Charles Stanley – When Things Seem Impossible

Charles Stanley

John 6:5-14

Years ago, our church was preparing to purchase some costly property, and our desire was to accomplish the transaction without going into debt. One week before the deadline, we had accumulated less than half the money; raising the rest seemed impossible. I mentioned our need to the congregation, and after the first service, a young couple came up and gave me the husband’s wedding band to use toward the payment. They insisted I take the ring in spite of the fact that they were barely getting by and had a baby on the way.

During the second service, I pulled out the ring and told about this couple’s sacrifice. Then the most amazing thing happened. People started streaming down the aisle and giving all kinds of things—boats, houses, jewelry, cars. At the end of that service, we had exactly the amount we needed.

Nothing is impossible for our Father. He used an inexpensive ring to raise over two million dollars in one day, just as He once borrowed a sack lunch to feed five thousand people.

We often make the same mistake the disciples did in today’s passage—we ask the wrong question: “What am I going to do?” Instead, we should ask the right one: “Lord, what are You going to do?” God has a plan to guide us safely through every seemingly impossible situation if we will simply trust Him instead of our own resources.

Look to your heavenly Father for whatever you need. He has promised to provide for His children, and He knows the best way and timing to do so.

 

Our Daily Bread — The Good And The Bad

Our Daily Bread

Jonah 4

The LORD God prepared a plant [for] shade . . . [and] a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. —Jonah 4:6-7

The story of the rebellious prophet Jonah shows us how God desires to use both blessings and trials to challenge us and change us for the better. Five times in the book of Jonah it says that the Lord prepared circumstances for him—both good and bad.

In Jonah 1:4 we read that the Lord sent a storm. It says He “sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea.” After the mariners discovered that Jonah was the reason for this storm, they threw him overboard (1:15). Then God “prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah” to save him from drowning (1:17).

Later in the book we read that “the LORD God prepared a plant” to shade Jonah (4:6). Then we see that God prepared a worm to kill the vine as well as a scorching wind and sun to beat down upon him (4:7-9). These circumstances were used to reveal Jonah’s rebellious attitude. Only after that revelation could God directly confront Jonah’s heart problem.

As we face different situations, we should remember that God is sovereign over both the blessings and the troubles that come our way. He desires to use everything to build our character (James 1:1-5). He uses both good and bad to transform us and guide us on our journey. —Dennis Fisher

The Maker of the universe

Knows every need of man,

And made provision for that need

According to His plan. —Crane

The Lord gives and takes away. Blessed be the Lord.

Bible in a year: Daniel 11-12; Jude

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Breaking Silence

Ravi Z

There are those who say that lukewarm acceptance is more bewildering than outright rejection. I always wonder if they have ever heard the story of the Syrophoenician woman.

Jesus was on his way to a place where no one would recognize him. From the chaos of Jerusalem and the crowds of Galilee he withdrew to the region of Tyre. According to one of his disciples, when he had entered a house, he wanted no one to know of it. Yet, he did not escape notice. A Gentile woman of the Syrophoenician race immediately fell at his feet and began to cry out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” But he did not answer her a word.(1)

In the lives of those who believe in God, sensed rejection is a difficult pill to swallow. Likewise, many former believers tell stories of a silent or unconcerned God on whom they eventually gave up. Even if we can reckon that God is not rejecting us personally, it is hard to square, “whoever comes to me I will never drive away” or “whatever you ask for in my name, I will do” with the barren silence of years of praying for a child; or the slamming of a door that held a real and certain hope; or the wordless dismissal of a mother brought to her knees. The rejection is indeed personal.

But this woman at Jesus’s feet did not turn away at the first sign of his refusal. She was not deterred by the disciples’ request that she be sent away, nor was she convinced to cease her plea after the harsh words that finally broke Jesus’s silence: ”I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Being a Gentile, this meant she was not one of them. Lesser rejections have certainly brought me to crumbled mess. Yet even this was not a thought that would dissuade her. Speaking again, she pled once more, “Lord, help me!”

This is precisely the place in the interchange where I can no longer remain comfortable, imagining what it feels like to be truly helpless before someone you know can help you, imagining what it feels like—even then—to be told “no.”  Still, Matthew recounts the story: “And Jesus answered and said, ‘It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ But she said, ‘Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table” (15:26-27). Her persistence, her vulnerability—her desperation—is more than most typically give anyone.

There is a line in the book of Hosea where God laments the presence of those who wail upon their beds but do not cry out to God from their hearts. In the brave voice of woman silenced by the world around her, I wonder if she is not the answer to this lament. If prayer is the pillar of a relationship that is built with one who knows us better than we know ourselves, how deeply rooted are the pillars of hope and love that have never been driven again and again into the ground? Perhaps there are times when rejection drives us deeper and we plunge further into faith, into the sheer earnestness of our request, into the presence of the God who hears it.

I don’t know why there are some prayers we seem to need to repeat exhaustively. I don’t know why there are some who seem to live lifetimes marked by the sting of rejected pleas. But I know that it is often the one who has learned to wrestle through denied petitions who also seems to exhibit a tender depth in her relationship with the one who hears; the one who God has given a chance to speak, to know her own voice and to be heard, who comes to value the conversation. I know that somehow even in sensed rejection, or the undesirable command to wait, is the hope of something understood.

At the close of the Syrophoenician woman’s final petition, Jesus turned to her with a response that overfilled the depths of her own rejection with the certainty of a relationship: “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) The story of the Syrophoenician woman is told in Matthew 15:21-28 and in Mark 7:24-30.

 

 

Alistair Begg – Why Do My Prayers Go Unanswered?

Alistair Begg

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you.

Isaiah 30:18

God often delays in answering prayer. We have several instances of this in the Bible. Jacob did not get the blessing from the angel until near the dawn of day-he had to wrestle all night for it. The poor woman of Syrophoenicia received no answer for a long while. Paul asked the Lord three times for “a thorn . . . in the flesh”1 to be taken from him, and he received no assurance that it would be removed, but instead a promise that God’s grace would be sufficient for him.

If you have been knocking at the gate of mercy and have received no answer, shall I tell you why the mighty Maker has not opened the door and let you in?

Our Father has personal reasons for keeping us waiting. Sometimes it is to show His power and His sovereignty, so that we may learn that God has a right to give or to withhold.

More often the delay is for our benefit. You are perhaps kept waiting in order that your desires may be more fervent. God knows that delay will quicken and increase desire, and that if He keeps you waiting, you will see your need more clearly and will seek more diligently, and that you will treasure the mercy all the more on account of the wait.

There may also be something wrong in you that needs to be removed before the joy of the Lord is given. Perhaps your views of the gospel plan are confused, or you may be relying upon yourself instead of trusting simply and entirely in the Lord Jesus. Or God makes you wait for a while so that He may display the riches of His grace more abundantly in the end.

Your prayers are all filed in heaven, and if not immediately answered they are certainly not forgotten, but in a little while they will be fulfilled to your delight and satisfaction. Do not allow despair to make you silent, but continue to present your requests to God.

1 2 Corinthians 12:7

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – The Exodus

CharlesSpurgeon

“And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the self same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.” Exodus 12:41

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:1-11

It is our firm conviction and increasing belief, that the historical books of Scripture were intended to teach us spiritual things by types and figures. We believe that every portion of Scripture history is not only a faithful transcript of what did actually happen, but also a shadow of what happens spiritually in the dealings of God with his people, or in the dispensations of his grace towards the world at large. We do not look upon the historical books of Scripture as being mere rolls of history, such as profane authors might have written, but we regard them as being most true and infallible records of the past, and also most bright and glorious foreshadowings of the future, or else most wondrous metaphors and marvellous illustrations of things which are verily received among us, and most truly felt in the Christian heart. We may be wrong—we believe we are not; at any rate, the very error has given us instruction, and our mistake has afforded us comfort. We look upon the book of Exodus as being a book of types of the deliverances which God will give to his elect people; not only as a history of what he has done, in bringing them out of Egypt by smiting the first-born, leading them through the Red Sea, and guiding them through the wilderness, but also as a picture of his faithful dealings with all his people, whom by the blood of Christ he separates from the Egyptians, and by his strong and mighty hand takes out of the house of their bondage and out of the land of their slavery.

For meditation: Are you getting as much out of the Old Testament as you should? It is full of the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27)! While it may be wrong and confusing to see types in every verse or action, if you major on the types which are identified and applied in the New Testament you cannot go far wrong.

Sermon no. 55

9 December (1855)

 

John MacArthur – The Sustaining Power of Christ

John MacArthur

“[Christ] upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3).

We base our entire lives on the constancy of physical laws. When something like an earthquake disrupts the normal condition or operation of things even a little, the consequences are often disastrous. Can you imagine what would happen if Jesus Christ relinquished His sustaining power over the laws of the universe for it is He in whom “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17)? We would go out of existence, our atoms scattering throughout the galaxy.

If He suspended the laws of gravity only for a brief moment, we would lose all points of reference. If any of the physical laws varied slightly, we could not exist. Our food could turn to poison; we ourselves could drift out into space or get flooded by the ocean tides. Countless other horrible things could happen.

But the universe remains in balance because Jesus Christ sustains and monitors all its movements and interworkings. He is the principle of cohesion. He is not the deist’s “watchmaker” creator, who made the world, set it in motion, and has not bothered with it since. The reason the universe is a cosmos instead of chaos–an ordered and reliable system instead of an erratic and unpredictable muddle–is the upholding power of Jesus Christ.

The entire universe hangs on the arm of Jesus. His unsearchable wisdom and boundless power are manifested in governing the universe. And He upholds it all by the word of His power. The key to the Genesis creation is in two words: “God said.” God spoke and it happened.

When I contemplate Christ’s power to uphold the universe, I’m drawn to the wonderful promise of Philippians 1:6: “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” When Christ begins a work in your heart, He doesn’t end there. He continually sustains it until the day He will take you into God’s very presence. A life, just as a universe, that is not sustained by Christ is chaos.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Ask God to remind you of Christ’s sustaining power when you endure your next trial.

For Further Study:

Read Job 38-39 for a greater appreciation of what Christ does to uphold the universe.

 

Joyce Meyer – Power for Living

Joyce meyer

So be subject to God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you.

—James 4:7

It is not going to do us one bit of good to try to resist the devil if we are not going to submit to God, because the power to resist the devil is found in submitting to God. If you want to keep Satan under your feet, you have to walk in obedience. Don’t have any known disobedience, any purposeful disobedience in your life.

Do I ever disobey God? Yes, but I don’t do it on purpose. I might lose my temper and say something that I shouldn’t. But as soon as God starts dealing with me about it, I do what He says. I have a reverential fear of God in my life, and I think we need a lot more of that. I believe that God is God, and I believe He means business. If He tells me to do something, He means it, and when He tells me not to do something, He means it. Yes, we live under grace, but grace is not an excuse to sin; grace is the power to live a holy life. Disobedience is one of Satan’s favorite entrances by which to gradually draw us into a web of sin that is devastating for us in the end.

Lord, I know that there is power for living today as I submit my life to You. Thank You for the grace that empowers me to walk in obedience. Amen.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Another Comforter

dr_bright

“If ye love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:15,16, KJV).

Some time ago, a young businessman came to see me. He was very eager to be a man of God. He wanted to know the fullness of the Holy Spirit in his life, but he said that every time he got on his knees to pray, all he could see was the merchandise he had stolen from his employer.

“God doesn’t hear my prayers,” he lamented. “I feel miserable and don’t know what to do.”

I suggested he confess his sin to his employer and make restitution.

“I don’t have the money to pay for the merchandise I have stolen,” he said. “What should I do? I’m afraid to tell my employer what I have done. I’m sure he will fire me, and he could send me to jail.”

“The Holy Spirit is convicting you,” I told him. “You can never experience the fullness of God’s Spirit and you’ll never be a man of God or have your prayers answered until you deal with this sin. You must trust the Lord to help you make restitution.”

So the next day he went to his employer, confessed he had stolen the merchandise and offered to make restitution. The employer received him warmly and understanding. He suggested that my friend pay a certain amount each month out of his salary until the debt was paid, which he was more than happy to do. He came immediately to tell me what had happened.

“Now God is hearing my prayers,” he said. “Now I know I am filled with the Holy Spirit. My heart is filled with joy and praise to God.”

Bible Reading: John 14:22-26

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will remain sensitive and alert for any unconfessed sin that might grieve or quench the indwelling Holy Spirit and hinder His working in and through me, robbing me of the supernatural life which God has commanded and enabled me to live, if only I will trust and obey Him.

 

 

Greg Laurie – Why the Virgin Birth of Jesus?

greglaurie

“That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I AM who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.” —John 8:24

Larry King once said that if he could choose one person to interview from the course of human history, he would choose to interview Jesus Christ. King said that he would like to ask Jesus “if He was indeed virgin-born.” He added, “The answer to that question would define history for me.” Larry King understands that the Virgin Birth is a big deal.

If you are a Bible-believing Christian, then you can’t dismiss what the Scriptures teach on this topic. I would even take it further and say that if you don’t believe that Jesus was supernaturally conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, then you can’t really be a Christian.

This is an essential part of Christian doctrine. If Christ was not conceived in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit, if His biological father was indeed Joseph, then He was a sinner. And if He was a sinner, then His death on the cross did not atone for my sins or yours.

The fact is that because Jesus was supernaturally conceived in Mary’s womb, He was fully God, yet He was also fully man. Jesus said, “Unless you believe that I AM who I claim to be, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). In other words, “If you don’t believe that I am God, then you are not really a believer.”

I AM is God’s own statement about Himself. When Moses wanted to know what to say when people asked who had sent him, God told him, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14).

That is why the Virgin Birth is such an essential teaching. Christ was not God because He was virgin-born; He was virgin-born because He was God.

 

 

Max Lucado – A Lack of Vision

Max Lucado

“We were hoping the doctor would release him.”

“I thought the job was in the bag.”

Words painted gray with disappointment. What we wanted did not come.  What came, we didn’t want. The result?  Shattered hope.  What kind of God would let me down like this? The foundation of our world trembles.

So tear-filled are our eyes and so limited is our perspective. It’s not a lack of faith, but a lack of vision. Our petitions are limited to what we can imagine—an earthly kingdom. We roll in the mud of self-pity in the very shadow of the cross. If we would just remember the heavenly body that awaits us, we’d stop complaining that he hasn’t healed this earthly one. Hope is not what you expect—it’s what you would never dream!

From God Came Near