Charles Stanley – God’s Promises to the Generous

 

2 Corinthians 9:6-11

The principle of sowing and reaping is a universal truth ordained by God; it applies not only in agriculture, but also in the area of giving. Despite the fact that the Lord promises an abundant harvest for those who give generously, many Christians still struggle with releasing their grip on money.

Some fear that they won’t have enough if they give. Others, pulled by greed, are unwilling to sacrifice pleasures and comforts. Those who succumb to their fears or stinginess will miss out on the great harvest God wants to give them.

In the midst of a chaotic economy and uncertain times, we can find our security in the Lord. His ways are often the opposite of our natural tendencies. The world says that to have enough, we must acquire more. Today’s passage says that in giving generously, we will have an abundance of both provision for our needs (bread) and resources to continue our generosity (seed).

Beyond this, the Lord also promises that the harvest of our righteousness will increase, and we will be “enriched in everything for all liberality” (v. 11). God’s riches encompass so much more than earthly wealth. Generosity produces godly character, which is valuable now and in eternity.

Although we have been given the promise of a bountiful harvest, it will be realized only by those who sow abundantly. In following God’s plan for giving, you can be free of worry because the One who guarantees you a harvest is also the omnipotent Lord who is able to produce it.

Our Daily Bread — Image Consultants

 

Read: Colossians 3:1-11
Bible in a Year: 1 Kings 8-9; Luke 21:1-19

[You] have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him. —Colossians 3:10

In our media-saturated age, image consultants have become indispensable. Entertainers, athletes, politicians, and business leaders seem desperate to manage the way they are perceived in the eyes of the world. These high-priced consultants work to shape how their clients are viewed—even if sometimes there is a stark contrast between the public image and the real person inside.

In reality, what people need—what all of us need—is not an external makeover but an inner transformation. Our deepest flaws cannot be corrected cosmetically. They are directly related to who we are in heart and mind, and they reveal how far we have fallen from the image of God in which we were created. But such transformation is beyond any human ability to accomplish.

Only Christ offers us true transformation—not just a facelift or an outward adjustment. Paul said that those who have been raised to eternal life in Christ “have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Col. 3:10).

New! What a tremendous word full of hope! Christ transforms us into new people in Him—people with a new heart, not just fixed up to look good on the outside. —Bill Crowder

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. —2 Corinthians 5:17

The Spirit develops in us the clear image of Christ.

INSIGHT: The letter to the Colossians is one of four epistles referred to as Paul’s “prison letters.” Written during his first imprisonment (or house arrest) in Rome, these letters also include Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon. All of the letters were written to churches except for the one written to Philemon, who was apparently a dear friend of Paul (Philem. 1:1,7). Paul founded the Ephesian and Philippian churches, but there is no record in the New Testament that Paul was ever in Colosse.

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Through Glass, Darkly

 

There’s a scene a few chapters into the comedy science-fiction novel, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, where Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed former president of the galaxy, is in a spot of trouble. A few moments earlier, he had been standing on the bridge of a starship, now he suddenly found himself mysteriously teleported to a café on the strange, alien planet of Ursa Minor Beta. Puzzled at what has just happened, Zaphod instinctively reached into his pocket for his sunglasses:

“[He] felt much more comfortable with them on. They were a double pair of Joo Janta Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses, which had been specially designed to help people develop a relaxed attitude to danger. At the first hint of trouble they turn totally black and thus prevent you from seeing anything that might alarm you.”(1)

What was science-fiction in 1980 when Douglas Adams wrote this passage has become reality in the twenty-first century: augmented reality, to be precise, the new buzzword in computing. Augmented reality is a technology that allows computer-driven data to overlay your view of the real world. Originally developed for military applications (for example, projecting flight information onto the visor of a fighter jet pilot), augmented reality is now breaking in to the world of consumer gadgetry.

One example is Google Glass, recently launched (to a select few, willing to pay $1,500 to get their heads on a beta version of the product) by the California-based Internet search company.(2) At first glance, Glass appears fairly innocuous, looking like a pair of designer spectacles, albeit fashioned by a designer whose aesthetic was more “geek” than “chic.” Pop on Glass, however, and a small computer display just above one lens beams a constant stream of information into your field of view. Now you need never be without the weather, news, travel information, the web, your latest email or tweets, all overlaying your view of the outside world.

Particular controversy has been caused because Google Glass comes equipped with a camera and that raises all manner of privacy issues. The US Congress actually sent a list of questions to Google, one of which was “Will it ship with facial recognition software?” Although Google replied “No,” other software developers have stepped into the gap. One such developer is Stephen Balaban, whose company has launched facial recognition software for Google Glass. In an interview with technology website Ars Technica, the 23 year-old programmer explained his excitement at what a Google Glass headset equipped with his software could do. Balaban waxed lyrical about the wonder of having a conversation with a stranger, all the while your Glass headset looking them up and feeding you information about them:

“I think that would be a fantastic experience to not only understand who you’re talking to but to bring context to a conversation. I would love to live in a world where the things that you have in common with somebody and the shared experiences are available on the fly. I think that makes conversation far more efficient. I think that makes interactions with conversations better. You can relate to them in ways that you couldn’t otherwise.”(3)

Those words haunted me for days afterward: “makes conversation more efficient.” The subtext, the assumption, the worldview reflected here is one that Neil Postman famously called “technopoly,” the idea that technology is king, that there is no human problem that technology cannot solve.(4) Balaban’s statement assumes that what we lack, what we need is more information. I think he’s dead wrong. What most people are crying out for is not more information but deeper relationships.

Yet despite our relational need, we are drawn to technology like moths to a flame. In her book Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, sociologist Sherry Turkle describes the increasing trend we have to outsource relationships to technology, to computers and robots. In one chapter, she recounts the story of Callie, an eleven year-old girl who as part of a research project got to take home two robotic toys. Turkle describes what happened at the end of the three week study when it was time to return the robots:

“Callie is very sad when her three weeks with My Real Baby and AIBO come to an end…Before leaving My Real Baby, Callie opens its box and gives the robot a final, emotional good-bye. She reassures My Real Baby that it will be missed and that ‘the researchers will take good care of you.’ Callie has tried to work through a desire to feel loved by becoming indispensable to her robots. She fears that her parents forget her during their time away (they travel a lot for work); now, Callie’s concern is that My Real Baby and AIBO will forget her… Disappointed by people, she feels safest in the sanctuary of an as-if world.”(5)

As human beings we are designed for relationship and any attempt to outsource this to or augment this basic need with technology is doomed to failure because what we yearn for is not robots but relationship, not programs but persons, not computers but communion. The Christian worldview explains where this desire for relationship, for intimacy comes from: because we are created in the image of a God who, as the doctrine of the Trinity makes clear, is himself persons-in-relation. Theologian Colin Gunton writes:

“To be made in the image of God is to be endowed with a particular kind of personal reality. To be a person is to be made in the image of God: that is the heart of the matter. If God is a communion of persons inseparably related, then… it is in our relatedness to others that our being human consists.”(6)

The God of the Bible is the God who is relational: walking and talking in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, appearing to Abraham, speaking to Moses “as a man talks to his friend” and, ultimately, stepping into history in the incarnation. In many other religions, such as Islam, you achieve salvation, wisdom, nirvana—whatever it is you are seeking—through knowing the right things, through information. In Christianity, by contrast, the question is not what you know but whom you know—Jesus Christ. God so loved the world that God did not send mere information, did not simply augment reality with some new set of moral commandments, but instead God gave himself. And, says the Bible, this theme continues right through into the New Creation, where God will once again walk and talk with us. One day, we shall no longer see as in a glass darkly, but we shall see face to face. For relationship we were made and for relationship, with and through Christ, we are destined.

Andy Bannister is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Toronto, Canada.

(1) Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (London: Pan Books, 1980), 33.

(2) Jason Koebler, “Google Opens ‘Glass’ Project to ‘Explorers’ Willing to Pay $1,500,” US News, 20 Feb 2013 (http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/02/20/google-opens-glass-project-to-explorers-willing-to-pay-1500/, accessed 25 June 2013).

(3) Cyrus Farivar, “Google may not like it, but facial recognition is coming soon to Glass,” Ars Technica, 8 June 2013 (online at http://arstechnica.com/business/2013/06/google-may-not-like-it-but-facial-recognition-is-coming-soon-to-glass/, accessed 24 June 2013).

(4) Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (New York: Bloomsbury, 2007).

(5) Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (New York: Basic Books, 2011), 78-79.

(6) Colin E. Gunton, The Promise of Trinitarian Theology, 2d Ed. (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1997), 113.

Alistair Begg – Are You a Grumbler?

 

And all the people of Israel grumbled.Numbers 14:2

There are grumblers among Christians now, just as there were in the camp of Israel of old. There are those who, when punished, cry out against the affliction. They ask, “Why am I afflicted? What have I done to be chastened in this manner?”

A word with you, grumbler! Why should you grumble against the dealings of your heavenly Father? Can He treat you more severely than you deserve? Consider what a rebel you once were, but He has pardoned you! Surely, if He in His wisdom considers it necessary to chasten you, you should not complain. After all, are you punished as severely as your sins deserve? Consider the corruption that is in your heart, and then will you wonder that so much of the rod is necessary to root it out? Weigh yourself, and discern how much dross is mingled with your gold; and do you think the fire is too hot to purge away the amount of dross you have? Doesn’t your proud rebellious spirit prove that your heart is not thoroughly sanctified? Aren’t those grumbling words contrary to the holy, submissive nature of God’s children? Isn’t the correction necessary?

But if you will grumble against the chastening, pay attention, for it will go hard with grumblers. God always chastises His children twice if they do not respond properly the first time. But know this–“He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.”1 All His corrections are sent in love, to purify you and to draw you nearer to Himself. Surely it must help you to bear the chastening with submission if you are able to recognize your Father’s hand. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”2 “. . . nor grumble the way some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.”3

1) Lamentations 3:33    2) Hebrews 12:6     3) 1 Corinthians 10:10

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

Charles Spurgeon – The beginning, increase, and end of the divine life

 

“Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.” Job 8:7

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Corinthians 13:5-9

If thou art saved—though the date be erased—yet do thou rejoice and triumph evermore in the Lord thy God. True, there are some of us who can remember the precise spot where we first found the Saviour. The day will never be forgotten when these eyes looked to the cross of Christ and found their tears all wiped away. But thousands in the fold of Jesus know not when they were brought in; be it enough for them to know they are there. Let them feed upon the pasture, let them lie down beside the still waters, for whether they came by night or by day they did not come at a forbidden hour. Whether they came in youth or in old age, it matters not; all times are acceptable with God, “and whosoever cometh,” come he when he may, “he will in no wise cast out.” Does it not strike you as being very foolish reasoning if you should say in your heart, “I am not converted because I do not know when?” Nay, with such reasoning as that, I could prove that old Rome was never built, because the precise date of her building is unknown; nay, we might declare that the world was never made, for its exact age even the geologist cannot tell us. We might prove that Jesus Christ himself never died, for the precise date on which he expired on the tree is lost beyond recovery; nor doth it signify much to us. We know the world was made, we know that Christ did die, and so you—if you are now reconciled to God, if now your trembling arms are cast around that cross, you too are saved—though the beginning was so small that you cannot tell when it was. Indeed, in living things, it is hard to put the finger upon the beginning.

For meditation: An ongoing Christ-experience in the present without a crisis experience in the past is far more valid than an isolated crisis experience in the past without the evidence of an ongoing Christ-experience in the present.

Sermon no. 311
30 April (Preached 29 April 1860)

John MacArthur – Realizing Your Reward

 

“Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).

The sacrifices you make for Christ’s sake in this life will be abundantly compensated for in Heaven.

God’s promise for those who are persecuted for His sake is that their reward in heaven will be great (Matt. 5:11). Jesus said, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29).

Focusing on that promise instead of your present circumstances is how you can experience happiness amid suffering. That was Paul’s great confidence even as he faced certain death. In 2 Timothy 4:8 he declares, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

Another source of joy in trials is knowing that you share the fate of the prophets themselves (Matt. 5:12). Those godly men suffered untold hardships for proclaiming God’s message. That’s a noble group to be identified with!

One final word of encouragement from Matthew 5:11: persecution will not be incessant! Jesus said, “Blessed are you when. . . .” The Greek word translated “when” means “whenever.” You won’t always be persecuted, but whenever you are, you will be blessed. In addition, God will govern its intensity so you will be able to bear it (1 Cor. 10:13). He knows your human weaknesses and will supply the necessary grace and peace to get you through. That’s why you can rejoice when otherwise you might be devastated and filled with grief.

If you are willing to make sacrifices now, you will receive incomparable rewards in the future. How shortsighted are those who protect themselves now by denying Christ or compromising His truth rather than sacrificing the present for the sake of eternal blessing and glory!

Suggestions for Prayer; Thank God for the example of the prophets and others who have suffered for Him.

For Further Study; Read Matthew 21:33-39 and Hebrews 11:32-38.

  • How did Jesus illustrate the persecution of God’s prophets?
  • What is Scripture’s commendation to those who suffered.

Joyce Meyer – Living in God’s Grace

 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

The truth that God wants you to enjoy your life is a blessing that every believer can be thankful for. But one of the main things that will keep you from enjoying your life is works of the flesh. A work of the flesh is our energy, our efforts trying to do what only God can do.

Trying to do God’s job always leads to frustration. Trusting God to do what only He can do always leads to joy because “what is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18:27).

The Bible says that God’s grace is sufficient for us. Grace is God’s undeserved favor and the power of God to meet our needs and solve our problems. We become frustrated when we try to achieve by works a life that God designed us to receive by grace.

So rest in His grace today and be thankful for the joy that grace promises to bring.

Prayer of Thanks I am grateful, Father, for Your grace in my life. Help me to always receive grace through faith in You and trust You to do what only You can do.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Self-Control Is Better

 

“It is better to be slow-tempered than famous; it is better to have self-control than to control an army” (Proverbs 16:32).

You and I know from experience that it is not easy to discipline our emotions, our passions or our self-will. In fact, apart from God’s help, it is an impossibility.

  • A lustful person who does not control his thoughts quenches and grieves the Spirit.
  • An overweight person, because he cannot control his appetite, quenches and grieves the Spirit.
  • A Christian who places undue emphasis on material possessions quenches and grieves the Holy Spirit.
  • A gossip who cannot control his tongue quenches and grieves the Spirit.
  • A husband, wife, or child who fails to live according to the commands of Ephesians chapter 5 quenches and grieves the Holy Spirit.
  • A student who fails to study adequately because of poor discipline quenches and grieves the Spirit.

Many pages would be required to list all the ways in which lack of self-control quenches and grieves the Holy Spirit.

The spirit, mind and body are the three aspects of our being over which we are told to practice self-control.

What is man’s spirit?

It is his immaterial being – man without his body, if you will. The Bible gives many characteristics of the spirit of man. It is that which communicates with the Spirit of God.

Man’s spirit is the center of emotions (1 Kings 21:5), the source of passions (Ezekiel 3:14) and the seat of volition or exercise of the will (Proverbs 16:32). Our spirit is subject to divine influence while housed in our mortal body (Deuteronomy 2:30and Isaiah 19:14), and leaves the body at the time of physical death (Ecclesiastics 12:7 and James 2:26).

Bible Reading: Proverbs 15:1-5

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  Drawing upon this enabling power of the Holy Spirit, I will practice the vital discipline of self-control.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.P. – Sonlight

 

A scientific website says, “The sun is as bright as four trillion 100-watt light bulbs.” But the sun has nothing on the Son of God. How beautiful that eternal city will be, with the glory of God lighting up the place!

The city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light.

Revelation 21:23

Revelation 21 describes wonderful things about the New Jerusalem: made of pure gold with walls of precious jewels, no night, nothing unclean. But the most marvelous thing of all is the very presence of God. “He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

No one likes to think of the fate of the unsaved (Revelation 21:8), but they need prayer. Intercede for all those who have yet to yield to Jesus as Lord – the true light of this world and the one to come.

Recommended Reading: I Peter 5:1-11

Greg Laurie – Distorting God’s Word

 

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” —Genesis 3:1

A story is told of the comedian W. C. Fields and how, shortly before he died, he was flipping through the pages of a Bible. When asked what he was doing, Fields replied, “Looking for loopholes.”

In the same way, I think the Devil has been reading the Bible for a long time, looking for loopholes. In the Garden of Eden, he twisted the Scriptures. He took God’s words to Adam, which invited him to eat from every tree in the Garden (with one exception), and he twisted them into a prohibition designed to cast doubt on God’s goodness.

He said to Eve, in effect, “If God really loved you, He would let you eat from any tree you want. But because He is saying that you can’t eat from that tree, He clearly doesn’t love you.”

The Devil’s first words to Eve ended in a question mark, designed to cast doubt on God’s love: Has God indeed said . . . ? He was quoting God, yet he completely twisted what God said.

The same was true of Satan’s temptation of Jesus, where he said, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down [from the temple]. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone’ ” (Matthew 4:6). How interesting. The Devil was quoting the Scriptures, though he left out part of the original text.

Notice that with Eve, he questioned God’s Word. He didn’t deny that God had spoken; he simply questioned whether God had really said what Eve thought He had said. That is what the Devil will do with God’s Word. He will misquote it. He will mischaracterize it. And he will distort it.

Max Lucado – A Trashy World

 

 

We live in a trashy world. Unwanted garbage comes our way on a regular basis. Haven’t you been handed a trash sack of mishaps and heartaches? Surely you have. What are you going to do with it?

You have several options. You could take the trash bag and cram it under your coat and pretend it isn’t there. But you and I know you won’t fool anyone. Besides, sooner or later it’ll start to stink. Or you could disguise it. Paint it green, put it on the front lawn and tell everyone it’s a tree. Again, no one will be fooled. So what will you do?

If you follow the example of Christ, you’ll learn to see tough times differently. God loves you the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to have a hope-filled heart—just like Jesus!

From Just Like Jesus

C.S. Lewis Daily – On kindness

 

Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness. For about a hundred years we have so concentrated on one of the virtues—“kindness” or mercy—that most of us do not feel anything except kindness to be really good or anything but cruelty to be really bad. Such lopsided ethical developments are not uncommon, and other ages too have had their pet virtues and curious insensibilities. And if one virtue must be cultivated at the expense of all the rest, none has a higher claim than mercy. . . . The real trouble is that “kindness” is a quality fatally easy to attribute to ourselves on quite inadequate grounds. Everyone feels benevolent if nothing happens to be annoying him at the moment. Thus a man easily comes to console himself for all his other vices by a conviction that “his heart’s in the right place” and “he wouldn’t hurt a fly,” though in fact he has never made the slightest sacrifice for a fellow creature. We think we are kind when we are only happy: it is not so easy, on the same grounds, to imagine oneself temperate, chaste, or humble. You cannot be kind unless you have all the other virtues. If, being cowardly, conceited and slothful, you have never yet done a fellow creature great mischief, that is only because your neighbour’s welfare has not yet happened to conflict with your safety, self-approval, or ease. Every vice leads to cruelty.

From The Problem of Pain

Compiled in Words to Live By

Night Light for Couples – Black Sunday

 

“If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” Luke 17:4

Every family has moments they’d rather forget—moments that later call for understanding and forgiveness. When our children lived at home, we found that Sunday was often the most frustrating day of the week, especially during the “get ’em ready for church” routine. But Black Sunday was uniquely chaotic!

Jim and I began the day by getting up late, which meant that everyone had to rush to prepare for church. Then there was the matter of spilled milk at breakfast and the black shoe polish on the floor. Finally, Ryan, who was dressed first, managed to slip out the back door and get himself dirty from head to toe. As these irritations mounted, the criticism and accusations flew back and forth. At least one spanking was delivered and another three or four were promised.

After the Sunday evening service we called the family together. We described the day we’d had and asked each person to forgive us for our part in it. We also gave each member of the family a chance to express his or her feelings. Ryan was given his first shot, and he fired it at me. “You’ve been a real grouch today, Mom!” he said with feeling. “You’ve blamed me for everything all day long.” Danae then poured out her hostilities and frustrations. Finally, Jim and I had an opportunity to explain the tensions that had caused our overreaction. It was a valuable time of ventilation and honesty that drew us together once more. We then had prayer as a family and asked the Lord to help us live and work together in love and harmony.

No matter how hard we try, we will experience times when we fail to live up to our Christian principles. When those times arrive, discussion and forgiveness are the best methods for soothing wounded relationships. I urge you at those moments to actively seek forgiveness from each other and from God and freely offer forgiveness in return.

While you’re at it, forgive yourself. If God can post a “No Fishing” sign by the sea where your sins are thrown, then so can you and I. –  Shirley M Dobson

From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson

Charles Stanley – The Peace of Wisdom

 

Proverbs 3:13-26

Godly wisdom can be defined as the capacity to see things the way the Lord sees them and to respond according to His principles. One of the great benefits of this mindset is peace. Generally, when life’s running smoothly and all is well with us and our loved ones, we have no trouble experiencing contentment. But often when situations become difficult, God’s perspective eludes us, and our peace is rapidly replaced with stress, anxiety, and fear.

To view a difficult circumstance from the Lord’s perspective, we need to see it encompassed by the boundaries of His character and attributes. Even when the particulars of life are beyond our control, the One who rules the universe remains sovereign over all things—down to the smallest details. He loves us unconditionally and always works for our best interest. Therefore, if He has allowed a situation, there is a divine plan and reason, and the outcome will be for our good and His glory.

That wise perspective will lead to a godly response—complete confidence and trust in the Lord despite any pain or hardship. Because of the indwelling Spirit, we have the assurance that He is more than adequate for whatever comes our way, which means we are sufficient in Him.

When difficulty hits, don’t let sound wisdom vanish from your sight. Keep your eyes on the Lord. By seeing every situation through His eyes, you can rest in His wisdom and good purposes. Then stress will lift, anxiety will be replaced with peace, and confidence in the Lord will silence your fears.

Our Daily Bread — Access To God

 

Read: 1 John 5:6-15
Bible in a Year: 1 Kings 6-7; Luke 20:27-47

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. —Hebrews 4:16

Technology is a blessing in so many ways. Need a bit of information about a health problem? All you have to do is access the Internet where you instantaneously get a list of options to guide your search. Need to contact a friend? Just send a text, email, or Facebook post. But technology can also be frustrating at times. The other day I needed to access some information in my bank account and was asked a list of security questions. Unable to recall the exact answers, I was blocked from my own account. Or think of the times when an important conversation is cut off because of a dead cellphone battery, with no way to reconnect until you find a plug to recharge it.

All of this makes me delighted with the reality that when I need to access God in prayer, there are no security questions and no batteries required. I love the assurance that John gives when he says, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14).

God is always accessible, for He never slumbers nor sleeps! (Ps. 121:4). And thanks to His love for us, He is waiting and ready to listen. —Joe Stowell

Lord, thank You for desiring communication with me and for the reassurance that You are indeed listening and ready to help in time of need. Teach us to come to You with confidence in Your attentive love for us.

God is always accessible in our time of need.

INSIGHT: In this letter John refutes false teachers who deny that Jesus is the Christ (2:22). He says, “Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross” (5:6 NLT).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Truly Human

 

“What does it mean to be human?” has been the inquiring theme of more than a few journals, conferences, and special reports. It is a question that is considered from anthropological, theological, and biological perspectives, from within medical, ethical, social, and spiritual circles. Yet regardless of the examiner, any plumbing of the depths of the nature of humanity is a discovery that the implications are as far-reaching and intricate as the subject itself.

Generation after generation, voices that have spoken to the question of human nature often reflect something of the paradoxical character of humanity. Plato described human life in terms of the dualistic qualities he observed. While the mind is representative of the intellectual soul, the stomach is an appetitive beast that must be tamed. In terms less dividing of mind and body, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote of the human propensity for both compassion and cruelty at once. “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”(1) Speaking in the 17th century, Blaise Pascal made note of further dueling extremes present within humanity. “For after all, what is man in nature? A nothing in relation to infinity, all in relation to nothing, a central point between nothing and all—and infinitely far from understanding either… He is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness out of which he was drawn and the infinite in which he is engulfed.”(2)

What does it mean to be human? The seeming paradoxes in and around us make the question difficult to answer. We may sense at times within us contradiction and inconsistency—a desire to be a good friend beside the wherewithal to manipulate, the intention to be a good neighbor beside the tendency to walk away without helping. I find it quite reminiscent of Aslan’s response to the children in Prince Caspian: “‘You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,’ said Aslan. ‘And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor in earth.’”(3)

As a Christian, I hold my own inconsistencies in the merciful hope of Christ as mediator. The Christian story presents Christ as the truly human Son of God in whom and for whom all creation was made. Stepping into creation, Christ has come to restore the image of true humanity, drying the tears of a broken world, reviving the image of God within us, overcoming the enemies of sin and death.

In the company of Pascal and Solzhenitsyn, I find Christ to provide the only grounding that offers hope for the contradictions within. Far more than a hope merely for the future or an escape vehicle from present reality, Christ redeems the tension within us, the tension between my reductionistic imagination of my human identity and the imaginative hope of living into my identity as a redeemed child of God. We are assured that the promise is ours: “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.” For Christ is not only at work redeeming a fallen humanity, resuscitating our nature with his own, standing as the mediator who lifts us to God. Christ came to unite humanity with God so that we can be truly human as he is human.

This is far more hopeful news than many other worldviews and self-help plans impart. For if true humanity is a humanity fully united to its creator, then the possibility is ours. Acting on our own power and authority, independent of God, we merely expose our alienation from God and from our true selves. We fail to know what it means to be most fully human. But united to Christ through faith we are united to another nature entirely. Writes one disciple, “[God] has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world.”(4)

While Christ is the one who makes our resuscitation possible, the one who restores in us the image of God, the process of reviving is also something we actively take hold of as human beings united to the Son. In other words, to live as children made in God’s image and united to Christ is not a static hope, but an active calling made possible by the one who mediates the very hope of what it means to be human. “So then,” in the words of Paul, “live in Christ, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”(5)

What does it mean to be human? Perhaps we only begin to answer this immense inquiry when we turn to the one who shows us the very meaning of the word.

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

(1) Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956 (New York: Harper Collins, 2002), 75.

(2) Blaise Pascal, Pensess (New York: Penguin, 1995), 61.

(3) C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian (New York: Collier Books, 1970), 152.

(4) 2 Peter 1:4.

(5) Colossians 2:6-7, emphasis mine.

Alistair Begg – An Explanation of Trials

 

You are my refuge in the day of disaster.Jeremiah 17:17

The path of the Christian is not always bright with sunshine; he has his seasons of darkness and of storm. It is true that God’s Word says, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace”;1 and it is a great truth that faith is calculated to give a man happiness below as well as bliss above. But life confirms that if the experience of the righteous is “like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day,”2 sometimes that light is eclipsed. At certain periods clouds cover the believer’s sun, and he walks in darkness and sees no light.

There are many who have rejoiced in the presence of God for a season; they have basked in the sunshine in the early stages of their Christian life; they have walked along the “green pastures” by the side of the “still waters.” But suddenly they find that the glorious sky is clouded; instead of the promised land they have to endure the wilderness; in place of sweet waters, they find troubled streams, bitter to their taste, and they say, “Surely, if I were a child of God, this would not happen.” Do not say that if you are walking in darkness. The best of God’s saints must drink the bitter potion; the dearest of His children must bear the cross. No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his heart in constant tune.

Perhaps the Lord gave you in the beginning a smooth and unclouded path because you were weak and timid. He moderated the wind on account of your weakness, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children. We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten branches of self-reliance, and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.

1) Proverbs 3:17   2) Proverbs 4:18

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

Charles Spurgeon – Christ’s people—imitators of him

 

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13

Suggested Further Reading: Ephesians 4:11-16

I will ever maintain—that by grace we are saved, and not by ourselves; but equally must I testify, that where the grace of God is, it will produce fitting deeds. To these I am ever bound to exhort you, while you are ever expected to have good works for necessary purposes. Again, I do not, when I say that a believer should be a striking likeness of Jesus, suppose that any one Christian will perfectly exhibit all the features of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; yet my brethren, the fact that perfection is beyond our reach, should not diminish the ardour of our desire after it. The artist, when he paints, knows right well that he shall not be able to excel Apelles; but that does not discourage him; he uses his brush with all the greater pains, that he may at least in some humble measure resemble the great master. So the sculptor; though persuaded that he will not rival Praxiteles, will hew out the marble still, and seek to be as near the model as possible. Just so the Christian man; though he feels he never can mount to the height of complete excellence, and perceives that he never can on earth become the exact image of Christ, still holds it up before him, and measures his own deficiencies by the distance between himself and Jesus. This will he do, forgetting all he has attained, he will press forward, crying, Excelsior! Going upwards still, desiring to be conformed more and more to the image of Christ Jesus.

For meditation: Christians are fellow-pupils in the masterclass of the supreme Master (John 13:12-15).

n.b: Apelles (4th century BC) Court painter to Alexander the Great.

Praxiteles (mid 4th century BC) Athenian sculptor. Regarded as one of the greatest Greek sculptors of his day.

Sermon no. 21
29 April (1855)

John MacArthur – Receiving Christ’s Wounds-

 

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me” (Matt. 5:10-11).

The persecution you receive for proclaiming Christ is really aimed at Christ Himself.

Savonarola has been called the Burning Beacon of the Reformation. His sermons denouncing the sin and corruption of the Roman Catholic Church of his day helped pave the way for the Protestant Reformation. Many who heard his powerful sermons went away half-dazed, bewildered, and speechless. Often sobs of repentance resounded throughout the entire congregation as the Spirit of God moved in their hearts. However, some who heard him couldn’t tolerate the truth and eventually had him burned at the stake.

Jesus said, “‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Sinful people will not tolerate a righteous standard. Prior to Christ’s birth, the world had never seen a perfect man. The more people observed Christ, the more their own sinfulness stood out in stark contrast. That led some to persecute and finally kill Him, apparently thinking that by eliminating the standard they wouldn’t have to keep it.

Psalm 35:19 prophesies that people would hate Christ without just cause. That is true of Christians as well. People don’t necessarily hate us personally but resent the holy standard we represent. They hate Christ, but He isn’t here to receive their hatred, so they lash out at His people. For Savonarola that meant death. For you it might mean social alienation or other forms of persecution.

Whatever comes your way, remember that your present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory you will one day experience (Rom. 8:18). Therefore, “to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing” (1 Pet. 4:13).

Suggestions for Prayer; When you suffer for Christ’s sake, thank Him for that privilege, recalling how much He suffered for you.

For Further Study; Before his conversion, the apostle Paul (otherwise known as Saul) violently persecuted Christians, thinking he was doing God a favor. Read Acts 8:1-3, 9:1-31, and 1 Timothy 1:12-17, noting Paul’s transformation from persecutor to preacher.

Joyce Meyer – As We Focus

 

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV)

Years ago, I learned an invaluable lesson: Whatever we focus on, we become. That simple statement taught me a great deal.

Wherever we put our energies or our attention, those things will develop. Another way I like to say it is, “Where the mind goes, the man follows!”

If I begin to think about ice cream, I will soon find myself in my car pursuing ice cream. My thought will stir my desires and emotions, and I will make the decision to follow them.

If we focus only on the negative things in our lives, we become negative people. Everything, including our conversation, becomes negative. We soon lose our joy and live miserable lives and it all started with our own thinking.

You might be experiencing some problems in life-not realizing that you are creating them yourself by what you’re choosing to think about. I challenge you to think about what you’re thinking about!

You might be discouraged and even depressed and wonder what caused it. Yet if you will examine your thought life, you will find that you are feeding the negative emotions you are feeling. Negative thoughts are fuel for discouragement, depression, and many other unpleasant emotions.

We should choose our thoughts carefully. We can think about what is wrong with our lives or about what is right with them. We can think about what is wrong with all the people we are in relationship with or we can see the good and meditate on that. The Bible teaches us to always believe the best. When we do that, it makes our own lives happier and more peaceful.

I have a great life and a loving husband and children. And I am privileged to be used by God to bless millions of people around the world through the wonderful ministry He has given me. But life isn’t perfect, and if I had allowed the devil to fill my mind with negative thoughts as he once did long ago, I would have been defeated.

I want to focus on God’s grace and give thanks for all the good things in my life. I don’t want to focus on what I don’t have.

An old friend used to quote this saying: “As you wander on through life, brother, whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole.” Too many people focus on what’s not there and what’s not right.

All of this is to say that our thoughts largely determine our destiny. Our thoughts also determine our happiness. Proverbs 23:7 is one of my favorite verses. Thoughts are powerful. They aren’t just words that flow through our minds. So it is very important for us to decide what we will allow to rest inside our minds.

We must not forget that the mind is a battlefield. We must always remember that our adversary will use it in any way he possibly can to trap us.

I’m reminded of a man who came to one of our meetings.

He wanted deliverance from viewing pornography. He said that one time he had seen something on the Internet after accidentally logging on to a site that was filled with explicitly sexual pictures. The next day he laughed about it to one of his coworkers. “Who wants to watch that stuff?” he asked.

The next night he was back at the site again. And many nights after that. He purchased sexual material and had it sent to his office. He kept his stash of pornography hidden from his family. “What’s a little thing like that going to do?” he reasoned.

He confessed that the more he saw the images, the more he thought of women as objects, objects for his pleasure. One day his wife said, “I don’t know what’s happened to you, but you can either deal with your attitude or I’m leaving.” His life was rapidly going downhill before he asked for prayer. “I never thought just watching a couple of porno sites like that could be so addictive,” he said. To put it another way, we can’t have a positive life and a negative mind. Our thoughts our focus is what determines where we end up.

Jesus, our friend and Savior, wants our minds to be filled with positive, beautiful, and healthy thoughts. The more we focus on those things, the more readily we defeat Satan’s attacks.

Dear patient and loving God, ask You to forgive me for focusing my thoughts on things that are not pleasing to You. I pray that You will help me fill my mind with thoughts that are clean and pure and uplifting. In Jesus’ name. Amen.