Charles Stanley – Discovering Life’s Purpose

Charles Stanley

Ephesians 2:8-10

Those who know and follow God’s direction will experience spiritual peace, joy, and contentment. To discover our life’s purpose, the first step—which makes all the other steps possible—is to receive Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. In other words, we must be saved.

Our part in salvation is to acknowledge we are sinners—to admit to God that we’ve lived in rebellion against Him because we wanted our own way (Rom. 3:23). Professing our belief that Jesus’ death on the cross fully paid our sin debt, we ask God’s forgiveness.

Recognizing Jesus as personal Savior and Lord, we commit our life to Him (Rom. 10:9; Gal. 2:20; 1 John 1:9). Since He is now in charge, our orders and direction will come from Him. Having become part of God’s family, we have His Spirit to help us discover and carry out our Father’s plan.

God’s purpose for His children includes sanctification, stewardship, and service. Sanctification describes continual growth in holiness. The Holy Spirit, with our cooperation, will transform our character to be more like the Lord’s. Stewardship means managing—according to God’s priorities—the time, talents, and treasure He has given us. And service for the kingdom is to mark our life, as it marked the life of Jesus (Matt. 20:28). We serve our Father by obediently ministering to others.

As we each seek the Lord’s specific plan for us, we can be confident that it will include character transformation, investment of our resources for His kingdom, and ministry to others.

 

Our Daily Bread — No Appetite

Our Daily Bread

Nehemiah 8:1-12

As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby. —1 Peter 2:2

When I was battling a bad cold recently, I lost my appetite. I could go through an entire day without eating much food. Water would suffice. But I knew I couldn’t survive long on water alone. I needed to regain my appetite because my body needed nourishment.

When the people of Israel came back from exile in Babylon, their spiritual appetite was weak. They had departed from God and His ways. To get the people back to spiritual health, Nehemiah organized a Bible seminar, and Ezra was the teacher.

Ezra read from the book of the law of Moses from morning until midday, feeding the people with the truth of God (Neh. 8:3). And the people listened attentively. In fact, their appetite for God’s Word was so stirred that the family leaders and the priests and Levites met with Ezra the following day to study the law in greater detail because they wanted to understand it (v.13).

When we feel estranged from God or spiritually weak, we can find spiritual nourishment from God’s Word. “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). Ask God to give you a renewed desire for relationship with Him, and begin feeding your heart, soul, and mind with His Word. —Poh Fang Chia

Break Thou the Bread of life, dear Lord, to me,

As Thou didst break the loaves beside the sea;

Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord,

My spirit pants for Thee, O living Word. —Lathbury

Feeding on God’s Word keeps us strong and healthy in the Lord.

Bible in a year: Genesis 4-6; Matthew 2

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Salvation Through Silence

Ravi Z

Before coming to the narrative of Christ’s birth, there is a dramatic conversation which takes place between a priest called Zechariah and the angel Gabriel. One day Zechariah was serving in the temple when the angel Gabriel appeared to him.(1) Zechariah was very afraid but Gabriel spoke to him saying, ‘Do not be afraid. Your prayer has been heard.’ Gabriel continued to tell Zechariah that he and his wife would have a son and they were to name him John. Ultimately, John would be the one to prepare people for the Lord Jesus.

Instead of rejoicing over the news brought to him from Gabriel, Zechariah objects, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” Gabriel responds by explaining to Zechariah precisely to whom he is speaking and also cites the authority on which he bears this news:

“I am Gabriel and I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”

One only needs to read the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel to find out that this promise from the Lord was fulfilled. Elizabeth and Zechariah have a baby boy and they name him John. It is only after the naming of John that Zechariah is able to speak again.

 

There are many aspects of this story that are remarkable. First is the context in which the story takes place: the people of Israel, of whom Zechariah and Elizabeth were a part, have not heard from God for a period of roughly 400 years! When Gabriel appears to Zechariah, it is highly likely that this is the first time Zechariah has heard from God in such a way.

To make theological matters even more complicated for Zechariah, Gabriel’s second statement, after telling him to not be afraid, is ‘Your prayer has been heard.’ There is deep irony in this statement primarily because of the theological background leading up to this conversation. For all of Zechariah’s life, he had never heard God’s voice like this. The very act of God speaking to him would seem preposterous. Therefore, it is understandable why Zechariah questions Gabriel. Zechariah and his people have prayed to God, many for their entire lives, and they have never heard anything. How could Zechariah be sure this was truly a message from the Lord? This encounter undoubtedly marked a watershed moment, not only for Zechariah, but for God’s people and the entire world. God would speak now and man would be silent.

God’s silence is often a challenge to belief. One point I glean from the early part of this story is that God’s silence does not necessarily imply that God is inactive. In Israel’s case, God had been silent for years, yet in this angelic encounter, nearly the first words of instruction from the Lord are, ‘Your prayer has been heard.’ For those of us who are immersed in the urgency of the digital world, we would do well to heed the implicit lesson of patience found in this story. God had been silent for a long time, but God was listening. There are times in our lives in which we do not hear God’s voice. Gabriel’s words tell us that although we might not hear God speaking, God is still listening.

After Zechariah objects to the seemingly audacious promise given from the Lord, Gabriel points out that it is not on his own authority that he speaks, but God’s. Implicit in Gabriel’s statement is the reality that God is bringing help to Israel, not because of what Zechariah or Elizabeth have done, but rather because of who God is. Historically speaking, God was the one who helped, rescued, and saved Israel countless times. The people of Israel knew this history well and they also knew why God had reached down and helped them. This much was clear in the mind of Israel:  God’s salvation came only because of God’s character. God’s saving power came, not because of humanity’s effort, but because of God’s nature to save.

Gabriel then tells Zechariah that he will be silent. This is what strikes me most about the story: Gabriel appears to Zechariah in a time during which the people of Israel had not heard from God in years. The Lord speaks to Zechariah and tells him that God will act and fulfill his promise, but while He does so, Zechariah will be silent.

Generally I have viewed the silence of Zechariah as a punishment for not believing in God, and I think that this is true. But I also see this act of silence pointing to something deeper than one man receiving a punishment from God for not believing in Him, and here’s why: The people of Israel knew that God had helped them, they knew why God had helped them and they also had learnt how God had worked in history. Over time they had realized that God’s grace and salvation would be worked out through quietness and trust. Israel’s strength lay not in activity and being busy, but in silence. This was how God worked.

Zechariah’s silence is a symbol of God’s salvation. John’s life was spent concentrated on preparing people for Christ, the means by which people could be saved. But before John came, the Lord visited his father through Gabriel, telling Zechariah that He had heard his prayer, and was going to rescue his people not in a flurry of human activity, but in a way in which people could only watch him work and hear him speak. Perhaps one of the vital lessons we can learn from the Christmas story is to prioritize silence before God. At the very least, being quiet will remind us of a greater time, one of the greatest in history, when God spoke and humankind was there only to watch and listen.

Nathan Betts is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Toronto, Canada.

(1) See Luke 1.

Alistair Begg – Renew Your Strength Through God

Alistair Begg

Let the peoples renew their strength.

Isaiah 41:1

All things on earth need to be renewed. No created thing continues by itself. “You renew the face of the ground,”1 was the psalmist’s utterance.

Even the trees, which wear not themselves with care, nor shorten their lives with labor, must drink of the rain of heaven and draw from the hidden treasures of the soil. The cedars of Lebanon, which God has planted, only live because day by day they are full of sap freshly drawn from the earth. Neither can man’s life be sustained without renewal from God. As it is necessary to repair the body by the frequent meal, so we must repair the soul by feeding upon the Book of God, or by listening to the preached Word, or by the soul-fattening table of the ordinances.

How depressed are our graces when means are neglected! What poor starving souls they are who live without the diligent use of the Word of God and secret prayer! If our piety can live without God it is not of divine creating; it is but a dream; for if God had begotten it, it would wait upon Him as the flowers wait upon the dew.

Without constant restoration we are not ready for the perpetual assaults of hell, or the stern afflictions of heaven, or even for the strife within. When the whirlwind shall be loosed, woe to the tree that has not sucked up fresh sap and grasped the rock with many inter-twisted roots.

When tempests arise, woe to the mariners that have not strengthened their mast, nor cast their anchor, nor sought the haven. If we suffer the good to grow weaker, the evil will surely gather strength and struggle desperately for the mastery over us; and as a result a painful desolation and a lamentable disgrace may follow. Let us draw near to the footstool of divine mercy in humble entreaty, and we shall realize the fulfillment of the promise, “They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength.”2

1 Psalm 104:30

2 Isaiah 40:31

 

Charles Spurgeon – Faith in perfection

CharlesSpurgeon

“The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.” Psalm 138:8

Suggested Further Reading: Deuteronomy 31:1-8

There is yet another confession in the text—the Psalmist’s confession that all he has, he has from God. “Forsake not the works of thine own hands.” I will not, however, dwell upon it, but urge you who are believers to go home and cry aloud to God in prayer. Let this be a New Year’s day prayer. “Forsake not the work of thine hands. Father, forsake not thy little child, lest he die by the hand of the enemy. Shepherd, forsake not thy lamb, lest the wolves devour him. Great husbandman, forsake not thy little plant, lest the frost should nip it, and it should be destroyed. Forsake me not, O Lord now, and when I am old and grey headed, O Lord, forsake me not. Forsake me not in my joys, lest I curse God. Forsake me not in my sorrows, lest I murmur against him. Forsake me not in the day of my repentance, lest I lose the hope of pardon, and fall into despair; and forsake me not in the day of my strongest faith, lest my faith degenerate into presumption, and so I perish by my own hand.” Cry out to God, that he would not forsake you in your business, in your family; that he would not forsake you either upon your bed by night or in your business by day. And may God grant, when you and I shall come to the end of this year, we may have a good tale to tell concerning the faithfulness of God in having answered our prayers, and having fulfilled his promise.

For meditation: Do you open up every area of your life to the One who has promised never to forsake his people? Are there any aspects of your relationship with him which are not all that they should be (Malachi 1:6)?

Sermon no. 231

2 January (1859)

 

 

John MacArthur – Experiencing God’s Peace

John MacArthur

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:2)

Throughout history mankind has sought peace through military alliances, balances of power, and leagues of nations. Yet lasting peace still remains an elusive dream. Even during times of relative peace, nations struggle with internal strife and crime.

The Bible says that man on his own cannot know peace because he is alienated from its source. But we need not despair. True peace is immediately available from God our Father (the God of peace–Rom. 15:33), and the Lord Jesus Christ (the Prince of Peace–Isa. 9:6). It’s a gift of God’s grace to those who love and obey Jesus Christ.

The New Testament so clearly teaches the inextricable link between God’s grace and peace that “Grace to you and peace” became a common greeting in the early church. Grace is God’s great kindness toward those who are undeserving of His favor but who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. It is the fountain and peace is the stream. As recipients of His grace, we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1)–we are reconciled to Him through faith in His Son and we will never experience His wrath. We also have the peace of God (Phil. 4:7)–the Spirit’s way of assuring us that God is in control even in the midst of difficult circumstances. That’s why Paul calls it the peace that surpasses all comprehension (Phil. 4:7).

The world’s peace is relative and fleeting because it is grounded in circumstances. God’s peace is absolute and eternal because it is grounded in His grace. Does God’s peace reign in your heart, or have you allowed sin or difficult circumstances to diminish your devotion to Christ?

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God that you have peace with Him through faith in Jesus Christ.

Ask the Spirit to reveal any sin that might be hindering God’s peace from ruling in your heart. Be prepared to respond in confession and repentance.

Ask for opportunities to demonstrate God’s peace to others today.

For Further Study:

Read Philippians 4:6-7

What is God’s antidote for anxiety?

How does God’s peace affect a believer’s heart and mind?

Joyce Meyer – Talk About the Good Stuff

Joyce meyer

But I tell you, on the day of judgment men will have to give account for every idle (inoperative, nonworking) word they speak.—Matthew 12:36

It seems to me that we talk about how we feel more than practically anything else. We feel good or bad, happy or sad, excited or discouraged, and a thousand other things. The inventory of the various ways we feel is almost endless. Feelings are ever-changing, usually without notification.

These feelings don’t need our permission to fluctuate; they merely seem to do as they please for no specific reason we can identify. We have all experienced going to bed feeling just fine physically and emotionally, only to wake up the next morning feeling tired and irritable. “Why? Why do I feel this way?” we ask ourselves, and then we usually begin to tell anyone who will listen how we feel. It is interesting to note that we tend to talk a lot more about our negative feelings than we do our positive ones.

If I wake up feeling energetic and excited about the day, I rarely announce it to everyone I come in contact with; however, if I feel tired and discouraged, I want to tell everyone. It has taken me years to learn that talking about how I feel increases the intensity of those feelings.

So it seems to me that we should keep quiet about the negative feelings and talk about the positive ones.

You can always tell God how you feel and ask for His help and strength, but talking about negative feelings just to be talking does no good at all. If negative feelings persist, asking for prayer or seeking advice based on biblical truth is a good thing, but once again I want to stress that talking just to be talking is useless.

If we have to wait to see how we feel before we know if we can enjoy the day, then we are giving feelings control over us. But if we are willing to make right choices regardless of how we feel, God will always be faithful to give us the strength to do so.

Trust in Him: How are you feeling? If your feelings are positive, tell someone. If they are negative, tell God, and trust Him to work things out. Regardless of how you feel, choose to enjoy your day!

 

 

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – You Can Know the Spirit’s Fullness

dr_bright

“Be filled…with the Holy Spirit and controlled by Him” (Ephesians 5:18).

An enthusiastic, attractive couple traveled from their home in Chicago to Arrowhead Springs to share with me an idea about which they were very excited.

“We heard one of your filmed lectures on ‘How to Be Filled With the Holy Spirit.’ Our lives have been dramatically changed as a result of what you shared,” they said. “We have come all this way to encourage you to go on nationwide television and tell Christians how they can know the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit and experience His revolutionary impact in and through their lives.”

I am humbly grateful to God for the privilege of sharing these great truths concerning the Holy Spirit with tens of millions of people throughout the world, often with the same dramatic results experienced by this remarkable couple.

The disciples were with Jesus for more than three years. They heard Him teach as no man had ever taught. They saw Him perform miracles such as no man had ever performed – raising the dead, restoring sight to the blind and cleansing lepers. Though they were exposed to the most godly life ever lived on earth, during Jesus’ time of crisis, Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him and all the others deserted Him.

Jesus knew His disciples were fruitless, quarreling, ambitious, self-centered men, so – on the eve of His crucifixion – He told them, “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I go, I will send Him to you…He will guide you into all the truth…He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you” (John 16:7,13,14 NAS).

Bible Reading: Galatians 5:5, 16-18, 22, 23, 25

Today’s Action Point: Today I will receive by faith the power of the Holy Spirit in order to live a supernatural life and be a supernatural witness. I will continue to study the scriptural reference and various books concerning the Holy Spirit, so that I will better understand His role in my life.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Witness Preparation

ppt_seal01

If you are called to a courtroom as a witness, all you have to do is tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, right? Actually, there’s more to it than that. Good lawyers know to properly prepare their witnesses for trial because, even when speaking sincerely, witnesses can be discredited by opposing counsel. So before entering the courtroom, witnesses are usually educated about the legal process, informed about questions they might be asked, and often engaged in practice sessions.

Prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.

I Peter 3:15

How do you defend your faith to those who want to know the reason for your hope? “You ask me how I know He lives,” say the words of a great old hymn, “He lives within my heart.” That’s true, but your testimony must go deeper than that. You must be prepared.

Why not make the commitment today to become a great “defender of the faith” in 2014? Start by setting a goal of reading through the Bible this year. And as you pray for your nation’s leaders, ask God to help them understand that the reason for America’s hope is found in His Holy Word.

Recommended Reading: Psalm 119:1-12

 

Greg Laurie – Sent to Minister

greglaurie

Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? —Hebrews 1:14

Do each of us have a guardian angel? I can’t say for sure, but I do know this: Angels are involved in the lives of Christians here on earth. The Bible says, “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7). We also read that angels are “ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). So the Bible teaches that we have angels around us as Christians.

Jesus also made an interesting statement when He was speaking about children: “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10). So perhaps children have guardian angels. I do think children need guardian angels. You have to always keep your eye on them — especially when they’re young. But whatever the case, angels are involved in our lives.

When you had that close call, it may have been an angel who intervened. Or when something stopped you suddenly, keeping you out of harm’s way, maybe it was an angel. But we are to properly give glory to God for His protection because we aren’t supposed to pray to angels or even thank angels. They are there to do the work of God, like God’s secret agents, and we are to give the glory to God for what happens.

But what about when the accident does take place? What about when the plane does go down? Where was the angel then? I’ll tell you where the angel was: escorting the believer into God’s presence.

When things happen, when life ends suddenly, it doesn’t seem logical to us. But God is still in control. And the angels did their job, guiding us, protecting us, and finally taking us to glory.

 

Max Lucado – Face to Face With Our Past

Max Lucado

All of us at one time or another come face to face with our past. And it’s always an awkward encounter.  When our sins catch up with us we can do one of two things: run or wrestle.

Many choose to run. They brush it off with a shrug of rationalization. “I was a victim of circumstances.”  Or, “It was his fault.” The problem with this escape is it’s no escape at all. It’s only a shallow camouflage.

The best way to deal with our past is to roll up our sleeves, and face it head on. No more buck-passing or scapegoating.  No more glossing over or covering up.  No more games.

We need a confrontation with our Master, eyeball to eyeball, and be reminded that left alone we fall. If you wonder if you’ve gone too long to change, take courage. No man is too bad for God!

From God Came Near