Charles Stanley – Grace Extended

Charles Stanley

Colossians 1:3-6

Grace is God’s goodness and kindness freely extended to the utterly undeserving—you and me. Because of His grace, He offers salvation through Jesus Christ so that anyone who trusts Him as Savior might have a new relationship with the Father. As a result, God . . .

  • Declares we are righteous. The Father sees Christ’s righteousness as our own (2 Cor. 5:21). The guilt and shame of sin have been removed (Rom. 8:1), and we can live boldly for Jesus, no matter who we were before.
  • Claims us as family. A spiritual adoption has taken place so that we could become children of God and call Him “Father.” The world would have us believe the lie that we are insignificant, but God’s view is the truth: As believers, we are children of the eternal King and have great worth.
  • Provides an inheritance for us, as co-heirs with Christ. Our inheritance is guaranteed and kept for us in heaven. We are set free from the trap of possessions because we’re rich in the only way that matters (2 Cor. 8:9).
  • Gives us, who were spiritually dead, a new heart and a new spirit. We are born again. God has given us a fresh start in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).
  • Raises us out of the life we once lived and into a new life with Him. Believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, whose fruit is love, joy, and peace.
  • Sets us free from the power of sin, Satan, and self. Obedience and victory become a reality in our life as our faith in Jesus Christ grows.

Praise God for His unending grace.

Our Daily Bread — Creeping Christmas?

Our Daily Bread

Galatians 4:1-7

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! —2 Corinthians 9:15

I love Christmas. The celebration of the birth of Christ and the beauty and wonder of the season make it “the most wonderful time of the year” for me. In recent years, however, the season has been accompanied by a growing irritation. Every year “Christmas stuff” comes out earlier and earlier—creeping all the way back to early fall.

Christmas used to be limited to December, but now we find radio stations playing Christmas music in early November. Stores start advertising Christmas specials in October, and Christmas candy appears in late September. If we’re not careful, this growing deluge can numb us—even sour us to what should be a season of gratitude and awe.

When that irritation begins to rise in my spirit, I try to do one thing: Remember. I remind myself what Christmas means, who Jesus is, and why He came. I remember the love and grace of a forgiving God who sent us rescue in the Person of His Son. I remember that, ultimately, only one gift really matters—God’s “indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15). I remember that the salvation Christ came to provide is both the gift and the Giver all wrapped up in one.

Jesus is our life all year long, and He is the greatest wonder. “O come, let us adore Him!” —Bill Crowder

Living God, I thank You for the unspeakable gift

of Your Son. Draw my heart to Your own, that my

worship to and gratitude for Your Son will never be

diminished by the distractions of the world around me.

Jesus is our life throughout the year.

Bible in a year: Lamentations 1-2; Hebrews 10:1-18

Insight

In today’s passage, Paul explains that our salvation is the work of our triune God. First, “God sent forth His Son” (v.4). Second, Jesus came to accomplish our redemption—setting us free from the bondage of the law—and to secure our adoption, making us sons of God and enabling us to enjoy the full privileges as God’s children (v.5). Third, God gave us the Holy Spirit—“the Spirit of His Son,” who endears and enables us to cry out “Abba, Father!” (v.6). The work all three persons of the Holy Trinity did to secure our salvation is also explained by Paul in Ephesians 1:3-14 and by Peter in 1 Peter 1:2. Jesus spoke of this as well (John 14:16-18,23-26; 15:26).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Love and Rules

Ravi Z

Christianity is nothing more than a set of rules! Have you ever heard or argued this before? The question or objection, depending on how it is phrased, comes from both Christians and skeptics. So what does Christianity have to say to this?

It is helpful first to acknowledge that the Bible is indeed full of commands and instructions. But the role that the rules play is often misunderstood. Rules, even going back to the Ten Commandments, were not meant simply to tell us what to do and what not to do. They were intended to be a means by which humanity could come close to God and relate to God. If we think of how rules are applied in other areas of life, it is quite easy to understand how this works. Discipline, guidelines or putting deadlines in place are not an end in themselves; they are the means by which we achieve what we want to accomplish.

While I was doing undergraduate studies in Toronto I worked for the Toronto Blue Jays ground crew. While working there I noticed that the elite players would always be the ones to arrive at the ballpark early and leave late. They would come in early for strength and conditioning purposes, then perhaps look over strategies or game plans. Then they would join the rest of the team once the normal daily routines began. This was hard work and made for long days. Here is the point: the discipline of getting to the stadium early, doing an extra work out, working over game plans were not the goal. These were the means by which this player would attain the ultimate goal: victory.

The rules set out in Scripture were never meant to inhibit pleasure or desire, but to do the exact opposite. Desire gave birth to commands, but somehow we have understood it the other way around, as if the commands were meant to create desire.

There is actually a moment documented in the Old Testament in which the people of Israel say that they would like to follow God’s commandments. However, Joshua, their leader at the time, turns them down. Effectively, he says, ‘You don’t have what it takes. You will turn away from God. So, please, don’t commit to it.’ They push back and insist that they truly want to follow God. Joshua reluctantly gives in and grants them their desire to form a covenant binding them to follow God’s rules.

The rules and statutes implemented into the life of Israel stemmed from a desire to serve the Lord. Rules were not put in place to prevent desire from finding its fulfillment. Rather, the rules were put in place to fulfill desire and avoid destruction.

A question that we need to ask ourselves is, ‘Where do rules find their starting point?’ In the Christian sense, does obedience come from a sense of duty or from a desire for God? If the drive to live for God comes from a sense of duty, our faith will become one long arduous journey. But duty is not where the gospel asks us to begin. We begin with a love and desire for God.

Imagine that I have just been away from home on a long business trip. When I return home I decide to stop off at the florist’s near my home because I want to get flowers for my wife. I purchase the flowers, then walk up to the door with flowers behind my back and knock on the door. My wife opens the door and I reveal the flowers to her. She says, ‘Nathan, you shouldn’t have done this! Why did you get me these flowers?’ I reply, ‘Because it is my duty!’

What do you think her response will be after she hears this? What if I respond to her question by saying that I got her those flowers because I love her—that there is nothing more I love than the sweet fellowship I have with her.(1)

This gets at the heart of Christian discipleship. Christianity does not start with rules, but the rules do make sense. They are put in place to fulfill our desire for God; not to coerce us into loving God.

Nathan Betts is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Toronto, Canada.

(1) Story as told by Michael Ramsden, director for the European office of RZIM.

Alistair Begg – The Church’s Special Privilege

Alistair Begg

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray.   Luke 18:1

Jesus has sent His Church into the world on the same errand upon which He Himself came, and this mission includes intercession. What if I say that the Church is the world’s priest? Creation is dumb, but the Church finds a mouth for it. It is the Church’s high privilege to pray with acceptance. The door of grace is always open for her petitions, and they never return empty-handed. The curtain was torn for her; the blood was sprinkled upon the altar for her; God constantly invites her to bring her requests. Will she refuse the privilege that angels might envy? Is she not the bride of Christ? Can she not approach her King at any hour? Will she allow the precious privilege to be unused?

The Church always needs to pray. There are always some among her who are declining or falling into open sin. There are lambs to be prayed for, that they may be carried in Christ’s bosom; the strong, lest they grow presumptuous; and the weak, lest they become despairing. If we kept up prayer-meetings twenty-four hours a day all the days in the year, we might never be without a special subject for supplication.

Is there ever a time when no one is sick or poor or afflicted or wavering? Is there ever a time when we do not seek the conversion of relatives, the reclaiming of backsliders, or the salvation of the lost? With congregations constantly gathering, with ministers always preaching, with millions of sinners lying dead in trespasses and sins—in a country over which the darkness of religious formalism is certainly descending—in a world full of idols, cruelties, devils—if the Church does not pray, how will she excuse her neglect of the commission of her loving Lord? Let the Church be constant in supplication; let every private believer give himself to the ministry of prayer.

________________________________________

The family reading plan for November 13, 2014 * Amos 2 * Psalm 145

________________________________________

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

Charles Spurgeon – The sweet uses of adversity

CharlesSpurgeon

“Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me.” Job 10:2

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 119:65-72

There was a fair ship which belonged to the great Master of the seas; it was about to sail from the port of grace to the haven of glory. Before it left the shore the great Master said, “Mariners, be brave! Captain, be bold! For not a hair of your head shall perish; I will bring you safely to your desired haven. The angel of the winds is commissioned to take care of you on your way.” The ship sailed confidently with its streamers flying in the air. It floated along at a swift rate with a fair wind for many days. But suddenly there came a hurricane which drove them from the course, strained their mast until it bent as if it could snap in two. The sail was torn to ribbons; the sailors were alarmed and the captain himself trembled. They had lost their course. They were off the right track, and they mourned exceedingly. When the day dawned the waves were quiet, and the angel of the winds appeared; and they spoke unto him, and said, “Oh angel, were you not asked to take charge of us, and preserve us on our journey?” He answered, “It was even so, and I have done it. You were steering on confidently, and you knew not that a little ahead of your vessel lay a quicksand upon which she would be wrecked and swallowed up quick. I saw that there was no way for your escape but to drive you from your course. See, I have done as it was commanded me: go on your way.” This is a parable of our Lord’s dealings with us. He often drives us from our smooth course which we thought was the right track to heaven. But there is a secret reason for it; there is a quicksand ahead that is not marked in the chart. We know nothing about it; but God sees it, and he will not permit this fair vessel, which he has himself insured, to be stranded anywhere; he will bring it safely to its desired haven.

For meditation: If an ass can inconvenience a false prophet to deliver him from imminent danger (Numbers 22:21-34), God is able to obstruct his people in one way or another when they are heading for trouble. We can only see the benefits later (Hebrews 12:11).

Sermon no. 283

13 November (1859)

John MacArthur – Obeying Faith

John MacArthur

“By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Heb. 11:7).

True faith works.

When James said, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26), he stated a principle that’s consistent throughout Scripture: True faith always produces righteous works.

The people described in Hebrews 11 made their genuine faith known in the things they did. The same applies to us today. Paul said, “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).

Perhaps better than anyone else in history, Noah illustrates the obedience of faith. Scripture characterizes him as “a righteous man, blameless in his time . . . [who] walked with God” (Gen. 6:9).

I remember a sportscaster interviewing a professional football player and asking him what he thought of his team’s chances of winning the Super Bowl. The player replied, “We believe that if we just do what the coach says, we’ll win.” The team had absolute confidence in their coach, but they realized they had to do their part as well.

That illustrates the quality of faith Noah had in God, whom he trusted absolutely as he pursued a task that seemed utterly foolish and useless from a human perspective. Imagine instantly surrendering all your time and effort to devote 120 years to building something you’d never seen (a vessel the size of a ocean liner or battleship) to protect you from something you’d never experienced (rain and flooding). Yet Noah did it without question.

Noah’s faith is unique in the sheer magnitude and time span of the task God gave him to do. He didn’t argue with God or deviate from his assignment. Is that true of you? Are you pursuing your ministry as faithfully and persistently as Noah did his? Is your faith a faith that works?

Suggestions for Prayer; Thank God for the ministry He’s called you to. If you sense there’s more you could be doing, ask Him for guidance. Pray for added faithfulness and tenacity in serving Him.

For Further Study; Read the account of Noah in Genesis 6:1—9:17.

Joyce Meyer – Love Frees us to Forgive

Joyce meyer

Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others]. —1 Peter 4:8

The apostle Peter said love covers a multitude of sins. Love doesn’t just cover one mistake; it covers a multitude. God’s love for us not only covered our sins, it actually paid the price to completely remove them. Love is a powerful cleansing agent. I want you to notice that Peter said we should love “above all things.”

When Peter asked Jesus how many times he would be expected to forgive a brother for the same offense, Jesus told him to keep on doing it as many times as it took (see Matt. 18:21–22). Peter suggested seven times, and I have often wondered if he was already at six and thought he had only one more effort in him.

We must understand that a lot of forgiveness is required of us. In fact, it will probably be part of our daily experience. Some of the things we need to forgive may be minor and fairly easy, but occasionally that big thing comes along and we start wondering if we can ever get over it. Just remember, God never tells us to do anything unless He gives us the ability to do it. We can forgive anyone for anything if we let God’s love flow through us.

The Bible tells the story of a man named Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers. When Joseph’s brothers discovered years later that he was alive and in charge of the food supply they desperately relied on, they were afraid. They remembered how badly they had treated Joseph, and so did he, but he chose not to reveal it to anyone else. He spoke with them privately and simply told them he was not God—and vengeance belonged to God, not to him. He freely forgave them, urged them not to be afraid, and proceeded to provide for them and their families. No wonder Joseph was a powerful leader who found favor everywhere he went. He knew the power of love and the importance of total forgiveness!

Trust in Him The Bible tells us to love, and in order to do so we must forgive a multitude of sins. Trust God to give you the ability to forgive all things, and thank Him for forgiving you.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Wonderful Friendship

dr_bright

“God will surely do this for you, for He always does just what He says, and He is the one who invited you into this wonderful friendship with His Son, even Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9).

You and I do not always prove faithful, but the apostle Paul wants us to know, by way of his letter to the believers in Corinth, that our God will surely do what He has promised; in this case, make us “blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 8).

The apostle wants the Corinthians to know that they can depend upon the faithfulness of God, who had begun a good work among them, and certainly would see them through to the end. He did the inviting; He would do the keeping.

Christians are able to participate with Christ in several ways. First in His trials and sufferings, for we are subjected to temptations and trials similar to His: “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:13, KJV).

Second, in His feelings and views (Romans 8:9).

Third, in His heirship to the inheritance and glory which awaits Him: “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17, KJV).

Fourth, in His triumph in the resurrection and future glory: “Ye which have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28, KJV).

Are you not glad for that kind of friendship?

Bible Reading: 2 Thessalonians 3:3-5

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: When I look for a faithful friend, my first thought will be of Christ Himself, who truly qualifies as my very best friend

Presidential Prayer Team; H.L.M. – Pass the Baton

ppt_seal01

In Houston, Texas, people joined together a few years ago for 40 days of fasting and prayer.Pastors and leaders from various denominations and ethnicities reconciled and embraced each other, and spiritual and emotional walls fell as they worshipped the Lord in unity. People streamed to the altar every night, eager to get right with God. They even renamed the large outdoor amphitheater in which they met “Prayer Mountain.”

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:17

Then something just as amazing happened. Houston passed the spiritual baton to Dallas who began 40 days of fasting and prayer. Kansas City, Missouri, Pasadena, California and Katy, Texas followed.

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.” (I Peter 3:12) Give thanks for the leaders across this nation who love Him and whose words and actions are helping to lead many to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Ask the Lord to give them amazing strength and boldness to stand up for righteousness, and to keep their hearts faithful to Him in all situations. Then seek to abide in His love and eagerly pass it along to others.

Recommended Reading: I John 4:7-14

Greg Laurie – Seeds and Weeds

greglaurie

He who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. —Matthew 13:22

When Jesus spoke of the seed that is sown among thorns, He was talking about ground that is embedded with weeds. There were over two thousand types of weeds in ancient Israel, weeds that would hinder the growth of a seed. The little seedlings would be in a constant battle with these life-sapping weeds.

The trouble with a weed is that it doesn’t have an immediate effect; its impact on the plant is more gradual. This is in contrast to seed sown on rocky soil, which shoots up and then falls away. A seed sown among thorns is harder to identify. A person may say, “I am a Christian,” and perhaps you see some changes in his or her life. It will seem like this person is solid.

A few weeks or months go by, and slowly but surely, something happens. As Jesus said, “The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). It doesn’t happen overnight. This person doesn’t abandon his or her faith instantaneously. It’s something that takes place over a period of time.

Gradually, material things become more important to them than spiritual things. After a while, movies become more important than church. Parties become more important than prayer. Things on earth become more important than treasures in heaven. And slowly but surely, the weeds choke them out. These people were never truly converted; it just looked like they were. And after a little time has gone by, they just bail out.

So how can we tell who the true converts are? By time. Time will tell—time and the visible results in their lives called spiritual fruit.

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

Max Lucado – He Will Heal You

Max Lucado

Are you waiting for Jesus to heal you?  Take hope from Jesus’ response to the blind man in Mark 10:45-47.

“Have mercy on us, O Lord!” the blind man cried. Everyone else kept going. Jesus froze. Something caught his attention. Interrupted his journey. Raising his hand to stop the people, lifting a finger to his lips for them to be quiet. What was it? What did Jesus hear?

A prayer. An unembellished appeal for help floating on winds of faith and landing against his ear. Jesus heard the words and stopped. He still does. And he still asks, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

Before amen—comes the power of a simple prayer! And Jesus’ heart went out to the blind men. He touched their eyes. Jesus moved in where others had stepped away. He healed them. At the gateway to heaven, God’s children will once again be whole!