Charles Stanley – Rewards of Time Well Spent

Charles Stanley

Psalm 63:1-8

Communicating with God is always a blessing: The believer who spends time alone with his Father can expect rich rewards. For example, King David’s psalms often speak of the stillness of soul and renewed energy that he experienced from time in God’s presence. Our spirit is quieted in prayer so that worry and frustration are soothed away. As the Lord refreshes us inwardly, we can feel the tension seeping out of our muscles. Not even a poet like David can explain how it happens, but the result of our worship is divine energy surging through these human bodies.

Our emotions are renewed as well. When I go home after a Sunday morning sermon, I’m quite tired. The perfect remedy is to sit down with the open Word and ask the Lord for a fresh sense of His presence and love. He answers every time. Those divine responses—as well as little nudges from the Holy Spirit—serve to strengthen our faith.

In spite of the great rewards that result from spending time in God’s presence, many Christians avoid it—especially when they are trying to ignore sin in their life. But He is determined to purify our hearts so we can be conformed to the image of His Son. If we are afraid of His correction and resist the transformation process, our relationship with Him will weaken. On the other hand, a desire to deal with anything that interferes with our connection to the Father will lead to a closer personal walk and bring blessings that go with being His beloved child. Time spent in His presence is always rewarded.

 

Our Daily Bread — True Loyalty

Our Daily Bread

2 Corinthians 11:23-31

If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. —2 Corinthians 11:30

By one estimate, more than 14 trillion frequent-flyer miles have been accumulated by people worldwide. It all started in the early 1980s, when airlines began the first frequent-flyer programs to encourage repeat business by rewarding customers for their loyalty. Accumulated miles could be redeemed for free travel, goods, and services, so it wasn’t long before people began planning their travel based as much on personal reward as on price or schedule.

The apostle Paul was an avid first-century traveler, but he wasn’t in it for the “frequent-sailor miles.” His goal was to reach as many people as he could with the good news of forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Jesus. When some people in the city of Corinth questioned his authority, he wrote a letter describing the price he had paid to bring the gospel to others: “Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep” (2 Cor. 11:25). God gave Paul the grace and endurance to risk his life to tell people about Jesus with no thought of personal gain.

Whether we receive persecution or praise for our service to the Lord, may our focus always be loyalty to Him and gratitude for His sacrifice of love. —David McCasland

I am Yours, Lord, yet teach me all it means,

All it involves of love and loyalty,

Of holy service, full and glad,

In unreserved obedience to Thee! —Bennett

Our loyalty to Jesus grows from His love for us.

Bible in a year: Psalms 13-15; Acts 19:21-41

Insight

To modern-day followers of Christ, the apostle Paul is held in the highest regard for his tireless work of teaching, church-planting, and writing of biblical letters. This, however, was not the case in the first century. Even after years of faithful service, Paul had to write the letter of 2 Corinthians to defend his calling and ministry, which was being questioned by people in Corinth. Today’s reading is a part of that defense of his ministry.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Ambassadors of Reconciliation

Ravi Z

Recently on a drive through a small, suburban town, I saw the following message on a church sign: “Afraid of burning?  Apply Son-screen.” I’ve seen similar messages to this one; “How will you spend eternity: Smoking or Non-Smoking?” “Life is Hard. Afterlife is Harder!” “WARNING: Exposure to the Son may prevent burning!” While there may be a pithy cleverness to some of these church slogans, I am bothered by the use of fear as a primary motivator for entering into a relationship with God. Why would anyone “scare” people into relationship with God? Can a true relationship be formed on the basis of fear?

Of course, the narratives of the Bible are replete with admonitions to fear the Lord.  Even those unfamiliar with Christianity are likely to have some acquaintance with the familiar Proverb: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (1:7). But the fear of God is quite different from being afraid. Actually, the fear of the Lord is a component of faith; it arises from knowledge of God and from within the context of relationship with God. The fear of the Lord is reverence for God, and it reminds us of our place and our standing before that God. We are finite and fallen. God is infinite and holy. Fear is simply another name for the wonder, reverence, and praise we owe to God our Creator.

Now, perhaps these church billboards have a hint of this understanding in their message, but sadly, the result for those reading these kinds of messages is fear, or revulsion. If the only motivation to turn to God is to avoid punishment, how is that any kind of relationship?  Perhaps this message results when there is confusion between the justice of God and punishment. Often, we want to punish others, or we have misplaced the desire to see others punished for a sense of justice. In contrast, the desire for justice is the desire to see things put right, made right by God. As Jesus prayed, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is a prayer for God’s justice to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Rather than making people fell afraid and focusing on all that is fearfully wrong, there is also the exhortation to proclaim all that God has set right in Jesus Christ: “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

Interestingly enough, more than any other command in Scripture, we are commanded to ‘fear not,’ and ‘do not be afraid.’(1) In fact, there are 366 commands (one for every day of the year and for Leap Year) to not be afraid. In Jesus’s teaching and message, he reserved his warnings of judgment for those who considered themselves in the “right” with God—those who defined their righteousness by their own merits. Jesus never used fear as a motivation for following him. Rather, for those on the outside looking in, Jesus extended hospitality and welcome. Indeed, in his message announcing “the kingdom of heaven is at hand; repent and believe the gospel” Jesus extends an invitation, not an ultimatum driven by fear. It is an invitation to enter into the kingdom by following him—his way, his life. Those who follow Jesus today can extend the same invitation to others who are seeking: “We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Perhaps understanding proper fear gives new insight to the words written in John’s first letter. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:16-19). Author Scott Bader-Saye comments that fear twists virtue into vice.(2) Fear motivated by a lack of love pursues punishment. When anyone is detached from love, fear-filled messages are sent. But when the proclamation centers on the God who ‘so loved the world that he gave his only Son’ fear is replaced by love; a love freely offered to others, by the God who has first loved us.

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

(1) Lloyd Ogilvie cited in John Ortberg, If You Want To Walk on Water You Have to Get Out of The Boat (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 118.

(2) Scott Bader-Saye, Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2007), 48-49.

Alistair Begg – Christ’s Delivery

Alistair Begg

He appeared first to Mary Magdalene. Mark 16:9

Jesus “appeared first to Mary Magdalene,” probably not only on account of her great love and persevering seeking, but because, as the context intimates, she had been a special trophy of Christ’s delivering power. Learn from this that the greatness of our sin before conversion should not make us imagine that we may not be specially favored with the very highest grade of fellowship. She was one who had left all to become a constant attendant on the Savior. He was her first, her chief, object.

Many who were on Christ’s side did not take up Christ’s cross; she did. She spent her substance in relieving His wants. If we would see much of Christ, let us serve Him. Tell me who they are who sit most often under the banner of His love and drink the deepest from the cup of communion, and I am sure they will be those who give most, who serve best, and who abide closest to the bleeding heart of their dear Lord.

But notice how Christ revealed Himself to this sorrowing one—by a word: “Mary.”1 It needed but one word in His voice, and at once she knew Him. Her heart expressed allegiance by another word, but her heart was too full to say more. That one word would naturally be the most fitting for the occasion. It implies obedience. She said, “Master” [KJV]. There is no state of mind in which this confession of allegiance will be too cold. When your spirit glows most with the heavenly fire, then you will say, “I am your servant. . . . You have loosed my bonds.”2 If you can say, “Master,” if you feel that His will is your will, then you stand in a happy, holy place. He must have said, “Mary,” or else you could not have said, “Rabboni,” “Master.” See, then, from all this how Christ honors those who honor Him, how love draws our Beloved, how it needs but one word of His to turn our weeping to rejoicing, how His presence makes the heart’s sunshine.

1) John 20:6  2) Psalm 116:16

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The family reading plan for July 15, 2014 * Jeremiah 11 * Matthew 25

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Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Charles Spurgeon – The New Park Street tracts, 1856

CharlesSpurgeon

Suggested Reading: Acts 9:17-22

The Infidel’s Sermon to the Pirates

(Arranger’s summary of tract—A rich unbeliever sailed in ignorance with pirates, who spared his life after mistaking him for a priest. Later when pressed to preach to them, he was given words which melted their hearts and converted him.)

How marvellous the providence of God, and the sovereignty of his grace! Who is he that has stepped beyond the range of Almighty love? Or has sinned too much to be forgiven? Reader! Are you an infidel? What would you do in a similar situation? What other doctrine than that of Scripture would benefit pirates? Certainly not your own. What would you like to teach your own children? Certainly not your own sentiments. You feel that you would not wish your own offspring blaspheming God. Moreover, forgive us, if we declare our opinion that you know that there is a God, though with your lips you deny him. Think, we implore you, of your Maker, and of his Son, the Saviour; and may eternal love bring even you to the Redeemer.

The Actress

(Arranger’s summary of tract: A converted actress renounced her profession. Persuaded to give one final performance, she was unable to sing her entrance song and could only substitute the hymn that had first proclaimed God’s mercy to her. The audience ridiculed her, but some considered their ways. She later married a gospel minister.)

Perhaps, dear reader, you are a great transgressor, then you fear there is no forgiveness for you; let this remove your fears. You may be the vilest creature out of hell, and yet grace can make you as pure as the angels in heaven. God would be just should he damn you, but he can be just and yet save you. Do you feel that the Lord has a right over you to do as he pleases? Do you feel that you have no claim upon him? Then, rejoice, for Jesus Christ has borne your guilt, and carried your sorrows, and you shall assuredly be saved. You are a sinner in the true sense of that word, then remember Jesus came to save sinners, and you among the rest, if you know yourself to be a sinner.

For meditation: God often saves the very people we would write off!

Part of nos. 81-82

15 July

John MacArthur – Sharing Christ’s Dominion

John MacArthur

“You are . . . a royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9).

In Exodus 19:5-6 God says to Israel, “If you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples . . . and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” They were to be both priests and royalty, but they violated the covenant and forfeited those privileges. Now, according to Peter, Christians are the royal priesthood of God.

The Greek word translated “royal” in 1 Peter 2:9 was used of a royal palace, sovereignty, crown, or monarchy. In this context it refers to royalty in general. We speak of the royal house of England or France, meaning not a building but a sphere of dominion. So it is with God’s spiritual house (v. 5). Believers serve the King and will also reign with Him in His sphere of dominion.

That is affirmed elsewhere in Scripture. In the book of Revelation we read, “Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (Rev. 5:10); and, “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him” (Rev. 20:6).

Your royal position has some practical implications for the way you live each day. For example, when dealing with the problem of litigation among Christians, Paul said: “Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, matters of this life?” (1 Cor. 6:1-3).

Never forget who you are in Christ, and don’t let sin or the world distract you from your priestly role.

Suggestions for Prayer:  Memorize 1 Timothy 4:12. Ask God to make you a better example of one who represents His royal priesthood.

For Further Study: Read Genesis 14:18-20 and Hebrews 7:1-17. Who was Melchizedek and what was unique about his priesthood?

Joyce Meyer – Spiritual Authority

Joyce meyer

Obey your spiritual leaders and submit to them [continually recognizing their authority over you], for they are constantly keeping watch over your souls and guarding your spiritual welfare, as men who will have to render an account [of their trust]. [Do your part to] let them do this with gladness and not with sighing and groaning, for that would not be profitable to you [either]. —Hebrews 13:17

Our modern society is absolutely filled with rebellion, and rebellion keeps us from hearing God. I have observed that many, many people have trouble relating to authority. This is true in marriages, families, schools, businesses, civic activities, and throughout our culture. submission to spiritual authority is practically nonexistent.

Often when a pastor tries to bring some kind of correction, people tend to become upset and want to leave the church—and that is not right. Paul corrected people often; that was part of his job as a spiritual leader and it remains a responsibility for spiritual leaders today. Paul said: “Not that we have dominion [over you] . . . but [rather that we work with you as] fellow laborers [to promote] your joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24). If we will understand and believe that spiritual authority exists to promote our joy, we will embrace it and when we do, our joy will increase—and so will our ability to hear God’s voice.

The spirit of rebellion that is at work in the world today is the spirit of the antichrist according to 2 Thessalonians 2:7–8, one that is willing to submit to no one. People today say they are demanding their rights, but in reality they are often only resisting any authority but their own.

God’s word for you today: Be submissive to authority as a service to the Lord, and He will bless and prosper you.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – The Lord Will Pay

dr_bright

“Remember, the Lord will pay you for each good thing you do, whether you are slave or free” (Ephesians 6:8).

When I proposed to Vonette I told her that I loved her dearly, and I wanted her to be my wife. I promised to do everything I could to make her happy and that she would always be the most important person in my life. But I further explained that my first allegiance was to the Lord, for I had already made that commitment to Him and could not and would not violate that promise to follow Him whatever the cost. She agreed, and we were married on those conditions.

My love for Vonette is far greater today because Jesus Christ is first in my life, and her love for me is far greater because He is first in her life. Our relationship is infinitely richer and more meaningful than it would have been had she been master of her life, and I the lord of my life, or if we had made each other first in our lives and the Lord Jesus Christ second.

The apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is affirming the promise of our Lord recorded in Matthew 6:32-33, “Your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well what you need and He will give it to you if you give Him first place in your life and live as He wants you to.”

In the context of this verse in Ephesians, Paul is dealing with family relationships – authority within the family. If we can grasp the concept of God as our paymaster, it will make a vast difference in the way we respond to the authority of men.

Christ knows everything you endure. He gives you your full portion of all that He owns. He is really the one for whom you are working. Wherever you are working, you may have assignments and responsibilities which you do not enjoy. But if Christ is truly the one for whom you work, then you will undertake His assignments cheerfully.

If we choose to be rebellious, we face the danger of a reward from our paymaster that might not be at all to our liking. Let us be about our Father’s business – willingly, joyfully, enthusiastically.

Bible Reading: Ephesians 6:1-7

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Though I may have a boss or leader who tells me what to do, and when to do it, I will always remember that my first allegiance is to the Lord Jesus Christ, and by putting Him first, even above my loved ones who surround me, I can serve others with greater joy, confidence and enthusiasm.

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Rage Regrets

ppt_seal01

George S. Patton, perhaps America’s greatest World War II general, did not suffer his greatest disaster on the battlefield, but in a hospital tent. Visiting wounded soldiers on Sicily, he came upon Paul Bennett, an artilleryman suffering from “battle fatigue,” now most often called posttraumatic stress disorder. Enraged, Patton slapped the man, called him a coward and numerous other unprintable names, and then pulled his gun and threatened to shoot the man. Patton didn’t believe battle fatigue was a real illness, but he simply didn’t know what he didn’t know. When word reached his superiors of the outburst, Patton was sidelined.

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

Anger usually does more damage than good. When you unleash your wrath – on a spouse, a child, a colleague, or that lackadaisical government clerk who doesn’t seem to care – you may feel better for a moment, but the aftermath will be regrettable. Worst of all, you may not really know what’s going on inside of that person’s heart or head, and rage may destroy your opportunity to be the voice or hands of Christ.

Harsh words are abundant today in Washington, your workplace, perhaps even your home. Ask God to help you be a courier of “soft answers.”

Recommended Reading: James 1:12-20

Greg Laurie – Living in Lo-debar

greglaurie

“As for Mephibosheth,” said the king, “he shall eat at my table like one of the king’s sons.” . . . So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem, for he ate continually at the king’s table. And he was lame in both his feet. —2 Samuel 9:11,13

The Bible tells us that when David sought out Jonathan’s son to show him kindness, Mephibosheth was living in an out-of-the-way place called Lo-debar. The name actually means “the place of no pasture.” You didn’t want to live in Lo-debar. It was a dry, parched, crummy place to live.

But where were we when Jesus Christ found us? We were living in Lo-debar, a parched, dried-up place. And just like David sought out Mephibosheth, Jesus Christ sought us. It is worth noting that it was not Mephibosheth who looked for David; it was David who looked for Mephibosheth. That might not seem significant, but it really is. David wanted to have a relationship with him. We read in 2 Samuel 9:5, “So David sent for [Mephibosheth] and brought him from Makir’s home]” (NLT). David was persistent. He would not give up on Mephibosheth.

This is a reminder to us that we need to reach out to our friends, neighbors, and even enemies who don’t know Christ. They don’t realize it, but they are living in Lo-debar. They are living in a parched place — separated from God. So we need to ask God to place an urgency in our hearts. We all know people who need someone to reach out to them. That is exactly what David did. And that is what we need to do.

Today’s devotional is an excerpt from Every Day with Jesus by Greg Laurie, 2013

Max Lucado – Faith is Trusting

Max Lucado

Faith is trusting what the eye cannot see! Eyes see storms. Faith sees Noah’s rainbow. Your eyes see your faults. Your faith sees your Savior. Your eyes see your guilt. Your faith sees His blood. Your eyes look in the mirror and see a sinner, a failure. But by faith you look in the mirror and see a robed prodigal bearing the ring of grace on your finger and the kiss of your Father on your face.

How do I know this is true? someone might ask. It’s nice prose, but give me the facts. “God’s power is very great for those who believe,” Paul taught. Ephesians 1:19-20 says, “That power is the same as the great strength God used to raise Christ from the dead.”

Next time you wonder if God can forgive you, read that verse. The very hands that were nailed to the cross are open for you!

From When God Whispers Your Name