have to read between the lines of the Bible to see the point I’m making, but experience bears it out. That’s not to say that Scripture doesn’t say it for it does.
Psalm 27 is an example. David pleads for it. 
One thing have I asked of the LORD,
That will I seek after:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of my life,
To gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
And to inquire in his temple (v. 4).
…You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, LORD, do I seek” (v. 8).
 
     The goal of reading our Bibles, of praying, of meditation is for inspiration, encouragement, instruction, being informed of our promises, but as important as these things are, they are secondary. The primary or ultimate reason for these activities is to experience the presence of our Lord and enjoy fellowship with the whole trinity of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Bible can’t strengthen us; prayer can’t strengthen us; meditation can’t strengthen us. Only our Lord can. Reading, praying, and meditating are simply our means to enter the presence of the Lord. He is the goal! Psalm 28 makes this point.                                      The LORD is my strength and my shield;
In him my heart trusts,
And I am helped;
My heart exults,
And with my song I give thanks to him (v. 7)

My suggestion is simple. Call it what it is, and what it needs to be. By doing so you will frame your time to its proper focus. It is “spending time with the Lord;” it is “entering into His presence;” it is “being with the Lord.” 


     How do we get there? We read our Bibles to hear the Lord speaking to us, chewing on the Word. We pray kneeling before His throne. We ask the Holy Spirit to lift us to heaven’s throne room. We ask the Lord Jesus as our great High Priest to throw open the doors of heaven. There, we kneel before the Father. There, we are surrounded by the Three. There, we find our strength. There we gaze upon the beauty of the LORD. There I am helped.

     I hope each of you have a regular time, place and method of entering into the presence of the Lord. If you don’t, set a time, place, and follow a clear plan, so you know when, where, and how to start. As you meditatively read your Bible, as you pray and talk to the Lord, never lose sight of the focus of that experience. It is to spend time with the Lord, to enter into His presence, to worship the Lord, so you may experience that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28; cf. Col. 3:11). Don’t quit until you are there and tasting the goodness of the Lord.

     This is the moment by moment need we all have, and it is why our Vision Statement highlights this experience of not just entering into the presence of the Lord but living there. That’s what David prayed for in Psalm 27. He didn’t just want to see the Lord; he wanted to pitch his tent in the temple where the presence of God was on earth. He wanted to live in God’s presence.
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of my life,
To gaze upon the beauty of the LORD

I pray that that is your heart’s desire.

          See You At The Throne,

          Ray

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The Law and the Gospel

The Law’s Condemnation
     Images of the Grim Reaper, Law and death, form the backdrop for the Gospel. The Law looms behind the Good News. Numerous times the Bible recites the Law’s manta, He will render to each one according to his works (Rom. 2:6; Job 34:11; Ps. 62:12; Prov. 24:12; Jer. 17:10; 32:19; 2 Cor. 5:10). Consequently, with only a slight mental shift, the Law can be propelled to the foreground and the Gospel is eclipsed. When this happens, there is a landslide of condemnation and an exit of hope. 

     All that one tends to hear at that time is the announcement by the Law that for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23; cf. 3:10-18), the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23; cf. Gen. 2:16-17). When one is bombarded with the message of the Law and the sense that the Law is supreme, we hear the echoes of the Law’s judgment, do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, not men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Under the deluge of such condemnation, faith in the Gospel often becomes a casualty. This is a tactic and scheme of the devil, the accuser of the brethren. He uses it because it works.

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“Experiencing the Presence of Jesus”

A Christmas Series for Sunday Morning Messages

Christmas season is referred to as the Advent. It is a title in reference to Jesus’ coming as the Messiah. He was the fulfillment of the promised “Immanuel,” God with us. For the next four Sundays I will be sharing four messages on the incarnation, God coming in the flesh – the Advent. The prompting for these messages is not only the season, but also because experiencing the presence of Jesus is at the heart of our Vision and Mission Statements. We post them each Sunday morning, but I want to underline the significance of the Statements because at their heart is experiencing the presence of Jesus in your life through His Holy Spirit. What follows is a brief introduction to the importance of God’s presence with His people.

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"Nevertheless" (Ps. 73:23)

     If you look at Psalm 73:23, you’ll find that the first word is an adverb used as a contrastive conjunction – nevertheless or yet or but. A contrastive conjunction indicates a dissimilarity between what precedes it and what follows it. It indicates that regardless of one fact there is another fact which appears to contradict the first. The second fact is a concession to the first fact. The conjunction makes the second fact emphatic, putting the greatest weight upon it. The English Standard Version (ESV) and King James Version (KJV) both translate the Hebrew conjunction with the English adverb nevertheless. Nevertheless means regardless, in spite of, even so, however, nonetheless, notwithstanding, still, withal, yet. With each of these synonyms, a contrast is implied. Fact A though true is nevertheless not as important as the following fact B.

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Why the Cross? (Part 1)

"The Cross"

     “The Cross” — what does it call to your mind? A standing beam with a cross-member standing as a sentinel over a city, or as a prominent unmistakable symbol distinguishing a church’s building, or a smooth, polished, glistening cross adorning the sanctuary of a church, its chancel, or on a stained glass window. Perhaps you think of it as a beautiful piece of jewelry, or a simple ornament on a necklace chain or as hanging earrings. Or do you see an ornate, weighty cross of symbolic design and creative artistic expression worn by a priest, clergy, initiate, or a Christian pilgrim. A crucifix (a cross with a dying Jesus still on it) might be your image recalled by the phrase – “The Cross.” Or perhaps you see the scene suggested by the song: “On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross.”

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The Enemy of Faith (Part 3)

The Advantages of Doubt
     Scripture promises that for those who love God all things work together for good (Rom. 8:28), and we are to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18). We must include even our doubts within these boundaries.

     Doubts serve a purpose in strengthening our faith, if they are used as a springboard for seeking out answers. As mentioned above we cannot always answer all the questions the skeptical mind may conjure, consequently, we must say from the outset that to the mind of faith doubts are never an end but only an impetus to search. Some doubts we will find through our searching are quite hollow, dismissed by solid answers of a broader knowledge and deeper understanding. They are like pebbles in our shoes which can be easily removed and should be removed making our way much easier and healthier.

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The Enemy of Faith (Part 2)

Doubt and its Accomplices: The Enemies of Jesus-like Faith
     Jesus defines in these verses the great enemy of faith as doubt. Such is self-evident when we define faith as an unquestioning, personal certitude or confidence. Obviously, any doubt of any kind weakens faith shredding its very core, certitude. Doubt causes faith to question, and in doing so robs it of its essential nature, confidence. How is faith fortified against the intrusion of any kind of doubt? How does faith seal itself off from the infiltration of doubt? One realization in attempting to answer this question is that doubt has many helpers. Fear is a repetitive assaulter of faith as is anxiety which is just another form of fear. Apathy, indolence, weariness and discouragements, and distraction come to the aid of doubt and tend to undo or at least weaken faith. Ignorance and nagging questions are kindling and fuel for the fires of doubt. All of these amass to attack faith and to aid and feed doubt.

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The Enemy of Faith (Part 1)

Our next lesson of faith addresses the great enemy of faith ─ doubt. Matthew compressed Mark’s Have faith in God to simply if you have faith, and he immediately added and do not doubt. Mark does not introduce the issue of doubt until the end of Jesus’ faith saying, does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass. Mark hears Jesus’ insight that doubt is an internal, spiritual, heart issue, and he hears that faith is declarative; it must confess what it believes, what he says will come to pass. Faith overcomes internal doubt by taking the external action of declaring and confessing itself. Faith refuses to be controlled by doubt. Matthew in a similar vain hears Jesus say that faith is disqualified as a Jesus-like faith by doubt, thus Matthew hears Jesus warn that doubt is the great enemy of faith. Matthew by setting doubt over against faith defines faith as an unassailable confidence which must be fortified against doubt, and Mark agrees but also emphasizes that faith conquers doubt by its action and behavior.

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Faith in the Gospels (Part 3)

Ultimate Reason for Miracles
     Lastly, we want to address two important features which are closely related and which must have reference for our understanding of Jesus’ words in Matthew 21:18-22 and Mark 11:12-14, 20-25. First, we must realize that the ultimate reason for miracles is the witness of God to the veracity of the Gospel of Jesus. We find this clearly stated in Hebrews 2, …how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will (vv.3-4). This is the ultimate reason for miracles, and we realize that there are secondary reasons as well; but this is the primary reason.

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Faith in the Gospels (Part 2)

    Responses to Miracle-Working Faith
But there is more to be said about faith than just this emphasis. In response to this miraculous faith, there have been several positions developed through the years. The first response is represented from the second century Montanists to the present-day Word of Faith movement. They find in these texts that a doubtless faith provides a warrant to work miracles and to receive any request prayed for with this kind of faith. They explain any failure to receive your request or failure to work such miracles as simply a lack of faith, doubting. The Word of Faith movement goes so far as to say that faith is an independent power which God uses, and we can use it if we simply will not doubt.

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Faith in the Gospels (Part 1)

Language of Faith
     The language and original words used for faith in Scripture have their background in human relationships. “They denoted originally the faithful relationship of partners in an agreement and the trustworthiness of their promises. In a broader sense, they came to denote the credibility of statements, reports and accounts in general, both sacred and secular.”  This teaches us a fundamental lesson about faith. It is not a unique experience, but an experience common to all of us. We express faith in our daily relationships. We trust, and we distrust. We trust those who have shown themselves faithful and trustworthy, or they present a believable credibility by their persuasion, knowledge, or credentials. From these relationships, we also learn that there is a risk in believing. Some are unscrupulous and untrustworthy; they are persuasive but do not deliver; so, we must be cautious in whom we trust by being judicious and discerning. When Scripture picks up the language of faith it is not something foreign to our minds and experiences but something very familiar.

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Growing in Faith (Part II)

Two Applications
    
D. E. Nineham points out an important insight to both Matthew and Mark account commenting on Mark’s account of the cursing of the fig tree. “St. Mark appears to have seen two meanings in it....the fate of the fig tree symbolizing the fate that awaited Jerusalem and the Jewish people and religion. Like the fig tree with its leaves, the Jewish people made a fine show with their numerous ceremonies and outward observances, but when the Messiah came looking for the fruit of righteousness he found none, and the result was condemnation and destruction for Judaism, as it was for the tree.” Secondly, Mark “apparently understood it as an example of faith and prayer.” We need to take a closer look at these.

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Growing in Faith (Part I)

The Unique Emphasis of the Synoptic Gospels on Faith
    
One of the pronounced uses of faith in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) is its association with and working of healings, exorcisms, and miracles. In the rest of the New Testament these extraordinary works of God are associated with spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit, rather than associated directly with the working of faith. Apart from the Synoptics faith is much more related to how one enters into salvation and how one lives as a follower of Jesus Christ. When we come to verses such as Matthew 21:20-22 and Mark 11:20-24 which suggest a sweeping promise that God will deliver anything we ask, if we ask with a doubtless faith, we have to ask, what exactly is this teaching us? The Synoptics make a specific emphasis about faith, and how it is essential for our interaction with God and He with us. What is Jesus teaching us in the Synoptics?

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The Gift of Faith

Two Sides of Faith: Subjective and Objective

There are two sides to faith. There is the side which we experience, and if we had only that experience to go by, then we would be forced to conclude that faith was all from us. Subjectively, we say, "I …believe." It is my decision, my assessment, my acknowledgement. Yes, if we were left to only our own experience of faith we would have to say it is all from us. But…we are not to be taught only by our own experience. In fact, we are instructed not to lean on our own understanding (Prov. 3:5). Rather, we must listen to God's Word.

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The Anatomy of Faith

​Since the Reformation faith has been recognized to have three parts: knowledge, assent, and trust. Let's take a few minutes to dig into these three essential elements of faith.

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Thinking about Faith

One of the greatest truths of the NT is that we are justified by faith. Of all the things which God could have required as a means of receiving His gift of salvation He profoundly and in all wisdom chose faith. Faith is both simple and powerful.

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The Fruit of the Spirit - Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control

This is the fourth and final installment of our study of the Fruit of the Spirit. We come to the final three: Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. These three are connected as core discipleship qualities. They flesh out the qualities needed by someone who would be a devoted follower of Jesus. The first is a persevering trust. The second is surrender, and the third is disciplined obedience.

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The Fruit of the Spirit - Patience, Kindness, and Goodness

This is the third segment in our study of the Fruit of the Spirit as we find it listed in Galatians 5:22-23. We will be looking at the second set of three fruits, namely patience, kindness, and goodness. These three fruit are linked together, first, by their association in Paul's list, and second, by their mutual link to Kindness. Patience is restraint, while Kindness is restraint plus Goodness.

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The Fruit of the Spirit - Love, Joy, Peace

Welcome to the second installment of the Lone Hill Church Blog. This second segment continues a study of the Fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 by defining the first three fruits. Note that certain fruits are directly related to other fruits. In fact, we can see three groupings which Paul implicitly suggests by the order of his list. In the first group we will see how joy and peace are dependent upon love. Hope you will be blessed.

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The Fruit of the Spirit

Welcome to the first installment of the Lone Hill Church Blog. This first segment begins a study of the Fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. In this segment we will offer only an introduction. The segments which follow will define each of the nine fruit in three groupings. Hope you will be blessed.

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