Charles Stanley – Idols in the Life of the Believer

Charles Stanley

Mark 11:24-25

Have you noticed that in recent history, the word “idol” has been completely disassociated from the word “idolatry”? In church circles, we recoil at the mention of idolatry, as it brings to mind images of golden calves and other things once worshiped by heathens. We know these things are wrong, because our worship should be directed to God alone. But do we feel the same about “idols”?

Today’s culture enjoys its own idols. We have music stars, beauty queens, pop-culture icons, and sports heroes all fighting for our interest. And, in return for their hard work, we give them just what they want: our focus and attention.

We sit for hours in front of the TV, follow fashion trends of top celebrities, and read, watch, or listen to anything that features our favorite public figures. The 1950s gave our society a term that has since characterized our culture-driven mindset: the “teen idol.”

We must be reminded what an idol is. It’s not simply some image of a false god to whom we bow down in worship. Instead, an idol is anything that we value more than the Lord. This could be movie stars, prized possessions, or even our loved ones.

The nature of idolatry is distraction. When something pulls our eyes away from God, we begin to spiral out of control. Bring your distractions to the Lord, asking forgiveness for the times you’ve allowed other people or things to take precedence in your life. Pray for the wisdom to enjoy His blessings without being blinded by temptations that pull you from communion with Him.

 

Our Daily Bread — True Greatness

Our Daily Bread

Mark 10:35-45

Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. —Mark 10:43

Some people feel like a small pebble lost in the immensity of a canyon. But no matter how insignificant we judge ourselves to be, we can be greatly used by God.

In a sermon early in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. quoted Jesus’ words from Mark 10 about servanthood. Then he said, “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. . . . You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”

When Jesus’ disciples quarreled about who would get the places of honor in heaven, He told them: “Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45).

I wonder about us. Is that our understanding of greatness? Are we gladly serving, doing tasks that may be unnoticed? Is the purpose of our serving to please our Lord rather than to gain applause? If we are willing to be a servant, our lives will point to the One who is truly great. —Vernon Grounds

No service in itself is small,

None great, though earth it fill;

But that is small that seeks its own,

And great that does God’s will. —Anon.

Little things done in Christ’s name are great things.

Bible in a year: Genesis 49-50; Matthew 13:31-58

 

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Present Hope

Ravi Z

If there is one thing Martin Luther King Jr. would have the U.S. remember on the day that marks his memory, perhaps it would be that remembering the past must never come at the expense of remaining alert today. “We stand in the fierce urgency of now,” said Dr. King in one of his final sermons. It is far too easy to locate these words into a specific moment that we deem past, a time King and many others fought to see changed, through a movement we now remember within stories of history, speeches long memorialized, and events that seem both tragic and far removed. But this I think is to misread King as much as it is to misread history. “The past is never dead,” said William Faulkner. ”It’s not even past.”(1)

Just as ignoring history is itself a type of amnesia, so an awareness of history as something that is only history invites a posture of self-deception. If the world only remembers King’s fight as one fit for the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, we are neither seeing the American Civil Rights Movement for all it was, nor the moment before the world today. Sunday is still very much the most segregated hour of the week. It is still very possible to order our worlds in such a way that we never have to see the poor among us. Racial inequality, social injustice, and blind allegiance to materialism are all still present and active, its victims crying out for a better kingdom, a better story, a better hope. The message of Martin Luther King Jr. and the history American’s remember on the anniversary of his birth is not a static bundle of dates and details past. The history we recall when we tell stories of the American Civil Rights Movement is the vital form in which we must both take account of our past and fathom the present before us.

There is a parable Jesus tells in the book of Luke that is perhaps as easy to overlook as any injustice we want not to see. I have misread the story for years. In it, Jesus speaks of a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. “And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table” (Luke 16:20). When the poor man died he was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. Then Jesus notes, “In Hades, where the rich man was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us’” (16:24-25).

It is far from a mere commentary on wealth. In this parable, Jesus describes a man who chooses to live with a great chasm between his success and a poor man’s fate. At his own gate, he daily passes the beggar, choosing neither to see him nor his agony. He allows the rules of social hierarchy to keep the man at his feet nameless and invisible. Even from Hades, the rich man chooses to address Lazarus as a mere servant, asking Abraham to send him to soothe his own discomfort. But the chasms he allowed in life have now grown fixed in death.

If we will hear this parable with our ears open to the story, attune to our discomfort and possible biases, approaching with a sensitivity to the lessons of history within the fierce urgency of now, there is a glimpse of an amazing God and the welcoming table to which we are invited. For Christ’s is a theology that is far from assuming God’s only concern for humanity is that we make it to eternity. As Nicholas Wolterstorff writes, “God’s love of justice is grounded in God’s longing for the complete shalom of God’s creatures and in God’s sorrow over its absence.”(2) And so, the present kingdom we discover in the proclamations of Jesus is one that turns social norms, status, and hierarchies upside down, one that insists that the beggar Lazarus has a name, a place, and a value beyond the one we may have given him. The words and actions of Christ bid the world to take seriously the present in front of us, because in fact, they matter deeply.

In truth, the final sermons of Dr. King can largely be read as laments, for he could hear the God of history saying to a world that was not listening, “That was not enough! I was hungry and ye fed me not. I was naked and ye clothed me not…And consequently, you can not enter the kingdom of greatness.”(3) King was increasingly aware that the only hope for the present existed in our ability to see the fierce urgency of now and to hear the voice crying through the vista of time for all things to be made new. His dream was that we would remain awake to both.

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

(1) William Faulkner, “Requiem for a Nun” in William Faulkner: Novels 1942-1954 (New York: Library of America, 1994), 535.

(2) Nicolas Wolterstorff, Until Justice and Peace Embrace (Spring Arbor: Spring Arbor Distributors, 1999), 113.

(3) James Washington, Ed., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. (New York: HarperCollins, 1986), 269.

 

Alistair Begg – “Give Me Life”

Alistair Begg

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.

Psalms 119:37

There are various kinds of vanity. The cap and bells of the fool, the merriment of the world, the dance, and the cup of the dissolute–all these men know to be vanities; they wear upon their chest their proper name and title. Far more treacherous are those equally vain things–the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches. A man may follow vanity as truly in a portfolio as in a theater.

If he is spending his life in amassing wealth, he passes his days in a vain show. Unless we follow Christ and make our God the great object of life, we only differ in appearance from the most frivolous. It is clear that there is much need of the prayer of our text: “Give me life in your ways.” The psalmist confesses that he is dull, heavy, all but dead.

Perhaps, dear reader, you feel the same. We are so sluggish that the best motives cannot quicken us, apart from the Lord Himself. What! Will not hell quicken me? Shall I think of sinners perishing, and yet not be awakened? Will not heaven quicken me? Can I think of the reward that awaits the righteous and yet be cold? Will not death quicken me? Can I think of dying and standing before my God, and yet be slothful in my Master’s service? Will not Christ’s love constrain me? Can I think of His dear wounds, can I sit at the foot of His cross, and not be stirred with fervency and zeal? It seems so!

No mere consideration can quicken us to zeal, but God Himself must do it; hence the cry, “Give me life in your ways.” The psalmist breathes out his whole soul in vehement pleadings; his body and his soul unite in prayer. “Turn my eyes,” says the body. “Give me life,” cries the soul. This is a fit prayer for every day. O Lord, hear it in my case this night.

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – Words of expostulation

CharlesSpurgeon

“And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river?” Jeremiah 2:18

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:14-7: 1

In the life of Madame Guyon, who, though professedly a Papist, one must ever receive as being a true child of God, I have read an anecdote something to this effect. She had been invited by some friends to spend a few days at the palace of St. Cloud. She knew it was a place full of pomp, and fashion, and, I must add, of vice also; but being over-persuaded by her friend, and being especially tempted with the idea that perhaps her example might do good, she accepted the invitation. Her experience afterwards should be a warning to all Christians. For some years that holy woman had walked in constant fellowship with Christ; perhaps none ever saw the Saviour’s face, and kissed his wounds more truly than she had done. But when she came home from St. Cloud, she found her usual joy was departed; she had lost her power in prayer; she could not draw near to Christ as she should have done. She felt in going to the lover of her soul as if she had played the harlot against him. She was afraid to hope that she could be received again to his pure and perfect love, and it took some months before the equilibrium of her peace could be restored, and her heart could yet again be wholly set upon her Lord. He that wears a white garment must mind where he walks when the world’s streets are as filthy as they are. He that has a thousand enemies must take care how he shows himself. He that has nothing on earth to assist him towards heaven should take care that he does not go where the world can help towards hell. O believer, keep clear of fellowship with this world, for the love of this world is enmity against God.

For meditation: Commonsense should tell us that when something clean and something unclean brush against one another, the unclean object is not improved but the clean object is changed for the worse (Haggai 2:11-14).

Sermon no. 356

20 January (1861)

John MacArthur – Rejoicing in Assurance

John MacArthur

“You were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:13-14).

The Holy Spirit’s ministry in your life is multifaceted and profound. Among other things He brings salvation, conviction, guidance, and strength. He indwells and equips you for spiritual service and gives assurance of your salvation. He is your Helper and Advocate. He is the Spirit of promise, who seals you until the day when your redemption is fully realized (Eph. 4:30).

Sealing speaks of security, authenticity, ownership, and authority. Ancient kings, princes, and nobles placed their official seal on documents or other items to guarantee their inviolability. To break the seal was to incur the wrath of the sovereign whom it represented (cf. Dan. 6:17; Matt. 27:62-66).

A seal on a letter authenticated it as from the hand of the one whose seal it bore. Legal documents such as property deeds and wills were often finalized with an official seal. Those who possessed the sealed decree of a king had the king’s delegated authority to act on that decree.

Each of those aspects of sealing is a picture of the Spirit’s ministry. He is God’s guarantee that your salvation is inviolable and that you are an authentic member of His kingdom and family. You are His possession–having been purchased with His Son’s precious blood (1 Cor. 6:20). You are His ambassador with delegated authority to proclaim His message to a lost world (2 Cor. 5:20).

The Spirit is the pledge of your eternal inheritance (Eph. 1:14). The Greek word translated “pledge” in that verse (arrab[ma]on) was used of down payment or earnest money given to secure a purchase. Rejoice in the assurance that God, who cannot lie (Titus 1:2), has given you His Spirit as a guarantee that He will keep His promises.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Praise God for the security of your eternal inheritance.

Praise the Spirit for His many ministries in your life. Be sensitive to His leading today so that your ministry to others will be powerful and consistent with His will.

For Further Study:

Read Esther chapters 3, 8. What role did the king’s signet ring play in the decree of Haman (chapter 3)? The decree of Ahasuerus and Mordecai (chapter 8)?

 

 

Joyce Meyer – Let Joy into Your Life

Joyce meyer

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. —Psalm 30:5

Part of disciplining ourselves to celebrate life is refusing to live in mourning. There is a time to mourn, but we dare not let it become a way of life. The Bible says that weeping (mourning) endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning. There are things that happen in life that rightfully need to be mourned over, but joy always returns to balance things out. We must let the joy back into our lives after times of sadness and not feel guilty about enjoying life after disappointment or even tragedy has struck. There is a time to mourn and a time to rejoice, but we must not live in the state of mourning.

Part of life is dealing properly with sadness and disappointment. We cannot avoid them—and we should not deny the emotions that go with loss of any kind—but we can recover! I was saddened when I learned that a trusted employee had been stealing from our ministry, but I rejoiced that God brought the wrongdoing to light and it was discovered. I have a time of mourning when people I love die, but I can also rejoice that they knew Jesus and are spending eternity with Him.

I am sad when I realize I have let an area of my life get out of balance through lack of discipline, but I can rejoice that I now see the truth and am back on track. For all mourning there is an offsetting reason to celebrate. And although mourning is proper and is even part of our healing, it cannot last forever.

We cannot live in a state of mourning over things that have happened that we cannot change. In Christ there is always a place of new beginnings, and that is good news worth celebrating.

Trust in Him: If you are in a time of mourning, allow yourself to feel those feelings. But don’t get stuck there. Trust that God has a plan for you and wants you to have joy in the morning.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Will Tell You

dr_bright

“I advise you to obey only the Holy Spirit’s instructions. He will tell you where to go and what to do, and then you won’t always be doing the wrong things your evil nature wants you to” (Galatians 5:16).

Major conflicts in life are resolved when, by an act of the will, one surrenders to the control of the Holy Spirit and faces temptation in His power.

It should be explained that there is a difference between temptation and sin.

Temptation is the initial impression to do something contrary to God’s will. Such impressions come to all people, even as they did to the Lord, and they are not sin in themselves.

Temptation becomes sin when we meditate on the impression and develop a strong desire, which is often followed by the actual act of disobedience.

For practical daily living, we simply recognize our weakness whenever we are tempted and obey the Holy Spirit’s instructions. When we do not yield to temptation, we breathe spiritually and resume our walk with God.

“At what point does one who practices spiritual breathing become carnal again?” Whenever one ceases to believe God’s promise that He will enable us to be victorious over all temptations. The fact is, one need never be carnal again. So long as a believer keeps breathing spiritually, there is no need to live a life of defeat.

The moment you realize that you have done that which grieves or quenches the Spirit, you simply exhale spiritually by confessing immediately, and then inhale as by faith you claim God’s forgiveness and the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and you keep walking in the light as God is in the light.

Bible Reading: Galatians 5:17-26

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will consciously seek to obey the Holy Spirit’s instructions revealed to me in His holy, inspired Word.

 

 

 

Presidential Prayer Team; C.H. – Time Management

ppt_seal01

Each year in November, a new stall shows up in the mall selling calendars and daily planners. Flocks of people purchase them in hopes of getting organized for the New Year. Others use a more technical version in the form of a smartphone app. Paper and digital users alike fill the cells with dates and deadlines, grocery lists and meetings in an attempt to make the best use of their minutes and hours.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.

Acts 2:42

How do you organize your time each day? How many hours are spent at a job, cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, eating and personal grooming? Now consider how much time is given to God. This includes reading the Bible, prayer, and service or ministry work. The author of today’s verse speaks of Christians who did not just pencil in a little time to listen and learn about the Lord – they devoted themselves to it.

If someone looked at your calendar today, where would it show you’ve invested your time? Ask God to help you become a better time manager. Then pray for your nation’s leaders to have a desire to devote their time, and hearts, to the Lord.

Recommended Reading: Luke 12:35-48  Click to Read or Listen

 

Greg Laurie – Powered by His Spirit

  greglaurie    

Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit. —Ephesians 5:17–18

When we think of being filled with the Spirit, we often relate it to an emotional experience or a feeling of euphoria. But in reality, the word filled could be translated “controlled by.” It is a word that speaks of what happens when the wind fills the sails of a boat and guides it along. So God is saying that we are to let His Spirit fill us and control our lives.

Another interesting thing about this word is that in the original language, it’s in a tense that speaks of something that should be done continually. So you could translate this sentence, “Be constantly filled with the Spirit.” This isn’t a one-time event. Instead, it is something that takes place again and again, just as we repeatedly fill the gas tanks in our cars to keep them running. God wants to refill us with His Spirit. It is a great thing to say each day, “Lord, fill me with Your Spirit. . . . Lord, fill me once again.” You may have an emotional experience, or you may not. But that has very little to do with the reality of being filled with and controlled by the Spirit.

One other thing about this phrase from Ephesians 5:18 is that it’s a command, not a suggestion. The Scripture isn’t saying, “If it works with your schedule, if you don’t mind, would you please consider maybe letting the Holy Spirit fill and control you?” No, in Ephesians

5:18 God commands us — orders us — to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

He knows very well that an intimate relationship with Himself will bring us the greatest fulfillment and happiness in our lives that we could ever know. 

 

Max Lucado – Childish Resistance

Max Lucado

Jesus’ promise is comprehensive. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6 ).

We usually get what we hunger and thirst for. The problem is, the treasures of earth don’t satisfy. The promise is, the treasures of heaven do. Blessed are those, then, who hold their earthly possessions in open palms. Blessed are those who are totally dependent on Jesus for their joy.

Our resistance to our Father is childish.  God, for our own good, tries to loosen our grip from something that will cause us to fall.  But we won’t let go.  We say, “No, I won’t give up my weekend rendezvous for eternal joy.” “Trade my drugs and alcohol for a life of peace and a promise of heaven?  Are you kidding?”  There we are, desperately clutching the very things that cause us grief.

It’s a wonder the Father doesn’t give up!

From The Applause of Heaven