Charles Stanley – The Purpose of Conviction

Charles Stanley

Hebrews 12:4-11

Have you ever seen a parent firmly grip a naughty child and lead him to where he ought to be? Sometimes our heavenly Father must employ a strong directing hand with us. Even as believers, we’re a wayward people who are prone to wander. But when we go too far, God helps us back to the path of righteousness.

The Father’s guiding hand is always on His children. And when believers fall into sin and rebellion, He holds tighter. We call that pressure on our hearts and minds conviction. By saying, “This action/attitude/thought is not in keeping with who you are in Christ,” the Holy Spirit works to make us aware of wrongdoing. Conviction has the purpose of awakening believers to where they are in their relationship with God. If you’ve gotten off course, don’t you want to know about it so you can get back in the center of His will as fast as possible?

Sometimes the Lord uses discipline to lovingly redirect us toward the path that we abandoned. Discipline can be painful and costly, particularly when we have resisted the pressure of conviction. However, as any wise parent will tell you, living with the consequences of foolish behavior teaches a child valuable lessons about keeping to the straight and narrow.

Left to his own devices, man will destroy himself chasing after fleeting pleasures and egocentric desires. God has a better journey in mind for us: to travel toward perfect freedom in Christ, guided by His loving hand. When we stray, He tightens His grip and draws us back to the way of righteousness.

Our Daily Bread — Can You Help?

 

Our Daily BreadJames 2:14-20

Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. —James 2:17

The administrators of the high school in Barrow, Alaska, were tired of seeing students get into trouble and drop out at a rate of 50 percent. To keep students interested, they started a football team, which offered them a chance to develop personal skills, teamwork, and learn life lessons. The problem with football in Barrow, which is farther north than Iceland, is that it’s hard to plant a grass field. So they competed on a gravel and dirt field.

Four thousand miles away in Florida, a woman named Cathy Parker heard about the football team and their dangerous field. Feeling that God was prompting her to help, and impressed by the positive changes she saw in the students, she went to work. About a year later, they dedicated their new field, complete with a beautiful artificial-turf playing surface. She had raised thousands of dollars to help some kids she didn’t even know.

This is not about football—or money. It is about remembering “to do good and to share” (Heb. 13:16). The apostle James reminds us that we demonstrate our faith by our actions (2:18). The needs in our world are varied and overwhelming but when we love our neighbor as ourselves, as Jesus said (Mark 12:31), we reach people with God’s love. —Dave Branon

Open our eyes, dear Father, to those in need. Allow us

to find ways—monetarily and otherwise—to help meet

those needs. Help us to take the focus off ourselves

and place it on those who can use our assistance.

Open your heart to God to learn compassion and open your hand to give help.

Bible in a year: Ezekiel 14-15; James 2

Insight

There is disagreement among scholars as to the identity of the James who authored this letter. Some see him as the son of Alphaeus (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18). Long-held church tradition, however, identifies this James as the half-brother of Jesus (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3). In Galatians 1:19, Paul mentions seeing James, “the Lord’s brother,” in Jerusalem—and this has fueled the position that the James of the Jerusalem church and the James who wrote this letter was in fact “the Lord’s brother.” James became a person of great prominence in the early church, having received a personal audience with the risen Christ (1 Cor. 15:7) and having become one of the primary leaders of the church at Jerusalem (Acts 15:13-20).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – God and Pain

Ravi Z

“How do you expect me to believe in God,” asked Woody Allen, “when only last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of my electric type-writer?”

For a while now, at least in the Western world, the existence of any form of pain, suffering, or evil has been regarded as evidence for the non-existence of God. If a good God existed, people reason, these things would not. But they do and, therefore, God does not.

My job takes me around many different parts of the world in order to answer people’s questions about the Christian faith. I find it fascinating that I have never been asked this question in India, a country that certainly knows a lot more about suffering than many of us in the West. I find it even more intriguing that Christians who write books in situations where they have known unspeakable torment because of the gospel do not normally raise this as an issue for themselves either. Why?

There are so many ways in which questions concerning pain can be raised. It can be raised because of personal loss and suffering or because of a personal interest in the issue of theodicy, to name but two. However, regardless of the way the question is raised, it normally comes down to a moral complaint against God. “How could you allow this to happen?” The complaint is against God’s moral character. “Can I really trust God if I see this happen?” But if you are sure that you can trust God, regardless of the pain you find yourself in, there is no temptation to turn you away, as you realize God is the only one who can help.

Firstly, let’s deal with the argument against God’s existence. Ravi Zacharias has dealt with this thoroughly in his book Can Man Live Without God. If you argue from the existence of evil to the non-existence of God, you are assuming the existence of an absolute moral law in order for your argument to work. But if there is such a law this would also mean that there is such a God, since God is the only one who could give us such a law. And if there is such a God to give us this law, then the argument itself is flawed, since you have had to assume the existence of God in order to argue that God doesn’t exist. It is an attempt to invoke the existence of an absolute moral law without invoking the existence of an absolute moral law giver, and it cannot be done.

Secondly, we must also ask the question: What would it take to create a loving world void of evil? A world in which love is capable of meaningful expression and experience would also imply a world in which there is choice. If someone tells you that they love you, those words mean something because they are freely given. If you learned that someone had told you they loved you but that they had been forced to say it, their words would not mean very much. Thus, if we want to speak of a loving world, we must also speak of a world in which choices are exercised. And in such a world, there is also the possibility of choosing a course of action that is not loving, i.e. evil.

While these observations are helpful in getting at the heart of contradictions often behind the questions of God and suffering, I do not think they get at the heart of the questions as people most commonly ask, namely: Can I trust God even when faced with great evil? Is God morally trustworthy? Can I trust God even if I don’t understand what is happening?

These are profound questions, and whole books could be written about them. But I will offer one more thought. Maybe the reason we question God’s moral character when bad things happen is that we live our lives largely independent from God on a daily basis. In other words, we struggle to trust God in times of trouble because we do not really trust God when things are going well. Maybe we struggle with suffering so much in the West because we are so comfortable most of the time that we feel we don’t need God. We do not rely on God on a daily basis, and so we do not really know God. When suffering comes along, therefore, it is not so much that it takes us away from God, but that it reveals to us that we have not really been close to God in the first place.

As I said earlier, I have never been asked questions about God and suffering when I am travelling in countries riddled with the realities of it. In fact, when I visit churches in parts of the world where they are faced daily with horrific affliction, I normally leave inspired. They trust God in everything, even when things are going well. When times are hard, they cling to God because they have already learned to trust. They have learned that God does not change, even when our circumstances have.

Michael Ramsden is international director of ministries at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Oxford, England.

Alistair Begg – Seek Shelter

Alistair Begg

The rock of badgers are a people not mighty, yet they make their homes in the cliffs. Proverbs 30:26

Conscious of their own natural defenselessness, the rock badgers resort to burrows in the rocks and are secure from their enemies. My heart, be willing to learn a lesson from these feeble folk. You are as weak and as exposed to peril as the timid badger; be as wise to seek a shelter. My best security is within the fortress of an unchanging Jehovah, where His unalterable promises stand like giant walls of rock. It will be well with you, my heart, if you can always hide yourself in the bulwarks of His glorious attributes, all of which are guarantees of safety for those who put their trust in Him.

Blessed be the name of the Lord, I have so done and have found myself like David in the cave, safe from the cruelty of my enemy. I do not have to wonder how blessed it is to trust in the Lord, for long ago, when Satan and my sins pursued me, I fled to the cleft of the rock Christ Jesus, and in His wounded side I found a delightful resting-place. My heart, run to Him afresh tonight, whatever your present grief may be. Jesus feels for you; Jesus consoles you; Jesus will help you. No king in his impregnable fortress is more secure than the rock badger in his cliff home.

The master of ten thousand chariots is not one bit better protected than the little dweller in the mountain’s cleft. In Jesus the weak are strong, and the defenseless safe; they could not be more strong if they were giants or more safe if they were in heaven. Faith gives to men on earth the protection of the God of heaven. They cannot need any more and need not wish for more. The badgers cannot build a castle, but they avail themselves of what is there already. I cannot make myself a refuge, but Jesus has provided it, His Father has given it, His Spirit has revealed it, and here again tonight I enter it and am safe from every foe.

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The family reading plan for November 20, 2014 * Amos 9 * Luke 4

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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 – Man’s ruin and God’s remedy

CharlesSpurgeon

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.” Numbers 21:8

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 23:1-5

Christ’s redemption was so plenteous, that had God willed it, if all the stars of heaven had been peopled with sinners, Christ need not have suffered another pang to redeem them all—there was a boundless value in his precious blood. And, sinner, if there were so much as this, surely there is enough for thee. And then again, if thou art not satisfied with Christ’s sin-offering, just think a moment; God is satisfied, God the Father is content, and must not thou be? The Judge saith, “I am satisfied; let the sinner go free, for I have punished the Surety in his stead;” and if the Judge is satisfied, surely the criminal may be. Oh! Come, poor sinner, come and see; if there is enough to appease the wrath of God there must be enough to answer all the requirements of man. “Nay, nay,” saith one, “but my sin is such a terrible one that I cannot see in the substitution of Christ that which is like to meet it.” What is thy sin? “Blasphemy.” Why, Christ died for blasphemy: this was the very charge which man imputed to him, and therefore you may be quite sure that God laid it on him if men did. “Nay, nay,” saith one, “but I have been worse than that; I have been a liar.” It is just what men said of him. They declared that he lied when he said, “If this temple be destroyed I will build it in three days.” See in Christ a liar’s Saviour as well as a blasphemer’s Saviour. “But,” says one, “I have been in league with Beelzebub.” Just what they said of Christ. They said that he cast out devils through Beelzebub. So man laid that sin on him, and man did unwittingly what God would have him do. I tell thee, even that sin was laid on Christ.

For meditation: Christ was truly a sign spoken against (Luke 2:34). Men called him many names which God had never given him—Beelzebub (Matthew 10:25), glutton and drunkard (Matthew 11:19), impostor (Matthew 27:63), liar (John 8:13), sinner (John 9:24), demon-possessed and mad (John 10:20), and blasphemer (John 10:33). On the cross God treated his Son as if he was everything that man had accused him of, and every other sin besides.

Sermon no. 285

20 November (1859)

John MacArthur – Passing the Test

John MacArthur

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your descendants shall be called.’ He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead” (Heb. 11:17-19).

A willingness to sacrifice something precious to you is proof of genuine faith.

John Bunyan had a little blind daughter, for whom he had a special love. When he was imprisoned for preaching the gospel, he was deeply concerned about his family, especially that little girl. He wrote, “I saw in this condition I was a man who was pulling down his house upon the head of his wife and children. Yet, thought I, I must do it; I must do it. The dearest idol I have known, what ere that idol be, help me to tear it from Thy throne and worship only Thee.”

Despite his personal grief, Bunyan was willing to sacrifice the most precious thing he had, if God so willed. So it was with Abraham. Every promise God had made to him was bound up in his son Isaac.

Abraham believed God’s promises, and his faith was reckoned to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6). But the moment of truth came when God instructed him to offer his son as a sacrifice. Abraham realized that to kill Isaac was to put to death God’s covenant. So he reasoned that surely God would raise Isaac from the dead. He believed in resurrection before the doctrine was revealed in clear terms.

God tested Abraham, and Abraham passed the test: He was willing to make the sacrifice. And that’s always the final standard of faith. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). Romans 12:1 says, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

I pray that you are willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary to minister most effectively for Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for those you know who are passing the test of a sacrificial faith.
  • Pray for the courage and grace to follow their example.

For Further Study

Read the account of Abraham’s test in Genesis 22.

Joyce Meyer – First Believe, Then Achieve

Joyce meyer

Jesus replied, “This is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the One Whom He has sent [that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger].” —John 6:29

Many dedicated believers who love God have the same question for Him: “Father, what do You want me to do? If You will just show me what to do, I will gladly do it.”

For many years, I was excessive when it came to being a “do-er.” All anyone had to do was point me in the direction of something that needed to be done, and I did it—and I did my best to do it right. But what frustrated and confused me was when I did something “right” and it still did not work. I had not yet learned that unless the Lord builds the house (unless He initiates and empowers an effort) that “they labor in vain who build it” (Ps. 127:1).

Today’s scripture is Jesus’ answer to a group of people who wanted to know what they were supposed to do to please God. They asked Him, “What are we to do, that we may [habitually] be working the works of God?” We can sum up Jesus’ response in one word: believe.

So many people, including myself and maybe you, too, think we are supposed to be achievers. This is true; we certainly are supposed to achieve and accomplish things. But the way we achieve is to first believe. That frees us from worry and enables us to live victorious lives. We are called “believers,” not “achievers,” so let’s make sure we always believe first and then do what God leads us to do.

Love God Today: “Lord, I believe.”

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – God Uses Sorrow for Good

dr_bright

“For God sometimes uses sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek eternal life. We should never regret his sending it. But the sorrow of the man who is not a Christian is not the sorrow of true repentance and does not prevent eternal death.” (II Corinthians 7:10).

Frank often referred to himself proudly as a self-made man. He bragged that in his youth he had been so poor he didn’t have two nickels to rub together. Now his real estate holdings and various business enterprises were worth tens of millions of dollars. He was a pillar in the community, able to give generously to civic and philanthropic causes.  His philosophy was that there was no God, and every man had to make it on his own. He laughed at the weaklings who needed the crutch of church.

Then his world began to fall apart. His only son was sent to prison for pushing drugs. His daughter had an automobile accident that left her partially paralyzed for life; and his wife, whom he had largely ignored for years, announced she was in love with someone else and demanded a divorce. Meanwhile, because he had become lax in his business dealings, one of his partners embezzled several million dollars from him.

By this time, he was devastated, and, therefore, was open to spiritual counsel. After the Holy Spirit showed him his spirit of pride and selfishness, he opened his heart to Christ and the miracle took place. Now, he frequently quotes this passage: “God sometimes uses sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek eternal life.”

Though his son is still in prison, and his daughter still paralyzed, he and his wife are reconciling, and his heart is filled with joy and thanksgiving to God. He is no longer a proud, “successful” businessman, but a humble child of God, a servant who discovered the hard way that everyone needs God.

For every Frank there are hundreds of others experiencing heartache and tragedy who have not repented. Yet, God offers to all men and women the priceless gift of abundant and supernatural life.

Bible Reading: Proverbs 28:12-14

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I shall seek to live the full, abundant, supernatural life, walking in faith and obedience, so that God will not find it necessary to discipline me in order to bless me.

Presidential Prayer Team; H.L.M. – Faithful Servants

ppt_seal01

Gilbert Breedlove regards his work as an act of worship to God. In fact, this North Carolina county judge recently resigned because he did not want to violate his Christian faith and perform same-sex marriages, now permitted under the state’s law. However, Breedlove is not worried about his financial future because his faith is in the Lord.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.

Colossians 3:23

“I was Christian when I started,” Breedlove said. “Then, the law didn’t require me to perform something that was against my religious belief. Now that law has changed its requirements.”

Hebrews 6:10 says, “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints.” The desire of every follower of Jesus Christ is to one day hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Strive to please God in all you do, and remember to thank the Lord each day for America’s leaders who faithfully serve Him. Intercede for God’s protection and provision whenever they choose to follow their Christian faith instead of taking the politically popular path.

Recommended Reading: I Thessalonians 1:2-10

Greg Laurie – Just Throw the Net              

greglaurie

He brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” —Acts 16:30

Many of us are afraid, for one simple reason, to ask someone if they would like to give their life to Jesus Christ. We’re afraid the answer will be no. And it just may be. But there are those wonderful times when someone will surprise you and say, “Tell me more” or maybe even, “I want to give my life to Jesus Christ.”

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to be reunited with my father, Oscar Laurie, the man who adopted me. My mother had divorced him when I was a young boy, and that was the last time I had seen him. Years later, when I had an opportunity to preach on the East Coast, he invited our family to stay at his house for the weekend.

After dinner one night, his wife said, “Greg, tell me about how you came to put your faith in Jesus Christ.” As I shared my testimony and what Christ had done for me, my dad sat there listening with his hands folded. I thought, He’s not buying this at all. But later that night, he asked me to go walking with him the next morning.

As we walked out into the cold morning air, he said, “I was listening to what you said last night. I want to know what I need to do to give my life to Jesus Christ.” He made a commitment to Christ that day, and he faithfully served the Lord for the remaining fifteen years of his life.

Sometimes when you share your faith, you don’t think you’re getting through. But you never know. That is why we need to simply throw out the net, so to speak. We need to give people the opportunity.

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

Max Lucado – Intercessory Prayer

Max Lucado

What can you do? When the challenge is greater than you are. When you feel helpless and impotent. Where can you turn? In Luke 11:10 Jesus says, “Everyone who seeks me, finds me. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Intercessory prayer at its purest is your acknowledgement:

“I can’t heal them, but, God, you can.”

“I can’t forgive them, but, God, you can.”

“I can’t help them, but, God, you can.”

Before you say amen. . .this simple prayer gets God’s attention: “Father you are good. They need help. I can’t, but you can!” He never sleeps. He is never irritated. When you knock, he responds quickly and fairly!

Here’s my challenge for you today! Sign on at BeforeAmen.com. Take the brief Prayer Strengths Assessment you’ll find there. It only takes a minute. But it will encourage you and give you a building block for your growth in prayer.

From Before Amen