Charles Stanley – Our God of Grace

Charles Stanley

Ephesians 2:4-5

Grace is God’s favor and love shown to mankind. We cannot earn it or ever be good enough to deserve it. To truly appreciate His grace, we need to comprehend certain truths about Him and ourselves.

First, God is absolutely holy, and sin cannot coexist with the sacred perfection of His presence. When Adam and Eve chose to eat from the forbidden tree, their intimate relationship with Him was broken. Since all future generations inherited their sinful nature, every person is born with a nature bent away from the Lord.

Next, God’s character is just. As a result, He requires payment for sin. The penalty He demands is death (Rom. 6:23), not just physically but also spiritually through eternal separation from Him.

Finally, we have a merciful God who does not treat us as our actions deserve but instead extends His grace toward us. He devised a plan that would affirm His holy nature, meet the requirements of His justice, and enable us to become members of His family: He sent His Son to accomplish our salvation. Born as a human being, Jesus lived a perfect life and fulfilled the Law. He alone was qualified to satisfy divine justice. Christ took our place, bore our sins, and experienced God’s wrath over our rebellion—all so that we could be reconciled to the Father.

God made this provision for our salvation while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). Have you acknowledged your sinful state and received His forgiveness through faith in Jesus? If so, are you expressing ongoing thankfulness for His grace?

 

Our Daily Bread — As Below, So Above

Our Daily Bread

Luke 24:44-53

You are witnesses of these things. . . . but tarry in the city . . . until you are endued with power from on high. —Luke 24:48-49

The Roman paganism of Jesus’ day taught that the actions of gods in the heavens above affected the earth below. If Zeus got angry, thunderbolts shot out. “As above, so below,” went the ancient formula.

Jesus, though, sometimes inverted that. He taught: As below, so above. A believer prays, and heaven responds. A sinner repents, and the angels rejoice. A mission succeeds, and God is glorified. A believer rebels, and the Holy Spirit is grieved.

I believe these things, yet somehow I keep forgetting them. I forget that my prayers matter to God. I forget that the choices I make today bring delight or grief to the Lord of the universe. I forget that I am helping my neighbors to their eternal destinations.

The good-news message of God’s love that Jesus brought to this earth we can now bring to others. That was the challenge He gave His disciples before ascending to His Father (see Matt. 28:18-20). We who follow Jesus serve as an extension of His incarnation and ministry. It is why He came to earth. Before He left, He told His disciples that He would send His Spirit from above to them below (Luke 24:48). He did not leave us alone. He fills us with His power that we might touch lives here below to affect eternity. —Philip Yancey

Thank You, O my Father,

For giving us Your Son,

And leaving Your Spirit

Till the work on earth is done. —Green

You ascended before our eyes, and we turned back grieving, only to find You in our hearts. —Augustine

Bible in a year: Genesis 23-24; Matthew 7

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Nothing Is Ordinary

Ravi Z

Some time ago, my wife and I were trying to get our daughter admitted into a school. For many reasons, it was quite a challenging experience. We narrowed down our selections and set about the long process of getting her enrolled. As we were about to enter yet another school building, I found myself thinking about how often we consider ourselves the masters of our own futures. We make choices in so many areas—are we not in charge?

A sharp person knows that this is not entirely true. We do not decide where we are born, our nationality, our family, our gender, our facial features, or so on. Moreover, there are also many times when our own lives depend on someone else’s choice. Though we chose the school where we wanted to see our child admitted, we could not ensure that the school would choose her. School officials regularly find themselves with a pool of candidates, all of whom they will evaluate, and not all of whom will be admitted. Applicants must wait and see if they are chosen by the school for enrollment.

Christians take a certain comfort in knowing that God uses the language of choosing them. We are not chosen because we are the most intelligent or the best behaved, but because God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. We are not heirs of the kingdom because we are people of inherent honor, but because Christ extends to us the glory of God. We are not God’s children because we are strong, but because we are weak. Not only do these things prevent believers from boasting in anything but Christ, they also offer a confidence in living out our lives together.

The consequences are many and indeed good news to all who will heed the call of a God who chooses us. No longer do we need to be achievement-driven; we were not chosen because of some special ability or gifting. No longer do we need to please people for a sense of acceptance; we are the apple of God’s eye. No longer do we need to fear the future, for we are held in the arms of one who holds everything in kind and able hands. Despair and defeat need not rule our lives—not because we are go-getters and succeed at all costs—but because we are confident that God is using all that happens in our lives to weave a beautiful tapestry. For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

For the Christian, to live as Christ’s own is to live with the assurance that nothing can separate us from the love of God. And thus we also live with the reminder that nothing is ever really ordinary. As we go about the seemingly mundane and sometimes frustrating scenes in the drama of daily life, we are invited to see something greater in every scene. There is the hope of God’s grace in all that confronts us. There is the comfort of God’s presence throughout the stories of our lives. Even in our shortfalls and bad choices God is still near, going about the gift of redemption, urging us onward and further into the life of Father, Son, and Spirit. This God who begins a good work will be certain to bring it to completion.

Cyril Georgeson is a member of the speaking team with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Delhi, India.

 

Alistair Begg – Serve the Lord with Gladness

Alistair Begg

Serve the Lord with gladness.

Psalms 100:2

Delight in divine service is a token of acceptance. Those who serve God with a sad countenance, because they do what is unpleasant to them, are not serving Him at all; they bring the form of loyalty, but the life is absent. Our God requires no slaves to grace His throne; He is the Lord of the empire of love, and would have His servants dressed in the uniform of joy.

The angels of God serve Him with songs, not with groans; a murmur or a sigh would be a mutiny in their ranks. That obedience that is not voluntary is disobedience, for the Lord looks at the heart, and if He sees that we serve Him from force, and not because we love Him, He will reject our offering.

Service coupled with cheerfulness is heart-service and therefore true. Take away joyful willingness from the Christian, and you have removed the test of his sincerity. If a man be driven to battle, he is no patriot; but he who marches into the fray with flashing eye and beaming face, singing, “It is sweet for one’s country to die,” proves himself to be sincere in his patriotism.

Cheerfulness is the support of our strength; in the joy of the Lord are we strong. It acts as the remover of difficulties. It is to our service what oil is to the wheels of a railway carriage. Without oil the axle soon grows hot, and accidents occur; and if there be not a holy cheerfulness to oil our wheels, our spirits will be clogged with weariness.

The man who is cheerful in his service of God proves that obedience is his element; he can sing,

Make me to walk in your commands,

It’s a delightful road.

Reader, let us put this question–do you serve the Lord with gladness? Let us show to the people of the world, who think our religion to be slavery, that it is to us a delight and a joy! Let our gladness proclaim that we serve a good Master.

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – Free grace

CharlesSpurgeon

“Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.” Ezekiel 36:32

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Timothy 1:12-17

My God! I have rebelled against thee, and yet thou hast loved me, unworthy me! How can it be? I cannot lift myself up with pride, I must bow down before thee in speechless gratitude. Remember, my dear brethren, that not only is the mercy which you and I have received undeserved, but it was unasked. It is true you sought for mercy, but not till mercy first sought you. It is true you prayed, but not till free grace made you pray. You would have been still today hardened in heart, without God, and without Christ, had not free grace saved you. Can you be proud then?—proud of mercy which, if I may use the term, has been forced upon you?—proud of grace which has been given you against your will, until your will was changed by sovereign grace? And think again—all the mercy you have you once refused. Christ sups with you; be not proud of his company. Remember, there was a day when he knocked, and you refused—when he came to the door and said, “My head is wet with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night; open to me, my beloved;” and you barred it in his face, and would not let him enter. Be not proud, then of what you have, when you remember that you once rejected him. Does God embrace you in his arms of love? Remember, once you lifted up your hand of rebellion against him. Is your name written in his book? Ah! there was a time when, if it had been in your power, you would have erased the sacred lines that contained your own salvation. Can we, dare we, lift up our wicked heads with pride, when all these things should make us hang our heads down in the deepest humility?

For meditation: For meditation: Whatever we have become or achieved in the Christian life must always be attributed to God’s grace and directed to his glory. The apostle Paul needed no reminder (1 Corinthians 15:10).

Sermon no. 233

9 January (1859)

John MacArthur – Living out Your Royal Heritage

John MacArthur

“In love [God] predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” (Eph. 1:4-5).

Moses told Israel that God didn’t choose them because of their great numbers or any inherent goodness on their part, but as an expression of God’s sovereign will and sacrificial love (Deut. 7:7-8). That’s true of you as well if you’re a Christian.

The Greek word translated “love” in Ephesians 1:4 speaks not of emotional or sentimental love but of love that seeks God’s best for others at any cost. It is marked by sacrifice rather than selfishness–giving rather than receiving. It seeks to forgive rather than condemn–to dismiss offenses rather than count them.

Such love is epitomized in God Himself, who loved you so much that He sacrificed His Son on your behalf, who willingly laid down His own life for you (John 3:16; 15:13).

While false gods are worshiped out of fear and ignorance, the true God–your Heavenly Father–has eliminated all fear so that you can confidently enter into His presence (Heb. 10:19; 1 John 4:18). You have received a spirit of adoption and can address Him as “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15), the Aramaic equivalent of Daddy or Papa.

Your Heavenly Father delights in your praise and glories in your obedience. Be a faithful child. Make this day count for Him. Live out your royal heritage. Seek His wisdom in all you do. Go to His Word and follow its counsel. Demonstrate His love to others in practical ways.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for granting you the privilege of being a member of His family.

Thank Him for the many manifestations of His love that you enjoy each day.

Ask Him to lead you to someone to whom you can demonstrate His love in a practical and sacrificial way.

For Further Study:

Read 1 Corinthians 13

List the characteristics of godly love.

How does the quality of your love for others compare to God’s standard? What steps can you take today to bring your love into greater conformity to His?

 

Joyce Meyer – You’re Invited

Joyce meyer

The next day Jesus desired and decided to go into Galilee; and He found Philip and said to him, Join Me as My attendant and follow Me. — John 1:43

When Jesus invited people to become His disciples and follow Him, I think He was basically asking them if they wanted to join His party. I realize that He was talking about His group, but I think traveling with Jesus was probably a lot of fun as well as a lot of hard work. Repeatedly throughout the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) we see that Jesus invited people to leave their lifestyles and side with His party; He is still issuing that invitation today.

Living for God, serving Him and others can be so much fun if we approach it with the mind of Christ. It comes down to our attitude. My favorite image of Jesus is one I have seen of Him laughing. Jesus’ mission could not have been any more serious and yet I am positive that He laughed with His disciples, made jokes about their goofy ways, enjoyed food, rested and somehow managed to turn the mission into something that was enjoyable. When we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior and decide we want to be a Christian and live a Christian lifestyle, we are not going to a solemn assembly or a funeral; we are joining His party.

Jesus can even make dying to self, which means being delivered from selfish, self-centered living, an interesting journey if we look at it properly. I speak a lot on spiritual maturity, dying to selfishness, taking up our cross and living holy lives, and I am continually amazed at how much people laugh while I do it. Somehow the Holy Spirit brings the teaching out of me in a way that makes people laugh while they are being corrected. God is amazing! People tell me all the time how funny I am and yet I speak a very straightforward, hard-hitting message that is quite serious. I have joined Jesus’ party.

Love Yourself Today: What about you? Have you joined Jesus’ party? Are you enjoying your life and having a good time as you follow Him? You’re invited!

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Seeking God’s Face

dr_bright

“If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways: then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, KJV).

“Humility is perfect quietness of heart,” Andrew Murray once wrote. “It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.”

For years, I have claimed God’s promise recorded in 2 Chronicles 7:14. My emphasis has been on the humbling of ourselves and turning from sin. But recently a minister friend made a passing reference to the phrase, “seeking God’s face,” and it triggered in my mind some new thoughts about this great promise from God.

In a sense, the humbling of ourselves and turning from sin are the by-products, or end results, of coming to know God as He is, by meditating upon His character and attributes. To “seek God’s face” is to meditate upon His sovereignty, His holiness, His power, His wisdom, His love – getting to know Him as He is.

The disciples of the first-century church were mightily used of God because of their exalted view of Him. There was nothing too great for Him. God could do anything. The church today can once again experience that same dynamic that characterized those first believers if we, too, become totally absorbed in the character and attributes of our great God.

It is then that we will truly begin to believe God for supernatural, impossible things and make a great impact for good on the world.

Bible Reading: Psalm 145:5-12

Today’s Action Point: I will deliberately choose to seek God’s face today by meditating on His attributes, found in Psalm 145, and by looking for Him in every circumstance of my life this day.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Navigational Nightmare

ppt_seal01

“Please proceed to the highlighted route.” If you have a GPS navigation system, you’re certainly familiar with this message, which is delivered in a voice that sounds both authoritative and sure. Donna Cooper followed that direction, just as you probably would. Outside of her air-conditioned car, the temperature in California’s Death Valley was 125 degrees. Three days later, a rescue helicopter finally found Cooper and her passengers…thirsty but alive. The GPS unit, as it turned out, led them down roads that no longer existed. Others were not so fortunate; it’s called Death Valley for a reason.

Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth.

James 1:18

Who will you rely upon for navigation in 2014? “There is a way that seems right to a man,” says Proverbs 14:12, “but its end is the way to death.” The way of the world often seems logical and compelling, but only the “word of truth” found in the Scriptures provides reliable guidance.

America, Christians would agree, has chosen the wrong routes, leading to a dead end of debt, crime and immorality. But God can turn the direction of a nation “wherever He will.” (Proverbs 21:1) Today, pray that President Obama and your leaders in Washington D.C. will submit to His leading.

Recommended Reading: Proverbs 21:1-8

 

 

Greg Laurie – Dealing with Discouragement

greglaurie

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God. —Psalm 42:11

It’s not unusual for even the most spiritual people to have their days of doubt. Moses, on one occasion at least, was overwhelmed by his circumstances. After he had listened to the constant complaining of the children of Israel, he basically told the Lord, “I’m fed up. Just kill me. I don’t want to deal with this another day.”

Elijah, after his contest with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, heard that Jezebel had put a contract out on his life. He was so overwhelmed by his circumstances, so discouraged, so uncertain, and so filled with doubt that he said to God, “Take my life.”

Even the great apostle Paul had moments when he was discouraged. He wrote to the church at Corinth, “We were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8).

Jeremiah, the great prophet, faced it as well. He was ridiculed and harassed for giving out the Word of God. Because he was tired of the pressure he was facing, it made him want to stop giving out God’s Word altogether. He said, “The word of the Lord was made to me a reproach and a derision daily. Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name’ ” (Jeremiah 20:8-9).

You aren’t the only one who has ever faced doubt or uncertainty or has been perplexed as to why God did not work in a certain way. We may be in the midst of God’s working and can’t see the big picture as He can.

We can trust His heart, even when we can’t trace His path.

 

Max Lucado – The Summit

Max Lucado

Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened” (Matthew 11:28).

I wish I could say it happens all the time; but it doesn’t. Sometimes He asks and I don’t listen. Other times He asks and I just don’t go. But sometimes I follow. I leave behind the deadlines, the schedule and walk the narrow trail up the mountain with Him.

You’ve been there. You’ve turned your back on the noise and sought His voice. You’ve stepped away from the masses and followed the Master as He led you up the winding path to the summit. The roar of the marketplace is down there, the perspective of the peak is up here.

He gently reminds you, “You’ll go nowhere tomorrow that I haven’t already been.”  “The victory is already yours.”  “My delight is one decision away—seize it!” Ah, the words on the sacred summit. A place of permanence in a world of transition.

From The Applause of Heaven