Charles Stanley – Devoted to Prayer

Charles Stanley

Colossians 4:2-4

The Savior was devoted to prayer. He met with God in the early morning, sought Him in the midst of busy days, and slipped away for nighttime fellowship with Him. His actions testify to the central place prayer is to have in the lives of believers.

Prayer seemed to come naturally to Jesus, but most of us have to work at maintaining regular communion with God. We find ourselves easily distracted by the details of life, our own desires, and the demands of people. The road to a deepening prayer life begins with the firm commitment to develop a habit of talking with God and to make it a high priority in our day. We follow through by setting aside a daily time with the Lord and by identifying a location that minimizes interruptions. Sacrifice will be necessary to make this happen—we might have to accept less sleep, give up a favorite activity, or use our lunch hour for prayer. And parents might have to ask friends for help with the kids in order to have alone time with God.

In addition, our prayer life must be undergirded by Scripture, which teaches us about God’s character, promises, and priorities. The Bible turns our thoughts from worldly cares and pleasures to a focus on the Lord. Reading it daily will remind us that He is supremely important to our life and our desire should be to please Him. Then, we’ll be ready to make requests according to His will—and to hear what He has to say.

Evaluate the current state of your prayer life, and commit to improving at least one area described above.

Our Daily Bread — Does God Care?

Our Daily Bread

Psalm 30

Hear, O LORD, and have mercy on me; LORD, be my helper! —Psalm 30:10

Minnie and George Lacy were faced with some questions: “Is Jesus enough? Is our relationship with Christ sufficient to sustain us? Will He be enough to help us want to go on living? Does He care?”

While serving as missionaries in 1904, the Lacys’ youngest daughter fell ill. Then in rapid succession, all five of their children died from scarlet fever, none living to see the new year. In letters to the mission board George Lacy wrote about their deep loneliness and grief: “Sometimes it seems more than we can bear.” But then he added, “The Lord is with us and is wonderfully helping us.” In this, their darkest time, they found that Jesus was near and He was enough.

Many of us will face moments when we will wonder if we can go on. If our health fails, if our job disappears, if we lose those closest to us, will we find our relationship with the Lord real enough to keep us pressing forward?

The psalmist reminds us of God’s presence and faithfulness (Ps. 30). When he was deeply depressed, he cried out, “Hear, O LORD, and have mercy on me; LORD, be my helper!” (v.10). God gave Him healing and comfort (vv.2-3).

As believers in Jesus, we will never lack what we need to persevere. The Lord will always be near. —Randy Kilgore

Though tempted and sadly discouraged,

My soul to this refuge will flee

And rest in the blessed assurance,

“My grace is sufficient for thee.” —Anon.

Faith in an all-sufficient Christ enables us to press on.

Bible in a year: Jeremiah 30-31; Philemon

Insight

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5). David was no stranger to sadness and grief. In these two poignant lines of Scripture we see how anguish can disturb sleep and seem to last throughout the night. But there is always the assurance that each new day brings the hope of God’s providential deliverance and help. This realization can bring joy even to those who grieve.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The World Off Balance

Ravi Z

Once and a while a friendship is forged that seems to surprise everyone but the two who are in it. In a story that first circulated in 2006, Zookeepers at Tokyo’s Mutsugoro Okoku Zoo couldn’t agree more. Gohan and Aochan had been living side by side for months, at times even curling up next to one another as they sleep. Such behavior is, perhaps, natural among creatures sharing habitats—except that Gohan and Aochan should have naturally been predator and prey. Gohan was a three and a half inch dwarf hamster, and her companion, Aochan, a rat snake. The hamster, who was jokingly named “meal” in Japanese, was originally given to Aochan as dinner after the snake refused to eat frozen mice. But instead of dining, Aochan decided to make friends. Much to the zookeeper’s surprise, the two began sharing a cage. Gohan would even climb onto Aochan’s back to take a nap.

The thought of such a relationship is one that fascinates in its complexity (if not an accident waiting to happen). Though the friend who first sent me this story assured me that unusual bondings have occurred throughout the animal kingdom without bad endings, I still find myself leery of the snake’s intentions. Can a snake really surrender its natural instincts to hunt? What happens when Gohan gets in his way or makes him mad, or when the zookeeper is running late feeding the reptiles? Can the nature of a snake remain reversed because of a relationship?

In a significant prophecy of the coming Messiah (literally, anointed one) and his ensuing reign, Isaiah describes a scene full of similarly unusual relationships: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9).

On many levels it is a scene that is unimaginable. We would no sooner trust the cobra than we would trust the one who suggests we allow a child to play near it. Yet the vision speaks of a dramatic change in nature throughout God’s kingdom, where the aggressiveness and cruelty that are so much a part of our world will be forever changed. We will look at the relationship of Gohan and Aochan and not fear the hamster’s trust of the snake. With good reason, we ascribe such a reality as something God promises in the future, in heaven, when nature as we know it has passed away. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain; the wolf will live with the lamb and the leopard will lie down with the goat, for the old order of things will have passed away. Many believe this is indeed an image of things to come. Could it not also be something more?

The Christian story says there is something about the coming of the Messiah that brings this scene to life even now. The Incarnation—the coming of Jesus into creation—turns things on earth upside-down. Like the brutal outlaw in one of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories, the Misfit, recognizes, there is something about the Incarnation that has “thrown everything off balance.” The mere presence of the source of all matter in our very midst, the Incarnate Christ coming to us in flesh and blood introduces a possibility of grace that changes the nature of everything. “If He did what He said, then its nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow him, and if He didn’t, then its nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best you can—by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him.”(2) Isaiah depicts a world where lions and vipers will not kill; young lambs will rest peacefully beside predators, “for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). It is unnatural for a wolf not to harm a defenseless lamb or a snake not to bite the hand that invades its nest. Is it any more natural that you or I should be able to defy our human nature? That we should claim the old has gone and left a new creation in its place? That we should find ourselves born a second time from above?

Yet to bow before the person of Christ—in life, in prayer, in relationship, in community—is to lay our lives at the feet of the one who is both Lamb and Lion in a way that overturns these very notions of nature. In his work Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton finds fault with the way this is often envisioned. “It is constantly assured,” he writes “…that when the lion lies down with the lamb the lion becomes lamb-like. But that is brutal annexation and imperialism on the part of the lamb. That is simply the lamb absorbing the lion instead of the lion eating the lamb. The real problem is—Can the lion lie down with the lamb and still retain his royal ferocity?”(1) This, somehow, Christ achieves. His invitation is the fierce hope of transformation and the gentle assurance of new life—on earth and as it will one day be in heaven. He alone can reverse the nature of the snake; he is both Lamb and Lion.

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

(1) G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 105.

(2) Flannery O’Connor, “A Good Man is Hard to Find, Complete Stories (Franklin Center, Pa.: Franklin Library, 1980), 151.

Alistair Begg – Weapon of Prayer

Alistair Begg

Their prayer came to his holy habitation in heaven.    2 Chronicles 30:27

Prayer is the never-failing response of the Christian in any case, in every plight. When you cannot use your sword, you may take up the weapon of prayer. Your powder may be damp, your bowstring may be relaxed, but the weapon of prayer need never be out of order. Satan laughs at the javelin, but he trembles at prayer. Swords and spears need to be sharpened, but prayer never rusts; and when we think it most blunt, it cuts the best. Prayer is an open door that no one can shut. Devils may surround you on all sides, but the way upward is always open, and as long as that road is unobstructed, you will not fall into the enemy’s hand.

We can never be taken by siege or invasion as long as heavenly help can come down to us and relieve us in the time of our necessities. Prayer is never out of season: In summer and in winter its merchandise is precious. Prayer gains audience with heaven in the dead of night, in the middle of business, in the heat of noonday, in the shades of evening. In every condition, whether poverty or sickness or obscurity or slander or doubt, your covenant God will welcome your prayer and answer it from His holy place.

And prayer is never futile. True prayer is always true power. You may not always get what you ask, but you shall always have your real needs supplied. When God does not answer His children according to the letter, He does so according to the spirit. If you ask for cornmeal, will you be angry because He gives you fine flour? If you seek physical health, should you complain if instead He makes your sickness result in your spiritual health? Is it not better to have the cross sanctified than removed? This evening, my soul, do not forget to offer your petition and request, for the Lord is ready to grant your desires.

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The family reading plan for November 3, 2014 * Hosea 9 * Psalm 126, 127, 128

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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 God of peace

CharlesSpurgeon

“Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” Romans 15:33

Suggested Further Reading: Philippians 4:1-9

Let me briefly show you the appropriateness of this prayer. We indeed ought to have peace amongst ourselves. Joseph said to his brethren when they were going home to his father’s house, “See that ye fall not out by the way.” There was something extremely beautiful in that exhortation. You have all one father, you are of one family. Let men of two nations disagree; but you are of the seed of Israel; you are of one tribe and nation; your home is in one heaven. “See that ye fall not out by the way.” The way is rough; there are enemies to stop you. See that if you fall out when you get home, you do not fall out by the way. Keep together; stand by one another, defend each other’s character; manifest continual affection. The world hates you because you are not of the world. Oh! You must take care that you love one another. You are all going to the same house. You may disagree here, and not speak to one another, and be almost ashamed to sit at the same table, even at the sacrament; but you will all have to sit together in heaven. Therefore do not fall out by the way. Consider, again, the great mercies you have all shared together. You are all pardoned, you are all accepted, elected, justified, sanctified, and adopted. See that you fall not out when you have so many mercies. Joseph has filled your sacks, but if he has put some extra thing into Benjamin’s sack, do not quarrel with Benjamin about that, but rather rejoice because your sacks are full. You have all got enough, you are all secure, you have all been dismissed with a blessing.

For meditation: The God of love and peace will be seen to be present when his people live in peace with one another (2 Corinthians 13:11)

Sermon no. 49

3 November (Preached 4 November 1855)

John MacArthur – Having a Faith That Responds

John MacArthur

“Faith is . . . the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

True faith goes beyond assurance to action.

When the writer said, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”, he used two parallel and almost identical phrases to define faith.

We’ve seen that faith is the assurance that all God’s promises will come to pass in His time. “The conviction of things not seen” takes the same truth a step further by implying a response to what we believe and are assured of.

James addressed the issue this way: “Someone may well say, ‘You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’. . . But are you willing to recognize . . . that faith without works is useless? . . . For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:18, 26). In other words, a non-responsive faith is no faith at all.

Noah had a responsive faith. He had never seen rain because rain didn’t exist prior to the Flood. Perhaps he knew nothing about building a ship. Still, he followed God’s instructions and endured 120 years of hard work and ridicule because he believed God was telling the truth. His work was a testimony to that belief.

Moses considered “the reproach of Christ [Messiah] greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward” (Heb. 11:26). Messiah wouldn’t come to earth for another 1,400 years, but Moses forsook the wealth and benefits of Egypt to pursue the messianic hope.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, when faced with a life- threatening choice, chose to act on their faith in God, whom they couldn’t see, rather than bow to Nebuchadnezzar, whom they could see all too well (Dan. 3). Even if it meant physical death, they wouldn’t compromise their beliefs.

I pray that the choices you make today will show you are a person of strong faith and convictions.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to increase and strengthen your faith through the events of this day.
  • Look for specific opportunities to trust Him more fully.

For Further Study

Read Daniel 3:1-20. How was the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego tested?

 

Joyce Meyer – Be Led by the Spirit

Joyce meyer

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (emancipation from bondage, freedom). —2 Corinthians 3:17

One of the most dynamic ways to keep your joy is to allow the Holy Spirit to lead you (see Psalm 139:24). If you pray first, asking God for a plan, He will never push you into a work of the flesh. Instead, His Holy Spirit prompts, guides, and gently leads you to a place of joy; He will never manipulate or control you. If you are too consumed with your own plan, too locked into the way you think things ought to be, you won’t even hear God speak to you or recognize the promptings from Him. If you are too determined to follow your own ritualistic rules, you can miss the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit and lose the joy God intends for you to have.

It is not wrong to have a plan, but always offer your plan to God and tell Him that if He has something else in mind, you are willing to submit to Him.

Power Thought: The Spirit of the Lord has led me out of bondage and into a life of freedom and joy.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Welcomes You

dr_bright

“Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, KJV).

Several years ago I had the privilege of meeting with a world-famous theologian. This great scholar had denied the deity of Christ and had taught thousands of seminarians who had studied under him that Jesus was only a great man and a great teacher. He was not God incarnate, and surely could not forgive sin and provide rest to His followers. Yet, in a unique way God had created a hunger in his heart for truth and for two years he had done an in-depth study of the life of Jesus.

As we met together in his office, he asked, “What do you tell a student when he asks you how to become a Christian?”

When I realized he was sincere, I proceeded to explain why I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and why all men everywhere need Him as their Savior and Lord, and how anyone who wants to can receive Him.

“I am persuaded,” he said after a long while, “that no honest person who is willing to consider the overwhelming evidence for the deity of Christ can deny that He is the Son of God.”

This great scholar, who had denied the deity of Christ all his life and encouraged millions of others to think likewise, bowed in prayer and received Christ into his life as Savior and Lord.

Jesus Christ stands out clearly as the one supernaturally unique figure in all of history. He is incomparable. He invites all who will to experience His love and forgiveness. “Come unto Me.” He welcomes “all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Bible Reading: Matthew 11:23-27

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, I will seek to make sure that every loved one, every friend, every contact I make today is fully aware of the fact that God loves him, that Jesus Christ died for him and will welcome him into His family through a simple act of faith. I will tell him that He offers peace and rest – from life’s burdens – to all who follow Him in faith and obedience

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Substitute Sergeant

ppt_seal01

When World War I began, nobody was more apprehensive than Alvin C. York, a Tennessee country bumpkin who believed Scripture required him to be a pacifist. “I was worried clean through,” he later recalled. “I didn’t want to go and kill. I believed in my Bible.” Later, York came to understand that he had a duty to defend his country and its godly heritage against tyranny and oppression. And when he did, he became a soldier of tremendous courage and valor, winning the Congressional Medal of Honor and ultimately the subject of the Oscar-winning film Sergeant York.

But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”

Exodus 4:13

When Moses was called by God to lead, his reaction was much like Sergeant York‘s. You can probably relate, because at one time or another every Christian has prayed the honest – albeit somewhat cowardly – prayer of Moses from today’s verse. But God, as has often been said, does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called. Sergeant York is just one of many thousands of Americans who have risen to the greatness of the occasion.

As you pray today, ask for God to ignite His courage in your life – and then express your gratitude for those who have served and sacrificed so much so that you may live and worship freely.

Recommended Reading: II Timothy 1:3-9

Greg Laurie – Step by Step   

greglaurie

A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way? . . . In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. —Proverbs 20:24; 16:9

God is in control of all circumstances that surround my life. Sometimes we may feel we understand these circumstances, but at other times we don’t have a clue why certain things happen as they do, and we are mystified. We make our plans. But God always will have His way.

There’s nothing wrong with making a plan for tomorrow or for next month or next year. But we must always plan with this proviso: the Lord may change our plans and take us in a completely different direction. It is His prerogative to do so; He, not you, is in control of your life.

Jeremiah 10:23 says, “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” And in the book of Proverbs, the writer asks the question: “The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?” (Proverbs

20:24, NLT).

We sometimes call this guiding of our steps “divine providence.” Does that mean, then, that bad things never will happen to good and even godly people? No. But it does mean that even when bad things happen, God can bring good out of bad, as Romans 8:28 assures us.

All of God’s good promises, however, won’t be fully realized until we get to heaven. There are some things we can look at in life and say, “That was a really terrible experience, but now as I look back in retrospect, I can see the good that has come from it.” But then there are other things we will experience in life that we never will see good come out of—or at least “good” as we understand it. It won’t be until we get to the other side and see the Lord face-to-face that we will understand these things.

Even so, we entrust our lives to His good hands and His great wisdom and praise Him for directing us step by step.

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

Max Lucado – God Keeps His Word

Max Lucado

Our daughter Jenna was born in Brazil. Soon after we brought her home we received a hefty bill. No matter how much I pleaded or explained, the insurance company said, “We won’t pay.” The hospital meanwhile said, “You must pay!” The bill was $2,500. Good news: we paid the bill. Bad news: we were broke as a result.

Philippians 4:6 became a theme promise,“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

I was a novice to anxiety-free living, but I treated each anxious thought—and there were many—with prayer. “Lord, with your help I will not be anxious. But I’m in a foreign country with a new baby and an empty bank account. Hint, hint!” God took the hint! God keeps His word. I just need to ask. Before amen—comes the power of a simple prayer!