Charles Stanley – A Balanced Schedule

Charles Stanley

Ephesians 5:15-17

We often think seconds are not very important. But seconds tick away into minutes, minutes into hours, and hours into days. We have all been amazed at how swiftly days turn into weeks, months, and years. Think of it this way: a 70-year-old has lived the equivalent of about two billion, two hundred seven million, five hundred and twenty thousand seconds!

While you read that last sentence, about five seconds of your life elapsed, and you can never go back and decide to use them differently. As small as they are, seconds are precious because they are a creation and a gift of God. How we use even these small time increments makes a difference. Since our heavenly Father has a plan for each life—that we live for His purpose and His will—then we must consider how we spend not just years, months, and days, but even minutes and seconds. And the time to decide is now, before any more of your life passes by.

Understanding the value of each moment, the apostle Paul urged us, “Be careful how you walk . . . making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16). In essence, he is instructing us, “Take advantage of every opportunity God gives you. Don’t waste your time!” Let Jesus be your role model for keeping a balanced schedule. He knew that spending time with the Father was the most important thing He could do. Follow His example, and begin each day in the Father’s presence. He will help you arrange your schedule and can make every second count.

 

 

 

Our Daily Bread — Help From His Spirit

Our Daily Bread

Micah 6:3-8

What does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? —Micah 6:8

Many of us make promises to ourselves to mark the beginning of a new year. We make pledges such as I’m going to save more, exercise more, or spend less time on the Internet. We begin the year with good intentions, but before long old habits tempt us to take up our old ways. We slip up occasionally, then more frequently, and then all the time. Finally, it’s as if our resolution never existed.

Instead of choosing our own self-improvement goals, a better approach might be to ask ourselves: “What does the Lord desire of me?” Through the prophet Micah, God has revealed that He wants us to do what is right, to be merciful, and to walk humbly with Him (Mic. 6:8). All of these things relate to soul-improvement rather than self-improvement.

Thankfully, we don’t have to rely on our own strength. The Holy Spirit has the power to help us as believers in our spiritual growth. God’s Word says, He is able to “strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Eph. 3:16 NIV).

So as we begin a new year, let’s resolve to be more Christlike. The Spirit will help us as we seek to walk humbly with God. —Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Truthful Spirit, dwell with me;

I myself would truthful be;

And with wisdom kind and clear

Let Thy life in mine appear. —Lynch

He who has the Holy Spirit as his resource has already won the victory.

Bible in a year: Genesis 7-9; Matthew 3

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – God Rest Ye Merry

Ravi Z

Encounters with frigid temperatures and wintry blends of snow and sleet frequent weather reports for many this time of year. Years lived in the pungent cold of Michigan allows me to relate with a shudder, albeit now from a warmer, southern place. But the worst descriptions of the searching, biting cold bring to mind a less personal memory.

“Foggier yet, and colder!” writes Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol. “Piercing, searching, biting cold.” The narration continues:

“If the good Saint Dunstan had but nipped the Evil Spirit’s nose with a touch of such weather as that, instead of using his familiar weapons, then indeed he would have roared to lusty purpose. The owner of one scant young nose, gnawed and mumbled by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by dogs, stooped down at Scrooge’s keyhole to regale him with a Christmas carol: but at the first sound of—

‘God bless you, merry gentleman!

May nothing you dismay!’

Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.”(1)

The irony within this icy picture is not missed on Dickens’s careful detail. In the piercing, wearying cold stands the cheerful caroler while warm and sheltered sits the cold, cantankerous Scrooge.

The contrasting souls Dickens paints in this scene strike with an idea ripe for the reflections of Christmas and a coming new year, particularly for those who enter with greater apprehension than hope. Life often presents the mystery of this caroler. Somehow some of the warmest hearts belong to lives that have been surrounded by the darkest and coldest days. The words of the caroler and the familiar lines of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen amplify the contrast of bleak and merry men:

God rest ye merry, gentlemen

Let nothing you dismay

Remember Christ our Saviour

Was born was born on Christmas Day

To save us all from Satan’s power

When we were gone astray

O tidings of comfort and joy

Though I thought it for many years, no thanks to Dickens, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen is not an address to “merry gentlemen.” It is not because Scrooge was grumpy that the words of the carol are unbefitting. The word “merry” has in fact come to mean something quite different than it did for the first hearers of this hymn. Where it now connotes jollity, it once meant “mighty” or “strong.” Similarly, the word “rest” signified not sleep or relaxation, but the more wholistic notion of being kept or made well. Thus, in more contemporary English, we might most soundly pronounce the title of this carol in the manner of a prayer: “God make you mighty.” What specifically makes us mighty is relayed in the story the song retells:

From God our heavenly Father a blessed angel came;

And unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same;

How that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by name.

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.

The most cynical responses to the Christmas story—the story of God’s Son born by name—often come from the most comfortable places. Yet for those living in cold and harsh realities, remembering that Christ the Savior was born to save the lost is often much more than a thought that warms them. It is far more like the sun that provides the very capacity for life. Mary’s song, as it is recorded in Luke, could hardly have been sung without the reality of hard times ahead; being pregnant without a husband as a woman in first century Palestine bore the stigma of adultery and the punishment of death. Yet Mary sang because the angel gave her a mighty, terrifying, expectant story to sing about: “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High… And his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:30-33).

The “comfort and joy” promised by the angel and proclaimed in this song is not an outburst of seasonal cheer or a call to passive contentment. Comfort, in the Christian story, comes from the mighty encounter of knowing hope by name, and joy the startling wonder of finding that hope has drawn near. Whether seized in the midst of warmth or darkness, God has made us mighty in the giving of Christ to a bleak world.

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

(1) Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (Cheswold, Delaware: Prestwick House, 2005), 17.

 

 

Alistair Begg – The Way for the New Year

Alistair Begg

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.”

Luke 3:4

The voice crying in the wilderness demanded a way for the Lord, a way prepared, and a way prepared in the wilderness. I would be attentive to the Master’s proclamation and give Him a road into my heart, cast up by gracious operations, through the desert of my nature. The four directions in the text2 must have my serious attention.

Every valley must be exalted. Low and groveling thoughts of God must be given up; doubting and despairing must be removed; and self-seeking and carnal delights must be forsaken. Across these deep valleys a glorious causeway of grace must be raised.

Every mountain and hill shall be laid low. Proud creature-sufficiency, and boastful self-righteousness, must be leveled, to make a highway for the King of kings. Divine fellowship is never promised to haughty, high-minded sinners. The Lord has respect to the lowly and visits the contrite in heart, but the lofty are an abomination unto Him. My soul, beseech the Holy Spirit to set you right in this respect.

The crooked shall be made straight. The wavering heart must have a straight path of decision for God and holiness marked out for it. Double-minded men are strangers to the God of truth. My soul, take heed that in everything you are honest and true, as in the sight of the heart-searching God.

The rough places shall be made smooth. Stumbling-blocks of sin must be removed, and thorns and briers of rebellion must be uprooted. So great a visitor must not find miry ways and stony places when He comes to honor His favored ones with His company. Oh, that this evening the Lord may find in my heart a highway made ready by His grace, that He may make a triumphal progress through the utmost bounds of my soul, from the beginning of this year even to the end of it.

2 Isaiah 40

 

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – The immutability of Christ

CharlesSpurgeon

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” Hebrews 13:8

Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 1:5-13

It is well that there is one person who is the same. It is well that there is one stable rock amidst the changing billows of this sea of life; for how many and how grievous have been the changes of last year? How many of you who commenced in affluence, have by the panic, which has shaken nations, been reduced almost to poverty? How many of you, who in strong health marched into this place on the first Sabbath of last year, have had to come tottering here, feeling that the breath of man is in his nostrils, and wherein is he to be accounted of? Many of you came to this hall with a numerous family, leaning upon the arm of a choice and much loved friend. Alas! for love, if that were all, and nought beside, O earth! For you have buried those you loved the best. Some of you have come here childless, or widows, or fatherless, still weeping your recent affliction. Changes have taken place in your estate that have made your heart full of misery. Your cups of sweetness have been dashed with draughts of gall; your golden harvests have had tares cast into the midst of them, and you have had to reap the noxious weed along with the precious grain. Your much fine gold has become dim, and your glory has departed; the sweet feelings at the commencement of last year became bitter ones at the end. Your raptures and your ecstasies were turned into depression and forebodings. Alas! for our changes, and hallelujah to him that has no change.

For meditation: Change is part and parcel of everything in a fallen creation (Genesis 3:16-19). The Lord Jesus Christ is not part of creation, not even the very first part, but is Lord over all creation and not subject to any change. In him God’s children can look forward to glorious liberty from creation’s present bondage to decay (Romans 8:21-23).

Sermon no. 170

3 January (1858)

John MacArthur – Blessing the God of Blessings

John MacArthur

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us” (Eph. 1:3).

Paul’s brief doxology identifies God the Father as the ultimate recipient and source of blessing–the One to whom blessing is ascribed and the One who bestows blessings on those who love Him.

“Blessed” translates the Greek word euloge[ma]o, from which we get eulogy. To bless or eulogize God is to praise Him for His mighty works and holy character.

That should be the response of your heart just as it has been the response of believers throughout the ages. The psalmist said “Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer” (Ps. 66:20); and “blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone works wonders” (Ps. 72:18). Peter said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3).

When the situation is reversed and God blesses us, it isn’t with praise, for apart from Him there is nothing praiseworthy about us. Instead, He gives us undeserved benefits through His many deeds of kindness. Scripture identifies Him as the source of every good thing (James 1:17), who works all things together for our good and His glory (Rom. 8:28).

That is but a sampling of the many blessings He lavishes on us in His Son, Christ Jesus. It’s a marvelous cycle: God blesses us with deeds of kindness; we bless Him with words of praise.

Beware of the sin of thanklessness. Recognize God’s blessings in your life and let them fill your heart and lips

Suggestions for Prayer:

Identify ten specific blessings that God has granted to you in recent days and praise Him for each one.

Ask Him to make you more aware of and thankful for His goodness in your life.

Always be ready to seek forgiveness when you take His blessings for granted.

For Further Study:

Read Psalm 103

What blessings does David mention?

How do they apply to your life?

Joyce Meyer – Keep in Touch with God

Joyce meyer

Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes] . . . But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night.—Psalm 1:1–2

Keep in touch with God today; stay tuned to His voice. You may have a plan for the day, but God may lead you in a totally different direction if you are sensitive to the Holy Ghost. Be brave enough to flow with what you feel in your heart God wants you to do.

Today is going to be a good day. Listen for the voice of God to lead you. Be determined to walk in the Spirit and stay in the flow of God’s leading today.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Abundant Life for the Asking

dr_bright

“The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness” (John 10:10).

For me, the Christian life is an exciting, joy-filled adventure. It has been that way through more than 30 years of walking with the Lord. If you are not already experiencing such a life, it can be the same for you today, tomorrow and the rest of your days, no matter what the circumstances.

Jesus promised the full and abundant life for all those who walk in faith and obedience. His “exceeding great and precious promises” include every kind of provision for you – spiritual, emotional, material.

You start by getting to know God – who He is, what He is like and the benefits we enjoy when we belong to Him. Your view of God influences all the rest of your relationships. Scripture says the righteous shall live by faith. Faith must focus on an object, and the object in which we have our faith is God and His inspired Word.

But how do we acquire that kind of faith? “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17, NAS). It is as simple as that. You are building up your storehouse of faith every time you read the Word of God, every time you hear the Word of God and every time you memorize the Word of God.

Our view of God determines the quality and degree of our faith. A small view of God results in a small faith. Great faith is the result of a correct biblical view of God – recognizing Him as great, mighty, all-wise and worthy of our trust.

Our view of God as sovereign, holy, loving, righteous, just and compassionate produces these same qualities in our lives. If we view Him as a God of love and forgiveness, we are prompted to love and forgive others also.

Bible Reading: John 7:36-39

Today’s Action Point: Through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, I determine to begin practicing the presence of God in my life – every moment of the day. I will begin by meditating on His attributes through storing portions of His Word in my heart and mind. As a result, by faith I expect to experience and share with my family friends the full and abundant life which Jesus promised to all who are His.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; J.K. – The World’s Priests

ppt_seal01

Today’s verse says you “ought always to pray.” The word for “ought” appears no less than 100 times in the New Testament. To the Greeks, it meant a forced compulsion defined by the situation. But Jesus’ explanation revealed that the directive has a much greater implication.

He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.

Luke 18:1

It is God’s will that you pray…it is a loving, creative, purposeful will. Its intentions for you promise only hope and a bright future. It is in prayer and in the study of His Word that you are privileged to know Him and His will more.

Charles Spurgeon believed that the Lord’s people are the world’s priests. As such, you can be an intercessor for the needs of those in your midst…the weak who fall into sin or who despair in difficult circumstances, the strong who may grow presumptuous, the sick and the poor. In a world full of idols, wickedness, and people deprived of salvation, the opportunity to pray is constant

Make knowing the Lord your priority in 2014. Study His Word. Intercede for President Obama and the nation’s leaders…that they may know God’s will and do it. Diligently pray and do not lose heart.

Recommended Reading: Psalm 116:1-6, 12-14 

 

Greg Laurie – Surrender at Gethsemane

greglaurie

He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.” —Mark 14:34

Have you ever felt lonely? Have you ever felt as though your friends and family had abandoned you? Have you ever felt like you were misunderstood? Have you ever had a hard time understanding or submitting to the will of God for your life? If so, then you have an idea of what the Lord Jesus went through when He agonized at Gethsemane.

Hebrews tells us, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it” (4:15-16 NLT).

The Bible tells us that Jesus was “a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief ” (Isaiah

53:3, NLT). But the sorrow He experienced in Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion seemed to be the culmination of all the sorrow He had ever known — and would accelerate to a climax the following day. The ultimate triumph that was to take place at Calvary was first accomplished beneath the gnarled, old olive trees of Gethsemane.

It’s interesting that the very word Gethsemane means “olive press.” Olives were pressed there to make oil, and truly, Jesus was being pressed from all sides that He might bring life to us. I don’t think we can even begin to fathom what He was going through. Isaiah 53:5 says that He was crushed for our iniquities.

But look at what that crushing and bruising accomplished. It brought about your salvation and mine. Because of what Jesus went through at Gethsemane, and ultimately at the cross, we can call upon His name. Though it was an unfathomably painful, horrific transition, it was necessary for the ultimate goal of what was accomplished.

Maybe you are at a crisis point in your life right now — a personal Gethsemane, if you will. You have your will; you know what you want. Yet you can sense that God’s will is different. Would you let the Lord choose for you? Would you be willing to say, “Lord, I am submitting my will to Yours. Not my will, but Yours be done”? You will never, never regret making that decision.

Max Lucado – To Be Seen

Max Lucado

If we’re not looking up at God, we’re looking inward at ourselves and outward at each other. The result? Quarreling families. Restless leaders. Fence-building. No trespassing signs.

If we see only ourselves, our tombstones will have the same epitaph Paul used to describe enemies of Christ:  “Their god is their own appetite, they glory in their shame, and this world is the limit of their horizon” (Philippians 3:19).

It’s why God came near.  To be seen. It’s why those who saw Him were never the same. Christianity, in its purest form, is nothing more than seeing Jesus. And Christian service is nothing more than imitating Him whom we see. The Bible says, “Unless a man is born again, He cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

God came near. There is no truth more worthy of your time.

From God Came Near