Romans 5:1-5

The rapid changes in our world can give us a sense of uncertainty and unease. We can be thrown off balance by the suffering we see around us, the evolving technology that outpaces our ability to absorb it, and the daily rise and fall of financial markets. Sometimes what seems worthwhile today has less value tomorrow.

As problems mount, we can become discouraged and lose heart. But basing all our hope on man’s ability to solve problems or modify a situation is not the answer. We can achieve only temporary peace when we alter our own circumstances or adjust our outward behavior.

The root problem in our culture is spiritual—namely, man has a sin nature that is at enmity with God. Sin prompts us to look out for ourselves and pursue what we want. Neither our intellect nor talent could have changed our sinful state or brought us peace with God. However, those who trust Jesus as Savior receive a new nature and are reconciled to the Lord. As His adopted children, not only are we at peace with Him but we’ve also been given the power to live in harmony with one another. No matter how much life changes, we can have hope, for we are anchored to a firm foundation that will never be shaken (Isa. 28:16).

The believer’s hope rests in the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our heavenly Father knows each of us by name (Isa. 43:1). Our Savior keeps every divine promise (2 Cor. 1:20). And the Holy Spirit assures us that we are secure in Christ, both in this life and in the life to come.

Our Daily Bread — The Little Tent

Our Daily Bread

Colossians 1:1-12; 4:12

For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell. —Colossians 1:19

During evangelist Billy Graham’s historic 1949 Los Angeles campaign, the big tent that held over 6,000 people was filled to overflowing every night for 8 weeks. Close by was a smaller tent set aside for counseling and prayer. Cliff Barrows, longtime music director and close friend and associate of Graham, has often said that the real work of the gospel took place in “the little tent,” where people gathered on their knees to pray before and during every evangelistic service. A local Los Angeles woman, Pearl Goode, was the heart of those prayer meetings and many that followed.

In the apostle Paul’s letter to the followers of Christ in Colosse, he assured them that he and his colleagues were praying always for them (Col. 1:3,9). In closing he mentioned Epaphras, a founder of the Colossian church, who is “always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (4:12).

Some people are given the high visibility task of preaching the gospel in “the big tent.” But God has extended to us all, just as He did to Epaphras and Pearl Goode, the great privilege of kneeling in “the little tent” and bringing others before the throne of God. —David McCasland

They labor well who intercede

For others with a pressing need;

It’s on their knees they often work

And from its rigor will not shirk. —D. DeHaan

Prayer is not preparation for the work, it is the work. —Oswald Chambers

Bible in a year: Genesis 39-40; Matthew 11

 

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Why Isn’t God More Obvious?

Ravi Z

Why is it that God does not seem to approach in a much more obvious way? One answer has been that God’s existence is not a matter of reality and facts. Isn’t it more of a faith position, anyway? Isn’t it more about a leap in the dark than an embrace of evidence?

I would agree that God isn’t “forcefully obvious,” but I don’t think that this confines God to being a “take-it-or-leave-it” matter of faith. I think it makes more sense to see God as clearly visible, whilst not being forcefully obvious.

Did you know that the Bible actually recognizes the validity of the question we are asking? First, we see passages that affirm the human perception that God seems hidden. In Job 23:8-9 we read, “But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.”

Interestingly, there are also many examples of God appearing as if veiled in darkness, whilst still simultaneously offering his presence.(1) For instance we read that, “The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.” Jesus, too, invites people to trust in him and then leaves and hides himself. In John we find the story of a paralytic man who is healed, but then Jesus slips away into the crowd. Luke records that as news about Jesus spread, “he often withdrew to lonely places.” Later, Jesus tells the disciples that, “Before long, the world will not see me any more, but you will see me.” Interestingly in many of these cases, God provides a clear sense of presence, while at the same time veiling the fullness of that presence.

So perhaps an unavoidable part of the Bible’s answer to why God seems hidden is because it’s true. But why? And what about those times when we need a present God most, when God could offer us real hope in times of suffering?

Well, when Jesus resisted the crowd, he concealed his identity until exactly the right moment in time to explicitly disclose it. This was a wise decision as the consequences of more explicit or obvious disclosure led fairly quickly to a successful campaign to have him executed. Could it be that God isn’t unavoidably obvious, but clear in a more qualified sense? Crucially, there is also no reason why something of this nature might not require some learning to begin to perceive or see on our part.

For example, imagine that I said that it is obvious, but not forcefully so, that you will need your passport to fly internationally. Now, notice carefully that you have to learn this bit of information. It is certainly not like a forcefully obvious brick wall that you cannot avoid. But it would still perhaps be a case of a failure to grasp the obvious if you arrived at the airport with your bags packed but without your passport. It’s this second sense (of non-forceful obviousness or avoidable clarity) that the case for God can be confidently approached.

But might this idea of God hiding merely provide a clever way for Christians to cling onto God in a scientific and evidence demanding age? This has been argued. Yet Christians do not claim that God doesn’t show himself, but rather that God chooses the means of the showing. And hiddenness may well be necessary to bring focus to the way God declares his existence through Jesus Christ. In fact, divine hiding creates the possibility of a more obvious disclosure or uncovering.

Atheist Bertrand Russell famously quipped that if he were faced with God when he died, he would demand an explanation for why God made the evidence of his existence so insufficient. We might be tempted to think he was being entirely reasonable. But perhaps the evidence we demand for God is directly related to who we think God is and what we think God’s purposes are. Hiddenness would make no sense if God’s aim was simply to relate to us as an object of knowledge that offered no real relational connection or friendship. If this was the divine purpose—that we would simply acknowledge God’s existence—then I am sympathetic to Russell’s demand for more evidence.

But let us suppose that God was unwilling to make an approach to human life merely through the intellect. Instead, let us imagine that God is seeking a relationship that is based upon a deeper and more profound personal insight or perception. Have you ever asked what kind of a relationship God might want with you?

Moreover, God has indeed been revealed plainly in the reality of a redemptive plan and action. The gospel is described as a mystery now made known. Many Christians can recall moments, or even seasons spanning years, where God has been plainly and clearly at work and life has been saturated with the presence and grace of Father, Son, and Spirit. Faith isn’t a blind faith, but a response to the evidence. It is based on real events that can be investigated. A leap in the dark has never been the offer, as it is about stepping into the light.

So perhaps the evidence that we demand is a consequence of who we think God is and what we think God’s purposes are? If God loves you and wants you to freely choose to return that love then perhaps sending his Son for you is enough to catch your attention?

Tom Price is Academic Tutor at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Europe.

(1) Cf. Psalm 10:1; 22:1-2; 30:7; 44:23-24; 88:13-14; 89:46; Isaiah 45:15.

 

 

Alistair Begg – Is the Lord Jesus Your Representative?

Alistair Begg

An anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing.

Daniel 9:26

Blessed be His name, there was no cause of death in Him. Neither original nor actual sin had defiled Him, and therefore death had no claim upon Him. No man could have taken His life from Him justly, for He had done no man wrong, and no man could even have taken Him by force unless He had been pleased to yield Himself to die.

But lo, one sins, and another suffers. Justice was offended by us but found its satisfaction in Him. Rivers of tears, mountains of offerings, seas of the blood of bulls, and hills of frankincense could not have availed for the removal of sin; but Jesus was cut off for us, and the cause of wrath was cut off at once, for sin was put away forever.

Herein is wisdom, whereby substitution, the sure and speedy way of atonement, was devised! Herein is condescension, which brought the Messiah, the Prince, to wear a crown of thorns and die upon the cross! Herein is love, which led the Redeemer to lay down His life for His enemies!

It is not enough, however, to admire the spectacle of the innocent bleeding for the guilty–we must make sure of our personal interest. The special object of the Messiah’s death was the salvation of His Church. Do we have a part and a place among those for whom He gave His life as a ransom? Did the Lord Jesus stand as our representative? Are we healed by His stripes? It will be a terrible thing indeed if we should come short of a portion in His sacrifice; it were better for us that we had never been born.

Solemn as the question is, it is a joyful circumstance that it is one that may be answered clearly and without mistake. To all who believe on Him the Lord Jesus is a present Savior, and upon them all the blood of reconciliation has been sprinkled. Let all who trust in the merit of Messiah’s death be joyful at every remembrance of Him, and let their holy gratitude lead them to the fullest consecration to His cause.

Charles Spurgeon – Corn in Egypt

CharlesSpurgeon

“Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another? And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die.” Genesis 42:1,2

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 13:24-34

God in his wisdom has made the outward world, so that it is a strange and wonderful picture of the inner world. Nature has an analogy with grace. The wonders that God does in the heart of man, each of them finds a parallel, a picture, a metaphor, an illustration, in the wonders which God performs in providence. It is the duty of the minister always to look for these analogies. Our Saviour did so. He is the model preacher: his preaching was made up of parables, pictures from the outer world, accommodated to teach great and mighty truths. And so is man’s mind constituted, that we can always see a thing better through a picture than in any other way. If you tell a man a simple truth, he does not see it nearly so well as if you told it to him in an illustration. If I should attempt to describe the flight of a soul from sin to Christ, you would not see it one half so readily as if I should picture John Bunyan’s pilgrim running out of the city of destruction, with his fingers in his ears, and hastening with all his might to the wicket gate. There is something tangible in a picture, a something which our poor flesh and blood can lay hold of; and therefore the mind, grasping through the flesh and the blood, is able to understand the idea, and to appropriate it. Hence the necessity and usefulness of the minister always endeavouring to illustrate his sermon, and to make his discourse as much as possible like the parables of Jesus Christ.

For meditation: How observant are you? The world around us is always teaching us lessons and underlining the truths of God’s Word (Matthew 6:26-30; Mark 13:28,29; Romans 1:20; 1 Corinthians 11:14,15).

Sermon no. 234

16 January (1859)

 

John MacArthur – Anticipating Your Inheritance

John MacArthur

“In [Christ] also we have obtained an inheritance” (Eph. 1:10-11).

An inheritance is something received by an heir as a result of a will or legal process. It’s a legacy one receives from family connections.

As a member of God’s family, you are an heir of God and fellow heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17). As such you have obtained an inheritance that Peter called “imperishable and undefiled . . . reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:4). It cannot perish, fade away, or be defiled because heaven is timeless and sinless. It is a secure inheritance.

In Ephesians 1:11 Paul refers to it in the past tense (“have obtained”). That’s significant because the fullness of your inheritance won’t be revealed until you are glorified in God’s presence (1 John 3:2). But your inheritance is so sure, Paul refers to it as if it was already in hand.

Although its fullness is yet future, your inheritance has present benefits as well. In addition to inheriting Christ and the Holy Spirit, you also inherit peace, love, grace, wisdom, joy, victory, strength, guidance, mercy, forgiveness, righteousness, discernment, and every other spiritual benefit. Paul sums it all up in 1 Corinthians 3:22-23: “All things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.”

Nowadays many Christians are so preoccupied with acquiring material goods that they miss many of the present benefits of their spiritual inheritance and the joy of anticipating its future fulfillment. Don’t fall into that trap!

Looking forward to your eternal inheritance will help you maintain a proper perspective on temporal things and motivate you to praise and adore God.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Praise the Lord for the incredible inheritance that awaits you in heaven.

Thank Him for the present benefits of your inheritance, which are yours to enjoy daily.

For Further Study:

One precious aspect of your eternal inheritance is God’s mercy. Psalm 136 reflects on the mercy God demonstrated toward Israel. Read that psalm, noting the manifestations of mercy that relate to your life.

 

Joyce Meyer – A Simple Privilege

Joyce meyer

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the [whole] person; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. —Psalm 19:7

I cannot imagine a higher honor than being able to talk to and hear from God, and I believe prayer is the greatest privilege of our lives. It’s not something we have to do; it’s something we get to do. Prayer is the way we partner with God to see His plans and purposes come to pass in our lives and in the lives of those we love. It is the means by which we human beings on Earth can actually enter into the awesome presence of God. It allows us to share our hearts with Him, to listen for His voice, and to know how to discover and enjoy all the great things He has for us.

Communicating with God is indeed the greatest privilege I can think of, but this high and holy work is also the simplest privilege I know.

I do not believe talking to God or hearing His voice was ever meant to be complicated and that, from the very beginning, He intended it to be an easy, natural way of life by which we are connected with Him all day, every day.

God’s word for you today: Let prayer become like breathing; do it naturally and simply all throughout the day

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – The Supernatural Power of Praise

dr_bright

“With Jesus’ help we will continually offer our sacrifice of praise to God by telling others of the glory of His name. Don’t forget to do good and to share what you have with those in need, for such sacrifices are very pleasing to Him” (Hebrews 13:15,16).

Sometimes, in my busy schedule which takes me from country to country and continent to continent, my body is weary, my mind is fatigued, and if I am not careful, my heart will grow cold. I have learned to meditate on the many blessings of God and to praise Him as an act of the will. As I do so, my heart begins to warm and I sense the presence of God.

The psalmist often catalogued the blessings of God and found new reason to praise Him. I would like to share with you several reasons why I believe praise of God is so important in the life of the believer.

1) God is truly worthy of praise.

2) Praise draws us closer to God.

3) All who praise God are blessed.

4) Praise is contagious.

5) Satan’s power is broken when we praise God.

6) Praise is a witness to carnal Christians and non-Christians.

7) Praise opens our hearts and minds to receive God’s message.

8) Praise is a form of sacrifice.

9) Praise makes for a more joyful life.

10) Praise enhances human relationships.

11) Praise is a supernatural expression of faith.

A further elaboration of the benefits and power of praise is found in my book Believing God for the Impossible. An entire chapter is devoted to this exciting subject.

With the promise of His blessings, so clearly delineated by the psalmist, comes the privilege and responsibility of offering up sacrifices of praise, and this leads to a supernatural life made possible by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 33:9-14

TODAY’S ACTION POINT I will look deliberately today for reasons to praise my heavenly Father, knowing that I will find many. Whether I feel like it or not, I will praise Him throughout the day, seek to do good and to share His love with others, knowing that such sacrifices are pleasing to Him.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – The Extra Mile

ppt_seal01

Here is a little phrase you’ve probably heard many times: “It’s not my job.” If that’s part of your vocabulary, it shouldn’t be. It will make your work meaningless and destroy your testimony. That doesn’t mean you can’t set boundaries, nor does it suggest you should recklessly take on tasks you’re ill-equipped to manage. But the nation is filled with people today who have decided they are going to do the bare minimum, and sometimes even less.

Those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.

Titus 3:8

If others are going to see Christ in you, you must devote yourself to good works, going beyond your job description, surpassing expectations, and seizing every opportunity. Abraham went the extra mile to help three strangers. The Good Samaritan crossed the road. And Jesus died on the cross. Any one of them could have said “It’s not my job,” but they didn’t…thank God they didn’t.

Today, pray for a positive, helpful attitude, and ask God to help America’s leaders set aside pride, pettiness and partisanship to devote themselves to good works.

Recommended Reading: I Thessalonians 5:12-24

Greg Laurie – Like Sheep

greglaurie

Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls. —1 Peter 2:25

On more than one occasion, the Bible compares Christians to sheep. I don’t know if I’m really happy about that because sheep aren’t the most intelligent animals on earth. It would have been nice if God had compared us to dolphins. Now, there’s an intelligent animal. I once had the opportunity to talk to a man who trained dolphins. I asked him, “Are dolphins really as intelligent as they seem?”

He said, “In some ways, yes, and in some ways, no. They are very intelligent in many ways because a dolphin can read a symbol and understand what it means.” That is amazing to me.

But Jesus didn’t compare us to dolphins. He compared us to sheep. And sheep are some of the stupidest animals around. They are vulnerable, easily spooked, can’t run very fast, and lack any means of defending themselves. What’s more, they are in constant need of care and attention. Sheep are known to follow each other even to their own death. It has been documented that if one sheep walks off a cliff, the others will follow.

The Bible says, “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own” (Isaiah 53:6, NLT). Think about how many people have bought into the same lies, generation after generation. They fall into the same junk, the same addictions, and the same traps again and again.

We are like sheep. That is a fact. The question is, are you going to be a smart sheep or a dumb one? Smart sheep stay close to the Shepherd, and that is where we all need to be.

 

Max Lucado – Doing What Comes Naturally

Max Lucado

My child’s feelings are hurt, I tell her she’s special. My child’s injured, I do whatever it takes to make her feel better. My child’s afraid, I won’t go to sleep until she’s secure. I’m not a hero. I’m not unusual. I’m a parent. When a child hurts, a parent does what comes naturally. He helps.

Moments of comfort from a parent. I can tell you they’re the sweetest moments in the day. They come naturally, willingly, joyfully. If all that’s so true, then why am I so reluctant to let my heavenly Father comfort me?

Being a father has taught me that when I’m criticized, injured, or afraid, there’s a Father who’s ready to comfort me. A Father who’ll hold me until I’m better. And who won’t go to sleep when I’m afraid. Ever! And that’s enough.

From The Applause of Heaven