Charles Stanley – Reasons We Fail

Read | John 14:15

When parents ask why their son or daughter didn’t do what was asked, the response is often an excuse. “I didn’t hear you,” “I didn’t have time,” and “I didn’t realize you wanted it done right away” are familiar statements to moms and dads.

In a similar way, we tend to offer a wide variety of justifications to the Father; “excusitis” is all too common an ailment. Excuses are an attempt to shift responsibility for what we’ve done (or failed to do) to something or someone besides our self.

We may fail to achieve God’s plans for another reason: greed. Selfishness won’t help us succeed in His kingdom. But generosity—giving as the Lord commands, taking the opportunity to speak words of encouragement, or using our time to help others—brings blessing.

Acting against our conscience is another hindrance. It makes us double-minded: We feel guilty over our action but want to continue anyway. In this condition, we find our concentration diminishes, preventing us from putting our wealth of experience, ability, and talent into the work God has assigned us.

One last obstacle is laziness, which is often accompanied by many excuses and yields the same result: disobedience to God. For example, the Lord commands all of us to practice the “one another” (Rom. 12:9-16), but frequently His instruction goes ignored because it takes too much effort.

With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can overcome these common negative tendencies. Which one is He prompting you to work on?

Our Daily Bread – A Closing Door

 

 

Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. —2 Corinthians 6:2

 

Read: 2 Corinthians 5:18-6:2
Bible in a Year: Exodus 25-26; Matthew 20:17-34

Beep, beep, beep, beep. The warning sound and flashing lights alerted commuters that the train door was about to close. Yet a few tardy individuals still made a frenzied scramble across the platform and onto the train. The door closed on one of them. Thankfully, it rebounded and the passenger boarded the train safely. I wondered why people took such risks when the next train would arrive in a mere 4 minutes.

There is a far more important door that we must enter before it closes. It is the door of God’s mercy. The apostle Paul tells us, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). Christ has come, died for our sins, and has risen from the grave. He has opened the way for us to be reconciled to God and has proclaimed for us the day of salvation.

Today is that day. But one day the door of mercy will close. To those who received and served Christ, He will say, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you” (Matt. 25:34). But those who don’t know Him will be turned away (v.46).

Our response to Jesus Christ determines our destiny. Today Jesus invites, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved” (John 10:9). —Poh Fang Chia

Today Thy gate is open,
And all who enter in
Shall find a Father’s welcome,
And pardon for their sin. —Allen

There’s no better day than today to enter into God’s family.

INSIGHT: One of the great biblical texts on salvation is 2 Corinthians 5:21. There we see the partnership of the Father and Son producing our rescue. First, all of our sins were placed on Christ, who bore them on the cross on our behalf (1 Peter 2:24). Then, Christ’s right standing with the Father is given to those who trust Him by faith (John 1:12). Now we are no longer enemies of God, for we have been brought to the Father by the Son’s work for us. God demonstrated His love for us when He gave up His one and only Son.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –   THINK AGAIN: LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

 

+ Light in the Darkness

The story is told of a cynic sitting under a nut tree, carrying on a jesting monologue with God. His grounds for complaint lay in what he considered to be an obvious failure on the part of God to go by the book on structural design. “Lord,” he said, “How is it that you made such a large and sturdy tree to hold such tiny, almost weightless nuts? And yet, you made small, tender plants to hold such large and weighty watermelons!”

As he chuckled at the folly of such disproportion in God’s mindless universe, a nut suddenly fell on his head. After a stunned pause, he muttered, “Thank God that wasn’t a watermelon!”

Even atheist Aldous Huxley acknowledged years ago, “Science has ‘explained’ nothing; the more we know, the more fantastic the world becomes, and the profounder the surrounding darkness.”

Justifiable worldviews must have explanatory power of the undeniable realities of life. As Christians who affirm the existence of a loving and all wise God, we long to push back the darkness in our world and to see the light of God’s Word soften the cynic and atheist alike. Yet if we are honest, sometimes we, too, struggle to come to terms with God’s world and his sovereign design; this is especially true in seasons of suffering and confusion.

Remember Job? He had become weary of his pain and sought a just answer for it. He built his argument to God on the fact that he needed to know what was going on, because only on the basis of that knowledge could his confusion and suffering be dissipated. But God then broke his silence, challenging Job’s very assumptions and reminding him that there was an awful lot he did not know but had just accepted and believed by inference. Notwithstanding the proverbial cynic under a nut tree, the argument from design is the very approach God used with Job. He reminded Job as a first step, and only that, that there were a thousand and one things he did not fully understand but had just taken for granted. In the light of God’s presence, Job was dumbfounded and confessed, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? … Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 40:4; 42:3).

Gaining a small glimpse of the majesty and holiness of God is light in a dark world. The prophet Isaiah described his awe-stricken state when God revealed Himself to him. Isaiah, a morally good man, nevertheless fell on his face and immediately sensed that he was unfit to be in God’s presence. He was not just in the presence of someone better than he was. He was in the presence of the One by whom and because of whom all purity finds its point of reference. That is why he was speechless.

God is not merely good. God is holy. He is the transcendent source of goodness: not merely “better” in a hierarchy of choices but rather the very basis from which all differences are made. He dwells in ineffable light. Moral categories, for us, often move in comparisons and hierarchies. We talk in terms of judging or feeling that one thing is better than another. Our culture is more advanced morally than someone else’s culture, at least so we may think. However, God’s existence changes those categories and moves us to recognize the very essence of what the word “goodness” is based upon.

This difference is what makes the argument almost impossible for a skeptic to grasp. Holiness is not merely goodness. “Why did God not create us to choose only good?” “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The reality is that the opposite of evil, in degree, may be goodness. But the opposite of absolute evil, in kind, is absolute holiness. In the biblical context, the idea of holiness is the tremendous “otherness” of God Himself. God does not just reveal Himself as good; He reveals Himself as holy.

There is no contradiction in Him. He can never self-destruct. He can never “not be.” He exists eternally and in a sublime purity that transcends a hierarchy of categories. As human beings we love the concept of holiness when we are in the right, but we are often reticent to apply it when we are wrong and brought under the stark scrutiny of its light. I recall talking to a very successful businessman who throughout our conversation repeatedly asked, “But what about all the evil in this world?” Finally, a friend sitting next to me said to him, “I hear you constantly expressing a desire to see a solution to the problem of evil around you. Are you as troubled by the problem of evil within you?” In the pin-drop silence that followed, the man’s face showed his duplicity.

The longer I have encountered this question about evil, the more convinced I am of the disingenuousness of many a questioner. The darkness of evil is more than an exterior reality that engenders suffering in our world; it is, at its core, an internal reality that systemically builds us for autonomy and destruction, blinds us, and from which only God is big enough to rescue us. You see, the problem of evil begins with me. The darkness is within.

Yet Jesus’s answer to the question of the blind man in John 9 brings us extraordinary power and hope. There is an illustration and explanation for us in his story. Here was a man living in physical darkness. There was no light that he could see. People wanted to know, why was he born this way? They were the ones who could see, so they asked about the one who could not. Jesus responded that the man’s blindness was due neither to the sin of the man nor of his parents, but so that the glory of God might be displayed. The lesson is drastic; the message profound.

Physical darkness has physical consequences and leaves a person bereft of seeing physical reality. It is a tragedy—but nowhere near the tragic devastation of spiritual blindness. The healing of that man’s blindness by Jesus was intended to draw those spiritually blind to seek his healing of their souls. When Beethoven, though deaf, could see the exhilarating response of the people to his composition, he outwardly resonated with what his inner being prompted. He could not hear his music but he sensed the harmony for which he longed in expression. So it is with us. We know on the inside how impoverished we are and for what we long. That ought to prompt us to the riches that only God in Christ is able to give to us.

Only when we surrender to the light of God’s truth in our own lives are we enabled to truly seeand then be a beacon of hope and healing in our dark world. Truthfulness in the heart, said Jesus, precedes truth in the objective realm. The problem of evil has ultimately one source: it is the resistance to God’s holiness that enshrouds all of creation. And there is ultimately only one hope for life: that is through the glorious display of God at work within a human soul, bringing about his work of pushing away the darkness. That transformation tenderizes the heart to become part of the solution and not part of the problem. Such a transformation begins at the Cross.

The day when Christ was crucified and darkness engulfed the scene was symbolic of the soul in rebellion. Then came the possibility of hope when the Son rose, with life made possible for all of us. The simple verse, John 3:16, says it all: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” “For God”: the starting point is filial. “So loved”: his reach is relational. “That he gave his only begotten Son”: sacrificial. “That whosoever believes in Him”: confessional. “Should not perish”: judicial. “But have everlasting life”: eternal.

There is a law unto death. The violation of law brings that within us. Our holy God deals with evil in us to transform us and draw us into his life and embrace. What a glorious gospel this is.

The songwriter Tim Hughes says it beautifully:

Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness

opened my eyes, let me see.

Beauty that made this heart adore you

hope of a life spent with you.

 

Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down,

here I am to say that you’re my God.

You’re altogether lovely, altogether worthy,

altogether wonderful to me.

 

In a unique way, seeing is believing. Believing in God is surrendering. Surrendering to God is worshiping. To worship opens up vistas to see even more. Darkness is then vanquished.

In a dark world, we have the offer of Light through Jesus Christ.

Alistair Begg – The Value of Righteousness

 

The Lord is our righteousness.  Jeremiah 23:6

 

It will always give a Christian the greatest calm, quiet, ease, and peace to think of the perfect righteousness of Christ.

How often are the saints of God downcast and sad! I do not think they ought to be. I do not think they would be if they could always see their perfection in Christ. There are some who are always talking about corruption and the depravity of the heart and the innate evil of the soul. This is quite true, but why not go a little further and remember that we are perfect in Christ Jesus.

It is no wonder that those who are dwelling upon their own corruption should wear such downcast looks; but surely if we call to mind “Christ Jesus, whom God made . . . our righteousness,”1 we shall be of good cheer. What though distresses afflict me, though Satan assault me, though there may be many things to be experienced before I get to heaven, those are done for me in the covenant of divine grace; there is nothing wanting in my Lord–Christ has done it all. On the cross He said, “It is finished!” and if it be finished, then am I complete in Him and can rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”2

You will not find on this side of heaven a holier people than those who receive into their hearts the doctrine of Christ’s righteousness. When the believer says, “I live on Christ alone; I rest on Him solely for salvation; and I believe that, however unworthy, I am still saved in Jesus,” then there rises up as a motive of gratitude this thought: “Shall I not live to Christ? Shall I not love Him and serve Him, seeing that I am saved by His merits?” “The love of Christ controls us,”3 “that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”4 If saved by imputed righteousness, we shall greatly value imparted righteousness.

Only be sure you have the sail up. Do not miss the gale for want of preparation for it. Seek help from God, that you may be more earnest in duty when made more strong in faith, that you may be more constant in prayer when you have more liberty at the throne, that you may be more holy in your conversation while you live more closely with Christ.

1) 1 Corinthians 1:30   2) Philippians 3:9    3) 2 Corinthians 5:14    4) 2 Corinthians 5:15

Today’s Bible Reading

The family reading plan for January 31, 2015
* Genesis 32
Mark 3

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

Charles Spurgeon – The shameful sufferer

 

“Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 9:18-22, 51-53

You have an enemy who all his life long has been your enemy. His father was your enemy, and he is your enemy too. There is never a day passes but you try to win his friendship; but he spits upon your kindness, and curses your name. He does injury to your friends, and there is not a stone he leaves unturned to do you damage. As you are going home to-day, you see a house on fire; the flames are raging, and the smoke is ascending up in one black column to heaven. Crowds gather in the street, and you are told there is a man in the upper chamber who must be burnt to death. No one can save him. You say, “Why that is my enemy’s house;” and you see him at the window. It is your own enemy—the very man; he is about to be burnt. Full of lovingkindness, you say, “I will save that man if I can.” He sees you approach the house; he puts his head from the window and curses you. “An everlasting blast upon you!” he says; “I would rather perish than that you should save me.” Do you imagine yourself, then, dashing through the smoke, and climbing the blazing staircase to save him; and can you conceive that when you get near him he struggles with you, and tries to roll you in the flames? Can you conceive your love to be so potent, that you can perish in the flames rather than leave him to be burned? You say, “I could not do it; it is above flesh and blood to do it.” But Jesus did it. We hated him, we despised him, and, when he came to save us, we rejected him. When his Holy Spirit comes into our hearts to strive with us, we resist him; but he will save us; nay, he himself braved the fire that he might snatch us as brands from eternal burning.

For meditation: The wonderful determination of Christ and his insistence on carrying out his Father’s will despite all the attempts to distract him (Matthew 16:21-23; 26:51-54; Luke 13:31-33).

Sermon no. 236

30 January (1859)

John MacArthur –Complementing Christ

 

God exalted Christ “and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23).

The church was designed to complement Christ.

Here Paul uses a graphic analogy to illustrate the relationship of Christ to the church: He is the head; believers are His body. Paul elaborates that we’re to hold “fast to the head [Christ], from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God” (Col. 2:19; cf. Eph. 4:15-16).

Just as the head controls the human body, so Christ governs His Body, the church (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-31). By His Spirit and His Word He supplies all the resources the church needs to function to His glory. In that way He guarantees that His purposes will be fulfilled.

The church is in fact “the fulness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:23). The implication is that the incomprehensible, all-sufficient, all-powerful, and utterly supreme Christ is in a sense incomplete—not in His nature, but in the degree to which His glory is seen in the world.

A synonym for “fulness” is “complement.” The church was designed to complement Christ. He is the One who fills all in all”—the fullness of deity in bodily form (Col. 2:9) and the giver of truth and grace (John 1:16). Yet He chooses to reveal His glory in and through the church. Therefore, until the church is fully glorified, Christ will not be fully complemented.

Does your life complement Christ? Do you “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect” (Titus 2:10)? Do you “let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16)? You have every spiritual resource to do so, so don’t let anything hold you back (Heb. 12:1-2)!

Suggestions for Prayer; Read Psalm 139:23-24 and pray with David that God will search your heart and reveal any sin that might hinder you from complementing Christ today.

For Further Study; Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-30.

  • What spiritual gifts are mentioned in this passage?
  • How does Paul deal with the misconception that some gifts are more important than others (see vv. 14-30)?
  • As a member of Christ’s Body, you are gifted by the Spirit to minister to others. Are you doing so?

Joyce Meyer – Faith vs. Feelings

 

How long will you halt and limp between two opinions? —1 Kings 18:21

God has blessings and new opportunities in store for us. To receive them we must take steps of faith. That often means doing things we don’t feel like doing or in our own minds don’t even think will work, but our trust and reverence for God must be greater than what we personally want, think, or feel. We see a perfect example of this in Luke 5. Peter and some of the other disciples of Jesus had been fishing all night; they hadn’t caught anything. They were tired and exhausted, and they needed sleep. I am sure they were hungry. They had just finished washing and storing their nets, which was a big job.

Jesus appeared on the bank of the lake and told them if they wanted to catch a haul of fish, they should cast their nets again, only this time in deeper water. Peter explained to the Lord that they were exhausted. They hadn’t caught anything all night, but he said, On the ground of Your word, I will lower the nets [again]. (Luke 5:5) This is the kind of attitude the Lord wants us to have. We may not feel like doing something, we may not think it is a good idea, or we may feel fearful that none of it will work, but we should be willing to obey God rather than our fears or feelings.

The devil tries to use fear in its many different forms to keep us in shallow water. But even though we may feel fear, we need to focus our attention on God and at His word we should launch out into the deep to receive the blessings God has for us.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – God’s Secret Plan for You

 

“God has told us His secret reason for sending Christ, a plan He decided on in mercy long ago; and this was His purpose: that when the time is ripe He will gather us together from wherever we are – in heaven or on earth – to be with Him in Christ, forever” (Ephesians 1:9,10).

One day a distinguished scientist questioned Michael Faraday, chemist, electrician and philosopher.

“Have you conceived to yourself what will be your occupation in the next world?” he asked.

Hesitating a moment or two, Faraday replied, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him.” And then he added, in his own words, “I shall be with Christ, and that is enough.”

Although nearly two thousand years have passed since He walked this earth, Jesus still stands as the ultimate expression of ethics and morality. Whatever one might think about Christians or the church, he will find no blemishes in the character of Jesus.

Perhaps the greatest testimony that can be given regarding the character of Jesus’ teachings is that they are still changing men and nations throughout the world today. Now, as before, those who listen to Him inevitably say “No man ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46, RSV).

God’s Word tells us that Jesus had the same temptations we do, though He never once gave way to them and sinned (Hebrews 4:15). Our Lord thus stands out as the supreme example of one who practiced the things that He taught to others and that He expects of His followers.

We still stand today in the shadow of God’s sure promise: “For God has allowed us to know the secret of His plan, and it is this: He purposes in His sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in Him. And here is the staggering thing that in all which will belong to Christ we have been promised a share” (Ephesians 1:9-11, Phillips).

Bible Reading: Ephesians 1:11-14

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Today I will meditate upon the fact that I am a child of God, and heir of God and joint-heir with Christ; and upon the startling, incredible fact that I am related to Him and share with Him in all of this indescribable privilege and blessing. As a result I will claim His supernatural love and power and will speak more freely to others of my relationship with Him.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P.- Kid Contribution

 

Philosopher and theologian William Temple once said, “The most influential of all educational factors is the conversation in a child’s home.” Parents who seek and serve the Lord have a rock-solid foundation to build on for their children. Knowing, loving and serving God is of utmost importance; everything thereafter is incidental.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Proverbs 9:10

Adults must be careful to not let the importance of church services and programs for them distract from prioritizing ministry to kids, from nursery to Sunday school, and following this admonition of Jesus, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14) In fact, God places priority on training children (from sunrise to sunset) to seek and serve Him (Deuteronomy 6:7). God desires children as well as adults to worship Him. “Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise” (Matthew 21:16)

What are your children and grandchildren learning these days? What can you do to contribute to the godly education of these precious ones? Pray that this nation’s schools or churches will not hinder children from coming to Jesus.

Recommended Reading: Matthew 18:1-6, 10-14

Greg Laurie – Contentment Is a State of the Heart

 

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want —Psalm 23:1

I heard a story about a wealthy employer who overheard one of his employees remark, “You know what? If I had $1,000, I would be perfectly content.” Knowing that wealth had never brought him contentment, he walked over to that employee and said, “You know, I have always wanted to meet someone who is perfectly content. So I am going to grant your desire.” He pulled out his checkbook, wrote a check for $1,000 and gave it to her. As he walked away, he overheard her say rather bitterly, “Why didn’t I ask for $2,000?”

That is the way it works. It’s called human nature.

Getting more stuff does not bring happiness or contentment. One psychologist who has conducted research on what brings contentment said, “If people strive for a certain level of affluence, thinking it will make them happy, they find that in reaching it, they quickly become habituated to it and are at a point when they are hankering for the next level of income, property, or good health.”

The apostle Paul was someone who found satisfaction, who found inner contentment. And in the book of Philippians, he reveals the secret of happiness and contentment.

Circumstantially, Paul had nothing to be happy about. He wasn’t writing from the luxury of some pleasant surroundings. He probably was writing his epistle to the believers in Philippi as he was chained to a Roman guard. He was under house arrest. He had lost his ability to move about. Yet Paul was an active kind of guy. He was an outdoorsman. He worked with his hands and was someone who liked to get things done. For him to be cooped up in one place would have been very, very difficult. Plus, his future was uncertain. He had appealed to Caesar as a Roman citizen, and he was waiting for the time when he actually would be able to see the emperor. He didn’t know what would happen in his future.

To make matters worse, he was a very controversial figure. Even in the church, some believers were against him. Despite all of these difficult circumstances, however, Paul wrote these words: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:8 NKJV). Paul wasn’t speaking on the subject of contentment from some ivory tower or mere theory. He was speaking from the school of life, from the school of hard knocks. Paul had experienced pain and pleasure, health and sickness, weakness and strength, and highs and lows. He was a hero to some and a villain to others. Yet he was saying, “I have found that you can be content.

I read about a man who was very proud of his beautifully groomed lawn. It was absolute perfection. But one year a heavy crop of dandelions came in, and he couldn’t figure out how to get rid of them. He tried everything he knew and still they kept growing and destroying his pristine lawn. So finally he wrote to the school of agriculture at a local university, telling them about all the things he had tried and asking if they had any suggestions. In response, he received a very short reply, which read, “We suggest that you learn how to love them.”

Sometimes we find ourselves asking, “How can I get this problem to go away?” “How can I get this irritating person out of my life?” “How can I change my circumstances?” And sometimes God will get us out of that problem. Sometimes he will take the problem away. But sometimes God will say, “You just have to learn how to love them.”

So what was the secret to Paul’s joy? What was the secret of his contentment? Paul found the secret of contentment is not in what you have; it is in whom you know. And the “whom” to which I am referring is Jesus. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you'” (NLT). It is because God is with us always that we can say, “I have found contentment.” No matter what happens, no one can take that from you. No one can take God’s presence from you. And knowing that, you can face whatever comes your way in life. Maybe it will be the greatest challenge ever that will be difficult and hard. And maybe it will be untold blessings that would turn many a head. But you will be able to keep your balance in all of that, because you recognize that God is the provider.

Happiness and contentment do not come from stuff; they come from a relationship with God.

As David said, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1 NKJV). When the Lord is your shepherd, you won’t be in want. And if you are in want, one might ask whether the Lord really is your shepherd.

Contentment is not the state of your accounts; it is a state of heart. Contentment is found in making the most of the least. That is what the apostle Paul was saying.

So despite what adverse circumstances you may be facing, you can have joy and contentment in the midst of a troubled world.

Discovering God’s Design – Stewards of Eternal Life

 

1 John 2:24–25

It is important to address the theology tied to the phrase “eternal life” (1Jn 2:25; cf. 3:15; 5:11–13,20). In Scripture, eternal life has the connotation of future reward, to be sure, but it also has a present sense of the type of life that comes when we remain in Christ here and now. This Biblical concept should not be understood in exclusively physical or spiritual terms. Easton’s Bible Dictionary gives us this definition of eternal life:

[The expression “eternal life”] occurs frequently in the New Testament. It comprises the whole future of the redeemed (Lk 16:9), and is opposed to “eternal punishment” (Mt 25:46). It is the final reward and glory into which the children of God enter (1Ti 6:12); their Sabbath of rest (Heb 4:9). The newness of life which the believer derives from Christ (Ro 6:4) is the very essence of salvation, and hence the life of glory or the eternal life must also be theirs (Ro 6:8). It is the “gift of God … in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ro 6:23). The life the faithful have here on earth (Jn 3:36; 5:24) is inseparably connected with the eternal life beyond, the endless life of the future, the happy future of the saints in heaven (Mt 19:16,29).

Eternal life and Christian stewardship are intimately connected in the administration of the new life in Christ we currently participate in. Evangelical theologian R. Scott Rodin explores the idea that eternal life is not only a future reality but a present reality of a life lived in Christ.

We live in a kingdom that is both “now” and “not yet.” This provisional nature provides us with the opportunity to live as children in God’s kingdom and thereby to announce the grace of God to all of the world. If we hear the “not yet” nature of the kingdom in Hebrews 2:8, “Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them,” we must also hear the very certain “now” reality of the kingdom in the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” It is this kingdom into which we are called to be stewards.

Rodin describes the life of a steward who lives in the awareness of the fullness of eternal life.

Imagine what life would be like if every day was seen as an incredible gift in a life that was guaranteed to last forever. Imagine what it would be like to be so certain about tomorrow that you could be free to invest every hour of today doing whatever was most pleasing to God. Imagine being so certain about who you were in the eyes of God that you could give yourself away in service to others with real joy. This is not only possible; it is our calling as stewards in the kingdom of the triune God who has freed us for just this kind of rich and abundant life.

Think About It

  • In what ways does eternal life have a component that is lived out in the present?
  • How does the perspective of eternity influence the way you live?
  • How do you steward eternal life?

Act on It

Spend some time imagining the scenarios described by Rodin. How does this exercise affect your perspectives on stewardship and eternity?

Charles Stanley – Behaviors That Bind Us

Read | 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

It would seem that in a world of such plenty, there should be great contentment. Yet even in the most prosperous countries, the opposite is true in most cases. Why are so many people unhappy, anxious, unsettled, and discontent?

First, it’s because most of the world does not know Jesus Christ personally. Second, many people, even in privileged circumstances, are living on “leftovers”— emotions and attitudes left over from the way they were raised.

For instance, those who as children felt they could never measure up to expectations are likely to experience feelings of inadequacy, rejection, and guilt as adults; they may also deal with resentment and hostility. And grownups who walk away from responsibilities or commitments when they don’t get their way are frequently the ones whose parents caved in to their every desire. This is why it’s so detrimental to respond to children’s temper tantrums by giving in to their demands.

The adult pitfall of low self-esteem often is created by a lack of childhood acceptance and affirmation. It’s important for children to learn that they are of tremendous value to Christ—their sense of security should come, not from possessions, but from a personal relationship with Him. Otherwise, they may grow into materialistic adults.

The behaviors that bind us start early. By the same token, positive mindsets can also be ingrained at a young age. Let’s take this as a strong reminder to regard children as the gifts they truly are.

Our Daily Bread – Sledding And Praying

 

Now it came to pass in those days that [Jesus] went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. —Luke 6:12

Read: Mark 14:32-42

Bible in a Year: Exodus 23-24; Matthew 20:1-16

When the snow flies in Michigan, I like to get my grandkids, grab our plastic sleds, and go slipping and sliding down our backyard. We zoom down the hill for about 10 seconds, and then climb back up for more.

When I travel to Alaska with a bunch of teenagers, we also go sledding. We are hauled by bus nearly to the top of a mountain. We jump on our sleds and, for the next 10 to 20 minutes (depending on levels of bravery), we slide at breakneck speeds down the mountain, holding on for dear life.

Ten seconds in my backyard or 10 minutes down an Alaskan mountain.

They’re both called sledding, but there is clearly a difference.

I’ve been thinking about this in regard to prayer. Sometimes we do the “10 seconds in the backyard” kind of praying—a quick, spur-of-the-moment prayer or a short thanks before eating. At other times, we’re drawn to “down the mountain” praying—extended, intense times that require concentration and passion in our relationship with Him. Both have their place and are vital to our lives.

Jesus prayed often, and sometimes for a long time (Luke 6:12; Mark 14:32-42). Either way, let us bring the desires of our heart to the God of the backyards and the mountains of our lives. —Dave Branon

Lord, please challenge us to pray constantly—both in short sessions and long. As we face the valleys, hills, and mountains of our lives, may we lift our hearts and minds to You in constant communication.

The heart of prayer is prayer from the heart.

INSIGHT: Prayer was the essence of Jesus’ relationship with the Father. He often withdrew to a solitary place to pray (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; 9:18). Sometimes He spent long hours communicating with His Father (Luke 6:12; John 17) and other times He prayed short, quick prayers (Matt. 14:19; Luke 23:34,46; John 12:27).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry –  Losing Ground

 

Mine is not a heritage that deeply associates identity with the land on which that identity was forged. My ancestors packed every belonging they were able to place on a boat (including, I’m certain much to someone’s chagrin, a nine foot corner cupboard) and eventually made their way to Ohio. It was not easy for them; Irish immigrants were not well-received. But they made a life for themselves far away from all they once knew as home, choosing to distance themselves from the land of their forefathers in more ways than one. They even changed the spelling of their surname so that “home” would be less recognizable. For some immigrants, the land they leave is never far from their minds—and often this is true even of the generations who have never seen this land for themselves. This was not the case with my ancestors.

It was not until I spent time within a Native American community (and later the intertwining worlds of the Palestinians and Israelis) that I came to realize the powerful pull of a homeland, even for those who hold it only in the imaginative longings of their minds. For those of us who view land in terms of property lines and economics, there is a giant chasm that separates us from those who define geography as life and spirit. The tragic role of geography in the story of every Native American tribe is easily recognizable, but the spiritual, personal, and physical weight of that offense is often grossly miscalculated. “To us when your land is gone, you are walking toward a slow spiritual death,” says a Shoshone elder who has fought persistently for access to Shoshone land. “We have come to the point that death is better than living without your spirituality.”(1)

Such intensity in the name of place and homeland is not unique to Native America. For the people of ancient Israel, the relationship between land and faith was equally profound. The destructive loss of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E. was infinitely more to them than the loss of home and property. For them it was the loss of faith, identity, and God’s presence. Walter Brueggemann writes of Jerusalem’s destruction: “The deep sense of displacement evoked by the loss led to the conclusion in some quarters that all the old promises of YHWH to Israel—and consequently Israel’s status as YHWH’s people and Jerusalem’s status as YHWH’s city—were placed in deep jeopardy.”(2)

The book of Lamentations is intricately bound to this all-encompassing loss. The book offers five poems of profound lament, each an attempt to put into words the abrupt reality of physical, spiritual, and personal exile. The poems are acrostic in style, meaning that each line of the poem begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet—as if the loss and grief of Israel is “expressed in totality and completeness from A to Z.”(3) Like an ancient funeral song, the writer’s words are consumed with the death that is homelessness in this deepest sense of the word.

“The thought of my affliction and my homelessness

is wormwood and gall!

My soul continually thinks of it

and is bowed down within me” (Lamentations 3:19-20).

For lives in exiled disarray, spirits torn from their homes, these words declare a misery deeper than many of us know. Yet this is not to say it is a misery unknown. On the contrary, the ache of homelessness is a well-recognized human experience. Though I am not among third and fourth generations of immigrants who hold visions of their homelands near, this does not at all suggest that the mark of lostness is foreign. Unexplained hope for a better land, longing for a place unknown but somehow known, feeling like a stranger though at home—such thoughts plague the most nomadic among us.

The writer of Lamentations gives voice to the uncertainty of exile, the finality of a destroyed Jerusalem, and the death of home in the deepest sense. But the writer also dares give voice in the midst of exile to the promise of restoration—in the assurance of coming home to one who never left. No matter the place of loss, wandering, or exile, no matter the distance, no matter the depth, the arm of God is not too short to save.

“But this I call to mind,

and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul,

‘therefore I will hope in him’” (Lamentations 3:21-24).

Why should there be the notion of homelessness at all, if there is no such thing as home? Surely there is one who prepares a room for us, one who answers every real and imaginative longing for a homeland, every injustice of being torn from one’s home, and the mountains of sin and sorrow which block our vision of our place forever at his table. For both the wanderer and the exile, surely there is immense hope in a kingdom that is both present and coming, a homecoming we now see in part but one day will experience face to face.

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

(1) Sandy Johnson, ed., The Book of Elders (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1994), 127.

(2) Walter Brueggemann, An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 334.

(3) Ibid., 335.

Alistair Begg – Be Prepared

 

And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself.  2 Samuel 5:24

 

The members of Christ’s Church should be very prayerful, always seeking the unction of the Holy One to rest upon their hearts, that the kingdom of Christ may come, and that His “will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”1 But there are times when God seems especially to favor Zion; such seasons ought to be to them like “the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees.”

We ought then to be doubly prayerful, doubly earnest, wrestling more at the throne than we have been used to do. Action should then be prompt and vigorous. The tide is flowing–now let us pull manfully for the shore. O for Pentecostal outpourings and Pentecostal labors.

Christian, in yourself there are times “when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees.” You have a peculiar power in prayer; the Spirit of God gives you joy and gladness; the Scripture is open to you; the promises are applied; you walk in the light of God’s countenance; you have peculiar freedom and liberty in devotion, and more closeness of communion with Christ than before. Now, at such joyous periods when you hear the “sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees,” is the time to rouse yourself; now is the time to get rid of any evil habit, while God the Spirit helps your infirmities. Spread your sail; but remember what you sometimes sing…

I can only spread the sail;
But God must breathe the auspicious gale.

Only be sure you have the sail up. Do not miss the gale for want of preparation for it. Seek help from God, that you may be more earnest in duty when made more strong in faith, that you may be more constant in prayer when you have more liberty at the throne, that you may be more holy in your conversation while you live more closely with Christ.

1) Matthew 6:10

Today’s Bible Reading

The family reading plan for January 30, 2015
* Genesis 31
Mark 2

 

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

Charles Spurgeon – Jesus washing his disciples’ feet

 

‘Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?’ John 13:6

Suggested Further Reading: Philemon 4–20

The Scottish Baptists were accustomed to wash the saints’ feet literally; I dare say it would not do some of the saints much hurt; but still it never was intended for us to carry out literally the example of the Saviour; there is a spiritual meaning here, and what he means is this. If there be any deed of kindness or love that we can do for the very meanest and most obscure of God’s people, we ought to be willing to do it—to be servants to God’s servants—to feel like Abigail did, when she said to David, ‘Let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.’ Abigail became David’s wife; but yet she felt she was not worthy even to wash his servants’ feet. That must be our spirit. Do you know a brother who is rather angry in temper, and he wants a kind word said to him, and some one says, ‘I will not speak to any such person as he is’? Do it—do it, my dear brother; go and wash his feet! Do you know one who has gone astray? Some one says, ‘I would not like to be seen in association with him.’ My dear friend, you are spiritual; go and restore such a one in the spirit of meekness. Wash his feet! There is another riding the high horse; he is very very proud. One says, ‘I am not going to humble myself to him.’ My dear brother, go to him, and wash his feet! Whenever there is a child of God who has any defilement upon him, and you are able to point it out and rid him of it, submit to any degradation, put yourself in any position, sooner than that child of God should be the subject of sin.

For meditation: The New Testament gives Christians many instructions about their mutual behaviour towards one another. Check yourself against these commands: 1. In general—love; have peace; be likeminded; care. 2. In attitude—be subject; esteem better; prefer; forbear; forgive; be kind; consider; receive. 3. In speech—exhort; comfort; edify; greet; teach; admonish; confess; pray. 4. In action—bear burdens; serve; minister; use hospitality. Whose ‘feet’ are you ‘washing’ (John 13:14)?

Sermon no. 612

29 January (1865)

John MacArthur – Serving the Supreme One

 

God exalted Christ “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet” (Eph. 1:21-22).

Now and forever Christ is the Supreme One!

Yesterday we saw that Christ has both an exalted name and an exalted, authoritative position. In verses 21-22 Paul elaborates on the extent of Christ’s authority, which is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.”

“Rule,” “authority,” “power,” and “dominion” are designations for angelic beings, whether good or evil (cf. Eph. 6:12; Col. 1:16). In His incarnation Christ was made lower in rank than the angels that He might suffer death on our behalf (Heb. 2:9). Now He has “become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they” (Heb. 1:4), and the Father commands all the angels to worship the Son (v. 6).

But Christ’s rule extends far beyond angelic beings. In Ephesians 1:21 the phrase “every name that is named” is a general reference to any form of authority—whether angelic or human, eternal or temporal. Now and forever Christ is the Supreme One! Ultimately every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11).

The implications of that truth are staggering. For example Christ precedes the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, the heart of Christian evangelism and discipleship, with this significant statement: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

Ultimately your evangelism and discipleship efforts will bear fruit because they are backed by the authority of Christ Himself. Does that encourage you to seize every opportunity to share Christ and His Word with others? It should!

Be faithful today, realizing that you represent the One in whom lies all authority. Nothing can thwart His purposes.

Suggestions for Prayer; Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to a lost soul or anyone else you can encourage from the Word. Be sensitive to His leading.

For Further Study; Read Colossians 1:15-23.

  • What was Christ’s role in creation (vv. 15-17)?
  • What is His role in the church (v. 18)? In salvation (v. 23)?
  • What place have you given Him in your life?

Joyce Meyer – Joyful in Every Circumstance

 

[After all] the kingdom of God is not a matter of [getting the] food and drink [one likes], but instead it is righteousness (that state which makes a person acceptable to God) and [heart] peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. —Romans 14:17

A wise person does not allow the moods of other people to alter theirs.

There is a story of a Quaker man who was walking down the street with a friend when he stopped at a newsstand to purchase a newspaper. The storekeeper was very rude and unfriendly. The Quaker man responded respectfully and was quite kind in his dealing with him. After paying for his paper and continuing to walk down the street, his friend asked, “How could you be so cordial to that man considering the terrible way he was treating you?” The Quaker man replied, “Oh, he is always that way; why should I let him determine how I am going to act?”

This is one of the amazing traits we see in Jesus—He changed people, they did not change Him. I encourage you to follow the example of Jesus. Do what God expects you to do and don’t live under the tyranny of other people’s moods and attitudes.

Prayer of Thanks Father, I thank You that I can be joyful in every circumstance. Today, I choose not to let other people determine how I am going to live. With Your help, I am going to live in joy regardless of the circumstances around me.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Knew His Future

 

“Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up'” (John 2:19, KJV).

A missionary in Turkey sought to teach the truth of the resurrection of Christ to a group of people.

“I am traveling, and I have reached a place where the road branches off in two ways,” he said. “I look for a guide, and find two men – one dead, and the other alive. Which of the two must I ask for direction – the dead or the living?”

“Oh, the living!” cried the people.

“Then,” said the missionary, “why send me to Mohammed, who is dead, instead of to Christ, who is alive?”

Jesus is the only person who has ever accurately predicted his own resurrection. He said He would be raised from the dead on the third day after dying on the cross for our sins, and He was!

Further, He was seen on many different occasions after His resurrection – once by as many as 500 people. He still lives today in the hearts of all who have placed their faith in Him, demonstrating His life of love and forgiveness through them.

Whenever men meet the living Christ, they are changed. The whole course of history has been changed because of Him.

“The gospel not only converts the individual, but it also changes society,” historian Philip Schaff wrote. “Everywhere the gospel has been preached, dramatic change has resulted. It has established standards of hygiene and purity, promoted industry, elevated womanhood, restrained antisocial customs, abolished human sacrifices, organized famine relief, checked tribal wars and changed the social structure of society.

“Born in a manger and crucified as a malefactor, He now controls the destinies of the civilized world and rules a spiritual empire which embraces one-third of the inhabitants of the globe.”

Bible Reading: John 2:20-25

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will reflect often today on the fact that the risen Christ of history is the same loving Savior who now lives within me, offering me His love, His peace, His comfort, His wisdom, His strength. I will claim by faith His resurrection life to enable me to live supernaturally each moment of every day.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – Your Responsibility

 

There is a park atop Beachy Head, the tallest chalk cliff on England’s Channel coast, where grazing sheep from various flocks keep the grass mown. When a farmer rolls up in his pick-up truck and gives a whistle, only the sheep that belong to him respond. While some think it curious, Bible readers understand.

For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.

Ezekiel 34:11

While Jesus said His sheep know His voice, how many more times did He say, “He who has ears, let him hear?” What’s the difference between knowing His voice and understanding what He says? Hearing God is your responsibility; it requires that you be quiet and ready. It takes time and discipline. His words are found in His Word, so regular Scripture reading is essential. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.” His schedule isn’t always yours.

If you are a good sheep, you will answer when He calls and go where He sends you. Pray for a disciplined New Year for yourself and the Christians who serve in government on local, state and national levels.

Recommended Reading: John 10:7-18