Thinking Theology: A Q&A with Dr. John MacArthur, Day 11

Today’s reading is drawn from Mark 11:23.

How does one’s faith move mountains?

When an amazed Peter noted to Jesus that the fig tree had withered, Jesus’ response was simply that they should “have faith in God” (Mark 11:22). This was a gentle rebuke for the disciples’ lack of faith in the power of His word. Such faith believes in God’s revealed truth, His power, and seeks to do His will (see 1 John 5:14; Matt. 21:21).

The expression Jesus used, “this mountain…into the sea” (v. 23), was related to a common metaphor of that day, “rooter up of mountains,” which was used in Jewish literature of great rabbis and spiritual leaders who could solve difficult problems and seemingly do the impossible. Obviously, Jesus did not literally uproot mountains. In fact, He refused to do such spectacular miracles for the unbelieving Jewish leaders (Matt. 12:38). Jesus’ point is that, if believers sincerely trust in God and truly realize the unlimited power that is available through such faith in Him, they will see His mighty powers at work (see John 14:13, 14).

“Whatever thing you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (v. 24). This places no limits on a believer’s prayers, as long as they are according to God’s will and purpose. This therefore means that man’s faith and prayer are not inconsistent with God’s sovereignty. And it is not the believer’s responsibility to figure out how that can be true, but simply to be faithful and obedient to the clear teaching on prayer, as Jesus gives it in this passage. God’s will is being unfolded through all of redemptive history by means of the prayers of His people—as His saving purpose is coming to pass through the faith of those who hear the gospel and repent. See James 5:16.

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The Marriage and Family Life Reading Plan, Day 11

Today’s reading is drawn from Matthew 25:21 and Colossians 3:23.

Teach them the Value of Excellence

When your children listen to you speak or watch you work, do they get the idea that believers in Jesus Christ should strive for excellence in everything they do? Do they see you working wholeheartedly for the Lord, and not for men? We believe this should be one of our primary tasks, to use both our words and our actions to encourage our children toward a life of excellence.

Of course, we do not mean attaining perfection or applying identical standards to every child. Rather, we propose that within their God-given capabilities every child be challenged to rise above the crowd, to seek higher standards of achievement, and to become all that God has gifted him or her to be.

This was a real challenge, especially during the years when we had four teenagers living in our home. There’s always tension between understanding a child’s talent and ability and stretching them to attainable goals. Many times my wife and I would pray and ask God if we were too lenient, and on other occasions we’d ask Him if we were too tough. In every situation, it was our dependence upon God that helped us decide and trust Him with both the process and the results.

Training children to step above mediocrity also helps them reject mediocrity in their relationships with God. Jesus pointed to a coming day when God will say to His diligent children, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.”

It is our job as parents to teach our children to be trustworthy, to fulfill their commitments, and to do a good job even when nobody is looking. In the end, they need to learn to do their work “heartily, as to the Lord.”

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Diverse Opportunities for A Diverse Church, Day 11

Today’s reading is drawn from Acts 15:22-35.

In many nations and especially in the western hemisphere, the church faces an increasingly pluralistic society, and it is highly unlikely we will ever return to a uniform culture, if that ever existed in the first place. But the Book of Acts shows that we can thrive in this new world. The response of the apostolic council at Jerusalem to an influx of Gentile believers demonstrates that Christians must allow for cultural differences if they want their churches to survive.

The collections of people who responded to the gospel and banded together in the first century defy modern market research and principles of church growth. Modern thinking holds that groups of people with similar sociological backgrounds grow larger more quickly than ones with different backgrounds. Some argue that like attracts like, so churches should target people of the same race, demographic profile, and socioeconomic status.

The untidy collection of Christians in Acts upends that idea. Diverse churches sprouted up spontaneously in response to God’s grace.

Diverse Contributions The church offered …

  • Advocacy by Barnabas on behalf of Saul (9:26, 27); by Paul and Barnabas on behalf of a slave girl to free her from oppressive masters (16:16–21); and by Ephesian believers on behalf of Apollos (18:27, 28)
  • Charity and hospitality, often anonymous and large scale, to meet both social and spiritual needs (2:45; 4:32; 11:29, 30; 28:13–15).
  • Ethnic reconciliation as deacons acted on behalf of neglected widows (6:1–6); as Philip carried the gospel across ethnic barriers (8:4–17, 26–40); as Peter met with the Gentile Cornelius and defended his actions to Jewish leaders at Jerusalem (10:1—11:30); as Paul and Barnabas brought together Gentiles and Jews at Antioch in Pisidia (13:46–52); as the council at Jerusalem accepted Gentiles as equals in the faith, sending Judas and Silas as emissaries to welcome them (15:1–35); as Paul recruited Timothy to spread the gospel (16:1–5).

The early church was a diverse, grass-roots movement that drew people together in innovative ways. It moved them toward one another and out into their communities in service and love. Like the early church, the modern body of Christ exists in a pluralistic society full of opportunities for unparalleled innovation and growth.

 

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Management by Force

“Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” – Numbers 20:8

Moses and the people had been traveling for days without water. The people were thirsty. They were complaining and grumbling about their plight, and Moses became the object of their complaining. Moses sought the Lord for wisdom on how to handle the situation. The Lord instructed him to speak to the rock and water would flow. This would be a sign that God was still in control, that Moses was still the leader, and that God was their provider.

When it came time to speak to the rock, Moses’ disgust with the people became so great that instead of speaking to the rock, he angrily addressed the people and then struck the rock twice. The water came out, in spite of Moses’ disobedience. But the Lord was not pleased with Moses.

This was a time for Moses to operate at a higher level. No longer was he called to touch things with his staff to perform miracles; it was a time for him to speak to the problem. His very words would have changed the situation. Moses’ staff represented two things-his physical work as a shepherd of sheep and his spiritual work as a shepherd of the people. God was calling him to move into a new dimension of using his staff. Up to now, Moses had always been commanded by God to touch something to perform the miracle. Now it was time to speak God’s word to the problem.

However, Moses made the mistake many of us make. He used his instrument with force to accomplish something for God. He took something God wanted to be used in a righteous manner and used it in an unrighteous manner. He used force to solve the problem. This disobedience cost Moses his right to see the Promised Land.

Have you ever been tempted to use your power, skill, and ability to force a situation to happen, perhaps even out of anger? God is calling us to use prayer to move the face of mountains. The force of our ability is not satisfactory. God is calling each of us to a new dimension of walking with Him. Pray that God will give you the grace to wait on Him and not take matters into your own hands. Then you will not be in jeopardy of failing to move into the Promised Land in your life.

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