Charles Stanley – Biblical Fasting

Charles Stanley

Psalm 42:1-2

“Dear?” The only response this elicits is a distracted “Hmm,” accompanied by the rustle of a newspaper. “Could I talk to you?” Again a reply of “Hmmm,” followed by silence. Then footsteps are heard walking away. Have you ever experienced something similar?

We’ve all been guilty of inattention to those we love. So much clamors for our attention that we at times dodge effort instead of investing in a relationship. Unfortunately, we can do the same thing with God. But we don’t want that, do we?

Biblical fasting is one way to help us regain focus concerning our relationship with the Lord and what matters to Him. Fasting readies us to concentrate on our Father. It is an opportunity to set aside other things in order to seek His face and hear His voice. It is a time of preparation that leads us to fix our attention on God’s purposes and will for us.

Many of us have not tried fasting because it seems too foreign. We don’t know how to begin or when to find the time. But if we see it for what it is—a faith experience that sharpens our spiritual vision, intensifies our desire for God, and leads us to better understand His direction—then we will want to try it for ourselves.

Have you been crying out to the Father for more of Him? Do you need to know God’s will for a particular area of your life? Biblical fasting is a spiritual discipline that will bring you to the place where your hearing is sharper, your mind is clearer, and your eyes are more firmly fixed on the Lord and His plans. Why not discover this for yourself?

Our Daily Bread — Confident Access

Our Daily Bread

Hebrews 4:14-16

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. —Hebrews 4:16

Mont Saint-Michel is a tidal island located about a half-mile off the coast of Normandy, France. For centuries it has been the site of an abbey and monastery that has attracted religious pilgrims. Until the construction of a causeway, it was notorious for its dangerous access that resulted in the death of some pilgrims. At low tide it is encompassed by sand banks, and at high tide it is surrounded by water. Accessing the island was a cause for fear.

Access to God for Old Testament Jews was also a cause for fear. When God thundered on Mt. Sinai, the people feared approaching Him (Ex. 19:10-16). And when access to God was granted through the high priest, specific instructions had to be followed (Lev. 16:1-34). Accidentally touching the ark of the covenant, which represented the holy presence of God, would result in death (see 2 Sam. 6:7-8).

But because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can now approach God without fear. God’s penalty for sin has been satisfied, and we are invited into God’s presence: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace” (Heb. 4:16).

Because of Jesus we can come to God through prayer anywhere, anytime. —Dennis Fisher

Then boldly let our faith address

God’s throne of grace and power,

There to obtain delivering grace

In every needy hour. —Watts

Through prayer, we have instant access to our Father.

Bible in a year: Psalms 49-50; Romans 1

Insight

For Jesus to be able to identify with and to save sinful humanity, it was necessary for Him to be fully human. Earlier, the writer of Hebrews affirmed that Jesus was fully “flesh and blood” like us (2:14 NIV). Here in verse 15, he further affirmed that because He has been through suffering and temptation, Jesus knows what it is like when we suffer and are tempted. Jesus is therefore qualified and able to help us (Heb. 2:17-18; 5:1-2). But in order for Him to make propitiation for sins, Jesus had to be “without sin” (v.15, also 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 7:26-27; 1 John 3:5).

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Better Treasure

Ravi Z

The catchy beat was disarming. Driving down the highway with my hands tapping out the rhythm on my steering wheel, I thought this was just another clever pop tune with bubblegum lyrics. Then the words to the chorus caught my attention:

 

“I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore

I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore

When we think it will all become clear

I’m being taken over by The Fear.”(1)

 

This song sung by the young British pop star, Lily Allen, was not just another slickly produced tune without substance. Allen sings of the destructive impact of materialism:

 

“I want to be rich and I want lots of money

I want loads of clothes and loads of diamonds

I heard people die while they are trying to find them

 

Life’s about film stars and less about mothers

It’s all about fast cars and passing each other

But it doesn’t matter because I’m packing plastic

and that’s what makes my life so fantastic

 

And I am a weapon of massive consumption

and it’s not my fault it’s how I’m programmed to function

I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore

I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore

Cause I’m being taken over by fear.”

 

Among other things, the song laments the vacuity of mindless consumption and its pervasiveness in our society.  Consumption, as Allen points out, can be like any other form of addiction, providing an initial high that never again delivers what it promises. Instead, it leads us down the path toward diminishing returns and never ultimately satisfies.

Over two hundred years before Ms. Allen stepped onto the pop music scene in the United Kingdom, John Wesley articulated the dangers of materialism. “I fear, wherever riches have increased,” he wrote, “the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore, I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of religion to continue long….[A]s riches increase, so will pride, anger and love of the world in all its branches.”(2) Even as thousands and thousands were joining his ranks, he spoke prophetically about the inevitable decline and dissolution of this revival as a result of the increase of wealth arising from Christian diligence and frugality.

Indeed, it is well known to students of human societies that an increase in prosperity often brings with it a precipitous decline in religious involvement. After all, why would anyone need God when there is Master Card and Visa?  The declining numbers in churches in the Western World seem to affirm that Wesley’s fears were warranted. Christian leaders speculate that if current trends continue in England, for example, Methodists will cease to exist in that country in thirty years.(3) Of course, long before Wesley uttered his fears, Jesus warned his disciples: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to one, and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and riches” (Luke 16:13). Jesus warns of the idolatry that so easily entraps us, luring us away from faithful allegiance.

We might be tempted to avoid these difficult warnings in times of economic “slow down.” How can we be tempted to serve “the master” of money, after all, when we have so much less of it? Yet even in its absence, we can find our hearts soothed more by the promise of money and the security we believe it will bring us. Even those who claim to follow Jesus can fall into a dangerous reliance on material security. When our hearts find salvation and security in having more and more material gain—whether we actually hold it or not—we are reminded of “the deceitfulness of riches” and the narcotic effects of material success.

Thus clearly, the abolition of wealth or production is not the answer to materialism! Rather, the answer lies in the proper use of wealth in our world: as a blessing for others and not just for our own use. Jesus instructed disciples to “sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven….For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:33-34).

 

John Wesley understood this, too, and in the spirit of Jesus reiterates the same idea: “We ought not to forbid people to be diligent and frugal: we must exhort all Christians, to gain all they can, and to save all they can… What way then (I ask again) can we take that our money may not sink us to the nethermost hell? There is one way, and there is no other under heaven. If those who gain all they can, and save all they can, will likewise give all they can, then the more they gain, the more they will grow in grace, and the more treasure they will lay up in heaven.”(4)

In difficult economic times, this is far from unnecessary counsel. It may be, in fact, the very idea that finally breaks the chains of addiction and reveals a far better treasure.

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

(1) Lily Allen, “The Fear” from It’s Not Me, It’s You, Regal Records, United Kingdom, January 26, 2009.

(2) Cited in an article by Philip Yancey, “Traveling with Wesley” Christianity Today, November 2007, vol. 51, No. 11.

(3)Ibid.

(4) Cited from The Works of the Rev. John Wesley, vol. XV (London: Thomas Cordeux, 1786).

 

Alistair Begg – Belonging

Alistair Begg

Daily Devotional for July 29, 2014

All that the Father gives me will come to me. John 6:37

This declaration involves the doctrine of election: There are some whom the Father gave to Christ. It involves the doctrine of effectual calling: These who are given must and shall come; however stoutly they may set themselves against it, yet they shall be brought out of darkness into God’s marvelous light. It teaches us the indispensable necessity of faith, for even those who are given to Christ are not saved except they come to Jesus. Even they must come, for there is no other way to heaven but by the door, Christ Jesus. All that the Father gives to our Redeemer must come to Him; therefore none can come to heaven except when they come to Christ.

Oh, the power and majesty that rest in the words “will come.” He does not say they have power to come, nor that they may come if they will, but they “will come.” The Lord Jesus by His messengers, His Word, and His Spirit sweetly and graciously compels men to come in, that they may eat of His marriage supper; and this He does not by any violation of the free agency of man, but by the power of His grace. I may exercise power over another man’s will, and yet that other man’s will may be perfectly free, because the constraint is exercised in a manner accordant with the laws of the human mind. Jehovah Jesus knows how by irresistible arguments addressed to the understanding, by mighty reasons appealing to the affections, and by the mysterious influence of His Holy Spirit operating upon all the powers and passions of the soul so to subdue the whole man, whereas he was once rebellious, that he yields cheerfully to His government, subdued by sovereign love. But how shall those be known whom God has chosen? By this result: that they do willingly and joyfully accept Christ and come to Him with simple and unfeigned faith, resting upon Him as all their salvation and all their desire. Reader, have you come to Jesus in this way?

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The family reading plan for July 29, 2014 * Jeremiah 25 * Mark 11

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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 – Fields white for harvest

CharlesSpurgeon

‘Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.’ John 4:35

Suggested Further Reading: 3 John 5–12

Grind your sickles; you must go to work with such cutting truths as justification by faith, as the total ruin of mankind, as the hope that is laid up in the cross, as the energy of the Holy Spirit; and when you know these truths, and know how to use them, you shall then be made great reapers in the Master’s harvest. It is idle to say, ‘I will go,’ and then go with no tool in your hand. Get the truth; get a hold of it well, get it sharp and in good order, and who knows, under the blessing of God the Holy Spirit, what you may do! The next want of harvest is some close binders. When the wheat is cut down you must tie it up with sheaves. We want some of you who cannot preach, who cannot use the sickle, to go and gather up the wheat which falls under the sickle when it is used by others. Invite them to come into church fellowship; talk to them, get them into union with the people of God. And if you happen to be in the church yourselves, try to keep the church knit together in love. Bind the sheaves together. We cannot have good harvest work without loving hands to bind the people of God in one. Then we want beside these some to take the sheaves home. The church of God is the barn; it is the Master’s garner here; he has another garner yonder on the hill-top in heaven, but here we want you to assist in bringing them into the church of Christ. When God has saved them, try if you can get them to practise the ordinances of God, and to be joined with his people. And we want some of you, if you cannot do anything yourselves either in reaping, or binding, or bringing the sheaves home, at least by kind words and loving speeches to bring refreshments to the reapers.

For meditation: There is a great mission-field to be harvested. What part do you play?—praying, labouring (Luke 10:2); sowing, reaping (John 4:36–38) or just sleeping (Proverbs 10:5)?

Sermon no. 706

29 July (1866)

John MacArthur – The Joy of Anticipated Reward

John MacArthur

“That the proof of your faith . . . may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:7).

The joy you experience after your faith has been tested and proven genuine is largely due to your present blessings and assurance of salvation. But there’s a future aspect as well: the joy of anticipating the reward you’ll receive from Jesus when you see Him face to face and hear “Well done, good and faithful servant! . . . Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:21, NIV). Peter described it as the “praise and glory and honor [you’ll receive] at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:7).

“Praise” in that text speaks of verbal commendation. To receive “glory” is to be made like Christ. Jesus is the incarnation of God’s glory (John 1:14) and “we know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). Paul spoke of those who “by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality” (Rom. 2:7). As a result they will receive what they seek (v. 10).

Peter probably used “honor” as a synonym for rewards, which God will grant to all who faithfully serve Him. I believe those rewards are various capacities for heavenly service and are directly related to the believer’s service in this life. Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done” (Rev. 22:12, emphasis added). Paul said, “He who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Cor. 3:8, emphasis added).

God alone is worthy of praise, glory, and honor, but He will give you all three because you’ll be in the image of Jesus Christ—sinless and fully glorified (1 John 3:2). Until that time, “watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward” (2 John 8).

Suggestions for Prayer: Praise the Lord for the joy of anticipating your future reward.

For Further Study: Peter spoke of a time when Jesus will reward believers. What do these verses teach about that time: Romans 8:18, 1 Corinthians 1:7-8, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, and 1 Peter 4:10- 13?

Joyce Meyer – Walk in Love

Joyce meyer

And walk in love, [esteeming and delighting in one another] as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a slain offering and sacrifice to God [ for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance. —Ephesians 5:2

Jesus said, “ If anyone intends to come after Me, let him deny himself [ forget, ignore, disown, and lose sight of himself and his own interests] and take up his cross, and [joining Me as a disciple and siding with My party] follow with Me [continually, cleaving steadfastly to Me] (Mark 8:34, emphasis mine).

Living a disciplined life means laying aside personal feelings, deciphering which choice is most important in God’s eyes, and then allowing that choice to take preeminence over the others. As Jesus laid down His life for you, He is asking you to lay down your interests for His greater cause

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Everything I Need

dr_bright

“Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need!” (Psalm 23:1).

A minister telephoned his sermon topic to his local newspaper one day.

“The Lord is My Shepherd,” he said.

“Is that all?” he was asked.

“That’s enough,” the pastor replied.

The weekend church page carried his sermon topic as: “The Lord is My Shepherd – That’s Enough.”

Thoroughly satisfied with the meaning of the expanded title, he used it as his subject on Sunday morning – to the delight and great benefit of the congregation.

Surely the truth of this familiar verse, when properly assessed, should delight and benefit each one of us. Who but our wonderful Lord could serve as such a faithful shepherd? And what better description is there of His loving care for us than that which is implied in the word shepherd?

With Him as our Shepherd, what else could we possibly need? He has promised to be our daily provision, our healer, our all in all. Truly nothing happens to the genuine believer without the knowledge and permissive will of our heavenly Father.

Bible Reading: Psalm 23:1-6

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: “Dear Lord, help me to see You today as my Shepherd – gracious caretaker and friend, provider of everything I could ever possibly need.”

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Pardon Me

ppt_seal01

“Do the crime, do the time,” goes the old saying, but a lot of people would rather not. As of mid-year 2014, President Barack Obama had received 14,332 requests for pardons or commutations during his administration. He has granted 62. The chance of the president letting you off the hook, therefore, is not good. Obstacles to a pardon are manifold: you have to jump through hoops at the Justice Department before your request will be forwarded; the process is weighted by political and public relations considerations; and there must be ample evidence you were wrongly convicted or that your sentence is unjust.

Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice.

Proverbs 29:26

Some will get relief from the White House, but the vast majority will not. Proverbs affirms as much in today’s scripture. But the wonderful news is this: the ultimate Ruler, King Jesus, is ready to hear your petition. Whatever you have done, whoever you may have hurt, however badly you may have squandered your opportunities, He stands ready to pardon you and give you a fresh start.

Today, pray that your nation’s leaders will recognize the divine foundation of all justice: it does not come from Washington, but from the Lord.

Recommended Reading: Malachi 3:13-18

Greg Laurie – You Don’t Have to Work for It      

greglaurie

When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners. —Romans 4:4–5

As a young Christian, I remember thinking that the reason God was blessing me was because of my disciplined Bible study. I would get up well before school every morning and study the Scripture for about an hour. Then I would pray for an hour or more (I know because I kept checking my watch). I could say to my friends, “While I was studying the Bible for an hour and praying for over an hour today, the Lord showed me. . . .” It gave me bragging rights. I thought that when I got to school, God would use me because I had done so much for Him. Look at how faithful I was! Look at how diligent I was! I was so proud.

Then one morning my alarm didn’t go off, and I woke up very late. I didn’t have time to pray or read my Bible . . . and it turned out to be one of the most blessed days of my life. God even allowed me the privilege of leading someone to Christ that day. I thought, What does this mean? Don’t read the Bible or pray? I think what God was trying to say to me was, “Greg, don’t do those things to seek My approval. Rather, do those things because you have My approval.”

It is not because of what we have done that we have God’s approval; it is because of what God has done for us. We put our faith in Him, and then God puts His righteousness into our account. He loves us when we do well, but He also loves us when we stumble.

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

Max Lucado – Too Close to Where You Got In

Max Lucado

I like the story of the little boy who fell out of bed. When his mom asked him what happened, he answered, “I don’t know. I guess I stayed too close to where I got in.”

Easy to do the same with our faith. It’s tempting just to stay where we got in and never move. How does your prayer life today compare with then? How about your giving? And Bible study? Can you tell you’ve grown?

2 Peter 3:18 says, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

If a child ceased to develop, the parent would be concerned, right? Doctors would be called and tests would be run. If you’re the same Christian you were a few months ago, be careful. You might be wise to get a check up. Not on your body, but on your heart. Not a physical…but a spiritual.

From When God Whispers Your Name