Charles Stanley – Our Constant Friend

Charles Stanley

2 Timothy 4:16-18

Many of us have experienced times of abandonment by others just when we needed them most. It could have been a spouse withdrawing emotionally, a co-worker who ignored you, or a close friend who was too busy to help. The life of the apostle Paul teaches us how to avoid discouragement in such situations.

Remember that the Lord is with us always. When we trust Jesus as our Savior, we enter into a relationship with Him, and His Spirit comes to live in us. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus remains with us at all times, regardless of the circumstance. He is our friend—one who will never leave us. And His is the most important friendship we have. Reading our Bible will help us to remember this.

Draw on God’s strength. Through the Holy Spirit, we have access to divine power every minute of the day. When we let go of control and depend on the Lord, we will be able to draw on His strength. Then, if family or friends cause hurt, His presence will provide comfort and help us to forgive them.

Look expectantly for deliverance. Paul testified that the Lord had rescued him and would continue to deliver him from every evil situation. The apostle knew he could always trust God.

Paul faced many painful situations without the support of friends. Toward the end of his life, those who cared about him were widely scattered. Yet his attitude remained hopeful because Christ was his constant Friend. Do you know the Savior? Allow His presence to walk with you throughout your day, and experience the joy His friendship brings.

 

 

 

 

Our Daily Bread — Sweet Rest

Our Daily Bread

Psalm 4

You have put gladness in my heart. —Psalm 4:7

Try as we might—tossing, turning, fluffing the pillow, pounding the pillow—sometimes we just can’t fall asleep. After offering some good suggestions on how to get a better night’s sleep, a news article concluded that there really is no “right way” to sleep.

There are numerous reasons why sleep eludes us, many of which we can’t do much about. But sometimes unwanted wakefulness is caused by anxious thoughts, worry, or guilt. It’s then that the example of David in Psalm 4 can help. He called out to God, asking for mercy and for God to hear his prayer (v.1). He also reminded himself that the Lord does hear him when he calls on Him (v.3). David encourages us: “Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still” (v.4). Focusing our minds on the goodness, mercy, and love of God for His world, our loved ones, and ourselves can aid us in trusting the Lord (v.5).

The Lord desires to help us set aside our worries about finding solutions to our problems and place our trust in Him to work things out. He can “put gladness” in our hearts (v.7), so that we might “lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O LORD, make [us] dwell in safety” (v.8). —Dave Egner

Give me a spirit of peace, dear Lord,

Midst the storms and the tempests that roll,

That I may find rest and quiet within,

A calm buried deep in my soul. —Dawe

Even when we cannot sleep, God can give us rest.

Bible in a year: Genesis 33-35; Matthew 10:1-20

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Insights from Blindness

Ravi Z

Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) popularized the concept of “a paradigm shift” in the realm of scientific thought. While many of us may not be familiar with Kuhn or his book, we have likely experienced the duck/rabbit optical illusion used by Kuhn to demonstrate the way in which a paradigm shift could cause one to see the same information in an entirely different way. Kuhn described a paradigm shift as that which opens up new approaches to understanding that would never have been considered valid before.

The word “epiphany” offers another way to speak about paradigm shifts. To have an epiphany is to have the proverbial light bulb go off in one’s head, as a new idea changes the way in which one sees or understands information. The lights are “switched on” when understanding comes. The English word epiphany comes from a Greek word meaning “manifestation or appearance.” An epiphany is that “a-ha” moment that comes as a result of new vision—of blindness being turned to sight. It is, to borrow from Kuhn’s description, an experience of a paradigmatic shift in view. An epiphany thus reorients, reorders, or transforms our view from one way of looking at the world to another.

In the Christian tradition, the season of Epiphany is a season for new sight, new vision, and paradigm shifts. The season remembers the arrival of the foreign magi at the birthplace of Jesus. Magi (not three kings of the orient as sung in the famous hymn) were a caste of wise men specializing in astrology, medicine, and natural science.(1) As the gospel of Matthew records it, these wise men saw his star in the east because they practiced astrology.  But, the ‘paradigm shift’ occurred as they recognized that this was no ordinary star, nor an ordinary child, but one worthy of worship as a King (Matthew 2:2).

During Epiphany, Christians are asked to pay special attention to the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus for the ways in which he is revealed to be the Messiah. All who seek the truth are asked to re-consider their particular view and to anticipate paradigm shifts. The author of the letter to the Hebrews, for example, invites all who would look at Jesus to see in him the very epiphany of God. “[I]n these last days God has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-3). Everyone who looks at his life has the opportunity to experience epiphany.  Examining his life and listening to his teachings will alter prevailing paradigms.

But paradigm shifts are never easy. The biblical image invoked again and again for this process is that of moving from blindness to sight. One very ironic example is recorded in the Gospel of John. It is the story of Jesus healing a man born blind. Using the ordinary elements of clay and his own saliva, Jesus applies the necessary ingredients to literal eyes in order to create the opportunity for sight. After the man washes the healing balm off of his eyes in the pool of Siloam, his healer is nowhere to be found. Ironically, it is the religious leaders who lack true vision.

“How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?”

The once blind man answered, “Whether or not he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.”

Thinking they see the situation quite clearly, the religious leaders put the formerly blind man out of the temple, cutting him off from their community. Hearing this, Jesus returns to confront these leaders who claim superior knowledge and insight. “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind… If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”(2)

Opportunities for paradigm shifts are often quite costly and sometimes challenge tenaciously held assumptions. The Christian story proposes that it is in the humble acknowledgement of blindness that we come to see anything with clarity or insight. Ironically, insight does not come in assuming sight. Rather, those willing to acknowledge their own blindness are offered insight that opens eyes.

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

(1) Reference note from the New American Standard Bible.

(2) cf. John 9:39-41.

 

 

Alistair Begg – Enlist God’s Aid Through Prayer

Alistair Begg

Beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’

Matthew 14:30

 

Sinking times are praying times with the Lord’s servants. Peter neglected prayer at starting upon his venturous journey, but when he began to sink, his danger made him a suppliant, and his cry, though late, was not too late.

In our hours of bodily pain and mental anguish, we find ourselves as naturally driven to prayer as the wreck is driven upon the shore by the waves. The fox runs to its hole for protection; the bird flies to the wood for shelter; and even so the tried believer hastens to the mercy-seat for safety. Heaven’s great harbor of refuge is All-prayer; thousands of weather-beaten vessels have found a haven there, and the moment a storm comes on, it is wise for us to make for it with full sail.

Short prayers are long enough. There were but three words in the petition that Peter gasped out, but they were sufficient for his purpose. Not length but strength is desirable. A sense of need is a mighty teacher of brevity. If our prayers had less of the tail feathers of pride and more wing, they would be all the better. Verbiage is to devotion as chaff to the wheat. Precious things lie in small compass, and all that is real prayer in many a long address might have been uttered in a petition as short as that of Peter.

Our extremities are the Lord’s opportunities. Immediately a keen sense of danger forces an anxious cry from us, the ear of Jesus hears, and with Him ear and heart go together, and the hand does not long linger. At the last moment we appeal to our Master, but His swift hand makes up for our delays by instant and effectual action. Are we nearly engulfed by the boisterous waters of affliction? Let us then lift up our souls unto our Savior, and we may rest assured that He will not suffer us to perish. When we can do nothing, Jesus can do everything; let us enlist His powerful aid upon our side, and all will be well.

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – The sin of unbelief

CharlesSpurgeon

“And that lord answered the man of God, and said, Now, behold, if the Lord should make windows in heaven, might such a thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.” 2 Kings 7:19

Suggested Further Reading: John 20:24-29

“Thou shalt shall see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.” It is so often with God’s own saints. When they are unbelieving, they see the mercy with their eyes, but do not eat it. Now, here is corn in this land of Egypt, but there are some of God’s saints who come here on the Sabbath, and say, “I do not know whether the Lord will be with me or not.” Some of them say, “Well, the gospel is preached, but I do not know whether it will be successful.” They are always doubting and fearing. Listen to them when they get out of the chapel. “Well, did you get a good meal this morning?” “Nothing for me.” Of course not. Ye could see it with your eyes, but did not eat it, because you had no faith. If you had come up with faith, you would have had a morsel. I have found Christians, who have grown so very critical, that if the whole portion of the meat they are to have, in due season, is not cut up exactly into square pieces, and put upon some choice dish of porcelain, they cannot eat it. Then they ought to go without, until they are brought to their appetites. They will have some affliction, which will act like quinine upon them: they will be made to eat by means of bitters in their mouths; they will be put in prison for a day or two until their appetite returns, and then they will be glad to eat the most ordinary food, off the most common platter, or no platter at all. But the real reason why God’s people do not feed under a gospel ministry, is because they have not faith. If you believed, if you heard only one promise, that would be enough.

For meditation: The unbeliever needs to hear in order to believe (Romans 10:14); the believer needs to believe in order to hear.

Sermon no. 3

14 January (1855)

 

John MacArthur – Pursuing God’s Will

John MacArthur

“In all wisdom and insight [God] made known to us the mystery of His will” (Eph. 1:8-9).

When God redeemed you, He not only forgave your trespasses and removed the guilt and penalty of sin, but He also gave you spiritual wisdom and insight–two essential elements for godly living. Together they speak of the ability to understand God’s will and apply it to your life in practical ways.

As a believer you understand the most sublime truths of all. For example, you know that God created the world and controls the course of history. You know that mankind’s reason for existence is to know and glorify Him. You have goals and priorities that transcend earthly circumstances and limitations.

Such wisdom and insight escapes unbelievers because they tend to view the things of God with disdain (1 Cor. 2:14). But you “have the mind of Christ” (v. 16). His Word reveals His will and His spirit gives you the desire and ability to understand and obey it.

Today is another opportunity to cultivate that desire through diligent prayer and Bible study. Let the psalmist’s commitment be yours: “O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day. Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies. . . . I have more insight than all my teachers. . . . I understand more than the aged . . . I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Thy word” (Ps. 119:97-101).

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for the wisdom and insight He gives you through His Word.

If you have neglected the Word, ask His forgiveness and begin once again to refresh your spirit with its truths.

Ask for wisdom to respond biblically to every situation you face today.

For Further Study:

Many Christians think God’s will is vague or hidden from them. But Scripture mentions several specific aspects of His will. Once you align yourself with those specifics, the Spirit will direct you in the other areas of your life.

List six elements of God’s will from these passages: 2 Peter 3:9; Ephesians 5:17-18; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Peter 2:13-15; 1 Peter 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

Are you following God’s will in those areas? If not, what steps can you take today to do so?

 

 

Joyce Meyer – Power of the Spirit

Joyce meyer

Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit . . . says the Lord of hosts.—Zechariah 4:6b (NKJV)

“I’m a nobody,” my friend Gary said, “and besides, God has so many millions of people to look out for, and in comparison with some of them, my problems seem so petty.”

His words shocked me. Of course, God has millions to care for—but He can care for all of them at the same time.

Gary missed something very important. God wants us to ask for help—and to ask often. Look at it this way: If Satan constantly attacks our minds, how else can we fortify ourselves? We fight back—but our major weapon is to cry out to the Lord asking for His strength to become ours.

Too many times, we think we can do it ourselves. In some instances, that may be true, but if we’re going to win continually over the attacks against our minds, we must realize that willpower alone won’t work. What we need is the humility to turn to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to strengthen us.

I realize that many people do not grasp how the Lord lovingly operates in their lives. Not only does God love us like a father, but He also has caring concern for every part of our lives. Our heavenly Father wants to intervene and help us, but He waits for an invitation to get involved. We issue that invitation and open the door for God’s help through prayer. God’s Word says, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2 NKJV).

Perhaps we can think of it this way. God is watching us all the time, and He is aware of the temptations, struggles, and hardships we face—and we all face them. If we think we can do it by ourselves, God takes no action. But He remains ready to jump in and rescue us as soon as we cry out, asking for the power of the Holy Spirit to operate in our lives.

Our victory begins with right thinking. We have to be convinced that God cares, wants to act, and waits for us to cry out. When we cry out, we understand the words quoted previously, that it’s not by force or power, but by God’s Holy Spirit that victory comes.

For example, take the matter of personal fellowship—daily time spent in prayer and reading the Word. As Christians, we know this is what God wants and what we need if we’re going to mature spiritually. At one time in my life, I tried to maintain spiritual self-discipline. I determined that I would pray and read my Bible every single day. I would do well for two or three days, and then something would interfere—sometimes my family or something at our church, but mostly little things that took my attention away from daily fellowship with my Lord.

One day, in desperation, I cried out, “Without Your help, I’ll never be faithful in doing this.” That’s when the Holy Spirit came to me and gave me the self-discipline I needed. It was almost as if God watched me struggle and allowed me to become frustrated and angry with myself. But as soon as I sincerely asked for help, the Spirit came to my rescue. We are too independent, and we experience a lot of unnecessary frustration simply because we try to do things without God’s help.

With the Spirit’s help, I am learning—yes, still learning—that I can choose what I want to think about. I can choose my thoughts, and I need to do that carefully. Unless I’m in regular fellowship with Him, I won’t know the difference between healthy thoughts and unhealthy ones. And if I don’t know the difference, I provide the opportunity for Satan to sneak into my mind and torment me. Spend plenty of time studying God’s Word, and you will quickly recognize each lie that Satan tries to plant in your mind.

Dear loving God, I want to think thoughts that honor You. I want to have a mind that’s fully centered on You, and I know that can’t happen unless I spend daily time with You. Help me, Holy Spirit; help me to be obedient and eager to be in constant fellowship with You. Amen.

 

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – A Blessing So Great

dr_bright

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so that there will be food enough in my Temple; if you do, I will open up the windows of heaven for you and pour out a blessing so great you won’t have room enough to take it in” (Malachi 3:10).

Tom and Marti were newlyweds. They were just getting started in business and had all the expense of setting up housekeeping. So they found their budget severely strained. In fact, the bills were piling up. Then they were challenged to tithe their gross income. Their first response was, “Impossible! We can’t even pay our present bills, let alone take 10 percent off the top.”

As they prayed together, however, they felt definitely led that this was God’s will. Since they wanted to please Him by obeying His command, they began systematically and faithfully to give priority to their tithe. At first, it was nip and tuck, and some of the other obligations had to wait. But after a few months they were amazed to see how they were able to accomplish more with the nine-tenths than they had previously been able to accomplish with the total amount.

Now they are enthusiastic over the privilege of laying up treasures in heaven, seeking first the kingdom of God. Tithing was only the beginning. Now they are giving 40 percent off the top because God has prospered them so abundantly.

I began to tithe as a new Christian when I was made aware of the scriptural principle that everything belongs to God and we are only stewards during our brief time here on earth. Actually a tithe is the Old Testament concept and according to the New Testament concept every believer has the privilege of laying up treasures in heaven far beyond the amount of the tithe. There is a law of sowing and reaping: The more you sow, the more you reap.

To the Christian, it is not how much we give to God; it is how much we have left after we have given to Him – and to His kingdom.

Bible Reading: Malachi 3:5-9

Today’s Action Point: Today I will take inventory of my giving to the Lord. I will begin at least to tithe, expecting that God, as He promised Malachi, “will open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing so great that I won’t have room enough to take it in.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; A.W. – Striving for Excellence

ppt_seal01

Author Richard Carlson’s Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff is considered one of the fastest selling books of all time. Published in 135 countries and translated into 35 languages, it made publishing history as USA Today’s bestselling book for two years and spent 101 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. The book’s focus is on being happy and reducing stress by not worrying about the small things in life, but some have misinterpreted its title to mean being careless about the details.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.

Colossians 3:23

Today’s verse encourages you to do everything, even the smallest actions, to the best of your ability. You honor to God and bring Him glory by striving for excellence and faithfulness.

As you approach your daily routine, from taking care of your family to sweeping the floor, do all with enthusiasm and diligence, not by grumbling or being reluctant. Nothing you do is unimportant when you do it to serve Him. As you ask the Lord to help you do everything heartily and with gladness, pray also for the nation’s leaders to be the best they can be and to serve the nation’s citizens in a way that honors God.

Recommended Reading: Ephesians 6:5-11

 

Greg Laurie – Subtle Damage

greglaurie

He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips. —Proverbs 20:19

Among the many ways we can use our words to hurt others, three of them are backbiting, gossip, and flattery.

The word used for backbite in Hebrew means “to play the spy.” It’s a picture of someone who collects clues and scraps of information regarding a person’s character and then relates the information to anyone who will listen.

Gossip is more subtle because it can veil itself in “acceptable” language. People will say, “Have you heard?” or “I personally don’t believe it’s true, but I did hear that. . . .” Or, here is one of my personal favorites: “I wouldn’t normally share this, but I know it won’t go any further. Keep this to yourself.”

Of course, we Christians like to wrap gossip in spiritual language: “I need to tell you this about so-and-so so you can pray for them.” But how often do we really follow through and make it a matter of prayer?

A more subtle misuse of the tongue is in flattery. Flattery is just a fancy lie. It’s when you say something that is really not true to win a person’s favor, attention, or approval when you don’t mean what you said about him or her at all. A good definition of gossip and flattery is this: Gossip is saying behind a person’s back what you would never say to his or her face. Flattery is saying to a person’s face what you would never say behind his or her back.

That is why James tells us, “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2). That is a mark of true spirituality.

 

Max Lucado – A New Definition

Max Lucado

With God—all things are possible! (Matthew 19:26).

Consider Abram. Pushing a century of years, his wife, Sarai, ninety. The wallpaper in the nursery faded, baby furniture out of date.  The topic of a promised child brings sighs and tears. . . and God tells them they’d better select a name for their new son. They laugh! Partly because it’s too good to happen and partly because it might.  They’ve given up hope, and hope born anew is always funny before it’s real. They laugh a little at God, and a lot with God—for God is laughing too.

With the smile still on His face, He gets busy doing what He does the best—the unbelievable. Abram, the father of one, will now be Abraham, the father of a promised multitude. Sarai, the barren one, will now be Sarah, the mother.

Their names aren’t the only thing God changes. He changes the way they define the word impossible!

From The Applause of Heaven