Charles Stanley – Benefits of Commitment to Prayer

Charles Stanley

Romans 12:10-12

Jesus loved to talk to His Father and often sought the opportunity to be alone with Him. At times, the Savior would speak with God in front of large groups of people or ask certain of the disciples to join Him in prayer. Because Jesus prayed frequently, He followed God’s lead, joined in His work, and spoke the Father’s words to the people around Him.

When we are serious about prayer, our intimacy with the Lord begins to grow. The more we listen and speak with God, the better we get to know Him. And as that happens, we start to view the world from a divine perspective. The things that matter to God will become our concerns as well, and our prayers will increasingly reflect His interests. Experiencing answered prayer will encourage us and grow our faith.

Over time, the discipline of prayer should begin to have a purifying effect upon us. The Holy Spirit works God’s truth into our hearts as we allow regular study of Scripture to fuel our communion with Him. Consistent exposure to the Word will reveal personal areas of ungodliness, and the Spirit will give us power to change. What’s more, we will learn to recognize where God wants us to become involved and how to invest our time, finances, and spiritual gifts in His work. Through prayer, we will also receive divine peace—even when circumstances worsen or remain unchanged (Isa. 26:3).

The benefits of prayer are many, but greatest of all is the joy derived from spending more time with the Lord.

Our Daily Bread — Perception or Reality?

Our Daily Bread

Mark 4:35-41

Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing? —Mark 4:38

We often hear it said, “Perception is reality.” That idea for Americans may have dawned on September 26, 1960—the date of the first televised debate between two presidential candidates. In front of the cameras, John Kennedy appeared composed; Richard Nixon appeared nervous. The perception was that Kennedy would be a stronger leader. The debate not only turned that election, but it also changed the way politics is done in the US. Politics by perception became the rule of the day.

Sometimes perception is reality. But not always—especially our perceptions about God. When Jesus and His disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee in a small fishing vessel, a sudden storm threatened to sink the boat. With Jesus asleep and the disciples on the verge of panic, they began to stir Him, asking, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38).

Their question sounds similar to questions I’ve asked. At times I perceive God’s apparent inactivity as a lack of care. But His care for me goes well beyond what I can see or measure. Our God is deeply concerned for what concerns us. He urges us to place all our care upon Him, “for He cares for [us]” (1 Peter 5:7). That is true reality. —Bill Crowder

O yes, He cares; I know He cares!

His heart is touched with my grief;

When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,

I know my Savior cares. —Graeff

Even when we don’t sense God’s presence, His loving care is all around us.

Bible in a year: Jeremiah 32-33; Hebrews 1

Insight

It appears that each of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) had a distinct audience and approach to telling Jesus’ story. Some scholars believe that Mark’s telling of the story was directed primarily to a Roman audience, and that his approach to Christ was to present Him as the “divine Servant.” This theme is rooted in Jesus’ own words about His mission when He said, “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). This theme would have had a strong connection for a Roman audience in the first century.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Beyond Thoughts

Ravi Z

I would like to begin by telling a story about an event that took place some years ago when I was beginning my studies, an event that has had a major impact on my approach to the ministry to this day. I had a neighbor who was deeply committed to a version of the New Age movement. He and I had many conversations about God in the course of several months. He was a highly educated man with a couple of PhDs to his name, and so he provided me with an opportunity to test my training. But the training I was receiving in apologetics was good, and I soon realized that I could not only answer the questions he was asking about my faith in God, I could also poke holes in his worldview in a way that forced him to check books out of the local library to try and put his worldview back together. And I was feeling very good about myself. I was actually getting it!

Finally I decided to challenge him to consider giving his life to Christ. His reaction surprised me; he did not seem to care at all about what I was telling him. So I said to him, can you please explain to me what is going on? You don’t seem to care about what I am telling you. His answer was even more baffling to me. He said to me, “Listening to you asking me to become a Christian is like listening to a naturalist asking me to become a naturalist.”

I said to him, “What in the world do you mean. I just asked you to consider giving your life to the God who created you, and you are accusing me of being an atheist? What do you mean?”

He said to me, “All you Christians have are statements and creeds. You think that if people accept those statements and creeds, everything will be okay. When I pray, I get in touch with powers that you know nothing about.”

And that was one of the most convicting things anyone has ever said to me. Because what this man was saying to me was essentially this: “Yes, you can say a lot of very convincing things about your faith, but does your faith really rise beyond well-argued propositions?”

In his book, Beyond Opinion, Ravi Zacharias says that the greatest obstacle to the reception of the Gospel is not its inability to provide answers; it is the failure on the part of Christians to live it out. J. I. Packer writes similarly in his classic book, entitled, Knowing God: “From current Christian publications you might think that the most vital issue for any real or would-be Christian in the world today is church union, or social witness, or dialogue with other Christians and other faiths, or refuting this or that -ism, or developing a Christian philosophy and culture… it is tragic that….so many in our day seem to have been distracted from what was, is, and always will be the true priority for every human being—that is, learning to know God in Christ.”(1)

Whatever your position of faith, it is helpful to occasionally step back and ask a similar question of priority. Whatever your calling in life, what is the ultimate goal of all that you do?

The Bible addresses this question in many places, in both the Old and New Testaments, but none so much as in the person of Christ himself. If there is a message we hear loudest in his coming to earth it is this. The primary call of God is to know God, to be near God, not to serve God or to argue on God’s behalf. The end is knowing God. Even the scriptures were given to us a means to that end. For when all is said and done, when the dust settles, it is the eternally incarnate Son of God who lies behind the hauntingly inescapable question, “Who do you say that I am?” It is a question we must answer, with our words and with our lives. There is no neutral ground.

No, Christians don’t have only statements and creeds on which to stand. We stand on holy ground, before a holy God. And how wonderful it is when the curtain is pulled back, and we see God for Who God truly is, and we are able to say with Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God?”

J.M. Njoroge is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 279.

Alistair Begg – Christ Revealed

Alistair Begg

In your light do we see light.    Psalm 36:9

No lips can tell the love of Christ to the heart until Jesus Himself shall speak within. Descriptions all fall flat and feeble unless the Holy Spirit fills them with life and power; until God makes Himself known to us, the soul does not see Him. If you would see the sun, would you gather together the common means of illumination and seek in that way to view its splendor? No; the wise man knows that the sun must reveal itself, and only by its own blaze can that mighty orb be seen. It is the same with Christ. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!” He said to Peter. “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you.”1 Purify flesh and blood by any educational process you may select, elevate mental faculties to the highest degree of intellectual power, yet none of these can reveal Christ.

The Spirit of God must come with power and overshadow the man with His wings, and then in that mystic holy of holies the Lord Jesus must display Himself to the sanctified eye, as He does not to the spiritually blind sons of men. Christ must be His own mirror. The great mass of this dim-sighted world can see nothing of the indescribable glories of Jesus. He stands before them without form or majesty, a root out of a dry ground, rejected by the vain and despised by the proud.

Only where the Spirit has illumined the eye, quickened the heart with divine life, and educated the soul to a heavenly taste, only there is He understood. He is precious to the believer; He is the chief cornerstone, the Rock of your salvation, your all in all; but to others He is “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”2 Happy are those to whom our Lord reveals Himself, for His promise to such is that He will make His home with them.

O Jesus, our Lord, our heart is open; come in, and never leave. Show Yourself to us now! Favor us with a glimpse of Your embracing loveliness.

1) Matthew 16:17   2) Romans 9:33

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The family reading plan for November 4, 2014 * Hosea 10 * Psalm 129, 130, 131

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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 – Tender words of terrible apprehension

CharlesSpurgeon

“The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” Psalm 9:17

Suggested Further Reading: Ezekiel 8:5-18

How often do you forget his presence too! In the midst of a crowd, you are conscious every one of you of the presence of man, but perhaps this very moment you are ignoring the fact that God is here. In your shop on the morrow how carefully you will take heed that your conduct is circumspect if the eye of your fellow-man is observing you. But before the presence of God, with the Eternal eye upon you, you can presume to practice the paltry tricks of trade or to do that which you would not have revealed to mortals for all the world; careful to shut the door, and draw the curtain, and hide yourselves in secret from men; strangely forgetting that when the curtain is drawn and the door is shut, God is there still. No walls can shut him out; no darkness can conceal the deed from his eye; he is everywhere and sees us in all things. Why, my hearers, we are all guilty in this respect in a measure; we forget the actual presence and the overlooking eye of God. We talk as we dare not talk if we were thinking that he heard us. We act as we would not act if we were conscious that God was there. We indulge in thoughts which we should cast out if we could but bear in perpetual remembrance the abiding presence of God, the Judge of the whole earth. Forgetting God is so common a sin, that the believer himself needs to repent of it, and ask to have it forgiven, while the unbeliever may solemnly confess this to be his crying sin, a piece of guilt to which he dare not profess innocence.

For meditation: The Christian should make a positive effort to do everything to the satisfaction of his unseen but seeing Lord (Ephesians 6:5-7). This was the principle that Joseph adopted (Genesis 39:9).

Sermon no. 344

4 November (1860)

John MacArthur – Gaining God’s Approval

John MacArthur

“By [faith] the men of old gained approval” (Heb. 11:2).

God makes His approval known to those who trust in Him.

The book Catch-22 tells of a squadron of World War II fliers stationed on the fictitious island of Pianos in the Mediterranean. Before a flier could transfer off the island, he had to complete 25 extremely dangerous missions over southern Europe.

One flier, Yosarian, was especially anxious to leave. After completing his twenty-fifth mission, his commanding officer began raising the number of qualifying missions. Insanity became the only justification for a transfer. But the commander decided that whomever feigned insanity to obtain a transfer simply proved his sanity by that sane act!

Realizing it was all a cruel game with no way out, Yosarian devised a plan to build a raft and float to Sweden. Even though there was a whole continent between him and Sweden and the ocean currents would take him in the opposite direction, he couldn’t be dissuaded. He took a leap into the absurd with a hopeless and impossible plan to escape a hopeless and impossible situation.

In their relentless quest for meaning in life, many people become spiritual Yosarians. Rejecting God, who is the only sure and rational answer to life, they jump headlong into alcohol, drugs, witchcraft, astrology, reincarnation, or countless other absurdities.

Many acknowledge God, but try to gain His approval through self-righteous deeds apart from true faith. In either case the results are the same: no faith, no salvation, no hope, no peace, and no assurance.

But those who take God at His word and approach Him in true faith receive His approval and enjoy His blessings. Theirs isn’t a blind leap into the absurd, but a living hope in the God who made man and who alone can fulfill man’s deepest longings. They know the joy and satisfaction of a life spent in service to Christ, and the peace and assurance that all is well—both now and for eternity.

Suggestions for Prayer; Pray for those you know who have rejected God or are trying to gain His approval on their own. Explain to them the meaning and purpose Christ alone can bring to their lives.

For Further Study; According to 2 Timothy 2:24-26, what is the spiritual state of those who oppose the gospel, and how are we to approach them?

Joyce Meyer – No More “Selective Hearing”

Joyce meyer

But the house of Israel will not listen to you and obey you since they will not listen to Me and obey Me, for all the house of Israel are impudent and stubborn of heart. —Ezekiel 3:7

God has taught me that when we are unwilling to hear in one area, it may render us unable to hear in other areas. Sometimes we choose to turn a deaf ear to what we know the Lord is clearly saying to us. We only hear what we want to hear; it’s called “selective hearing.”

A woman once shared with me that she asked God to give her direction concerning what He wanted her to do. He clearly put in her heart that He wanted her to forgive her sister for an offense that had happened between them months earlier.

Because this woman wasn’t willing to do so, she pulled away from her prayer time. When she did seek the Lord again for something, He responded, “Forgive your sister first.”

Over a period of two years, every time she asked the Lord for guidance about something new, He gently reminded her, “I want you to forgive your sister.” Finally, she realized that she would never grow spiritually if she didn’t do the thing God had told her to do.

She got on her knees and prayed, “Lord, give me the power to forgive my sister.” Instantly she understood many things from her sibling’s perspective she hadn’t considered before, and within a short time their relationship was healed and made stronger than it had ever been before.

If we really want to hear from God, we can’t approach Him with selective hearing, hoping to narrow the topics down to only what we want to hear. People want God’s direction when they have issues they want solved. But, don’t just go to God and talk to Him when you want or need something; spend time with Him just listening. He will open up many issues if you will be still before Him and simply listen.

Trust in Him Is there anything God has spoken to you that you have not yet obeyed? Why are you hesitating? Trust God to give you the strength to do whatever He has asked of you, knowing that He always has your best interest in mind. Your obedience will lead to your blessing.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Prayer Has Great Power

dr_bright

“Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results” (James 5:16).

“I can take my telescope and look millions and millions of miles into space,” said the great scientist Sir Issac Newton , “but I can lay it aside and go into my room, shut the door, get down on my knees in earnest prayer, and see more of heaven and get closer to God than I can assisted by all the telescopes and material agencies on earth.”

Among many other things, the carnal Christian is characterized by a poor prayer life. The spiritual Christian, on the other hand, is characterized by an effective fruitful prayer life.

Prayer is simply communicating with God by listening as well as talking. The acrostic ACTS is helpful in recalling the various components of effective prayer, though the order is not necessarily rigid.

“A” is for adoration – worship of God, first for who He is; and second for all of His benefits. He alone is worthy of our adoration and praise.

“C” stands for confession. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Sometimes this component should take priority, especially for the unbeliever and the disobedient believer, because God does not hear the prayers of the disobedient until they confess. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalms 66:18, KJV).

“T” is for thanksgiving – gratitude to God for His blessings.

“S” represents supplication – expressing our petitions to God for individuals and specific things and events.

Bible Reading: James 5:13-18

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will claim great power and wonderful results for supernatural living by a righteous life and by giving priority to prayer. I will remember to bring my adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication to God throughout the day

Presidential Prayer Team; J.K.- Nothing Greater!

ppt_seal01

Ballots will be tallied; votes will be counted. Election Day results in winners and losers and the nation will reap the consequences. It is up to you to cast your vote for men and women who will stand for righteousness…those who understand right from wrong and will base decisions on those principles.

And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

Genesis 15:6

Believing what the Lord has to say in His Word – the greatest influence for good – and then obeying Him will forever have His blessing. At one point when Abram was asked to do a most difficult thing, he was ready to obey because He believed that God would provide. In another time, it was Phinehas who knew what the Lord expected of His people and stood up and intervened for Him. In each case, their belief in God “was counted to him as righteousness.” (Psalm 106:30-31)

Choose your leaders wisely. Pray intently that you may know which are best to serve under God’s guidance no matter the pressure to do otherwise. Live your life in the same manner…looking to God, believing His Word will lead you in every decision you make. Then it will be counted to you as righteousness. There can be nothing greater!

Recommended Reading: Romans 4:13-5:1

Greg Laurie – When God Says No            

greglaurie

Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas. —Acts 16:6–8

Sometimes the Lord will step in and say no to even the most loving and carefully considered of our plans. There are many ways, of course, that God can stop or redirect us. Sometimes it’s through the warning of a respected friend. Sometimes it might be through a lack of peace in our lives. All of the circumstances might look just fine, but something inside us doesn’t feel quite right. We have a lack of peace about it.

We’re told in the book of Colossians that we should let the peace of God settle with finality all matters that arise in our minds (see Colossians 3:15). If we’re starting to do something or go somewhere and sense a lack of God’s blessing on that plan, we need to learn to stop and seek His peace and His desire for our lives.

God also can redirect us through simple circumstances. The car won’t start. A particular door won’t open. A check won’t clear. A flight is delayed. An illness comes. Has it happened to you? You had plans in a certain direction, and God stepped in and said, “No. That isn’t what I had in mind for you at this time. I have another plan.” You may have wanted to go into the ministry, and instead God called you into business. Or perhaps you had prepared yourself for a career in business, and God called you into ministry! You have wanted to be married, but God called you to be single. Or perhaps you were sure you would be single, but then He dropped someone into your life out of the blue. You may have wanted a large family, but you had a small family—or no children at all.

Sometimes things turn out differently than what we had imagined or planned. Ultimately, however, our lives belong to Him, not to ourselves. And His plans, even when they seem difficult, are the very best plans for this life and the next.

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

Max Lucado – In God’s Hands

Max Lucado

Imagine this breakfast scene. The daughters are complaining their brother took too much time in the bathroom. So their hair isn’t brushed and makeup isn’t applied. Mom is doing her best, but she woke up with a headache and a long list of things to do. Dad stops at the kitchen doorway. He weighs his options:

  • Command everyone to shape up and behave.
  • Berate his son for dominating the bathroom and his wife for not taking control.
  • Sneak out before anyone notices.
  1. . .he could pray: “Father, you are good. I need help. Reduce the frenzy in my house, please.” Will the prayer change everything? It may. Or it may take another prayer, or two, or ten! But at least the problem is in the hands of the One who can solve it. The Bible says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you! (1 Peter 5:7).”

Before amen—comes the power of a simple prayer!