Charles Stanley – Surrendered to God

Charles Stanley

Ephesians 5:15-17

To make us useful servants for His kingdom, God knows when it’s necessary to break our self-will, which is our independent “self.” He doesn’t want to break us; He just wants to transform the parts of us that do not reflect Jesus Christ.

Our heavenly Father sees who we really are, so He targets those areas in our life that will hinder Christian growth. Attitudes of pride, jealousy, anger, and unforgiveness need to be dealt with so that His divine love and truth will flow through us to others (Eph. 4:31-32). To promote change, He will bear down on us and maintain pressure until we respond. The Lord desires what is good for us and will do what is necessary to bring transformation in our thought life, attitudes, actions, and priorities.

I remember when our church staff was much smaller. We had two live television programs to produce, along with the rest of the responsibilities, so we all worked very hard. Eventually, great weariness forced me to stop serving for three months. I wondered what would happen in the congregation during my absence. It turns out the church grew in attendance, giving, and serving without me. The Lord knew that pride in my pastoral position would be a hindrance to future service. So He took steps to change me.

Through that time of brokenness, the Lord taught me a great lesson: Yielding in obedience to God is what makes my service valuable to Him. Have you been cooperating with His work in your life? Transformation will take place when you surrender to the Father and cooperate with His Spirit.

Our Daily Bread — Heartbreak And Hope

Our Daily Bread

Lamentations 3:1-6, 16-25

The LORD is good to those who wait for Him. —Lamentations 3:25

When American country singer George Jones died at the age of 81, his fans remembered his remarkable voice and his hard life and personal struggles. While many of his songs reflected his own despair and longing, it was the way he sang them that touched people deeply. Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot said, “His voice was made for conveying heartbreak.”

The book of Lamentations records Jeremiah’s anguish over the nation of Judah’s stubborn refusal to follow God. Often called “the weeping prophet,” he witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and saw his people carried into captivity. He wandered the streets of the city, overwhelmed by grief (Lam. 1:1-5).

Yet, in Jeremiah’s darkest hour, he said, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (3:21-23).

Whether we suffer for our own choices or from those of others, despair may threaten to overwhelm us. When all seems lost, we can cling to the Lord’s faithfulness. “‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul. ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” (v.24). —David McCasland

I’m thankful for Your faithfulness, Father, even

in the times when I am unfaithful. Help me to

remember, like Jeremiah, that my hope comes

from You, not from my circumstances.

The anchor of God’s faithfulness holds firm in the strongest storms.

Bible in a year: Lamentations 3-5; Hebrews 10:19-39

Insight

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says: “Jeremiah was called by the Lord to the office of a prophet while still a youth (1:6) about 20 years of age. . . . At first he probably lived in Anathoth, and put in his appearance publicly in Jerusalem only on the occasion of the great festivals; later he lived in Jerusalem, and was there during the terrible times of the siege and the destruction of the city.”

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –  Confessions of a Churchgoer

Ravi Z

In a world of finger-pointing, Tetsuya Ishikawa paused instead to confess guilt. After seven years at the forefront of the credit markets, he took the idea of a friend to write a book called How I Caused the Credit Crunch because, in the friend’s analysis, “it sounds like you did.”(1) In the form of a novel that discredits the notion of the financial sector as a collaboration of remote, unthinking forces, he admits in flesh and blood that he believes he is guilty, too. Though reviewers note Ishikawa does not remain long with his admission of responsibility, he succeeds in showing the financial markets as a reflection of human choices with moral dimensions and, ultimately, the futility of our ongoing attempts at finding a better scapegoat.

Whenever the subject of blame or fault comes about in any sector of life, whether economic, societal, or individual, scapegoating is a far more common reaction than confessing. Most of us are most comfortable when blame is placed as far away from us as possible. Even the word “confession,” the definition of which is concerned with owning a fault or belief, is now often associated with the sins of others, which an outspoken soul just happens to be willing to share with the world. We are interested in those confessions of a former investment banker/warlord/baseball wife because the ‘owning up’ has nothing to do with owning anything.

Perhaps like many of us in our own confessing, Charles Templeton’s 1996 book, Farwell to God, and the confessions of a former Christian leader, is filled with moments of confession in both senses of the word—honest commentary and easy scapegoating. In his thoughts that deal with the Christian church, it is particularly apparent. Pointing near and far and wide, Templeton observes that the church indeed has a speckled past: “Across the centuries and on every continent, Christians—the followers of the Prince of Peace—have been the cause of and involved in strife. The church during the Middle Ages was like a terrorist organization.”(2) He admits that some good has come from Christian belief, but that there is altogether too much bad that has come from it. He then cites the church’s declining numbers as evidence that the world is in agreement; people are losing interest because the church is failing to be relevant. Pews are empty; denominations oppose one another; the church is floundering, its influence waning—except perhaps its negative influence, according to this confessor.

Of course, many of these confessions regarding the church are indeed riddled with difficult truths that someone somewhere must indeed own. Other assertions are not only difficult to posit as relevant, but are simply dishonest attempts to point blame and escape the more personal, consistent answer. As Templeton determinedly points out the steady decline of attendance in the church as reason to disbelieve, it is unclear how this supports his personal confession that Christian beliefs are untrue. Does the claim of the church’s decline (the veracity of which is debated) say anything about whether Christianity is based on lies, lunacy, or fact? Jesus spoke of those who would turn away, churches that would grow cold, faith that would be abandoned. Moreover, if one is truly convinced that Christianity is an outlandish hoax, isn’t it odd that so much energy is taken in criticizing the church in the first place—as if one had a vision of what the people of God should look like?

Of course, responding to Templeton’s darker admissions regarding the church, I am at times tempted to make a scapegoating confession of my own. Specifically, if I could reasonably judge God by some of God’s followers, I would surely say farewell as well. Like Templeton, I have seen so many lives badly wounded by the pulpit, people trampled by those who call themselves Christians. I have been more disillusioned within the church than I ever have outside of it. Templeton confesses in his book that the church “has seldom been at its best,” and on this point, I couldn’t agree more.(3) But I would also have to add a critical addendum; namely, that I am rarely at my best. I am a part of this church who fails to love well, who says things that hurt, and falls short of its best on a regular basis. But if the church is truly meant to be the place where followers learn to become more like Christ, then I also can’t imagine a better place to be holding such a confession. Failings and all, it is the community that communes with the one who longs most for our human flourishing, who embodies God’s hope for humans at our best. Of the one who meets us in this human place, it was once confessed: “The righteous one shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:12).

It was with such a conviction that G.K. Chesterton responded to a newspaper seeking opinions on the question “What’s wrong with the world?” in one sentence. “Dear Sirs,” he replied, “I am.” In confessions of dark or disappointing realities, can our own hearts really be excluded? It was with visions of war and brokenness around him that David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.”(4) It was before the cross scarred body of the human Christ that Thomas confessed, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” This, I believe, is humanity’s best confession.

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

(1) Sathnam Sanghera, “Confessions of the Man Who Caused the Credit Crunch,” The Times Online, April 20, 2009, http://timesonline.co.uk, accessed April 21, 2009.

(2) Charles Templeton, Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1996), 129.

(3) Ibid., 127.

(4) Psalm 51:10.

Alistair Begg – The Heavenly Rule

Alistair Begg

Laban said, “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.”   Genesis 29:26

We do not excuse Laban for his dishonesty, but we are wrong not to learn from the custom that he quoted as his excuse. There are some things that must be taken in order, and if we would win the second we must secure the first. The second may be the more lovely in our eyes, but the rule of the heavenly country must stand, and the elder must be married first. For instance, many men desire the beautiful and well-favored Rachel of joy and peace in believing, but they must first be married to the tender-eyed Leah of repentance. Everyone falls in love with happiness, and many would cheerfully work for fourteen years to enjoy it; but according to the rule of the Lord’s kingdom, the Leah of real holiness must be loved in our soul before the Rachel of true happiness can be attained. Heaven stands not first but second, and only by persevering to the end can we win a portion in it. The cross must be carried before the crown can be worn. We must follow our Lord in His humiliation or we will never rest with Him in glory.

My soul, what do you say—are you so vain as to hope to be an exception to the heavenly rule? Do you hope for reward without work, or honor without endeavor? Dismiss the idle expectation, and be content with the despised things for the sake of the sweet love of Jesus, which will more than repay you. In such a spirit, working and suffering, you will find afflictions grow sweet and hard things easy. Like Jacob, your years of service will seem like only a few days on account of the love you have for Jesus; and when the dear hour of the wedding feast shall come, all your toils will be as though they never happened—an hour with Jesus will make up for years of pain and toil.

Jesus, to win Thyself so fair,

Thy cross I will with gladness bear:

Since so the rules of heaven ordain

The first I’ll wed the next to gain

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The family reading plan for November 14, 2014 * Amos 3 * Psalm 146, 147

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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 evil and its remedy

CharlesSpurgeon

“The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great.” Ezekiel 9:9“The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

Suggested Further Reading: Mark 3:22-30

There are some sins that show a diabolical extent of degraded ingenuity—some sins of which it is a shame to speak, or of which it is disgraceful to think. But note here: “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.” There may be some sins of which a man cannot speak, but there is no sin which the blood of Christ cannot wash away. Blasphemy, however profane; lust, however bestial; covetousness, however far it may have gone into theft and plundering; breach of the commandments of God, however much of riot it may have run, all this may be pardoned and washed away through the blood of Jesus Christ. In all the long list of human sins, though that be long as time, there stands but one sin that is unpardonable, (Matthew 12:31) and that one no sinner has committed if he feels within himself a longing for mercy, for that sin once committed, the soul becomes hardened, dead, and seared, and never desires afterwards to find peace with God. I therefore declare to thee, O trembling sinner, that however great thine iniquity may be, whatever sin thou mayest have committed in all the list of guilt, however far thou mayest have exceeded all thy fellow-creatures, though thou mayest have distanced the Pauls and Magdalens and every one of the most heinous culprits in the black race of sin, yet the blood of Christ is able now to wash thy sin away. Mark! I speak not lightly of thy sin, it is exceedingly great; but I speak still more loftily of the blood of Christ. Great as thy sins are, the blood of Christ is greater still. Thy sins are like great mountains, but the blood of Christ is like Noah’s flood; twenty cubits upwards shall this blood prevail, and the top of the mountains of thy sin shall be covered.

For meditation: The price of life is far too costly for man to achieve his redemption (Psalm 49:7-9), but the Prince of life has achieved it

(Psalm 49:15) by his own death (Acts 3:15).

Sermon no. 223

14 November (1858)

John MacArthur – Building a Picture of Salvation

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” (Heb. 11:7).

The ark is a beautiful picture of salvation by grace through faith.

God called Noah to a gargantuan task. Conservative figures estimate that the ark was about 438 feet long, 73 feet wide, and 44 feet high. That makes it almost one-and-a-half times the length of a football field and more than four stories high. Its three decks totaled almost 96,000 square feet with a total volume of about 1.3 million cubic feet. Naval engineers concur that its shape and dimensions constitute an incredibly stable ship design.

But beyond the enormity of its size and precision of its measurements, the ark is a wonderful illustration of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. For example, Noah was instructed to cover the ark inside and out with pitch (Gen. 3:14). The Hebrew word for pitch has the same root as the word for atonement. The pitch kept the waters of judgment from entering the ark just as Christ’s atoning blood keeps judgment from the repentant sinner.

The ark was large enough to hold two of each species of animals plus every person who turned to God for safety. Only eight persons chose to be saved on God’s terms, but had more come, surely He would have accommodated them. It is His desire that none perish, but that all come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). Those who perished in the Flood did so because they rejected God’s means of salvation.

Similarly, Jesus’s blood is sufficient to atone for every sinner and every sin since man’s fall in the Garden of Eden. No one who comes to Him will be cast out (John 6:37), yet so few avail themselves of His gracious provision (Matt. 7:14).

Noah was a man who “walked with God” (Gen. 6:9), yet he wasn’t without sin. That’s obvious from his drunken and immodest behavior after the Flood (9:20-21). But Noah, like every true believer, was justified by God’s grace, his faith being counted as righteousness. That has always been the basis of salvation (Gen. 15:6;Rom. 4:5).

Suggestions for Prayer; Thank God for His amazing grace, by which He saved you and continues to cleanse you from every sin.

For Further Study; Read Romans 4:1-8.

 

Joyce Meyer – Build on Solid Foundations

 

Joyce meyerFor no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is [already] laid, which is Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). —1 Corinthians 3:11

We can know a lot of spiritual methods(or formulas) for getting things, but many such methods simply have no power flowing through them. Powerless methods are like empty containers— useless.

I had learned many spiritual methods, and I was busy trying them, until I realized that methods don’t work. It was like building on a cracked foundation; nothing stood the test of time. If our foundations leak, we get into trouble every time it storms.

Build your life on who you are in Christ. Take time to meditate on the foundational things about being a Christian. Build your life on the solid foundation that you are an heir of God’s grace and His unmerited favor.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Abundant, Supernatural Life

dr_bright

“Even so, consider yourself to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11, NAS).

My friend Randy had given up on the Christian life. He said, “I have tried, but failed so many times; nothing seems to work. God doesn’t hear my prayers, and I am tired of trying. I’ve read the Bible, prayed, memorized Scripture, and gone to church. But there is no joy and I don’t see any purpose in continuing a life of shame and hypocrisy, pretending I am something that I’m not.”

After listening to his account of his many failures and defeats, I began to explain the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He interrupted me with, “I know all about the Holy Spirit. I’ve read everything I can find, everything you and others have written – and nothing works for me.”

My thoughts turned to Romans, chapter 6. I asked him, “Randy, are you sure you’re a Christian?”

“Yes,” he answered. “I’m sure.”

“How do you know?”

“By faith,” he responded. “The Scripture promises, ‘For by grace are you saved through faith, that not of yourselves, it’s a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.’ I know I’m saved.”

“Why,” I asked him, “do you trust God for your salvation, but do not believe in His other promises concerning your rights as a child of God?”

I began to read from Romans 6 and reminded Randy that every believer has available to him the mighty, supernatural power of the risen Christ. With the enabling of the Holy Spirit, the believer can live that supernatural life simply by claiming his rights through an act of his will. The same Holy Spirit who inspired Ephesians 2:8 and 9 inspired Romans 6, and, by faith, we can claim that sin no longer has control over us and that the mighty power of the resurrection is available as promised.

That day, God touched Randy’s life, his spiritual eyes were opened and he began, by faith, to live in accordance with his God-given heritage.

Bible Reading: Romans 6:12-18

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today, by faith, I will claim the truths of Romans 6. As an act of my will, I surrender the members of my body as instruments of righteousness unto God, to live that abundant, supernatural life, which is my heritage in Christ. Enabled by the Holy Spirit, I will encourage other believers to claim their kingdom rights, and non-believers to join this adventure with the risen Savior

Presidential Prayer Team; A.W. – Future Leaders

ppt_seal01

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 7.4 million women in the United States have used infertility services. These women want desperately to have a baby and try everything to conceive.

And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord.”

I Samuel 2:1

Had these services been available during her time, Hannah might have visited a doctor for help to conceive, too. She’d wanted a baby for so long. Scripture says year after year when she and her husband Elkhanah went to Shiloh to offer sacrifices, she would pray for God to open her womb. In desperation, she made a vow that if God gave her a son, she would give him back to God in service. When Hannah had Samuel, she thanked God for granting her request. She prayed for God to use him in His kingdom and delivered him to Eli to serve in the temple. Samuel became a great prophet and leader, eventually advising King Saul and King David.

Are you praying for children today that will be America’s future leaders tomorrow? Petition God for parents all over the country to dedicate their children back to God to be used for His purposes and glory.

Recommended Reading: Luke 1:46-56

Greg Laurie – God’s Heroes     

greglaurie

Few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. —1 Corinthians 1:26–27

In many ways, we have lost the meaning of the word hero. We throw it around so casually. If you can put a ball through a hoop, you’re a sports hero. If you can play eight chords on a guitar, you’re a rock and roll hero. If you can pretend to be something you’re not, you’re a Hollywood hero. We have a strange concept as to who our heroes really are.

I remember watching a well-known journalist interview an actor about his recent movie, which featured a politically troubled region of the world. When the journalist asked the celebrity what he thought should be done about the political situation there, the actor responded, “Who cares what I think?” and went on to point out that he was just an actor. All too often, we mistakenly think actors really are the people they portray. We think they are heroes when, in fact, they’re just people like you and me.

A hero is someone who does something sacrificial, something courageous. There are heroes today, of course. We saw many of them in action on 9/11 and in the days that followed. But often, today’s heroes are operating behind the scenes, and we never know about them.

As we look at heroes of the faith, those in Scripture and in contemporary history whom God put His hand on, one thing stands out: it seems that God has always gone out of His way to find individuals who did not necessarily look like heroes. And that is precisely the point. God isn’t looking for a strong man or woman per se. Rather, He’s looking for someone who will walk in His strength.

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

 

Max Lucado – Cry Out to Jesus

Max Lucado

My friend Jim has battled a muscular condition much of his adult life. The atrophy slurs his speech and impairs his walk. But it doesn’t diminish his faith or erase his smile.

One Sunday we asked church members to park in the back lot and leave the closest spots for guests. As I arrived, I saw Jim. He had parked in the distant corner and was walking toward the sanctuary. His life is an example. I pray that God will heal Jim’s body. But until he does, God is using Jim to inspire people like me.

God will do the same with you. He will use your struggle to change others. Or—he may use your struggle to change you! Disease cannot destroy us. And death has lost its sting. Cry out to Jesus in the power of a simple prayer! He will heal you—instantly or gradually or for sure, ultimately!