Charles Stanley – Seeking the Lord

Charles Stanley

Hosea 10:12

We all spend some time seeking the Lord, but to be truly successful at it, we must learn to adjust our focus. The reason focus is important is that what we behold, we become. If we fix our attention on the sensual and materialistic, it won’t be long before we ourselves start leaning in that direction. I challenge you not to sit in front of the television, or partake of other forms of entertainment that allow unhealthy ideas into your mind night after night. While you might think it has no influence, it actually has a subtle but terrible gripping effect on you.

If, on the other hand, you focus your love and attention on Jesus, you will become like Him. As believers, we can focus on Him when we pray, when we study the Scriptures, and when we meditate on God’s truths. But we must go deeper, to the point that we are listening and sharing our hearts with Him. If we are open and transparent before Him, He will speak and pour Himself into us, like a spiritual version of osmosis.

When we learn to do this, we will find that our hunger and thirst for everything else begins to diminish. It’s not that our desires will disappear; they instead become redirected. You will discover you have a growing hunger for God and a longing to know Him in a deep, personal way. And you will notice your joy bubbling up and overflowing so that it cannot be stopped or stifled. Why? Because once you have begun to seek the Lord, you will recognize Him as your all in all.

 

Our Daily Bread — Great Expectations

Our Daily Bread

Philippians 1:12-21

According to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified. —Philippians 1:20

I once asked a counselor what the major issues were that brought people to him. Without hesitation he said, “The root of many problems is broken expectations; if not dealt with, they mature into anger and bitterness.”

In our best moments, it’s easy to expect that we will find ourselves in a good place surrounded by good people who like and affirm us. But life has a way of breaking those expectations. What then?

Stuck in jail and beset by fellow believers in Rome who didn’t like him (Phil. 1:15-16), Paul remained surprisingly upbeat. As he saw it, God had given him a new mission field. While under house arrest, he witnessed to the guards about Christ, which sent the gospel into Caesar’s house. And even though those opposing him were preaching the gospel from wrong motives, Christ was being preached, so Paul rejoiced (v.18).

Paul never expected to be in a great place or to be well liked. His only expectation was that “Christ will be magnified” through him (v.20). He wasn’t disappointed.

If our expectation is to make Christ visible to those around us regardless of where we are or who we are with, we will find those expectations met and even exceeded. Christ will be magnified. —Joe Stowell

Lord, forgive me for making my life all about what

I expect and not about glorifying You regardless

of my circumstances. May Your love, mercy,

and justice be magnified through me today.

Make it your only expectation to magnify Christ wherever you are and whoever you are with.

Bible in a year: Exodus 21-22; Matthew 19

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Gifts and Discoveries

Ravi Z

“My soul is too cramped for you to enter it,” lamented Augustine. Later he would find this cry itself something of an answer from God in the first place—for how could a soul articulate its longing for God if the Spirit had not first shown it what it longs for? Yet how familiar these initial attempts to approach God with a dreaded sense of failure seem to be. Is it God who first approaches? Or we who have to first clear the way? Might God approach even in our restless longing, even as our souls are cramped with baggage and the journey at times seems more a fight with self than a means of meeting the Other?

Author and former atheist Anne Lamott begins her story with borrowed words of W.S. Merwin: “We are saying thank you and waving, dark though it is.”(1) She describes darkness in a broken world and an unpredictable childhood, the dimming affects of self-loathing, addiction, fear, guilt, and grief. And yet she somehow describes the presence of one to thank regardless, one whose light gradually appeared through a world that slowly cracked into a thousand pieces—maybe even cracking mercifully?

Whether the journey of faith is a miracle or it is more like a gift that requires some assembly, I’m not sure. “Man is born broken,” quotes Lamott. “He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.” How else would one come to know the Father of Light in the house of a father who despised Christianity. Lamott describes the family codes which solemnly held everyone to unbelief. “It was like we all signed some sort of loyalty oath early on,” she writes, “agreeing not to believe in God in deference to the pain of my father’s cold Christian childhood.” Mercifully or ironically, there was also a sense of moral obligation preached in her household, a clear (even disheartening) scale of good and bad, acceptable and insufficient. Thus, “I bowed my head in bed and prayed, because I believed—not in Jesus—but in someone listening, someone who heard.” Apparently, the cosmic umpire so many know and fear lurches even in atheist households.

Yet from the beginning, there were clues that this someone was relational—in the differences she saw in the social structures of her and her friends’ houses, in the Catholic family who offered images of God both compelling and odd, in her need to please the one who listened, like one might a foreign, unpredictable, unknown king. “This God could be loving and reassuring one minute, sure that you had potential, and then fiercely disappointed the next, noticing every little mistake and just in general what a fraud you really were.”

And yet maybe even broken images of God somehow matter, as God approaches to shatter and re-form even these. Lamott describes a life of encounters with God in places of desperation—in a drunken haze, in a broken vehicle, on the bathroom floor, in deaths and in birth and in dying, in her own vehement denials of an approaching God. When the English teacher she loved became a born-again Christian, she wept at the betrayal and challenged this teacher on everything—”every assertion, even when she was right.” She willed not to believe, even as her own rebellion held the sneaking suspicion that God might be near.

Perhaps faith is indeed more a gift than a discovery, as John Calvin once insisted. If so, I like Lamott’s image of this gift better than most: like a sloppily wrapped package that repulses with absurdity yet somehow compells you to claim it for its beauty nonetheless. Wholly unable and unwilling to see or to seek God, a reluctant Lamott would eventually claim the gift of faith nonetheless. “I knew beyond any doubt that it was Jesus,” she said at the one who came so near she eventually stopped denying it. “And I was appalled.”

Dark and difficult, holy and absurd though it is, Lamott is right: It’s funny where we look for salvation, and where we actually find it.

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

(1) As quoted in Anne Lamott’s, Traveling Mercies (New York: Random House, 1999).

 

Alistair Begg – Another Day of Mercy

Alistair Begg

The dove came back to him in the evening.

Genesis 8:11

Blessed be the Lord for another day of mercy, even though I am now weary with its toils. Unto the preserver of men lift I my song of gratitude. The dove found no rest out of the ark and therefore returned to it; and my soul has learned yet more fully than ever, this day, that there is no satisfaction to be found in earthly things–God alone can give rest to my spirit.

As to my business, my possessions, my family, my attainments, these are all well enough in their way, but they cannot fulfill the desires of my immortal nature. “Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.”1 It was at the still hour, when the gates of the day were closing, that with weary wing the dove came back to the master.

O Lord, enable me this evening thus to return to Jesus. She could not endure to spend a night hovering over the restless waste, not can I bear to be even for another hour away from Jesus, the rest of my heart, the home of my spirit. She did not merely alight upon the roof of the ark–she “came back to him.” Even so would my longing spirit look into the secret of the Lord, pierce to the interior of truth, enter into that which is within the veil, and reach to my Beloved in very deed.

To Jesus must I come: Short of the nearest and dearest communion with Him my panting spirit cannot stay. Blessed Lord Jesus, be with me, reveal Yourself, and abide with me all night, so that when I awake I may be still with You. I note that the dove brought in her mouth an olive branch plucked off, the memorial of the past day and a prophecy of the future. Have I no pleasing record to bring home? No pledge and earnest of loving-kindness yet to come? Yes, my Lord, I present You my grateful acknowledgments for tender mercies that have been new every morning and fresh every evening; and now, I pray, put forth Your hand and take Your dove into Your bosom.

1Psalm 116:7

 

 

Charles Spurgeon – A revival sermon

CharlesSpurgeon

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt.” Amos 9:13

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 44

Pharaoh’s dream has been enacted again in the last century. About a hundred years ago, if I may look back in my dream, I might have seen seven ears of corn upon one stalk, firm and strong; anon, the time of plenty went away, and I have seen, and you have seen, in your lifetime, the seven ears of corn thin and withered in the east wind. The seven ears of withered corn have eaten up and devoured the seven ears of fat corn, and there has been a sore famine in the land. Lo, I see in Whitefield’s time, seven bullocks coming up from the river, fat and well-favoured, and since then we have lived to see seven lean kine come up from the same river; and lo! the seven lean kine have eaten up the seven fat kine, yet have they been none the better for all that they have eaten. We read of such marvellous revivals a hundred years ago, that the music of their news has not ceased to ring in our ears; but we have seen alas, a season of lethargy, of soul-poverty among the saints, and of neglect among the ministers of God. The product of the seven years has been utterly consumed, and the Church has been none the better. Now, I take it, however, we are about to see the seven fat years again. God is about to send times of surprising fertility to his Church. When a sermon has been preached in these modern times, if one sinner has been converted by it, we have rejoiced with a suspicious joy; for we have thought it something amazing. But, brethren, where we have seen one converted, we may yet see hundreds; where the Word of God has been powerful in scores, it shall be blessed to thousands.

For meditation: The prayer of Habakkuk during a period of lean years (Habakkuk 3:2). Will you join him in prayer?

Sermon no. 296

29 January (1860)

John MacArthur – Exalting Christ

John MacArthur

“[God] seated [Christ] at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph.1:20).

To exalt someone is to elevate that person in status, dignity, power, and honor. As God, Jesus possesses all power and authority and is deserving of all honor and glory. But when He was on earth, most people refused to give Him the glory He deserved. Instead they mocked and eventually murdered Him.

Just prior to His death, Jesus prayed to the Father, “Glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I ever had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:5). The Father answered that prayer by giving Him an exalted name and an exalted position.

Paul wrote, “God highly exalted [Christ], and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Farther” (Phil. 2:9-11).

Hebrews 1:3 adds that when Christ had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Old Testament priests didn’t sit down while on duty because their work was never finished. Repeated sacrifices were necessary because of the priest’s own sins and the sins of the people. Christ, on the other hand, made one all-sufficient sacrifice, then sat down. His atoning work was completed.

The “right hand” of God is a metaphor for the highest place of power, prominence, authority, and honor. From that exalted position Christ reigns as the Sovereign Lord of the universe.

There’s one aspect of Christ’s exaltation that we as believers can participate in right now. David said, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together” (Ps. 34:3). Psalm 99:5 adds, “Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool.” Be generous in praising Him today, for He is worthy!

Suggestions for Prayer:

Read Psalm 34 and exalt the Lord for all the benefits He demonstrates on behalf of His people.

For Further Study:

Read Colossians 3:1-4

Describe your position in Christ (vv. 1, 3).

What should be the focus of your life (v. 2)?

When ultimately will God vindicate your faith in Christ (v. 4)?

What must you do to be exalted by God (see James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6)?

 

Joyce Meyer – Trusting When We Don’t Understand

Joyce meyer

[ . . . though He slay me, yet will I wait for and trust Him . . . ] —Job 13:15

One of the great mysteries and facts about our walk with God is that we rarely understand everything He is doing in our lives. If we always understood, we would have no need to trust Him. As believers we often find ourselves in places of not knowing, and we catch ourselves questioning God: “What does my future hold?” “Will I ever get married?” “What will my children be when they grow up?” “Will I have the provision I need in my old age?”

We have to learn to trust God when we do not understand what is happening in our lives, and we need to become comfortable with unanswered questions. You and I may never have every answer we want when we want it, so we need to relax and get comfortable knowing and trusting God, the One Who does know. Without trust, it is impossible to enjoy today and be ready to face tomorrow with expectancy.

Job, who had many reasons to question God as he faced a staggering series of crises and losses, did not understand what was going on in his life, but he made the decision to trust God anyway. I believe that was the only way he could find peace in the midst of his terrible circumstances. Similarly, you and I will never have peace in our lives until we learn how to stop trying to figure everything out and how to start trusting God more.

If you are the kind of person who has to have everything figured out in order to settle down, let me encourage you today to accept the fact you are not likely to receive all the answers you want in this lifetime. Choose to stop demanding explanations and to begin practicing trust. Instead of asking God why, tell Him you trust Him. There have been many times in my life when I wanted with all my heart to know why something was or was not happening, but I knew God wanted my trust, not my questions.

Trust in Him: Is there something in your life you don’t understand, no matter how long and hard you think about it? Give it to God and put your trust in Him. Whether or not He ever explains it to you, you can trust Him to bless you and bring you through any crisis.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Power to Become Rich

dr_bright

“Always remember that it is the Lord your God who gives you power to become rich, and He does it to fulfill His promise to your ancestors” (Deuteronomy 8:18).

A Christian woman whom I knew, worth many millions of dollars, panicked when the stock market dropped and she lost almost one million dollars. Even though she had tens of millions in reserve, she was filled with apprehension and fear that she would die a pauper. She had never discovered the adventure and freedom of “giving and receiving” in a trust relationship with God.

Conversely, a businessman called me long distance a short time later to tell me how excited he was over the way God was blessing his new business venture. He had decided to give all the profits – potentially millions – toward helping to reach the world for Christ.

“I am sending $50,000 for Here’s Life in Asia,” he said. “And there will be much more later. I don’t want to invest in buildings. I want to invest this money where it will be used immediately to win and disciple people for Christ.”

The principle is the same, whether you have $100 or $1 million. Ask God to tell you what to do toward helping to fulfill the Great Commission. Second, look for a worthy, proven project that you can support monthly, if only modestly, in addition to your commitment to your local church.

As your faith in God’s love and trustworthiness grows, prayerfully make a faith promise pledge that is greater than you are capable of fulfilling with your present income.

Bible Reading: Malachi 3:7-12

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will ask God today to help me trust Him to give – by faith – more than I can possibly afford to give toward his work, with the certainty that He will supply all my needs and enable me to meet my faith promise pledge supernaturally.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – Your New Song

ppt_seal01

The story has been told of Nicolo Paganini, the great violinist, whose Will gave his famous violin to the city of his birth, Genoa, Italy…on condition that it never be played. It’s the nature of violins to become seasoned, lustrous and lovely as long as they are handled; but as soon as they are put away, they decay and become worthless.

You yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

Romans 15:14

Consider that you are an instrument in the hands of a loving God who has filled you with gifts and abilities. Over time spent in His Word and prayer, you become seasoned, lustrous and spiritually lovely, knowledgeable and able to instruct one another as today’s verse says. In Ephesians 5:19, it says you will speak to one another “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.”

Are you using the gifts God has given you? Are you ready to instruct someone else? Submit yourself to the hands of your loving Creator. He will guide you through His Word and give you a new song. Pray, too, that the halls of government might one day fill with psalms and praise to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Recommended Reading: Psalm 33:1-12  Click to Read or Listen

 

Greg Laurie – God with Skin On

greglaurie

The Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. —John 1:14

I heard the story of a little boy who was frightened one night during a big thunderstorm. Terrified, he called out from his room, “Daddy, I’m scared!”

His father, not wanting to get out of bed, called back, “Don’t worry, Son. God loves you and will take care of you.”

There was a moment of silence. The little boy said, “I know God loves me, but right now, I need somebody with skin on.”

Sometimes our great and awesome God seems almost untouchable. That is where Jesus comes in. He was God with skin on, walking among us and showing us what God is like. I think C. S. Lewis put it well: “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”

God became a man so that you might become God’s child. You aren’t born as a child of God; the Bible says that you need to be born again (see John 3:3). There must come a moment in your life in which you turn from your sins and invite Jesus Christ to come into your life to be your Savior and Lord.

Have you done that yet? Would you like to know with certainty that if you died today, you would go to heaven? You can. He walked among us for a short time on this earth. But you can walk with Him forever. The choice is yours.

Max Lucado – Asking for Mercy

Max Lucado

“But, ma’am,” I pleaded, “I’ve got to be in Houston this evening.”  She was patient but firm.  “I’m sorry, sir, the rules say passengers must be at the gate ten minutes before scheduled departure time.”  “I know the rules,” I said. “I’m not asking for justice; I’m asking for mercy!”  She didn’t give it to me.

She didn’t give me mercy, but God does.  Even though by the “book” I’m guilty, by God’s love I get another chance. Even though by the law I’m indicted, by mercy I’m given a fresh start.

The Bible says, “For it is by grace you have been saved. . .not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

No other world religion offers such a message. Others say, “You do this, and God will give you that.” Christ’s kingdom is just the opposite. A kingdom where membership is granted, not purchased! You are placed into God’s kingdom!  He gives you, not justice, but mercy!

From The Applause of Heaven