Charles Stanley – Living Above Your Circumstances

Charles Stanley

Philippians 1:12-18

Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians during a long and unjust imprisonment. However, this short epistle is full of rejoicing. Paul never complains or casts blame for his situation, because he has learned to live above his circumstances.

Most people have a different response to difficulty. First, in an attempt to make themselves feel better, they try blaming someone else for the problem, but this results only in broken relationships. Next, they complain, which gets pity from others but enhances the problem in their own minds. Finally, they search for a way out of the situation and usually make things worse in the process.

Paul knew that there was a strategy for living above one’s circumstances rather than merely muddling through them: He shifted his focus. Instead of examining his problem and whining about it, he looked to God. Praise came from his lips: “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).

God wants to hear our honest concerns and even anger or confusion about our trials, but He also wants us to trust Him to see us through. Focusing on the Lord and praising Him does not mean we pretend to enjoy tough times—that would be insincere. But we can honestly acknowledge that He is in control of the situation and will guide our every step, just as He promised (Prov. 3:5-6).

Believers have a simple choice. We can wallow in self-pity, or we can look to Jesus Christ and learn to live above our circumstances. Which of the two will you choose?

Our Daily Bread — Amani

Our Daily Bread

1 Samuel 16:14-23

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. —2 Timothy 1:7

Amani, which means “peace” in Swahili, is the name of a Labrador retriever pup that has some special friends. Amani lives with two young cheetahs at the Dallas Zoo. Zoologists placed the animals together so the cheetahs could learn Amani’s relaxed ways. Since dogs are generally at ease in public settings, the experts predict that Amani will be a “calming influence” in the cheetahs’ lives as they grow up together.

David was a soothing influence in King Saul’s life when a “distressing spirit” troubled him (1 Sam. 16:14). When Saul’s servants learned of his problem, they thought music might ease his affliction. One servant summoned David, who was a skilled harpist. Whenever the king became troubled, David would play the harp. “Then Saul would become refreshed and well” (v.23).

We crave refreshment and well-being when we are plagued by anger, fear, or sadness. The God of the Bible is a “God of peace” (Heb. 13:20-21), One who gives His Holy Spirit to everyone who believes in Him. When we’re agitated or anxious, we can remember that God’s Spirit produces power, love, and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7). God’s influence in our lives can create a calming effect—one that leads to comfort and wholeness. —Jennifer Benson Schuldt

We’re grateful, Father, for the peace that You

offer for our hearts. Nothing has the power

to take that away. Thank You that Your

peace has come to stay.

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” —Jesus

Bible in a year: Ezekiel 33-34; 1 Peter 5

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –   A Prayer for Bread

Ravi Z

Huckleberry Finn first heard about prayer from Miss Watson, who told him that prayer was something you did everyday and that you’d get what you asked for. So he tried three or four times praying for hooks to complete his fishing line, but when he still didn’t get what he asked for decided that “No, there ain’t nothing in it.”

Prayer is a curious activity. It is one we seem, at times, regardless of belief or creed, almost inclined naturally toward, while other times, like Huck, almost as naturally conclude we either can’t make it work or conclude there ain’t nothing in it.

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples asked him to teach them how to pray. Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say:

‘Father, hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread.

And forgive us our sins,

for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.

And do not bring us to the time of trial.’”(1)

*The Lord’s Prayer, which Christian’s still hold and practice today, comes out of this context—that is, out of a plea for help with prayer and out of the praying of Jesus himself. It is not just the good advice Jesus had to offer about praying; it is his praying. In fact, giving his followers this prayer, Jesus, like John, was following a common rabbinic pattern. When a rabbi taught a prayer, he would use it to teach his disciples the most distinctive, concise, essential elements of his own teachings. Thus, disciples would learn to pray as their teacher prayed, and from then on, when a disciple’s prayer was heard, it would sound like that of his teacher’s prayers, bearing his own mark and posture before God.

As this suggests, when Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer today, it is simultaneously an offering of the voice of Jesus, a declaration of belonging to him, and a pronunciation of the lessons he wanted his followers most to learn.

Somewhat different than fishing hooks, the prayer for daily bread is foundational; a literal need. News of world food shortages, urban food deserts, the prevalence of malnourishment, and volatile food prices remind us with repetition that cries for basic provision are appropriate and necessary. Fifteenth century theologian Martin Luther spoke of the prayer for daily bread as the plea for “everything included in the necessities and nourishment for our bodies such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, farm, fields, livestock, money, property, an upright spouse, upright children, upright members of the household, upright and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, decency, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”(2) In other words, bread is not merely the private concern of those who need something to eat. It is far broader than this, including far more than bread, and far more than isolated individuals before God. Our daily bread is something friends, neighbors, communities, economic situations, and governments affect collectively. Christ’s prayer for daily bread, then, is a prayer for food and clothing, but also for good neighbors, good rulers, and good conscience as we face need and want and hope together.

As such, a prayer for daily bread can be a reminder that we do not live in a vacuum before God or the world. Rather, we live in communities where we are responsible for one another. So if we pray for daily bread, like Jesus, we pray for God’s care and provision. But subsequently, we are praying against the things in life that prevent God’s provisions. This may well be corruption or systems of social injustice; it may also be our own hardened hearts, fearful dispositions, or a self-consumed and consuming living. When our neighbor prays for daily bread, our neighbor prays for our help.

To pray the words Jesus invited us to pray means we pray out of the same paradox in which Jesus prayed himself. He was both the Son who knew he would need the Father’s provision to get through the days before him and the Son who poured out his life for the crowds and individuals that needed him. Praying for daily bread, we are simultaneously the wealthy who can respond in gratitude for all that God has given us and the impoverished who cry out for the daily bread we need and the God who sustains all things. We are both the rich and the poor, united to our neighbors in ways we are constantly invited to imagine. We join ancient ancestors who prayed for physical nourishment in the desert, and with them know that we are still hungry. In difficult days, in plentiful days, the invitation of Christian prayer is the invitation of the Spirit to join in a united cry—”Give us this day our daily bread”—placed before the bread of life who comes to give life to the world.

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

(1) Luke 11:1-4.

(2) Martin Luther, “The Small Catechism,” The Book of Concord, 357.

Alistair Begg – Seeking the Best for the Church

Alistair Begg

He sought the welfare of his people.  Esther 10:3

Mordecai was a true patriot, and so when he was promoted to the highest position under Ahasuerus, he used his eminence to promote the prosperity of Israel. In this he was a type of Jesus who, upon His throne of glory, does not seek His own but spends His power for His people. It would be beneficial if every Christian would be a Mordecai to the Church, striving according to his ability for its prosperity. Some are placed in positions of affluence and influence; let them honor their Lord in the high places of the earth and testify for Jesus before great men.

Others have what is far better, namely, close fellowship with the King of kings. Let them be sure to pray daily for the weak among the Lord’s people, the doubting, the tempted, and the comfortless. It will redound to their honor if they make much intercession for those who are in darkness and dare not draw close to the mercy-seat. Instructed believers may serve their Master greatly if they offer their talents for the general good and impart their wealth of heavenly learning to others by teaching them the things of God.

The very least in our churches may seek the welfare of God’s people; and such a desire, if they can give no more, will be acceptable. It is at once the most Christlike and the most happy course for a believer to stop living for himself. He who blesses others cannot fail to be blessed himself. On the other hand, to seek our own personal greatness is a wicked and unhappy plan of life; its way will be grievous, and its end will be fatal.

Here is the place to ask you, my friend, whether you are to the best of your power seeking the best for the Church in your neighborhood. I trust you are not doing the Church mischief by bitterness and scandal, nor weakening it by your neglect. Friend, unite with the Lord’s poor, bear their cross, do them all the good you can, and you will not miss your reward.

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The family reading plan for November 28, 2014 * Micah 3 * Luke 12

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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 – Satan’s banquet

CharlesSpurgeon

“The governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse; but thou hast kept the good wine until now.” John 2:9-10

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 55:12-23

The governor of the feast said more than he intended to say, or rather, there is more truth in what he said than he himself imagined. This is the established rule all the world over: “the good wine first, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse.” It is the rule with men; and have not hundreds of disappointed hearts bewailed it? Friendship first—the oily tongue, the words softer than butter, and afterwards the drawn sword. Ahitophel first presents the lordly dish of love and kindness to David, then afterwards that which is worse, for he forsakes his master, and becomes the counsellor of his rebel son. Judas presents first of all the dish of fair speech and of kindness; the Saviour partook thereof, he walked to the house of God in company with him, and took sweet counsel with him; but afterwards there came the dregs of the wine—“He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.” Judas the thief betrayed his Master, bringing forth afterwards “that which is worse.” You have found it so with many whom you thought your friends. In the heyday of prosperity, when the sun was shining, and the birds were singing, and all was fair and cheerful with you, they brought forth the good wine; but there came a chilling frost, and nipped your flowers, and the leaves fell from the trees, and your streams were frosted with ice, and then they brought forth that which is worse, they forsook you and fled; they left you in your hour of peril, and taught you that great truth, that “Cursed is he that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.”

For meditation: Has someone you trusted let you down badly, albeit unintentionally? Christ’s first miracle reminds us that man’s ways are not God’s ways (Isaiah 55:8); the Christian has a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24) and is assured that the best is still to come (Hebrews 10:34).

Sermon no. 225

28 November (1858)

John MacArthur – Accepting God’s Provisions

John MacArthur

“By faith [Moses] kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the first-born might not touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned” (Heb. 11:28-29).

The man or woman of faith gratefully accepts all God’s provisions, no matter how pointless some of them may seem.

When the time came for Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, everything on the human level said it couldn’t be done. Pharaoh wasn’t about to let two to three million slaves just pack up and leave. His formidable army was ready to insure that no such exodus occurred.

But when God devises a plan, He always makes the necessary provisions for carrying it out. On this occasion, His provision came in the form of ten terrifying plagues designed to change Pharaoh’s mind.

The tenth and worst plague was the death of all the first- born (Ex. 11:5). To protect themselves from this plague, the Israelites sprinkled the blood of a lamb on the doorposts and lintels of their homes. When the angel of death saw the blood, he passed over that house. Thus the Passover was instituted.

The blood from those first Passover lambs had no intrinsic power to stave off the death angel, but its presence demonstrated faith and obedience, thus symbolizing the future sacrifice of Christ (cf. John 1:29).

Pharaoh got the message and allowed the Israelites to leave. But soon afterward he changed his mind and commanded his army to pursue them. Again God intervened by parting the Red Sea, allowing His people to walk across on dry land. He then drowned the entire Egyptian army when it followed the Israelites into the sea.

That was a graphic demonstration of a lesson every believer must learn: God’s provisions are always best. They may sometimes seem foolish to the human intellect—just as “the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:18)—but the man or woman of faith trusts God and receives His provisions gratefully.

Suggestions for Prayer; Thank God for the wise and gracious provisions He has made for your salvation and ongoing Christian walk.

For Further Study; Read the account of the Passover and the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus 11-14.

 

Joyce Meyer – Speak the Truth

Joyce meyer

Rather, let our lives lovingly express truth [in all things, speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly]. Enfolded in love, let us grow up in every way and in all things into Him Who is the Head, [even] Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). —Ephesians 4:15

People-pleasing behavior often leads people to tell lies because they fear people won’t accept the truth. They say yes with their mouth while their heart is screaming no. They may not want to do something, but they act as if they do for fear of displeasing someone. If they ever do say no, they usually make an excuse rather than tell the truth that they just don’t want to do what they are being asked to do. They may not feel it is the right thing for them to do.

We don’t want to be rude, but neither do we want to be liars. Most people pleasers are not honest about their desires, feelings, and thoughts. They tell people what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. A healthy relationship demands honesty.

We should be able to say to people, “I don’t have peace about making that commitment right now,” and they should graciously receive that answer, but it rarely happens. Some people may not want to hear the truth, but that does not relieve us of the responsibility to speak the truth.

Lord, help me to speak and live the truth in all that I do. I don’t want to be rude, but I refuse to be dishonest or to resort to half-truths to avoid the real truth. Amen.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Does the Work

dr_bright

“And I am sure the God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in His grace until His task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns” (Philippians 1:6).

Howard was adamant in his conviction. “I would never lead anyone to Christ that I could not personally follow up to be sure he matures and grows and becomes all that God wants him to be.”

“Since when did you assume the responsibility of the Holy Spirit?” I asked.

Obviously, we are to do everything we can to help a new believer grow to maturity in Christ – by teaching him to trust God, study His word, pray, live a holy life, and share his faith with others. But no matter how much we do, it is the Holy Spirit who helps the new believer come to Christ, and who illumines his heart with the Word. The Holy Spirit teaches us how to pray and empowers us to witness. In fact, there would be no supernatural life apart from the Holy Spirit.

Paradoxically, you and I can be confident, yet humble, when we think of all that we are, and all that we have in Christ, and realize that we are not responsible for any of it, but it is something which God has given us according to His grace. My only boast is in God, His Son Jesus Christ and His indwelling Holy Spirit. How can I boast of my abilities and achievements, when it is the Giver alone who is worthy of all honor and praise? The apostle Paul had the strong conviction that the work God had begun in the believer would be permanent. All events that transpire in our lives, all influences, heartaches, testings and sorrows, as well as all of the blessings, are designed to conform us to the image of Christ.

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:4-9

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: God, who saved me, continues to work in my life, conforming me to the image of Christ. Therefore, I will continue to trust and obey Him, as I draw upon His supernatural resources

Presidential Prayer Team; A.W. – Freedom Fighters

ppt_seal01

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Freedom is not the right to do what we want, but what we ought. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” America has always represented freedom. The first settlers came here for freedom to worship in the way they thought was right. The Pilgrims believed in a simpler form of worship than the Church of England. As the first leaders in America, they dared to brave hardship to worship according to their understanding of what God wanted them to do.

Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Galatians 5:13

In today’s verse, Paul reminded the Galatians true freedom doesn’t come from legalism and ceremonies, but from faith. Freedom is given by God to serve others. America’s founders understood this and acted on faith to do their duty.

How are you using your freedom in Christ to serve others? As you pray today, give thanks God led a group of Pilgrims to make tremendous sacrifices to serve future generations. Also ask for the country’s current leaders to commit to do the same for generations to come.

Recommended Reading: I Peter 2:11-21

Greg Laurie – Dare to be a Daniel

greglaurie

Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank. —Daniel 1:8

We serve a living God. And if we serve a living God, then it means we will take Him everywhere we go. It will affect everything we do. It will affect our relationships. It will affect our ethics. It will affect our work. It will affect our play. It will affect the way we think. It will affect the way we live. It will affect the way we vote. It will affect everything we do. Because if Jesus is not Lord of all, then He is not Lord at all.

The Bible tells us about a man who had this kind of faith in God in the midst of tremendous peer pressure. His name was Daniel, and the Bible also gives us an indication as to how he did it: “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself . . .” (Daniel 1:8, emphasis added). The word to underline in your Bible is purposed. He purposed in his heart.

That is what we need a lot more of today. How we need men and women of conviction. We need men and women of purpose, people who will say, “This is right. I don’t care if it is popular. I have to do what is right.”

Be a man, be a woman, of purpose. Be a man, be a woman, of conviction. As Philip P. Bliss wrote in his classic hymn, “Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone! Dare to have a purpose firm! Dare to make it known.” Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself. What have you purposed in your heart today?

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

Max Lucado – A Declaration of Truth

Max Lucado

As our high priest, Jesus offers our prayers to God. His prayers are always heard. John 16:23 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you.” The phrase, “In Jesus’ name” is not an empty motto or talisman. It is a declaration of truth!  The cancer is not in charge, Jesus is. The grumpy neighbor doesn’t rule the world; Jesus, you do! Just speak the word, Jesus.

Since God works, prayer works. Since you matter to God, your prayers matter in heaven. And on the occasions you can’t find the words to say, pull out this “pocket prayer.” “Father, you are good. I need help. Heal me and forgive me. They need help. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, amen!”

From Before Amen