Charles Stanley – Reinforcing Our Faith

Charles Stanley

Jude 1:20-23

Even though we have already examined some ways in which we can identify false teachers, it is impossible for us to avoid this destructive influence completely. Therefore, it is critical that we reinforce our faith so we’ll be able to stand firm against the subversive pull of the world. But how can we build a stronger faith?

First, we must saturate our minds with the holy, unchanging Word of God. Then the Holy Spirit will continually refresh our minds and bring new insights as we develop Christian maturity.

Second, we must commit to pray in the Holy Spirit (Eph. 6:18). We can trust the Spirit to guide us in our prayers, leading us with regard to what, when, and how to pray.

Third, we must keep ourselves in the love of God. Of course, we can never fall beyond the scope of divine love, but we shouldn’t ever take the Lord’s amazing grace for granted. With that in mind, we need to guard our closeness with Him, ensuring that we spend uninterrupted time in His presence.

Fourth, we must await the Lord’s return eagerly. From the Christian perspective, Jesus’ second coming is the most anticipated event in history, and we need to keep our eyes on this goal. The thought that Christ could return at any moment is a purifying and protective realization for the believer (1 John 3:2-3).

There’s no “magic formula” for spiritual growth, but these simple steps, laid out in verses 20-23 of Jude, can serve as a guide while we strive to protect our faith from the snares of the world.

 

Our Daily Bread — Bricks Without Straw

Our Daily Bread

Exodus 6:1-13

I will rescue you . . . , and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm. —Exodus 6:6

Many of us face the challenge of working with limited resources. Equipped with less money, less time, dwindling energy, and fewer helpers, our workload may remain the same. Sometimes, it even increases. There’s a saying that sums up this predicament: “More bricks, less straw.”

This phrase refers to the Israelites’ hardship as slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh decided to stop supplying them with straw, yet he required them to make the same number of bricks each day. They scoured the land to find supplies, while Pharaoh’s overseers beat them and pressured them to work harder (Ex. 5:13). The Israelites became so discouraged that they didn’t listen when God said through Moses, “I will rescue you . . . , and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm” (6:6).

Although the Israelites refused to hear God’s message, God was still guiding and directing Moses, preparing him to speak to Pharaoh. God remained firmly on Israel’s side—at work behind the scenes. Like the Israelites, we can become so downhearted that we ignore encouragement. In dark times, it’s comforting to remember that God is our deliverer (Ps. 40:17). He is always at work on our behalf, even if we can’t see what He is doing. —Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Lord, please help me to trust You despite my

discouragement. I invite You to fill me with

hope through the power of Your Holy Spirit.

Let my life testify of Your faithfulness.

Times of trouble are times for trust.

Bible in a year: Exodus 4-6; Matthew 14:22-36

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Praying for Bread

Ravi Z

Huckleberry Finn first heard about prayer from Miss Watson, who told him that prayer was something you did everyday and that you’d get what you asked for. So he tried three or four times praying for hooks to complete his fishing line, but when he still didn’t get what he asked for decided that “No, there ain’t nothing in it.”

Prayer is a curious activity. It is one we seem, at times, regardless of belief or creed, almost inclined naturally toward, while other times, almost as naturally, concluding like Huck that we either can’t make it work or there ain’t nothing in it.

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples asked him to teach them how to pray. Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say:

‘Father, hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread.

And forgive us our sins,

for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.

And do not bring us to the time of trial.’”(1)

The Lord’s Prayer, which Christian’s still hold and practice today, comes out of this context—that is, out of a plea for help with prayer and out of the praying of Jesus himself. It is not just the good advice Jesus had to offer about praying; it is his praying. In fact, giving his followers this prayer, Jesus, like John, was following a common rabbinic pattern. When a rabbi taught a prayer, he would use it to teach his disciples the most distinctive, concise, essential elements of his own teachings. Thus, disciples would learn to pray as their teacher prayed, and from then on, when a disciple’s prayer was heard, it would sound like that of his teacher’s prayers, bearing his own mark and posture before God.

As this suggests, when Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer today, it is simultaneously an offering of the voice of Jesus, a declaration of belonging to him, and a pronunciation of the lessons he wanted his followers most to learn.

Somewhat different than praying for fishing hooks, the prayer for daily bread is foundational; a literal need. News of world food shortages, the prevalence of malnourishment, and volatile food prices remind us with repetition that cries for basic provision are appropriate and necessary. Fifteenth century theologian Martin Luther spoke of the prayer for daily bread as the plea for “everything included in the necessities and nourishment for our bodies such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, farm, fields, livestock, money, property, an upright spouse, upright children, upright members of the household, upright and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, decency, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”(2) In other words, bread is not merely the private concern of those who need something to eat. It is far broader than this, including far more than bread, and far more than isolated individuals before God. Our daily bread is something friends, neighbors, communities, economic situations, and governments affect collectively. Christ’s prayer for daily bread, then, is a prayer for food and clothing, but also for good neighbors, good rulers, and good conscience as we face need and want and hope together.

As such, a prayer for daily bread can be a reminder that we do not live in a vacuum before God or the world. Rather, we live in communities where we are responsible for one another. So if we pray for daily bread, like Jesus, we pray for God’s care and provision. But subsequently, we are praying against the things in life that prevent God’s provisions. This may well be corrupt governments or systems of social injustice; it may also be our own hardened hearts, fearful spirits, or a self-consumed and consuming living. When our neighbor prays for daily bread, our neighbor prays for our help.

And to pray the words Jesus invited us to pray means we pray out of the same paradox in which Jesus prayed himself. He was both the Son who knew he would need the Father’s provision to get through the days before him and the Son who poured out his life for the crowds and individuals that needed him. Praying for daily bread, we are simultaneously the wealthy who can respond in gratitude for all that God has given us and the impoverished who cry out for the daily bread we need and the God who sustains all things. We are both the rich and the poor, united to our neighbors in ways we are constantly invited to imagine. We join ancient ancestors who prayed for physical nourishment in the desert, and with them know that we are still hungry. In difficult days, in plentiful days, the invitation of Christian prayer is the invitation of the Spirit to join in a united cry—”Give us this day our daily bread”—placed no where less than before the bread of life who comes from heaven to give life to the world.

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

(1) Luke 11:1-4.

(2) Martin Luther, “The Small Catechism,” The Book of Concord, 357.

 

Alistair Begg – The Precious Results of Affliction

Alistair Begg

‘Does Job fear God’s for no reason?’

Job 1:9

This was the wicked question of Satan concerning that upright man of old, but there are many in the present day concerning whom it might be asked with justice, for they love God after a fashion because He prospers them; but if things went ill with them, they would give up all their boasted faith in God. If they can clearly see that since the time of their supposed conversion the world has gone prosperously with them, then they will love God in their poor, carnal way; but if they endure adversity, they rebel against the Lord.

Their love is the love of the table, not of the host; a love of the cupboard, not of the master of the house. As for the true Christian, he expects to have his reward in the next life and to endure hardness in this. The promise of the old covenant is adversity. Remember Christ’s words–“Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit”–what?–“he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”1 If you bring forth fruit, you will have to endure affliction.

“Alas,” you say, “that is a terrible prospect.” But this affliction works out such precious results, for the Christian who is the subject of it must learn to rejoice in tribulations because as his tribulations abound, so his consolations abound by Christ Jesus.

Rest assured, if you are a child of God, you will be no stranger to the rod. Sooner or later every bar of gold must pass through the fire. Fear not, but rather rejoice that such fruitful times are in store for you, for in them you will be weaned from earth and made meet for heaven; you will be delivered from clinging to the present and made to long for those eternal things that are so soon to be revealed to you. When you feel that as regards the present you do serve God for nothing, you will then rejoice in the infinite reward of the future.

1 John 15:2

 

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – The treasure of grace

CharlesSpurgeon

“The forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Ephesians 1:7

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:5-11

Paul proclaimed the grace of God—free, full, sovereign, eternal grace—beyond all the glorious company of the apostles. Sometimes he soared to such amazing heights, or dived into unsearchable depths, that even Peter could not follow him. He was ready to confess that “our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given unto him,” had written “some things hard to be understood.” Jude could write of the judgments of God, and reprove with terrible words, “ungodly men, who turned the grace of God into lasciviousness.” But he could not tell out the purpose of grace as it was planned in the eternal mind, or the experience of grace as it is felt and realized in the human heart, like Paul. There is James again: he, as a faithful minister, could deal very closely with the practical evidences of Christian character. And yet he seems to keep very much on the surface; he does not bore down deep into the substratum on which must rest the visible soil of all spiritual graces. Even John, most favoured of all those apostles who were companions of our Lord on earth—sweetly as the beloved disciple writes of fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ—even John does not speak of grace so richly as Paul, in whom God first showed forth “all long-suffering as a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” Not, indeed, that we are at liberty to prefer one apostle above another. We may not divide the Church, saying, I am of Paul, I of Peter, I of Apollos; but we may acknowledge the instrument which God was pleased to use; we may admire the way in which the Holy Ghost fitted him for his work; we may, with the churches of Judea, glorify God in Paul.

For meditation: Paul always looked back with amazement when he recalled God’s grace to him, the chief of sinners, who so persecuted the Church (1 Corinthians 15:9-10; Galatians 1:13,15; Ephesians 3:7,8; 1 Timothy 1:13-15). Our gratitude and love to God can sadly be limited by our failure to realise how sinful we really are and how much he has forgiven us (Luke 7:41-47).

Sermon no. 295

22 January (1860)

 

 

John MacArthur – Praying for Believers

John MacArthur

“For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (Eph. 1:15-16).

The Ephesian Christians demonstrated two important characteristics of genuine Christian faith: faith in the Lord Jesus and love for fellow believers.

“Faith in the Lord Jesus” implies both an affirmation of Christ’s deity and submission to His sovereignty. Because He is God, He is the Sovereign Lord, so we must obey what He commands (John 14:15; 1 John 2:3-6).

Your “love for all the saints” is as much a mark of true faith as your love for God. John said, “The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now” (1 John 2:9). In that passage “light” is a metaphor for righteousness and truth, and “darkness” is a metaphor for sin and error. It is sinful and erroneous to claim you love God if you have no love for other believers. Those who love God will love fellow believers as well.

If you love others, you will pray for them and praise God for their spiritual progress–as Paul did for the Ephesians–and they will do the same for you. That’s a wonderful dynamic within the Body of Christ, and one that you must diligently pursue.

Suggestions for Prayer:

If you haven’t done so already, start a prayer list of individuals for whom you will pray each day. List their names and some specific requests. Record answers to your prayers as you see God moving in their lives.

Remember to thank God for their spiritual progress as well as praying for their needs. Let them know you are praying for them. That could be a source of great encouragement for them.

If you are at odds with another believer, seek to reconcile immediately (Matt. 5:23-24) so your witness will be strong and the Lord’s name won’t suffer reproach.

For Further Study:

Read Philippians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-14

What requests and concerns did Paul express in his prayers?

Do your prayers reflect Paul’s priorities? If not, what adjustments must you make to have a more biblical pattern of prayer?

Joyce Meyer – Let God Be God

Joyce meyer

For who has known or understood the mind (the counsels and purposes) of the Lord so as to guide and instruct Him and give Him knowledge?—1 Corinthians 2:16

It is not your job to give God guidance, counsel, or direction. It is your job to listen to God and let Him tell you what is going on and what you are to do about it—leaving the rest to Him to work out according to His knowledge and will, not yours.

God is God—and you are not. You need to recognize that truth and simply trust yourself to Him, because He is greater than you are in every way. You are created in His image, but He is still above and beyond you. His thoughts and ways are higher than yours. So listen to God tonight, be obedient to Him, and He will teach you His ways. Cast off your care, releasing the weight of all your burdens and sleep peacefully.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Sets Us Free

dr_bright

“I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t. I do what I don’t want to – what I hate…When I want to do good, I don’t; and when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway….It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong…So you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free” (Romans 7:15,19,21,24,25).

Harry gave every indication of being a happy, joyful, fruitful Christian. He was active in every major event of the church and many large citywide Christian efforts. He always had a high visibility, and because of his extrovertive, outgoing personality he seemed to be a model Christian.

Then one day I saw the real Harry. He just blurted it out.

“I’m a hypocrite – miserable, defeated, frustrated. I’ve lived a lie and worn a mask all my life, never wanting to reveal my true self. But I need help. I’m seriously thinking of committing suicide. I just can’t live the Christian life, no matter how hard I try.”

 

As I began reading Romans 7:15-25, he said, “That is my biography, the story of my life. I’ve done everything I know to find victory – to live the Christian life as I know I’m supposed to live it. But everything fails for me no matter how hard I try.”

I encouraged him to read on. Paul asks the question in the 25th verse, “Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature?” Then he answers that question by saying “Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free.”

If you are living a carnal life, as described in Romans 7, you can be liberated to experience a full and abundant, victorious and fruitful life, as you by faith claim the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit day by day, moment by moment.

Bible Reading: Romans 7:18-23

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: By faith, I will claim the power of the Holy Spirit to enable me to live the abundant, supernatural life that Jesus promised, so that I can bring glory to God by bearing much fruit.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – Mighty Motivator

ppt_seal01

In Latin, the word “sola” means “alone” or “only.” During the Protestant Reformation, five solas outlined the fundamental beliefs of the Reformers: Sola scripture (by Scripture alone), sola fide (by faith alone), sola gratia (by grace alone), solo Christo (through Christ alone) and soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone). But some are confused when it comes to faith alone…pointing to Scriptures that say faith without works is dead.

Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works.

Titus 3:14

Dear friends, works do not provide salvation. Rather, they are evidence of saving faith. When faith is real, its source…Jesus…is the mighty motivator for every good work. Because He loves you so, it is impossible not to share it. How? With works and sharing His truth and love. Paul’s entire letter to Titus is about Christian behavior. He’s not suggesting that the Cretan Christians “fake it ‘til they make it” with works, but that their devotion to the Lord swell out of them in the form of actions that benefit others.

In a nation that needs more random acts of kindness, pray for yourself and others to be more like Christ in doing good for others. Intercede for the powerful in government to obtain that same mindset through their own personal faith.

Recommended Reading: Titus 3:1-11  Click to Read or Listen

 

 

Greg Laurie – Eternally Good

greglaurie

When they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. —Acts 16:6

God is wiser than I am, and what is immediately good actually may not be eternally good. And what is eternally good isn’t always immediately good, but painful. Sometimes when God says no, we will say that God didn’t answer our prayers. But what we really mean is that we didn’t like the answer. We say, “God, will You do this?” and God says no. So we conclude that He doesn’t love us. But the truth is, God said no because He does love us. He has a different purpose in mind.

We find an example of this in Acts 16 when Paul was concerned for the churches in Asia Minor and wanted to revisit them to check on their progress. There was one small problem, however. God had a different plan. Although Paul made every attempt to go to Asia, God basically said no: “After [Paul and Silas] had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them” (verse 7).

The Spirit did not permit them. I am intrigued by that statement because I wonder how the Holy Spirit conveyed that truth to them. Was it simply a lack of peace? Have you ever been heading into a situation in which everything looked good outwardly, but in your heart you had a sense of doubt as to whether it was good? Whatever it was, you didn’t know whether you really should be doing it.

And sometimes the way God says no is as simple as a door being closed. God has His timing. In the case of Paul and Silas, His timing wasn’t right for them to go where they wanted to go. God wanted them to go to a different place. And the same can be true for you as well.

 

Max Lucado – The State of Your Heart

Max Lucado

Luke 6:45 says,  “. . .out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”  That is why the state of the heart is so critical. So what’s the state of your heart?

When your to-do list is too long, do you lose your cool or keep it?  Well, that depends on the state of your heart. When you’re offered gossip marinated in slander, do you turn it down or pass it on? That depends on the state of your heart. Do you see the bag lady as a burden on society or as an opportunity for God?  That too depends on the state of your heart.

No wonder the wise man in Proverbs begs, “Above all else, guard your heart” (Proverbs 4:23). David’s prayer should be ours: “Create in me a pure heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10).

And Jesus’ statement rings true, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

From The Applause of Heaven