Charles Stanley – Saved by Grace

Charles Stanley

Ephesians 2:1-10

Why is it that so many who have placed faith in Jesus Christ find themselves struggling and feeling defeated? One reason may be that they have never grasped exactly what took place when they were saved. Furthermore, they may fail to understand salvation’s current meaning in their life.

From God’s viewpoint, before we trusted Christ as our Lord and Savior, we were spiritually dead in our transgressions (Eph. 2:5), under His wrath (John 3:36), and condemned to eternal separation from Him (Rev. 20:15). He saw us as people who deserved judgment yet whose efforts were futile against divine anger—rebellious people who were unable to turn to Him apart from the work of the Holy Spirit.

God saw us as helpless and hopelessly lost. Clearly, something outside of ourselves was needed for us to be made acceptable in His eyes. And God loved us so much that He was willing to do whatever was necessary to rescue us from our desperate condition.

His solution was grace. God sent a Savior who bore our sins, became sin for us, and endured the wrath of the Father for those sins. This Savior was God’s one and only Son, who paid the debt we owed for our past, present, and future transgressions—a debt we never could have paid.

Jesus was the sacrificial Lamb who shed His blood in our place—a Redeemer who rescued us from spiritual death and made us acceptable before God. What took place? It was a miracle of life, a rebirth for all who would believe, because we were once spiritually dead.

Our Daily Bread — The Final Picture

Our Daily Bread

Isaiah 40:21-31

Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things. —Isaiah 40:26

What started as an empty 11-acre field in Belfast, Northern Ireland, ended up as the largest land portrait in the British Isles. Wish, by artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada, is made from 30,000 wooden pegs, 2,000 tons of soil, 2,000 tons of sand, and miscellaneous items such as grass, stones, and string.

At the beginning, only the artist knew what the final artwork was going to look like. He hired workers and recruited volunteers to haul materials and move them into place. As they worked, they saw little indication that something amazing was about to emerge. But it did. From the ground, it doesn’t look like much. But from above, viewers see a huge portrait—the smiling face of a little girl.

God is doing something on a grander scale in the world. He’s the artist who sees the final picture. We’re His “fellow workers” (1 Cor. 3:9) who are helping to make it a reality. Through the prophet Isaiah, God reminded His people that it is He who “sits above the circle of the earth” and “stretches out the heavens like a curtain” (Isa. 40:22). We can’t see the final picture, but we continue on in faith, knowing that we’re part of an amazing work of art—one that is being created on earth but will be best seen from heaven. —Julie Ackerman Link

While sometimes I think I can see the big picture,

Lord, my heart knows it sees so little. I’m

thankful that You are working out Your beautiful

will in this world, and I can trust You.

God is using us to help create a masterpiece.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Dark Shalom

Ravi Z

In the early 80s, an image campaign began in the city of Atlanta with the hopes of encouraging Atlantans to see their city with pride and hope—despite some of its darker plaguing issues of race relations, violence, poverty, and unemployment. The jingle was endearing, if cheesy, chirping birds in the background and all:

There’s a feeling in the air, that you can’t get anywhere… except in Georgia. I taste a thousand yesterdays and I still love the magic ways of Atlanta.

The lyrics stayed mostly the same for years, though they came out with a country version, as well as a version featuring the Commodores in the mid 80s. The accompanying pictures were all hometown, feel-good scenes: firm hand-shakes, hot dogs in the park, a couple blissfully showing off their engagement with the city skyline behind them. All of it was meant to inspire nostalgia, loyalty, and camaraderie—and to counter some of the more negative images and present uncertainties at that time. Those who remember it speak of the “Hello Atlanta!” song quite fondly, attesting to its convincing look at Atlanta’s unique brand of urbanism and the pride that the song actually did drum up for their city.

Makes no difference where I go, You’re the best hometown I know. Hello, Atlanta. Hello, Georgia. We love you on 11 Alive!

The song served as something of an anthem for the city, so much so that Ira Glass recently featured it on his program This American Life.(1) He interviewed people who remembered the song. And then he completely burst their unique sense of city-pride by playing for them the exact same song and lyrics with “Milwaukee” or “Calgary” substituted out in chorus and pictures. As it turned out, this “image campaign” was a syndicated campaign that took place in 167 different cities worldwide. There’s a feeling in the air, that you can’t get anywhere, except… fill in the blank.

In the chapters of Isaiah, the ancient prophet presents a complex meditation about the destiny of Jerusalem into the crises of exile and the promise of Jerusalem out of exile into new well-being. This city of intense promise that he lauds in poetry, in lament, and public proclamation is not a song like Hello Atlanta (or Hello Any City, USA as it turns out). Isaiah’s is not an image campaign meant to play on a syndicated sense of nostalgia for the masses, pie in the sky images of life meant to erase the darker scenes of their present reality. Nor is it the sort of meditation that one can substitute a different city or a different set of people and still hold onto any semblance of his bold and hopeful lyric.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, he proclaims, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted…to restore faint spirits, to give gladness instead of mourning.(2) For a people who had been through the darkness of captivity and exile and the loss of everything they loved and held near, this is exactly what they had longed to hear from the God they suspected had abandoned them and the city they loved: Through Isaiah, God says, I have not forgotten you. In fact, I am sending good news for you in darkness. I am going to comfort you who mourn and care for you who are grieving. I will bestow on you a crown of beauty instead of the ashes you have been sitting with. And I am bringing garments of praise for you to put on, instead of the spirit of despair you have been carrying.

Isaiah paints in stirring metaphor and image the potent Hebrew concept of Shalom. We translate this word as “peace” in English, but this misses far too much. While it is possible to consider peace abstractly, shalom cannot be extracted from its multi-level application to every part of life as we know it. Shalom is closer to human flourishing. It is God’s gift of peace, but it is also God’s enacting of good news, God’s offering of well-being in such a way that we are able to hold it, to take it in, and taste it—like the great wedding feast Jesus uses to describe what it looks like to be gathered together in God’s care and comfort. Shalom is beauty for ashes and comfort for the grieving. It is not an abstract, inaccessible picture of life as it could be or life simply as it will be one day. It is not an escape vehicle from the harsh realities of life. Surely God’s promise of shalom involves dimensions beyond time as we know it. But the Hebrew word Shalom very profoundly aims at the flourishing of bodies and souls and life as we find it presently, dark though it is.(3) Beauty and comfort and release and gladness and joy are indeed proclaimed, but it all comes as the promise of a God who is somehow present in the midst of Israel’s complicated, difficult, dark and beautiful realities.

In a time when religion is often viewed as an opiate or an escape from reality, Isaiah presents a clear challenge. His description of life renewed is not at all like an image campaign to help us forget the harder realities of life, to woo us with images that simply erase our earlier recollections of despair. If we were going to put it in terms of an image campaign, in fact, Isaiah’s promising words and the gospel that brings these promises to life sing a rather unflattering, enigmatic song about a very meek Son of God who appears on the scene of a fairly unimpressive city: not the Jerusalem of royalty and fanfare, but the back streets of Bethlehem where we are given not easy answers but a baby who embodies something far different.

The promise of God’s shalom is not a thin attempt to distract us from our own darkness or a flimsy pat on the back for the profound brokenness of the world. It is not an image campaign to make us feel better, but the unexpected gift of one who, somehow, can hold it all.

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

(1) “No Place Like Home,” This American Life, episode 520, March 14, 2014. Ira Glass tells the story from the point of view of Calgary.

(2) See Isaiah 61, particularly 61:1-3.

(3) “Dark though it is” is a line from the W.S. Merwin poem, “Thanks,” written in 1927

Alistair Begg – Christ’s Example

Alistair Begg

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.  Luke 6:12

If ever a man might have lived without prayer, it was our spotless, perfect Lord, and yet no one ever prayed as much as He! His love for His Father was such that He loved to be in communion with Him. His love for His people was such that He desired to be regularly interceding for them.

The fact that Jesus placed such importance on prayer is a lesson for us—He has given us an example that we may follow in His steps. The time He chose was admirable—it was the hour of silence when the crowd would not disturb Him, the time of inaction when everyone else had stopped work, and the season when sleep made men forget their difficulties and stop applying to Him for relief. While others found rest in sleep, He refreshed Himself with prayer. The place was also well selected. He was alone where none would intrude, where none could observe: And so He was free from Pharisaic ostentation and vulgar interruption. Those dark and silent hills provided a suitable prayer chapel for the Son of God. Heaven and earth in midnight stillness heard the groans and sighs of the mysterious Being in whom both worlds were blended.

The continuance of His pleadings is remarkable: The passing hours were not too long; the cold wind did not chill His devotions; the grim darkness did not cloud His faith or loneliness prevent His persistence. We fail to watch with Him for one hour, but He never fails to watch for us night and day. The occasion for this prayer is notable; it was after His enemies had been enraged. Prayer was His refuge and solace; it was before He dispatched the twelve apostles. Prayer was the gate of His enterprise, the herald of His new work. Should we not learn from Jesus to resort to special prayer when we are under peculiar trial or considering new ventures for the Master’s glory? Lord Jesus, teach us to pray.

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The family reading plan for November 12, 2014 * Amos 1 * Psalm 144

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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 – Self-sufficiency slain

CharlesSpurgeon

“Without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Chronicles 32:20-31

You are not capable of performing the lowest act of the divine life, except as you receive strength from God the Holy Spirit. And surely, my brethren, it is generally in these little things that we find out most of all our weakness. Peter can walk the waves of the sea, but he cannot bear the derision of a little maid. Job can endure the loss of all things, but the upbraiding words of his false friends, though they be but words, and break no bones—make him speak far more bitterly than all the sore boils which were in his very skin. Jonah said he did well to be angry, even unto death, about a gourd. Have you not often heard that mighty men who have outlived hundreds of battles have been slain at last by the most trivial accident? And has it not been so with professed Christians? They stood uprightly in the midst of the greatest trials; they have outlived the most arduous struggles, and yet in an evil hour, trusting to themselves, their foot has slipped under some slight temptation, or because of some small difficulty. John Newton says: “The grace of God is as necessary to create a right temper in Christians on the breaking of a china plate as on the death of an only son.” These little leaks need the most careful stopping. The plague of flies is no more easy to be stayed than that of the destroying angel. In little as well as in great things the just must live by faith. In trifles as well as in nobler exercises the believer should be conscious of his own inability,—should never say of any act, “Now I am strong enough to perform this; I need not go to God in prayer about this; this is so little a thing.”

For meditation: We need to bring everything to God in prayer, not only the things which worry us (Philippians 4:6); the apostle Paul had learned how to face all situations and how to do all things in Christ who strengthened him (Philippians 4:13).

Sermon no. 345

12 November (Preached 11 November 1860)

John MacArthur – Seeking God’s Reward

John MacArthur

“He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).

All who come to God in faith will receive the reward of eternal life.

We’ve seen that without faith it’s impossible to please God. And the first step in faith is believing that God exists. In addition, we must also believe that He answers our prayers—more specifically, that He redeems those who come to Him in faith.

Scripture repeatedly tells us that God not only can be found, but also desires to be found. David said to his son Solomon, “If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever” (1 Chron. 28:9). The Lord says in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jesus said, “Everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened” (Luke 11:10).

At first glance those verses may seem to contradict Paul’s teaching that “there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside” (Rom. 3:11-12), and Jesus’ statement that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). But really they’re two sides of the same theological coin.

On one side you see man believing God and receiving Christ for salvation. On the other you see God enabling man to do so. Prior to salvation, a person is spiritually dead and utterly incapable of responding to the gospel. God must grant him or her saving faith. That’s why the Bible contains statements like, “To you it has been granted for Christ’s sake . . . to believe in Him” (Phil. 1:29); “As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48); and “The Lord opened [Lydia’s] heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14).

God is the Great Rewarder, extending His love and grace to all who call upon Him. “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed” (Rom. 10:11).

Suggestions for Prayer; If you’ve been praying for someone’s salvation, don’t become discouraged. Only God can grant saving faith, but He gives us the privilege of participating in His redemptive work through faithful prayer and evangelism (Rom 10:1).

For Further Study; Memorize Ephesians 2:8-9.

 

Joyce Meyer – Prevent Disappointment

Joyce meyer

They trusted in, leaned on, and confidently relied on You, and were not ashamed or confounded or disappointed. —Psalm 22:5

There is nothing unusual or wrong about initial feelings of disappointment, but it is what we do from that point forward that makes all the difference in the world. Absolutely nobody gets everything they want all the time, so we need to learn how to deal properly with disappointment.

Trusting God completely and believing that His plan is infinitely better for you than your own will prevent you from being disappointed with God. You might feel anger toward your situation, but don’t ever be angry with God. When you get angry, you naturally want to lash out at someone, but it is unwise to make God your target. He is the only One Who can help you and truly comfort you; therefore, it is much better to run to Him in your time of pain than away from Him.

Power Thought: I trust God completely and am never disappointed with Him.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Satisfies God’s Requirements

dr_bright

“Love does no wrong to anyone. That’s why it fully satisfies all of God’s requirements. It is the only law you need” (Romans 13:10).

Early in my Christian life, I was troubled over the command to love God so completely, as I mentioned in yesterday’s reading. How could I ever measure up to such a high standard? Then He showed me how to love by faith.

We are to love God. We are to love our neighbors. We are to love our enemies. We are to love our family members. And we are to love ourselves with God’s kind of love, by faith.

Since the greatest commandment is to love God, we are to give Him our first love, never allowing anyone or anything to come before Him. And supernaturally, we are to express the agape kind of love to others – a love no less in its quality and magnitude than that which we express toward God.

In the same way, God loves all His children perfectly. He loves you and me just as much as He loves His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:23).

The person who has not yet learned to love God and to seek Him above all else and all others is to be pitied. Such a person is only denying himself the blessings that await all who love God with all their heart, soul and mind.

It is natural for us to fulfill the command to love our neighbors as ourselves if we truly love God in the way mentioned above. If we are properly related to God, vertically, we will be properly related to our fellow man, horizontally.

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 13

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: By faith I will claim God’s love – for Him, for my neighbors, for myself, for my enemies – and as a result do only good, which is a result of supernatural living

Presidential Prayer Team; C.H. – Anyone

ppt_seal01

While many don’t completely understand the Electoral College, all students are taught the election process somewhere around the fourth grade. While the popular vote is counted, the President of the United States is selected indirectly by the people. Still, it is ultimately God who allows an individual to be in any office, whether it be the White House or Congress.

Because the Lord loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.

I Kings 10:9

Whether you voted for or against President Obama, the Creator of all things permitted him to be there, just as He allowed former President Bush and former President Clinton before him. God placed David on the throne and claimed him “a man after my heart.” (Acts 13:22) When Moses asked for the release of his people, “the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh.” (Exodus 9:12) And in today’s verse, the Queen of Sheba recognized that Solomon was chosen by God.

God will use anyone to achieve His purposes. Give Him glory for that, and praise Him, too, for Christians who hold political offices and have a godly influence on the nation. Finally, ask Him to perform His will through those who were elected into office last week.

Recommended Reading: Acts 13:16-23

Greg Laurie – Press On

greglaurie

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 3:14

You remember how God fed the Israelites with manna. Every morning they would wake up, step out of their tents, and there would be the manna just waiting for them. But this “bread from heaven” had one limiting characteristic: it wouldn’t keep overnight. God didn’t want His people to live off yesterday’s manna. The Lord wanted them to be dependent on Him on a regular basis and gather it fresh each day.

In the same way, you can’t live off the experiences of last year or twenty years ago. God wants to do something fresh and new in your life today and tomorrow. No, you can’t live off experiences, but you can learn from them.

Saul of Tarsus went out of his way to hunt down Christians. But he came to realize that he was not serving God but the Devil. Then he was transformed and went on to become the apostle Paul. He could say, “Now I press on, now I reach forward.” I wish this would be true in the lives of more believers. What a difference it would make in this world around us if we had that kind of ambition, that kind of drive to serve God as we once served ourselves.

Let’s recommit ourselves to the study of the Word of God, to prayer, and to winning at least one person to Christ in the next twelve months.

As Christians, we have unprecedented opportunities for our lives to make a difference in our world. There is so much to do. There is so much growth that needs to take place in our lives, and so much more to accomplish. It’s time to step into the future, to step into what God is doing today.

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

Max Lucado – Your God-Given Prayer Strength

Max Lucado

Before you say amen—comes the power of a simple prayer! A prayer that says, “Father I need your power in my life. I face impossible circumstances and am desperate for a miracle. Would you show me your power in my life today? God, for those who have a small view of you, help them to find comfort in the knowledge of how mighty and enormous you actually are. Thank you for sending your Son. It’s in the all-powerful name of Jesus that I pray, amen.”

Here’s my invitation to you today! Release that prayer wimp self-image you have and discover confidence in your God-given prayer strength. Sign on at BeforeAmen.com—take the brief Prayer Strengths Assessment. It’ll not only encourage you—it’ll give you a simple building block for your growth in prayer!