Charles Stanley – How to Build Truth Into Our Life

 

James 1:23-25

As a teenager and a new believer, I would pull out my mother’s worn Bible when I needed God’s opinion on a matter. In the back, there were words written in bold type with verses beneath (I didn’t know then that this was known as a concordance). I’d look up a subject, write down the Scripture references, and then read them to get my answers. This simple activity was how I began to build truth into my life.

Believers who have decided to make God’s truth the foundation of their life need a place to start building. First, identify a point of need—some area that requires attention, like financial stewardship. Then search the Bible’s concordance for verses related to that topic. The passages on the subject will form a blueprint of what a believer’s life should look like.

The Holy Spirit provides the construction material. Using His guidance, strength, and wisdom, install new truths in your life by practicing what you read. Let’s again look at examples from the topic of stewardship: Matthew 6:24 teaches that we can’t serve both God and money, so attitudes must change. And since a borrower is the lender’s servant (Prov. 22:7), spending on credit should be carefully evaluated. That’s how new ways of thinking will replace faulty ideas.

It is a good idea to note—literally—the results of our obedience to God’s instructions. Journaling about His provision and the growth of our faith will inspire us to continue adding to our foundation of truth. That means choosing new areas to remodel according to God’s blueprint.

Our Daily Bread — He Leads Me

 

Psalm 23

He leads me beside the still waters. —Psalm 23:2

In Istanbul, Turkey, in 2005, one sheep jumped off a cliff and then nearly 1,500 others followed! In the end, about one-third of them died. Not knowing which way to go, sheep mindlessly follow other members of the flock.

No better word picture than sheep can be found to illustrate our need for a trustworthy leader. We are all, Isaiah wrote, like sheep (Isa. 53:6). We tend to go our own way, yet we desperately need the sure direction of a shepherd.

Psalm 23 describes the trustworthiness of our Good Shepherd. He cares for us (v.1); He provides for our physical needs (v.2); He shows us how to live holy lives (v.3); He restores us, comforts us, heals us, and bountifully blesses us (vv.3-5); and He will not abandon us (v.6).

What a comfort to know that God gently but firmly leads us! He does so through the urging of the Holy Spirit, the reading of His Word, and through prayer. God is the reliable leader we need.

In acknowledgment of our dependence on the Lord, we can say with the psalmist, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.” —Dave Egner

Like sheep that sometimes wander from the flock

In tangled paths of life to lose their way,

I need my Shepherd’s hand and watchful eye

To keep me always, lest I go astray. —Sanders

The Lamb who died to save us is the Shepherd who lives to guide us.

Bible in a year: Zechariah 13-14; Revelation 21

Insight

Today’s familiar and beloved psalm has brought comfort and hope to many. And well it should. This psalm celebrates all that the Good Shepherd does for His sheep. The greatest benefit comes in the last verse: We will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (v.6). God does so much to provide for and care for His sheep. However, there is an implicit idea in this text that should not be overlooked: Sheep follow their shepherd. The blessings and comfort of this psalm do not come to sheep that do not follow the Shepherd. As Jesus reminds us, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – A Season for New Sight

 

Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) popularized the concept of “a paradigm shift” in the realm of scientific thought. While many of us may not be familiar with Kuhn or his book, we have likely experienced the duck/rabbit optical illusion used by Kuhn to demonstrate the way in which a paradigm shift could cause one to see the same information in an entirely different way. Kuhn described a paradigm shift as that which opens up new approaches to understanding that would never have been considered valid before.

The word “epiphany” offers another way to speak about paradigm shifts. To have an epiphany is to have the proverbial light bulb go off in one’s head, as a new idea changes the way in which one sees or understands information. The lights are “switched on” when understanding comes. The English word epiphany comes from a Greek word meaning “manifestation or appearance.” An epiphany is that “a-ha” moment that comes as a result of new vision—of blindness being turned to sight. It is, to borrow from Kuhn’s description, an experience of a paradigmatic shift in view. An epiphany thus reorients, reorders, or transforms our view from one way of looking at the world to another.

In the Christian tradition, the season of Epiphany is a season for new sight, new vision, and paradigm shifts. The season commemorates the arrival of the foreign magi at the birthplace of Jesus. Magi (not three kings of the orient as sung in the famous hymn) were a caste of wise men specializing in astrology, medicine, and natural science.(1) As the gospel of Matthew records it, these wise men “saw his star in the east” and recognized that this young child was worthy of worship as King (Matthew 2:2).

During Epiphany, Christians are asked to pay special attention to the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus for the ways in which he is revealed to be the Messiah. All who seek the truth are asked to re-consider Jesus during this season, to have eyes opened and paradigms shifted. The author of the letter to the Hebrews invites all who would look at Jesus to see in him the very epiphany of God. “[I]n these last days God has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-3). Everyone who looks at his life has the opportunity to experience epiphany, and to have vision altered as time is spent looking at his life and listening to Jesus through his teachings.

But paradigm shifts are never easy. The biblical image invoked again and again for this process is that of moving from blindness to sight. One very ironic example is recorded for in the Gospel of John. It is the story of Jesus healing a man born blind. Using the ordinary elements of clay and his own saliva, Jesus applies the necessary ingredients to literal eyes in order to create the opportunity for spiritual sight. After the man washes the healing balm off of his eyes in the pool of Siloam, his healer is nowhere to be found. The religious leaders are incensed that healing has occurred in such an ordinary way by an ordinary man.

“How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?”

The once blind man answered, “Whether or not he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.”

Thinking they see the situation quite clearly, the religious leaders put the formerly blind man out of the temple, cutting him off from their community, and taking away the opportunity to make sacrifice to God. Hearing this, Jesus comes to confront these leaders who claim superior knowledge and insight. “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind… If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”(2)

John’s Gospel and the Season of Epiphany present a challenging opportunity for a paradigm shift. The Christian story proposes that it is in the humble acknowledgement of blindness that we come to see anything with clarity or insight. Ironically epiphany does not come in assuming that we know all the answers or in clever arguments or assumptions. Jesus turns all of these paradigms upside down in this story. Today, might the realization of our blindness be the paradigm shift that opens our eyes.

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

(1) Reference note from the New American Standard Bible.

(2) cf. John 9:39-41.

Alistair Begg – Professor or Possessor of Faith

 

Do you not know that the end will be bitter?   2 Samuel 2:26

Reader, if you are merely a professor and not a possessor of the faith that is in Christ Jesus, the following lines are a true sketch of your end.

You are a respectable attender at a place of worship; you go because others go, not because your heart is right with God. This is your beginning. I will suppose that for the next twenty or thirty years you will be spared to continue in this way, professing religion by an outward attendance upon the means of grace, but having no heart in the matter. Tread softly, for I must show you the deathbed of someone just like you. Let us gaze upon him gently. A clammy sweat is on his brow, and he wakes up crying, “O God, it is hard to die. Did you send for my pastor?” “Yes, he is coming.” The pastor comes. “Sir, I fear that I am dying!” “Have you any hope?” “I cannot say that I have. I fear to stand before my God. Oh, pray for me.” The prayer is offered for him with sincere earnestness, and the way of salvation is for the ten-thousandth time put before him, but before he has grasped the rope, I see him sink.

I may put my finger upon those cold eyelids, for they will never see anything here again. But where is the man, and where are the man’s true eyes? It is written, “In Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes.”1 Why did he not lift up his eyes before? Because he was so accustomed to hearing the Gospel that his soul slept under it. If you should lift up your eyes in hell, how bitter will be your wailings. Let the Savior’s own words reveal the woe: “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.”2 There is a frightful meaning in those words. May you never have to spell it out by the red light of God’s wrath!

1) Luke 16:23   2) Luke 16:24

The family reading plan for December 30, 2014 * Malachi 3 * John 20

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

Charles Spurgeon – Canaan on earth

 

“For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs: But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: A land which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year, even unto the end of the year.” Deuteronomy 11:10-12

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 139:1-12

We have come now, beloved, to the end of another year—to the threshold of another period of time, and have marched another year’s journey through the wilderness. Come, now! In reading this verse over, can you say Amen to it? “The eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon you, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.” Some of you say, “I have had deep troubles this year.” “I have lost a friend,” says one. “Ah!” says another, “I have been impoverished this year.” “I have been slandered”, cries another. “I have been exceedingly vexed and grieved”, says another. “I have been persecuted,” says another. Well, beloved, take the year altogether—the ups and the downs, the troubles and the joys, the hills and the valleys altogether, and what have you to say about it? You may say, “Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” Do not pick out one day in the year, and say it was a bad day, but take all the year round, let it revolve in all its grandeur. Judge between things that differ; and then what will you say? “Ah! Bless the Lord! He hath done all things well; my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” And you know why all things have been well. It is because the eyes of the Lord have been upon you all the year.

For meditation: Are you glad that God sees you through and through every moment of your life? This should bring terror to the unbeliever (Hebrews 4:13) but great comfort to God’s people in the hour of distress (Genesis 16:13; Exodus 2:25).

Sermon no. 58

30 December (1855)

John MacArthur – Satan’s Conqueror

 

“Since . . . the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Heb. 2:14-15).

Christ came to break the power of Satan which He did by conquering death.

To be free to live with God and share in all His blessings, someone had to shatter Satan’s death grip on us. Sin is what gives Satan his powerful hold on us, but the power itself is death.

Satan knew that God required death for us because of sin. He knew that all died in Adam—that death became a certain fact of life. And he knew that men, if they remained as they were, would die and go out of God’s presence into hell forever. So he wants to hang onto men until they die because once they are dead, the opportunity for salvation is gone forever.

To wrest the power of death from Satan’s hand, God sent Christ into the world. If you have a greater weapon than your enemy, then his weapon is useless. You can’t fight a machine gun with a bow and arrow. Satan’s weapon is death, but eternal life is God’s weapon, and with it Jesus destroyed death.

How was He able to do it? He rose again, proving He had conquered death. That’s why He said, “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). His resurrection provides the believer with eternal life.

Nothing terrifies people more than the fear of death. But when we receive Christ, death in reality holds no more fear for us since it simply releases us into the presence of our Lord. We can say with Paul, “To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Rejoice that you have placed your hand into the hand of the conqueror of death, who will lead you through death and out the other side.

Suggestion for Prayer; Ask God to give you a greater realization that He has conquered death to help you live life more fully to His glory.

For Further Study; Read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. How are we to live our lives based on what we know about death?

Joyce Meyer – He Is Strong

 

We are weak, but you are [so very] strong! —1 Corinthians 4:10

We need help—and a lot of it. Jeremiah 10:23 says, …the way of a man is not in himself; it is not in man [even in a strong man or in a man at his best] to direct his [own] steps. It really is impossible for man to properly run his own life. Admitting that fact is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of spiritual maturity. You are weak unless you find your strength in God, and the sooner you face that fact, the better.

Many people have position, wealth, and power, but they may not have what really matters—good relationships, right standing with God, peace, joy, contentment, satisfaction, good health, and the ability to enjoy life. Not everything that appears well is well! You may be trying hard to make things work out right and always failing. Your problem is not that you are a failure. Your problem is simply that you have not gone to the right source for help.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – God Is a Loving God

 

“If a child asks his father for a loaf of bread, will he be given a stone instead? If he asks for fish, will he be given a poisonous snake? Of course not! And if you hardhearted, sinful men know how to give good gifts to your children, won’t your Father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask Him for them?” (Matthew 7:9).

Roger interrupted our Bible study on this passage of Scripture to say, “I guess I have trouble believing God is a good God because my earthly father was a tyrant. He hated me, and I hated him. I do not recall a single experience in my life where he encouraged me. I want to believe that God is good, but I have difficulty. Please help me.”

Unfortunately, there are multitudes of men and women who are relatively new Christians and who have come from similar backgrounds where there was no love, no compassion, no concern, and their view of God is therefore distorted. They somehow equate the loving, forgiving God with their own tyrannical fathers. When such is the case, only the Holy Spirit can heal these deep wounds and remove these scars. So, I assigned Roger a special project. I asked him to make a list of all the attributes and qualities of God recorded from Genesis to Revelation. The project lasted several months, but in the process a transformation took place in Roger’s life.

The day came when he exclaimed with great joy, “The Holy Spirit has illumined my mind and taught me that God is truly a loving God, worthy of my trust. Now I can believe Him for anything. I know that even if my father on earth was the best father ever, God’s love, compassion and care for me transcends anything that he could do for me. Therefore, I can ask Him for good gifts, knowing that He will hear and answer me. I want to live only for His glory for the rest of my life.”

Are you having difficulty trusting God because of an unfortunate early relationship with your father or mother? If so, I encourage you to do what Roger did. Saturate your mind with the attributes of God – His love, sovereignty, wisdom, grace, compassion, power and holiness. As you do, the Holy Spirit will use the Word of God to cleanse your mind of all the memories that weigh you down, and you will be able to say with Roger, “I can trust God for anything, because I know He is a loving God who cares for me.”

Bible Reading: 1 John 3:1-3

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will continue to meditate upon the attributes of God, knowing that the more I trust Him, the more sure I can be of His faithfulness to enable me to live a supernatural life for His glory.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Closing the Sale

 

If you’ve ever visited an automobile dealership, you’ve probably experienced the excessively zealous car salesperson. Often these professionals are helpful to the point of being overbearing and, at times, can seem almost desperate to sell you a vehicle…right now. At any cost, they will endeavor to keep you on the premises until a decision is made.

And whether they hear or refuse to hear…they will know that a prophet has been among them.

Ezekiel 2:5

There’s a reason for that. At most dealerships, the sales associates work strictly on commission. They don’t get paid for explaining a car’s features or offering test drives. They get paid only if they close the sale. If you leave in the same car you came in, they lose.

Closing the sale is a tenant of capitalism, but not of Christianity. It’s God’s will that you be Christ-like and that you speak the truth in love, but “closing the sale” is up to the Holy Spirit. Scripture plainly states that some will hear and some will refuse to hear. As you intercede for America today, remember that God is working behind the scenes in ways you may not realize. In eternity, you will see that your faithfulness won victories that you couldn’t even have imagined!

Recommended Reading: Hebrews 11:29-40

Greg Laurie – Two Ways to Be Happy

 

Praise the LORD! How joyful are those who fear the LORD and delight in obeying his commands. —Psalm 112:1

There are two ways that we can live our lives: the right way or the wrong way. There are two paths that we can take in life: the right path or the wrong path. The result is that we can live either the happy and holy way or the miserable and unholy way.

Everything you’re looking for is found in a relationship with God. Take the story that Jesus told about the prodigal son. It appears from the story that he wanted nice clothes, great food, and parties. So he left home and spent all of his money. And then he returned home, empty-handed and miserable.

But what was the first thing his father did? He gave him some nice clothes. He ordered his servants to prepare some fine food. And then he said, “We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began” (Luke 15:23-24). Everything the son was searching for was in his father’s house all along.

The way to be a happy person will be found in what you do and don’t do. Psalm 1:1 says, “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.” So these are things that happy people don’t do.

But then the passage tells us what happy people do: “They delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do” (verses 2-3).

So happiness comes not only from what you do, but also from what you don’t do.

Max Lucado – Imagine a Perfect World

 

Try this. Imagine a perfect world. Whatever that means to you. Imagine it. Does that mean peace? Then envision absolute tranquility. Does a perfect world imply joy? Then create your highest happiness. Will a perfect world have love? Ponder a place where love has no bounds. Whatever heaven means to you, imagine it. Get it firmly fixed in your mind. Delight in it. Dream about it. Long for it.

And then smile as the Father reminds you from the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “No one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” No one… no one has come close. Think of all the songs about heaven; all the artists’ portrayals; all the lessons preached; poems written; and chapters drafted. When it comes to describing heaven, we are all happy failures!

From The Lucado Inspirational Reader