Charles Stanley – A Spiritual Pottery Lesson

Charles Stanley

Isaiah 64:8

I decided to take a cue from the prophet Jeremiah, who visited a potter’s studio at the Lord’s request (Jer. 18:1-6). So I stopped by an art institute to observe a class—my sole purpose was to better understand the biblical metaphor of God as the Potter and people as the clay. Here’s what I learned when I walked into a room full of whirring pottery wheels.

The Potter has power over the clay. He can do what He chooses. We humans do have limited free will, but God’s will is greater. So even if we try to resist His sculpting hand, He continues to work toward His purpose. The master Craftsman has set out to achieve a particular design in us, and He has a plan to make it take shape.

The Potter works the clay with patience. Since God knows that spiritual maturity can’t be rushed, He forms our Christlike character slowly—one experience at a time. That means He must also have perseverance, as human clay sometimes shifts off-center and becomes misshapen. Just as clay can be fashioned only when it sits precisely in the middle of the wheel, Christians must be in the Father’s will to grow spiritually. The Potter maneuvers the drifting believer back into position and begins remolding. He never discards His vessels but tirelessly works to perfect them.

Our God is a personal Potter. Our God is a personal Potter. His creations reflect His personality and character. And His Spirit is poured into each human vessel so He can be an intimate part of our life. The result is a work of true beauty—a saint wholly committed to Him.

 

Our Daily Bread — Words That Help And Heal

Our Daily Bread

Matthew 6:5-15

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. —Matthew 6:9

On November 19, 1863, two well-known men gave speeches at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The featured speaker, Edward Everett, was a former congressman, governor, and president of Harvard University. Considered one of the greatest orators of his day, Mr. Everett delivered a formal address lasting 2 hours. He was followed by President Abraham Lincoln, whose speech lasted 2 minutes.

Today, Lincoln’s speech, the Gettysburg Address, is widely known and quoted, while Everett’s words have almost been forgotten. It is not just Lincoln’s eloquent brevity that accounts for this. On that occasion, his words touched the wounded spirit of a nation fractured by civil war, offering hope for the days to come.

Words do not have to be many to be meaningful. What we call the Lord’s Prayer is among the shortest and most memorable of all the teachings of Jesus. It brings help and healing as it reminds us that God is our heavenly Father whose power is at work on earth, just as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:9-10). He provides food, forgiveness, and fortitude for each day (vv.11-13). And all honor and glory belong to Him (v.13). There is nothing in our past, present, and future that is not included in our Lord’s brief words that help and heal. —David McCasland

How easy it is to use many words

And give little thought to the things you say;

So willingly yield your lips to the Lord

And hearts will be blest by them every day. —D. DeHaan

Kind words smooth, and quiet, and comfort the hearer. —Blaise Pascal

Bible in a year: Genesis 18-19; Matthew 6:1-18

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – In Exile

Ravi Z

A recent post in The New York Times caught my eye: “Amsterdam Has a Deal for Alcoholics: Work Paid in Beer.”(1) One of the most emailed columns that week, the article detailed the creative and controversial work of The Rainbow Group Foundation, an NGO helping to prevent social isolation for people without caring networks of community like the homeless, the poor, drug users and those with psychiatric problems. Vital connections are formed that foster community and enable these socially exiled individuals to participate in society in more healthy ways.

Their latest project, however, has provoked public ire and praise. Hiring alcoholics as street cleaners and paying them with beer is not a traditional form of compensation, nor does it appear to deal with their addiction. Yet, one of the unlikely supporters of the Rainbow Foundation’s efforts is the Muslim district mayor of Eastern Amsterdam, where there is a large percentage of these marginalized persons. As a practicing Muslim, the district mayor personally disapproves of alcohol but says she believes that alcoholics “cannot be just ostracized” and told to shape up. “It is better,” she said “to give them something to do and restrict their drinking.” Indeed, Hans Wijnands, the director of the Rainbow Foundation, explained: “You have to give people an alternative, to show them a path other than just sitting in the park and drinking themselves to death.”

 

One of the participants in this program has struggled with alcoholism since the 1970′s after he found his wife, who was pregnant with twins, dead in their home from a drug overdose. He has since spent time in a clinic and tried other ways to quit but has never managed to entirely break his addiction. “I’m not proud of being an alcoholic, but I am proud to have a job again” he said. Once a construction worker, he was out of work for more than a decade because of a back injury, and his chronic alcoholism. Finally landing this job sponsored by the Rainbow Foundation, he now gets up at 5:30 a.m., walks his dog and heads out ready to clean litter from the streets of eastern Amsterdam. While he has found a new sense of purpose he still acknowledges how difficult life can be. “Every day is a struggle,” he said during a lunch break with his work mates. “You may see these guys hanging around here, chatting, making jokes. But I can assure you, every man you see here carries a little backpack with their own misery in it.”

As I read this article, I couldn’t help but hear the traditional Advent hymn in the back of my mind:

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here

 

Make safe the way that leads on high,

And close the path to misery.

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

The haunting tune of this hymn provides a musical illustration of this modern day exile: solitary individuals, mostly men, homeless often on cold, wintry streets in Amsterdam, living in a world where most consider them a nuisance at best. Gaining access to that which enslaves them as payment for cleaning the streets, they exist in a form of exile. These individuals wander in their own wilderness of addiction, exiled from themselves, from others, and likely feeling far, far away from the presence of God.

This notion of exile, of being exiled from ourselves, others, and from God, is an overarching theme in the Bible. Indeed, it is often the mournful story of God’s people who traverse its pages as captives, wanderers, and exiles. First captives in the land of Egypt, the children of Israel are freed from their bondage only to spend the next forty years wandering around in what is now the Sinai Peninsula. Brought into the land of promise, their years of freedom were relatively short-lived before they were again exiles; first, conquered by the armies of Assyria, then conquered by the armies of the Babylonians, the people of Judah ‘wept by the rivers of Babylon’ for their home. Even when they returned to their land, they were now under the thumb of the Roman Empire; captives, wanderers, and exiles.

As I thought about the juxtaposition of biblical exile with more modern day examples of exile, I couldn’t help but recognize the story of exile as a story of human nature. We find ourselves in exile for a variety of reasons. Some are pilgrims who choose to walk a road less traveled; some wander off the path and become lost. Some, like the Israelites, long to return to places of enslavement mistaking them as places of comfort and solace. The story of Israel’s exile is our human story—how we wander, how often we get lost, and how we are exiled from the better angels of our nature, from one another and from our Creator. For many, we are exiled for so long we no longer remember our homes, or the way back home.

O come, O come Emmanuel is a cry that resounds in a world of exiles. The word Emmanuel means ‘God with us’ and the arrival of Christmas is the culmination of that cry, and a declaration of a God who reaches into human exile in the weakness of a baby. But that baby, Jesus of Nazareth, would declare at the beginning of his public ministry that he would “preach the gospel to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”(2)

Margaret Manning is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

(1) Andrew Higgins, “Amsterdam Has a Deal for Alcoholics: Work Paid in Beer,” The New York Times, December 4, 2013.

(2) Luke 4:14-19.

 

Alistair Begg – The Lord’s Exclusive Portion

Alistair Begg

My sister, my bride.

Song of Songs 4:12

Observe the sweet titles with which the heavenly Solomon with intense affection addresses His bride, the church. “My sister, one near to Me by ties of nature, partaker of the same sympathies. My bride, nearest and dearest, united to Me by the tenderest bands of love; My sweet companion, part of My own self. My sister, by My Incarnation, which makes Me bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh; my bride, by heavenly betrothal, in which I have married you to Myself in righteousness

My sister, whom I knew of old, and over whom I watched from her earliest infancy; My bride, taken from among the daughters, embraced by arms of love and joined to me forever.” See how true it is that our royal Kinsman is not ashamed of us, for He dwells with manifest delight upon this twofold relationship. We have the word “my” twice in our version; as if Christ dwelt with rapture on His possession of His Church.

His delights were with the sons of men because those sons of men were His own chosen ones. He, the Shepherd, sought the sheep because they were His sheep; He has gone about “to seek and to save that which was lost,” because that which was lost was His long before it was lost to itself or lost to Him.

The church is the exclusive portion of her Lord; none else may claim a partnership or pretend to share her love. Jesus, Your church delights to have it so! Let every believing soul drink solace out of these wells. Soul, Christ is near to you in ties of relationship. Christ is dear to you in bonds of marriage union, and you are dear to Him; behold, He grasps both of your hands with both His own, saying, “My sister, my bride.” Consider how the Lord gets such a double hold of you that He neither can nor will ever let you go. Be not, O beloved, slow to return the hallowed flame of His love.

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – The immutability of God

CharlesSpurgeon

“I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” Malachi 3:6

Suggested Further Reading: Romans 11:33-12:2

It has been said by some that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with the solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God. We shall be obliged to feel:

“Great God, how infinite art thou,

What worthless worms are we!”

But while the subject humbles the mind it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe.

For meditation: “In the beginning God” (Genesis 1:1) could well describe these opening sentences of Spurgeon’s “New Park Street Pulpit”. But who or what comes first in our thoughts and lives?

Sermon no. 1

7 January (1855)

John MacArthur – Avoiding a Spiritual Identity Crisis

John MacArthur

God “chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).

Many people in our society are on a seemingly endless and often frantic quest for personal identity and self- worth. Identity crises are common at almost every age level. Superficial love and fractured relationships are but symptoms of our failure to resolve the fundamental issues of who we are, why we exist, and where we’re going. Sadly, most people will live and die without ever understanding God’s purpose for their lives.

That is tragic, yet understandable. God created man to bear His image and enjoy His fellowship forever. But when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they violated that purpose and plunged the human race into sin. That created within man a spiritual void and an identity crisis of unimaginable proportions.

Throughout the ages ungodly people have tried to fill that void with a myriad of substitutes but ultimately all is lost to death and despair.

Despite that bleak picture, a true sense of identity is available to every Christian. It comes from knowing that God Himself personally selected you to be His child. Before the world began, God set his love upon you and according to His plan Christ died for you (1 Pet. 1:20). That’s why you responded in faith to the gospel (2 Thess. 2:13). Also, that’s why you can never lose your salvation. The same God who drew you to Himself will hold you there securely (John 10:29).

Don’t allow sin, Satan, or circumstances to rob your sense of identity in Christ. Make it the focus of everything you do. Remember who you are: God’s child; why you are here: to serve and glorify Him; and where you are going: to spend eternity in His presence.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for choosing you to be His child and for drawing you to Himself in saving faith.

Praise Him for His promise never to let you go.

For Further Study:

Read John 6:35-44; 10:27-30; Romans 8:31-39

According to Jesus, how many believers will lose their salvation? What was his reasoning?

What did Paul base his certainty on?

Joyce Meyer – Trust God Completely

Joyce meyer

In You, O Lord, do I put my trust. —Psalm 31:1

I remember when God told me to quit my full-time job where I was making very good money. He began to deal with me, saying, “You’re going to have to put that down and stay home and prepare for ministry.”

I didn’t obey quickly because I was afraid to leave my job. After all, how did I even know for sure that I was hearing from God? He continued dealing with me so I finally tried to make a deal with Him, saying, “I won’t work full-time, but I’ll work part-time.”

So I went to work part-time because I was afraid to trust God completely. Dave and I didn’t have as much income as we had before, but I found we could survive on less money than we had previously. We had to cut down on expenses, but we were able to pay our bills. I also had more time to prepare for ministry. This seemed like a good plan, but it was not God’s plan.

I learned that God doesn’t want to make “deals” and I ended up getting fired from my part-time job. I was a good worker and had never been fired from a job before. Even though I didn’t like my circumstances, I was finally where God wanted me to be all along—totally dependent on Him.

Without a job, I had to learn to trust God for every little thing I needed. For six years, we needed divine intervention each month just to be able to pay our bills, but during that time I learned a lot about God’s faithfulness. He always provided and what we learned through our experience enabled us to trust Him for the resources we now need to run an international ministry. I encourage you to obey God completely and don’t try to make deals with Him because they never work.

God’s word for you today: When we negotiate with God, we never win.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – An Open Line to God

dr_bright

“And we are sure of this, that He will listen to us whenever we ask Him for anything in line with His will. And if we really know He is listening when we talk to Him and make our requests, then we can be sure that He will answer us” (John 5:14,15).

John, chairman of the board of deacons in a large, successful church, refused to respond – though hundreds of others did – to my invitation to be filled with the Holy Spirit by faith.

Following the meeting, he came to me in tears.

“I have dedicated and rededicated my life to Christ many, many times, always to no avail,” he said. “I didn’t dare respond to your invitation, because I knew I would fail again.”

I explained that my invitation was different. “God’s power to live a holy life and be a fruitful witness is released by faith, based on His faithfulness and the authority of God’s Word.”

When John understood this, he responded enthusiastically and prayed, asking God to fill him with His Spirit. His life was changed, as have been thousands of others as they have come to understand how to be filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit by faith moment by moment, day by day.

On the basis of His command to be filled (Ephesians 5:18) and His promise that if we ask for anything in accordance with God’s will, He will hear and answer us (1 John 5:14,15), we know that we can be filled with the Holy Spirit – as a way of life.

Bible Reading: Matthew 7:7-11

Today’s Action Point: I will humble myself before the Lord and tell Him that I want to live a holy life, that I want to be a man/woman of God. I will surrender the control of my life to Christ, turn from all known sin, and by faith on the basis of His command and His promise, receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. By faith, I expect to live the supernatural, Spirit-empowered life in a moment-by-moment, day-by-day dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Presidential Prayer Team; G.C. – What Matters

ppt_seal01

When you were young, you were taught that the world is made up of small particles of matter called atoms. That leads to another question: what are atoms made of? Answering that query still drives the scientific community today. Based on science, everything in the world is made of atoms; atoms are made of electrons and nuclei; nuclei are made of protons and neutrons; and protons and neutrons are made up of quarks and gluons.

Give as alms those things that are within.

Luke 11:41

Similarly, the Bible teaches that for those desiring to please God, what you’re made of matters…and it comes from inside the heart; a heart made of faith. Faith, in turn, is made from choosing to believe in things that cannot be seen. Not things like quarks and gluons, but things like God’s consuming love for all mankind and the graceful sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ for you personally.

What’s in your heart today? Do you have a heart made of unbelief and fear, or do your offer up faith in conviction that God is good and at work carrying out His plans? Ultimately, what’s inside is all you have to offer back to God, your family and America. Trust Him for your loved ones, your future, and for the nation!

Recommended Reading: Hebrews 11:1-10

 

 

 

Greg Laurie – Contemplating the Cross

greglaurie

Thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. —1 Corinthians 15:57

I heard about a man who tried to start his own religion but soon found that it didn’t go so well. He decided to approach the French statesman Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-érigord and ask him what he should do to gain converts. The statesman told him, “I recommend that you get yourself crucified, die, and then rise again on the third day.”

Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection on the third day is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. It is what sets our faith as Christians apart from the faith of all others. Yet many view Christ’s crucifixion as a rude interruption of what was an otherwise successful ministry. But the cross was at the forefront of the mind of Jesus Christ from the very beginning. This is where He knew He was headed, and He spoke of it often. The Bible even tells us that before He even came to this earth, a decision was made that He would ultimately go to the cross. Scripture calls Him “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8 NLT).

It was at the cross that the righteous demands of God were satisfied. It was at the cross that God and humanity were reconciled once again. It was at the cross that a decisive blow was dealt against Satan and his minions. It was at the cross that our very salvation was purchased. Therefore, we can’t talk about the cross too much — or contemplate it too often.                

Max Lucado – Joy Within Your Reach

Max Lucado

There’s a delicious gladness that comes from God. A joy which consequences cannot quench.  His is a peace which circumstances cannot steal.

Nine times he promises it.  And he promises it to an unlikely crowd: The poor in spirit. Those who mourn. The meek. Those who hunger and thirst.  The merciful. The pure in heart. The peacemakers. The persecuted. It is to this band of pilgrims that God promises a special blessing. A heavenly joy.

But this joy is not cheap. What Jesus promises is not a gimmick to give you goose bumps or a mental attitude. No, Matthew Chapter 5 describes God’s radical reconstruction of the heart. It’s no casual shift of attitude. It’s a demolition of the old structure and a creation of the new.

God’s joy.  And it’s within your reach.  You are one decision away from joy!

From The Applause of Heaven