Charles Stanley – Prepared for Battle

Charles Stanley

2 Timothy 3:16-17

An unprepared soldier won’t hold out against the enemy. Since believers are at war with Satan, we must train wisely so that our heart stays clean and our testimony remains strong. Here, then, is a Christian soldier’s guide to preparing for battle:

  • Soldiers must acknowledge the war. The Bible is clear: The devil is determined to destroy the saints. For this reason, we must view our life as a battleground (1 Pet. 5:8).
  • Soldiers must know the enemy. Satan’s ways and tricks are recorded in Scripture. We know that his words are deceitful—but also very tempting.
  • Soldiers must undergo training. Every day believers have the opportunity to demonstrate their trust in God in at least some small way. This is preparation for facing future decisions or adversity with wisdom and courage.
  • Soldiers must know how to use their weapons. The Word of God is very helpful in combating Satan, encouraging the heart, and guiding decision making. Prayer keeps us in touch with our Commander in Chief.
  • Soldiers must resist propaganda. Satan will use any worldly means possible to entice us—the media and entertainment industries, educational systems, and false religions are all tools of his trade. Believers must be wise in deciding what to allow into their minds.

A prepared soldier is a believer whose mind and heart are full of the Lord and His Word. The Spirit-filled warrior will be victorious against Satan’s attack.

Our Daily Bread — Resting In God

Our Daily Bread

Romans 4:16-22

He did not waver . . . through unbelief . . . being fully convinced that what [God] had promised He was also able to perform. —Romans 4:20-21

It was our last holiday together as a family before our eldest son went off to college. As we filled the back pew in the little seaside church, my heart filled with love as I glanced along the row of my five reasonably tidy children. “Please protect them spiritually and keep them close to You, Lord.” I prayed silently, thinking of the pressures and challenges each of them faced.

The final hymn had a rousing chorus based on the words of 2 Timothy 1:12. “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him.” It brought a sense of peace as I was assured that God would keep their souls.

Years have passed since then. There have been times of wandering for some of my children, and outright rebellion for others. Sometimes I’ve wondered about God’s faithfulness. Then I remember Abraham. He stumbled but never failed in his trust in the promise he’d received (Gen. 15:5-6; Rom. 4:20-21). Through years of waiting and mistaken attempts to help things along, Abraham hung on to God’s promise until Isaac was born.

I find this reminder to trust encouraging. We tell God our request. We remember that He cares. We know He is powerful. We thank Him for His faithfulness. —Marion Stroud

Lord, my patience is often lacking and my timetable

often does not match Yours. Forgive me for my times

of doubt, and help me to trust You more.

Thank You for Your faithfulness.

Some lessons of patience take a long time to learn.

Bible in a year: Ezekiel 24-26; 1 Peter 2

Insight

Abraham was 75 when God first told him that he would be the father of many nations (Gen. 12:4). But when Abraham noted that both he and Sarah were childless (15:2), God promised that he would have “a son who is your own flesh and blood” (v.4 NIV). This promise was 25 years in its making. For Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90 (17:17), when their bodies were “already dead” reproductively (Rom. 4:19). Abraham believed in the Lord (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:17), “fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” (Rom. 4:21).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Gifts and Giver

Ravi Z

Over two hundred years ago during the heart of the Methodist revival in England, Christian minister John Wesley recorded his deep reservations about the movement’s ability to sustain itself. Even as thousands and thousands were responding to Christ, he wrote about the inevitable decline and dissolution of this Christian revival. What would prompt his despairing prediction in the throes of revival’s raging fires? His journal records his answer:

“I fear, wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore, I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger and love of the world in all its branches.”(1)

Contemporary reports of declining numbers of those who identify as “Christian” and a parallel decline in church attendance seem to affirm Wesley’s worst fears. Indeed, Christian leaders speculate that if current trends continue in England, for example, Methodists will cease to exist in that country in less than thirty years.(2) And while Wesley’s identification of wealth might be only one factor of many that has contributed to a decline in a robust Christianity, the decline has happened and is happening nevertheless. Corroborating the seemingly inverse relationship between wealth and faith, historian Philip Jenkins documents the rapid rise of Christianity in the Global South where material wealth is often much less in comparison to Western nations.(3) In light of Wesley’s fear, it seems reasonable to ask if the growth of Christianity in the Global South is related to relative poverty, and the decline of Christianity in the Global North is related to relative wealth?

Of course, Wesley’s concern was firmly rooted in the teaching ministry of Jesus. Long before Wesley issued his warning, Jesus warned his own followers: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and riches” (Luke 16:13). Jesus leaves little room for interpretative maneuvering or middle ground. There is always a choice, but one master will prevail.

In fact, Jesus had more to say about money than almost any other subject. Prior to issuing this warning about the inability to serve two masters, he tells a story about a shrewd money manager having to account for his use of money before his very wealthy boss. Initially, he is squandering what has been entrusted to him, and it is his careless ways that prompt the call to account for his use of another’s possessions. He quickly goes and collects a portion of what is owed by those who were in debt to the wealthy owner. And the wealthy owner, even though he does not collect all of what is owed to him, praises this man for his shrewd action.

So how do the hearers and readers of these stories connect a story of commendation for shrewd action on the part of the steward and this warning of not being able to serve two masters? Perhaps it is in the message to utilize resources—regardless of whether or not we feel we are in the relatively wealthy or relatively poor category—in a way that is wise. And what is that wisdom? We are entrusted with gifts and opportunities by someone else. Whether one comes to these stories through the eyes of faith or not, all who work were given a first opportunity, or that first open door by someone else. We might think we are making our own way in the world, but someone has provided an opportunity for us whether directly or indirectly. And that opportunity can be squandered or stewarded. Whatever one might count as personal ‘wealth’ is never something that is possessed, but something that is entrusted for good use in this world.

For Christians, the stewardship of our lives is a gift and a responsibility from God. The temptation to serve the gift, rather than the Giver is ever-present. Wesley’s words are haunting: As riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches. The riches of life, when not viewed from the perspective of a steward can ensnare one in the worst vices. Sadly, as Wesley understood, the very blessing of wealth grown and nourished through frugality and diligence could equally become a curse. Our own individual lives are often microcosms of this struggle. We far too often worship wealth rather than the God who gave it.

For those who live in the United States, the season of Thanksgiving can prompt us to ask: how might rich, Western Christians escape the perils of loving money more than God? The answer is not necessarily in the abolition of wealth, but rather in wealth’s proper stewardship in our world as a blessing for others. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”(4)

John Wesley understood this, and in the spirit of Jesus re-iterates the same idea: “If those who gain all they can, and save all they can, will likewise give all they can, then the more they gain, the more they will grow in grace, and the more treasure they will lay up in heaven.”(5)

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) Cited in an article by Philip Yancey, “Traveling with Wesley” Christianity Today, November 2007, vol 51, No. 11.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002). See also, The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

(4) Cited from The Works of the Rev. John Wesley, vol. XV (London: Thomas Cordeux, 1786).

(5) Luke 12:33-34.

Alistair Begg –  The Humbling Doctrine of Election

Alistair Begg

For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  Romans 9:15

In these words the Lord in the plainest manner claims the right to give or to withhold His mercy according to His own sovereign will. As the prerogative of life and death is vested in the monarch, so the Judge of all the earth has a right to spare or condemn the guilty, as may seem best in His sight. Men by their sins have forfeited all claim upon God; they deserve to perish for their sins—and if they all do so, they have no ground for complaint. If the Lord steps in to save any, He may do so if the ends of justice are not thwarted; but if He judges it best to leave the condemned to suffer the righteous sentence, none may call Him to account.

All those discourses about the rights of men being placed on the same footing are foolish and impudent and ignorant; worse still are the arguments against discriminating grace, which are just the rebellions of proud human nature against God’s rule. When we are brought to see our own utter ruin, and the justice of the divine verdict against sin, we no longer scoff at the truth that the Lord is not bound to save us; we do not murmur if He chooses to save others, as though He were doing us an injury, but feel that if He deigns to look upon us, it will be His own free act of undeserved goodness, for which we will forever bless His name.

How will those who are the subjects of divine election sufficiently adore the grace of God? They have no room for boasting, for sovereignty most effectually excludes it. The Lord’s will alone is glorified, and the very notion of human merit is cast out to everlasting contempt. There is no more humbling doctrine in Scripture than that of election, none more deserving of gratitude, and consequently none more sanctifying. Believers should not be afraid of it but adoringly rejoice in it.

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The family reading plan for November 25, 2014 * Jonah 4 * Luke 9

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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 – Comfort for the desponding

CharlesSpurgeon

“Oh that I were as in months past.” Job 29:2

Suggested Further Reading: Galatians 4:11-20

There is such a thing, my dear friends, as your getting into a terribly bad condition through the ministry that you attend. Can it be expected that men should grow in grace when they are never watered with the streams that make glad the city of our God? Can they be supposed to grow strong in the Lord Jesus, when they do not feed on spiritual food? We know some who grumble, Sabbath after Sabbath, and say they can’t hear such and such a minister. Why don’t you buy an ear-trumpet then? Ah! But I mean, that I can’t hear him to my soul’s profit. Then do not go to hear him, if you have tried for a long while and don’t get any profit. I always think that a man who grumbles as he goes out of chapel ought not to be pitied, but whipped, for he can stay away if he likes, and go where he will be pleased. There are plenty of places where the sheep may feed in their own manner; and everyone is bound to go where he gets the pasture most suited to his soul. But you are not bound to run away directly your minister dies, as many of you did before you came here. You should not run away from the ship directly the storm comes, and the captain is gone, and you find her not exactly sea-worthy; stand by her, begin caulking her, God will send you a captain, there will be fine weather by and by, and all will be right. But very frequently a bad minister starves God’s people into walking skeletons, so that you can tell all their bones; and who wonders that they starve out their minister, when they get no nourishment from his ministrations.

For meditation: God provides leaders to build up his people so that they can go on to build up one another (Ephesians 4:11-12). The absence of the leader will show whether the flock can stand on their own feet in the Lord (Philippians 1:27; Colossians 2:5).

Sermon no. 51

25 November (1855)

John MacArthur –Accepting God’s Plan

John MacArthur

“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict” (Heb. 11:23).

God makes His plans; you walk in them by faith. He doesn’t need your help or counsel—just your obedience and trust.

It has been wisely said that trying to improve on God’s plan is more pretentious than trying to improve the Mona Lisa with an ink pen. All you’d do is ruin the masterpiece.

The story of Amram and Jochebed, the parents of Moses, is about two people who refused to ruin the masterpiece. They trusted God implicitly and did everything possible to see His plan for their son come to fruition.

Because of the number and might of the Hebrew people in Egypt, the pharaoh enslaved them and ordered that all male Hebrew babies be put to death. In direct defiance of that wicked edict, Moses’ parents hid their baby for three months, then placed him in a waterproofed basket along the banks of the Nile River near the place where Pharaoh’s daughter bathed. One can only imagine the faith it took for them to risk their own lives, as well as the life of their baby, by placing him into that basket and introducing him into the very household of the one who wanted all male Hebrew babies slain.

By God’s providence, Pharaoh’s daughter found the baby, took pity on him, and adopted him into her family. More than that, the Lord used Moses’ quick-thinking sister, Miriam, to arrange for Jochebed to nurse and care for her own son! That gave Moses’ family the opportunity to teach him of God’s promises for Israel to inherit the Promised Land, become a mighty nation, and be a blessing to all nations. They helped instill within Moses the faith in God that would later characterize his life.

You may never be called on to make the kind of sacrifice that Moses’ parents made, but no matter what the risks, remember God always honors your obedience.

Suggestions for Prayer;  Thank God for His plan for your life. Seek wisdom and grace to live accordingly.

For Further Study;  Read of Israel’s oppression and Moses’ birth in Exodus 1:1—2:10.

Joyce Meyer – “I Can’t Help It!”

Joyce meyer

I call heaven and earth to witness this day against you that I have set before you life and death, the blessings and the curses; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live.—Deuteronomy 30:19

When God begins to deal with us about wrong behavior, it’s easy enough to say, “I can’t help it,” but it takes real courage and faith to say, “I’m ready to take responsibility and get my life straightened out.”

Avoidance, which is not facing issues, is a major problem. Wrong things don’t go away just because we refuse to acknowledge them. We often stuff things. We hide from them, and as long as we do, they have power over us. Issues buried alive never die.

For many years, I refused to deal with the sexual abuse in my childhood. My father had abused me, so I left home the week I turned eighteen years old. I thought I was getting away from the problem by leaving, but I didn’t realize I had the problem in my soul. It was in my thoughts, attitudes, and words. It affected my actions and all of my relationships. I had buried my past and stuffed my stuff. We don’t have to live in the past. In fact, we are encouraged by God’s Word to forget it and let it go. However, that doesn’t mean that we are free to ignore the results of it and pretend that we are not hurting when we are.

I was merely feeling sorry for myself and saying, “I can’t help it. It’s not my fault I was abused.” And it wasn’t my fault. But it was my responsibility to let God help me overcome all the bandages I was experiencing as a result of that abuse.

God began setting me free by dealing with me about all the wrong thoughts I had accepted and allowed. My mind had to change before my life could change. At first, I didn’t even want to take responsibility for my thoughts. I thought, I can’t help what I think. Things just come into my head! I eventually learned that I could choose my own thoughts, and I could think things on purpose. I learned that we don’t have to accept every thought that falls into our minds. We can cast down wrong ones and replace them with right ones.

I learned that instead of feeling helpless over the thoughts that fill my mind, I can and must do something positive.

Much of our thinking is habitual. If we regularly think about God and good things, godly thoughts become natural. Thousands of thoughts flow through our minds every day. We may feel that we have no control, but we do. We don’t have to use any effort to think wrong thoughts; we have to use much effort to think good thoughts. As we begin to make changes, we will have to fight a battle.

Our mind is the battlefield, and Satan’s primary way of initiating his evil plan for us is through our thoughts. If we feel we have no power over our thoughts, Satan will entrap and defeat us. Instead, we can determine to think in godly ways. We constantly make choices. Where do those choices come from? They originate in our thought life. Our thoughts become our words and our actions.

God has given us the power to decide to choose right thinking over wrong. But once we make that choice, we must continue to choose right thoughts. It’s not a once-and-for-all decision, but it does get easier. The more we fill our lives with reading the Bible, prayer, praise, and fellowship with other believers, the easier it is for us to continue choosing right thoughts.

It may sound as if I’m saying that trying to live the Christian life is nothing but one continuous struggle. That’s partly true, but that’s only a piece of the story. Too many people want to live victorious Christian lives, but they don’t want to fight the battles. Victory however, means winning and overcoming obstacles. We must also remember that living a life of disobedience to God is harder than choosing to live in victory. Yes, there are struggles but they are worth it in the end.

To think in the right way takes practice, and it is not always easy, nor does it feel natural for us to focus only on the good. But if we know this is the pathway to life both now and in eternity, it’s worth the effort and the struggle to think positive thoughts.

When we’re bombarded with doubts and fears, that’s when we need to take our stand. We don’t ever want to say again, “I can’t help it.” We want to believe and say, “God is with me, and He strengthens me. God enables me to win.” The apostle Paul said it this way, “But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory [making us conquerors] through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm (steadfast), immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord [always being superior, excelling, doing more than enough in the service of the Lord], knowing and being continually aware that your labor in the Lord is not futile [it is never wasted or to no purpose]” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58).

We can choose. Not only can we choose, but we do choose. By not pushing the bad thoughts from our minds, we’re allowing them to invade us and take us captive. It takes time to learn to choose good and push away evil. It won’t be easy, but we’re moving in the right direction every time we take responsibility and make right choices.

Powerful God, remind me that I can and do make choices every day. Please help me to monitor my thoughts, choosing only those that will help me overcome the devil and win the battle for my mind. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – God Protects Us

dr_bright

“You don’t need to be afraid of the dark any more, nor fear the dangers of the day… For the Lord says, ‘Because he loves me, I will rescue him; I will make him great because he trusts in my name.’ ” (Psalm 91:5,14).

“Ladies and gentlemen, we should be out of the storm in a few moments…” The calm voice over the intercom was hardly reassuring as our Pam Am 707 pierced the fury of a storm during our flight from New York to Washington, D.C. Lightning flashed as the aircraft bounced and shuddered in the turbulence.

I gripped Vonette’s hand. “I don’t know how much longer the plane can endure this storm without breaking into pieces.”

She nodded gravely.

The 707 began to twist — first to the right, then to the left. Its wings flapped like those of a giant bird struggling against a violent downdraft. Vonette and I began praying. Convinced that our aircraft could not survive the turbulence much longer, I tenderly said goodbye to Vonette and she to me. We told our wonderful Lord that we were ready to meet Him.

Then I remembered how the Lord Jesus had calmed the winds when His disciples feared that their boat would capsize during another violent storm. If it was His will, He would protect us, too. I prayed aloud, “Lord, You control the laws of nature. You quieted the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Please quiet this storm.”

In a very short time, the rain and turbulence stopped. Amazed and thankful, Vonette and I praised God for protecting us.

Hours later, the pilot landed the plane at a freight terminal in Norvolk. The flight that should have taken sixty-five minutes had lasted four hours and taken us far from our destination. Lightning had knocked a huge hole in the fuselage near the cockpit, destroying all the radar equipment. The pilot said this was the most violent storm he had ever experienced. But God was more powerful than the storm!

God promises to protect and rescue those who trust Him. What peace and joy this gives us as we turn over the difficult circumstances in our lives to Him!

Bible Reading: Psalm 91

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: With God’s help, I will claim His promise to protect me and will not be afraid of danger

Presidential Prayer Team; A.C. – A Year From Now

ppt_seal01

Faith honors God, and God honors faith – as is evidenced in a story from missionaries Robert and Mary Moffat. For a decade they labored in present-day Botswana, Africa without a single convert to Christianity. Ultimately, the directors of the mission board questioned the wisdom of continuing their work. At the same time, a friend contacted the Moffats, desiring to send them a gift to encourage them. “Send up a communion set,” Mrs. Moffat replied. “I’m sure it will soon be needed.”

We ought always to give thanks to God for you…because your faith is growing abundantly.

II Thessalonians 1:3

Within days, God honored Moffat’s request of faith. A small group of six villagers accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, and the communion set was used to give those new believers their first Lord’s Supper.

Has someone come to God through your witness in 2014? If the answer is “Yes,” give thanks to the Lord. If your response is “No,” don’t be condemned or feel regret. Instead, commit that you will expand your personal witness, starting during this holiday season. In America, you have incredible freedom to share your faith. Just think how exciting it would be, a year from now, to be able to speak the prayer of today’s verse about someone you led to Christ?

Recommended Reading: Luke 15:1-10

Greg Laurie – In Spite of Sickness   

greglaurie

God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. —Revelation 21:4

God can work in spite of sickness. He still answers prayer and heals people today, and He still does miracles. In sickness and in hardships, He can work in a person’s life. Even if a person still has the sickness or problem, God can work in spite of it and give them a special strength. And no matter what happens to our physical bodies here on earth, we have the promise of heaven and ultimate healing in heaven. At that time, God says He will wipe away all our tears. There will be no more death, sorrows, crying, or pain (see Revelation 21:4).

What a glorious promise! There is more—so much more!—beyond this life on earth. Whatever our limitations, whatever our problems, God promises us that we will one day receive a new body that won’t have the shortcomings we experience today.

And God can also use sickness to bring a person to Himself, can’t He? I know of many people who have come to the Lord in the hospital or when facing death. Suddenly they reevaluate their lives. They wonder, What am I living for? What’s really important in my life? What’s going to happen to me when I die? And they begin to think about eternity.

As the psalmist said, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word” (Psalm 119:67). God can work in spite of sickness, and He can work through sickness. Nothing is impossible for Him.

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

Max Lucado – Take the Challenge

Max Lucado

Here is my challenge to you today! Join me, every day for 4 weeks, to pray 4 minutes. Then get ready to connect with God like never before!

When God gives, Luke 6:38 says, He gives a gift that is “pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap.” As we redouble our commitment to pray, God redoubles his promise to bless. Nothing pleases Jesus as much as being audaciously trusted.

And you are never more like Jesus than when you pray for others. Pray for this hurting world. Present their case to the giver of bread. And bring your grocery basket. God will give you plenty of blessings to take back to them!

Take the challenge? Sign on at Beforeamen.com. Join me every day for 4 weeks, to pray 4 minutes—it’ll change your life forever!

From Before Amen